After Solid 2014, Does Josh Tomlin Have Trade Value?


Is Josh Tomlin a Trade Chip Following Solid 2014?

Following Tommy John surgery that sidelined Josh Tomlin for most of the 2013 season, it was unclear where he would fit in the Indians’ 2014 plans. That changed rapidly when Carlos Carrasco struggled out of the gate for the Tribe, forcing Tomlin into the rotation for the first time since 2012. 

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Tomlin returned a different pitcher than most Tribe fans remembered. His K/9 rate skyrocketed from 4.88 in 2012 to 8.13 in 2014. Tomlin’s 2014 K% was 21.1%. Before that, Tomlin’s highest K% as a starter was 14.3% in 2010, his first year with the big league club.

The Little Cowboy’s transformation became apparent on June 28 at Safeco Field in Seattle, the night Tomlin tossed the first Tribe one-hitter since Billy Traber did it against the Yankees on July 8, 2003. Tomlin was dominant, striking out 11 M’s en route to his first career complete game shutout. A leadoff single by Kyle Seager in the fifth inning was the only blemish on Tomlin’s evening. It was only the third time since 2002 that a pitcher recorded a one-hit shutout with at least 11 strikeouts and no walks. Tomlin’s game score of 96 from that night ranks fourth in the Majors out of all starts in 2014, further illustrating just how special his start was.

Overall, he started 16 games for the Tribe in 2014. As a starter, Tomlin finished with 4 wins, 8 losses, and 93.1 IP. He began to tire, as many starters do following TJ surgery, and he was relegated to the bullpen in favor of the resurgent Carlos Carrasco for the last few months of the season. He made 9 appearances out of the pen, contributing 10.2 innings down the stretch.

As a command pitcher with a fastball that hovers at right around 90 MPH, Tomlin has always been plagued by the long ball, surrendering 1.31 and 1.57 HR/9 respectively in 2011 and 2012. 2014 was no different, as his 1.54 HR/9 ranked fourth most in all of baseball among pitchers with at least 50 IP.

Jun 17, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Josh Tomlin (43) at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The question becomes where Tomlin fits in the Indians’ 2015 plans. His glimpse of dominance and huge uptick in strikeouts give him trade value. He is also under team control for at least two more years, and arbitration eligibility will lead to a raise come 2015.

With Carlos Carrasco coming off a fantastic finish, and Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer likely locks for the rotation, Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti have the freedom to move a starter. Though Tomlin alone is unlikely to garner much of a return, he could have value as a second or third piece in a larger deal for a bat or prospects. As the Indians look to bolster the squad for 2015, they will likely need to deal pitching depth, whether it be Tomlin, Zach McAllister (now out of options) or T.J. House, the young southpaw who showed the ability to pitch strongly at the big league level in 2014.

House provides additional club control and value as a lefty, while McAllister proved he could pitch effectively out of the bullpen while providing starting pitching depth. Tomlin may be the odd man out, and his 2014 transformation could give any team viable pitching depth, years of control, and upside.

Statistics via Fangraphs