Floyd Could be Solid Veteran Presence For Young Rotation

Cleveland Indians management said at the onset of this offseason that one of the goals of the team would be to add a veteran presence to a talented, but mostly unproven pitching staff.

The Tribe did just that earlier this week in signing 31-year-old Gavin Floyd to a one-year, $4 million guaranteed deal. The right hander, who will be 32 when the season starts, has quite the resume. He has a 17-win season under his belt and five straight campaigns (2008-2012) in which he was victorious 10 or more times.

Unfortunately, Floyd has also battled elbow issues the last two years and has not pitched a full season since 2012. He underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow after five rough starts in 2013. He was 0-4, with a 5.18 ERA at the time. Those proved to be his final appearances with a White Sox team, for whom he had pitched since 2007.

The 2001 first round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies, Floyd signed on with the Atlanta Braves last season. Atlanta took a flyer on the recovering free agent. Through nine starts, the move looked brilliant. Floyd was 2-2, with a 2.62 ERA and pitching as well as he had since his 17-8 campaign of 2008. However, in that ninth game, Floyd fractured the elbow that had undergone the Tommy John procedure. He had surgery on June 25 and missed the remainder of the year.

Tribe General Manger Chris Antonetti said Tuesday that Floyd is fine and the team put him through an extensive workout before finalizing the deal. That is the good news. Cleveland can use a guy like Floyd, who will now be the team’s most experienced starting pitcher. He even has a postseason game to his name, having thrown in the 2008 American League Division Series.

If Floyd can go to spring training, prove he is healthy and show that he is the pitcher he was for those fives summers with Chicgo, he will be a great addition to the middle or back of the starting five. However, if he goes to spring training and sputters, $4 million should be a price tag a team in even the Indians’ tight financial situation should be able to absorb and cut ties with the player.

Cleveland needs Floyd to go to Arizona and prove his worth. Behind Cy Young winner Corey Kluber is a lot of youth and even more question marks. Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, T.J. House and Danny Salazar all pitched lights out during the final two months of 2014.

Where the problems arise are in trying to figure out whether Carrasco and Salazar are as good as they were in the season’s second half or as bad as they were in the first couple months when they were shipped off to Triple-A Columbus. There are also questions about House, who was not on last spring’s radar, and whether or not last season was a fluke for the lefty. Bauer seems to be the most sure bet to be solid behind Kluber, but probably needs another good year to make fans forget the mess that was his 2013 inaugural season in the Indians organization. Even Kluber, himself, may have to prove he is truly elite after starting last season as a middle-of-the-rotation arm.

With so many what-ifs in the Tribe’s pitching staff, it really does not hurt to add veterans and depth. Floyd accounts as both. He is better than anyone in the rotation other than Kluber if he is all the way back to his 2008-2012 self.

However, Floyd should not be guaranteed anything. With five solid pitchers who nearly carried the 2014 Indians to the postseason, in tow, the team is not staring at a glaring weakness in the rotation. If those five go to Arizona and show they have not regressed, they almost deserve to pick up where they left off.

However, Antonetti has already said that Floyd will be in the starting five, barring injury. On Tuesday, he all but guaranteed spots to Floyd, Kluber, Bauer and Carrasco. This means Salazar or House will be opening the season in Columbus, unless someone gets hurt or really falls flat in Cactus League play. Both could be on the outside looking in if Zach McAllister or Josh Tomlin regain their forms of old.

There is no need to promise an Opening Day spot to Floyd. The Indians are dealing with a position of strength and should go to camp with the idea that any four pitchers could follow Kluber in the rotation based on how they look this spring.

The hope is, of course, that Floyd will go to Goodyear, Az. and be solid. If he truly performs at a level he is capable of and team is counting on him to reach, then some more seasoning on the farm for one of the young guys can not hurt. However, if Floyd looks like he is laboring due to his injury history or can not get guys out, the Tribe should eat the $4 million and let the kids who led the way this past August and September pick it back up.

One side thought is the possibility of Cleveland trading one of the young pitchers for another bat or bullpen arm. Nothing has been said, but with eight Major League proven starters on the roster, one could be dealt to fortify an area that is a little weaker.

Floyd can certainly help the Tribe. He is certainly no lock to bounce back from two seasons marred by injury. However, at 32, he will not be old when the season starts. He may be pitching for his future and chances are he could have a really good season. If he does, it can only help. The Indians rotation would go from talented and somewhat unproven to talented and a little more proven.

Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

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