This week Cleveland received the dreadful news, that a player thought to be vital to their chances of contention won’t be back in uniform in 2018. Of course I’m talking about Danny Salazar.
The news that he’s going under the knife for “exploratory” shoulder surgery is dreadful in so many ways — for the fact we don’t get to see that dazzling changeup this season, for the Indians’ near future plans, and obviously and most scarily the jeopardy it places his career in. It’s very sad — our own Chris Davies had some great words on that the other day. But it also throws into stark relief just how amazing the Indians as an organization are at finding and building starting pitchers.
It should not be this easy. No team should be able to lose a 28-year-old pitcher with the talent Salazar has shown from their rotation and just shrug it off. This is the type of thing that crushes hopes. And yet, here we are anyway, worrying about bullpens and all too shallow lineups. Rather than bemoaning the end of the season in July, it’s just a dose of disappointment that will quickly fade.
Salazar wasn’t a huge prospect to begin with, in part due to his injury history. Some believed him to be a future bullpen arm, but the Indians knew they had something. This is a tale that repeated itself — Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, and now we have Shane Bieber. None of these pitchers appeared particularly high on prospect lists, none really set the world on fire when they debuted, yet all are demonstrating an incredible level of excellence, and an incredible structure in the Indians’ system to make diamonds from coal. Well, coal with really strong right arms.
We’ve written about it here time and again. It seems a bit repetitive to harp on how amazing they are at finding these guys when relief pitching seems to avoid them, but the facts are just right there. They really don’t miss Salazar, not in an on-field fashion anyway.
Bieber has already earned 1.1 bWAR in only 24.1 innings, and even if that’s not a realistic pace he’s basically replicating the season we expected from Salazar. Plus they’re getting Carrasco back in a few days. At this point if he’s marginally better than he has been this season he’s their fifth best pitcher, and still one of the better arms in the league. This structure in the system, this sheaf of previously unknown talent consistently rising from the farm is a little spoiling.
So yes, of course Salazar will be missed. Between his weird beard and his intensity, the unbridled talent (he’s got to have the best arm talent on the team when healthy) and how silly he makes hitters look, he’s just a blast to watch. This is why we hate injury, and why pitcehrs like Corey Kluber or Max Scherzer are so rare and so praised. Pitchers always have a limited amount of effectiveness. The Indians get the most out of theirs. We can hope that Salazar isn’t done of course, but at least the small silver lining is that the Indians can survive such a crushing loss.
It’d just be nice if they didn’t have to.