In addition to the high-profile trades and free agent signings you see at this point in the offseason, there are also a lot of teams bargain shopping. Many of these signings end up as minor league deals with an invitation to spring training; the Indians have had several of these so far this offseason. (Most recently catcher Brett Hayes and outfielder/1B Jerry Sands). Today they signed pitcher Gavin Floyd to a major league deal – the one year deal is worth $4 million and has the potential for $6 million in bonuses. It’s an interesting and slightly pricey gamble, as Floyd has battled injuries for the past couple of seasons. In some ways, it reminds me of the one-year, $5 million deal the Pittsburgh Pirates made with a down-on-his-luck Edinson Volquez last offseason. Even though Volquez’s FIP (4.15) was a bit higher than his ERA (3.04), he still had a nice bounce-back season and is looking to cash in this winter. I’m sure Floyd is looking for a similar scenario.
All things considered, I’m guardedly optimistic about this move, even though I am a bit surprised the Indians were willing to gamble $4 million on Floyd. While he was a strong pitcher when healthy, Floyd has only started 14 games over the past two seasons (78.2 innings) for the Chicago White Sox and Atlanta Braves. His 2013 season with Chicago was cut short by reconstructive surgery on his right elbow, while his 2014 season in Atlanta was cut short by a fractured right elbow. Floyd had good numbers with the Braves before his injury, but the fracture wasn’t due to a ball or bat hitting his elbow; it just fractured. It was considered a somewhat freak injury, something similar to the injury sustained by Tigers fireballer Joel Zumaya in 2010 that eventually led to the end of his career. (Zumaya, you may recall, ended up needing Tommy John surgery two years after the freak elbow fracture. He officially retired prior to the 2014 season).
The injury issues are the biggest concern with Floyd; he was a reasonably consistent and durable pitcher prior to the Tommy John surgery in 2013. Usually when the Indians take a risk on a pitcher, it’s “can they turn him around and make him a consistent pitcher again?” With Floyd, if he’s able to return from these injuries and stay healthy, he can probably contribute. While $4 million seems like a lot of money for a pitcher coming off of two very serious elbow issues, remember that Justin Masterson managed to score $9.5 million from the Red Sox last week. Masterson obviously hasn’t sustained the serious injuries that plagued Floyd, but his struggles seemed a bit more mysterious. (Although the Red Sox obviously feel that the lost velocity and struggles were connected to injuries and bad mechanics). Floyd was signed by the Braves to a $4 million deal last offseason coming off Tommy John surgery, so he gets the same amount to attempt his comeback in 2015.
In order to make room on the roster for Floyd, the Indians designated LHP Nick Maronde for assignment. They acquired Maronde from the Angels for cash last summer; the former third round pick in the 2011 draft looked like a promising young pitcher until 2014. The wheels fell off for Maronde though, as he even fell apart at the minor league level. The Indians took a chance that he could bounce back, but he still struggled in Cleveland’s minor league system after the acquisition. He ended up drawing the short straw in 40-man roulette though, unfortunately.