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Carrasco and McAllister at the Corner of Carnegie & Ontario

Carrasco and McAllister at the Corner of Carnegie & Ontario
February 7, 2013
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It’s a beautiful day for baseball here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

Okay, it’s the dead of winter, it’s 32 degrees out in Cleveland, and it’s been one of the most miserable winters in recent memory (the last two years). I’m busy packing up the hot stove gear here at the Corner, and getting ready for the spring. Packed away neatly in their off season packages are stories of a brand new manager, two brand new outfielders, a brand new first baseman, a brand new starter, a brand new super-utility player, a brand new top prospect and several brand new options for the big league club that will be biding their time in Columbus.

Equally packed away are doubts of a new mentality for the Tribe. The front office is clearly taking more risks. This is Cleveland, so there is a clear line between the fans that see this as a positive, and the indifferent and negative fans that see this as a management team throwing darts at the wrong dart board. Hopefully, that’ll be packed away as well.

The Indians “on paper” are about to take a back seat to the actual Cleveland Indians, and I, for one, can’t wait.

The Cleveland Indians starting pitching is certainly a question mark heading into the 2012 season, and a lot is being made of the fact that there really isn’t a candidate that has a chance to be a #1 starter. That’s true, but there is a bit of curiosity involving Carlos Carrasco. If you remember, Carrasco had a stretch of baseball in June of 2011 in which he was dominant. Over a five game stretch and 36 2/3 innings, Carrasco went 4-1, giving up 22 hits, four earned runs, walked five and struck out 28. He lowered his ERA from 5.18 to 3.54 and looked every bit the ace that the Indians thought they were getting when they traded Cliff Lee to the Phillies.

Five starts later, he was gone for the remainder of the 2011 season, and the entire 2012 season.

What can the Indians expect in 2013 from perhaps the one starter that has top-of-the-rotation potential? According to Carrasco, he’s “100 percent, and…ready.” Carrasco also stated that he won’t have any restrictions heading into Spring Training, although I have to believe that the Indians are planning on monitoring his pitch count early on to make sure that there aren’t any setbacks from the surgery.

Carrasco still needs to serve a six game suspension when he returns.

If Carrasco, who only turns 26 this season, can manage to rebound and reach his potential, the staff could have a whole different look. Pitchers often throw harder after Tommy John Surgery, and if Carrasco is back and better than ever, he could be just the boost the staff needs. The real question is, can he come back and be the pitcher that he showed he can be that one month in June. He did struggle in July, but perhaps there were arm issues there that affected his velocity and location that led to the surgery.

All indications are that Carrasco is hitting the radar at 95. With the focus on Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez at the top of the rotation, might a guy like Carrasco be ready to become the pitcher many thought he’d be when he was the #1 prospect with the Phillies? There are surely questions about the fireballer with regards to consistency and health, but I’m absolutely bullish on Carrasco. I really think he’ll end up the best starter on this team in 2013. That may not be a good thing with regards to how the season plays out for Masterson and Jimenez, but for the long-term, Carrasco as an upper-level starter is something that’s a lot more realistic than people think.

I could also see a scenario where a guy like Zach McAllister has a “breakout” year. I was discussing this very thing with fellow IBI scribe Steve Orbanek the other day in a Tribe-Text barrage, and I kept thinking early-era “Cliff Lee.” Sure, Lee is a lefty, and had an edge in that regard, but I could see McAllister utilizing a similar skill-set as the 2005-2006 Cliff Lee to help the Tribe win some games, with an ERA in the high 3.00’s or low 4.00’s.

I could see a reverse triangle with the Indians in which Carrasco and McAllister ultimately are the best starters in the rotation. I don’t see them as ace material (although Carrasco is a curiosity to me in that regard), but they certainly could be better MOR options than the two we were most dependant on last year.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that if McAllister and Carrasco can perform this year in a “surprise” way, the Indians staff could be at least average if the others at least do what they are supposed to. No, that’s not a screaming endorsement of this rotation, but I am a bit more optimistic than most.

There have been some rumblings that the Indians “might” have some interest in Michael Bourn if his asking price should drop. It’s rumors like these that absolutely drive me crazy. There’s no doubt that Bourn would be a fantastic addition to the Indians line-up. He’s a .270-ish hitter, with a decent OBP who can steal a bunch of bases, has okay gap power, is a prototypical lead-off hitter (minus the strikeouts last season) and has won two gold gloves in his past.

In the Indians’ lineup, he would immediately become the starting centerfielder, giving the Indians an extremely impressive defensive outfield that would also include Drew Stubbs and Michael Brantley. Presumably, right fielder Nick Swisher would move to first, with Mark Reynolds moving to DH. The Indians might also use Stubbs in an uber-outfield-utility roll, as Bourn, Brantley and Swisher all hit righties at a much better clip than Stubbs (Brantley and Bourn have lifetime .280+ averages against righties, and Swisher hit .273 last season against RHP).

Regardless, the Indians would clearly have some versatility defensively, as well as offensively. Should Stubbs start, he would be able to sit at times when facing right-handed pitching (he hit .186 against righties last year, and is a lifetime .228 hitter against RHP). Reynolds would be able to play first and become the primary DH, depending on what Swisher was doing. Swisher would likely find himself splitting his time between first, right and DH as well.

Now that we’ve taken a walk on the path to Fantasy Island, let’s look a little more realistically at this.

Is Bourn really a fit for the Indians? Certainly a team isn’t going to turn down an inexpensive chance at a player with Bourn’s ability, but you could say that about every Major League team. The Indians would need to get Bourn in the realm of $2 million. He turned down $13.3 million. Is it possible that no other team in the league would be willing to throw out $5 or $6 million for a guy that’s looking for more than twice that?

The only way it happens is if there isn’t a single team willing to give up their first round pick in the draft, and more importantly, the slot money that goes with that pick. The Indians are protected because they have a top five pick, and only have to give up a third round pick, since they already lost their second rounder when they signed Swisher. I just can’t fathom that there isn’t one other team than the Indians that wouldn’t be willing to snag a player of Bourn’s caliber for more money than the Tribe can offer, more years, and be willing to give up their first rounder.

The Indians need bats on the bench, but Bourn would be an extravagance on a team that desperately needs starting pitching. They just spent nearly $60 million for Swisher to play right field, and dealt true in part to get Drew Stubbs. It would certainly be nice to have Swisher at first for a part of the time, at DH for part of the time and have Reynolds as the primary DH. It would answer a slew of questions. I still believe that the Indians would prefer to bring in a guy on the cheap for their DH slot if they choose to go that direction, and use any money they have left over on starting pitching. I’m not all that convinced they are willing to spend any more money right now.

There would also be some concern with regards to the offense in the outfield. Bourn struck out 155 times last season, and Stubbs struck out 166 times. Stubbs would also become the leading home run hitter out there with 14. Of course, the 2012 Indians weren’t exactly a power station, and there are more important things than homers, but in a perfect world the Indians would have some corner power at right or left, and Nick Swisher would provide that. Stubbs hit 22 homers in a season, but to say the Indians are counting on that or that they are considering Stubbs a power-hitter would be a gross overstatement.

Bourn isn’t coming to Cleveland unless there is some sort of insane collusion amongst teams to ensure the Indians get him. In the end, there’s no real need, and likely no real money.

That leads to the inevitable discussion of Kyle Lohse, who is another Scott Boras client, another player who declined his $13.3 qualifying offer, another guy that would cost a team their first round pick and their first round slot money, and another guy that the Indians would clearly have interest in should he take a $10-11 million paycut.

In all seriousness, if the Indians are going to go after anyone, it’s Lohse. He would immediately slot as the #1 starter, would bump Masterson to #2, Ubaldo to #3, Myers to #4 and McAllister to #5. Carlos Carrasco would then be allowed some time to build his arm strength, and Trevor Bauer would have time to season a bit in Columbus. It’s not a perfect staff, but a guy like Lohse could make the staff look better.

Again, there is no way the Indians are the top bidder. Someone is bound to outbid the Indians for as low as they’d have to offer and be willing to give up their first and that slot money.

Who might that team be? Lohse’s 2012 team, the St. Louis Cardinals, may now be at the top of the list. Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter will miss the 2013 season, and may be forced to retire after the same nerve injury that caused him to miss nearly the entire 2012 season. The Cardinals certainly have pitching depth with a bevy of young pitching studs at their disposal, but Lohse would be a much bigger lock at the top of the rotation/

There’s less than a week until pitchers and catchers report, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lohse ended up right where he started…back in St. Louis.

Could Scott Kazmir turn into something special in 2013? I have to admit, I was moderately excited when the Indians picked him up. No, the numbers haven’t been there. Kazmir hasn’t been there. The left-handed starter has essentially missed two straight seasons (he made one start in 2011, going 1 2/3 innings), and the reason is still a bit of a mystery.

According to Kazmir, a pulled hamstring in 2008 led to his issues. He continued to pitch with the injury, and didn’t have the leg drive, and was just using his arms to throw. Things went downhill from there. By 2011, Kazmir’s mid-90’s fastball was sitting at 84, and he was out of baseball. For a guy that just threw hard, the map back wasn’t an easy one.

Enter 2013.

Kazmir has fought back, and at only 29, still could have a career worth talking about. The former top minor league prospect has his velocity back up to 95, and he’s starting to show signs of returning to form. If he does and becomes a lightning throwing lefty for the Indians in 2013, his value increases exponentially. It’s likely Kazmir starts the year off in Columbus, but as a lefty, if he showcases success, I could see him bounce to the Indians quickly, either as a reliever or as a starter. I keep thinking Steve Karsay, to be honest.

Like McAllister and Carrasco, my outlook on Kazmir is on the optimistic side, and likely not the reality of the situation, but with a few days before pitchers and catchers report, I’m in the land of optimism, right?

I’m just jacked that the next time you see THIS column, I’ll be talking about living and breathing baseball!

THREE DAYS UNTIL PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT!!!

Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as  the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

User Comments

Norm
February 8, 2013 - 9:19 AM EST
Nice write Jim. I could not agree with you more about being ready for the season to start. As much as I love the offseason stories, I know it been too long without baseball when someone writes into IBI that the Indians have had such a bad trade record that he was wanting football and the Browns to start. I thought the Browns had not won anything since Modell left town and the Browns record since that time was far worse than the Indians. I do remember Jim Brown, LeRoy Kelley and Otto Graham fondly but that was long ago with different owners. FWIW, I think the Indians have done well as could be expected this offseason which is much better than past offseasons IMO. But the truth is in the results so I champion your idea they start playing. Let the games begin!!
Homer
February 8, 2013 - 7:46 AM EST
I don't think STL will be parting with those type arms after losing Carpenter for the season, and potentially Jaime Garcia. Garcia if you recall has had shoulder problems and per three doctors he needs surgery...he opted for R and R instead. Just saying with their depth in the rotation they may be willing to make a bold move at mid season but don't expect it it to be anything more than one young pitcher they'd be willing to give up like Lance Lynn or Joe Kelly and prospects. No way they move Miller and or Rosenthal at this point.
Jwahoo
February 7, 2013 - 9:16 PM EST
As I said the other day the strength of our rotation does not revolve around a number 1 starter. The best thing for our staff would be to have a whole rotation middle innging starters. With perhaps Carrasco as "front" guy.


If we fall on our face this year we NEED to trade Asdrubal, Masterson, Perez, Ubaldo, Meyers, Reynolds and Smith. In return we want depth in particular the outfield as well as another catching prospect. Most important we want two front of the rotation young starters as well as a young middle of the rotation inngings eater. Then we pair them with Carrasco, Bauer and McCalister.
Jwahoo
February 7, 2013 - 9:09 PM EST
@ Mike. I like your idea in fact I had the same one but was told it is not allowed. Someone told me it is silly but in fact it makes alot of sense. Its basically just trading draft picks for prospects. BUT I would want more for a 3rd round pick and Asdrubal.

I would want the players you mentioned plus Oscar Tavaras or Shelby Miller. We could throw in Kluber and a bullpen guy as well.
Homer
February 7, 2013 - 8:51 PM EST
I'm big fan of Carlos Carrasco, he's been pitching with an aching elbow for yrs, he could and I think he will come back stronger and sharper on the mound. I expect a strong second half from Carrasco.
Jwahoo
February 7, 2013 - 8:51 PM EST


One thing about Bourn. Yeah he is probably not coming here but the argument of "not having enough power at the corner outfield spots" makes not a big of sense. All your really doing is subbing Bourn for Aviles-McGuiness-Yan. Swisher and his power will be in the lineup either way. What difference does it make if its playing at first base or right field? Just because your supposed to have power in right it would make no difference because your actually switching Bourn for Aviles and whoever else plays at DH.

Hopefully Zach and Carlos do as you say AND Masterson and Ubaldo rebound. I think Masterson could be a solid 3 type guy and Ubaldo a 4th or 5th starter. I have a gut feeling Kazmir will surprise and if he does its HUGE. All of a sudden we have a middle of the rotation lefty and only need to fill one spot from Carrasco, McCalister, Bauer. Or you could move Meyers or Ubaldo to the bullpen.

bruce
February 7, 2013 - 7:07 PM EST
Jim, don't take this the wrong way, but I don't think there's anyone else in baseball right now who thinks of Jimenez as a "top of the rotation" guy. If he pitches anything like last year, and is near the top of our rotation, that means we have absolutely no starting pitching and won't win 60 games...
Mike
February 7, 2013 - 4:15 PM EST
Oops- sorry. I meant Matt Adams (the Cards first base peospect), and not "Mike". I just read the Mike Aviles story and the name "Mike" obviously stuck in my head.

Mike
February 7, 2013 - 4:06 PM EST
The Cards say they have more interest in getting the draft pick than in signing Lohse, but with Carpenter down you have to wonder. How about the Tribe signs Lohse and trades him back to St. Louis along with Asdrubal, in return for Mike Adams and Trevor Rosenthal? Thats two years of Cabrera and the second round pick, in return for two MLB ready prospects. Sound fair?
SgtCarter
February 7, 2013 - 3:07 PM EST
Carrasco and McAlistter will be fine. It's that 1-2 dumpster fire of Masterson & Ubaldo that is the problem.
Jake
February 7, 2013 - 2:41 PM EST
Great story, Jim! I for one am looking forward to seeing if Carrasco can rebound. If we got the June 2011 Carrasco back, that would be a huge boost to the rotation. Of course that's a best case scenario and we can't set the bar too high for him after being inactive for a year and a half.

As far as Lohse and Bourn go, I think Bourn is out of the question at this point given that he's already discussed a multi-year deal with the Mets, so I don't think the Indians have a shot unless, like you said, every other team with interest decides against signing him.

Lohse is someone to keep on the radar, at least for now. While our chances of signing him are still slim, his price could still be knocked down. Keep an eye on St. Louis, though. After losing Carpenter, they may want to bring Lohse back.

I don't see us signing either player, but the fact that the Indians were included in the rumors is surprising. Who knows, maybe Antonetti has one more trick up his sleeve.
Roger
February 7, 2013 - 2:35 PM EST
jim i am high on carrasco and kazmir little less so zac mac. I love zac mac's size and the ability to eat innings I am just not sure he gets the movement on his hard stuff to be effective and in as little amount of innings as he pitched last year he LED the AL in unearned runs, which means he didnt have the poise to pitch out of jams, His dad is a highly thought of scout and before 2012 zac mac was considered very savvy due to being raised in the game of baseball. I hope you are right because he is 80% of cliff lee is darned good!!!!!!!!!! as for number 1 started it would surprise me if by the all star break carrasco isnt the number 1 starter i am that confident.

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