Paul Sancya/Associated Press
The Indians have some important tasks on their to-do list this offseason, but none carry the same importance of deciding the team's fifth starter.
On top of in-house options Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin, the Indians brought in a slew of players on minor league contracts to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation.
With everyone accounted for, these are the players who will compete for the final spot in the Tribe's rotation.
Beyond the fact that there are six pitchers competing for one spot, the decision is complicated further by the fact that none of these six pitchers have a clear-cut advantage.
While Shaun Marcum has the best career numbers of the group, it's important to note that he also has nearly twice the amount of service time as the next-closest player, Josh Tomlin.
Marcum may have the edge in terms of career ERA, but he underwent season-ending surgery to relieve symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome. On top of the additional injury concerns this surgery brings with it, Marcum has a detailed injury history, and it's unlikely that he'll be able to stay healthy through the 2014 season.
Aaron Harang was brought on via a minor league deal on Feb. 15, and while the 35-year-old was solid last season in his final four starts with the New York Mets, his age looks to be catching up to him, as he posted an ERA+ of 86 over the past four seasons.
Tyler Cloyd is the last of the newcomers. The 26-year-old was once a highly thought of prospect with the Philadelphia Phillies—2.52 ERA between 2011-2012 in the minors—but has since struggled to gain any traction at the big league level.
Bauer, Carrasco and Tomlin are all in-house options, but each have their own distinct set of positives and negatives regarding their joining the starting rotation.
Bauer, a 23-year-old super prospect out of UCLA, has made appearances at the big league level in each of the last two seasons but has failed to secure a starting spot for himself—something many predicted would happen by this point.
However, Bauer has made some major changes to his delivery this offseason, and manager Terry Francona said the difference was, "night and day, night and day," per Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Carrasco, a former Baseball America Top 100 prospect, has disappointed in successive seasons. The 26-year-old showed a lot of promise as a reliever late last season, and should he miss out on the rotation again this spring, the Tribe may be better suited shifting him into a relief role.
The final candidate, Josh Tomlin, has started with the Indians before and experienced moderate levels of success between 2010 and 2011.
I predicted Trevor Bauer to win the final spot, but the mess of players competing for this single spot will need to be sorted out this spring.