I have concerns about the Indians' rotation next season. I understand who they have, but I don't think it's World Series material. Any idea of who the Tribe might be interested in via trade or free agency?
-- Rex H., Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Let's let the Indians worry about simply making the postseason before we start jumping ahead to forecasting the club's potential World Series rotation. That said, I get your point. The current group is young (25.2 years old on average) and has certainly endured some drastic peaks and valleys this season.
Perhaps the current quintet is better than you think, though.
Strictly looking at starting numbers, the group consisting of Corey Kluber (186 1/3 innings), Trevor Bauer (118 1/3), Danny Salazar (73 2/3), T.J. House (65 1/3) and Carlos Carrasco (40) has combined to go 26-26 with a 3.52 ERA, 3.37 strikeout-to-walk ratio, 1.26 WHIP and 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings this season.
American League rotations as a whole have posted a .502 winning percentage to go along with a 4.01 ERA, 2.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio, 1.31 WHIP and 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Granted, Kluber's incredible season improves the overall numbers of the current group, but the fact remains that the Indians are now using a staff that has been better than league average.
Entering Monday's off-day, the Indians' rotation -- including one spot start from Josh Tomlin -- had turned in a 1.71 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP and a .176 opponents' average over the team's past 13 games.
What is even more incredible about the overall numbers is that the statistical line turned in by those five arms includes awful opening acts by Carrasco (0-3 with a 6.95 ERA in his first four starts) and Salazar (0-3 with a 7.85 ERA in his first four starts), plus some growing pains from House (two starts with at least five earned runs) and Bauer (5.40 ERA in the first inning).
With an emerging ace in Kluber, and given Cleveland's financial limitations, I doubt the club would break the bank on a blockbuster free agent such as Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields this offseason. The group in place gives the Tribe a solid foundation, but veteran leadership is certainly a consideration. Second-tier arms like Josh Beckett, Brandon McCarthy or Jason Hammel might fit the mold.
With Carlos Santana now at first base, where does Nick Swisher fit next year? Full-time designated hitter? Part-time right fielder? And what happens with David Murphy and Ryan Raburn?
-- @DPCummerbund (via Twitter)
Santana has played great at first, loves being in the field and believes the move has helped his offense. That would indeed seemingly leave Swisher mostly in a DH role going forward. General manager Chris Antonetti recently floated the idea of working Swisher out as an outfielder next spring, but the team will need to see how he is moving following operations on both knees last week. Murphy is signed to be the right fielder for 2015, and Raburn projects to return as a utility man off the bench.
What kind of impact can Swisher have on this ballclub going forward? He has underperformed.
-- Brandon B., Hilliard, Ohio
For one brilliant stretch at the end of 2013, Swisher showed his potential and value. Over Cleveland's final 23 games, he posted a .968 OPS, launched seven homers and compiled 17 RBIs to help the club capture a Wild Card spot. That's one month out of 11 since he's been with the Indians. It is fair to note that Swisher has dealt with a pile of injuries (left shoulder, knees, right wrist) in his two seasons with the Tribe. If he can get healthy, and stay healthy, his career track record clearly shows the kind of contributor he can be for a team. Cleveland is waiting to see it.
How do you expect the Indians to address their woeful defense next season?
-- Tom W., Lincoln, Neb.
Heading into Monday's action, Cleveland led the Majors with 100 errors on the season. That's more than the team had in all of 2013. The Indians should benefit from having Santana at first, and Jose Ramirez has displayed strong range since taking over at shortstop. Highly touted shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor is waiting in the wings, too. Second baseman Jason Kipnis (negative 15.8 UZR/150) and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall (negative 24 UZR/150) need to show improvement next season. Kipnis isn't going anywhere, but Cleveland might consider alternatives for third base over the winter.
How long are the core players under control?
-- Vince C., Willoughby Hills, Ohio
That's kind of a broad question, but I'd guess you're thinking of these players: Santana (signed through 2016, with a club option for '17); Chisenhall (under control through 2017); Michael Brantley (signed through 2017, with a club option for '18); Kluber (under control through 2018); Cody Allen (under control through 2018); Bauer (under control through 2019); Salazar (under control through 2019); Kipnis (signed through 2019, with a club option for '20); and Yan Gomes (signed through 2019, with club options for '20 and '21).
When is Lindor coming to the big leagues?
-- Frank L., Montreal
I can't have an Inbox without fielding this question. The answer remains unchanged from the last time I addressed it. The 20-year-old Lindor (the Indians' top pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft) is still getting his feet wet in Triple-A. If he joins the Indians this season, it would be after rosters expand on Sept. 1.
Where is League Park?
-- Jared C. (via Twitter)
Located at the corner of E. 66th St. and Lexington Ave., League Park was the original home of Cleveland's AL franchise. The Tribe stopped playing there in 1946, and it was no longer used for sports events after 1950. On Saturday, League Park was reopened to the public. It is now a multiuse park for the Hough neighborhood, with the field restored to its original dimensions. In the old ticket house is the Baseball Heritage Museum. I got to see the new facilities this past weekend, and it's definitely worth checking out.
In closing ...
If you had to create a hypothetical trade for Mike Trout between the Indians and Angels, what would it be? Something like Lindor, Salazar and Carlos Moncrief?
-- Danny K., Cleveland
If you go into your settings in the video game you're playing, I think you can turn off the fair trades feature and acquire Trout for any player you'd like to give up. In the real world, it's not happening.