New York Yankees to pursue Cy Young Award winner in free agency

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JULY 26: Corey Kluber (28) of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Colorado Rockies in the top of the first inning at Globe Life Field on July 26, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The New York Yankees are preparing to make an effort to fill the number two pitching spot behind Gerrit Cole for the 2021 season.

After dropping a nine-year, $324 million deal for Cole, the Yankees are trying desperately to stay beneath the $210 million luxury tax threshold. However, they have a bit of money opening up with the departures of James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and JA Happ.

Nonetheless, some reports have indicated the Yankees are interested in bringing back Tanaka and have appeal in several different alternatives this off-season, but one name that has bubbled to the surface is former Cy Young picture Corey Kluber.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that “a rival executive speculates that given the developments in the starting pitching market, and the respective team needs, he sees Corey Kluber landing with the Yankees, Mets or Red Sox.”

The New York Yankees will be in the mix at the top for pitching, as always:

Kluber offers a more realistic option behind Cole, and he could be revitalized to his previous form with a change of scenery. Kluber pitched just 1.0 innings in 2020 due to a Grade 2 teres major strain.
If the injury is, in fact, behind him, the Yankees could land him on a cheaper contract than Tanaka and possibly get exponential value.
Taking a look at his last productive season in 2018, Kluber pitched 215.0 innings, earning a 2.89 ERA with a 44.4% ground ball rate, a category he’s very consistent in. He struck out 9.29 batters per nine, but his 2019 season was also influenced by injuries. Over the past two years, Corey has only played in 36.2 innings, but similar to Luis Severino, the Yankees could still have confidence in his abilities. Considering prior to his 2019 campaign, he was one of the best pitchers in the MLB and represented a massive upgrade, taking a flier on him is a high-risk, high reward move.
Kluber did see a decrease in velocity the past two seasons over a small sample size, but nothing significant compared to the 2018 season. His primary pitcher are his cutter, sinker, and slider. He’s not a fastball pitcher, utilizing offspeed pitches that hover in the high 90s and mid-80s to confuse batters.
Personally, I think Kluber could be a fantastic option for the Yankees if he’s willing to settle for less than $15 million per season.
Again, I believe the Yankees could benefit from a contract with Kluber on a short-term deal, but there is still interest in bringing back Tanaka. If they can resurrect Kluber’s past performances, he could be a perfect option for a team that tends to invest in injury-prone stop-gap players like James Paxton.