New York Yankees roll dice on Corey Kluber: Will he return to Cy Young form?

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Timing is everything, in sports as well as life. If the timing is right between Corey Kluber and the New York Yankees, with whom the longtime ace was finalizing a one-year, $11 million deal late Friday, it will be good news for the pitcher in the long term -- and perhaps even better for the team in the short term.

Speaking of timing, in the larger context of this winter's free-agent market, the timing of Kluber's free agency reveals an irony when you consider the similar status of former Cleveland teammate Trevor Bauer. Kluber is nearly five years older than Bauer, but for five full seasons (2014 to 2018), Kluber was the most dominant starting pitcher in the American League, leading the circuit in wins (83) and WAR (31.7), according to Baseball-Reference. He won two Cy Young Awards and finished third in the balloting two other times.

In each of those seasons, he was better than Bauer, with the debatable exception of Bauer's breakout season in 2018, when both star righties ranked among the American League's top Cy Young candidates. Yet here we are, two seasons later, and it's Bauer, not Kluber, who is the most coveted pitcher on the market. It was Kluber, not Bauer, who had to audition for teams, throwing a reported 30 pitches before scouts and other interested parties earlier this week at a gathering at which as many as 25 teams were represented.

If anything, that should help light a fuse under Kluber. So, too, will the short duration of his new contract, which is in part a result of his own preference, according to the Newark Star-Ledger, as he hopes to set himself up for a bigger payday next year. That has to be A-OK for the Yankees, who have acquired a pitcher who has thrown just 36⅔ innings over the past two seasons. In 2020, which represents the whole of Kluber's career with the Texas Rangers, he threw 18 pitches, or 12 fewer than he threw at his showcase earlier this week.

For Kluber, the deal is a chance to prove his outstanding career has a promising second act in the works. For the Yankees, it's a low-risk, high-upside deal for a hurler who only recently was among the elite of the elite but whose recent string of injuries renders a multiyear splurge as just too risky.

So what kind of Klubot did the Bombers just acquire?