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Floyd’s Injury Woes May Make Him a Footnote in Indians History

Floyd’s Injury Woes May Make Him a Footnote in Indians History

| On 05, Nov 2015

It never hurts to have pitching depth. However, a pitcher that cannot seem to keep from being hurt may not be overly valuable to the Indians at this point.

Veteran starter Gavin Floyd was brought in by the Tribe last offseason to provide depth to a young starting pitching rotation. Cleveland management took a gamble that Floyd could stay healthy despite his seasons having been shortened in both 2013 and 2014. The Indians believed he was over his right elbow issues that had plagued him and guaranteed him a spot in the rotation before spring training.

Floyd never got out of spring training, breaking a bone in his pitching elbow in March. It was the same bone he broke in 2014, when he was then coming off of 2013 Tommy John surgery. Floyd had to undergo surgery and missed nearly all of this past season.

The thought was Floyd was going to miss the entire year, but he worked hard to come back. He showed glimpses of the once-dependable starter he had been for five seasons with the White Sox. However, all seven of his late season appearance with the Tribe were in relief. He did post a respectable 2.70 ERA in 13 1/3 frames.

Floyd was not able to work himself back into starting form. After three straight seasons in which he missed most of the year with an injury to his pitching elbow, it remains to be seen if the 32-year-old Floyd, who will turn 33 in January, will ever be able to be an effective starting pitcher again. He may be best suited as a long or middle reliever at this stage of his career.

At least when the Indians gamble on bringing Floyd to the club, it was not a gamble involving a lot of money. It was a team-friendly deal, at one season and $4 million, for a guy who really could have helped out had he been able to stay healthy.

When Floyd was healthy with the White Sox, he was a dependable pitcher. From 2008-2012, he won ten or more games each season and never had an ERA higher than 4.37. His best season was his first one in that stretch, as he posted a year of 17-8 with a 3.84 ERA. That was also his first full campaign as a regular starter. He never hit those numbers again, but was a dependable innings-eater over the ensuing four seasons who usually gave his team a chance to win games.

That is the pitcher the Tribe was hoping to get to back up and provide guidance to a young, talented group of starters already in tow. Instead, the team got the 2013 and ’14 version. The Indians got the guy who had to undergo Tommy John surgery after five starts two years ago, in what was his final season in Chicago. They got the guy who broke the same elbow after only five promising starts with Atlanta a season ago.

Now Cleveland will have to weigh its options as to whether or not to offer another contract to Floyd.

On the plus side, Floyd would have to come cheap. It was one thing to pay $4 million for a pitcher who had re-injured his elbow once after the Tommy John procedure. It is not out of the ordinary for hurlers to hurt themselves again when coming back from the major surgery. Now, however, it is two broken elbow bones since the initial operation. Between the injury history and not knowing whether he can even be counted on as a starter any longer, the price tag for Floyd would almost surely have to be cut in half. He would be a low-risk, potentially good-reward type of player in that case.

The big question is, where would Floyd fit in?

If the Tribe were to bring him back on a one-year, team-friendly deal, there is no way he would or should be guaranteed a spot in the rotation. Certainly, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar slot in as the sure-things for the rotation. Despite his late-season struggles, Trevor Bauer will likely open camp with a starting job that would be his to lose. Then there is this past season’s rookie surprise in Cody Anderson, who would be ahead of Floyd right now. If the Indians bring back Josh Tomlin, he too would be ahead in the pecking order.

Perhaps the Indians could put Floyd in the bullpen. He looked pretty good there to end 2015. However, it was only a small sample size. It would still be something of a transition for someone who started for so long to go to the bullpen. It is not necessarily easy. Besides, the Indians do have ample arms for the ‘pen. It is not an area where the club is hurting.

It is certainly nice to have more options and Floyd would bring a veteran presence to the pitching staff. However, if the Tribe were to bring him back as strictly a reliever, he would almost have to agree to more like a $1 – $1.5 million deal. Maybe he could replace Zach McAllister.

McAllister, a former starter-turned-reliever, had a good first year in the bullpen. He is now arbitration eligible and it remains to be seen how high his cost will go and how high the Indians will be willing to go to keep him.

If Floyd has to take on a relief role, he and McAllister would be very similar pitchers. The Indians would not need to keep both, especially considering the price tags on the two. It would be hard to justify two reliever at about $2 million each who serve a middle or long relief role. McAllister is younger and if he is not too expensive should be kept.

All told, there really is not much room for Floyd. If he is willing to take the veterans’ minimum or go to camp on a minor league deal, then Cleveland would be wise to see if he can rebound from a third elbow surgery and if he can contribute anything at all to the rotation.

If Floyd is seeking guaranteed money, the Indians may be wise to let him walk and give those dollars to a guy who is more likely to play a full season.

Pitching depth is always good. However, it is better when that depth can perform and is not at risk of being injured on any given throw.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images