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Addition of Floyd gives Indians a lot of options for rotation

Addition of Floyd gives Indians a lot of options for rotation
Gavin Floyd (Photo: Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images)
December 17, 2014
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The Indians struck again on Tuesday making 31-year old pitcher Gavin Floyd their second significant offseason acquisition.  The deal is $4 million for one year but can escalate up to $6 million if Floyd reaches certain milestones. Those bonuses reportedly kick in once he reaches 19 starts and 160 innings pitched.

I recently wrote that the Indians should look at Kris Medlen as an affordable buy low candidate coming off an injury.  Floyd is in the same situation, coming off serious injuries that have derailed his past two seasons.

Floyd underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013 and returned to make nine starts last season before he fractured the funny bone on his right arm and missed the rest of the season.  When healthy he has proven to be a productive pitcher, something the Indians know well from his days in AL Central with the Chicago White Sox.  He owns a career record of 72-72 with a 4.40 ERA and has averaged 7.1 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per 9 innings.

I like the Floyd signing because he has proven success in the Major Leagues and his age suggests that he may still have plenty left in the tank.  The Indians front office preaches depth in a starting rotation and they are now nine deep with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, T.J. House, Zach McAllister, Josh Tomlin and Floyd.

If Floyd is healthy the Indians are obviously hoping for a return to his previous form with the White Sox. Over five seasons from 2008-2012 he averaged 31 starts, 190 innings, 12 wins and 4.12 ERA. The Indians are not banking on him to make that many starts and pitch that many innings for them, they just want an arm that they believe has the potential to fill innings and compete for them early in the season so that they can protect themselves from possible regression from their young, inexperienced staff that ended last season.

The interesting and somewhat controversial part of this deal is that Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti has guaranteed that Floyd will have a spot in the Tribe starting rotation come April.  This goes without saying as he is signed to a guaranteed deal for a few million and can’t be sent to the minors, but the fact he said it publicly two months before spring training was interesting.

Antonetti went on to name Kluber, Carrasco, and Bauer as the other three starting pitchers who have also secured a spot in the rotation.  This means that Salazar, House, McAllister and Tomlin will all battle for the final spot in the rotation and at least two of them will open the season at Triple-A Columbus. What makes this a surprise is the quintet of Kluber, Carrasco, Bauer, Salazar and House led the Indians to the 3rd best team ERA in the second half of last season yet Antonetti is breaking up that group.

So with guys like Floyd and Bauer assured of a spot in the starting rotation the question becomes who is the odd man out?

I’m assuming Zach McAllister will be in the bullpen and Tomlin will be a depth guy in Triple-A Columbus to start the season.  They provide instant depth in case an injury were to occur in the starting rotation during spring training or over the course of the season.  That means one of Salazar or House will open the season as the fifth starter and the other in Columbus.

I may surprise some by saying it will probably be Salazar.  I think the Indians would prefer to have a lefty in the rotation and House was a consistent performer in the second half of 2014.  House finished the season with a very solid 3.35 ERA and struck out 7.1 batters while only walking 1.9 per nine innings.  I believe House’s control will be the main reason he edges out Salazar in the spring.

That’s not to say Salazar won’t get strong consideration as he has as good a chance to win the spot. He has electric stuff as evidenced by his career average of 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings. I am a big fan of him but I still think he has some development to do before he can consistently succeed at the Major League level.  He only features three pitches - fastball, split-finger change-up, and slider) – and only the fastball and changeup are consistent Major League offerings for him.

I did some research on Fangraphs to discover why Salazar was such a different pitcher from the first half to the second half last season.  Before his demotion, he was throwing his fastball 76% percent of the time (way too high) while only averaging a velocity of 93.7 MPH.  When he was called back up his fastball velocity was back to averaging over 95 MPH.

Salazar’s changeup is a nasty pitch shown by its ridiculous 28% swing and miss rate.  While his fastball and changeup are plus-plus offerings, his slider could use some work. It seems like he uses it exclusively to throw off hitters in counts where they are unlikely to swing or wouldn’t be looking for it.  It lacks the sharpness and tight break that you would see from someone like Kluber who has a good slider.

Salazar has the makings of a dominant starter but as often proven in the Major Leagues a starting pitcher needs 3 quality pitches to be consistently effective.  Once he figures it out the Indians rotation can go toe to toe with anyone in baseball.

Bottom line, what the Floyd deal essentially did was provide the Indians with some depth to their rotation. They have nine starters they feel comfortable with for next season, and that list does not even include other potential starting options like Charles Brewer, Tyler Cloyd and even Shaun Marcum who are much further down the list.

When an injury or bad performance or two can wreck a rotation (and season), you need all the starting pitching depth you can get.

User Comments

Tony
December 18, 2014 - 3:17 PM EST
If Floyd is having a very good year chances are the Indians are too, so he is not traded at the deadline. And even if the Indians are having a bad year I would think he could be someone to consider giving the qualifying offer to in the offseason. Not that to do that he'd have to be back to his old form, though even that wouldn't make it a sure thing to extend the QO.
Ryan
December 18, 2014 - 3:07 PM EST
Out of curiosity, what kind of prospect would Floyd end up being worth at the trade deadline if he has a career average year (3.75-4.00 ERA)? Considering Masterson and all his flaws netted us Ramsey, I would have to think a a top-5 prospect maybe?
Homer
December 18, 2014 - 12:00 AM EST
Chip,
Good description of Gavin Floyd, he's a solid MOR arm (if healthy), in fact he looked better than that before he went down with injury.

Shaun Marcum seems to be a bit of an odd man out, he could be this yrs Aaron Harang...released only to pitch well elsewhere.
GSon
December 17, 2014 - 9:48 PM EST
9 guys.. five spots..and 60 days until Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training in Goodyear..

Kluber
Carrasco
Bauer
Floyd
House
Brewer
McAllister
Tomlin
Salazar

That's a pretty good group.. maybe one more than will be needed.. one who can fetch a RHH.. we'll see
Chip
December 17, 2014 - 9:27 PM EST
Uhhh, Floyd is not insurance. He is in the rotation unless he is injured or underperforms. If he is indeed healthy, there is no reason to think that he won't perform. Think of him in the same light as Jake Westbrook, not elite but a solid MOR starter.
Norm
December 17, 2014 - 9:10 PM EST
I believe the Tribe has has a solid off-season. It may even be a good one but we really won't know that until the play games for real. What we can know is the Indians have done what they can to provide organizational depth worthy of team that wants to be contenders. We will find out if Floyd is a good signing. Right now he is what the Indians can afford and he makes the starting pitching even deeper. The team actually has 8-9 guys that are bonafide major leaguers. We won't know how they will hold up until the season gets underway but it looks like they should be able to hold up.

What impresses me the most if the depth of position players in Columbus. Every position is backed up with a solid prospect or big league backup in case anyone goes down to injury or doesn't perform. And all of this has been done at the cost of Joe Wendle and a couple of fringe minor league LHPs. Maybe they are done for the off-season and maybe they aren't but they look prepared for the 2015 season and we are just in December.
Walter
December 17, 2014 - 7:13 PM EST
I believe that Floyd is insurance if any of the other starters get hurt which I hope it does not happen. Look how TJ surgeries or elbow injuries effected pitching staffs in 14 like the A's, Rangers, D'Backs, Yankees, and Braves.

Would like to see if the Indians could sign on a minor league deals on either Billingsley, Medlen or Beachy. These 3 pitchers could be able to pitch the second half of 2015. If that the case that would be like trading for them at the trade deadline.

Tony
December 17, 2014 - 6:32 PM EST
Kipnis injury is something we really won't know much about until spring training. The Indians say he will be fine for the start of spring, but we will see. I think the key is going to be when he swings the bat and how it feels. I don't think it is a serious injury but it could be something that maybe nags him. What is it with the Indians and finger injuries?
C L Who
December 17, 2014 - 6:08 PM EST
In 2014, Masterson and Tomlin killed the team for the first two or three months, and Salazar didn't help much either.

An initial rotation of Bauer, Kluber, Carrasco, Floyd and one of House or Salazar or McAllister is likely to prevent the team from going deep toward the bottom of the Central in April and May.

Marcum has been rehabbing now for well over a year. What is his condition?
Jerry
December 17, 2014 - 6:02 PM EST
I think this move may be an initial step in a David Murphy trade.
Clay
December 17, 2014 - 5:45 PM EST
Royals just gave Edinson Volquez 20 million bucks. Ok then.
Mike
December 17, 2014 - 5:33 PM EST
Tony, any word on Jason Kipnis' surgery today? Last I heard he was feeling great and, then, out of nowhere, this. Bumming out.
Matthew
December 17, 2014 - 4:56 PM EST
Rob--

Brett Anderson signed Monday with the Dodgers for $10M.
Buffalo Bison
December 17, 2014 - 4:54 PM EST
Rob,

I believe Brett Anderson is a Dodger now.

Wouldn't mind Medlen or Billingsly.

Ogando would be interesting as a guy who could split time between rotation and bullpen.

I really think a flame thrower in the bullpen is something that should be pursued.
rob
December 17, 2014 - 4:36 PM EST
like the signing but i hope this doesnt stop them from going after brett anderson
Sean Z.
December 17, 2014 - 4:07 PM EST
Tony,
I know they don't necessarily have him on an innings restriction either but I like the idea of having Salazar start in AAA, get innings and into a groove over first two months. Truthfully, if Tribe can weather the early season this team and their infusion of youth set up really well for the 162 game season (contrary to a team like the Tigers, and more like Royals last year).

Not to mention, how many years have we seen that 7th and 8th starter pitching in June. To have that being some of the options we have is actually a relief.

Really like the way the team is setting up. Maybe a move or two left (albeit hopefully a trade of an OF) but really this year will come down to returns, regressions, breakouts or status quo of existing roster/players to determine our overall success.
Jimmy
December 17, 2014 - 3:38 PM EST
Sure Floyd has a lot of upstart but how will recover after injury. We had one of the best staff last half of season and now let's burst it up. Should have spend money on hitter....4 to 6 million.....Rios 11 million.
Now instead of everything getting solid after the first year of staff working together, torn apart everything we had to build on. Thank Mark.

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