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Second Thoughts: Indians needs are becoming clear

Second Thoughts: Indians needs are becoming clear
Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana are two big pieces that could really help the lineup if they can get going offensively. (Photo: Toledo Blade)
June 19, 2014
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We’re nearly halfway through the 2014 season and the Indians stand exactly at .500. That record is reflective of inconsistent play that has plagued various aspects of the team all season. As the middle of summer approaches, the evaluation period for the current roster should be closing and focus shifting to making the decisions necessary to improve the roster for the stretch run.

The Indians have some of the pieces necessary to compete this year. Their bullpen has been great, and could become even deeper if Carlos Carrasco and Kyle Crockett continue to pitch well. In the starting rotation, Corey Kluber gives the team a top 10 starter in the AL, and a building block for the rest of the rotation. Offensively, breakout seasons from Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall have given the lineup some punch.

Still, that’s not enough.

In some way, shape or form, the Indians are going to have to get better. Some of that is going to have to come from within.  If players such as Justin MastersonNick Swisher, and Carlos Santana can turn their seasons around it’d be a huge boost.

The Indians lineup has been able to tread water with multiple guys still struggling, so getting a Swisher and Santana back on track could turn the offense into a team strength. As for Masterson, the Indians simply need someone to step up and start providing quality starts on a regular basis. The only pitcher they can rely on right now to do that is Kluber. Of the current starters, Masterson is the one who can have the greatest impact.

Right now the hope in the rotation is that Kluber gets you a win, and Masterson, Tomlin, Bauer, and McAllister/House can get you a couple quality starts in a given rotation turn. That’s not a good situation to be in if you have postseason hopes.

To me, this is the team’s biggest need before the trade deadline. They need to get a pitcher to pair with Kluber. From there, they have to hope that Masterson can get himself straightened out, or one of the other pitchers steps up.

So, if we accept the premise that the team needs to go shopping for another starter this summer, who is available?

The market starts with Jeff Samardzija and David Price. Either would be a home run for the Indians, but their teams will likely command more than the Indians would be willing to part with. Similarly, Cliff Lee would likely be too expensive in terms of his contract to be an option. Other options could include Jake Peavy of Boston, Jason Hammel of the Cubs, Ian Kennedy of San Diego, among others.

While he’s not the sexiest name of the group, Jason Hammel is a pitcher the Indians were interested in over the winter. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them chase him again. He’s in the midst of the best season of his career and only on a one year deal, so it may not cost too much to acquire him. The big question with someone like Hammel is just how much he’ll actually help. If he turns back into the pitcher he was last year in Baltimore, he wouldn’t be an upgrade over Bauer or McAllister, much less the #2 or #3 starter the team needs.

The second biggest need is offensive reinforcements, particularly against left-handed pitching.

While guys like Swisher aren’t going anywhere, one player who’s not untouchable is Ryan Raburn. Raburn has one role on the team, and that’s to mash left-handed pitching. He’s not getting the job done. Instead, he’s been one of the worst on the team in hitting southpaws. It would take cutting Raburn and eating a couple million dollars, but finding another right handed hitting outfielder should be a priority.

There are other smaller holes that could be filled as well. Finding another reliable reliever would help. A defensive oriented infielder could help spell Chisenhall or others in late innings. However, with the current roster construction that might not be feasible.

I’m a big believer in the Indians taking advantage of opportunities to compete when they can. I think the Indians understand that being in contention is never a guarantee. Right now they’re just 3.5 games out of first place. I want them to make the moves necessary to solidify the team for the stretch run, within reason, and I think they will.

They won't sell the farm for a three month rental, but I think we'll see more moves than last year. With a couple more pieces added to the mix, and a few key players turning the corner, this team could be positioned to peak in the second half once again.

User Comments

hawk1228
June 19, 2014 - 7:14 PM EDT
Shy
Swisher is not going anywhere if this club is looking to add on. Nobody from Bourn thru the 9 hitter in our lineup is being traded away. I agree our offensive woes will have to be solved from within. Santana, Swisher and Kipnis will have to turn it up I do see us looking for an arm And although it is highly unlikely I see Antonetti kicking the tires on Price who would look awfully good in our rotation this year as well as next.
shy
June 19, 2014 - 6:05 PM EDT
Hamilton said it best after the home run call "when it comes to redemption there is no better game than baseball" It was a cool moment. I don't want to say it was lucky but the way Swisher swings these days, let's just call it a statistical eccentricity. Fine for today but over a 162 game season it's better to be good than to depend on statistical eccentricity. Van Slyke, a good ball player and has some pop- Swisher would look good in Dodger Blue and they can certainly cover his paychecks, but the Indians would probably have to throw in a CC Lee or an Austin Adams.
C L Who
June 19, 2014 - 5:31 PM EDT
I suggest the team find out if the Dodgers will part with Scott van Slyke.

In a part time role (blocked by Kemp, Ethier, Crawford, Puig), Slyke has 87 ABs with 23 hits, 6 HR, 13 XBH, with a line of 264 / 413/ 976.

Big. Right handed. 27 years old. And most important, probably reasonably inexpensive to acquire. Not eligible for arb until 2016. Would be a huge upgrade on the Raburn we are seeing this year.
Walter
June 19, 2014 - 3:53 PM EDT
Angels gave a gift to the Indians and Swisher.

Matt
June 19, 2014 - 3:35 PM EDT
Shy,
Excellent comments on Swisher. I completely agree. I can't believe the guy pretends like he cares so much about the team comes in fat and out of shape and has to fake a knee injury so he can act like he has an excuse. For $15 Million a year he needs to be leading this team in hitting, not leading the team in art class like the day he made all the guys make Mother's Day cards. What an embarrassment!
shy
June 19, 2014 - 3:06 PM EDT
Swisher can't even advance a runner, no skills. If he does it, this game is already in the win column. And the Indians need somebody that can run in these situations. Put that on the fix it list.
yourtribe
June 19, 2014 - 2:17 PM EDT
Just cut out the little league caliber errors, passed balls, wild pitches etc we have 5 more wins
Andrew
June 19, 2014 - 1:56 PM EDT
9 HBP and 9 WP for Masty this year I believe..
shy
June 19, 2014 - 1:33 PM EDT
And Masterson needs to be sent to the minors. Nobody that throws 50% of his pitches for balls and bounces as many as he does should be starting a major league game. Now he's tossing em up there nice and fat at 87 and he still can't hit spots. I don't care what his religion is or what trust Francona says he has in him, he gots to go down until he proves he can pitch again.
Walter
June 19, 2014 - 1:27 PM EDT
Raburn 2 SO, swisher 2 SO so far today...DFA Raburn callup Aguilar.
Nikolaos
June 19, 2014 - 1:16 PM EDT
Even if we get a starting pitcher such as Hammels and Raburn starts hitting lefties....that doesn't change the fact that our defense has been terrible. I know our team wasn't put together as a defense oriented team. They were average at best last year...but with the amount of Sinkerball/Ground Ball pitching we have, the defensive miscues have to improve or we will finish at or below .500 regardless of our offense and starting pitching performances.
shy
June 19, 2014 - 12:54 PM EDT
Look you're 2 DH's are hitting .180 and .199 respectively. You'd better better off playing in the NL and having the pitcher hit. It's totally unacceptable and will land the Indians in last place if not corrected by the second half. Love Swisher as a person, but he is not an MLB starter or DH anymore. It's stupid to have guaranteed contracts in major league baseball- no where else in the world do you still get paid when you don't do your job. It's a disincentive to young guys to come in fat and out of shape and it's bonus money for old guys who don't need or earn it. It's even stupider for Shaponetti and Dolan to give long term guaranteed contracts to players whose best years are behind them. At least Bourn is still making contact and playing a respectable if unspectacular center field. If they still have to pay Swisher and he likes Cleveland so much, put him on the ground crew or sit him next to John Adams and see if he can contact with the drum
Andrew
June 19, 2014 - 12:29 PM EDT
Need preferably one FOR starter/MOR.. and a right handed power bat.
Walter
June 19, 2014 - 12:08 PM EDT
Ian Kennedy looks like a interesting pitcher to get. Might not cost the Indians a lot to make that move compared to Price and Samardzjia.

I wonder if we could get Stubbs back. We know what he is. He would be a defensive upgrade to Rayburn probably hit no worse than Rayburn. It's not that I'm proposing this option.

Nikolaos
June 19, 2014 - 11:28 AM EDT
Lee, I agree with you...Giambi is a waste of a roster space right now.
Lee
June 19, 2014 - 10:15 AM EDT
One move that needs to be made is releasing Giambi. He doesn't offer much.

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