Padres’ Search for 3B Could Send Corey Kluber to Cincinnati

It’s convoluted and doesn’t appear close to having any real momentum, but the Padres’ search for a third baseman could end up having an impact on the Cubs. That’s nothing new, since we recently discussed San Diego targeting David Bote as a potential replacement for Wil Myers, who has moved back to the outfield. The latest update is that the Pads might be trying to swing a three-team team that would end up sending Corey Kluber to Cincinnati.

Wait, what?

According to Dennis Lin of The Athletic, Padres GM A.J. Preller wants to acquire Kluber from the Indians in order to flip him to the Reds for stud third base prospect Nick Senzel. Lin added that no deal is close, both because of the number of moving parts involved and the Reds’ reluctance to part with Senzel, but the Padres certainly seem motivated to make something happen.

The Reds seem likewise motivated to upgrade their pitching staff, the biggest hurdle between them and another season the in NL Central cellar. With both Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp likely in town for just the 2019 season, Cincy could be interested in propping their competitive window open a little further. And they’ve already engaged in direct talks with Cleveland for their ace, though a price that involved Senzel or outfielder Taylor Trammell was deemed too steep.

How, then, would it make more sense for them to shop retail through the Padres? It may not, since the price for Kluber would probably still have to involve Senzel, who would remain in the NL to haunt them more frequently than if he stayed in Ohio. Unless, of course, San Diego is more willing to take less or even offset some of Kluber’s potential $52.5 million over the next three seasons.

Only $19 million of that is guaranteed, with $17 million this coming season and $1 million buyouts on club options of $17.5 million and $18 million over each of the next two years. The Reds aren’t traditionally a big-money team, but they did give Homer Bailey $105 million back in 2014. Freed from that albatross and with few heavy long-term obligations, Cincy could easily absorb Kluber’s contract.

Wow, putting it that way almost makes it seem like $52 million is a lot in today’s baseball economy. Even though he’ll turn 33 in April, Kluber is still easily worth potential salaries over the next three seasons that average less than this season’s qualifying offer ($17.5M to $17.9M).

But all this talk of trades and whether a thrifty team like San Diego or Cincinnati would be willing to pay Kluber (which is really a joke, because not wanting him at those prices would be dangerously ignorant) could be for naught. Cleveland was supposedly looking to move Kluber and/or Trevor Bauer in an effort to save money. But they’ve already cleared salary by offloading Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion and still look like clear favorites in the weak AL Central.

That would be in the Cubs’ best interest since it means keeping Kluber out of the division, even though it also means keeping Senzel in the division. Both the Reds and Padres appear to be itching to make a move, though, so don’t go closing any doors just yet.

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