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The Corey Kluber trade will ultimately be known as ‘The Emmanuel Clase trade’ once all is said and done.
Corey Kluber, the three-time All-Star, two-time AL Cy Young and 2017 AL ERA leader had about as successful of a career in a Cleveland Guardians (then-Indians) uniform as one can have.
Coming off of a season in which he was selected to his third ASG and reached the 20-win plateau for the first time in his career, Kluber’s value was at an all-time high heading into the 2019 season.
In May of 2019, Kluber suffered a broken right arm after being hit by a comebacker in a game against the Miami Marlins. He was placed on the injured list but never resurfaced at the big league level for Cleveland. Despite this, his $17.5MM club option was picked up for the 2020 season.
Shortly after his option was picked up, the trade rumors began to swirl and the Texas Rangers came calling.
On Dec. 19th, 2020, it was announced that Corey Kluber and cash had been traded to the Texas Rangers in exchange for two players.
OF Delino DeShields Jr.
RHP Emmanuel Clase
RHP Corey Kluber
Where are these players now?
Here we are today, with only one of these players near the top of the majors amongst his position and it is not the two-time Cy Young Award winning Kluber.
Instead, it is relief pitcher Emmanuel Clase who is in the conversation of the best closer in the major leagues. Clase, just 24-years old, has a career ERA of 1.71 and ERA+ of 262. He limits home runs with the best of them, as he has allowed just five in 105+ innings over his first three seasons in the bigs.
Clase regularly hits high-90’s and triple digits with his wipeout cutter, one that is likely the best in all of baseball. He is currently in his second season as the Guardians closer after appearing in 71 games last season for the club, earning 24 saves while striking out 74 and walking just 16 in 69+ innings.
Corey Kluber, the only other player involved in the trade who is still on a major league roster, could not have contributed less to the Texas Rangers than he did in the 2020 season. At the conclusion of the first inning of his first start as a Ranger, Kluber was removed from the game with shoulder tightness and ultimately spent the rest of the season on the injured list.
Kluber went on to sign a one-year, $11MM contract with the New York Yankees in January of last year and promptly threw his first career no-hitter in May of that season against – you guessed it – the Texas Rangers.
He finished 2021 with 16 starts and 82 strikeouts in 80 innings, a respectable bounceback performance after missing nearly the entire 2020 season.
Kluber now finds himself in the starting rotation of another AL East club, the Tampa Bay Rays. He is off to a solid start with the Rays, posting a 4.55 ERA with 27 strikeouts and just six walks through his first six starts and 29+ innings.
That brings us to Delino DeShields Jr., the speedy outfielder who spent the first five years of his career as a member of the Texas Rangers before spending just one year in Cleveland, getting non-tendered at the conclusion of the 2020 season.
DeShields has bounced around from the Red Sox, back to the Rangers, to the Reds and now to the Braves since joining Cleveland in this deal. He currently is playing on a minor league deal for the Braves at their Triple-A affiliate club, the Gwinnett Stripers. His wheels are still as sharp as ever but he hasn’t hit more than six home runs in a season since 2014 and hasn’t topped a .260 batting average in a full season since 2017.
So, who won the trade?
While this answer may have been a question-mark when the deal was first made, there’s little doubt now that the Guardians fleeced the Rangers. Yes, fleeced. Kluber joined the Rangers as one of the very best starting pitchers in the game but the fact is that he only threw a single inning for the club.
Clase, on the other hand, has cemented himself firmly into the conversation of best relief pitcher in the big leagues and should make the All-Star Game this year if his success is to continue. All signs seem to suggest that he’s headed for superstardom.
Verdict: The Guardians.