Aaron Harang Doesn’t Make the Cut
The Indians have not yet made a decision in regards to who will be the fifth starter in their rotation, but we do know who won’t be in the running any longer. One day after cutting Jeff Francoeur and sending Matt Carson to the minors, the Indians informed veteran right hander Aaron Harang that he will not make the Indians Opening Day roster as the fifth starter in the starting rotation.
While Harang won’t be on the Indians Opening Day roster, that should not be considered a reflection of his performance on the mound this spring. In nine innings of work, Harang posted a 2.00 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. He also racked up 6 strikeouts against just 2 walks. So again, the decision made by the Indians was not because Harang failed to live up to expectations. If anything, he probably exceeded any and all expectations the Indians might have had for him.
Unfortunately, thanks to Harang’s performance it would seem unlikely that he will remain in the Indians organization. Because he failed to make the Indians Opening Day roster, Harang has one of two options – opt out of his minor league contract and become a free agent later today, or he report to Triple-A Columbus. If he chooses the latter, he can opt out of his contract if he hasn’t made his way to the majors come June 1. Because of his performance this spring and the importance of pitching, Harang will likely opt out and hit the free agent market today. However, the Indians would certainly love to keep him around to help build up their vertical depth.
Of course, that doesn’t answer the question of who will be the fifth starter.
Well, as previously explained, the finalists for the spot appear to be Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin with Trevor Bauer a very distant third. Choosing between Carrasco and Tomlin won’t be easy, though. They are two very different pitchers with two very different skill sets. They also have two very different contract situations that must be taken into consideration.
From a performance stand point alone, Josh Tomlin has been the superior pitcher, by far. He’s posted a 2.70 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 18 strikeouts to just 2 walks in 20 innings of work. Compare that to Carrasco’s 5.59 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, and 11 to 3 strikeout to walk ratio and it’s clear that Tomlin should be the winner of this race in a landslide. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Because the Indians are a small market team, they have to utilize their resources in the best way possible. That means not giving away players with talent before exhausting every possible option. That’s where Carrasco’s contract issue comes into play. Because he is out of options, the Indians are essentially faced with a use him or lose him type of situation. If Carrasco fails to make the Opening Day roster, he cannot be optioned back to Columbus. He would need to clear waivers first and because of his age and skill set, that isn’t going to happen. If they Indians decide that Josh Tomlin is their best bet in the rotation, they may have to force Carrasco into the bullpen in order to retain his services.
Is that something the Indians are likely to do? Who’s to say, but Chris Antonetti has said at points earlier in the spring that Carrasco would be on the roster because of the aforementioned options situation. Because of that, logic would dictate that the fifth starting spot is more than likely Carrasco’s to lose, which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. With the exception of one poor outing that inflated his stats, Carrasco has pitched surprisingly well, well enough to justify a starting spot even.
But, as mentioned earlier, Sunday’s decision did little to shed any light on who the Indians favor in this competition. All we know is that Aaron Harang will not be in the starting rotation and likely not in the organization come Opening Day. As for who they actually pick, it coud come down to any number of factors. Who and what the Indians favor won’t be learned until they finally make a decision sometime later this week.