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Cleveland Indians: Does Danny Salazar still have value with the Tribe?

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ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 10: Pitcher Danny Salazar
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 10: Pitcher Danny Salazar /
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The Cleveland Indians have been without Danny Salazar for the entire 2018 season, and he’s not showing signs of returning anytime soon. This begs the question, does Danny have any value left in Cleveland?

Danny Salazar has been an enigma for the Cleveland Indians ever since he was called up in 2013. He, obviously, has electric stuff when healthy. Unfortunately, the key phrase in that last sentence is “when healthy”. He’s had chronic arm trouble and last season he had trouble with his shoulder and elbow.

The shoulder issued has persisted and at this point looks like it might cost him the whole 2018 season. It seems like every time he starts building momentum towards a return he has a setback. A healthy Danny Salazar could be an enormous help to the Indians pitching staff.

If  Danny Salazar is healthy the next step would be to find where he fits with the Indians. I don’t think the Indians would bring him back as a starter. The rotation is all under contract for the next few seasons.

This season it has been solidified with the emergence of Shane Bieber and the continued development of Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevenger. That leaves the bullpen as the only option. If healthy, there’s that phrase again, Salazar could become a dominant bullpen pitcher. Moving a healthy Salazar to the bullpen could provide a number of advantages for the Tribe.

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Protect against injuries

Danny Salazar would serve as insurance for injuries to bullpen arms. Every season is different, but injuries are always a part of the game. This season the Indians have been hit with a rash of injuries.

They’ve used 18 different pitchers out of the ‘pen so far. Brandon Guyer even managed to toss an inning. There have been 7 relief pitchers go on the disabled list before we even reached July. Adding a proven arm like Salazar’s can help to lessen the blow of injuries.

Lengthen bullpen, shorten games

Salazar would add length to the bullpen and help shorten games. I wrote in an article earlier this season that a back-end of Salazar, Miller and Allen has all the makings of a dominant end of game trio. The thought of being able to go Salazar, Miller or Allen in late inning high leverage situations would make Terry Francona salivate.

I believe that Salazar would be a dominant reliever. His career average of 10.5 strikeout rate per nine innings and the fact that he throws in the mid to upper 90s profiles well for a back end bullpen pitcher.

He doesn’t walk a ton of batters either. He has a career 3.27 to 1 K/BB ratio.  Moving Salazar would also allow Neil Ramirez, Tyler Olson and Dan Otero to be used in lower leverage situations.  In the playoffs, starters would only have to give the Indians 5 innings. Terry Francona would be able to use his bullpen with even more creativity than he already does.

Free Agency Insurance

He would provide a bit of insurance going into free agency after this season. It’s no secret that Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are going to be free agents following the season. Hopefully the Indians will be able to sign one of those guys, I would be amazed if both are back with the team next season.

Salazar could help fill a void left by one, or both, of those guys. He is under arbitration control through the 2020 season. The only problem with that is you’re banking on him being healthy.

Next: Tribe well represented in Triple-A ASG

The Indians will have a tough decision regarding Salazar. As of June 27 Salazar doesn’t have much value to other teams due to injury, so the possibility of trading him is gone. The Indians are going to have to hope that rest and rehab will allow Salazar to return at the level he pitched at two years ago. In a perfect world he comes back sometime this year and helps the Indians make a deep run through October. Realistically, he returns fully healthy next season as an anchor of the bullpen.

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