After logging only 36.2 innings between 2019 and 2020 because of injuries, Corey Kluber had to pitch in front of several teams’ scouts over the offseason to secure a contract, one that he ended up getting from the New York Yankees.
The Bombers signed him to a one-year, $11 million contract with the hope that he could regain the form that made him one of the very best pitchers in the American League since 2013.
After a rocky start, understandable considering the two years in which he virtually didn’t pitch, he found his stride and his command.
He even pitched a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers earlier in the season and was starting to resemble the pitcher he was with the Cleveland Indians.
His Shoulder Injury Took Months Off His 2021 Season
However, just when he was a reliable piece of the Yankees’ rotation, he suffered a shoulder strain that took him out of action for months.
Starter Corey Kluber will be sidelined until at least July with a right shoulder strain and first baseman Luke Voit has a Grade 2 oblique strain in the latest round of injuries for the #Yankees
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) May 26, 2021
He suffered the injury in late May, and we are already in late August and he hasn’t returned.
He is, however, already making rehab starts in Double-A and could return to the Yankees rotation in early-to-mid September.
The right-hander allowed three earned runs over three innings in a rehab outing Tuesday with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
He looked better than his stats suggest, and the 35-year-old veteran could help the Yankees improve their pitching depth next month with an eye on the postseason.
The question remains: since he is on a one-year deal, what kind of contract could be sign this offseason?
He proved in 2021 that he is still a top pitcher when healthy.
Before hitting the injured list with his shoulder strain, Kluber was 4-3 with a 3.04 ERA in 53.1 innings.
He struck out 55 hitters and had a 1.20 WHIP.
Those are very good numbers, even better if you consider that he plays in the tough AL East.
Kluber had a 3.04 era and threw a no hitter before going out. He’s still good
— JCC (@hoosiers180) August 21, 2021
Proving He Is Healthy Would Go A Long Way In Negotiations
The key element for contract negotiations this offseason will be how he rebounds from his shoulder injury in September, provided he has no setbacks and can start a couple of games before the campaign ends.
If he returns to form and pitches like he did in May before going down with the shoulder strain, he could very well find a deal with at least the same base salary he signed for in 2021, $11 million, potentially with a team option for 2023.
Of course, he will likely push for a multi-year deal with a couple of years guaranteed, but given his age, it would be difficult.
Pitching is always at a premium, however, which is why the Yankees topped all offers and secured his services in 2021 in the first place.
Coming back strong from his physical issues, having a great September, and a good postseason will greatly help Kluber in contract negotiations, securing at least a $10 million base salary for one or two years.
If he fails to return to form in September, or suffers another setback, he will be back to square one, trying to convince teams he is healthy and can still be an effective major league starter with another injury on his resume.