I realize that a lot of people who read this blog have absolutely no interest in the Cleveland Indians, so I decided to label this post so you know what you're getting into.
And with that, I will now talk about the 2012 Cleveland Indians.
Two years ago, I predicted that the Tribe would win the World Series in 2012, which was fitting, as it would truly mark the end of the world. My prediction was based on a number of things, not the least of which was an ever improving farm system. I didn't count on a never ending stream of injuries, though.
For example, the rotation I had set for 2012 was this:
Only one of them is actually in our current rotation. Carmona is no longer Carmona, Talbot fell apart completely, Carrasco had Tommy Johns, and White was traded (and currently has an ERA of 6.45.
You can see why I would have been excited about that rotation, Talbot notwithstanding. Carmona actually had a good '10, ending the year with a 3.77 ERA. We've seen what Masterson can do. Carrasco has front of the rotation type stuff, and White was dominating in the minors.
But that's not the rotation we have and, to be perfectly honest, the one we do have is the one we're going to have to get used to, because the Indians don't have the talent or the money to make more than one trade, if that, and we desperately need a right handed bat.
That's stick with pitching for a moment. Word is that Roberto Hernandez, the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona, will be back around the All Star break. This might not seem like news, but Roberto's numbers from last year would put him above what we've seen from Tomlin this year and above what we've seen from Lowe in June. It might not be glamorous, but Hernandez coming back would actually help our rotation...and our bullpen (I'll get to that in a minute).
As has been noted by every single journalist covering the Tribe, Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez have begun to turn it around. Jimenez is still inconsistent as hell, but his positive outings have been more positive, if that makes any sense. Masterson has all but returned to form. I read an interesting stat about Masterson the other day -- 45% -- 21 -- of the runs he's given up this year came in just three games, and in those games, 15 of those 21 were given up in a single inning. In other words, if you drop those 3 innings of work, Masterson's ERA goes from 4.09 to 2.80.
Zach McAllister's been a nice surprise, although part of me feels like he's the second coming of the guy he just replaced, Jeanmar Gomez. But I think he's got better stuff than Tomlin did even when Tomlin was pitching well. McAllister also appears to be pretty fearless. Not bad for a back of the rotation guy.
I have no idea if Derek Lowe will get back to his early season form, but I have a feeling he's going to be in the rotation regardless. And Tomlin...
Today Tom Hamilton mentioned that there's been talk of moving Tomlin to the bullpen as, one would assume, a middle reliever. Tomlin's biggest problem has always been the third time through the order, because hitters figure him out. As a reliever, he'd never get that far. Given that we currently only have three reliable relievers, adding a fourth one would be big.
In fact, if you want to get crazy, you could suggest that adding Tomlin to the bullpen would make it a little easier to accept trading Chris Perez, who's value has never been higher, and who would surely bring a quality bat to the team in return. Pestano obvious has the stuff to close, the issue would then become what we do in the 8th inning. Leave it up to Smith? I'm not sure, but if Antonetti wants to get crazy, this is something to think about.
Another possibility, if he would accept it, would be moving Lowe to the bullpen, although I doubt they'd do that. Having a ground ball pitcher like that in the 'pen would be nice, though.
We're also supposed to get Rafael Perez back soon, and while he got hammered last year, he's had success in the past. And since Tony Sipp has gotten demolished all year and Nick Hagadone was obviously called up too soon, it will be nice to get an experienced lefty back. Again, any improvement to the bullpen would have to make any legitimate offer on Chris Perez at least a little tempting.
We've heard it before, we'll hear it again: the Tribe needs a right handed bat.
Here's the thing: even if you optimistically believe that the return of Travis Hafner and, eventually, Grady Sizemore, will improve this offense, that weakness remains, as they're both left handed hitters. Both of them should probably expect to be part time players if/when they return, and that's assuming that Sizemore even has a place left on the team (I'll get to that in a minute).
What's both interesting and a bit frustrating is that this team has a really good offense of core in Choo, Brantley, Cabrera, and Kipnis, but that's 3 left handers and a switch hitter. These four are basically untouchable going into trade season, I would imagine.
The recent injury to Lonnie Chisenhall is a little bit of a blow. While Jack Hanahan has lost all the offense he had to start the season, he's still known as a great fielding third baseman, so there's value there. But we obviously can't afford to deal him now.
Given the money they are paying him and his defensive upside, I truly doubt Kotchman is going anywhere.
Our catching situation is kind of interesting. Clearly, Santana has a ton of potential, and him working out whatever the heck is going on at the plate is essential for the Tribe to make any kind of a run. But as of this exact moment (bottom 6th, 10-4 Tribe over the Orioles on June 30th), Lou Marson is hitting .275. Small sample size, of course, but it's not unreasonable to think that regular ABs are the key to Lou contributing offensively. Given that Santana is a switch hitter and this numbers are better against lefties, the possibility of using him more as a DH to see if Marson's hot streak is real is definitely one to keep in mind.
So we're left with left field and the bench. It's hard to argue against holding on to Jose Lopez, who has just gone 4-4 and who can play first and third and even DH. He's got a good amount of value because of this, though, so you have to wonder if he could be used to sweeten a deal somewhere. Shelly Duncan and Aaron Cunningham are just biding their time until they get released, as I'm sure one of them will be when Hafner is activated. Jason Donald is basically safe because he doesn't have a whole lot of trade value and he can play both middle infield positions. And Johnny Damon has actually been turning it up lately, hitting right around .300 over the last few weeks. Yes, he's another left handed bat, but as a 4th outfielder, he's not bad.
If you add Hafner to that roster, we're left with one spot for a starting left fielder.
A popular name for this was Josh Willingham, who the Tribe tried to sign in the off season, but were outbid by the Twins. Willingham would probably like to go back in time and re-think that decision given where the Twins are this season. The upside of a possible deal for Willingham is that he has a pretty big contract, which means taking on a lot of that salary would be considered as good as a top prospect. The downside is that we don't have much to sweeten the deal, particularly with regards to pitching, which the Twins really need.
Another popular name is Carlos Lee, but given that he just today turned down a trade to the Dodgers, I really doubt he'd accept one to Cleveland.
An interesting option is Carlos Quentin, the former White Sox left fielder. Quentin is putting up stellar numbers in San Diego this year and the Padres are obviously rebuilding. Again, though, the currency in trades is generally pitching, and the Tribe don't have much to offer on that front. Any package would probably end up including five to six guys to get someone like Quentin, which is a lot. Quentin is also a free agent next year, so we're looking at a half year rental for those unknown minor leaguers. But, again, the fact that he's a free agent next year, and will probably be out of San Diego's price range, means the Padres are more likely to deal him.
It's entirely possible that the Tribe don't make a move because they simply can't. It's going to be a sellers' market, after all. But if Chris Antonetti proved anything last year, it's that he's willing to take chances if the Tribe is within spitting distance of first.
Should be an interesting July.