Second Thoughts: Indians needs are becoming clear
We’re nearly halfway through the 2014 season and the Indians stand exactly at .500. That record is reflective of inconsistent play that has plagued various aspects of the team all season. As the middle of summer approaches, the evaluation period for the current roster should be closing and focus shifting to making the decisions necessary to improve the roster for the stretch run.
The Indians have some of the pieces necessary to compete this year. Their bullpen has been great, and could become even deeper if Carlos Carrasco and Kyle Crockett continue to pitch well. In the starting rotation, Corey Kluber gives the team a top 10 starter in the AL, and a building block for the rest of the rotation. Offensively, breakout seasons from Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall have given the lineup some punch.
Still, that’s not enough.
In some way, shape or form, the Indians are going to have to get better. Some of that is going to have to come from within. If players such as Justin Masterson, Nick Swisher, and Carlos Santana can turn their seasons around it’d be a huge boost.
The Indians lineup has been able to tread water with multiple guys still struggling, so getting a Swisher and Santana back on track could turn the offense into a team strength. As for Masterson, the Indians simply need someone to step up and start providing quality starts on a regular basis. The only pitcher they can rely on right now to do that is Kluber. Of the current starters, Masterson is the one who can have the greatest impact.
Right now the hope in the rotation is that Kluber gets you a win, and Masterson, Tomlin, Bauer, and McAllister/House can get you a couple quality starts in a given rotation turn. That’s not a good situation to be in if you have postseason hopes.
To me, this is the team’s biggest need before the trade deadline. They need to get a pitcher to pair with Kluber. From there, they have to hope that Masterson can get himself straightened out, or one of the other pitchers steps up.
So, if we accept the premise that the team needs to go shopping for another starter this summer, who is available?
The market starts with Jeff Samardzija and David Price. Either would be a home run for the Indians, but their teams will likely command more than the Indians would be willing to part with. Similarly, Cliff Lee would likely be too expensive in terms of his contract to be an option. Other options could include Jake Peavy of Boston, Jason Hammel of the Cubs, Ian Kennedy of San Diego, among others.
While he’s not the sexiest name of the group, Jason Hammel is a pitcher the Indians were interested in over the winter. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them chase him again. He’s in the midst of the best season of his career and only on a one year deal, so it may not cost too much to acquire him. The big question with someone like Hammel is just how much he’ll actually help. If he turns back into the pitcher he was last year in Baltimore, he wouldn’t be an upgrade over Bauer or McAllister, much less the #2 or #3 starter the team needs.
The second biggest need is offensive reinforcements, particularly against left-handed pitching.
While guys like Swisher aren’t going anywhere, one player who’s not untouchable is Ryan Raburn. Raburn has one role on the team, and that’s to mash left-handed pitching. He’s not getting the job done. Instead, he’s been one of the worst on the team in hitting southpaws. It would take cutting Raburn and eating a couple million dollars, but finding another right handed hitting outfielder should be a priority.
There are other smaller holes that could be filled as well. Finding another reliable reliever would help. A defensive oriented infielder could help spell Chisenhall or others in late innings. However, with the current roster construction that might not be feasible.
I’m a big believer in the Indians taking advantage of opportunities to compete when they can. I think the Indians understand that being in contention is never a guarantee. Right now they’re just 3.5 games out of first place. I want them to make the moves necessary to solidify the team for the stretch run, within reason, and I think they will.
They won't sell the farm for a three month rental, but I think we'll see more moves than last year. With a couple more pieces added to the mix, and a few key players turning the corner, this team could be positioned to peak in the second half once again.
Swisher is not going anywhere if this club is looking to add on. Nobody from Bourn thru the 9 hitter in our lineup is being traded away. I agree our offensive woes will have to be solved from within. Santana, Swisher and Kipnis will have to turn it up I do see us looking for an arm And although it is highly unlikely I see Antonetti kicking the tires on Price who would look awfully good in our rotation this year as well as next.
In a part time role (blocked by Kemp, Ethier, Crawford, Puig), Slyke has 87 ABs with 23 hits, 6 HR, 13 XBH, with a line of 264 / 413/ 976.
Big. Right handed. 27 years old. And most important, probably reasonably inexpensive to acquire. Not eligible for arb until 2016. Would be a huge upgrade on the Raburn we are seeing this year.
Excellent comments on Swisher. I completely agree. I can't believe the guy pretends like he cares so much about the team comes in fat and out of shape and has to fake a knee injury so he can act like he has an excuse. For $15 Million a year he needs to be leading this team in hitting, not leading the team in art class like the day he made all the guys make Mother's Day cards. What an embarrassment!
I wonder if we could get Stubbs back. We know what he is. He would be a defensive upgrade to Rayburn probably hit no worse than Rayburn. It's not that I'm proposing this option.