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Inbox: Is Kluber a potential trade candidate?

Inbox: Is Kluber a potential trade candidate?

Inbox: Is Kluber a potential trade candidate?

Any truth to the Mark Trumbo to Tribe rumors? He'd sure look good manning first base in 2014.
-- Ricky C., South Bend, Ind.

'Tis the season for rumors. Indeed, there was one floating around Twitter on Thursday night that claimed the Angels and Indians had a deal in place that would send right-hander Corey Kluber (plus a couple of Minor Leaguers) to Orange County in exchange for Trumbo.

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MLB.com's Angels reporter, Alden Gonzalez, asked Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto about that potential trade scenario.

"If that's the case, count me as the most shocked," Dipoto said.

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Let's consider that about as official a debunking of an Internet trade rumor can get. That said, the concept of Cleveland targeting Trumbo to fill the perceived need for right-handed power certainly makes sense, as does L.A. looking for reinforcements on the mound. This particular trade rumor, however, appears to break down if, well, you break it down.

First, consider the fact that the Indians already stand to possibly lose starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir to free agency this offseason. Trading Kluber, who does not hit his arbitration years until 2016, would not make much sense unless Cleveland knows with 100 percent certainty that it can add 500-600 innings to its rotation this offseason.

Kluber is a near lock for the Tribe's staff for 2014. During a 16-start stretch from May 15-Aug. 5 -- prior to the pitcher sustaining a right middle finger injury -- Kluber was among the top 10-15 starters in the American League. In that span, he ranked third in strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.80), fourth in Fielding Independent Pitching (3.08), sixth in innings (99 2/3), seventh in strikeouts (96), 11th in WHIP (1.12) and 13th in ERA (3.07). That's a whole lot of promise for the future of Cleveland's rotation.

As for Trumbo, he can hit free agency by 2017, making such a deal very one-sided financially. The right-handed slugger's value also takes a hit when looking beyond the home runs (34 in 2013 and an average of 32 from 2011-13). Trumbo's 109 OPS+ in '13 ranked below Nick Swisher (117) and slighly above Michael Brantley (107). Trumbo's 2.2 WAR would have ranked seventh on Cleveland last year, right behind Michael Bourn (2.4).

Fangraphs.com also has an interesting "dollars" metric, which attempts to translate WAR into value in the free-agent market. In 2013, Trumbo's dollar value was $12.3 million, which was between Ryan Raburn ($12.4 million) and Swisher ($12.1 million) when compared to Cleveland's roster. The power is nice -- and something Cleveland could use -- but Trumbo's value is hurt by his low on-base percentage (.294) and high strikeout total (184).

Considering the underwhelming crop of free-agent shortstops, shouldn't the Indians make a serious effort to trade Asdrubal Cabrera? Mike Aviles could serve as a stopgap in 2014, while Francisco Lindor finishes his development, right?
-- Ely S., New Rochelle, N.Y.

I'm not sure the Indians should be the ones pushing hard to trade Cabrera, but the club should certainly listen if other teams call about the shortstop. The 28-year-old Cabrera is coming off a down year (in which he faded in the second half for a third straight season) and is set to earn $10 million in 2014, making his value lower than in previous seasons.

Cleveland loves having Aviles in the backup role, so I'm not sure it would be as simple as throwing him into the starting job, if Cabrera were dealt. The Indians would likely need to add more depth, creating a cushion to avoid forcing Lindor to the Majors earlier than necessary. As we sit here today, I think the Tribe will open 2014 with Cabrera at shortstop again.

Do you expect the Indians to be more conservative in the offseason, or can we expect a similar aggressive approach toward the free-agency period much as they had last year?
-- Jose T., Utuado, Puerto Rico

Last winter, when the Indians needed to overhaul the roster, the aggressive approach made sense, especially when the team could navigate free agency with a protected Draft pick. It's also worth remembering that Cleveland made trades to free up salary space to help make the free-agent additions possible. The payroll did not jump dramatically, even with the signings of Swisher, Bourn and others.

Cleveland already made one move along those lines by releasing former closer Chris Perez, who could have earned $8 million to $9 million through arbitration this winter. That financial breathing room might help toward adding help for the rotation or bullpen. Compared to last winter, though, I do think this offseason will be more conservative. The needs are more narrowed and the team is coming off a 92-win season.

What is the deal with releasing Perez? Did he have no value as trade bait? Could you explain the reason the Tribe would just let him go? Is it all related to arbitration? Thanks.
-- Steve L., Westfield, Ohio

Unless you're a lights-out closer, Perez's salary through arbitration would have been a high asking price for any team. Once Perez lost the closing job in September, that projected salary became far too high for a middle reliever. If he was traded, the arbitration raise would still apply for the acquiring team, which would probably have asked the Indians to chip in some salary. Add Perez's off-field drama on top of everything else, and he is a player that's very hard to trade.

I would wager that the Indians spent months assessing Perez's trade value, and found out that other teams weren't willing to give much for a pitching who was declining in performance, increasing in salary and creating distractions off the field. Releasing him was the best route for both sides.

Despite his off year, do the Indians believe that next year we could see the Vinnie Pestano of old?
-- John G., North Ridgeville, Ohio

Statistically, Pestano has declined virtually across the board in each of the past two years. That said, the former setup man had injury issues last season that offered a possible explanation. Cleveland is hoping that an offseason of rest will do Pestano wonders. I would expect the reliever to be worked in as a middle reliever at first, but he will certainly be aiming to regain his late-inning form.

In closing ...

What's going to happen to my favorite underdog, Lou Marson? Does he have a place on this team next year? I love what the Yanimal (Yan Gomes ) did last year, but I can't help but feel like Lou's going be hitting the road this offseason.
-- Jeff T., Mentor, Ohio

If Marson is healthy and recovered from the right shoulder injury that kept him sidelined for most of 2013, he still has value as a backup catcher for the Indians. Consider that Cleveland has used only two catchers in an entire season just five times in the past 25 years. Over that span, the team has averaged more than three catchers per season, including five in 2013. Even if Marson opens at Triple-A as Cleveand's third-string option, his defense, arm and ability to hit lefties help his value on the depth chart.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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