Today continues DTTWLN’s three week examination of the Indians’ 2014 season and where it fell short of the playoff expectations established last winter. The staff will examine where the season went wrong and the challenges the front office faces to make the Indians contenders in 2015.
Josh Tomlin and Zach McAllister represent essentially all of the starting pitching depth the Cleveland Indians currently have behind their starting five. This winter, the Indians may have to look elsewhere for arms beyond their young, talented, but somewhat unproven quintet.
Tomlin and McAllister are both out of options as far as being simply placed in the minor leagues. Cleveland will have to make a decision next spring as to whether there is a place on the Major League roster for either or both. Otherwise they would risk losing either of the pitchers who have proven the ability to succeed at the Major League level to waivers.
The pair of starters have had plenty of good moments for the Indians. However, both had injury issues that helped lead to disappointing 2014 campaigns and are now on the outside-looking-in when it comes to the pitching rotation.
Cleveland’s starting five was one of the best in baseball over the final two months of this past season. Barring a trade or free agent signing, the Tribe will likely go into the Cactus League looking at a rotation of Corey Kluber at the top. He will be followed, in some order, by Carlos Carrasco Trevor Bauer, T.J. House and Danny Salazar. All five were excellent during the stretch run. They nearly carried an offense that pulled regular disappearing acts into the postseason.
Both McAllister and Tomlin would have to pitch nearly lights out in spring training, with someone behind Kluber falling apart, to have any shot at all of breaking camp in the Major League rotation. That takes it back to whether either of the Tribe’s out-of-options duo will or should be around in 2015.
If the Indians exposed either one to waivers in an attempt to slip them to Columbus chances are good both would be claimed by someone. Pitching – especially starting pitching – is still at a premium in the big leagues. Tomlin and McAllister have each had success in the past and each have age on their side. Tomlin just turned 30 today, while McAllister will be 27 when next year’s regular season starts.
There may be a chance the two pitchers could compete for a spot in the 2015 bullpen. However, after the 2014 seasons that Tomlin and McAllister both had, it is impossible to say either one is deserving of spot on Cleveland’s Opening Day roster.
Tomlin, who missed almost all of 2013 following Tommy John surgery, had a hard time getting back to his steady form he showed before his elbow issues that flared up in 2012. The veteran, who appeared to have a bright future after a breakout 2011 season, is now on shaky ground. This past year, he was 6-9 with a 4.76 ERA in 25 appearances, including 16 starts.
McAllister, who had a solid 2013 season and was once on par with Kluber, battled injuries and ineffectiveness in 2014. In Cleveland’s Wild Card campaign, McAllister was instrumental in helping the team to the postseason, going 9-9 with a 3.75 ERA. This past year, he slumped to 4-7 and 5.23 in 15 starts and 22 games, overall. He was in the minors for a good portion of the season’s second half.
Both Tomlin and McAllister face exceedingly long odds to crack the Indians rotation in the coming preseason. The odds of either earning a spot in the bullpen are not as long, but are not all that good either.
Taking a look at Cleveland’s bullpen, closer Cody Allen, setup man Bryan Shaw and veteran Scott Atchison are locks. Lefy Marc Rzepczynski is arbitration eligible, but under team control, so will almost assuredly be back as one of manager Terry Francona‘s southpaw options out of the pen.
That leaves three, maybe four, spots to fill in the relief corps. Most teams prefer to go with two left handers in the bullpen and the Tribe certainly has that option. Rookie sensation and lefty Kyle Crockett should be almost assured of a place on the Opening Day roster. Fellow left hander Nick Hagadone, who finally found Major League success last season, could make it possible for the Indians to carry a trio of southpaws in the pen. At the very least, Crockett and Hagadone will both head into Arizona ahead of McAllister and Tomlin in the pecking order. Hagadone is also out of options.
That is a clear six relievers ahead of Tomlin and McAllister. It would also leave Tomlin and McAllister in a large mix of relievers battling for the last spot or two in pen. That is leaving out the fact that the Tribe is likely to sign a reliever or two this offseason. However, as the roster currently stands, Others in the field of the relieving field include the promising C.C. Lee and Austin Adams.
Keep in mind, the Indians could use some veteran help on what is a young pitching staff that could use the leadership of players who have been around big, late-season games. There is a strong possibility the Indians will add a veteran reliever or two. Cleveland may also dip its feet into the free agent pool of mid-rotation hurlers. Any or all of those potential signings would push Tomlin and McAllister even further back in the pecking order for any pitching job.
The odds for Tomlin and McAllister making the 2015 Opening Day roster are long, indeed. It may be time for the Indians to cut bait on both. A team with designs on competing for the postseason next year should not be going into spring training with a pitcher who had an ERA in the 5.00 range high on the list of players to keep around.
Tomlin is likely looking at a future in long relief out of the bullpen or mop up duty as a backup rotation guy.
McAllister could have a stronger future, but has some issues to work out. Being out of options, he would have to work them out at the big league level. A team like the Indians, who should be playoff contenders, should not be allowing a pitcher to get his act together in important Major League innings. It worked with Carrasco this past season, but the odds are slim that something like that would work out twice.
Tomlin and McAllister would both be strong candidates to be picked up off waivers by a struggling, pitching-needy team looking for an arm on the cheap. The Indians no longer fit that description of a team. Cleveland should be looking for some mid-level veteran pitchers to compete for spots in the rotation and pen.
There are plenty of guys on the open market the Indians could ink to minor league deals or short-term deals in the event someone like Salazar, Carrasco, House, Crockett or Hagadone falter. Signing any of those free agents leaves little room for Tomlin and McAllister.
Tomlin and McAllister are talented enough players. They both could even prove to have more success in the majors. The problem is they are out of options and now may be out of time with Cleveland Indians.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images
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Tomlin still has an option left. McAllister is nearly guaranteed a bullpen spot if he doesn’t make the rotation. House and Bauer each have an option left and could very easily start in Columbus if someone has a good spring.
Tomlin does not appear to be out of options. He has two left according to IBI.