The Indians are a team rumored to be eagerly shopping one of their three talented, controllable starting pitchers. Of the three, Kluber is the most tantalizing. A two-time Cy Young winner with three years left on his team-friendly contract, it is going to take quite a haul for the Indians to think about pulling the trigger.
With that being said, the Braves surely have the prospects required to make such a deal.
Gabe Burns of the AJC wrote a fine article on why Kluber would be at the top of his list of potential trade targets. While the Braves have an overload of quality young pitching, they lack a truly experienced ace at the top of their rotation. Pairing Kluber up with Mike Foltynewicz would create a duo that could hold a candle to any in the major leagues.
ESPN also posted an article titled: “A blockbuster offseason move for all 30 teams”. In it, the Braves make a hypothetical deal for Corey Kluber. Where it gets interesting is the return for Kluber. The author, David Schoenfield, poses the Braves send Austin Riley, Cristian Pache and Touki Touissant for Kluber’s services.
Now, Kluber is as good of an ace as it gets and under manageable team control for three more seasons at a cheap rate. It is going to take that kind package for the Braves to make this deal happen, but for several reasons, this would be a tough pill to swallow for Braves fans.
First off, the Indians are not the perfect trading partner for the Braves. What they are reportedly looking for is MLB-ready outfield help. Obviously, quality pitching can serve as the icing on the cake, but they are going to need an organization’s top positional prospect if not two to part ways with Kluber.
The problem: The Braves only have two such players and have question marks offensively themselves. Outside of Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta has no idea what the future of their outfield is going to look like. It could be filled through free agency or trades, or it may involve their two best positional prospects.
Austin Riley looks like one of the best young power-hitting prospects in baseball, something the Braves lack on their roster. He crushed AAA last season and will make his way to the major leagues in 2019. The question is where. Riley is a third baseman, and the Braves already have a talented youthful left-side of the infield. Johan Camargo doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Dansby Swanson seems a little bit more tradeable, but it still doesn’t seem likely. Riley could make the move to an outfield spot or he might find himself a part of another organization.
Pache is valuable for a whole different set of reasons. His speed and arm strength make him easily the best defensive prospect in the Braves’ system. As a hitter, he appears to translate into a contact bat with the potential to steal a lot of bases, and he did show a little pop as a 19-year old, hitting 9 home runs in 122 games last year. However, unlike Riley, it is probably at least a year or two before he is ready for the show.
It is likely the Braves would be willing to part ways with one of these guys, but both in the same deal for one player doesn’t appear probable. For Kluber, Atlanta would certainly have to dangle Austin Riley in front of the Indians. He’s the MLB ready prospect that would be necessary to get the conversation started.
After that, they will have to include one of their top pitching prospects. Touki Toussaint is the name mentioned in the article. While it may hurt Braves fans, they have to remember what Toussaint was acquired for (taking on the salary of Bronson Arroyo) and how much his value has increased since then. The Braves would now be able to include him as a centerpiece of a blockbuster deal. There is no doubt Touissant has ace potential in the future, but selling now is selling high. Atlanta needs a player who can anchor the rotation next year. Touissant likely will not be that.
The tricky part is who else can the Braves add to make this deal happen. If the Braves are not willing to deal both Riley and Pache, it has to be another one of their top pitching prospects. I would add Gohara, Fried, Allard, and Wilson to the trade and see if the Indians would bite, but in reality, it might come down to the Braves biting the bullet and pulling the trigger. Pache is a fantastic prospect, but with the emergence of Drew Waters, Atlanta could certainly do without him.
Corey Kluber has finished in the top-10 of Cy Young voting in each of the last 5 seasons, winning two of them. He’s the best pitcher in baseball that nobody really talks about. Not to mention, his contract does not do his value justice. The Indians are still looking to compete. They are not actively looking to trade their best player. It is going to take a deal that blows them away for this to happen. A package of Riley/Pache/Touissant just might provide the necessary gust.