On Tuesday the Indians announced that they've signed starting pitcher Gavin Floyd to a one-year deal. The contract guarantees the right-hander (who will turn 32 in January) $4 million for 2015, with an additional $6 million available through incentives, the specifics of which have not yet been released.
Floyd was the #4 overall pick in 2001, and he appeared in a few games for the Phillies early in his career before being traded to the White Sox prior to the 2007 season. His first full MLB season was 2008, and for the next five years he was a bit better than average as a starter, averaging ~190 innings a season, with an ERA+ of 108 and slightly above average strikeout and walk rates. In 2012 he missed some time with a sore elbow though, and in May of 2013 he underwent Tommy John surgery. He returned a year later, after missing the first month of 2014, and pitched wellfor the Braves, whom he'd signed with during the offseason.
In 9 starts for Atlanta, Floyd posted a 2.65 ERA, with velocity that matched its pre-injury figures and a walk-rate noticeably lower than his career figure. In late June though, he suffered a fracture in his elbow, leading to another season-ending surgery. Indians GM Chris Antonetti says the elbow is okay now:
"His elbow's actually fine. We went through an extensive physical... His ligament is strong and intact. The fracture he suffered last year is well healed. We expect him to be fully ready for Spring Training."
If that proves true, than the Indians have added guy who's pitched like an okay #3 or good #4 starter in the AL Central, and even if he maxes out his incentives, he'll earn less than you'd expect such a pitcher to cost. If he doesn't work out at all, the Indians are out $4 million, which isn't a very big deal.
For those reasons, I like this signing.
That said, I already thought the Indians had five pretty good options for the rotation, and I already liked their 6th and 7th guys as depth. I'm not entirely sure where Floyd slots into the list, but he's certainly pushing some of those other guys down a spot, including whomever would have been the #5 starter, a pitcher who'll now be in the bullpen or Triple-A instead.
What's the status of the Tribe rotation now?
Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco should be locks for the rotation, so along with Floyd, that takes care of three of the five spots. In my mind Danny Salazar belong next on that list (and actually, I'd probably put him ahead of Floyd too), followed by Bauer, who's results have been middling, but is still young enough and has good enough stuff that it makes sense to put him ahead of the others in hopes that he finds the consistency he's been missing. The Indians see things differently though, and shortly after the signing, the team's official Twitter account sent this out:
Kluber, Carrasco, Bauer and Floyd have spots in the 2015 rotation. McAllister, Tomlin, Salazar, House competing for No. 5.— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) December 16, 2014
It seems they're higher on Bauer and/or lower on Salazar than I am. Bauer is a year younger and his ERA and WHIp were each very slightly better than Salazar's in 2014, but Salazar had much better peripherals, and was much better near the end of the season, which is why I'd rather have him. If nothing else, it seemed odd that Bauer's performance would be deemed enough better for his spot in the rotation to be secure. Eventually, after some back and forth between various Indians beat writers and bloggers on Twitter, an explanation became evident:
The Indians still have an option remaining on Salazar, but they don't have one on Bauer. That means Salazar can be sent to the minors in 2015, and Bauer cannot (unless it's for a rehab assignment after a DL stint (possible), or he's cleared waivers first (not possible)).
In addition to Salazar, House and Tomlin can each be sent down as well. McAllister is the only one of the team's candidates for the #5 spot in the rotation who cannot be sent to the farm.
I'd consider Salazar the favorite for that last spot, with McAllister in the bullpen (because the team probably doesn't want to just cut him loose, what with him being only a bit below league average in his career, and still earning the MLB minimum salary. That would mean House and Tomlin head to Triple-A Columbus, which is where they both were at the start of 2014 too.
That gives you something like:
I really like that rotation depth, it's a far set of players in spots 6 to 8 than most teams have, and means the Indians can survive some bumps in the road for the Opening Day rotation, which is good, because there are also bumps in the road.
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More from Let's Go Tribe
Another possibility in all this is that someone could be traded. Kluber ought to be 99.9% untouchable, but none of the others need be. Carrasco was excellent down the stretch, but that was the first time he had sustained success as a starter, so there's an argument for selling high. Salazar and Bauer are each still under team control for six year, and would bring back a lot in a deal. House doesn't have quite the same pedigree, but a lefty with MLB success and six years of control left is attractive to most teams.
Even without one of those guys, the Indians would have an above average rotation with decent depth waiting in the wings. If they can address another need, it might make some sense. And if they stand pat, signing Floyd still makes sense, because he's well worth the low risk of a deal like this one.