Amid Phillies budget concerns, and their need for pitching, Corey Kluber and Rich Hill are two starters with recent injuries who could be worth signing.
The Philadelphia Phillies need pitching, but have also reportedly seen a $145 million loss, thanks to the absence of fans in the stands, which is believed to be the largest barrier standing in the way of the team re-signing J.T. Realmuto.
Given the budget concerns, it’s no surprise to see the Phillies sign Zach Eflin to a one-year deal and tender a contract to Vince Velasquez, both of whom were arbitration-eligible. Still, there are a couple of intriguing free agent starters who could be of value to the team without breaking the bank.
A three-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young award winner, Corey Kluber could be a huge addition to the rotation, but his recent injury concerns would make him more of a gamble.
Kluber posted a 5.80 ERA and 1.654 WHIP through seven starts in 2019 before being removed from a game, where he was hit by a line drive. He was diagnosed with a fracture of his right forearm and worked his way back to rehab starts in the minors before being sidelined with an internal oblique strain.
Kluber was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Texas Rangers last December. In his first regular-season game with the team in late-July, he gave up a walk and recorded a strikeout in the first inning before being removed from the game with tightness in his right shoulder.
A Grade 2 tear sidelined him for the remainder of the season, with the Rangers declining his $18 million team option for 2021.
During his last full season, in 2018, Kluber posted a 20-7 record, 2.89 ERA, and 0.991 WHIP in 33 starts for Cleveland. He led the majors with a 2.25 ERA and 0.869 WHIP during one of his Cy Young years in 2017 and has a career 98-58 record and 3.16 ERA dating back to his September call-up in 2011.
While there’s no guarantee that the Phillies would get the 2014-18 version of Kluber, starting pitchers have bounced back from injuries before. The injuries could even help drive down his value, making him more affordable for a cash-strapped Phillies front office.
MLB Trade Rumors predicts that Kluber will sign a one-year deal worth $12 million (albeit with the Minnesota Twins). For comparison, that amount is $3 million less than Charlie Morton’s one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves and is likely to be much less than what Trevor Bauer will sign.
The $12 million prediction is about the same as what the Phillies are projected to pay Aaron Nola this year and about $10 million less than what they’re projected to pay Zack Wheeler. So, a potential bargain for a former ace.