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?