Once again, it’s been a quiet offseason for the Cleveland Indians. After falling just short of the postseason for the second straight year, the hope was the Tribe would make a couple significant acquisitions to finally push them over the top. However, MLB Winter Meetings came and went without Cleveland making any major moves.
Things at least seemed like they might take a different route for the Indians this offseason, though. Stocked with one of the deepest starting rotations in the majors, the common belief was the team would be willing to part with one of its arms to finally bring some pop to the batting order. That said, despite various pitchers being mentioned in rumors here and there, the rotation remains intact.
Having the Winter Meetings come and go without a Cleveland pitcher being moved certainly intimated the whole rotation would be back next season. In a recent interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, manager Terry Francona all but confirmed this.
“When you look at the price of (free agent) starting pitching, we know we can’t go out (and sign) the kind of pitchers that we have right now,” Francona told the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto. “We’re fortunate to have good young pitching. Unless someone is going to knock our socks off, we’re going to keep our pitching.”
While none of this is too surprising, it does confirm Cleveland is planning on heading into this year with the same strategy it had last season: let the offense figure itself out as is while relying on a deep rotation. However, Francona’s comments also make you wonder just how serious the team might’ve been when it reportedly made a couple of its starting pitchers available.
Per numerous outlets, while ace Corey Kluber was unlikely to be moved, other starters like Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar could reportedly be had at the right price. Carrasco specifically was a popular name in the rumor mill thanks to his team-friendly contract. Obviously, if the Indians were going to move either of these players, they would have to get something significant in return.
But, when you look at Francona’s comment about needing someone to “knock their socks off” with an offer, it certainly sounds like Cleveland might not have been too eager to move anyone in the first place.
Despite multiple rumors popping up regarding deals involving Carrasco or Salazar, each and every one eventually fell through. For all intents and purposes, the Indians could very well have been making it seem as though one of their top pitchers was available just to see if they could convince another team to overpay. Pitchers are always hot commodities in the offseason, and if one happens to have a cap friendly contract, it’s all the more appealing.
However, the fact all the potential deals eventually dissipated makes you believe nobody was selling the farm to get Carrasco or Salazar. Once the Indians discovered no one was going to allow themselves to get fleeced for the sake of acquiring a good pitcher, they might have had second thoughts about dealing one of their starters.
At least, that’s what Francona’s comments seem to imply. One of the Tribe’s top pitchers might’ve been available, sure, but only to a team willing to give up way too much in return.
It’s a low-risk high-reward strategy, but it’s tough to be too surprised nothing came of it. As of late, Cleveland has been very tentative when it comes to parting with in-house talent. Even if the Indians were open to moving a pitcher or two, I have no doubt that, once hearing offers that were fair deals at best, they got cold feet.
This is all understandable, especially when you consider how difficult it is to build a deep rotation like the one Cleveland has. That said, there are still issues to address with this team. There’s still a significant lack of power on offense, and great pitching can only get you so far when you’re scoring just two to three runs a game.
The Indians may still have one of the league’s best rotations next season. However, if they’re once again dealing with a significant lack of offense, we can look back at their tentative offseason – in which parting with one of their numerous pitchers was deemed too risky – and see why this issue was never fixed.