CLEVELAND: Only a few members of the Indians’ starting rotation were in town this weekend for Thursday’s optional workout, Friday’s town hall meeting and Saturday’s Tribe Fest.
But the team is pleased that all of them are still part of the team, the rotation remained intact and they will be reporting to Goodyear, Ariz., together on Feb. 17.
That was anything but a sure thing when the offseason commenced. Rumors swirled all winter — really, they continued from July’s trade deadline — that one of the Indians’ talented, affordable and controllable starting pitchers would be dealt for a hitter to be added to the lineup. The Indians were connected to about a third of the league in some way but never pulled the trigger on a deal.
Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin — along with Cody Anderson and TJ House as likely Triple-A backups — will again form one of the best rotations in baseball and, by many accounts, the strongest in the American League. Last season, that rotation led the AL in FIP (3.73), strikeouts (969), WHIP (1.16), opposing batting average (.232) and K/BB (3.52).
“You don’t want to break up something that’s real good,” said second baseman Jason Kipnis. “If the right deal came, I’m sure [the front office] would have done it but I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m upset the right deal didn’t come.”
“I think we’re definitely excited about the group that we have,” he said. “Rumors are rumors, I guess. It’s something to pass the time until baseball comes back. We’re confident in the group that we have.”
Those rumors were focused primarily on Carrasco and Salazar, the latter of whom was at Tribe Fest. He spent the winter being told by friends in the Dominican Republic that he had already been traded.
“A lot of people in the Dominican, they were saying, ‘Congratulations, man, I heard you got traded,’?” Salazar said. “I was like, ‘What? I don’t know anything about that.’ I wasn’t trying to [pay attention]. I was just more focused on working, on my stuff, what I can do in the offseason to get better. … That’s awesome [the rotation remained the same]. As a team, as a group, we have a really, really good rotation.”
Part of the reason he and Carrasco remained with the Indians was the increasingly valuable price tag placed on starting pitchers. Aces David Price and Zack Greinke each received $200 million-plus contracts, lower-end starters like Mike Palfrey got $16 million over two years and the Arizona Diamondbacks sent a treasure trove of prospects to Atlanta for pitcher Shelby Miller.
That likely sent the value for Carrasco and Salazar through the roof. Carrasco has a team-friendly contract well below market value and Salazar still isn’t eligible for arbitration.
The rumors were always there, but the likelihood the Indians would find enough value to warrant making a deal was never high.
“I didn’t really ever think, because I was privy to some of the conversations, the more you saw what pitching was getting, I didn’t think that we would lose any of our pitching,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
“The minute you trade one of them, we probably can’t go get one of those guys back. We’re fortunate we have good, young starting pitchers. I know we have to score runs but when we pitch, we have a chance.”
The Indians’ offense remains the bigger hurdle to challenging Kansas City for the AL Central title. The front office chose to lean on its strength and sign free agents Rajai Davis and Mike Napoli rather than take away from the rotation to help the lineup on the trade market.
But many in the organization are pleased to end Tribe Fest and enter spring camp with the biggest reason for optimism still in place.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RyanLewisABJ