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One Possible SF Giants Free-Agent Target Cleared

May 1, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; A member of the Cleveland Indians medical staff checks on starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) after he was struck in the arm by a ball in the fifth inning H at Marlins Park. Kluber could be an SF Giants target this offseason. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
May 1, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; A member of the Cleveland Indians medical staff checks on starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) after he was struck in the arm by a ball in the fifth inning H at Marlins Park. Kluber could be an SF Giants target this offseason. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
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SF Giants, Corey Kluber
Could the SF Giants add two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in free agency? (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Corey Kluber could be just the high-risk starting pitcher the SF Giants target this offseason. He just cleared a major hurdle to pitching in a big-league rotation next year.

Free-agent right-handed pitcher Corey Kluber was cleared to resume throwing on Monday, according to a report by Jon Morosi of MLB Network. Kluber became one of the SF Giants newest free-agent targets when the Texas Rangers declined his $18.5 million club option last week. Even after offering Kevin Gausman a qualifying offer, Kluber still fits the Giants offseason needs.

After nine seasons with Cleveland, Kluber was traded to the Rangers last offseason for a collection of prospects. His time in Arlington did not go as planned. In 2020, he managed just one official inning of work before suffering a strained right shoulder, which ended his season.

Now that he’s been cleared to throw, Kluber is on schedule to return to a mound in December and should be on track to be ready by Spring Training in February. While he is coming off two injury-riddled seasons and will 35-years old in 2021, there is probably no pitcher with as strong a resume available.

Over his five-season peak, from 2014-2018, Kluber won the American League Cy Young twice and finished in the top-ten voting for the award every year. During that span, Kluber struck out at least 220 batters over at least 200 innings while never surrendering an ERA above 3.50 in any year.

With that said, it’s hard to know what he has left from his miniscule 36.2 innings sample over the past two years. Kluber’s 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings is almost identical to his career mark (9.8 K/9). His 4.06 FIP is a far cry from his previous ace-level production but still suggested he was a competent pitcher when healthy. Still, at 35 and clearly declining, how much can he be trusted over a 162-game season?

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With so many potential starters on the open market, the SF Giants are in a position to add enough trustworthy options to afford a gamble on someone with top-line upside. Perhaps that player could be Corey Kluber. If it is, he cleared a big hurdle to ensuring his health on Opening Day in 2021.

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