Inbox: Do Tribe catchers factor into rotation issues?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers Cleveland fans' questions

August 8th, 2016

A lot of Tribe fans have written in with similar questions, wondering if catchers and are at fault at all for Cleveland's recent rotation issues. To me, this looks more like a good old fashioned bad week for the pitching staff. It happens. Unless it persists, it seems mostly like coincidence that the struggles have come without Gomes doing the catching.
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Consider this: Gomes was injured on July 17. From July 18 through the end of the month, Cleveland's rotation had a 3.41 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP and a .227 opponents' average while working with Perez and Gimenez. No one was blaming the catchers for bad pitch-calling during that stretch. Taking it one step further, , who had used Gomes as his personal catcher for 40 consecutive starts prior to the catcher's injury, has gone 2-0 with a 1.55 ERA in his past four starts with Perez.

Granted, things have been uglier of late for the starting staff. In the first seven games of August, the rotation has a bloated 9.74 ERA, a 2.07 WHIP and a .358 opponents' average in 32 1/3 innings. One thing to keep in mind is that includes a two-inning outing from , who ended up on disabled list with a right elbow issue. , , and (Salazar's temporary replacement) have had rough outings in that stretch, too.
Overall, Gomes posted a 3.62 catcher's ERA this season, compared to a 3.88 mark for Gimenez and a 4.89 average for Perez. The pitchers have enjoyed working with Perez and Gimenez, and I expect that to remain the case. I wouldn't go sounding the alarms over a one-week sample of innings. The Tribe's rotation is talented, but not immune to a bad week.

With a handful of exceptions over the years, the Indians' usual policy is to handle extension talks before or after the season. Now that the non-waiver Trade Deadline has come and gone, though, it's certainly possible that Cleveland will approach about his future. He has enjoyed playing for the Indians and the team has been thrilled not only with his production on the field, but his impact in the clubhouse. Napoli's age (34) and injury history make this an interesting case. At the very least, the Indians could explore extending him a qualifying offer for 2017 before the free-agent period begins.

The Indians' left fielder continues to work through a hitting program, but there remains no firm timetable for his return to game activity. There might be more information when the Indians return to Cleveland, where manager Terry Francona can sit down with the medical team and Brantley in person to discuss his progress. At this point, given the ups and downs of his rehab this year, I wouldn't try to guess if or when he will be back for the Tribe.

I realize that the non-waiver Trade Deadline has come and gone, but I seem to recall having heard of teams making moves after the Deadline in some cases. Is there any chance the Indians will be able to make some sort of move before the postseason?
-- Kevin S., Walnut Creek, Ohio

You are correct, Kevin. There is an Aug. 31 deadline for players to be eligible for a postseason roster, but it's a little more complicated than the non-waiver trading period. In order for a player to be dealt to any team, he would first have to clear waivers. If a team puts in a claim on a player exposed to revocable waivers, that team can then try to work out a trade to acquire him. The Indians will surely monitor the waiver wire, especially when it comes to bullpen or bench help, but I don't anticipate them being very active via August trades this year.

I don't think "money aside" applies in this case. McCann is 32 years old and is owed $17 million in each of the next two years. While the Indians did target catcher at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, his contract was more affordable ($5.25 million) next season. In terms of upgrading at catcher, it felt like Lucroy or bust for the Tribe. I don't see McCann being a fit.

Uribe was definitely a good influence behind the scenes. He helped the development of some younger players -- Jose Ramirez comes to mind -- and certainly kept things loose in the clubhouse and dugout. Clubhouse leadership can't always overcome poor production, though. Uribe was sporting a .591 OPS and 56 weighted Runs Created Plus (indicating that he was 44-percent below league average offensively). Something had to give, and now Ramirez can shore up the situation at third base.

If the Indians believe Diaz can help down the stretch, he will no doubt be considered for a promotion. The only logistical issue standing in the way right now is the fact that the 25-year-old Diaz is not on the 40-man roster, which is at capacity. A subsequent move would need to be made to add him. For now, Diaz (a third baseman by trade) will continue to get experience in the outfield for Triple-A Columbus, where he has posted a .909 OPS through 74 games.