5 Reasons Trevor Bauer Belongs in the Big Leagues Right Now
When the Cleveland Indians dealt star right fielder Shin-Soo Choo to the Cincinnati Reds, they were doing two things: realizing the inevitability of losing a high-priced free agent and compensating for the loss of successive first-round draft picks. For a team that had been highly criticized for dealing away both proven and potential pitching talent over the previous four years, acquiring the enigmatic Trevor Bauer may have finally started to provide some recompense.
In light of the Tribe’s sluggish 7-10 start, the team is in need of a shot in the arm, and they need look no further than their potential staff ace. Here are 5 reasons why Trevor Bauer must be in the Indians’ rotation sooner rather than later.
1. Veteran Ineffectiveness
The Tribe’s Opening Day starting rotation consisted of veterans Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers, Scott Kazmir and second-year starter Zach McAllister. Of the four veterans, only Masterson has been effective, off to a scorching start much more reminiscent of his 2011 self than the 2012 version. Jimenez has been a complete and utter failure since the Indians sent first round picks Drew Pomeranz and Alex White to Colorado. Brett Myers excelled in throwing batting practice in successive contests against Toronto and New York, and one couldn’t help but feel bad for Scott Kazmir, who couldn’t last 5 innings against the lowly Astros, despite the Indians’ generous 18 runs of support through the first four innings of his return.
With Masterson and McAllister pulling their own weight, it’s time to add another young arm to the mix. Entering Sunday’s start against Houston, Ubaldo Jimenez was 13-23 with a 5.60 ERA in 45 starts since joining the Indians at the 2011 trade deadline. Since July 7 of last season, he’s 1-12 with a 7.77 ERA (74 ER in 85.2 innings) and hasn’t won a start since August 9. Brett Myers has struggled mightily in his transition back to the starting rotation, having already given up more home runs in his first four games than he did in 70 games as a reliever with the Astros/White Sox in 2012. With Myers headed to the DL with forearm stiffness, the Tribe opted to recall Corey Kluber to take his next start. Bauer should undoubtedly be the next in line.
2. Ace Potential
Unorthodox pregame routines and questionable diss tracks aside, one thing no fan can doubt is Trevor Bauer’s potential as a future staff ace in the big leagues. Drafted #3 overall in 2011, Bauer has electric stuff and a lively arm. But unlike many young pitchers intent on blowing opposing hitters away with their fastball, Bauer prides himself on utilizing torque and deception with his delivery and diverse arsenal of pitches.
While indications from former teammates and coaches about his maturity are a concern, Bauer’s talent alone makes him an enticing prospect who simply cannot remain in the minors for long. In his 31 Minor League starts, Bauer is 14-4 with a 2.93 and 216 strikeouts in just 169 innings pitched. Needless to say, he has nothing left to prove at the minor league level.
3. Lack of Other Arms in the System
Although there was competition for the fifth spot in the rotation in spring training, no one would make the mistake of labeling the Tribe’s starting pitching depth a strength. Reclamation project Scott Kazmir edged out Bauer, fellow comeback candidate Daisuke Matsuzaka, the once-promising Carlos Carrasco and the ubiquitous Corey Kluber, whose name has surfaced in this article more times than I care to mention.
An early season ribcage injury halted the return of Kazmir, and he looked a lot like a pitcher who hadn’t started a major league game in two years in his debut on Saturday. After being suspended eight games for head-hunting and missing the entire 2012 season to Tommy John surgery, Carlos Carrasco showed his true colors by throwing at Kevin Youkilis, pretending it was an accident and being consequently suspended a further six games. Daisuke Matsuzaka turned in an impressive spring training performance but has stumbled out of the gate in his first three minor league starts, posting a 5.56 ERA and 2.21 WHIP with 16 walks in just 11.1 innings of work.
Believe it or not, I just can’t get excited about the possibility of Corey Kluber or David Huff filling out the Indians’ rotation. All signs point to Trevor Bauer. He’s the best arm in the Indians’ farm system, he has the most potential of any starting pitcher the Tribe has had in recent memory, and he’s very much in the position to assume a role in the starting rotation. It’s time for Tribe management to give Bauer the chance to prove himself.
4. Reclaiming Lost Talent
The Ubaldo Jimenez deal hasn’t been the only folly of the Mark Shapiro/Chris Antonetti era of deadline deals involving starting pitching. From 2008-2011, the Tribe dealt away three of it’s top starting pitchers and two top prospects at the trade deadline, to receive next to nothing in return. No Tribe fan could forget the infamous decision to deal successive Cy Young winners CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, but one could also argue the Tribe was flossed on the 2010 trade of Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals. Westbrook has continued to prove a reliable middle of the rotation starter for St. Louis, while the Indians received only the aforementioned and uninspiring Corey Kluber in return.
The let down of the Jimenez deal proved the final straw. While some like to point out that neither Pomeranz nor White has panned out in Colorado, to find solace in such logic is far-fetched. Jimenez has been an embarrassment to Tribe management, who hung their reputation on the line with the deal, and a heartache to the fans, who’ve been forced to endure one incompetent pitching performance after another. For anyone that’s watched him pitch, it’s not a stretch to call Jimenez one of the league’s most infuriating players. Between his needlessly herky-jerky delivery, dwindling velocity and inability to throw strikes, Jimenez is at the end of his rope with the organization.
While the eventual departure of Shin-Soo Choo was inevitable (as was the case with Sabathia), the Tribe may have finally found a player in return who can make a lasting impact. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to claim that Antonetti’s legacy hinges on Bauer’s success. Recent free agent signings aside, the Jimenez flop is the enduring stain that taints Antonetti’s resume to this day.
5. Finding a Team Identity
On the heels of their disappointing 2012 season, many assumed the Tribe would go into ‘rebuilding’ mode once again in the offseason. Things were looking bleak for the the Tribe in October 2012. They had slumped to the end of consecutive once-promising campaigns, as another upstart first half was long-overshadowed by an abysmal August. Cocksure closer Chris Perez was blaming management, while the objects of his affection—the envied Detroit Tigers—ran away with another division crown en route to the AL Pennant. Third year manager Manny Acta was unceremoniously dismissed a mere two weeks after fans were assured his job was secure. By season’s end, the scant fan interest that remained was focused on hiring then-interim manager Sandy Alomar as the full-time skipper for 2013. Somewhere, there were petitions being written for the unappreciated Russ Canzler to be given a spot at one of the team’s many black hole corner positions.
On October 6, the course of events took a sweeping change when Terry Francona was hired as the team’s next manager. While this move represented a promising first step, the Tribe was still facing the hard reality that their projected 2013 outfield included Shelley Duncan and Ezekiel Carrera, and they were absent a first baseman and DH. There were even faint whispers to bring back yesteryear stars Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner on minor league contracts.
The Tribe’s pleasantly surprising free agent splash gave fans the audacity to believe the team has a chance to compete in 2013. While such optimism has been dampened by a sluggish start, the season is still young.
A team facing an identity crisis will go nowhere. To say the Indians are ‘rebuilding while remaining competitive’ is to cover your tracks for not meeting expectations. Chris Antonetti signed Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds and Michael Bourn to make this team a contender. It’s not often that the penny-pinching Larry Dolan will open his checkbook, and now that he has, the team must respond in turn. You simply don’t spend $118 million in the offseason to have a season of .500 expectations. If winning is indeed the order of the day, the Tribe must trot out the starting pitchers who give their revamped offense the best chance to win. Right now, Trevor Bauer is one of those options.