Welcome to the Cleveland Indians Trading Post, a weekly segment meant to help my fellow Tribe fans sort out which of the few familiar faces left on the team won’t be around much longer.
This week’s potential trade bait is Fausto Carmona.
Three years ago today, Fausto Carmona was in the midst of a breakout season. With nine wins and a 3.21 ERA in his first 14 games, he had teamed with Tribe ace CC Sabathia to give the Indians’ rotation arguably the best one-two punch in baseball.
But in 2008, just months after finishing fourth in AL Cy Young voting, Carmona’s game went down the toilet (13-19, 5.89 ERA in 2008-09).
This year, the 26-year-old right-hander is enjoying a resurgence (6-5, 3.31 ERA), though his peripherals (1.58 K/BB rate, 4.46 xFIP) indicate that his success is largely due to luck. He’s under team control through 2014, with just under $9 million guaranteed through 2011, followed by three years of club options.
Why he has value
Did you miss the last paragraph? He has a 3.31 ERA, good for 15th in the American League. When a player like that becomes available, teams take notice.
He throws 97 mph (92.7 average fastball velocity this year, 14th in the league) and can burn worms with the best of them (56.6 percent groundball rate, behind only teammate Justin Masterson).
As we discovered in 2007, he has Cy Young-caliber upside. He’s only 26 and is under team control until he’s 31. Wake up—I think you’re drooling.
There’s always a chance that he’ll bust again, but if that happens the team can cut ties with him after next year. So what is there to lose?
Why he’s expendable
First, let me make it clear that if I were Mark Shapiro, I wouldn’t be actively shopping Carmona. But I’d listen carefully if another GM called with an offer.
Carmona’s 2007 campaign looked like a fluke even before his collapse. That year, a .281 BABIP and 78 percent strand rate kept his ERA down at 3.06—almost a full run lower than his good-not-great 3.94 FIP.
Not much of a strikeout pitcher to begin with, Carmona struggled with massive control problems the next couple seasons; in 246 innings from 2008-09, opposing batters actually saw ball four more often than strike three.
He’s definitely made some improvements this year, but he still doesn’t look like an ace.
With a 3.2 BB/9 rate, Carmona appears to be getting the walks under control. But his strikeout rate (5.1 K/9) has actually decreased since last year (5.7 K/9).
The difference between his sterling 3.31 ERA and mediocre 4.46 xFIP shows that the winds of fortune have been blowing in from the Progressive Field bleachers. His .262 BABIP, 72 percent strand rate, and seven percent HR/FB rate are well below, above, and below his career averages, respectively.
More importantly, though, the Indians have more exciting young pitchers than we know what to do with—guys like Carlos Carrasco, Nick Hagadone, Jason Knapp, Hector Rondon, and even Justin Masterson. All probably have higher upside than Carmona and will be available at or near the league minimum for the remainder of his contract.
It’d be nice to keep Carmona around for a while, but if we can get a solid package in return, I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
Where he’d go
Any team looking for a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter with the ability to absorb a bit of salary would likely be interested in Carmona.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim could use some pitching help as well. Joe Saunders and Scott Kazmir are scuffling; each has an ERA over 5.00.
The Halos’ edge over the Texas Rangers was supposed to be their pitching. If they’re going to complete their comeback, they’ll need to solidify their staff.
An intriguing sleeper candidate might be the Arizona Diamondbacks. They won’t be trading for any two-month rental stars, but having a proven player under team control through 2014 could certainly pique the interest of GM Josh Byrnes.
The D-Backs have plenty of talent and were a popular sleeper pick coming into the season. They could turn into contenders in the near future, and Carmona could make a solid deputy for ace Dan Haren.
What do you think? Will the Indians trade Carmona? Where will he go, and who will we get in return?
More Trading Posts
May 13: Austin Kearns
May 20: Jake Westbrook
May 27: Mitch Talbot
June 3: Jhonny Peralta
June 10: Russell Branyan