A week ago, we talked about how the past few weeks for the Cleveland Indians should eliminate any notion in the front office’s collective minds that minor tinkering is all the Tribe needs heading into next season.
The offense ranks in the bottom third of the American League and there is no question that should be the primary area of concern this winter.
On the other hand, the pitching staff currently ranks 2nd in the AL in staff ERA, and ranks in the top three in the league in most of the major categories (hits allowed, strikeouts, least walks) and leads the AL in complete games.
The preference would be the leave the pitching staff alone, particularly the starters, because if you are statistically one of the best staffs in your league, why would you make any moves.
However, pitching staffs can be volatile from year to year, and in order to get the bat the Indians so desperately needs, you may have to give up a starting pitcher.
And the Tribe, despite the adage that when you think you have too much pitching, you go out and get more, has some depth in the rotation.
Without question, the big four of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer, are pretty durable, and in spite of Bauer’s inconsistent second half, are pretty darn good.
You also have Cody Anderson and Josh Tomlin, both of whom were great after they got healthy after the All Star Game.
Add in T.J. House, who was solid last year, but injured for most of this year, and prospects Mike Clevenger (acquired from the Angels a year ago for Vinnie Pestano) and Adam Plutko, and you can see there is hope for the future.
And perhaps Gavin Floyd will be back as well.
If you have to trade one of the starters, which one should go?
Bauer would be a popular choice, but he’s also the youngest of the quartet, and based on his second half, probably has the least market value.
Kluber would bring the most in return, but he figures to have a bounce back season in 2016 and we would still say in an elite starter.
We would dangle Salazar because we think he is the most mentally fragile. He may improve this with experience, but he doesn’t seem to battle his way out of trouble when things start to go bad.
The bullpen should be rebuilt because outside of closer Cody Allen, the relief corps was inconsistent down the stretch. Zack McAllister has a dominant fastball, but needs to be able to throw a breaking pitch for a strike.
Bryan Shaw seems to be suffering from the huge workload he has had over the past two years, and would seem to have decent trade value.
The rest of the ‘pen is filled with guys that Terry Francona doesn’t have a great deal of faith in, although we would keep Kyle Crockett because he’s demonstrated in the past that he can be effective vs. left-handed hitters.
There are some options in the minor leagues too that haven’t received a decent shot at the major league level. Shawn Armstrong deserves a shot, and the club could take a good look at Jeff Johnson and Josh Martin as well, and there be plenty of veterans available as well in free agency.
The pitching staff is the strength of this team. Unfortunately, the offense wasted a great job by the staff in 2015.