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Report: Padres ‘strong contender’ to acquire Corey Kluber

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In his latest article for MLB.com, Jon Morosi reports that the Padres are a “strong contender” to land starter Corey Kluber from the Indians. The Dodgers have been frequently linked to Kluber, but the Padres and Indians are currently engaged in trade talks. Morosi notes that the Phillies, Brewers, and Reds have also had trade talks with the Indians “to varying degrees.”

Kluber, 32, is a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner and would certainly provide a big boost to the Padres, who appear committed to contending after signing Eric Hosmer in February and Ian Kinsler last week. This past season, Kluber went 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA and a 222/34 K/BB ratio in 215 innings. He finished third in Cy Young balloting behind Blake Snell and Justin Verlander.

Kluber will earn $17 million this season, then has two club options for the 2020-21 seasons at $17.5 million and $18 million, respectively, each with $1 million buyouts.

Per Morosi, the Indians would prefer major league-ready talent in return, so the Padres could dangle a combination of Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, and Austin Hedges along with others. The Padres’ top-two prospects, Fernando Tatis, Jr. and MacKenzie Gore, are unlikely to be included in a deal involving Kluber.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.