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The Cleveland Indians rotation has taken about as many hits as it has given up this season. Danny Salazar is progressing, but remains on the IL; Mike Clevinger is projected to be out until June, and now Corey Kluber is facing an indefinite absence after getting hit by a line drive and breaking his forearm.
Despite the injuries and a decent 16-13 start, Cleveland is 6th in team ERA (3.56), and top five in strikeouts per 9 innings, quality starts, and opponent batting average. With the loss of Kluber however, those numbers should decline. That’s not a knock on Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, or Shane Bieber, who have all had solid starts to the campaign. However, if the Indians want to remain competitive in the AL Central, they need some help.
Assuming they don’t want to give away anything in a trade, there are still some names in the free agent pool. The only problem with that: Most of them are past their primes. James Shields is 37 and has been a shell of himself in the past few seasons. Yovani Gallardo is 33, but his ERA has increased steadily over each of the last 4 seasons. Chris Tillman is a combined 2-12 over the past two seasons, with an ERA sitting at 8.42.
That leaves two big names in free agency who are worth a look in Cleveland. World Series champion Dallas Keuchel remains unsigned through the first month of the season. He would be a risky signing, as his ERA jumped from 2.90 in 2017 to 3.74 in 2018, and whoever signs him will lose a draft pick because he rejected a $17.9 million qualifying offer. The Yankees have expressed interest in signing Keuchel after the draft passes in June, so the Indians would have to weigh the risks if they want to beat New York to signing him. There is also the fact that he hasn’t pitched since October 16th when the Astros faced the Red Sox in the playoffs.
Keuchel has stated he is only looking for a one-year deal, supposedly in the range of the $17.9 million he turned down. This Cleveland team has made the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, and was one game away from winning a World Series in 2016. If the front office truly believes they are in win-now mode, and the offense can overcome their slow start (bottom six in the league in batting average, slugging percentage, runs scored, and home runs), signing Keuchel to a one-year deal may end up being worth it. He has the playoff experience and big arm to help Cleveland, should they be in that position later on in the season.
A high-risk, high-reward signing for the Indians, it could provide a solid option in the rotation, provided Keuchel can shake off some of the rust from a seven-month layoff. With the Minnesota Twins and potentially the Chicago White Sox strengthening their positions in the AL Central, it couldn’t hurt for the Cleveland Indians to take a chance on a man who knows what it takes to win a championship.
Featured Image: Kathy Willens, AP Photo