Gavin Floyd Signing Should Help Indians

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Adding Rotation Depth Makes Sense For Tribe

After finishing just 3 games out of a playoff spot, the Indians found themselves without any glaring needs to fill this offseason.

Sure, they could have used another power hitter. But that’s what Brandon Moss was acquired to be.

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And while the case could be made that the Indians should pursue a third baseman, that doesn’t seem to be in the works. Although Lonnie Chisenhall struggled mightily at times last year, it still makes sense to give him at least another chance. The Indians also have prospect Giovanny Urshela, who could get a look in 2015, and the market for third baseman this offseason isn’t that deep anyway.

Despite the success of the Tribe’s rotation last season (especially during the second half, when they ranked 3rd in the majors with a collective 3.03 ERA), another viable starting option would have made sense for the Indians to pursue.

Corey Kluber is a stud, but Carlos Carrasco‘s struggles as a starter to begin last season were what put him in the bullpen anyway. Trevor Bauer had a solid year, but it was his first full season in the majors — and the same goes for T.J. House. And Danny Salazar‘s electric fastball and upside makes it easy for fans to dream about, but he’s still somewhat inconsistent and was sent to Triple-A Columbus last year.

Now, I’m not saying the Indians have a bad rotation; in fact, it’s quite good, and I think it will continue to succeed. Advanced metrics like FIP agree, saying that the success of the Tribe’s rotation was no fluke.

But the Indians probably weren’t going to pitch quite as well in the future as they did down the stretch last year anyway (though they set a pretty high bar), and with the number of fairly unproven arms on the depth chart, adding another option doesn’t seem like a horrible idea.

Apr 10, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Gavin Floyd (34) throws during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

That’s why the Indians signed starter Gavin Floyd to a 1-year, $4 million contract on Tuesday. According to reports, the deal includes $6 million in incentives as well.

Floyd, 31, should sound like a familiar name to Indians fans. He pitched 7 seasons for the division-rival White Sox, during which he compiled a cumulative 4.22 ERA (and a nearly identical 4.20 FIP) across 1,042 2/3 innings.

After an injury-shortened season in 2013, Floyd signed with the Braves prior to 2014. He again got injured, but managed to pitch well for 9 starts and 54 1/3 innings. (His 2.65 ERA looks impressive, though his still-solid FIP of 3.79 falls closer to his career run-prevention marks).

Floyd has never been much of a strikeout pitcher (career 7.1 K/9), but he does a solid job of limiting walks (3.0 BB/9). He also has a career 44.9% ground ball rate, which is a bit above average in that regard as well.

Of course, the concern with Floyd is health. He hasn’t pitched a full season since 2012, and a pitcher with a history of arm injuries isn’t exactly something that will have fans doing cartwheels.

However, there’s also a silver lining to that. The Indians were able to get him on a 1-year deal at a relatively low salary.

Furthermore, Floyd’s injuries in the past don’t seem to worry GM Chris Antonetti.

"His elbow’s actually fine. We went through an extensive physical. … His ligament is strong and intact. The fracture he suffered last year is well healed. We expect him to be fully ready for Spring Training."

According to Fangraphs, Floyd’s last full season in 2012 would have been worth $8.6 million on the free agent market (and they valued him at a total of $61 million the previous 4 seasons), so if he can stay healthy and pitch at the level he has in the past, the Indians will easily get their money’s worth.

And while Floyd probably doesn’t have any untapped potential left, the former 4th-overall pick at least has some pedigree.

Floyd has been a personal favorite of mine in the past, and I specifically remember tweeting last offseason about wanting the Indians to take a chance on him. So if you want to be persuaded by a 16-year old kid, now’s your chance.

A lot of fans might not understand why Floyd has immediately been given a spot in the team’s rotation, but it makes sense to me. I see Salazar winning the final rotation spot and House moving to the bullpen (or potentially Columbus). However, if one or both of those pitchers proves more deserving of a spot than Floyd, the Indians aren’t going to keep him in the rotation simply because they’re paying him $4 million.

This also gives the Indians more flexibility and depth in the rotation. Josh Tomlin is a solid arm to have, but I’m also not opposed to adding another arm or two on top of him. And while Zach McAllister has pitched well in the past, his future seems to be in the bullpen. It also gives the Indians a better chance to trade a starter if the right offer represents itself, and teams are always on the hunt for controllable starting pitching.

The Indians should have a terrific pitching staff in 2015, led by an outstanding young rotation. While Floyd doesn’t possess the enormously high ceilings the Tribe’s other starters have, expect him to be a solid presence at the back of the rotation.

While Floyd isn’t the flashy signing that a lot of fans want, it’s one that makes sense. Besides, championships aren’t won with flashy moves; they’re won with smart ones. This has all the indications of being a smart move for the Indians.

It might seem like the Tribe didn’t need another starting pitcher. But baseball is an unpredictable game, and adding a proven yet inexpensive option such as Floyd is far from the worst the Indians could have done this offseason.

After all, as the saying goes, you can never have enough pitching.

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