The Cleveland Indians are 47-47, having been outscored this season 425-417, even though the club ranks 5th in the American league (7th in MLB) in runs scored. The reason for that can be placed on the Tribe’s starting pitching, which is 27th in inning pitched, 26th in ERA, and 27th in WHIP in MLB, while having won 25 games (28th) and allowing opponents to his .273 (26th). With David Price likely available via trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, the idea of having the former Cy Young winner arrive in Cleveland for a package of prospects is enough to make even the most casual of Indians’ fans salivate. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen this year, and the Indians will look for cheaper options via trade or hope for better out of the arms that they have on the current roster.
The Existing Options
You’d like to think that Justin Masterson‘s knee won’t continue to bark like a rabid dog, which would allow the big righty to look like the 2013-version, who posted career bests in wins (14, #killthewin) and WHIP (1.20), while posting the best strikeout rate of his career (9.1/9 IP) on his way to his lone All-Star selection. Masterson’s walk-rate has ballooned to 5.1 per nine, the worst rate since his 2009 audition in Cleveland after being acquired from Boston for Victor Martinez, while his ERA sits at a career worst 5.51. You’d like to think that the 4.09 FIP and .350 BABIP that Masterson features show that he hasn’t lost it all, and that he has just been quite unlucky, but without a drastic decrease in base runners (175 in just 98 IP – includes H, BB, IBB, and HBP), Masterson will likely continue on his dreaded pace, just as he reaches free agency after the season. He is eligible to be activated from the disabled list on July 23, but it has yet to be determined when he will return to the rotation, as there have not been reports of him throwing since being put on the shelf on July 8.
To say that Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber have saved the Indians rotation from total and complete embarrassment is an understatement. The two have combined to log 204.1 innings over 32 combined starts (6.39 innings/start), while Josh Tomlin has been somewhat effective (outside of the long-ball), logging 74 innings in his 12 starts (6.17 innings/start), including his complete-game, one-hitter in Seattle on June 28. Unfortunately, from that point on, the Indians have had very little assistance from their starters, as both T.J. House and Zach McAllister have been less than extraordinary, posting a combined 5.13 ERA and 1.49 WHIP over 98.1 innings and 19 starts (5.17 innings/start).
Down on the Farm
Danny Salazar was horrific in his eight starts at the beginning of the season, posting a 5.53 ERA and 1.62 WHIP over 40.2 innings. He walked far too many (3.8 per nine) and allowed far too many hits (10.8 per nine) during his time with the Indians, but he was still able to miss some bats, striking out 10.4 per nine. He had a horrible first start in Triple-A Columbus, but over his last eight starts, Salazar has a 3.77 ERA, 1.41 WHIP (still too high), and 61:20 K:BB over 45.1 innings. Columbus’ Huntington Park is a notorious hitter’s park, but Salazar has been much better at home than on the road. The stuff to dominate, as he did last season, is still there, however, if the stuff is as good, why is he not missing more bats? Salazar will get another opportunity in the very near future, and if he can’t help the Tribe’s rotation, he certainly has the stuff to be effective out of the bullpen.
Tyler Cloyd has given the Clippers some innings in his 18 starts this season, including two complete games and one shutout. Cloyd has been quite hittable (10.6 hits per nine), but he throws strikes (1.9 walks per nine). At 27, he isn’t a long-term option, but if the team gets desperate for someone to make a spot start, he could be an option, though, he isn’t on the 40-man roster.
Kyle Davies is a veteran who has been posting solid numbers in Triple-A. While he, like Cloyd, doesn’t miss many bats, Davies has won 45 games at the major league level. With six quality starts in his last eight outings, he’s making a case for being somewhat useful in an emergency, which is the most you can ask for out of your Triple-A pitching depth.
The rest of the options reign in Double-A Akron and they would be significant reaches to help this season, though there are plenty of arms that have shown promise in 2014, including Joseph Colon and Will Roberts, two young, right-handed strike zone pounders.
Why Wouldn’t They Get Help?
The Indians won’t get help at the trade deadline due to the costs. When asking about David Price this offseason, the Rays reportedly asked for Carlos Santana, Danny Salazar, AND Francisco Lindor. Beginning any trade conversation with Francisco Lindor today would likely result in an immediate hang-up, as it should. There is little reason for a financially strapped, small-to-mid market club to deal their future starting shortstop with any additional, top-tier talent to acquire a potential rental. Certainly the Indians aren’t going to give Price $20 million in arbitration next winter, and they wouldn’t acquire the same type of talent by trading the left-hander after the 2014 season. Lindor would likely need to be packaged with Clint Frazier for a deal to happen, and the Indians don’t have the minor league depth to make that type of deal while continuing to field a competitive roster over the next five to six seasons.
Who Are the Other Options?
It doesn’t have to be David Price to help the starting pitching, as there are plenty of arms that could help the Indians starting pitching, but with pitching at a premium, even the weakest of options could be quite expensive. Some of the names that could help the Indians:
Tommy Milone, left-handed pitcher, Oakland A’s
Trevor Cahill, right-handed pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks
John Danks, left-handed pitcher, Chicago White Sox
John Lackey, right-handed pitcher, Boston Red Sox
Jake Peavy, right-handed pitcher, Boston Red Sox
Bartolo Colon, right-handed pitcher, New York Mets
Jorge De La Rosa, left-handed pitcher, Colorado Rockies
Brett Anderson, left-handed pitcher, Colorado Rockies
Would the Indians Get a Bat?
Where would the bat play? When Michael Bourn returns, the number of at-bats for anyone acquired would likely fall off the face of the earth quicker than Octomom. Jonny Gomes would be a nice addition to platoon against left-handed pitching, an area the Indians have struggled for years, but how much could he really help if it is at the expense of playing time for Nick Swisher (likely to continue rebounding) or Michael Brantley (since Gomes can really only handle DH or left field). With so many versatile players, the roster has allowed Terry Francona to manipulate the number of arms in the bullpen all season, and there isn’t a reason to roster another Jason Giambi-like player (riding pine and doing little to help the team, outside of an occasional, random outburst).
The Indians aren’t going to be all that active at the trade deadline. They certainly aren’t going to throw away their future for a rental, and the club is better served acquiring young talent as the third piece in a three-team deal, as they just don’t have the young pieces in the system to warrant participating in a blockbuster.As nice as it would be to see another dynamic arm added to assist the horrific starting pitching, it isn’t realistic.
You’ll always have LeBron, Cleveland, but the Indians aren’t getting that big name this year. Look for the club to stand pat while actively participating an attempt to improve. They are likely better off watching players get back to their career numbers than giving away talent for a lottery ticket. Trust in Tito and the process.