This is a curious case for Corey Kluber

The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and his Cleveland Indians employers have yet to discuss a contract extension, but considering his potential value and cost, Kluber makes sense as a guy the team would want to sign to an extension.

The Indians have already acknowledged that much.

“Corey represents all of the things we look for in players: dependable, reliable person, committed to his work ethic, talented,” Indians President Mark Shapiro told reporters last week, per Jordan Bastian of “Then you look at contracts and you say, ‘Can we find that point where we’re both comfortable with the shared risk?’ We don’t know that right now. That’s something that we’ll have to look at.

“As prioritization of the calendar goes, it’s something we’ll probably look at over the next couple of months. … He has all the precursors that we would look for to enter into a multiyear agreement.”

The club has long been unwilling to accept that shared risk Shapiro talks about. While the team has been aggressive in building contract extensions for some of its position players—Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes—it has been dormant with pitchers. It did not sign its previous ace, Justin Masterson, to an extension, leaving Roberto Hernandez, then known as Fausto Carmona, in 2008 as the last pitcher the Indians have signed to an extension.

But Kluber, whose Cy Young campaign came in his second full season in the majors, could become quite expensive if he continues to produce like an ace. The Indians understand this, and that is why the thought of a new contract makes plenty of sense.

For the numbers Kluber put up last season, he is being paid like a peasant in the kingdom of Major League Baseball. He made $514,000 last season and is set to again make the league minimum this season before reaching arbitration. That price tag for 2015 could give the Indians hesitance in striking a new deal, but if Kluber continues to perform, the Indians could still have him at a bargain.

When the Chicago White Sox extended Chris Sale before the 2013 season, he had similar service time (two-plus years) as Kluber. That contract was worth $32.5 million over five years, and at around this time a year ago, the Atlanta Braves signed Julio Teheran to a six-year, $32.4 million deal. The Teheran contract came after his rookie season, and both extensions covered at least one year of free agency. The deals were in line with ones signed by Madison Bumgarner (five years, $35 million) and Ricky Romero (five years, $30.1 million).

A deal for Kluber would likely look very similar to those signed before this season. The difference between Kluber and those other pitchers is age. Kluber turns 29 on April 10, and buying even one free-agent season would mean the Indians are paying a 33-year-old pitcher, something the mid-market team has deliberately avoided.

If the Indians do not extend Kluber before his arbitration years kick in after this season, the risk is expensive, as arbitration prices for aces have reached all-time highs.

Just a couple weeks ago, Detroit Tigers ace David Price annihilated the previous record for an arbitration-eligible player, which was set last year by Max Scherzer at $15.25 million. Price was coming off a good but not great season in which he led the American League in strikeouts and innings pitched but managed just a modest 117 ERA-plus. Still, his track record and previous salary earned him a one-year, $19.75 million contract. Price’s salary was boosted by the fact that he was a Super Two player, giving him an extra year of arbitration.

If Kluber continues to be a Cy Young candidate, the Indians could see his value in arbitration skyrocket to a number they are uncomfortable paying. In that case, cost certainty, and regulating Kluber’s salary, makes a lot of sense for the organization.

The reason an extension makes sense for Kluber is the same reason the Indians might balk at buying out free-agent years: age. Kluber is a late bloomer who performed at a completely unexpected level in 2014. Certainly there is no assurance he will continue to dominate the AL as he did last season, so taking the guaranteed money is the smart, safe play. And if he can get any number of his free-agent years bought out, he should take that money, too.

As for why, aside from the obvious guaranteed cash, Kluber needs to look no further than James Shields’ struggle to land what he believes he is worth this offseason. Shields was hoping for a nine-figure contract, one that would earn him in the neighborhood of $20 million as the average annual value. Those hopes seem to have been dashed, as the 33-year-old is still unsigned two weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training.

As for the possibility of all of this actually happening, Kluber is deflecting.

“That’s not my job to worry about that,” Kluber said to Zack Meisel of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. “My job is to go out there and pitch. I have agents that can handle that stuff for me when the time comes. My job is to get prepared to play this season.”

Clearly, both sides are open to making it happen. The next two months will tell us if this sensible deal will happen sooner rather than later.

Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent the previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News and four years before that as the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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