Kluber vs. Bauer- Who Should the Dodgers Acquire

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 09: Starting pitcher Corey Kluber #28 of the Cleveland Indians pitches against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning at Progressive Field on August 9, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 09: Starting pitcher Corey Kluber #28 of the Cleveland Indians pitches against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning at Progressive Field on August 9, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /

It’s rare the Dodgers have an opportunity to choose between two superstars on the trade market. It’s even rarer to have the opportunity to get both at a cheaper rate than they should go for. The Dodgers have that chance in the Indians’ Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, two pitchers that make an immediate difference should they be wearing blue on Opening Day 2019.

The Dodgers have had their hand in the biggest rumor of the offseason to date: Kluber and Bauer. Both have been floated around, and the experts have named the Dodgers as early contenders. With big acquisition rumors come big return speculations. Names like Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and prized prospect, Will Smith have been mentioned. But, one big question remains: If the Dodgers are willing to pay the price, which player, Bauer or Kluber, makes the most sense for the Los Angeles?

Kluber brings the track record- multiple Cy Young awards, league-leading numbers, playoff experience and an affordable contract make a compelling case. While Trevor Bauer brings opportunity- youth, cheap team control, and like his teammate Corey Kluber, he brings extremely solid numbers. With a decision and a price as high as it would be in a trade for either of the two Tribe members, the breakdown must be analytical.

Corey Kluber has been undeniably incredible for the good part of the last five seasons. In 2014, Kluber showed his true potential with a 2.44 ERA in 34 games started, bringing home the first Cy Young in his career. Kluber’s ERA+ skyrocketed from 99 in 2013 to 160 in 2014 and accompanied the astronomical change with a league-leading 2.35 WHIP. That 2014 was a career-altering year as his numbers continued flying through the roof.

In 2015, ’16, ’17 and ’18 Kluber’s ERA+’s were 123, 144, 202 and 151 respectively with the 2017 mark piloting his campaign to a second career Cy Young nod. For Kluber, dominating hitters has become an art of which he is the master. In 2018, Kluber had a 3.23 SIERA, the 10th best in the majors.

Now for the Dodgers, Kluber makes a world of sense for the right price. He is 32-years old and signed to a deal that dramatically undervalues how incredible he has been. Over the next three years, Kluber is owed a base salary of $52.5 million with incentives to potentially add value to the deal. But, the Dodgers can choose to terminate Kluber’s deal after 2019 and 2020 with two team options.

The downside for Kluber is his age. At 32 and counting, youth is not on his side. But, over the last few seasons, he has emphatically proven his baseball numbers will speak far louder than the number representing his age.

The Dodgers would add one of the best started in the game behind Clayton Kershaw to the same rotation as Kershaw himself.

Think he is better than acquiring Trevor Bauer? Pump the breaks.

At just 27-years old Trevor Bauer has made the leap from hovering around average to fully breaking out. Perhaps due to his deep passion for analytics and the science of baseball, Bauer improved his stats in every category between 2017 and 2018 and finished in the top-10 for Cy Young voting as a result.

Bauer debuted with the Diamondbacks. Drafted third overall in 2011 out of UCLA, the collegiate righty had lofty expectations to meet. He was traded just a year after the draft from Arizona to Cleveland and the Indians have never looked back. in 2013, Bauer made his debut with the Cleveland but pitched in just four games.

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The jump from prospect to major leaguer came in 2014 for Bauer when he made 26 big league starts and pitched 153 innings. He never looked back. From 2014 to 2017, four seasons, Bauer combined to pitch 695.1 innings with a 4.30 ERA and an ever-so mediocre ERA+ of 101. From third overall to a middle of the rotation, Bauer looked like a bust.

2018 flipped the script. Bauer pitched 175.1 innings, had a 2.21 ERA, 198 ERA+, a league-best 2.44 FIP and a total of 221 punchouts. And, like Kluber, Bauer’s SIERA was a really nice 3.21, edging out his teammate for the number nine spot on the 2018 leaderboard.

Bauer hit the headlines and peaked opposing trade interest.

Now the benefit in Trevor Bauer to Los Angeles is obvious. He is young and he has a full season of proving himself under his belt. Bauer has played in the California atmosphere having come into the MLB from UCLA and quite frankly, his contract is fantastic. Bauer would be a game-changing arm if he keeps up his 2018 pace. But, Bauer has his downsides too.

The first that comes to mind is his well-documented disruptive personality. He calls it “making baseball fun again” while many others use just a one-word description, “annoying.” Take it for what you will but Bauers personality and those of some of the players already in Los Angeles (namely Puig) seem like the perfect personas to clash.

The numbers could also hurt a case for Bauer. Was his 2018 campaign really impressive? Absolutely. But, has any previous season before 2018 been that way? Not even close. There is a factor of unpredictability with Bauer and that either lowers his trade value or makes his suitor, the Dodgers in this case, really nervous.

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There is an argument for both players and quite frankly the Dodgers cannot really go wrong. On one hand, you get one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball on the team and on the other hand, you get a young pitcher hoping to begin his reign of dominance. One thing is for sure however, the Dodgers would be foolish not to pull the trigger on one of the two but the question remains- with the numbers laid out, who do you choose between Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber?