Cleveland Indians: Do they need to trade a starting pitcher?

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Indians have a good problem on their hands. They have more viable starting pitching than they can fit in a rotation. However, it’s still something they need to address.

There are three locks for the starting rotation. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer are all entrenched into starting roles. That leaves two rotation spots and there are four candidates who all are deserving of a spot in the rotation.

Danny Salazar, Mike Clevinger, Ryan Merritt, and Josh Tomlin will all duke it out for those final two spots in Spring Training. That is, if they’re all with the team in Goodyear, AZ.

It’s no secret that the Indians have been open to trading Danny Salazar this winter, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they were open to moving other starters as well. There are simply too many quality starters for teams to consider trading for. The rest of the league is well aware of the Indians pitching depth and are likely calling on every single pitcher the Tribe has.

What’s the benefit in moving a starter?

The trade market for starting pitching is definitely a seller’s market. Quality starting pitchers can be hard to find and that increases the price for the acquiring team. That means, if the Indians wanted to trade one of their starters, they would be able to get a pretty large return for him.

The free agent market is at a standstill right now. Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn are all asking too much in the eyes of GMs around the league. With an unwillingness to pay the contracts for those players, GMs looking for starting pitchers could instead turn to Cleveland and try to trade for one.

If a starter is to be moved, the Cleveland Indians would need to receive at least one major league caliber player in return. The team is trying to win the World Series this year and moving a starter for only prospects is not something the Tribe should consider. Getting at least one major leaguer and a prospect or two however, would not be a bad idea.

Which pitcher should they move?

Danny Salazar is the most talked about name from the Indians on the market. In most rotations, Salazar would be a #2 or #3 starter, but in Cleveland, right now, he could be the #4 or even in the bullpen. If other teams value Salazar as a potential frontline starter, they will be willing to pay a high price for him.

Mike Clevinger may have some great hair, but he could also find himself on the trade block. Clevinger has made clear his desire to pitch in the rotation in 2018. If he isn’t afforded that opportunity to start the year, then perhaps it would be in the best interest of both parties to trade him. As a player under team control through 2022, he will also garner a large return.

The Cleveland Indians also have two other players in Josh Tomlin and Ryan Merritt pushing for rotation spots. although their ceiling isn’t nearly as high as Salazar and Clevinger. Tomlin is a wily veteran that has one year left before free agency. Merritt looks to be ticketed for a relief role for now.

If the Indians want the best return in a trade, moving Salazar or Clevinger would be the best options. Trading one of those two could not only improve the team for 2018, but for seasons beyond as well.

Pitching depth is always a good thing, but in a market starving for affordable pitching options, the Cleveland Indians should be opportunistic in trying to trade from their depth to improve in other areas. The Indians pitchers are under affordable contracts for several years and that holds a lot of value.

Next: Top Indians in 2017: Carlos Carrasco

Spring Training is just around the corner. If other teams get through camp and are unhappy with their rotation options, a trade could come together quickly. The Cleveland Indians will have some difficult decisions to make in the next few weeks.