Indians: Backup Plans If Myers Is Not the Innings-Eater Terry Francona Wanted
Brett Myers was added to the rotation this offseason when Cleveland ownership ponied up for the relief pitcher-turned starter-turned relief pitcher with a one-year, $7 million deal with an $8 million team option for 2014. Myers wanted to start and he'll have every opportunity to do so in Cleveland.
In 2010 and 2011, the last two years that Myers was a starter, he posted a 21-22 record and 3.79 ERA over 439.2 innings for the Houston Astros. However, in 2012, Myers made 70 appearances and tossed just 65.1 innings between Houston and the Chicago White Sox.
He has made the transition from the rotation to the bullpen once before, having spent the 2002 through 2006 seasons as a starting pitcher in Philadelphia before being moved to the bullpen in 2007, then back to the rotation in 2008. But, what happens if he isn't the pitcher that the Cleveland Indians were hoping for?
As of right now, the Indians starting rotation will consist of Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Myers, Zach McAllister and Carlos Carrasco, as those are the first five listed on the team's depth chart on their website.
The team has faced some lackluster performance and injuries in the past, just look at how Jimenez has worked out since being acquired in July of 2011 (13-21, 5.32 ERA), but who are the alternatives for the steady veteran, Myers, if he just can't do it in 2013?
Let's take a look at the Cleveland Indians rotation depth.
No.1: Trevor Bauer, RHP
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The Tribe hasn't had a pitcher this highly-touted since Adam Miller, who was ranked as the club's No.1 prospect by Baseball America from 2005 through 2008 before finger injuries completely derailed his career.
Bauer may have some strange ways to prepare for his starts, but he has posted an incredible 13-4 record, 3.00 ERA and a 200:73 K:BB in 156 career minor league innings. While he has managed just a 1-2 record and 6.06 ERA in just four major league starts, he has ace potential, so why not call on the youngster first and see what he has?
Bauer was the third overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft and something that he was doing wasn't sitting right with Arizona management, but their lack of interest in him is Cleveland's gain. He could be a fantastic fall-back option for injuries or lackluster performance for any starter, not just Myers.
No.2: Corey Kluber, RHP
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Corey Kluber has been in the Indians' organization since 2010, but he was drafted out of Stetson University by the San Diego Padres in 2007 and will turn 27-years-old in April 2013.
Kluber is one of the Indians better organizational arms, meaning he will be a guy who will probably carve out a nice minor league career while having very little success for the big league team. He is 18-18 with a 4.61 ERA in 287 innings in Triple-A since he joined the Indians, while he went just 2-5 with a 5.14 ERA in 12 starts in 2012 in the majors for the Tribe.
Kluber has an innings-eater frame at 6'4", 215 pounds, but his results in the minors and majors aren't very good. He'll be a living, breathing body who can manage 150 to 180 innings should the Indians require a long-term option in their rotation, though.
No.3: Scott Kazmir, LHP
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Scott Kazmir hasn't made an appearance in the majors since April 3, 2011 for the Los Angeles Angels. He was placed on the 15-day DL on Apr. 4 and released on June 15 by the Angels, never regaining the form that helped him win 66 games and go to two All-Star games by the time he was 26-years-old.
In 2012, he spent the season in an Independent League, posting a 5.34 ERA in 14 starts for the Atlantic League's Sugar Land squad, but it was the 90 to 94 mph fastball that he was reportedly throwing this offseason that led to the minor league contract with the Indians.
While his 5.54 ERA from 2009 to 2011 over 299 innings seemed to scream injury, Kazmir is just 29 and was worth the gamble.
It's still unknown what his role will be in Cleveland, as he could end up pitching out of the bullpen, filling the role that Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez held in recent years as a left-handed setup-man. It wouldn't be shocking to see Kazmir in Columbus, earning and waiting for an opportunity with the big club should something happen to one of the starters once the season gets going.
Considering the ceiling that Kazmir once held as an elite prospect and All-Star pitcher, he was a great addition to an area where depth has been an issue in recent seasons.
No.4: Giovanni Soto, LHP
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This is digging deep, but the Indians have a very good young pitcher in Soto, a 6'3", 21-year-old left-hander who is a non-roster invitee to spring training.
Soto, who started 22 games in Double-A and posted a 3.93 ERA, has established himself as a legitimate, although often overlooked, prospect for the Indians. He was acquired from the Detroit Tigers for Jhonny Peralta back in 2010 and he established himself as another possible bullpen arm by posting a 1.17 ERA over 11 games in the Puerto Rican Winter League this offseason.
Long-term, Soto is a starting pitcher, having started 62 of his 75 career minor league games, compiling a 3.09 ERA and a 315:127 K:BB in 349.2 career innings.
Soto is such an unknown that Bleacher Report didn't have a picture of him, so I just went to Francona tossing a ball. It could be early into the 2013 season that Soto is handed a ball at Progressive Field for the first time by Tito.
No.5: Fernando Nieve, RHP
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Nieve was once a very promising prospect for the Houston Astros, earning a look in the 2005 Futures Game due to his high stock, but things are different now for the 30-year-old right-hander.
Nieve is another non-roster invitee for the Indians, and after making 24 starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate in 2012, he could find himself pitching for Columbus for most of the year.
Nieve has 12 years of minor league experience and nearly 1,100 innings in his professional career, while already having Tommy John surgery in 2007.
While the Indians have five solid starters lined up, based on the team's website depth chart, it begins to get very questionable this deep into their starting pitching depth. Nieve may have trouble posting an ERA less than five in the bigs, but after the lousy years that Masterson and Jimenez had in 2012, maybe that is a fine way to round out a rotation.
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Brett Myers is a fine pitcher and has had success when converting from the bullpen to the rotation in the past. With an entire offseason to focus on the transition, he should do very well once again.
With that being said, the list of pitchers who could fill in for Myers or any other starting pitcher, especially Carlos Carrasco (who will probably be on an innings-limit in 2013), is relatively solid.
There are teams in much worse shape than the Tribe, as the potential to have nine decent starting pitchers is there, if you feel like Bauer, Kluber, Kazmir and Soto could perform as a No.5 starter in 2013 for any length of time.
The club would do well to sign a guy like Daisuke Matsuzaka, Carlos Zambrano, Jonathan Sanchez or Dustin Moseley to a minor league contract, hoping that they could rebound and find form that they had shown earlier in their professional careers. It also gives the Indians time to build Soto and Bauer, while allowing Kluber to continue posting 5.00-plus ERAs in the minors instead of in Cleveland.
Building veteran depth in the rotation will allow the Indians to be cautious with their young starters, while building tradable assets if they were to fall out of contention early in the season, all at a very reasonable price.
If they don't make more signings, they still have a good start.