Some Tribe fans did not like the Gavin Floyd signing and feel adding him could potentially hurt the development of Cleveland's younger pitchers. They feel that Danny Salazar or T.J. House might take a step backward if they are sent back to the Minors. I prefer to look on it as a potential learning experience for them. How do you see Floyd doing for the Tribe this season if he stays healthy?
-- Dan M., St. Ann, Mo.
The Indians ended last season with a promising young starting five in their rotation, but rare is the season in which a team survives with only five arms. In fact, a team has used no more than five starters in a season only 10 times in American League history. Cleveland's record for fewest starters used is six, during the 2005 campaign.
That depth issue is the main reason why the Floyd signing made complete sense. The Indians headed into this offseason with the potential for a full rotation, and no innings lost to free agency, but the depth behind the front five was thin. Cleveland needed only eight starters in 2014, but that was below the Major League average of 10-plus starters used per team.
Floyd will be attempting to come back from elbow issues, but it's a low-risk signing (one-year, $4 million) and he has a track record for eating innings (190 on average across the 2008-12 seasons) when healthy. Adding him to the Tribe's rotation provides an important layer of depth to open the season, when unpredictable elements (injuries or subpar performances) come into play. Rather than having Josh Tomlin and Zach McAllister listed as the sixth and seventh options, they now slide to seventh and eighth.
It can also be valuable for the younger starters to have another veteran around who knows how to navigate his way through the long grind of a Major League season. Salazar, House and Trevor Bauer each showed promise last season, but I wouldn't say any of them are a finished product. If Salazar or House begin the year in the Minors (Bauer is out of options), I don't think it will hinder their development.
As for Floyd, if he's as healthy as the Indians claim he is, the right-hander has the ability to be a solid mid-rotation arm for Cleveland. He went 62-56 with a 4.12 ERA across the '08-12 seasons while pitching in the AL Central, so he is familiar with the division and he has had success. If it does not work out, the Indians did not invest too much money in what looks like a worthwhile gamble.
How do you see the starting pitchers lining up in the rotation with the addition of Floyd? Do that analytics stuff you do.
-- Chris T., Roanoke, Va.
Well, I don't think it takes too much number crunching to know that Corey Kluber will be slotted into the first spot of the rotation. Something tells me that winning the AL Cy Young Award will help convince the Indians to make him their Opening Day starter. Given his incredible finish last year, Carlos Carrasco looks like a logical No. 2 starter. Bauer and Floyd should be in the Nos. 3-4 mix and, as things currently stand, I'd rank Salazar above House for the fifth spot.
How many games is Floyd going to start this season? Does McAllister have a bounce-back year in him?
-- @OldManBikshorn (via Twitter)
I don't have a crystal ball, but if Floyd can give Cleveland 150-plus innings and pitch like he has in the past, I think that'd be an ideal scenario. McAllister is out of options, so don't be surprised if he begins the season in the Tribe's bullpen. Though I think he prefers to be a starter, McAllister did enjoy being used in high-leverage situations late in the season. Cleveland also enjoyed seeing the spike in velocity from the righty in that role.
Will the Indians have the Larry Doby statue ready for Opening Day?
-- Steve G., Wadsworth, Ohio
The planned Doby statue will not be unveiled on Opening Day, but it is coming this season. While Cleveland has not released its promotional schedule yet, the club is planning a special event for revealing the much-anticipated addition. The rest of the ballpark renovations remain on schedule and on budget, according to Indians president Mark Shapiro.
Who you think has the best chance to make the Major League club out of the non-roster invitees?
-- Nick K., Cleveland
The Indians are in a unique position with very few roster battles as Spring Training approaches. Under the current circumstances, I'd say the final spot in the bullpen might have a non-roster candidate or two. The two that stand out right now are lefty Scott Downs and righty Jeff Manship. Other than that, the starting rotation, lineup and bench are virtually set heading into camp. Any trades between now and Spring Training would certainly change that landscape.
What are the chances that Zach Walters beats out Jose Ramirez for starting shortstop job? Are they remotely close defensively?
-- @Lark_11 (via Twitter)
The Indians have been pretty clear about their plans for opening the season with Ramirez at shortstop. If Walters makes the team this spring, it would probably be as a utility player off the bench. Ramirez was an above-average defender at short last season and Cleveland feels he can be an important part of cleaning up the team's defense. Walters didn't play short in his time with the Tribe, and his innings sample with the Nationals is too small to really draw a conclusion. Cleveland seemed to think he was better suited as a second baseman or corner outfielder.
Who do you think will have a breakout year next year for the Tribe?
-- Justin B., Louisville, Ohio
I'd say Bauer. He relies so much on detailed analysis and feedback, and the young pitcher headed into this offseason with nearly a full season's worth of innings in the Major Leagues to study. He made mechanical strides in 2013 and learned a lot about approaching hitters in '14. Cleveland is hoping he can put it all together for a breakout showing in '15.