Yankees lose free-agent pitcher to rivals, who always seem to make the right moves

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber
May 19, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) throws during the fourth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees were willing to spend $25 million for just one year worth of Justin Verlander as of a few weeks ago, but since he signed with the Houston Astros on an extension, the Bombers have shifted their attention to other prospects. However, one of their own free agents this off-season has signed a one-year deal with an AL East rival.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Corey Kluber will sign a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays:

Free-agent RHP Corey Kluber in agreement with Rays on one-year deal, pending physical, sources tell The Athletic. Kluber, 35, missed more than three months with right shoulder strain before rejoining Yankees in late August. Finished with 3.83 ERA in 80 IP, including no-hitter.

Tampa Bay always seems to make the right decisions, and with the 35-year-old Kluber coming off a down here with the Yanks, pitching in just 16 games and 80 innings, they’re likely getting him at a reduced price. Kluber posted a 3.83 ERA this past year, hosting a 9.23 strikeout rate per nine and a 42.5% ground-ball rate.

Given he is healthy, Kluber is still capable of being an adequate pitcher, even featuring a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers on May 20.

The Yankees might regret not offering him a minor deal for his services, despite his injury history. Looking at his pitches, Kluber’s fastball dropped to just 90.6 mph, the lowest of his career. He threw his fastball just 29.7% of the time, relying heavily on his cutter, curveball, and change-up. Every single one of his pitches saw a significant decline in velocity, but his curve is still adequate, giving him some efficiency.

Clearly, the Rays viewed this as an opportunity to gain a pitcher at the end of his career with just a bit of gas left in the tank to offer in a back-of-the-rotation role.

The Yankees desperately still need to find a new starter to inject into the rotation, but they haven’t been very active in the market as they wait for the December 1 lockout.

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