The angels have already signed Tyler Anderson this offseason, but the team may not be done adding pitching, eh Corey Kluber is among the names still under consideration, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Twitter link). Kluber is one of the more prominent arms remaining on a thinned list of free-agent starters, and MLBTR ranked Kluber #48 in our ranking of the top 50 free agents of the winter.
Beginning his season at the age of 37 and entering his 13th big league campaign, Kluber pitched 164 innings with the Rays last year — an important number considering injuries took the right-hander to just 116 overall from 2019-21 2/ 3 innings limited. In addition to durability, Kluber also had the lowest walk rate (3.0%) of any baseball pitcher who pitched at least 70 innings while posting a 4.34 ERA/3.85 SIERA and did a very good job of pitching hard to limit contact.
While control and soft touch were also big parts of Kluber’s skills in his prime as Cleveland’s ace, he has seen a big drop in missed hits. Despite a pursuit rate that was among the best in the game, Kluber’s strikeout percentage of 20.2% was well below the league average. Kluber was never a huge power pitcher, even in his prime, but his fastball speed dropped to 88.9 mph, and his once-deadly curveball was a borderline underperforming pitch in 2022.
Kluber still looks like he could make a positive contribution to a rotation and with another year from the injuries that sidetracked his career, the right-hander could even take things to a slightly higher level in 2023. The Rays were particularly cautious with Kluber last season, as he only pitched to seven innings twice and made the 90-pitch plateau in just six of his 31 starts.
The Angels could continue that usage as the signing of Kluber or another starter would appear to indicate Anaheim is considering returning to a six-man rotation. The rotation is currently aligned as follows Shhei OhtaniAnderson, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarezand Reid Detmersand a sixth pitcher would help keep everyone fresh (especially Ohtani, given his double workload as a batsman).
Kluber’s age and injury history limited him to one-year deals for the last two offseasons, as he signed with the Yankees for $11 million ahead of the 2021 campaign and with the Rays for $8 million last winter. Such a deal would fit the Angels’ general preference for shorter-term and lower-cost deals with starting pitchers, although the three-year $39 million deal with Anderson (which also came with a draft fee) represented a slight breach of Halos’ usual comfort zone .
Since the Angels have also not broken the Competitive Balance Tax threshold since 2004, it’s notable that a Kluber contract in that $8 million to $11 million range would bring the team even closer to the CBT line. Roster Resource estimates Los Angeles’ taxpayer payroll at just under $220.3 million. However, Angels GM Perry Minasian said he was not instructed by the owner to stay under the tax limit, so the luxury tax may not play a big role this winter. While the team is more likely to just cross the threshold rather than exceed it (e.g., to $253 million and the first tier penalty), the Angels have been scrutinizing the market quite aggressively. In addition to Anderson, the Halos also signed Carlos Estevez and Brandon Drury in free agency, and they switched trades to add Hunter Renfroe and Gio Urschel.