MLB: 7 Available Starting Pitchers to Complete the Ideal 2013 Indians Rotation

Evan Vogel@EvanVogelTweetsContributor IIIDecember 4, 2012

MLB: 7 Available Starting Pitchers to Complete the Ideal 2013 Indians Rotation

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    The 2012 Cleveland Indians starting pitchers went 48-76 with a 5.25 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. The group allowed the most hits in baseball (1,026), the second-most earned runs (533) and issues the second-most walks (351).

    With all of those guys reaching base, whether by a hit or free pass, and coming around, it's no wonder the team had trouble winning.

    In 2013, the team will probably have some new faces in the rotation. Roberto Hernandez's option was declined and he is now a free agent, but the club also has some internal candidates to fill the rotation.

    Justin Masterson (11-15, 4.93 ERA) and Ubaldo Jimenez (9-17, 5.40 ERA) can be penciled in as the current No. 1 and No. 2 starters. While they struggled in 2012, both of the right-handers have show enough talent to warrant one more year to prove what they can do. Zach McAllister (6-8, 4.24 ERA) showed enough in his 22 starts to become a long-term fixture to the group, as well.

    Those are the only three spots that are set in stone and those three could easily become the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 starters if the Cleveland Indians seek external candidates to upgrade their rotation, as Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, Jeanmar Gomez and David Huff are the only current pitchers on their roster ready to step in.

    With the winter meetings taking place this week, there will be several trades and a lot of action in the free-agent market. Here, you'll find seven free-agent starting pitchers who could help stabilize the Indians' rotation in 2013.

Edwin Jackson

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    Why not start with someone that the Indians are actually talking to?

    Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the Indians have been linked to Edwin Jackson, the young journeyman starting pitcher who was with the Washington Nationals in 2012, his eighth team if you count the several hours he spent as a Toronto Blue Jay in 2011.

    Jackson just turned 29 in September and you could say that he still has untapped potential. He posted the lowest WHIP of his career (1.22, compared to a career 1.44 WHIP) in 2012, as well as his best K/BB rate (2.90, compared to a career 1.95).

    Jackson is 5-0 with a 1.90 ERA at Progressive Field in eight games (seven starts), which is an encouraging sign as well.

    The only issue with Jackson is his annual salary and his agent. Scott Boras was able to get Jackson a one-year, $11 million deal with Washington for 2012. Could the Indians get the right-hander to latch onto a three-year, $30 million deal since no team was willing to give him a multiyear deal last offseason?

    Jackson isn't an ace but he does have some solid stuff and is very durable, having made 189 starts since 2007, 31.5 starts per season.

    He is worth $10 million per season for that alone, but when you consider that the Kansas City Royals gave Jeremy Guthrie a three-year, $25 million deal, Jackson could be worth $15 million per season. Dayton Moore at his finest.

Jair Jurrjens

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    As I wrote on my personal blog:

    Jurrjens will only be 27 years old on Opening Day in 2013 and he already has 53 wins and 750 innings under his belt; however, it’s the wins and innings he doesn’t have that are the concern with him. He made $5.5 million in 2012 in his second year of arbitration, and the Braves let him go after they were unable to trade him, and with good reason, his shoulder was a great concern. Jurrjens shoulder issues could be overblown, as they started in August of 2007, but then in 2008 and 2009, Jurrjens went 27-20 with a 3.10 ERA over 403.1 innings. He had issues with tightness and inflammation, once again, in February of 2010, but it was his knee issues, which needed surgery, that caused him to miss starts. Jurrjens rebounded to a 13-6 record and 2.96 ERA in 2011, only to miss more starts due to his knee. If Jurrjens can prove to teams that it is his knee that was of concern and not his shoulder, I don’t see why he shouldn’t have a line of teams knocking at his door while you’re reading this.

    Jurrjens is a perfect fit for the Indians because he will still scare off several suitors. He has a proven track record, going 53-37 with a 3.62 ERA over 126 games (125 starts). He is very young still, so if Jurrjens isn't able to get a multiyear contract from a contender, the Indians could very well make him their ace for one season while he rebuilds his value, giving him a one-year, $7 million deal.

Shaun Marcum

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    Shaun Marcum had Tommy John surgery on September 30, 2008. He came back strong, going 33-19 with a 3.62 ERA over 85 starts and 520 innings since the start of the 2010 season. However, last season, Marcum hit a bump in the road.

    Marcum only made 21 starts in 2012 due to right elbow tightness, sitting on the 60-day disabled list from June 15 to August 25. Upon returning to the rotation, Marcum went 2-1 with a 4.32 ERA over 41.2 innings and eight starts.

    Marcum didn't pitch terribly but he may not have proven that he is truly healthy. There are several teams interested in the soon-to-be 31-year-old, including the suddenly juggernaut-like Toronto Blue Jays, Marcum's original organization.

    The Indians should be in on Marcum because he has shown that he is a viable starter in the league, especially since returning from surgery. Although he did have another elbow issue last season, he pitched well enough to warrant a gamble. It would be a good idea to put wording in a contract to protect the team from another elbow setback.

    Marcum isn't the No. 1 starter that the Indians need, but he would definitely improve the current rotation.

Brandon McCarthy

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    I wrote here:

    McCarthy has made 41 starts since the start of 2011, going 17-14 with a 3.24 ERA over 278 innings pitched, compiling a 4.0 K/BB ratio and a 1.17 WHIP. He has the luxury of pitching his games in Oakland Coliseum, which is a notorious pitcher’s park, but since returning to the majors from the stress fracture in his shoulder, he has relied on his new, two-seam fastball, making himself a brand new pitcher.

    Regardless, McCarthy is a fit with the Cleveland Indians for many reasons. First and foremost, McCarthy could be cheap due to the injuries to his throwing arm and the 294 days he has been on the disabled list for his shoulder since 2009. Even though he has been successful, he hasn’t proven himself capable of lasting a whole season. He made $4.28 million in 2012, so the Indians could offer him $7-10 million per year on a two-to-four-year deal and gamble on his health, something the team seems to be fond of (see Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner).

    I wrote this the day before McCarthy was hit in the head and needed emergency brain surgery. I still feel that the Tribe should be all over McCarthy.

    He has posted ace-like numbers and while he isn't Zack Greinke, he is capable of putting up similar or better ERA and WHIP numbers for the Indians.

    Again, McCarthy is an injury risk, but he is highly regarded and is a beloved figure in Oakland, a true clubhouse guy.

    He is the kind of player that the Indians could use to energize the team in a new era, giving Terry Francona a leader on a team that seemed absent of one in 2011 and 2012.

Anibal Sanchez

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    This is the ace. He may not have ace numbers or an ace resume, but Anibal Sanchez would be the huge offseason acquisition that the Cleveland Indians should make.

    Besides the fact that they would be signing him away from the Detroit Tigers, you have a guy turning 29 in February who has improved on his ability to throw strikes while posting respectable numbers in Miami and Motown.

    Sanchez had right labrum surgery in June of 2007, but he has managed to post a solid 30-34 record with a 3.70 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP over 587 innings and 95 starts since 2010. He struck out 202 batters in 2011, showing the arsenal that could lead him to continued improvement in years to come.

    Sanchez can't expect teams to offer him $15 million per season, but if the Indians were to offer five years and $60 million, this wouldn't be a signing that they would regret. It would also be a legitimate sign of effort from ownership and management.

Carlos Zambrano

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    Despite 12 years of major league experience, Zambrano will be just 32 years old in June of 2013. After making over $113 million in his career to this point, Zambrano probably isn't going to be guaranteed a whole lot with a contract this offseason.

    Zambrano was 125-81 with a 3.60 ERA in his career with the Cubs, but since 2011, Zambrano's brain and inability to control his actions have made him a shell of his former self. After receiving Cy Young votes in 2004, 2006 and 2007, Zambrano has bounced between the starting rotation and the bullpen the last three seasons in Chicago and Miami.

    Always a pitcher who has struggled with command in his career, those issues were elevated in 2012 when "Big Z" walked 75 in 132.1 innings, even having walked over 100 batters in consecutive seasons (2006 and 2007).

    With Ubaldo Jimenez around, Zambrano could be a dangerous signing for a Cleveland rotation that had issues with walks in 2012.

    However, the change of scenery, especially to a pitcher's park like Progressive Field, could be worth a gamble. If the Tribe was able to get the veteran for a small investment, like $2 to $4 million, he could probably put up better numbers than the likes of David Huff and Corey Kluber.

    Maybe?

Erik Bedard

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    Is it just me or does that ball look a bit outside in that picture?

    Erik Bedard was once one of the most coveted arms in baseball, landing in Seattle in a huge trade after going 28-16 with a 3.47 ERA in 2006 and 2007 in Baltimore for the Orioles.

    Once in Seattle, Bedard had issues with his hip and shoulder, eventually needing two different surgeries on his labrum (September of 2008 and August of 2009). Another surgery on his left shoulder in 2010 to clean up bone spurs wiped out that whole season. He returned in 2011 and started 24 games for Seattle and Boston, posting a 3.62 ERA while going 5-9 over 129.1 innings.

    In 2012, Bedard pitched on a one-year, $4.5 million deal for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bedard did make it through the season without any shoulder issues, but he posted a 5.01 ERA and a 7-14 record in 24 starts. Not very good.

    At the age of 34 on Opening Day, Bedard may not have a whole lot to offer, but due to his track record and history of dominance, he deserves a look. The fact that Bedard is left-handed and breathing will only help his efforts in landing a guaranteed contract.

    The Indians could look at Bedard as a mid-rotation starter, but they shouldn't be willing to offer more than one year. Bedard could really use an incentive-laden deal to show that he is capable of putting up respectable numbers in what could be his last chance in the majors.

Conclusion

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    Zack Greinke would be a nice addition, but who are we fooling here? Dan Haren, Ryan Dempster and Roy Oswalt are the more expensive veterans who probably don't have much interest in landing in Cleveland via free agency, but there are others who may be attainable.

    While the Indians are more likely to sign reclamation projects like Jonathan Sanchez, Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Pelfrey or Dallas Braden than an Edwin Jackson or Anibal Sanchez, the team should have some money free after the Travis Hafner and Roberto Hernandez contracts come off the books.

    While some of that money will be used in arbitration, the club needs to look at upgrading its rotation if it really wants to contend.

    Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez have shown glimpses of talent over the years and every few starts, but the Tribe could really use a legitimate ace, bumping those starters to a mid-rotation level that they can serve well.

    Who would you like to see the Indians sign via free agency to help with the rotation?