How great is the Corey Kluber deal for the Cleveland Indians?

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Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Tim Lincecum Comparison

Tim Lincecum made 24 starts as a rookie in 2007 for the San Francisco Giants. He threw 146.1 innings and posted a 4.00 ERA and 3.63 WHIP. His second year, however, he won the National League Cy Young Award. He made only $405K that year. In 2009, he followed that up with yet another Cy Young Award. He made $650K that year, his last pre-arbitration year. How much did he get in 2010? He “settled” with the Giants for $8M in 2010 and $13M in 2011 after initially asking for $13M in 2010 alone. That’s $21M over his first two arbitration years. Two years later Lincecum again avoided arbitration. After initially asking for $21.5M (Giants countered with “only” $17M), he agreed to a two year deal for $40.5M, buying out his final arbitration year and first year of free agency. Lincecum over the same 5 year period that Kluber just signed for, made $64.15M. Let’s repeat that…$64.15M is what Tim Lincecum got from 2009-2013. From 2015-2019, Corey Kluber is set to make $38.5M.

One could argue that comparing Tim Lincecum to Corey Kluber is not fair. Tim Lincecum was a top prospect who won two Cy Youngs before he reached arbitration. Kluber meanwhile was a mostly unheralded prospect who struggled some when he first came up and has won “only” one Cy Young award (so far). However, a closer look at the start of their careers and things don’t look as different as one might think.

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Do numbers get much closer than that? Lincecum had more strikeouts but also a way higher walk-rate. Kluber a better ERA, FIP, K/BB rate, and even a better overall fWAR over the two-year time frames being compared. Lincecum of course followed up his great 2008 season with yet another 7-win season. We obviously still don’t know what Kluber will do in 2015; however, if Monday was any indication he sure seems to be off to a good start.

Next: What About the Post-Arbitration Years?