Cleveland Indians: Who Should Be Brought Back in 2013? Starting Pitchers Edition

Pat KondzellaCorrespondent IAugust 30, 2012

Cleveland Indians: Who Should Be Brought Back in 2013? Starting Pitchers Edition

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    The Cleveland Indians are having the worst season in recent memory, and it appears there is no end in sight to the horrendous slide they are on. They could have tried to add a piece or two at the trade deadline or could have been sellers and dumped salary in an effort to get some prospects in return to replenish their weak farm system.

    They neither bought, nor sold. They did nothing.

    As a result, the Tribe is on a little bit of a slump since the All-Star break. That might be a bit of an understatement. To say the Indians are in a little bit of a slump is like saying Kate Upton is a little bit hot.

    Since the break, the Indians are a ridiculous 11-35 and have gone on a 11-game losing streak and just recently ended a nine-game skid. They are 5-24 over their last 29 games.

    At the break, the Indians were only three games out of first and sat in second place behind the Chicago White Sox. They were within whispering distance of the second wild-card spot only one game behind the Baltimore Orioles.

    Seems like an eternity ago, doesn't it? I'm weeping just thinking about it.

    The Indians are now 55-76 and in fourth place, 17.5 games in back of the White Sox, 17.5 games out of the last wild-card spot. With 32 games left, the Indians' hopes for a playoff spot are gone. The Tribe has been overtaken by the Kansas City Flippin' Royals for godsakes!

    The only thing they can realistically do now is save face, finish strong and get ready for next year.

    It is time for an overhaul of this team, folks. The Indians' starting rotation has been pretty abysmal this year. After Aug. 30's game, the Indians starters ranked 28th in team ERA (5.13), 28th in BAA (.282) and 29th in walks allowed (289).

    This slide show will be the first in a three-part series analyzing the players and their potential for being on the team next season.

    Starting with this presentation on the Indians' starting pitchers, I will analyze every Indians player that has logged considerable time with the big club or those that could be starters next season. I will then give my opinion on what the best option is for that player, if they should be on the 2013 Cleveland Indians and why or why not.

    If the verdict is they should go, I will give alternatives to that player, which may include the signing of available free agents or players in the minors.

    For each player, I will show key stats and current contract situation.

    All contract figures (if available) will be from baseballprospectus.com.

    Enjoy the slide show. I welcome any comments you may have and please don't cry over your keyboard. It's not good for it.

    Here are the starting pitchers who have started games for the Tribe in 2012 and one that could start in 2013:

     

    Note: Check out the web page linked to the "Contract" sub-head for an entertaining look at that player's contract.

Justin Masterson

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    Stats: 10-12, 4.91 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 3.86 BB/9, 3.64 runs scored per game by teammates (RS)

    Quick note here: According to MLB Network, these are the following benchmarks for the above categories: A WHIP of one or less is considered elite and the league average in 2011 was 1.32. A K/9 of nine is excellent and the league average last season was 7.1. For BB/9, below two is excellent and the league average in 2011 was 3.1.

    Among qualified (at least one inning pitched per number of games his team has played) starters, the pitcher who has received the most support this year in the majors is Jered Weaver of the Angels at 6.04, and the least supported pitcher is Jeremy Hellickson of the Rays at 3.46.

     

    Contract

    One-year, $3.82 million contract expires at end of 2012 season. Masterson is arbitration eligible in 2013.

     

    Analysis

    As the stats show, Masterson is not an elite pitcher, but he is still the Indians' ace, which really shows how bad their starting rotation is.

    He is maddeningly inconsistent, but he is still just 27 and it's not as if the current club has a ton of stud starters. Also, the Indians' minor league system is not loaded with starting pitching prospects. He can still perform at a high level, and at the moment, it doesn't appear that his value on the market would be enough to warrant moving him. Let's wait and see if he improves and thereby improves his trade value.

     

    Best Option

    Re-sign him for one or two more years at less than what he is making now.

Ubaldo Jimenez

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    Stats: 9-13, 5.58 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 4.9 BB/9, 4.12 RS

     

    Contract

    Four-year, $10 million contract expires at the end of this season. The Indians have club options for 2013 ($5.75 million, $1 million buyout) and 2014 ($8 million, $1 million buyout). Jimenez is eligible for salary arbitration in 2013.

     

    Analysis

    According to ESPN, Jimenez has the worst ERA among qualified starters in the majors, the third-worst K/BB ratio (1.53) in MLB and the most wild pitches (14) thrown, three more than teammate Justin Masterson.

    As much as it would hurt to admit that this trade that acquired Jimenez was a colossal fail, that's just what the Indians' brass needs to do. Jimenez has shown moments of competence on the mound, but for the most part as the stated stats show, Jimenez has shown a pathetic lack of command and has been horrible in 2013.

     

    Best options

    The best option would be to trade Jimenez now before his contract runs out and get something for him. He would not warrant receiving much in return, though. When the Indians acquired Jimenez in 2011, they gave up four minor leaguers, two of which were top pitching prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White.

    Would the Indians get the same kind of bounty in return this time around? I would speculate that the Indians might be able get mid- or low-level prospects for him. I think they should probably take whatever they could get for him and save some salary and give some young pitchers a shot.

    When Joe Blanton was being shopped around before going to the Dodgers, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com opined that the Phillies could maybe get a mid-level prospect for Blanton's services. Blanton's numbers (9-12, 4.95 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) are similar but a little better than Jimenez's at this time, so a similar return for the Indians could be expected.

    With Chad Billingsley having gone to the disabled list on Saturday and Tommy John surgery possibly looming, the Dodgers will be looking for pitching, so they might be a willing trade partner.

    Looking at Baseball Prospectus' analysis of top Dodger prospects, maybe one of or a combination of Single-A prospect James Baldwin, Aaron Miller (in Double-A), Scott Van Slyke (Triple-A) or Steve Ames (Double-A) would work. These prospects meet the Indians' most pressing needsright-handed hitters with power and power arms.

    The second-best option would be for the Indians to buy out Jimenez's contract at $1 million and let him find work elsewhere.

    Who would take Jimenez's spot?

    A trained monkey perhaps?

    According to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, manager Manny Acta said that Carlos Carrasco, rehabbing from last September's Tommy John surgery, has been throwing in the upper 90s in Arizona. Hopefully, Carrasco's recovery goes smoothly, as he could be a possible starter for the Tribe in 2013.

    Jeanmar Gomez should also still be in the mix. Both Carrasco and Gomez would seem to be better options than Jimenez at this point in time. If Jimenez had shown any kind of consistency this season, or last for that matter, I might say exercise the club option of $5.75 million, but he hasn't and the Tribe should part ways with him.

Josh Tomlin

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    Stats: 5-8, 6.36 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 3.81 RS

     

    Contract

    One-year, $495,500 contract expires at the end of this season. Tomlin isn't arbitration eligible for 2013.

     

    Analysis

    Like the rest of the Indians starters, Tomlin came into the 2012 season with a lot of promise as he came in on the heels of his solid 2011 campaign where he went 12-7 with a 4.25 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP.

    Alas, like the rest of the staff, Tomlin has been a huge disappointment on the year, and now we may know why. Tomlin was scheduled to have Tommy John surgery on Aug. 22 after being on the disabled list since Aug. 14 due to discomfort in Tomlin's right pitching elbow.

    On SI.com, the Associated Press reported manager Manny Acta's answer to the question of whether or not Tomlin's disappointing season was the result of this arm injury. Acta said, "Without a doubt. When guys are having those kind of symptoms the first thing to be affected is command and he is a guy who command is such a big part of his game."

     

    Best Option

    I like Tomlin. The guy's a gamer and a competitor, but his days as an Indian are done. Even at the miniscule salary figure of $495,000, or even less given Tomlin's performance this season, it makes no sense to give him a dime to sit a year. Tomlin will be a non-tendered free-agent this winter.

Roberto Hernandez

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    Stats: 0-3, 7.53 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 1.3 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 1.67 RS

     

    Contract:

    Hernandez becomes a free agent in 2015. His re-worked base salary for this season is $2.5 million, and the club has an option of $6 million for 2013. He is arbitration eligible in 2013.

     

    Analysis

    Hernandez's value to the Indians will be dependent upon his performance throughout the remainder of the season. So far through three starts, he has not been good. He was terrible last season as well, so the clock is ticking for Hernandez. He will have to give the Indians much better starts if he is going to be in the club's plans to be any part of the pitching staff in 2013.

     

    Best Options

    The best option would be for the Indians to trade him before his contract expires at the end of this season.

    I am thinking the Baltimore Orioles could be a possible trading partner for Hernandez's services as the O's are fighting for a playoff spot and their rotation is shaky. They just acquired Joe Saunders and immediately put him into the starting rotation.

    Perhaps Baltimore would be willing to gamble on Hernandez as a rental. Who could the Indians get in return? Probably a similar return that Jimenez would warrant.

    John Sickels of Minor League Ball analyzed the Orioles' prospects in the preseason. Lesser ranked prospects like Double-A prospect Mike Wright (RHP) and Single-A prospect Parker Bridwell (RHP) both look like promising targets.

    The next best option after a trade would be to re-sign Hernandez. It would be a terrible idea to exercise the $6 million option. If they decide to bring Hernandez back, they should do it for much less than $6 million. I would speculate that even $3 million would be too much to give him.

Zach McAllister

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    Stats: 5-5, 3.82 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 4.06 RS

     

    Contract

    McAllister's one-year, $480,000 contact expires at the end of this season. He is not eligible for salary arbitration.

     

    Analysis

    McAllister has been probably the most consistent Indians starter this season, but he has slid downhill a little over his last starts. He has good upside, quality stuff and just needs more experience at the big league level.

     

    Best Option

    A case could be made to use him as a trade asset because McAllister is one the top three most tradeable pitching assets in the Indians' system. However, the best move would seem to be to re-sign him. He will merit more than his current salary but could be signed for cheap. He will be well worth the cost.

Corey Kluber

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    Stats: 0-3, 5.16 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 3.67 RS

     

    Contract

    Kluber's one-year contract ends at the end of this season. Kluber is not yet arbitration eligible as he has only pitched for the Indians in limited duty over two seasons.

     

    Analysis

    Kluber's 2012 season started off horribly in Kansas City as he gave up nine hits, six runs (all earned) and two home runs in only 4.1 innings. However, two starts ago he put in a solid effort as he went five innings giving up six hits, only one run (earned) while walking two and striking out six against a potent New York Yankee lineup.

    Kluber is young and has a good array of pitches and just needs to develop more command at the big league level

     

    Best Option

    This is another no-brainer to re-sign Kluber for cheap. He could be a starter or solid long reliever for the Tribe next season. Also, he just hasn't shown enough as a starter to have any value in a trade.

Jeanmar Gomez

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    Stats: 4-7, 5.18 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 4.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 4.08 RS

     

    Contract

    Gomez's one-year, $482,700 contract expires at the end of this season. He is not eligible for salary arbitration in 2013.

     

    Analysis

    Gomez started out solidly in 2012 in games that he started going 3-2 with a 3.35 ERA over his first seven starts. After that, he was terrible going 1-6 with a 8.05 ERA over his last six efforts.

    Despite these numbers over his last starts, Gomez is a competitor. Remember when he drilled Mike Moustakas in retaliation for Shin-Soo Choo getting hit by Jonathan Sanchez? You have to like that desire to stick up for his teammates.

    Gomez has nice bite on his slider and could add value to the Indians pitching staff whether as a starter or long-relief guy. Like the other young pitchers on this staff, Gomez needs to learn better command and needs to re-adjust to hitters. Gomez seems to be strong against hitters the first time through the order and then struggles after that.

     

    Best Option

    The Indians should sign re-sign Gomez for one year. This is another easy call as the book on Gomez has yet to be written.  He will compete for a starting spot next season and could be an asset to the pitching staff.

    A case could be made to dangle him as trade bait as Gomez does have some upside and promise and could be an attractive target for a team in need of pitching.

Carlos Carrasco

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    2011 Stats (sidelined all of 2012): 8-9, 4.62 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 6.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 4.14 RS

     

    Contract: Carrasco's one-year, $488,500 deal ends at the end of this season. He is not yet arbitration eligible.

     

    Analysis: Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer reported that manager Manny Acta talked about Carrasco's progress. Acta said, "He's been throwing the ball well in his rehab in Arizona. He's going to get some innings in the Parallel League that they have in Arizona this fall."

    This is about as good as the team could expect of Carrasco's progress. Carrasco could be a huge asset to the Indians starting rotation in 2013.

     

    Best Option

    Acquired in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Phillies, Carrasco has big upside, and the Indians don't know what he can do yet. He could be a solid starter for years to come. I could see Jeanmar Gomez being moved, but it would be a big mistake to trade Carrasco, as his potential is excellent.

    Carrasco should come cheap, so signing him to a one-year deal around his current salary would be the best option regarding Carrasco.

Conclusion

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    The Indians' braintrust has many important decisions to make in the offseason and in the years to come that will affect the success of the team next season and in years to come.

    Starting pitching is a big area of concern and one that needs fixing. The team needs to acquire a solid starter via free agency or trade. The minor league system needs to get replenished as well.

    In this slide show, I have presented my opinions on what should happen with the current crop of starting pitchers.

    I welcome any comments below you may have.

    Stay tuned for "Who Should Be Brought Back in 2013?: Relievers Edition."