The Indians are faced with a potential hole in their starting rotation in the wake of Fausto Carmona's arrest for identity theft on Jan. 19 in the Dominican Republic.
Carmona's arrest made his availability for the start of spring training, and perhaps for the start of the regular season, very questionable.
Before Carmona's arrest, the Indians appeared to be in a position to go to spring training with their starting rotation already set. The most likely configuration appeared to be, in order: Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Tomlin, Carmona and Derek Lowe.
However, Carmona's potential absence means the Indians' starting pitching depth could be tested before the season even begins. Fortunately for the Indians, they do have some starting pitching depth.
Right-handers Jeanmar Gomez and Zach McAllister both made some starts at the major league level last season. So did left-hander David Huff. Gomez, McAllister and Huff all had very good seasons at Class AAA Columbus last year. Gomez was 10-7 with a 2.55 ERA, McAllister was 12-3 with a 3.32 ERA and Huff was 9-3 with a 3.87 ERA.
Those three pitchers would all be candidates to replace Carmona in the rotation, assuming Carmona is not able to start the season with the team. Other in-house candidates are left-handers Scott Barnes and T.J. McFarland.
At Columbus last year Barnes was 7-4 with a 3.68 ERA before a knee injury ended his season prematurely.
McFarland was 9-9 with a 3.87 ERA at Class AA Akron and would be more of a longshot to compete for Carmona's spot in spring training this year. Still another in-house candidate would be right-hander Corey Kluber, who in 27 starts at Columbus was 7-11 with a 5.56 ERA.
The day after Carmona's arrest the Indians added another potential starting pitcher by acquiring Kevin Slowey in a trade with Colorado. Slowey, who is also a candidate for the rotation, assuming Carmona is not available, was 0-8 with a 6.67 ERA with Minnesota last year. He was traded to Colorado after the season.
The Indians might also consider exploring other trades to fill Carmona's spot in the rotation, should he not be available. Another option would be to possibly claim a pitcher off waivers at the end of spring training when teams are cutting down their rosters.
NOTES, QUOTESSlowey returns to AL Central
--RHP Kevin Slowey was acquired in a trade with Colorado on Jan. 20, the day after RHP Fausto Carmona was arrested in the Dominican Republic for identity theft. The Indians sent RHP Zach Putnam to the Rockies in exchange for Slowey, who was 0-8 with a 6.67 ERA for Minnesota last year. He was traded to Colorado following the season. Putnam was 6-3 with a 3.65 ERA in 44 relief appearances at Class AAA Columbus last year.
--RHP Fausto Carmona was arrested in the Dominican Republic on Jan. 19 and charged with identity theft. Carmona's real name was said to be Jose Hernandez Heredia. In addition, Carmona's correct age is 31, not 28, which is the age listed in the Indians' media guide. Club officials had no immediate comment after the arrest.
"We were recently made aware of the situation that occurred in the Dominican Republic and are currently in the process of gathering information," said Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, in a statement released by the team on the day of the arrest. "We are not prepared to make any additional comment at this time."
Following the World Series, the Indians picked up the 7 million club option on Carmona's contract for 2012. The Indians also hold club options for 2013 and 2014.
--OF Ryan Spilborghs, who had spent his entire career in the Colorado organization, was signed by the Indians to a minor league contract and invited to the Indians' major league spring training camp as a non-roster player. In 200 at bats last year with the Rockies Spilborghs hit .210 with 3 home runs and 22 RBI. He can play all three outfield positions and will improve the Indians' outfield depth.
--RHP Justin Masterson avoided salary arbitration and received a huge raise when he agreed to a one-year 3.85 million contract. Masterson earned 468,400 last year, when he was 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA. Four other Indians avoided salary arbitration hearings by signing one year deals: OF Shin-Soo Choo, RHP Chris Perez, RHP Joe Smith, and INF Jack Hannahan.
--SS Asdrubal Cabrera and LHP Rafael Perez are the only two unsigned Indians players eligible for salary arbitration. Cabrera made 2.025 million last year, when he had a career year, hitting .273 with 25 home runs and 92 RBI. Perez, who made 1.33 million last year, was 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA in a team-high 71 relief appearances.
--RHP Chen-Chang Lee has been invited to the Indians' major league spring training camp as a non-roster player. In 44 relief appearances at Class AA Akron last year Lee was 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA, while averaging 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
BY THE NUMBERS: 33-48, 5.01 -- Won-lost record and ERA by RHP Fausto Carmona over the last four years. Carmona, whose 7 million club option for 2012 was picked up by the Indians at the end of October, was arrested for identity theft on Jan. 19 in the Dominican Republic.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He understands this is an important year for him." -- Indians GM Chris Antonetti, on 1B Matt LaPorta, who has failed to live up to the hype of being the top prospect the Indians received from Milwaukee in the 2008 trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers.
The Indians finished the season with a rotation that is much less of a question mark than it was at the start, but they began to address it by acquiring RHP Derek Lowe from the Braves. RHPs Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin both won 12 games, and the midseason acquisition of RHP Ubaldo Jimenez gives the Indians a solid top three to their rotation. The bullpen was playoff-caliber all year. Offensively, Cleveland has question marks in the outfield and at first base. The team also must decide on whether Carlos Santana, who played both catcher and first base in 2011, is better suited to play one position or the other full-time, or if he should continue to split time between the two spots.
ARRIVALS: OF Aaron Cunningham (trade with Padres), INF Jose Lopez (minor league free agent from Marlins), OF Felix Pie (minor league free agent from Orioles), RHP Derek Lowe (trade with Braves), RHP Kevin Slowey (trade with Rockies).
DEPARTURES: INFOF Luis Valbuena (traded to Blue Jays), DH Jim Thome (free agent, signed with Phillies).
FREE AGENTS: OF Kosuke Fukudome, RHP Chad Durbin.
Fukudome was a useful player after being a acquired in a trade with the Cubs, but there is no way the budget-conscious Indians will offer him anything close to the 13 million salary he made this year. Durbin will not be re-signed because the Indians have multiple, and more economically priced minor league prospects who can fill Durbin's role.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: SS Asdrubal Cabrera, LHP Rafael Perez.
The Indians might try to sign Cabrera, their MVP last year, to a multiyear deal, which would buy him out of his last arbitration year and beyond, although the club has of late shied away from such long-term deals.
--RHP Justin Masterson (arthroscopic left shoulder surgery in October 2011) should be ready for spring training.
--RHP Carlos Carrasco (Tommy John surgery in September 2011) will spend the offseason rehabbing. He is expected to miss the entire 2012 season.
--LF Michael Brantley (right hand surgery in August 2011) will spend the offseason rehabbing after having the hamate bone removed. He should be ready for spring training.