Lowe Trade A Sign Of Indians New Direction

Monday’s trade by the Cleveland Indians to acquire Derek Lowe is an indication of several things, some obvious but others maybe a little more hidden. The trade is another sign that the Indians are all-in for the 2012 season with an eye on a division crown and postseason play.

Lowe, who will be 38 on Opening Day, will look to rebound from his worst season as a major leaguer. This season he led the National League in losses and had a career high 5.05 ERA. However, the aging veteran did win 16 games in 2010 and, as Chris Antonetti noted, he has not been injured since 1995. Lowe will help solidify the rotation with Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Tomlin and Fausto Carmona. Considering Antonetti said Monday that Lowe will not have to compete for a job, there should be very little competition in the starting rotation in Spring Training.

Lowe should also bring veteran leadership to a starting rotation that was lacking in that department. To further that point, Lowe should be able to further help Carmona work and control his slider that induces so many groundballs when it is working. Lowe is the same type of sinker-style, ground ball pitcher. Carmona’s last good season in 2010 was under the guidance of Jake Westbrook, another veteran sinker pitcher.

The acquisition also indicates the opportunities for Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff and Zach McAllister to be thin heading into next season. It appears as if the three are headed for another season at AAA-Columbus. If any of the three were to pitch exceptionally well in Spring Training, they could be used as possible trade bait to acquire another missing piece. Assuming the front five starters stay relatively healthy during the first half of the season, any of the three could be a piece of a July trade for a playoff push.

While those signs may be obvious outcomes of the trade, some others might not be so clear to see. Lowe’s addition to the staff now gives the Indians three of the top 10 ground ball pitchers in baseball with Carmona and Masterson. However, the Indians currently find themselves with one of the worst defensive infields in baseball. Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall are each below average defensively and Carlos Santana is a catcher converted to first base to stay in the lineup.

If the Indians are serious about contention, expect them to add a first baseman who will provide some offense for the lineup, but one who is an excellent defender. Also, while the team may not be shopping him, in the right deal the Tribe could be willing to part ways with Chisenhall. Drew Pomeranz was more untouchable in July than Chisenhall, so anyone could be moved in the right deal.

Finally, this is another clear indication that Antonetti and the Indians have pushed all their chips to the middle and are all-in for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Antonetti admitted Lowe is projected to be the team’s fifth starter, but the Indians will be responsible for $5 million of his salary.

When was the last time the Indians were willing to spend $5 million on a fifth starter?

It would be easy to try to add to the offense, return the same solid starting staff they had this year and use this years Clippers’ All-Stars in the fifth spot, but the organization is looking to improve the ball club in every way possible. Antonetti said Monday the team is looking to improve at both first base and in the outfield.

The acquisition indicates that if the Indians are willing to spend money for a small piece to a playoff puzzle, they are going to go find the necessary pieces to strengthen the offense. The move to acquire Lowe wasn’t the Indians move for the winter, but their first of several.

Photo: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

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