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Danny Salazar’s final season in Cleveland hardly even happened

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A frustrating ending to what began as a promising partnership

Houston Astros v Cleveland Indians Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images

There’s really not a lot to analyze about Danny Salazar’s 2019 season. He had earned a $4.5 million dollar contract for 2019, and a lot of folks were upset about that. Some folks (myself included) were fine with it because the upside that was promised would be well worth the money if everything panned out. Hindsight says this was a bad deal from the start, but I don’t necessarily begrudge the Tribe for making it; $4.5 million shouldn’t be a huge deal for a professional baseball team, and I’m a homer for Danny Salazar.

But I, and a few others, were wrong. The deal ended up being a bad one and ultimately ended up being a sunk cost since Danny Salazar pitched just one game for the Indians in 2019. For those keeping score at home, that’s 4.0 innings combined in 2018 and 2019. That level of production is definitely not worth $4.5 million dollars.

The big game

August 1, 2019. Astros in town against the Indians. The Tribe had closed the gap against the Twins and were only 3.0 games behind the front-running Twins. So naturally, the Tribe calls on Danny Salazar, the fireballer of yore, to make his first appearance in nearly two years. Exciting, horrifying, however you wanted to describe it, it was definitely something to watch. Some people were really looking forward to it. Then the game happened and I want to forget it. Danny came out in the first inning and looked...strange. While his fastball had been reported to be in the low to mid-90s in his rehab starts just a few days prior, his fastball was now sitting, on average, at 85 mph. He was throwing so soft that the MLB pitch tracker didn’t even think he was throwing a fastball. In his prime (?), Salazar succeeded because of the coupling of his upper-90s fastball and his devastating changeup. It was clear in the first inning that that wasn’t happening today. And against a juggernaut of a team like the Astros, he would surely be done quickly.

He was, but not in the way you think. Salazar only made it through four innings, but he only gave up 2 runs, which is astounding given the caliber of the lineup he was facing. He walked 3 and gave up 4 hits, so he always had traffic on the base paths, but he...somehow managed to be decent? Maybe the Astros were so baffled by seeing a pitcher throw so slowly that they couldn’t adjust. Who knows. At the end of the day, Salazar’s final line in 2019 was 4.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 2 HR. Could’ve been better, should’ve been way worse.

The aftermath

Of course, to the surprise of no one, the day after Salazar’s outing, it was announced that he was heading back to the IL with a groin injury. It’s almost comical in a tragic sense how significant a bunch of various injuries have truly wrecked the trajectory of Danny Salazar’s career. He would never make it back to the Tribe. He began rehabbing at the end of that month, but with rosters expanding to 40 and the Tribe in a playoff race, there was no room anymore for Danny Salazar on the major league club.

That was the last time he would appear in a a Cleveland Indians’ uniform, and a lot of fans rekindled the initial $4.5 million dollar outrage with greater ferocity. I think I’m more disappointed than angry. One, it’s not my money, and two, I don’t think the extra $4.5 million was going to keep Michael Brantley for another year or be the push to get Francisco Lindor over the hump to stay with Cleveland for eternity. I don’t fault Salazar for taking the money, though a lot of hot internet takes seem to for some bizarre reason: “Thank you Mr. Dolan for the money, but please keep it because I plan on being perpetually injured for the year and I don’t have bills to pay or mouths to feed”. On November 4, Danny Salazar (along with three others) was removed from the IL, outrighted, and elected free agency. I have no doubt that some team will take a flyer on Salazar, even if it’s only in the form of a minor league contract and NRI to spring training. And I sincerely hope that he finds success. It won’t be with the Cleveland Indians, but good luck to Danny Salazar.