Adding T.J. House to an already dynamic starting core gives the Cleveland Indians versatility and options in the fifth spot
The Cleveland Indians have the best front four in baseball right now in Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer. The fifth spot in the rotation though has been a revolving door. T.J. House had first cracks at it along with Zach McAllister. Bruce Chen got a brief shot as well before the Indians finally settled on Shaun Marcum, who appears to be finding a decent groove and holding on to the spot (for now). So why should the Indians recall T.J. House? One word: options.
Many may not remember, but T.J. House was actually added to the Cleveland Indians 40-man roster before the 2013 season. He was Rule 5 eligible and Indians didn’t want to risk losing him. He spent virtually the entire year in the minors, burning the first of his three minor league options. Last year House made his major league debut and pitched very well for the Indians, but used up his second option after starting the year in the minors. Therefore, House entered 2015 with only one minor league option remaining. It appeared he wouldn’t be using it as he made the Opening Day roster as a member of the Tribe rotation. However, he really struggled in April and eventually found his way to the disabled list and eventually he was optioned to Triple-A Columbus on May 21st. So he burned his final minor league option…or did he?
As with seemingly all rules in baseball, there are exceptions and the minor league option rule is no different. There are a couple ways an “option” does not actually count as an option:
"An option isn’t used if a player is injured all year or they spend less than 20 days in the minors during the course of the season."
The “20 Day” exception is the key with House right now. As said, he was optioned on May 21st meaning as of today, he has not been in the minors for 20 days yet. Therefore, if House is recalled to the big leagues before Tuesday, he would still have his third and final minor league option remaining (at least for now), which could be huge for his future with the Indians.
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Whether or not House is recalled has no bearing on 2015. He can remain in the minors all year or be called up and optioned any number of times. Where things really get interesting is in 2016. If House isn’t recalled and has no options for 2016, the Indians could find themselves in a tricky situation. Do they guarantee House a spot in the rotation? Do they go the McAllister route where he’s essentially guaranteed a spot on the team, be it in the rotation or the bullpen? Or do they move on from House like they did with Jeremy Guthrie several years ago?
I’m not suggesting the Indians call-up House and insert him into the rotation either. Marcum has done well enough that he’s earned the right to keep pitching there. However, House could come up and help out the bullpen. The Tribe has only two lefties in the bullpen with Kyle Crockett in Triple-A. Marc Rzepczynski and Nick Hagadone have both been pitching well but both are on pace for over 70 appearances this year. Having a third lefty for Francona to turn to would help all parties involved. Not to mention being in Cleveland would give the young lefty even more time with pitching coach Mickey Calloway.
Calloway has done wonders with the Indians’ pitching staff the last couple years. From helping Kluber when he was in the minors, to straightening out Ubaldo Jimenez in 2013, to Carrasco last year, Mickey has proven to have the magic touch with struggling pitchers. This is no knock on the coaches the Indians have in the minors, they are very good as well, but there’s a reason Mickey is in Cleveland. He’s become one of the best in the business. Plus, House could maybe benefit from some work out of the bullpen. We saw it help Carrasco last year and to a lesser extent McAllister this year. If House ends up out of options he may be forced to the bullpen anyways in 2016 so why not get him up and get him some experience there now?
In order to make room for House, the Indians would have to send someone to Triple-A. Austin Adams has been on the I-71 shuttle all season and would seem like the perfect candidate to go back down. He hasn’t pitched poorly but in a bullpen with Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Zach McAllister, and Ryan Webb, Adams is a bit redundant. He hasn’t gotten a ton of work since his last recall.
Austin Adams is no stranger to being sent to Triple-A this year. Could he be on the move again? Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
At the end of the day Indians will most likely keep House in Triple-A for the foreseeable future, and that’s not the worst decision. He has struggled in his return to the minors and keeping him stretched out as a starter may not be the worst move given the lack of immediate depth in the rotation. However, I can’t help but wonder how much more useful that minor league option would be potentially in 2016. Imagine if McAllister’s final option hadn’t been burned last summer, would he be in Triple-A now pitching in the rotation trying to get back to his pre-2014 levels?
Then again, being without options doesn’t necessarily damn House in 2016. Trevor Bauer came in spring training this year having burned his final minor league option in 2014. The Indians did say he had a guaranteed spot early on, probably in part due to the lack of options. Bauer meanwhile has not disappointed the Indians and is in the midst of a breakout season. There’s a very good chance that T.J. House could enjoy the same type of success as the fifth member of the Tribe rotation in 2016, with or without a minor league option remaining.
So what do fans think, should the Indians recall House before losing his final minor league option? Or leave him in Triple-A for the foreseeable future and worry about the lack of an option in 2016?