Jun 19, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Atlanta Braves pitcher Gavin Floyd (32) throws a pitch in the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
We all know “That Guy”. He’s the typical uneducated Indians fan clamoring for that Right Handed Power Bat, petitioning to get rid of solid players after a down season, yelling at the front office for not calling up top prospects as soon as possible, and vowing that he won’t come to the stadium until the Indians start spending money on the top tier free agents. “That Guy” can be a pain in the butt, but Wahoo’s on First is here to help keep him quiet and, better yet, educate him.
This week, That Guy is upset about the Tribe’s lack of action on the free agent market this offseason.
That Guy: What the hell, dude? The Indians have flubbed again! After not making the playoffs, they should have spent some money this offseason, but instead they signed some hack named Gabern Frood or something. No way they’re winning this year.
Wahoo’s on First: Well, That Guy, although Gavin Floyd is a less-than-exciting acquisition, he’s certainly no hack. In fact, between 2008 and 2012 with the White Sox, Gavin Floyd averaged roughly 3.2 WAR, or Wins Above Replacement level, per year. According to this article on Fangraphs, a league average starting pitcher will produce about 2 WAR over the course of a season. So, Gavin Floyd was an above-average starter for about 5 straight seasons before he got injured in 2013.
That Guy: Okay, that’s pretty decent I guess, but don’t we already have five good starters? Why sign another dude who’s not much better than those guys?
Wahoo’s on First: When you say five good starters, I assume you mean Cy Young-winner Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and either TJ House or Zach McAllister, the latter two of whom had solid finishes to the season last year. It’s great that the Indians have this many options, but Floyd will give the Tribe something every team seems to perpetually need more of: Rotation depth. Every year, injuries and ineffectiveness cause teams to need spot starters, short-term replacements and even permanent replacements for pitchers in their rotations. Gavin Floyd coming to Cleveland means the Indians are less likely to be forced into using a replacement level pitcher at some point in the season.
That Guy: But doesn’t that mean that either Salazar or House will have to start the year in the minor leagues? They were dope last year!
Wahoo’s on First: Yes, and it likely means that McAllister will start the year in the bullpen. But Terry Francona and crew have been great with roster management during the past two season, so odds are that even if we don’t have a major injury early in the season, we’ll see one of those pitchers make a spot start during a doubleheader. It also means that whoever is in the rotation will be that much more motivated to fight for his job; he’ll know that there are other talented pitchers ready to take his place if he doesn’t work hard and pitch well.
That Guy: I guess having more pitchers makes sense. But why did it have to be Floyd? The ownership are a bunch of cheap jerks and should have gotten someone like Max Scherzer or James Shields! They’re both still available, right?
Oct 2, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Max Scherzer (37) pitches during the first inning in game one of the 2014 American League divisional series at Oriole Park against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Wahoo’s on First: Sure, but that doesn’t mean they’re good fits for the team. Rotation depth is always more appealing when the depth you’re signing is an ace, but the Cleveland Indians are what we call a small-market team. They don’t generate as much revenue as teams in places like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Baseball, like anything else, is a business, and a team’s payroll is firmly dictated by its revenue. The Indians’ payroll for 2015 is expected to be around $85 million. Shields is expected to command a deal of at least $100 million over five years, and Scherzer is said to be asking for $200 million over eight years. Those deals would cost a team around $20 million and $25 million per year, respectively, both of which are around a quarter of Cleveland’s total payroll. What’s worse is that by the time those deals were in their final year, those pitchers would be about 38 years old. A large market team can afford to have that kind of dead weight if it means a championship now, but for the Indians to have a quarter of their payroll space wrapped up in an aging player would be devastating to the franchise for years, or even fatal. Floyd will cost the team $4 million for one year, or up to $10 million if he reaches all of the performance incentives in his contract (something I’d hope we’re all rooting for).
That Guy: That sucks. But I get it. Still, I wish they’d have signed more than just a cheap pitcher. There were plenty of other free agents the Indians could have nabbed for a lot less money. Nelson Cruz whacked 40 homers last year, and Adam LaRoche was a solid bat, too. The Tribe needs a right-handed power bat, and they were too cheap to grab one!
Wahoo’s on First: Contrary to popular belief, the Indians don’t have a dire need for right-handed power. Sure, it would’ve been cool to have Cruz or LaRoche on the team, but the risk for those players in relation to their price tags is pretty high. Instead, the Indians traded for Brandon Moss, who should provide excellent power from the left side of the plate. The Indians also have plenty of right-handed power in Yan Gomes, winner of the 2014 Silver Slugger from the catcher’s position. Carlos Santana can hit right-handed. Zach Walters hit 10 homers (six from the right side of the plate) last year in only 137 at-bats (less than a quarter of a full season’s worth), and even switch-hitting prospect Francisco Lindor could make an appearance at some point in 2015. There’s also a pretty decent chance that Nick Swisher has a rebound season, and he’s capable of hitting from the right side. Even Ryan Raburn could be a productive right-handed bat when healthy. If either one of those two matches his 2013 production, the Indians could have yet another guy with 15 home run power hitting from the right side. Is that enough right-handed power for you?
That Guy: I didn’t realize the Indians had so much power potential. I guess I’m just disgruntled because I wish the Indians had spent more money this offseason.
Wahoo’s on First: I guess the lesson here is that it doesn’t make sense to spend money for the sake of spending money. The Indians dealt with injuries to a lot of key players last season, and it’s fair to expect some of them to rebound. The rotation and the bullpen were already solid and didn’t need much work. And not a single member of the August/September Cleveland Indians left in free agency at the end of the season. That group of players went 33-22. They’ll be adding Moss and Floyd to the fold, plus a presumably health Swisher, who didn’t play during those two months. Things are looking good for the 2015 Cleveland Indians. Even if they haven’t spent a bunch of money.