Monday, July 15, 2019 Elyria 62°
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Jim Ingraham

Commentary: Indians can salvage future if they deal arms now

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    The Indians' Trevor Bauer pitches against the Orioles on May 16. If the Indians want to get back to being a contending team in the future, Chronicle-Telegram columnist Jim Ingraham says they'll have to part with a player like Bauer, who can bring much-needed offense in a trade.

    AP

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So how do you like the season so far?

They can’t score a run unless they hit a home run, and they don’t hit many of those. Sixty percent of their opening day rotation is on the injured list. All of their outfielders combined are hitting .222, and they have spent much of the last few weeks trying to be closer to first place than last.

They should change the name of the ballpark to Murphy’s Law Field. Case in point: over the last 11 years, Indians pitcher Tyler Clippard has appeared in 704 games. He has started only two of them. One of those was Wednesday night.

The starting pitcher was supposed to be Carlos Carrasco, but Carrasco was placed on the injured list with a blood condition. Already on the injured list are starters Corey Kluber (broken arm), Mike Clevinger (upper back strain) and Jefry Rodriguez (right shoulder strain).

Rodriguez was originally recalled from Columbus to take the place in the rotation of, let’s see here, either Kluber or Clevinger. It’s hard to remember. So we’re now at the point in the season where the Indians are having to replace pitchers injured while replacing injured pitchers.

When everyone was healthy, of course, the Indians had the best rotation in the majors. Now, for one night, at least, Tyler Clippard was in the rotation, even if it only was as a so-called “opener,” which is what baseball has — depending on your age group — either evolved or devolved to in recent years.

Except that this wasn’t the use of an opener in the classic sense — i.e. to pitch an inning or two before tossing the keys to the car to the “real” starter. This was a team in scramble mode after unexpectedly losing a starter.

“You deal with what you’re dealt,” grounded cruise ship skipper Terry Francona said. “Winning is harder for us than it was. Our margin for error is smaller. We know that.”

He knows that, and we know this: The Indians, as a team, are broken. They were broken before all the pitchers started getting hurt. They’ll still be broken when all the pitchers return.

But the good news is this: fixing them shouldn’t take long. Not if they do it right.

With the Indians in the midst of the homestand from hell — six consecutive games against first-place teams — let’s turn our attention to next season, which, if the Indians do it the right way, should begin sometime after the All-Star break. It should continue through the remainder of this season and into the offseason.

It could be a fairly easy and quick fix, because this is not a total-rebuild situation. The Indians’ pitching is fine. When healthy, it’s even better than fine. That will still be the case after the Indians do what they should do to address the half of the team that needs a rebuild.

The position player half.

Call me a glass-half-full drunkard, but all the Indians need to do to climb back into contention next year is to add a couple of impact bats. They already have a championship-caliber rotation, and they will still have one after they use Trevor Bauer and Brad Hand as the currency with which to acquire an impact, major league-ready bat. Or two. Or three.

Both those pitchers should bring back another young, emerging, controllable and, most importantly — given the current state of ownership – economically priced, potentially havoc-producing batsman. Preferably an outfielder.

The Indians could use Bauer and Hand — the sooner the better — as the means to acquire what the Indians have failed to produce on their own: an outfielder with some serious sock.

Consider the meager cast of homegrown outfielders the Indians have unleashed on the American League in the last 20 years: Tyler Naquin, Greg Allen, Bradley Zimmer, Lonnie Chisenhall, Tyler Holt, Trevor Crowe and Ben Francisco.

That is literally the entire list, and Chisenhall probably doesn’t belong on it because he was drafted as a third baseman. The last time the Indians had an impact home-grown outfielder in their lineup was Manny Ramirez in 2000.

Because they seem incapable of growing their own, the Indians have to use two star pitchers with which to go fishing for some. That’s not ideal, but sometimes a team has to do what a team has to do. The Indians are only half broken, but they have always been better at finding and acquiring future stars from other teams (Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Michael Brantley) rather than growing their own.

Now they must go find a couple more or sign a couple as free agents. Among the outfielders who will be free agents after this season are Nick Castellanos, Khris Davis, Corey Dickerson, Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, Starling Marte and Marcel Ozuna.

They wouldn’t cost the Indians anything but what they don’t have.

Money.

Contact Jim Ingraham at (440) 329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.


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