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Central Notes: Kluber, Greene, Cubs

Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber has earned $3.5MM of a possible $4MM in contract escalators, according to Jordan Bastian of (via Twitter). All that remains is an all-but-certain top-10 finish in this year’s Cy Young award voting to raise Kluber’s salary in 2019 from $13MM to the full $17MM. His contract options in 2020 and 2021 will increase to $17.5MM and $18MM respectively. Despite a disappointing loss to Justin Verlander and the Astros in the ALDS, Kluber put together another stellar campaign in 2018. He won twenty games for the first time, going 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA in 215 innings. Kluber’s run of dominance began in his age-28 season, and he’s been one of baseball’s true number-one starters in the five years since (2.84 FIP, 152 ERA+ over that time). He more than earned his pay raise, but it does make an already-tight financial situation even tighter for Cleveland this offseason as they try to fill holes in their lineup and rebuild their bullpen around July acquisition Brad Hand.

Some notes from the Senior Circuit’s central division…

  • Encouraging news for Reds fans from Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer, as 2017 number two overall pick Hunter Greene rehabs his elbow at the Reds’ Spring Training complex in Arizona. Greene sprained the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow – and though injuries to this ligament often result in Tommy John surgery – Greene elected the non-surgical route and is progressing as planned. Before ending his season in July, the 6’4″ right-hander was 3-7 with a 4.48 ERA in 18 starts at Class-A Dayton. Advanced metrics paint a more impressive picture for the 19-year-old flamethrower – 11.72 K/9, 3.29 FIP, 3.13 xFIP. Greene hopes to get back to hitting triple digits when he resumes throwing in December or January.
  • Cubs players seemed unclear in exit interviews about the organization’s hitting philosophy. Theo Epstein, Joe Maddon and whoever replaces Chili Davis as Maddon’s hitting coach will strive for greater harmony in organizational messaging about their offensive strategy moving forward, but the track record isn’t great writes the Athletic’s Patrick Mooney as he reviews Chicago’s hitting coaches since 2013 – a list that will be one name longer by Opening Day 2019. Current Phillies hitting coach John Mallee survived the longest, a three-year stretch that included the 2016 World Series and ended after the 2017 season. Some names Mooney suggests the Cubs could consider include their former special assistant in player development Anthony Iapoce, who spent last season as the Rangers’ hitting coach, Erik Hinske, Mallee’s assistant hitting coach for three seasons in Chicago, and current assistant hitting coach Andy Haines.

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