Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Art of Roster Manipulation

With the demotion of Jeremy Sowers to Buffalo, and Jake Westbrook not ready to return from the DL, the Indians face a decision to find a starter for Thursday’s game in Florida.
Easy, right? Um…no.

The obvious answer (already on the 25-man roster) to take the spot start would be the 130 lb. wrecking ball, Rafael Perez, who started 7 games for the Bisons before earning a promotion to the parent club. However, prior to Sunday’s game, the Atomic Wedgie stated that Perez’s success in the bullpen for the Indians thus far have convinced the Indians not to shuffle Perez in and out of the rotation, and rightfully so. They prefer to keep him in the bullpen, where he has been extremely successful (0.64 ERA, 0.93 WHIP) through 14 innings and shows a good deal of promise as a late-inning option, not just a match-up lefty, down the road.

So, with Perez out of the equation, we’re back to square one.
Recall that going into the season, the depth of the Tribe system’s rotation was one of the deepest in all of MLB, extending deep into the Bisons’ squad. Arriving in Winter Haven, the Indians’ starters under the surface, number 6 through 9, worked out this way:
#6 – Carmona
#7 – Miller
#8 – Slocum
#9 – Perez

We all know where Carmona and Perez are currently plying their trade, and Atom Miller and Smoke ‘Em Brian Slocum are currently taking up spots on the Buffalo DL, so it’s time for everyone to put on their thinking caps, sit in their GM chairs and get a little creative.

The pitchers listed above represent those currently on the 40-man roster thought to be able to help the Indians if such a situation arose this year as you usually don’t have to go 10 starters deep by June. The only other pitcher on the 40-man roster who would fall under the category of possible spot starter would be J.D. Martin, who is 2-3 with a 4.25 ERA in 9 starts in Akron. Given his struggles at AA, however, an unprepared Martin is unlikely to fill the void on Thursday night against Dontrelle Willis and the Marlins.

With one open spot on the 40-man roster, the answer is going to have to come from a player that will be added to the 40-man in the next few days. Those candidates, which are currently in Buffalo, would consist of:
Jeff Harris – 2-4, 5.69 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
Jason Stanford – 4-1, 3.41 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
Sean Smith – 5-4, 4.45 ERA, 1.48 WHIP
Aaron Laffey – 2-3, 5.46 ERA, 1.48 WHIP
Bubbie Buzachero – 2-2, 3.96 ERA, 1.24 WHIP (only 2 GS in 15 appearances)

Not exactly the cream of the crop, eh?
These players fall into two categories:
The Youngsters
Those first are those who are under the club’s control because of the relatively few years that the players have spent in the organization and whose addition to the 40-man roster would mean that their option clock would start. The upside to this path is that the player, after their spot start, can simply be sent back to Buffalo with an option exercised.

However, their removal from the 40-man (if it came to that) would mean that the Indians would have to designate them for assignment and expose them to waivers. Smith (23 years old), Laffey (22 years old) , and Buzachero (26 years old) fall under this distinction, which the Tribe may be reticent to do as it means that if the Indians add another player to the 40-man roster at some point, the aforementioned spot starter would be the most likely to be exposed to waivers.

With young players, particularly Smith and Laffey, who have reached AAA at a young age, it might be best to let them get through a full year in Buffalo to determine whether or not to add them to the 40-man at the end of the season, when Rule 5 issues arise. Buzachero projects as more of a pugilistic reliever (he broke teammate Eider Torres’ jaw in Akron last year in the clubhouse at the end of the season), so letting him cut his teeth as a starter in MLB is highly unlikely.

The Journeymen
The second category of player would be the pitcher who has already gone through one organization’s system (Stanford with Cleveland, Harris with Seattle), passed through waivers, and has since been signed by the Indians to a minor-league contract. Stanford or Harris would have to be added to the 40-man roster for Thursday’s start; but, unlike the youngsters, they cannot simply be sent back to Buffalo as their contract precludes them from simply being optioned back to AAA.

If the Indians wanted to send Stanford or Harris down (presumably when Westbrook returns from the DL), the player would be exposed to waivers, then become a Free Agent. So, if one of these pitchers were to make a start on Thursday, (then get replaced by Westbrook) they would essentially be making one start then released from the organization. With the pitching depth as it is in Buffalo, this represents the downside of the “call up Stanford or Harris” path.

The final thing to consider in the whole equation is the fact that Cliff Lee continues to struggle and can be sent to Buffalo with a remaining option. So, for instance, if Jason Stanford comes to Cleveland and pitches extremely well while Lee continues to falter, it stands to reason that Stanford could stay in Cleveland to assume Lee’s spot in the rotation while Lee would join Sowers in Buffalo to work out their troubles together.

Wedge and Shapiro have given an indication that they know which direction they plan on going with Thursday’s starter, but have yet to tip their hand and probably won’t until they have to. Just prior to Thursday’s game, they will call up a starter (the guess here is Stanford, who pitched last Sunday and would be pitching on normal rest) and send Matt Miller back to Buffalo (unless Hernandez is handed his walking papers) to open up the necessary spot on the 25-man roster.

The danger in calling Stanford up is the risk in losing him after one or two starts. On the other hand, isn’t that what Stanford is in Buffalo, or much less the organization, for? He’s not really a prospect anymore because of his age (he’s 30), and losing him after a couple of starts isn’t going to send anyone into hysterics.

If, however, Lee is unable to right himself and Stanford puts together some quality starts, I would have no problem with seeing Stanford stay with the parent club to put the best five pitchers in the Indians rotation, regardless of contractual obligations owed to them.

It remains to be seen which direction the Indians will go in for their Thursday starter, but after using 1,000 words detailing the options of one start against the Marlins, a roster move, and the ramifications of those decisions…who said being a GM was easy?


Cy Slapnicka said...

this would be wayyy easier if we had held on to hard hittin mark whitten!

Paul Cousineau said...

I assume that you mean due to this little recap of the Tribe game against Oakland on July 31,1998:

Oakland defeats Cleveland, 12–2. Down by nine runs in the 8th inning, the Indians bring OF Mark Whiten in to pitch. The strong-armed Whiten allows one run on a double, HBP (Scott Spiezio), and two walks, but also strikes out three batters (Mike Blowers, Miguel Tejada, and Mike Neill). He becomes the only player in major league history, with at least one inning pitched, to get every out with a strikeout.

I love the fact that he struck Tejada out.

Baltimoran said...

a mav looks at d wade funny last year and a foul is called, Lebron gets intentionally fouled at the end of the game and there is no call...at home...bowen commits ONE foul in 40 some minutes on lebron. not understanding why wade got star treatment but lebron gets no love...so bitter right now, the halftime segment titled MISERY IN CLEVELAND didn't help

t-bone said...

i lucked out and scored a ticket tonight.

i've never been in a fight in my life.

i want to fight people right now.

and it's two hours after the game ended.

Cy Slapnicka said...

i wasn't too angry, disappointed for sure. we lost the game, but its still a sour taste after we played great D and larry hughes was in street clothes and lebron got no calls.

but wow, how can the nba be considered watchable right now? after slowly being drawn back in and seeing the poor officiating over the past couple years, i just don't know that i can come back.

short of a 04 world series-like miracle, i don't know that i can follow the nba and the cavs anymore after this. i mean, how can this happen? can you imagine blown calls like this in the nfl or mlb in the super bowl or world series? honestly, try to imagine how you'd react if the officiating was this poor in either of those sports? it can be bad, but not consistently bad. and the worst part is, the media that covers this sport refuses to call a spade a spade. i just don't understand why this isn't huge. i do like how the cavs organization have responded to it, they know THEY lost the game and had opportunities to win. but i just don't get how the media isn't hammering the league. if this happened in the nfl and there was obvious pass interference on a time expiring 4th down, 4th Q pass into the end zone, the announcers would call it out as a missed call, the media would bury the officials, and even the team might.

the spurs deserve the ring, but nba fans deserve better.

btw, anyone see that verlander hit 102MPH on the gun in the 9th inning during his no-no yesterday? wow...impressive

Cy Slapnicka said...

btw, what was the crowd like? short of the first Q or so, it seemed kinda weak.

t-bone said...

parts of loudville were standing and rowdy the whole game (including section 214, row 10, seats 1-4), but most of arena was not. things got flat in the second half, but on the whole was among the better games crowdwise. i still think last year's playoff crowds were louder, though.

t-bone said...

Eddie's job security is not so steady...