Of course, things could change between now and April, but the word coming out of the front office continues to suggest that Carmona, Masterson, Carrasco and Talbot are all but guaranteed a rotation spot.
Fausto seems like an obvious choice (though not an obvious ace, quite, er, obviously). The other three certainly have their question marks, but at various points during the off-season, they’ve been given votes of confidence by the organization. According to Terry Pluto, Carmona, Talbot and Masterson are “locked into the rotation.”
When asked about Carrasco’s future, Acta said “Carlos has been in Class AAA for two years. Six [of his seven] starts were quality starts. He was a different man, a more mature pitcher when he came up in September.” I’ve written at length about why I’m a Carrasco-believer, so this sort of talk makes me happy.
But even with four of the five spots spoken for, we obviously have one glaring hole left. Today, let’s look at a few of the options.
Josh Tomlin – He’s not anyone’s idea of a front-end starter. But that’s good, because he’s not going to be asked to be one. I wrote about keeping our expectations appropriately low for Tomlin once, and I think that still stands. Last year Tomlin threw 73 innings for the Tribe with a strikeout-rate of 5.30 per nine and a walk-rate of 2.34. Neither of those numbers is great, but a 2.26 BB/K rate isn’t all that terrible. His ERA of 4.56 wasn’t terrible either—and was probably inflated by 1.23 HR/9 allowed (average is closer to 1.00).
How do I feel about Josh Tomlin in the rotation? Meh. I feel the same way about Jeanmar Gomez, I think. Which is exactly how you’re supposed to feel about #5 starters, I guess.
David Huff – No. No. No. No. No. I held out hope for two years that David Huff would figure out how to be a major league pitcher. I don’t particularly enjoy admitting this, but I once compared him to a young Cliff Lee (in my defense, in the same piece I also compared him to a young Jeremy Sowers; two roads diverged in a career—David Huff chose the road that sucks at pitching). The fact is, he’s now pitched more than 200 big league innings. Over that time, he’s walked nearly as many batters as he’s struck out (1.36 K/BB, terrible), he’s allowed 1.30 HR/9 IP, and his ERA (5.84) has accordingly been one of the worst for any starter over that period.
He just doesn’t do anything well: no velocity (90.1 mph FB), no control (3.25 BB/9), no swing-and-miss stuff (4.41 K/9!). He’s just not good at pitching. It’s a bummer, but as Lili Von Schtupp would say, “It’s twue! It’s twue!”
Aaron Laffey – This one is particularly vexing to me. In my memories, Aaron Laffey has done enough to earn a spot in the rotation. He bailed the team out of some big situations in the 2007 playoff run. He’s managed his ego well as the organization continued to bounce him from Columbus and Cleveland—bullpen and rotation. In short, it seems just that he should have a shot in the rotation.
On the other hand, his numbers just aren’t that great. His K/BB ratio is 1.21 for his career—worse than David Huff’s. His only saving grace has been his stinginess with the HR, letting up only 0.62 per nine innings pitched. Obviously, his low HR totals are a product of his groundballing ways: over 51% for his career. Unfortunately, that groundballing has happened in front of the Indians’ defense, resulting in a .310 career BABIP.
In the end, I just see Laffey as being more valuable as a long-man out of the bullpen. I have a feeling we’re going to need one of those.
Jeremy Bonderman/Kevin Millwood/etc. – Earlier this week, I saw a tweet from Ken Davidoff quoting an AL executive: “[Kevin] Millwood is not a help. He’s just a name people know.” Broadly speaking, Ken crystallized how I feel about the scrap-heap guys this year. I was mildly interested in Bruce Chen and/or Brandon Webb, but the guys that are left now are there for a reason. I explained last week why I didn’t think Bonderman was nearly as good a bet as Pavano. Multiply that by plenty to get my feelings on Kevin Millwood.
I guess for me, it comes down to this: fifth starters don’t really matter. For one, they all stink. Do you know that the Yankees fifth starter on their depth chart is Sergio Mitre? Those scary Philadelphia Phillies have Joe Blanton, whose career ERA is essentially identical to Aaron Laffey’s. It just doesn’t matter that much who your fifth starter is. On top of that, the fifth starter doesn’t really stay the fifth starter. It’s a place-holder for pitchers to bounce between AAA and the parent-club. In other words, fifth starters don’t exist. So why would you waste money on one?
I know these guys will come cheap, but think of it this way. Let’s pretend that the Indians have a budget. (That shouldn’t be too hard to imagine, right?) Let’s pretend that whatever money they don’t spend in one place, they’ll have left over to spend in another place. Let’s further pretend that these sorts of retread pitchers would cost roughly $1 million to $2 million on a one-year deal.
Wouldn’t you rather spend an extra few million on the draft to sign players with top-end potential? Wouldn’t you rather add players who will be a part of this team for ten years than for just one? I sure would. In my mind, there’s no upside to signing these sorts of pitchers. Best case scenario, they pitch well enough so that we can trade them at the deadline for fringe-prospects ala Pavano. And that’s the BEST CASE. It doesn’t seem remotely worth it to me.
I know our in-house options aren’t that attractive, but I guess I’d rather see some combination of Tomlin and Laffey and Gomez to hold down the fort until the kids are closer to being ready.
Whether they ever get ready? That’s another question…
Photo Credit: Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal