While Max Scherzer and James Shields remain on the market, waiting for the big paydays which Boras and other agents promised, it is dollar store time for most of Major League Baseball, especially the Indians.
As it stands, the Indians have an impressively deep roster with a rotation that has 7 and 8 starters who would be the 4 or 5 in many other rotations. Of course, it is a young rotation with some risk, but betting on Salazar, Carrasco, Bauer, and House is a gamble a majority of MLB would love to make. Nevertheless, to avoid getting tied up touching on the overwhelming optimism that Indians fans should embrace, it is time to talk about a spring training invite for a bullpen candidate or more likely, depth.
If I wanted to argue why you should keep reading, I could point to Scott Atchison — alright I’m doing it, don’t judge me for it. Atchison was a tremendous asset to the Indians bullpen in 2014, and a spring training invitee looked at as a depth signing at first.
In fact, other than age, Swarzak and Atchison have distinctly similar profiles. Neither miss too many bats with Atchison having better overall control. Further, each relies on inducing ground balls to produce outs.
Once again, why does it matter that the Indians have signed a guy who could be a poor man’s Scott Atchison?
Well it probably doesn’t, but the Indians bullpen has some warning signs.
Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen both topped 75 appearances with Shaw leading the league at 80. Further, Shaw is 9th in appearances over the last 3 seasons at 214. Over the past two seasons, Allen leads MLB with 153 appearances.
Looking at aging curves, which are often defied on either side, Shaw and Allen exist a year or two outside the velocity precipice. With each having been burdened with a prodigious workload over the past few seasons, reasonable concern and risk exists that both can maintain in 2015.
Does relying on a 39 year old Scott Atchison, a contact reliant reliever to repeat his productivity as the 7th inning guy sound prudent? Probably not.
Which means that the depth of the bullpen as always remains essential and unpredictable. The only certainties surrounding relief pitchers being high attrition rates and uncertainty.
During Tito’s reign of roster construction terror, the Indians have typically retained 8 relievers.
Using pen, I write in the following: Allen, Atchison, Shaw, Zeppo, Hagadone, Crockett, McAllister.
This leaves the Indians with room for probably one more. Although I remain shocked that they did not move one of their lefties, and I think it remains a possibility.
Meaning that Adams, Tomlin, and Lee would be Swarzaks’ key competition. No, Swarzak isn’t going to beat out all of those guys and likely begins in the minors.
However, Swarzak’s fWAR the past two seasons 3.28 and 3.77 over a large sample as a long man. Swarzak will be pitching in the big leagues in 2015, probably competently. One thing is sure, the Indians need to collect Swarzak types with fervor similar to that of Mike Huckabee attacking pop culture icons.