The climb for the Kansas City Royals to anything higher than the bottom half of the AL Central was already going to be a tall order this next season in 2012. As promising as the kids are, the reality is that pitching wins championships -- as the saying goes -- and the Royals just don't have it. They might have one or two young arms make the successful transition to the majors, but it's likely going to be a rocky ride and it might even be 2014 before the farm system truly delivers a stable rotation. That said, today's announced trade between the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians just makes it even tougher for the Royals.
Today it was announced that the Indians have acquired Derek Lowe from the Braves for a Single-A player. Instead, this is a salary oriented move for the Braves, who got Cleveland to throw $5 million of the $15 million owed Lowe for next year. But $5 million on the open market for a pitcher of what Lowe can bring is worth it for the Indians.
It's easy to focus on Lowe's ERA of 5.05 last season, but Lowe brings some very important qualities to the Indians pitching staff. Carlos Carrasco is already gone to Tommy John surgery, which means Justin Masterson, Fausto Carmona and Josh Tomlin are the only pitchers with more than 70 innings pitched for the Indians last season. Carmona's ERA was worse than Lowe and Tomlin is still young. Simply put, the Indians need a veteran innings eater and Lowe is a great addition for the price.
Lowe led the NL in games started last season and he's been a proven workhorse for the last decade. Just last year, his ERA was a full point lower so there's no reason to think he can't bounce back a bit. He's not going to be the pitcher who had a 2.58 ERA for Boston a decade before, but he's definitely a strong ground ball pitcher who can help anchor the rotation and stop the bleeding of the unpredictability of young arms who tax easily or the injuries to guys like Carrasco.
The Tigers are definitely the team to beat and the Twins are also retooling. For a team like the Indians or Royals to make the climb to the top, it's going to take dependable arms like Lowe and the Indians have added another solid arm to the rotation. A few more savvy moves like this and things could get interesting at the top of the division.