Who could the Cleveland Indians look to acquire to help their rotation?
After watching a shaky Carlos Carrasco leave Monday’s game early due to injury, the Cleveland Indians’ rotation, one that was poised to be the strongest in the American League in 2017, is looking more and more like a liability.
If Cookie misses time, that would place the team’s top two starters on the disabled list without any great in-house replacements. It might be time for the club to go shopping for at least a back-end arm to keep the rotation afloat during the first half of the season.
Part of the issue is the lack of reinforcements available in Columbus, Ohio. With Mike Clevinger already in town, the rest of the Clippers’ rotation has been less than stellar. Ryan Merritt has been solid with a 3.95 ERA so far, but Adam Plutko has a 6.32 ERA and Shawn Morimando has a 5.97 ERA.
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Neither of those three appear ready for the big leagues right now. It could be Merritt that gets the next call out of that group, especially given his heroics in the ALCS that made him a folk hero in Cleveland, to the tune of surprise wedding gifts.
It’s also not as if the current back-end of the rotation has been great. Josh Tomlin has rebounded from an ERA that bubbled over 8.00 earlier in the season. Even with his past arm troubles, he’s not poised to move up as a number two starter.
Trevor Bauer has easily been the most disappointing player for the Tribe this year. He has yet to put together a complete start as he’s had his own issues with control and a high ERA. Can Bauer be trusted with the increased pressure the Carrasco and Corey Kluber injuries would apply? Maybe might be the best possible answer.
The Indians have nothing to lose by kicking the tires on the buy low market from teams that are seeing their seasons fly.
No, the options aren’t great. No, the Indians won’t spend big and go get Chicago White Sox’s Jose Quintana. However, there could be some low risk options to acquire as a short-term band-aid.
There are guys like Los Angles Angels’ Ricky Nolasco. According to baseball-reference.com, he’s got a respectable 4.34 ERA and 3.73 K/BB ratio. At 34 years old, he’s not necessarily in the long-term plans of a team that isn’t built to contend.
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The Atlanta Braves have not one, but two pitchers over 40 in R.A. Dickey (42) and the ageless Bartolo Colon (44). While Colon’s 7.22 ERA can’t make up for his experience, Dickey at least has a 4.22 ERA and has averaged 6 innings per start. He’s a bit removed from his Cy Young season, but the kunkleballer is on what is essentially a 1-year deal.
The two best options out there might not be within the price range for Cleveland’s front office. Jeremy Hellickson is having another solid, if unspectacular, season for the Philadelphia Phillies. So far, he has a 3.71 ERA with a 1.099 WHIP.
In fact, per the same website, he’s allowing only 1.6 walks per 9 innings. The 8.2 hits per 9 innings might raise a red flag. However, he’s been effective for a 30 year old arm on a rebuilding club. He took his qualifying offer this past offseason, so even the pro-rated portion of his 2017 salary would give the Indians front office a reason to deliberate long and hard on any potential deal.
Lastly in a pitcher the Indians saw in the ALCS, Marco Estrada. At 17-21, the Toronto Blue Jays are in last place in the AL East, a division where the New York Yankees appear to already be running away with it through mid-May. Estrada is in the final year of his contract and if the Blue Jays feel they are too far out, Estrada would absolutely be made available.
His 3.12 ERA would look great in Cleveland and so would his 9.7 strikeouts per 9 innings. He’s just not making it deep into games, averaging just a touch over six innings per start. At 33 years old, Estrada could be a great, steady veteran to shore up the rotation.
Is it likely the Indians go after any of these guys? No, it’s not. The most likely move is a non-move. Kluber should return by June and Carrasco’s ailment appears minor. That doesn’t mean the scouts for this club shouldn’t at least be keeping track of who might be out there as a under the radar addition.