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The Indians and Free Agent Starting Pitchers

12 different pitchers started games for the 2009 Cleveland Indians with Fausto Carmona leading the staff with 24 starts, despite spending part of the season with Indians' farm clubs. In creating the 2010 staff and its depth options, a number of the '09 starters will not be in the picture. 

Totally Out Of The Picture

  • Cliff Lee (22 starts in '09)
  • Carl Pavano (21 starts in '09)
  • Zach Jackson (1 start in '09)

Two of those guys pitched their way out of Cleveland and the other one, well, he sort of pitched his way out as well. I don't know what Zackson's MLB future holds but it almost certainly won't be much starting. 

On The Outskirts of the Picture

  • Scott Lewis (1 start in '09)
  • Anthony Reyes (8 starts in '09)
  • Tomo Ohka (6 starts in '09)

It's unlikely these guys collectively make more than a handful of starts for the Indians next year. Lewis and Reyes both have significant injury concerns (as well as Lewis not currently being rostered) and Ohka, a deep, deep depth option in 2009 that was pressed into duty, is unlikely to return based on his lackluster performance. 

The 2010 Indians Starters! 

  • Fausto Carmona (24 starts in '09)
  • David Huff (23 starts in '09)
  • Jeremy Sowers (22 starts in '09)
  • Aaron Laffey (19 starts in '09)
  • Justin Masterson (10 starts in '09)
  • Carlos Carrasco (5 starts in '09)
  • Jake Westbrook (0 starts in '09)
  • Hector Rondon (0 starts in '09)
  • Yohan Pino (0 starts in '09)

It seems likely that, barring injury, the Indians will open with a rotation including Westbrook, Laffey and Masterson with Carmona, Sowers and Huff battling for the final two spots. There will probably be an opportunity for Carrasco or Rondon to win a job out of ST but it will be an uphill battle. This scenario assumes the Indians don't make a signing which, to me, seems unlikely. The Indians probably have about enough depth to sit on their hands but the gamble of a low-risk, high-upside pitcher who could either help a suddenly coalescing young club contend or, more likely, turn into a prospect at the deadline, seems like too much to pass up. 

The Indians have a real thing for free agent starters, with free agent pickups like Pavano, Paul Byrd, Jason Johnson, Kevin Millwood and Scott Elarton all starting a significant number of games for the Indians since 2005. The Indians have excelled at identifying and signing veteran starters who end up being major contributors to the club. Their skill in this area has paid dividends beyond just on-field production: their ability to rehabilitate careers has earned them both goodwill with future free agents and an occasional prospect, namely Pino who was returned for Pavano and Mickey Hall, the big prize in the Paul Byrd deal (kidding). 

So, with a remarkably low payroll entering 2010 (my back of the napkin has them around $60 million), how could the Indians spend a few (2-6) million and get something decent for it? A list of 2010 FA starters is available here for your browsing. 

Bartolo Colon

Colon will be 37 this year and pitched late last season with the White Sox. There was, frankly, not a lot to like about Colon's numbers last year-he had SO/BB ratio of 1.81 and his FIP was over 5. The upside here is that Bartolo was coming off of an elbow surgery in Chicago and he was sort of effective in Boston in '08. The other upside, of course, would be watching Bartolo wear an Indians uniform. Maybe he could mentor young players regarding hotspots downtown. 

Jose Contreras

Contreras, who might be 38 years old, was a tough luck pitcher in Chicago last year, posting a 4.14 FIP in contrast to his 5.42 ERA. Jose was dealt to Colorado for the stretch run and he was lights out as a reliever for the Rockies over 17 IP, posting a 1.59 ERA (and a 3.92 FIP, to flip-flop things). I'm pretty convinced Contreras could be a valuable pickup; since coming to Chicago, his FIP has hovered in the mid 4's and he's also got that whole wily Spanish-speaking veteran thing going on. Difficult to tell what the market for Contreras will be, though. A few years ago, a decent stretch run like this could turn into a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal. We're not a few years ago, anymore, obviously, but I wouldn't be shocked to see an NL team make him a decent offer to work as a reliever. 

Jason Schmidt

Schmidt is expected to retire but, man, this one seems right up the Indians' alley. 

Brad Penny

Penny put together a nice little run in San Francisco to end the season and, if he and his agent are smart, he ought to stay in the NL. However, Penny wasn't nearly as bad in Boston as he seemed according to FIP (4.59 v 6.08). If Penny wants to come back to the AL, he wouldn't be a bad fit in Cleveland if the Indians feel he's healthy. 

Erik Bedard

Bedard can pitch if Bedard can stay healthy. This past season he posted a sub 3 ERA in his limited duty with a K:BB over 2.5. Bedard is a hot commodity with other know-nothings like me and for all I know the market for him is going to explode this winter. If you can get Bedard for something like a 1 year deal at 7 million with a club-option for a second season, I think you do it. Bedard's a type B free agent. 

Other players fit the Bedard deal as well: Rich Harden and Ben Sheets, namely. 

The Indians ought to also kick the tires on Chris Capuano, Rich Hill and Noah Lowry

So, what do you think? Any of these guys? Anybody else? Anybody at all?