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AL Pitching Notes: Indians, Kluber, Jays, Ryu, Rays, Morton, O’s

The Indians brought an end to the Corey Kluber era earlier this month, trading the right-hander to the Rangers for reliever Emmanuel Clase and outfielder Delino DeShields. On paper, it may not look like a great return for a two-time Cy Young winner, though it turns out teams just weren’t champing at the bit to surrender hauls for Kluber – a 33-year-old’s who expensive ($17.5MM guarantee for 2020) and coming off an injury-marred campaign. Thanks to those factors, when the Indians left this month’s Winter Meetings, the majority of offers they’d received only included players at the Single-A level, Terry Pluto of cleveland.com relays. So, in an effort to stay competitive in 2020, they took a pair of major leaguers (including Clase, whom they hope can blossom into a late-game force). The goal is to use some of the Kluber savings on an infielder, another outfielder and more bullpen help, per Pluto. The Indians may have crossed one of those needs off the list when they agreed to a $6.25MM deal with second baseman Cesar Hernandez on Monday.

  • The rebuilding Blue Jays made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason Sunday in agreeing to a four-year, $80MM contract with left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu. While the former Dodger was among the game’s premier pitchers last season, his age (33 in March) and extensive injury history make him an especially risky pickup at such a high price tag. There’s a solid chance the deal will become regrettable for Toronto, Buster Olney of ESPN observes (subscription links), though he nonetheless applauds the Blue Jays for taking a chance in an attempt improve and become more interesting. As those who’ve followed the past few offseasons know, many teams have drawn the ire of fans and media for sitting on the sidelines instead of making earnest efforts to put a more competitive product on the field. At the very least, considering the active winter the Jays have had, they’re trying.
  • More from Olney (subscription), who expects Rays righty Charlie Morton to become a hot commodity on the trade market in the next year. There are no indications the Rays, coming off a stellar season thanks in large part to Morton’s elite output, are considering parting with the 36-year-old now. But with so few (or no) sure bets left on the free-agent pitching market, he’d surely bring back a sizable return in a deal at this moment. Morton’s also on a contract that would be appealing to most teams, as he’ll make $15MM in 2020. He has a $15MM option for 2021 that will become guarantee if he spends fewer than 30 days on the injured list, but it’ll likely be a good problem for his employer if it does vest. Morton does not have no-trade protection built into his deal, so Tampa Bay could move him without his permission. However, Olney writes that the Rays have immense respect for the Cy Young contender, and if they do become open to parting with him, they’ll “probably feel out Morton” first.
  • Last season was one to forget for Orioles righty David Hess, who logged a 7.09 ERA/7.26 FIP over 80 innings. But Hess told Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com he’s working diligently this winter in hopes of landing a rotation spot for 2020. Specifically, Hess followed the lead of teammate John Means by heading to P3 (Premier Pitching & Performance) in St. Louis. As Kubatko explains, P3 “offers personalized baseball training to athletes across the Midwest with the goal of providing instruction and individualized strength training.” Means, who recommended P3 to Hess, used the center’s guidance last offseason and then turned into one of the O’s true bright spots in 2019. Hess informed Kubatko that “this is really the first offseason where I’ve had baseball-specific work outside of just playing catch. Really trying to work on delivery-based stuff. Working on, not necessarily arm strength – I’ve always worked on that – but really cleaning up my arm path. So it’s similar in a lot of ways, but it’s also different. I guess the best way to say it is it’s very hyper focused.”

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