Earlier this week, the Cleveland Indians signed free agent CF Michael Bourn and fans were thrilled by another top free agent signing. It provided another hitter to help a team that finished 13th in the American League in runs scored.
However, that is only one part of the game because the Tribe finished last season dead last in the AL in ERA, and so far have added some relievers and one starting pitcher, Brett Myers, who spent last season pitching out of the bullpen, to improve the staff.
Is that enough?
This is not to criticize Myers, who has been an effective starter for many years in the big leagues, throwing over 180 innings six times in his career, every year but two that he has been in the rotation in the majors. Not only is he durable, he’s also been effective , with a lifetime 4.29 ERA as a starting pitcher.
Right now, any hope for improvement besides Myers rests on potential and the bounce back of several pitchers. That’s a cause for concern.
Justin Masterson may be the Opening Day starter, but he has been a regular starter with Cleveland for three years, of which one (2011–12-10 with a 3.21 ERA) was good, and the other two decidedly mediocre and inconsistent (17-28, 4.82 ERA).
Ubaldo Jimenez has been a huge mess since being acquired from Colorado at the ’11 trade deadline.
His mechanical issues are well documented, but his performance since becoming an Indian does nothing to inspire confidence that he will turn it around. His record with the Tribe is 13-21 with a 5.32 ERA. That should make him more of a candidate for the waiver wire than the cornerstone of a starting rotation.
There is no doubt he is the biggest key for Terry Francona’s team in 2013.
Carlos Carrasco provides hope because he showed some promise in 2011, his first full season in the big leagues. But he is recovering from Tommy John surgery, so he cannot be counted on to lead the rotation of a winning team.
Zack McAllister made 22 starts for Cleveland a year ago, and did a decent enough job, going 6-8 with a 4.24 ERA. The problem for him is the first stat listed, he’s only made 26 starts in his big league career.
Trevor Bauer is one of the game’s top prospects and dominated AAA last season, but he’s made just four major league starting appearances.
The Tribe also brought in some experienced major league arms in Daisuke Matsuzaka and Scott Kazmir, both fine pitchers at some point in the last five or six seasons. The former hasn’t had an ERA under 4.50 since 2008 when he enjoyed his best season in American baseball, going 18-3. 2.90.
That’s also the last good season for Kazmir, who pitched in an independent league last year. He was 12-8 with a 3.49 that year, but hasn’t been below4.89 in any season since.
That’s an awful large amount of ifs and maybes for a team that did a lot to strengthen his offense this winter.
GM Chris Antonetti did bolster the bullpen by obtaining Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw in the Shin-Soo Choo trade, inking Blake Wood, another pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery, and getting Matt Capps, a former closer with the Pirates, Nationals, and Twins.
While many consider the bullpen the bulwark of the team, it was only the pitchers Manny Acta used when the team had the lead: Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, and Chris Perez. The rest of the relief corp struggled to keep close games close. Too often, a starter left trailing 3-1, and soon it was 6-1.
Good teams play in the top half of their league in both runs scored and ERA. Last year, the Tribe finished second last and last in those categories.
They’ve improved the hitting attack this off-season, but the pitching is still shaky to say the least. If Carrasco comes back, McAllister picks up where he left off, and Bauer shows he is as good as his reputation, the Tribe can be formidable in 2013.
However, that’s an awful lot to have to go right. And right now, it’s too many question marks.