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Orbiting Cleveland: Indians should consider dealing Cody Anderson

(Gene J. Puskar/AP)
No matter how you look at it, the recent accomplishments of the Cleveland Indians over the last month have been remarkable.

Jerry Sands batting in the bottom of the ninth inning of a one-run game does not change that. Abraham Almonte getting picked off to end a game doesn’t change it either.

The Indians currently have a record of 74-74 and are four games back for the American League’s second Wild Card spot with just 14 games left to play. That’s a stark comparison from the 45-54 and 50-59 records that the team sported on July 28 and August 8, respectively.

A number of factors have contributed to the Indians’ recent turnaround, perhaps none greater than a series of defensive upgrades beginning with the promotion of Giovanny Urshela and Francisco Lindor in early June and culminating with the trade for Abraham Almonte, who has added some much-needed consistency in center field.

With Urshela, Lindor and Almonte in the fray, the Indians, particularly the Indians’ starting pitchers, have reaped the benefits, and the team’s record reflects that.

Take a look at the Indians’ starting pitchers’ numbers since the acquisition of Almonte on July 31:

So aside from Bauer, whose situation is admittedly unique, every pitcher has had numbers that are basically in line or better than their overall season statistics.

For the immediate future, the importance of the aforementioned pitching statistics might be insignificant. After all, it's still a major long shot for the Indians to make the postseason in 2015. However, next season, it seems to be a given that both Lindor and Urshela should be part of the Indians’ regular lineup, meaning that the Indians' recent defensive resurgence should continue.

Also, while Abraham Almonte may be overexposed as an everyday player, one has to suspect that general manager Chris Antonetti has recognized how his defense has impacted this ball club. Certainly, he must be aware that the team cannot again afford to have an aging and declining player like Michael Bourn manning that position. Whether it be Almonte or a free agent possibility like Denard Span, you have to believe that the Indians will have capable defender in center next season.

That should bode especially well for a player like Tomlin, who has always been a pitcher heavily dependent on fly ball outs, and his fly ball percentage this season (46.3) is consistent with that. Provided that the Indians continue to make outfield defense a priority, there is no reason to believe that Tomlin cannot continue to flourish.

However, as it stands, the Indians currently have six players worthy of a spot in the starting rotation. An argument could be made that it’s seven when you factor in T.J. House, who has missed most of the season with a shoulder injury but posted a 3.35 ERA and a 59.6 groundball percentage in 2014.

So, with seven young, controllable starting pitchers potentially in the fray for next season, could an argument be made that one might be expendable? We know that the Indians have long needed a young controllable bat, and their current surplus of pitching could help bring back just that.

Without providing too much context, it seems fair to conclude that Kluber, Carrasco and Salazar should all be considered untouchables. Kluber has continued to build off of his 2014 Cy Young campaign while Carrasco and Salazar have both taken the next step in establishing themselves as front-of-the-rotation Major League starters. All three pitchers are under control through at least 2020, and while they would each warrant hefty return, would that return really equal their current value to this club?

Bauer is an interesting case. Just listen to the words from Tribe manager Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway. It’s clear that one of two things is currently taking place with Bauer. 1.) They’re trying to send the young right-hander a message or 2.) they’re tiring of his antics just as the Arizona Diamondbacks did before they sent him to Cleveland as part of the Shin-Soo Choo deal. Bauer’s talent level is still tantalizing, and it’s hard to believe the Indians would be ready to give up on him so quickly. It’s even harder to believe that he would garner much of a return at the moment.

Without any tangible evidence, we can assume that Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar and Bauer will all be part of the rotation on Opening Day in 2016.

That then brings us to House, Tomlin and Anderson. Given his injury-plagued season, House is basically out of the discussion as a trade option. The same can be said for Tomlin, who has battled many injuries in recent years, is already 30 years old and as a pitcher who is so dependant upon his defense, it seems unrealistic to believe that he could be the major piece in a deal that brings back a stud offensive piece.

But what about Anderson?

In 13 starts and 77 2/3 innings this season, Anderson has a 3.48 ERA, a 4.32 FIP and a 4.49 xFIP. He’s clearly benefitted from the Indians’ strong infield defense, but he’s also shown plenty of encouraging signs. He’s an absolute control artist, walking only 2.32 batters per nine innings. He’s also averaged 92.2 miles per hour on his fastball while topping out at 96.9 miles per hour. Any team with an average to above average defense would love to have Anderson on their team.

There's also plenty of reason to believe that Anderson is just getting started. He’s improved at every stop along the way, so why shouldn’t the Indians, or another team in a possible trade, not expect that trend to continue?

Anderson alone likely would not garner the return that the Indians seek, but what about Anderson coupled with Rob Kaminsky, the strong left-handed pitching prospect the Indians received from the St. Louis Cardinals in the Brandon Moss deal?

Now, perhaps more than any other time in the team’s history, the Indians are blessed with a surplus of young, controllable starting pitching prospects. We’ve seen in the last month how strong pitching partnered with strong defense has led to strong results. We know this team is just missing one or two offensive pieces that could really put it over the top.

Thankfully, the Indians have the horses needed to potentially bring in those offensive pieces. Given his stuff, track record, and future room for growth, Cody Anderson could be thoroughbred so many teams are searching for. 
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