Are the Indians throwing numbers up against the wall and hoping that a couple of them stick? Well, yes, that is exactly what they are doing.
At the end of the 2011 season, The Indians had Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, the man formerly known as Fausto Carmona, and Josh Tomlin (I know he was hurt, but the Indians shut him down once they were out of contention) in their rotation. Rookie Jeanmar Gomez took Tomlin’s spot the final month and was a strong. In the first four of his five September starts, Gomez was 4-0, allowing six earned runs in 24 innings pitched. Gomez doesn’t have a high ceiling and looks like a back end of the rotation guy. The Indians have given him shots over the last two seasons and he has been solid, yet unspectacular. Again, just like a fifth starter usually is.
So why is it that the Indians essentially keep signing over Gomez?
I see Chris Antonetti working. Its better to have a lot of options than little depth, especially when it comes to starting pitching. You never know when injuries will pop up. Gone are former first round picks Alex White and Drew Pomeranz. The guys in line with/behind Gomez in the pecking order are Zach McAllister, David Huff, and Scott Barnes.
McAllister has the same kind of back end of the rotation ceiling that Gomez does, but unlike Gomez, he struggled big time in his four Major League starts last year (0-1, 6.11 ERA, 1.87 WHIP). David Huff is, well, David Huff. We thought maybe he had finally turned the corner when he got his shot in July and August and had five of six quality starts. But then he came crashing back to reality with a 6.20 ERA in five September starts. Barnes is an intriguing left-hander who was having a superb year for Columbus (88 IP/7-4,/3,68 ERA,/1,29 WHIP/90 Ks/34 BBs) before missing two plus months after having knee surgery. He is another back end kind of guy.
The first thing the Indians did this offseason was trade for Lowe, who turns 39 this summer, to be their fourth starter and provide 200 innings. Then the Carmona/Hernandez situation occurred and all of a sudden the Indians were left scrambling. Wouldn’t this have been the time to put some faith in Gomez as the fifth guy? Apparently not.
Not two days later did the Indians make a reactionary move, acquiring Slowey from the Rockies. The talk from Antonetti upon adding Slowey was that he would be battling Gomez and the rest of the young arms for that final rotation spot (Slowey does have a minor league option remaining by the way). I figured, OK, it couldn’t hurt. Slowey’s numbers prior to 2011 with Minnesota were solid.
Little did we know, the Tribe wouldn’t be done adding arms.
Sunday evening, rumors were floating that the Indians had interest in Yankees right-hander A.J. Burnett. Then yesterday morning, reports had the Tribe working on a deal for veteran righty Jon Garland, which will be completed once he passes his physical. Again, this is another low-risk, decent reward type of signing the Indians have been known to make. I am not against giving Garland a shot; he has been a serviceable, back end guy who has made 27-plus starts in 10 of the last 12 years. He is coming off of shoulder surgery and the deal is of the minor league variety. The hope is that Garland can possibly be this year’s Carl Pavano type reclamation project. If he is, the Tribe wins. If he isn’t, who cares, it costs them nothing.
But I go back to the 24-year old from Venezuela. Are Slowey and Garland better options than Jeanmar? That remains to be seen. The Tribe will more than likely break Goodyear with one of those two veterans as their fifth starter leaving Gomez as the opening day starter for AAA Columbus. At some point this season, we will see Gomez up with the Indians. But the question is, do they really think that highly of him, considering he is their best, closest to the majors, minor league prospect?
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)