I know the offense has been dragging as of late, but the biggest thing the Cleveland Indians need is better starting pitching.
Justin Masterson is the only pitcher who has been consistently good this year (3.28 ERA, 1.305 WHIP), but he's not an ace (only a 6.6 SO/9). Masterson isn't a bad two or three starter on a contender, but the Tribe can't look to him to carry them in the stretch run or the playoffs.
As much as Josh Tomlin has impressed this year, he's finally starting to regress. When you strike out such a small amount of batters (5.1 SO/9), you're prone to getting hit hard at times; 12 earned runs in his last 12 innings sound like he's getting hit hard.
Tomlin's ERA has risen nearly a full point (to 3.71 from 2.74) in those two starts. He is a great No. 4 or 5 starter, but no more. The Tribe has been needing him to be a No. 2 this year, and that won't fly for much longer.
The rest of the pitching staff (Mitch Talbot, Carlos Carrasco and Fausto Carmona) have been average at best.
Comparing the Tribe's starting rotation to the other AL contenders, one thing stands out: The Indians don't have an ace.
Who do the Indians expect to compete with the likes of Sabathia, Price, Lester and Verlander? If the Indians want to contend this year, they're going to need to go out and find themselves an ace.
How about Dan Haren?
Haren's numbers speak for themselves. Check out his 2011 and career numbers:
2011: 2.29 ERA (163 ERA+), 0.938 WHIP, 7.7 SO/9, 1.5 BB/9 (5.29 SO:BB), 2.4 WAR
Career: 3.58 ERA (121 ERA+), 1.179 WHIP, 7.7 SO/9, 2.0 BB/9 (3.92 SO:BB), 4.3 WAR per full season
Sure, Haren probably won't be able to keep up the extremely low ERA and WHIP (his .259 BABIP says he's been lucky this year), but he's still an elite pitcher. He consistently strikes out a good amount of batters, something the Tribe has sorely lacked this year. Add in his great control and lack of walks, and I smell a great pitcher.
I have no idea why Haren has been traded so much in his career (he's already played for the Cardinals, Athletics, Diamondbacks and Angels) when he's such a great pitcher. I'm fine with him taking one more trip and setting up shop on the shores of Lake Erie.
The Angels may be in the competitive AL West, but they really seem like a mediocre team this year, and they are going to need some retooling before they truly compete again. With Jered Weaver's free agency coming up, the Angels need to sign him long term.
After that contract, there may not be money left for Haren.
The Angels certainly don't have an issue throwing money around,—cough, cough, Vernon Wells—but signing both the 28-year-old Weaver and the 30-year-old Haren to long-term deals feels like a lot. Since they don't have a problem acquiring struggling players due to make a ton of money (again, Vernon Wells), maybe the Tribe can convince the Angels to take Fausto Carmona.
Indians fans know Carmona isn't anything special—it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that his 5.33 ERA (71 ERA+), 5.7 SO/9 and -1.1 WAR on the season are terrible. If the Tribe can sell the Angels on his 1.258 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9 and 2.26 SO:BB though, maybe they'll pull the trigger.
Also working in the Tribe's favor is the Wells deal from this past offseason.
They made a deal for the $86 million Wells is owed, despite his struggles. How is trading for a struggling Carmona any different?
Plus, Carmona, who is only 27, may still regain his elite 2007 form and has team options from 2012 through 2014. The Angels can take their chances with limited financial risks.
The Indians would still have to send another prospect or two to the Angels to make this work, but I think it's workable. It would potentially help the Angels rebuild/retool for the future and help the Indians contend now.
Haren's signed through 2012 with a team option for 2013, so it wouldn't just be a rental; he could team with Masterson, Carrasco, Alex White and Drew Pomeranz for a lethal rotation in 2012 or 2013.
The Indians are in contention now; let's see them be bold and make a move that'll help us now and in the future.