Gavin Floyd Was Still A Risk Worth Taking


Jun 19, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Atlanta Braves pitcher

Gavin Floyd

(32) leaves the field with trainer Jeff Porter (right) in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Gavin Floyd is injured again. It’s shocking that a guy who’s undergone two major elbow surgeries and made just 14 starts over the past two years is injured during the first couple weeks of spring training, but it’s true.

It’s an unfortunate situation for a player who has undoubtedly worked very hard to make it back. Injuries are a reality of life for all pitchers but, given his past health history, Floyd would likely have suffered this injury regardless of which big league camp he was in. If Floyd isn’t responsible for this setback, one has to wonder what exactly the Indians’ front office is thinking by spending a decent amount of money on a guy who is damaged goods.

This is seemingly a theme with the Indians since Chris Antonetti was elevated to the role of General Manager. The Indians focus in the veteran starting pitcher market has been on guys like Floyd, Shaun Marcum, Aaron Harang, Brett Myers, and Derek Lowe (acquired in a trade). Well, there are two themes here. One is that the Indians tend to focus on veteran pitchers coming off some type of stretch of injury, ineffectiveness, or both. The other is that none of the above pitchers have worked out for the Indians (Harang pitched decently well for the Atlanta Braves in 2014).

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But it’s important not to conflate process with results. Free agent starting pitching is expensive. Guys that are just decent talents without immediate injury concerns get contracts such as Ervin Santana’s four year, $55 million deal from the Twins. Guys like Brett Anderson, who are talented but take three seasons to reach 200 innings pitched, can get $10 million guaranteed from big-money teams like the Dodgers. Even a team like the Royals is willing to commit $8.5 million to Kris Medlen, who is coming off his second Tommy John surgery. In today’s market, an incentive-laden major league contract buys you a guy coming off of two elbow surgeries. Nothing about the Indians signing of Floyd is out of step with what the rest of the league is doing.

There’s also the idea that the Indians didn’t really need Floyd because Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and T.J. House with Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin in reserve is enough rotation depth. Here, it’s important to remember that a player’s development curve is often not linear. Taking Bauer for example, it is certainly possible that he makes improvements on the gains he made last year and becomes a solid mid-rotation starter. But it’s far from guaranteed. He could stagnate as a 4.00 ERA pitcher, or he could even fall back some and need to be sent down to the minors. One only has to look at Carrasco to see how a player can take a strange path towards emerging as an above-average player. Throw in the inherent health risks for all pitchers and adding depth even when the need isn’t readily apparent makes plenty of sense.

Ultimately, a team with the Indians’ budget can’t be built mainly through free agency, and the front office knows that. It’s why they traded for Ubaldo Jimenez when he was signed to what was, at the time, a team-friendly contract. It’s why they’ve stuck with Carrasco and didn’t get rid of McAllister or Tomlin this offseason. The fact the Indians have so much young rotation talent is why people are so optimistic about their outlook this season.

While Floyd may not be able to help them this season, it was still a risk worth taking. The odds may not be great that a guy like Floyd or Myers or Lowe contributes much to a contending team. But there’s always a chance the team can snag a performance like the one they got from Kevin Millwood in 2005, when they signed him to a one year, $7 million deal after a couple poor years in Philadelphia and he posted a 147 ERA+.

Most importantly is that the Indians are no worse for wear than they were before signing Floyd. They are ready to compete in 2015 with the same young and talented starting rotation they had before adding Floyd to the mix.