Logan Fills One of Few Voids Indians Had in Pitching Staff

When it comes to the Cleveland Indians and their pitching staff, there are few weaknesses to be found.  After last season’s big trade-deadline of left-handed super reliever Andrew Miller, the only real issue that plagued the Tribe’s pitching staff was injuries and depth. Player-for-player, however, their rotation, plus bullpen, could match up with most in Major League Baseball.

There was one flaw, however. That was the likes of a trusted southpaw in the relief corps outside of Miller. Indians manager Terry Francona did not have a lefty he could trust as a situational pitcher against tough, left-handed hitters. With Miller being a setup man/closer, there was not another trusted left-hander to turn to in the middle innings.

Other than figuring out the first base/designated hitter situation, adding a solid lefty to the bullpen seemed like the next biggest need for the Tribe this offseason. In December, the Indians answered the first need with the signing of the slugging Edwin Encarnacion. He will replace the departing Mike Napoli as the Tribe’s main power source and cleanup hitter.

The Indians, in something of a surprising move, answered the other question in a pretty big way this past week. Cleveland agreed to a deal with veteran lefty reliever Boone Logan to a rich deal, by relief pitching standards, this past week. The contract is reportedly worth $5.5 million for 2017. It includes a $7 million team option, with a $1 million buyout, for 2018. That is $6.5 million guaranteed for a guy who will mainly be used to retire tough left-handed batters.

That is an important signing for the Indians as it really was the one weak pitching link as spring training draws near. The starting five, barring injury, is locked in. Something absolutely fluke would have to happen for Corey Kluber to not be on the mound in Arlington, Texas, on Opening Day. Fluky, too, would be for him to not be followed, in some order, by Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. Other than adding depth, there was not much work to be done this offseason in the rotation.

That could be said on the bullpen side, where the Tribe is blessed with talents like Miller, a proven closer in Cody Allen, a solid setup man in Bryan Shaw, 2016 team ERA leader Dan Otero and the consistent Zach McAllister. Other than Miller, though, those other excellent arms are on the right-hand side.

Logan gives the Indians something that they sorely needed. He is someone who can be trusted to matchup with the best of lefty hitters. He has proven over the years that he can mow down left-handed hitters.

The 31-year-old spent his last three seasons pitching for the Rockies, where half the games are in the thin Denver, Colorado, air. Balls are known to fly out of that ballpark at a high rate.

He did struggle a bit to get acclimated to the toughest place for a pitcher to pitch. In 2014, his first season with Colorado, Logan had 6.84 ERA, a surprisingly high figure. The previous four years were spent throwing for the Yankees, where he had been very good in recording a 3.38 ERA in 256 outings for the Bronx Bombers.

Logan adjusted over the next two years with the Rockies. In 2015, he brought down his ERA to 4.33 and was at 3.69 last year. Those totals are not great. However, again, considering where he was pitching, it really was not bad. Some say pitching for the Rockies can add at least half a run to a hurler’s ERA.

Despite not posting the same overall numbers with Colorado as he had in New York, Logan never forgot how to handled left-handed hitting. Last year, lefties hit only .146 against him. In the three years in Denver, Logan surrendered only a .204 average against lefties. Those numbers are exactly why the Tribe went out and paid a hefty sum of money for Logan. He was a need and fills a void for a team trying to get back to the World Series and hopefully win it this time around.

The signing of Logan is symbolic of a ball cub that is absolutely in win-now mode. This is not a move Cleveland would have made a few years ago. The Tribe’s payroll, estimated to be around $135 million this season, is also far and away higher than it was a few years ago. The Tribe sees a window of opportunity that appears to be ajar for at least a few season and the team is taking advantage. A big contract to Encarnacion and a hefty reliever deal to Logan are two big examples of a club that is going all in for the next several seasons and, perhaps, beyond.

The Indians could have gone the economical route and tried to fill the left-handed specialist role from within. Kyle Crockett has seen work in the Majors over the last couple years, but has been up and down. He may be the matchup lefty of the future. However, a team trying to win a World Series now is not really thinking about a year or two down the road. Rule 5 draft selection Hoby Milner could have also fit the bill, though he has yet to throw an MLB pitch. Instead, Cleveland saw a need and chose to fill it with someone who is proven.

A reliever is not exactly going to be the difference between a winning season and losing season. No relief pitcher can make that much impact. However, he can be icing on the cake and be the difference between winning a championship and going home in early October.

There were times in the postseason where Francona had to nearly wear out Miller. Miller was the one guy he could put in the game in the sixth or seventh inning against a good left-handed hitter and feel good about keeping the Tribe in a good place. Now, Logan can certainly be the guy to take some of that pressure off, leaving Miller to pitcher in even higher-impact situations. He makes everyone’s job in an already vaunted bullpen a little easier.

Anyone worried about the inconsistencies that can befall a relief pitcher can also breath a little easier. In those last seven seasons (easily his best) with the Yankees and Rockies, Logan only had the one really bad year. That is an outlier. In the other six years, he was between 2.95 and 4.33 and was under 4.00 five times. He also has big-game experience, going to the postseason with the Yankees from 2010-2012 and twice getting to the American League Championship, where he has made a total of six appearances, covering 3 2/3 frames.

While Logan cannot win a championship on his own, he will be a major piece to the bullpen and the pitching staff, entities that can go a long way toward getting the Indians their first World Series crown since 1948.

Photo: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

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