Just when you thought you had seen it all in Wahooland, along comes a doozy that leaves everyone scratching their heads. The man we all knew as Fausto Carmona, a 28-year old starting pitcher who has been a fixture in the Indians rotation since bursting onto the scene as the power-sinking stud who won 19 games in 2007, is allegedly not who we thought he was. Literally.
Reports began to surface yesterday that Carmona was arrested in his native Dominican Republic while leaving the American Consulate in attempts to renew his Visa to come back to the States for Spring Training. The reports say the arrest came as Carmona has been falsifying his identity and his real name is Roberto Hernandez Heredia. The right-hander is also to be believed to be 31 years old.
While the facts are still murky, the Indians have a real situation on their hands that is going to have to be dealt with. So many questions are there that need answers. Let’s tackle these one by one.
1. Will Carmona/Heredia be able to even acquire a Visa to get back into the United States to pitch for the Indians after being found to have falsified his identity for the past eight years?
This could be an issue. There have been many Minor League ball players over the past five years or so who have run into Visa/identity issues and haven’t returned (former Tribe 3B prospect Kelvin Diaz for one). The United States very easily could decide to refuse to allow Carmona/Heredia back into the country and make an example of him. After all, he has falsified his identity to be here for the past eight years.
2. If he does get that Visa, will he be there by February 19th when pitchers and catchers report?
From everything I’ve read over the past 18 hours or so, it seems highly unlikely that Carmona/Heredia will be in Arizona by February 19th. The artist formerly known as Leo Nunez of the Miami Marlins, who in September was found out to be Juan Carlos Oviedo, was forced to return to the Dominican Republic because he was found to be in this country under an assumed name. The Marlins have since placed him on the restricted list and he still has been unable to get his Visa situation straightened out with the Government.
Nunez/Oviedo has been dealing with this now for four months and hasn’t been cleared. The odds of Carmona/Heredia having his situation dealt with in the next 30 days seems almost impossible. This leaves the Indians in a tenuous position.
3. Will the Indians take this opportunity to cut their losses, say enough is enough, and attempt to void his contract, especially if he can’t get his Visa issues worked out?
The longer this situation lingers, the greater the chance for the Tribe to look into voiding the $7 million option they picked up in November. Its not so much the money issue, its the fact that they may be waiting on him for a while. Who knows how long this could take. With the possibility that he isn’t allowed to return, then its a no-brainer to walk away from him.
The Derek Lowe deal is looking smarter by the hour.
Assuming he isn’t ready for Spring Training, Jeanmar Gomez and David Huff would then battle for that fifth spot in the rotation. Tribe fans and the Tribe brass are plenty familiar with these two. Like with Nunez/Oviedo, the Tribe will most likely be putting Carmona/Heredia on the restricted list, where he would not get paid. This could end up freeing up more money for the big bat they have coveted all winter.
When the Indians were pursuing Carlos Beltran, it had been widely speculated that for the Tribe to add a bat of Beltran’s salary, they would have had to move a contract. The money may now be free if Carmona/Heredia is unavailable and put on the restricted list.
4. If he does get through all of this, Will he have the mental capacity to block out the negativity and focus on the task at hand, especially on the road?
Since the 2007 “What if Fausto didn’t have nerves of steel” bug game in the 2007 ALDS, the “ace” that we thought we had under the team’s control through 2013 (option year) hasn’t resurfaced. A huge part of the dropoff in performance was mental. That was a concern BEFORE this situation has come to light.
Imagine what it is going to be like when he walks his first batter in the first inning in Detroit or in New York or in Boston. He had issues last season seemingly every time he got into trouble with runners on base. The heckling will be brutal in every stadium he pitches in going forward. Will he be able to ignore the taunting? I for one am majorly concerned about his ability to block it all out.
I just don’t know what to make of this whole situation. I think the Indians at this point will sit back and wait to see what happens with his Visa and if he is unable to get here for the start of the season, they will stick with their in-house young arms to fill that fifth spot. Don’t forget Fausto was 7-15 with an ERA over five and a WHIP of 1.40. Its not as if Gomez or Huff couldn’t match those numbers at worst. In addition, I think the Indians will use this opportunity to take that money and use it towards that gaping hole at first base.