Odds are that the 2014 Indians won’t be making the postseason, but that doesn’t mean that there is no hope for the future. Actually, there is a lot to look forward to, for example, the starting rotation. The current starting five consists of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and T.J. House. All have stepped up their game since the start of August, and are a big reason the Tribe remains in the hunt for a playoff spot. Things could look a little different next year though, as General Manager Chris Antonetti said that the Tribe will need more starting pitching going into next year.
“We’ve seen it first-hand this year,” Antonetti said in an interview with Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “The five who started the season for us, aren’t the same five who are pitching for us right now.”
So let’s look at the current group of starters and where they project for next year, and let’s look at some pitchers who could be joining the Indians in the off season.
Current Starting 5
A top candidate for the AL CY Young award, Kluber projects as the Tribe’s Ace for 2015. As of September 16th (all stats are as of this date), Kluber has posted a 16-9 record, with a 2.54 ERA with 244 strikeouts in 219.2 innings pitched. His WAR of 6.5 ranks him second among AL pitchers, trailing only Felix Hernandez of the Mariners, who has a WAR of 6.8. Kluber’s fastball velocity currently ranks as the 17th highest, as he averages 93.2 mph, faster than the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, and Chris Sale. His fastball isn’t even his best pitch, Kluber has a devastating curve ball, with opposing batters hitting just .083 against it. Kluber will be 28 years old at the start of 2015, and is currently under team control until 2019
Since he returned to the rotation on August 10th, Carrasco is 5-1 with an ERA of 1.17 (yes, you read that right), registering 59 strikeouts and just 7 walks, in 54 innings pitched. If you were to project that over 34 starts, Carrasco would be 21-4 with a 1.17 ERA, 251 strikeouts and 30 walks in 230 innings. Something tells me you can expect some regression from Carrasco next year. However, Carrasco has one of the highest fastball velocities in the MLB, he ranks 6th (minimum of 110 innings) with a velocity of 95.2 mph. My only concern with Carrasco is, “is this the real Carrasco?” Everyone knows that he has the stuff to be a dominant pitcher; he just never had the mental toughness for it. It seems like he has finally figured it out, and if he truly has, he gives the Tribe a dangerous #2 starter. Carrasco will be 28 years old at the start of 2015, and is under team control until 2018.
In his first full season as a Major League starter, Bauer has looked exactly how a rookie pitcher should look, inconsistent. On the season Bauer has posted a 5-8 record with a 4.04 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 142.2 innings. Bauer started the year in Triple-A Columbus and mowed down batters, he was called up for good on May 20th, and has been one of the more dependable pitchers for the Tribe, as he has posted the second highest innings count on the rotation. Bauer has shown lots of promise, posting 8 starts with a game score higher than 60. Another positive about Bauer is that the term “pitch count” doesn’t apply to him. Thanks to his unusual warm up ritual, Bauer can easily go past 100 pitches, having done it in 15 of his 24 starts. Bauer has a multitude of pitches, but his fastball is his best (even though he rarely throws it), he ranks 13th in fastball velocity with a 93.8 mph average fastball. Bauer will be 24 years old at the start if the 2015 season, and is under team control until 2020.
While many people expected Salazar to make the jump to CY Young contender in 2014, Salazar instead was slowed in spring training by the organization. The Indians rarely had Salazar throw in spring training, hoping to save his arm, but in reality, that cost him the first half of the season, as he wasn’t up to speed on his pitches. Pitching Coach Mickey Callaway said. “We’re going to hopefully get him out to Spring Training considerably early to really get him going. Really, it’ll just be to get him ready for the season. We’ll kind of push it up. We were thinking about a lot of things this past spring, as far as still kind of controlling [his innings].” Since returning from Triple-A on July 22nd, Salazar has posted a 5-3 record with a 3.30 ERA, with 56 strike outs in 57.1 innings. Even during this down season, Salazar’s fastball registered at 94.5 mph, good enough for 12th in the MLB (minimum 90 innings pitched). Salazar should be “full go” by the start of 2015, giving the Indians four high quality power arms in the rotation. Salazar will be 25 years old at the start of the 2015 season, and is under team control until 2020.
Here’s where things start to get a little undetermined. House has pitched well over his last 7 starts, compiling a 2-1 record with a 2.14 ERA and 41 strikeouts over 42 innings pitched. House has pitched well this season, and provides the team with a reliable left-handed pitcher, but I see him as more of a minor league pitcher who gets called up in times of injury. House will be 25 years old at the start of the 2015 season, and is under team control until 2020.
Possible Free Agent Pickups:
Anderson currently has a $12 million option for 2015, but I expect the Rockies to use his $1.5 million buyout clause. Anderson is currently on the 60-day DL with a back injury, limiting him to just 43.1 innings in 2014. Assuming he is healthy by the 2015 season, Anderson could be obtained cheaply. He is very injury-prone and has only pitched one full season (2009), but he has a career ERA of 3.73.
Hammel has spent time with both the Cubs and A’s this year, but has stumbled in his time in Oakland, posting a 4.76 ERA in 58.2 innings. His time with the Cubs was much better as he posted a 2.98 ERA in 108.2 innings. The Indians were attached to Hammel’s name this last off season, but he instead chose to sign with the Cubs on a 1-year, $6 million deal. His time with the A’s has hurt his stock, so he comes cheaply. However, his time in Chicago was probably an aberration, as he holds a career ERA of 4.63.
After a 2013, where he posted a 16-8 record with a 3.02 ERA, Liriano has fallen back to earth some in 2014, posting a 6-10 record with an ERA of 3.45. He is currently making $6 million in 2014. He is a pitcher who could easily sign a long-term deal (for a decent amount of money) or he could take another 1-year deal to help his stock. I estimate a deal in the $8-$12 million range, something the Tribe could do on a 1-year deal, however, you don’t know if you are getting the good Liriano or the bad Liriano.
Probably the most unlikely acquisition for the Tribe on this list, as Santana would probably be looking for another deal around the $14 million range, but Santana has now put up back-to-back good seasons together. However, Santana could jump at the first long-term contract he sees this off season, as he probably doesn’t want to wait as long for another contract. If the Indians offered a 3-year, $36 million dollar contract, he would at least have to consider it.
The ultimate boom-or-bust pitcher has enjoyed his best season since his 2008 breakout year. Volquez has posted a 12-7 record for the Pirates, with a 3.27 ERA in 2014. Volquez is only making $5 million this year so that figure may be raised a few million, but he should still be on the cheap side, and probably still a 1 year-deal kind of pitcher.
— Chris Sladoje (@CST_Doje)
Stats courtesy of baseballreference.com and fangraphs.com