How badly do the Indians need more starters? – Cleveland Indians Roundtable


Craig: Maybe I’m blinded by optimism, but I’m not overly concerned with a pitcher. The Indians have Masterson, Salazar, Kluber, McAllister and guys like Tomlin, Carrasco and Bauer to find five guys today. Yes it would be nice to insert a name in that list somewhere, but I’m not feeling desperate just yet. Look at me being a Tribe optimist!

Am I taking those top three for granted and overrating the Tribe’s own guys? How anxious are the rest of you to add starting pitching versus other roster needs?

Scott: Ubaldo Jimenez and Scot Kazmir were worth just a little less than six wins between the two of them. In just 10 starts, Danny Salazar was worth 1.2; Corey Kluber was worth 2.7 in 26 starts. Extrapolating is a dangerous tactic, but it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that these two could help fill in the gaps that were left by pesky things like innings limits and injuries.

But therein lies the rub: The unit, on paper, is not bad. But injuries (and regression) always tend creep up. Filling in the gaps would take a drastic leap in consistency by Carrasco as well as the switch suddenly being turned on inside of Trevor Bauer. Is this something you’re willing to gamble on? I’m not sure I am. I’m not even sure that Carrasco is even cemented as a starter at this point.

I don’t necessarily think they need to add an ace (while it would be nice), but I do think they need some considerable insurance policies in the way of Kazmirian-type signings. The hard part comes in the reality that for every Scott Kazmir, there seems to be multiple Brett Myers’.

Jon: I think I’m optimistic on the rotation too, Craig–but that’s not such an uncommon sentiment for me. There seem to be, as you point out, something like eight guys for five spots. Of course several of them have warts, but that’s true of almost every team’s fifth starter; that’s just the nature of these things.

Nonetheless, I still think it makes some good sense to improve the rotation for several reasons. Perhaps most importantly, this team will have real expectations for success for the first time since 2008. Winning less than 85 games next season has to be considered a major step back, and given the club’s macro-position (they’ve spent heavily in FA to get into the playoff picture) they’d be foolish not to make those few extra additions to increase their chances even further. The theory here is that not all wins are created equal–you might bend over backwards to get from 88 wins to 92, as that’s likely the difference between October baseball and October golf, but not bother improving a 78 win to an 82 win team because, really, what’s the point? The Indians have built a roster that should be attempting to wring every last win they can get, even if there is an occasional overpay in there.

So yes, if only because making the playoffs in 2014 is a huge priority, I think bolstering the rotation makes some sense. In addition to that, the Indians are effectively losing 350 innings as Kazmir and Ubaldo walk out the door. Is it possible that Salazar is ready for a full workload and McAllister and Kluber manage 200 innings and Masterson continues to be a horse? Of course. But is it a bet that a team with playoff aspirations should make? I’m not so sure. I once wrote that closers are like insurance policies: good teams have something of value to protect, so they might consider investing in the luxury of a closer to protect that investment. Even if I’d advise the Indians against signing a big name closer, I still think they finally have a roster worth spending a little insurance on–it’s just that in this case that might be best realized in a starter who’s likely to provide more value.

Finally (and perhaps least convincingly) there is the issue of optics and public relations. Losing two of the winter’s biggest free agent pitchers isn’t the sort of thing that’s likely to move a lot season tickets between now and February. Yes, the club is (finally) playing with some house money with its fanbase due to the playoff appearance and manager of the year award, but were they to watch two of their horses leave for greener pastures and do nothing, well, I can hear the pitchforks rattling from here.

Scott: Yeah, I completely forgot on the perception part of this equation. If they’re going for it, they have to go for it—none of this Masa Kobyashi nonsense.

TD: I think you need to add a dependable veteran starter. The Tomlin/Carrasco/Bauer option just doesn’t do it for me if we plan on contending again. I worry about McAllister and Kluber taking that next step. Will Kluber really do that again? As good as we all think Salazar is, is he the guy who can replace what Ubaldo did? People are still intrigued by Carrasco but I think he has back end of the bullpen written all over him. There are holes there too to fill.

The guy I want is Bartolo Colon. One year deal. Bring it.

Jacob: It’s dang near impossible to follow up Jon. … But I’ll try to add in some new thoughts. For as perfect as everything went for the Indians rotation in 2013 — durability, comeback seasons, etc. — they still only ranked sixth in the American League and last among the five playoff teams with a 3.92 ERA.

So losing Kazmir and Jimenez isn’t just 350 innings, it’s 61 of the 162 starts. The team was 36-25 in those 61 contests. Kazmir and Jimenez combined for a 3.65 ERA; the rest of the rotation finished with just a 4.08 ERA.

Justin Masterson isn’t really an ace, a point I’ve made several times. Corey Kluber has just one full season of MLB experience and I always guessed to be a long-term reliever when he was traded to Cleveland three years ago. Zach McAllister also was practically dumped by the Yankees and has just over a year of starter experience in the bigs.

That puts an awful lot of pressure on youngster Danny Salazar, no matter what. Kluber and McAllister came out of nowhere to put up respectable numbers for a No.2/No. 3 starter, so who knows long-term. Masterson is closer to a No. 1/No. 2. Without Jimenez and Kazmir, the Indians are currently needing Salazar to be a reliable No. 3. I don’t think that’s a good call.

To echo the others, sign me up for some type of veteran starter. Last year, the gamble was $8 million for Brett Myers. Assuming the Indians can clear the $10 million owed to Asdrubal Cabrera, I’d be fine with committing similar Myers money for a year or two to some veteran. Colon certainly intrigues me a lot, too.

Kirk: If the Indians want to compete, they need to add a #3-4 caliber starter.

I think a big part of my optimism is not only the expected bounce back from Swisher and Bourn but Kluber and McAllister having better seasons and logging more innings.

Kluber is the type of guy that could really continue to get better. He throws strikes, stays even keel, and manages his pitch count and tough situations well. I worry a little more about ZacMac because of pitch count and the fact that he was not the same after his injury.

I think Salazar and Masterson should hold down the top two slots. But, Salazar could always be put on some type of innings restriction (even if it’s 160 or 180). Tomlin is a good depth guy but he gets hit too hard with the homers. Bauer is a mechanical mess, but I do hope he is able to contribute this year. I keep Carrasco in the pen and hope he can make a setup impact. Injuries happen, and you may get stuck with another Brett Myers. But, you’ve got to try and hope he’s more of a Kazmir.

If the Tribe had money to spend on Murphy, then they can afford to spend at least that much on a starter.


So that’s what we think. How about you?

  • nj0

    We used nine different starters last year. And that was with what was a very healthy starting rotation imo. If I were in the front office, I’d want 10 starters I have some form of confidence in. I count seven right now: Masterson, Salazar, Kluber, McAllister, Tomlin, Carrasco, Bauer…. That leaves three spots.

    I’m not familiar enough with our farm system to know the quality of our starting pitching down in the minors. Just looking at the numbers, it doesn’t look like there’s another Kluber or Salazar down there. Hopefully there’s one guy who can pull a spot start here and there when needed. Assuming there is, that puts us at eight guys, leaving two spots.

    Based on that, I think we have to sign at least one guy who know we can count on and hope to find a second guy on a minor league deal as the last line of defense.

    A name I haven’t heard thrown around, a name most people will scoff at, is Roberto Hernandez, the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona. He had a rebound year in Tampa with solid peripherals. He could be the inning eating #5 we need. There’s also enough ? around him to maybe keep his price low. I’m also really curious about the dollars Bartolo will get. I know about all the issues with him, but his numbers last year were outstanding (granted, in a pitcher’s park).

  • nj0

    Here’s a really useful site with available free agent pitchers and what other have signed for…

    Jason Vargas at 4/$32M has me worried. Don’t think there are going to be many steals in this market.

  • maxfnmloans

    You can never have enough starting pitching. This is one sports aphorism that is actually true, and has been proven time and time and time again

  • nj0

    You go through The Sporting News for the last 100 years and you will find that two things are always true: you never have enough pitching and nobody ever made money. – Donald Fehr

  • mgbode

    yeah but Josh Johnson just signed the Myers-special (1 year $8mil). that was the money for him that I was hoping to get for us. ah well.

  • nj0

    true. but don’t think there’s another guy like Johnson out there.

  • mgbode

    agreed. if there is one of the better-bet guys willing to take less on a 1yr deal, then hopefully we find him.

  • Steve

    Carmona/Hernandez also spent his season in a pitcher’s park, and that HR-rate scares the crap out of me.

    Count me in the Colon camp at the moment, agree on being curious as to his dollars.

  • Steve

    The 7 non-Mastersons in the rotation mix have combined for just one major league season that topped 160 IP, with Tomlin barely making it pre-surgery.

    I’m very worried about this rotations ability to eat innings and save a pen that is still tenuous.

  • nj0

    Yeah, he has historically not been able to pitch to his xFIP. I still would consider rolling the dice on him for the sake of cheap, inning eating depth.

  • Matt S

    I don’t think you spend $5-10M on a starter. Because the starters you get at that price range are generally awful. They could be as bad as Brett Myers, or as good as… maybe Scott Feldman? To me, I think if you’re going to take a risk on what is essentially a #5 starter or worse, you sign a few guys for minor league free agent deals and see if one of them pulls a Kazmir in Spring Training. It’s essentially the same risk, but you have a few guys instead of one, you don’t guarantee any roster space and it’s cheaper.

    If the Indians have $10M+ to spend on a starter, then we’re talking someone like Colon, Kazmir or Paul Maholm. I don’t think they actually have that money to spend, but it would be nice.

  • Steve

    I guess if push came to shove, I would too, and I’m certain that no small part of my skepticism is frustrating with watching him pitch previously in a Cleveland uniform.

    Maybe he’s a good candidate for Mickey Callaway’s miracle sauce.

  • Matt S

    Roy Halladay, Johan Santana and Barry Zito *could* all fit that kind of mold. All of them are veterans that have seemingly lost it, and could probably be had for cheap.

  • Steve

    I’m much more reluctant to be so dependent on hitting on a minor league FA. Sure, take enough, and the odds will eventually be in your favor, but I’d prefer to hedge my bet, and not put everything into such a risky basket. Let’s buy a nice safe mutual fund to go along with some penny stocks.

  • nj0

    He’s not at the top of my list either. Just a name I haven’t heard at all in conjunction with us. I think he might end up being the best cheaper-than-$8M option. But what do I know about how this market is actually going to unfold? Hopefully the demand for Stubbs is there to get back some MLB ready starting pitching.

  • Steve

    My hope for a return for Stubbs is a cheap, decent-enough reliever. I’m not sure if today’s trade helps or hurts. Apparently a glove-first bat-second CF can bring back a halfway decent return, but that’s one more team taken out of the running.

  • nj0

    I guess we’re getting into semantics, but based on recent performance and age I think all of those guys are more in the Kazmir range of bounce-back than the Johnson range.

  • nj0

    Wish there were more Dipotos in the front offices around the league. I think the Angels got completely smoked on that deal.

  • nj0

    I agree.

    Which, again, is why I tossed out Hernandez’s name. At our price range, I don’t think we can recreate 350 innings of 3.80 ERA like Jacob mentioned. I think we’re looking at eating 150 innings at below average performance. But that’s what we got.

    But I’m going on the assumption that our budget is severally limited and there won’t be a serious increase in payroll.

  • Steve

    I believe Bavasi now works for the Reds, it would be nice to deal with him a few more times.

  • mgbode

    yes, I don’t think the point that our rotation last year really wasn’t stellar on a whole cannot be underscored enough. and, we lost Ubaldo (who was stellar the last 3 months). I’m not as worried about replacing Kazmir, but we still need to replace those IP.

  • TeddyRoos

    Really, not worried. I want what you guys are drinking. The only starters with more the 280 innings in the bigs are Masterson and Josh Tomlin. McAlister and Kluber missed major portions of last year with injuries. Carrasco, Salazar and Tomlin all went through TJ surgery in the last two years. Kluber was barely on the radar this time last year. Let’s not even discuss the mess that is Trevor Bauer. Cody Anderson has more chance of seeing Cleveland then Bauer does. But hey, miracles happen. Maybe they’ll even sign Masterson before he books next off season.

  • Kildawg

    I would want more depth. To me, the only guy under contract guaranteed a spot in the rotation is Masterson. Make Salazar/Kluber/McAllister/Tomlin/Bauer/other random depth guys and minor league signees earn a spot. Re-signing Kazmir would be a solid bet (just need to match what another team offers him). Not against bringing back Colon and/or Westbrook to see if they can rediscover their Cleveland magic (on an inexpensive one year deal laden with incentives of course).