The Cleveland Indians kicked off the offseason with a pair of high-profile moves: declining Grady Sizemore‘s 2012 option and trading for Derek Lowe. Largely lost in the news cycle was the Tribe’s decision to exercise Fausto Carmona‘s $7 million option for 2012.
It was generally expected that the Indians would pick up his option rather than go to arbitration or non-tender him, but there was still some ambiguity. Despite his peripherals looking quite similar to what he did in his successful 2010 season, Carmona had a miserable 2011: he went 7-15 with a 5.25 ERA, and Baseball-Reference had him a full 1.4 wins below replacement level. Seven million would be a lot if the Indians were expecting more of the same for 2012.
In this week’s Weekly Wroundtable, each of us weighed in on the question: Was picking up Carmona’s option the right move? In addition to the usual suspects from Wahoo’s on First, we had the honor of being joined by Indians Prospect Insider‘s Charlie Adams.
We hope you enjoy reaping the benefits of our collective wisdom. Thanks to Charlie for his guest contributions!
Charlie Adams: While we can quibble about whether or not the Indians are equipped to handle a sinker-baller rotation, the move itself was an intelligent one for three reasons. First, Carl Pavano (two years, $16.5 mlilion), Jake Westbrook (two years, $16.5 million plus a 2013 option), and Jon Garland (one year, $5 million) are some comparable free agents from last winter. Clearly, the Indians would rather have Carmona for one year and $7 million than any of these guys, and the market is similarly thin this year. Starting pitchers are rare commodities.
Second, Fausto was the victim of some bad luck (or bad infield defense) last year. He has more upside than your typical veteran No. 3 starter. The Indians (along with all saber-leaning baseball analysts) like buy low on pitchers who seem to be pitching better than their results suggest.
Finally, there’s organizational depth. Carlos Carrasco, Jeanmar Gomez, Zach McAllister, Scott Barnes: these players are injured, questionable performers or unproven prospects. The Indians need starting pitching and in Carmona they had a rare commodity that is a relative value, is well-known in the organization and is a positive regression candidate. All things put together, this was a move the Indians needed to make.
Lewie Pollis: It wasn’t glamorous, it didn’t grab headlines, and at best it was the third-biggest announcement the Indians made last week. But picking up Carmona’s option was without a doubt the right move.
It was a calculated gamble by the front office. Given his poor performance this year it’s unlikely (though admittedly possible) that Carmona could have gotten $7 million in arbitration, but the extra cost is worth it for his option years. He’s under team control for three more years via a series of team-friendly club options, and if he pitches at anything close to the level he reached in 2007 (or even 2010) then his $8 million and $12 million options for 2013 and 2014, respectively, would be bargains.
The Indians could have non-tendered him, I suppose, but that would have been a shortsighted and reactionary move given Carmona’s durability and demonstrated upside and the fact that his struggles in 2011 were largely due to bad luck. We don’t know how this decision will end up working out, but to me to the potential benefits of picking up the option far outweigh the risks.
Jon Rudder: In exercising Carmona’s option, the only certain thing that the Indians will be getting is durability. He’s logged an average of 156.2 innings per year in six seasons with the Tribe, and 200 in each of the past two seasons.
Still, he possesses the skill set that warrants the Indians picking up that option. Will he be an ace? No, but his skill set will allow him to be more effective in the back end of the rotation. Given the team’s once-rich but now depleted pitching depth, Carmona’s option was a valuable asset to the club, even more so now that Carrasco is going to miss all of 2012. The Indians believe that he is a valuable piece to this club, and that he can be a quality major league starter.
If Fausto can indeed return to his form from two seasons ago, the move will be seen as a great decision by Chris Antonetti.
Ed Carroll: What if I had told you that the Indians had just signed a 28-year-old former All-Star and Cy Young candidate? He is a bit of an enigma, but he could be a valuable innings-eater for $27 million over three years, with two of those years being team options. You’d be pretty pleased, right?
That’s just what the Indians did when they decided to pick up Carmona’s option. The main difference (other than position) between Carmona and Sizemore was that, for the most part, Carmona has been healthy, and his problems are mostly in his head. Whether or not it’s a better situation is debatable, but at least Fausto stays on the field.
For the price, and lack of starting options available in free agency, I think picking up Carmona’s option was a the right move and a no-brainer.
Geordy Boveroux: Picking up Carmona’s option was something that needed to be done. Sure, at times he can be the most unbearable pitcher to watch. But on good days, he can be even more of an unbearable pitcher to face. Yes, he was rated as one of the worst pitchers in baseball for much of last season, but if the Indians truly want to contend they need as much pitching depth as they need.
While many hype up the amount of pitching depth the Indians have, there isn’t much in terms of upside. Carmona’s floor seems very low, but Cleveland fans have already seen his high ceiling.