New York Yankees fans knew big moves were coming this offseason, but many didn’t expect general manager Brian Cashman to go in the direction that he did.
Kluber, who will be 35 in the coming weeks, has made just eight starts (36.2 innings) since the beginning of 2019 thanks to a freak forearm injury and a shoulder issue that required surgery in 2020. But the bet is that he’s fresh and the injuries are behind him.
After all, if Klubot can pitch even 75% to his usual capabilities, that’s a colossal upgrade for the Yankees, especially come October when they’ll need someone twirling high-leverage innings behind Gerrit Cole.
We got to see Kluber take the mound for the first time on Sunday since undergoing that surgery and manager Aaron Boone said he was pleased with what he saw. Encouraging! Yankees fans will quite literally take any shred of positive injury news.
And not to get ahead of ourselves, but the betting odds for the 2021 Cy Young Award winners dropped recently, and Kluber is sitting pretty at +1800. That’s 18-1, an attractive longshot no doubt.
Are these odds trying to tell us something, though?
Kluber essentially has the same odds as Lance Lynn, who has been among the best starters in the AL the last two seasons. And behind Kluber is Kenta Maeda and Dallas Keuchel, both of whom had tremendous 2020 campaigns. Chris Sale, who’s expected back from Tommy John surgery, is also right there, but it wouldn’t be farfetched if he starting tearing it up upon his return, which could be sooner than many expect.
Nonetheless, with Cole as the favorite and Shane Beiber right behind him, you look at the rest of these candidates and pretty much say, “meh.” The fact that Kluber is in the middle of the pack after having hardly pitched in two years might be telling us that oddsmakers are expecting a somewhat promising bounce-back year from the two-time Cy Young winner.
Vegas knows best, after all.
According to FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections, Kluber is slated for a 9-7 record with a 3.87 ERA and 3.93 FIP across 20 starts (118 innings). If you’re optimistic about Kluber, you’d probably look at that as a very conservative outlook for the right-hander.
But hey, if you’re feeling really lucky, Luis Severino is hanging out at 30-1 odds. The fact he’s even on this board is surprising, but perhaps the books are liking the Yankees’ starting rotation for 2021. In a weakened American League, anything is possible.