CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – So far this off-season, the Cleveland Indians have lost 128 1/3 innings in relief pitching, with Joe Smith’s additional 18 1/3 seeming likely to head to Houston. If Smith does leave, that will be 30.4% of relief innings gone to free agency or trade.
(Editor’s note: Smith left an hour later on a two-year deal.)
Upon the exodus of Bryan Shaw and his 76 2/3 innings of work in 2017, President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti said that it almost takes two relievers to replace him. By that thought, the Indians would need to add two relievers for Shaw’s 54% share of innings lost, and two more for the remaining bit.
While Antonetti’s remark was not 100% sincere, the Indians are in the territory of needing to add a reliever to the mix.
Some of the hands already on deck could make up for innings lost, though it would be unwise to push your top shelf relievers in Andrew Miller and Cody Allen further up the meter.
Nick Goody and Dan Otero would step into Shaw’s role as bridge from high-leverage situations to their setup men, but each appeared over 50 times in 2017, going 54 2/3 and 60 innings respectively. Neither would be expected to carry many more innings. Zach McAllister also hovered over the 60 innings mark at 62.
Tyler Olson will pick up Boone Logan’s 21 innings of lefty-specializing, and is capable of handling righties as well.
Of the potential replacements from the 40-man roster, all of Cody Anderson, Ryan Merritt, Julian Merryweather, Shawn Morimando and Adam Plutko have been almost exclusively starters in the minor leagues.
Anderson served as a reliever in 2016 at both the major league level and Triple-A Columbus, but is recovering from Tommy John Surgery and will be on an innings limit. Plutko will also be recovering from surgery on a torn labrum in October.
Neither Merritt nor Morimando project as relievers because of their low-90s fastballs. Merryweather posted a 4.75 FIP in 16 starts at Columbus in 2017, and is still a good deal away.
The free agent relief class is plentiful, but Shaw was able to walk for the same reason any reliever seems unlikely to be brought in. Free agent relief pitching is not terribly cost effective.
Peter Moylan, recently 39, replicated a 2016 season on a $1 million contract with the Royals in 2017, but was used as a righty-specialist. He also runs the risk of tremendous attrition at that age.
Craig Stammen bounced back with a fine 2017, going 80 1/3 innings for the Padres and posting a 3.14 ERA/4.38 FIP. The North Star, Ohio native missed most of 2016, undergoing flexor tendon surgery while on a minor league deal with the Indians. Stammen earned $900K in 2017, but would likely cost more after proving his health.
Former Indian Matt Albers, acquired alongside Shaw and Trevor Bauer in 2012, joined Moylan near the top of the GB% list in 2017, along with carrying the lowest hard contact rate in baseball. The soon-to-be 35-year-old would cost more than the former two.
The most cost-effective option, though potentially costly in prospects, would be to capitalize on the Miami Marlins’ continuing fire sale by acquiring Kyle Barraclough. Already dealing Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, Derek Jeter seems to be looking to capitalize on any talent that could return quality prospects.
Barraclough has a troubling walk rate, but is controllable and full of upside.
Hector Rondon, Jared Hughes, Bruce Rondon, T.J. McFarland and Jake Petricka were also non-tendered by their respective clubs and are now free agents.