Indians Should Consider Adding Another Proven Starter
Craig Gifford | On 17, Jan 2014
On Feb. 11, less than one month from now, pitchers and catchers will report to Cleveland Indians spring training camp in Goodyear, Az.
There will be a lot of names there, to be sure. There will be a lot of interesting stories to be told and fingers being crossed. Cleveland management has certainly done its due diligence in searching high and low for starting pitchers. The problem is, many of the arms added this offseason have belonged to players coming off down years or may be injury risks. It is a little unsettling that the Indians have not done much to bring in many players who have put up good numbers in the last year.
With the losses of Scott Kazmir, Joe Smith, Chris Perez and more than likely Ubaldo Jimenez, four key players were lost. Two relievers and two starters who played important roles in last year’s Wild Card run are with or will be with other teams in 2014. In their place are people from within the organization hoping to take the next step forward or veterans looking to resurrect their careers. There have been no “sure things” added to fill any of the voids.
Right now, the team seems to feel it can go into the season with hopes of playoff contention with quite a few ifs and maybes. In that regard, it did work last year. Many questions marks surrounding a young and previously battered pitching staff were answered with mostly positive responses. It is hard to expect to get lightning in a bottle two years in a row. In 2013, Jimenez and Kazmire exceeded all expectations while Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister went from rookie hopefuls to rotation fixtures for the future.
Cleveland appears to be treading similar water this year. The team currently has three starters who will no doubt break camp with the big league squad. Justin Masterson will be the team’s ace and will have Kluber and McAllister somewhere behind him in the starting five. That is a good start. However, questions linger after that.
The Indians seem content to give last season’s rookie break-out sensation Danny Salazar every opportunity to make the team out of spring training this year. There is no problem with that. Though, it would be nice if he could be slide into the No. 5 slot where he would have no pressure. As it stands, he is entering the Cactus League season as the Tribe’s fourth best option.
Behind the young phenom are a guy like Shaun Marcum, who is looking to bounce back from disappointing and injury-riddled seasons or a guy like Trevor Bauer, a young arm who has potential but has not yet been able to put it all together in the Majors Leagues.
It would be nice to see the Indians add another proven pitcher, with recent success, for depth. The bad news is, they have yet to do this. The good news is, there is still and there are still players available. A player still on the free agent market, at this point, will need probably need to drop their price tag or years asked for to increase their market value and speed up the signing process.
Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Jimenez are all said to be seeking around four years and $60 million. They are the best starters available. All are question marks as they have been like yo-yos – up and down throughout their careers. One of their prices may drop into a more favorable situation for the money-strapped Indians, but it remains to be seen.
That being the case, the Indians should take a look at someone like Bronson Arroyo or A.J. Burnett. Both are in the back half of their 30s. However, both have shown in recent years that there still something left in their respective tanks. Neither would come at very high price, perhaps $5-$7 million for a season. At most, a two-year deal would need to be issued for either veteran. Those are not albatross type numbers. Either one would give protection to Cleveland if the hurlers on minor league deals or the young pitchers do not work out.
Same goes in the bullpen. John Axford is a proven closer, who has a chance to be an excellent replacement for Perez. However, the Indians are counting on a bounce-back season, as he had a disappointing 2013 campaign. It would also seem the Tribe is hoping for a rebound from Vinnie Pestano, who was lights out for three years before a forgettable year last season.
Unlike starting pitching, however, bullpens are much more fickle. Bounce backs and down years happen all the time. The Indians have so many relievers in tow that they should be able to put together a decent, at worst, relief corps.
It is the rotation that could use some work. Hoping to fill that last two spots with question marks for a second straight year could backfire. Keep in mind, too, that McAllister and Kluber both had finger issues last season and it would be good to have starting pitching depth in case one of them sees an issue again in the spring.
Yes, the Indians had great success with players on minor league contracts last year. Kazmir, Jason Giambi and Ryan Raburn worked out famously. Still, it is hard to get that lucky multiple years in a row. They also had the rebound performances of Masterson and Jimenez help. If the Indians can get unexpected success from players along those line again this year, then things are fine the way they stand. As it is hard to count on that run of good fortune continuing, adding another proven name in the next four weeks may give fans a little more confidence in getting back to the postseason.
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