The Cleveland Indians could use an impact hitter in their lineup.
They finished the season ranking 11th in the American League in runs scored, and they tallied two runs or less in 58 games, more than 1/3 of their schedule, and had an 11-47 record in those contests.
This means when the Tribe can put three runs on the board, they have a 70-33 record, a blistering .680 winning percentage.
Cleveland had the second best ERA in the AL, so the presumption by many is Chris Antonetti and new GM Mike Chernoff will try to get a legitimate hitter by dangling one of the team’s starting pitching, a deal made from strength.
Yes, we know the old adage about not ever having enough pitching, but with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Cody Anderson, Josh Tomlin, and some youngsters close to the big leagues (Mike Clevenger, Adam Plutko, Ryan Merritt), it may be a deal that can be made from strength.
To be sure, the best case scenario would not be to touch one of the top four starters (and we are including Bauer in that group for the sake of argument) in order to get a solid hitter, but it is doubtful another team will give you the kind of hitter you are looking for in exchange for Anderson, Tomlin, or one of the rookies.
Naturally, the hurler most fans would like to see moved is the one who had the worst performance in 2015, and that would be Bauer, who finished at 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA, and struggled in the second half of the season.
This is where the player development people earn their money.
First, because Bauer’s first half was better than his post All Star Game numbers, his market value isn’t as high as let’s say Carrasco and/or Salazar. So, what the Tribe brass has to determine is can the soon to be 25-year-old right-hander pitch a full season as effectively as the first half of this season.
They also have to determine if this is the best Carrasco or Salazar will ever be.
Carrasco will be 29 next year and showed signs this season of being a #1 starter, or at least #1A because of the presence of Kluber. A couple of near no-hitters will be held up as proof. His fielding independent pitching (FIP) is even lower than Kluber’s at 2.84.
Salazar’s figure is 3.62 compared to his real ERA of 3.45, meaning he didn’t pitch as well as his record would indicate. Plus, over the last two months of the season, his strikeout numbers were down as was his velocity.
His struck out only 23 batters in 33-2/3 innings after September 1st, the only month of the season where he did not strikeout as many hitters as innings pitched.
His ERA in September/October was 4.28 too.
The other thing about Salazar in our opinion is that it is tough for him to limit damage. He seems to have trouble getting out of trouble if the first couple batters reach base.
Of course, other teams know the same thing.
If we were Antonetti and Chernoff, we would be more willing to move Salazar to get a bat than any of the other top four starters. If someone wanted to give you a solid hitter for Anderson or Tomlin, that would be the preference, but that’s probably not going to happen.
Let’s see if the front office has the same opinion.