NEW YORK — On a deal that has both risk and reward, the New York Yankees and right-hander Corey Kluber have reached agreement on a one-year contract.
The deal has a base value of $11 million, a person familiar with the negotiations told the Bergen (New Jersey) Record. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the agreement is pending a physical.
A plodding, pinstriped winter of waiting and stalled negotiations suddenly revved into a whiplash-inducing speed on Friday.
In a span of 12 hours, the Yankees finally brought back team MVP DJ LeMahieu on a six-year $90 million contract, re-signed all eight of their arbitration eligible players and secured a former ace for their rotation.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan was first to report the Yanks’ agreement Friday with Kluber.
Familiar connections for Kluber
A two-time AL Cy Young award winner, Kluber auditioned in front of MLB scouts this week at Cressey Sports Performance in Florida, operated by Eric Cressey, the Yankees’ director of player health and performance.
Kluber has trained with Cressey during several of the past offseasons, prior to Cressey’s affiliation with the Yanks. And Kluber has worked with Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake, first at CSP and later as pitching performance director of the Cleveland Indians.
The initial reports of Kluber’s showcase were positive, and there was wide interest in the right-hander’s services despite a recent downturn in performance accompanied by injuries.
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Kluber, who turns 35 in April, has pitched just 36⅔ innings over the last two seasons (he made one start last year with the Texas Rangers) due to a fractured arm (struck by a liner in 2019) and a shoulder injury.
Considering the Yankees’ proximity to the $210 million luxury tax threshold, the deal with Kluber could also signal the club’s departure from Masahiro Tanaka.
A stalwart of the Yankees’ rotation since 2014, Tanaka is now a free agent and is likely too expensive to fit into the club’s 2021 scheme.
Kluber was Cleveland’s ace
During a five-year span with the Cleveland Indians from 2014 through 2018, Kluber was one of the game’s elite starters.
In that timeframe, Kluber went 83-45 with a 2.85 ERA, winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2014 and again in 2017, with two third-place finishes.
Kluber averaged 32 starts per season in that span, with 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.016 WHIP (walks and hits to innings pitched ratio).
As the ace of Cleveland’s stellar staff, Kluber won two games in the 2016 World Series, which the Chicago Cubs won in seven games.
The Yankees got the best of Kluber in 2017, when then-manager Joe Girardi’s club upset Terry Francona’s 102-win team in a five-game AL Division Series.
Overall in postseason, Kluber is 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA in nine starts.
Pete Caldera is the Yankees beat writer for NorthJersey.com.