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Josh Tomlin's extension gives Cleveland Indians another very tradable pitcher

At this point, the Indians could trade all their starting pitchers for a small country if they really wanted to.

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By signing pitcher Josh Tomlin to a two-year, $5.5 million extension yesterday the Cleveland Indians have given themselves another valuable pitcher who could be traded. There is no indication the Indians would actually trade Tomlin right away after signing him to this deal (and I am not saying they will or should), but the option is now there solely because of this deal. And you can never have too many options.

Prior to today, Tomlin was under contract for the remainder of 2016 on a one-year, $2.25 deal meant to avoid Arbitration and that was it. Tomlin was set to walk in 2017 as an unrestricted free agent. Even if he performs to his highest potential, I cannot imagine the Indians would have garnered much attention dangling Tomlin out for a trade for a season, or half a season if they wanted to deal him at the deadline. Of all the pitchers we have heard linked to trades this offseason, Tomlin was almost never one of them.

Now, after signing this extension, the Indians have a potential fourth or fifth starter (or even a bullpen arm) available for around $3 million per season over the next three years, depending on incentives and whether or not a team picks up Tomlin’s 2018 option.

Money has been flying all over the league as teams scramble to lock up pitchers this offseason. Not just big-name ace pitchers like David Price or Zack Greinke, but even for back-end starters are commanding average annual values over the $3 million that Tomlin could achieve.

Take Mike Pelfrey, for example, whom the New York Mets signed to a two-year deal worth $8 million earlier this offseason. Pelfrey is only one year away from a major injury (similar to Tomlin) and coming off a season where he was worth 2.0 fWAR with a 4.26 ERA, 4.00 FIP, and a 6.3 percent walk rate. Meanwhile, Tomlin threw in only 65.2 innings last season but he carried a 3.02 ERA, a 4.43 FIP and an excellent 3.2 walk rate and the Indians have him for almost half the cost.

There is no reason the Indians could not go into the season with Tomlin as their fifth starter, or at least in the bullpen. A rotation of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and Josh Tomlin seems inevitable to start the season after this contract. However, the Indians have Mike Clevinger knocking on the door to the majors, as well as Cody Anderson who pitched well last year.

If Tomlin can at least pitch well enough to be worth more than the $2.25 million the Tribe will be paying him, he could be a valuable trade asset when the mid-season deadline comes around if Clevinger, Anderson, or someone looks primed to take over the fifth starter spot. Or, if no one else looks like a fifth starter they could deal Tomlin after the season or at the 2017 trade deadline. Or, they could just move him to the bullpen and he is still not a bad value at $2.25 million. At this point, it is all about flexibility, and signing Tomlin to this deal gives Cleveland a lot of it.