The race for the Indians fifth starter job has begun
With the signing of Gavin Floyd on Tuesday, Indians GM Chris Antonetti confirmed to the media that four of the five spots in the starting rotation are locked up with Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, and Floyd (in no specific order). That leaves one final spot left in the rotation.
As it stands, the Indians currently have four pitchers fighting for that fifth and final spot – Danny Salazar, T.J. House, Zach McAllister, and Josh Tomlin.
Salazar's fastball is one that most of the candidates cannot compete with. Although he struggled last year with a 6-8 record and 4.25 ERA, he owns the biggest upside of this group. On any given day, he can look like a top flight starter, which is part of the reason why manager Terry Francona and company picked him to start the American League Wild Card game two seasons ago. Surprisingly, last season right-handed hitters (.289 batting average) hit better off Salazar than left-handed hitters (.246 average).
If Salazar can improve on his slider to make opposing hitters more hesitant and complement his great fastball-changeup combination, he will be a lethal weapon in the Indians’ rotation. Salazar has one option left. So if he does not make the rotation, he can either be sent to the bullpen or sent down to Triple-A Columbus one last time.
In his first season with the Indians, House posted a 5-3 record with a 3.35 ERA. In seven starts at Progressive Field he went 3-0 with a 2.14 ERA whereas in 11 starts on the road he went 2-3 with a 4.20 ERA. Before the break he went 1-2 with a 4.40 ERA; following the break he went 4-1 with a 2.53 ERA. Also, in September, he posted a 3-0 record with just a 1.50 ERA.
While House limited lefties to a .252 average, he must improve his pitching against right-handed hitters as they hit .297 against him last year. He's been inconsistent on the road and has been home run prone, but he improved tremendously after the All Star break with experience under his belt. He is a lefty and the only lefty starting option, so if he were the fifth starter he would bring a different dynamic to the rotation. He has just one option left, just like Salazar.
Out of the four contenders for the final spot in the rotation, McAllister has the most experience in a starting rotation. Last season, battling injury and going back-and-forth from Triple-A Columbus, McAllister had just 15 starts (22 games) and posted a 4-7 with a 5.23 ERA. Although he had over a 5+ ERA on the season, he had an ERA of 2.84 in eight games (one start) in September.
McAllister is out of options, so if he does not make the rotation, he will either have to be put in the bullpen or be designated for assignment.
In all honesty, I do not think Tomlin has much of a chance in this race, unless he has improved tremendously during this off-season. He is not only the oldest of the four pitchers going for the final spot (30 years old), but he is also one of the most injury-prone and had the worst season last year. In 16 starts (25 games) last season, Tomlin had a 6-9 record with a 4.76 ERA.
Unfortunately for Tomlin, he pitched worse as the season went on – 4.21 ERA before the All Star break and a 6.33 ERA post All Star break. Also, right-handed batters had a .314 average against him, which is poor for a starting pitcher. He has two options left, which likely means he will be sent to Triple-A Columbus as a depth option to start the season.
If I had to pick one of these pitchers for the fifth and final spot in the rotation going into spring training, it would be House. Inserting him into the rotation would give the Indians the luxury of having a left-handed pitcher in their starting rotation.
Also, with the kind of fastball Salazar has, he would be a great guy to come out of the bullpen - almost like an Aroldis Chapman-type bullpen arm - though I expect he would go to Columbus and continue to start if he is not starting in Cleveland. Also, McAllister is not only coming off an injury-riddled season last year, but he has had plenty of time to prove that he is a permanent starter for the Indians and he has yet to secure that spot.
BTW.. the one hit complete game.. was the best pitched game of the entire season by anyone in MLB. So, he has it to go... He's either a good depth starter.. a trade chip.. or a long man.. He's a good asset to have on any team. We'll see if that remains the Indians...
Thus, I do think he'll look more like his old self and be more reliable like he has been in the past. He'd still be the long shot amongst this quartet and probably will be heading to Columbus to start 2015, but still will be a solid option going forward if needed as he has been outside 2014.
Floyd will be solid in the middle of that rotation if he stays healthy. If he don't then the options are aplenty. Health is Floyd's only question mark as the stuff is proven when he's on the mound.
I think puting Salazar on the block is a good idea. I don't know if someone would be willing to give what he is worth to this team, but I would find out. There again, his option makes him even more attractive to other teams. The problem with trading him is you would probably have to make a cut(Raburn) and a trade or two(Murphy and/or Bourn) to create a spot for the bat they received in return.
Tomlin may actually be attractive to other teams with his options remaining. He could be a good catch for a team like Oakland, San Diego, or any other club with a spacious park.
@Mike yes Callaway was interviewed by Jordan Bastian and released the story during the WM. More or less they want Salazar ready from the get go, rather than ease into the season like 2014. They are trying to get him to understand that he doesn't need to hold back early in the game, etc.
And someone tell me why is it so bad that the Indians have too many solid options? Oh, well, once you starting thinking you have more than enough, guess what? You're on the waiver wire praying to find gold.
The reason Antonetti already noted the four set spots is because Kluber is a lock (duh!), Carrasco is out of options, Bauer is out of options and Floyd has a guaranteed deal and was signed to be in the rotation to start. Hard to have a competition when we know that for options/contract reasons who is already in....so why it's just a fifth starter battle unless one of the other four get hurt.
Floyd is going to have restrictions on him so McAllister will get plenty of work and House will see his time up here as well, no doubt about that.
I have never heard so many complaints about a team having too many good pitchers!
One thing I like is this gives the team the option of seeing what other teams might give up for Salazar or some of the controllable live arms the club has. Not saying I want to see Salazar go but I bet he has some real trade value.
We signed Moss, great move but Floyd and made him a starter like we had no starters on the team.
What is going to happen if Floyd who is your no. 4 becomes no. 6 in spring due to performance. Will you man up.