Breaking down the Myers signing and what happens next
The Indians have reportedly come to terms with free agent right-handed pitcher Brett Myers. Here are some quick thoughts on the signing:
- The Indians signed Myers to a reported one year deal for $7 million and it includes a club option for 2014. The terms of the club option are unknown as of this writing, but will probably be close to the 2013 salary. I was expecting Myers to sign for about $5-6 million, so the overpay is probably what it cost for the Indians to sign a guy they wanted or risk him going to another team. The inclusion of the club option was probably at their request since they were paying him more for one year.
- Myers comes with some personal baggage as he reportedly punched his wife in 2006, though charges were dropped. He also had a heated exchange with a Philadelphia media personality in 2007. Since then he has stayed out of trouble. He has always been viewed as a good presence in the locker room and is a strong competitor, so while has made some very poor decisions off the field, he should help add some much needed leadership to the pitching staff. I am not a fan of him as a person, but as a player he’s a solid addition to the club.
- Myers will open the 2013 season in the Indians starting rotation. He is not a rotation problem solver, but he should help add some stability, experience, and depth to a rotation that was a disaster in 2012. The Indians have had problems over the past few seasons with getting any consistency out of right-hander Jeanmar Gomez and left-hander David Huff, right-hander Carlos Carrasco did not pitch in 2012 after major arm surgery, and right-hander Corey Kluber is still too green to be relied upon. Myers is an upgrade over all four of those options the Indians had to round out the rotation, and will allow them to have more flexibility with the rotation and most importantly it helps add some depth to the rotation.
- The Indians had the third worst starting rotation in terms of ERA last season (5.25) among all 30 MLB team. They were 27th in total innings pitched (913.2), had the 2nd most walks (351), and 28th in strikeouts (621) and batting average against (.284). Upgrading and improving the rotation in the short term and long term has been a primary focus of the Indians this offseason, and the Myers is a short term fix and the pickup of right-hander Trevor Bauer is a long term and possibly short term solution. They need starters that can pitch deeper into games and limit some of the free passes, and that is something that Myers may be able to help with.
- Myers has been both a starter and reliever the past several seasons. When he has started, he has proven to be quite durable and has made 30 or more starts for seven seasons in a row and averaged 201 innings pitched over those seven seasons (2003-2006, 2008, 2010-2011). In his career as a starter he owns a 89-79 record with a 4.27 ERA, and in 249 career starts has averaged 6.1 innings a start with a 2.9 BB/9 and 7.2 K/9. A good portion of that success came from his 2005 and 2006 seasons with the Phillies, but he proven to be reliable and durable, which is something the Indians need at the back of their rotation.
- The only three seasons Myers has not started over the past ten years are 2007, 2009 and last season, though in all three seasons he pitched out of the bullpen in high leverage situations as a setup man or closer. The Indians are not interested in him as a reliever and expect to have him start, but his versatility to pitch in the bullpen is another plus. The one hiccup with his health occurred in 2009 as he bounced around between the rotation and bullpen because of a shoulder issue, but he appears to be over that issues considering he pitched over 200 innings in 2010 and 2011 and last season made 70 appearances out of the bullpen.
- With the signing of Myers the Indians do not appear to be done this offseason. They are still actively looking at adding another pitcher or bat via trade or in free agency. They reportedly have had very recent discussions with free agent right-handed pitcher Shaun Marcum, though it is not known if the Myers signing has any effect on those discussions. When the Indians signed Swisher a week ago I heard that if the Indians did not find a good middle of the rotation pitcher that they would look to possibly add two back of the rotation pitchers. Myers would qualify as a back of the rotation pitcher, so it is possible they could still sign another back of the rotation type like a Joe Saunders or Jair Jurrjens, or even make a run at a middle of the rotation type like Marcum and even right-hander Kyle Lohse.
- With the signing, the Indians payroll for 2013 is about $75 million. Going into the offseason they made a vague comment that payroll would be around what it was last season ($65 million), but obviously that is not true as they are going well above that. With the recent sale of SportsTime Ohio to Fox Sports and the new national TV money coming in 2014, their revenue situation has changed and as a result the Indians appear to have more to spend on their payroll; however, the question is what their payroll threshold truly is. There was a report over the weekend that it could reach as high as $80 million for 2013, or go a little above that, which would be right in line with what they have said where they wanted to add one more big free agent pitcher or two smaller type signings for the rotation.
- Remember, while Carrasco is very much in the rotation plans for 2013, he is likely to have his innings really monitored this coming season. After not pitching in the big leagues in 2012 because he was rehabbing from right elbow reconstruction, and pitching in a grand total of three games (4.0 innings) in the minors late in the season, the Indians are going to be careful with his workload in 2013. He is under team control for at least another four seasons and is a key cog to their rotation going forward, so they are going to be careful with his workload next season in the same way the Washington Nationals were with Stephen Strasburg who was coming off the same injury. Strasburg was limited to 159.1 innings this past season and was shutdown in September, and while the Indians have not publicly said so, I would expect the same 150-160 inning limit for Carrasco this coming season. The one difference being that the Indians typically like to monitor the workload on the front end rather than the back end of the season, which means Carrasco could open the season in extended spring training, go on a rehab assignment to Triple-A Columbus in late April or early May and become a Major League rotation option sometime in mid-May.
- It is also important to note that while Kluber may not be in the rotation the Indians will still need eight or nine starters over the course of the season. Few teams go through a season with the same five or six starters all year as bumps and bruises are bound to happen that sideline pitchers. Major injuries also occur and of course some guys do not perform well which results in a change. The Indians are going to need guys like Kluber, Carrasco, and others at some point, and while their roles may be limited in the early going they could play a more prominent role as the season wears on.
- Both Huff and Gomez are out of options, so it will be interesting to see what happens with both of them this spring and the rest of the offseason. If there are no injuries in the rotation and bullpen, it will be hard for both to stick with the club as the rotation appears set and the bullpen is very crowded with good arms. This probably applies more to Gomez as Huff has a legit shot to be a left-hander and long man in the Indians bullpen.
- The Indians will need to make a roster move to make room for Myers on the 40-man roster. In fact, they have yet to officially announce the Nick Swisher signing, so when they do that they have to clear a spot on the 40-man for him as well. This means that barring a trade, in the next few days the Indians are going to have to open two spots on the 40-man roster by designating a player for assignment. At the moment the odds seem to be heavily stacked against outfielder Thomas Neal who is probably the player with the greatest risk of being designated for assignment after the addition of Swisher to the roster. It would appear that Neal or Ezequiel Carrera would be the outfielder to go, but Carrera has more Major League experience, is a better defender, and his left-handed bat probably better fills a fourth outfield role and he complements the right-handed hitting Drew Stubbs well (a guy who the Indians maybe limit some of his exposure to right-handed pitching). As to the other player that could be designated for assignment, that is not so clear, but it probably will come from a list of Juan Diaz, Frank Herrmann, Mike McDade, and even Gomez.
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@Homer - Good point about ML readiness.