Yesterday, Enrique Rojas broke the news that Fausto Carmona‘s real name is actually Roberto Heredia, and he’s three years older than his listed age of 28. Additionally, because he was using a false identity,
Carmona’s Heredia’s chances of securing a work visa seem to be less than stellar. Previous players who have gotten caught using a false name and birthdate have ended up getting stuck in their home country, and it’s an open question whether or not Heredia will make it to the U.S. this year. The Indians are likely best off preparing as if he’s not going to be a member of their rotation in 2012.
Replacing a guy who posted a 130 ERA- last year doesn’t seem like that big of a challenge. In fact, the Tribe could run out pretty much any random Triple-A arm they wanted and expect to get similar or better results than what Heredia gave them a year ago. Of course, since you’re reading FanGraphs, you’re likely aware that past year ERA isn’t a great predictor of next season ERA, especially in cases where the results don’t line up with the underlying peripherals. In Heredia’s case, his xFIP- of 103 suggests that he was more likely to post an ERA closer to league average this year than he was to be lousy once again, and a starter who can throw 200 league average-ish innings has some real value. The Indians realized this as well, which is why they picked up his $7 million option rather than letting him hit the free agent market.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, Heredia’s in-flux status means that they can’t really count on being able to void his contract and reallocate those funds to another pitcher. There’s still a chance he could get his visa and join the team, in which case the club would still be on the hook for his salary – trying to get the contract completely voided on the basis of fraud isn’t easy and the case wouldn’t be settled any time soon.
So, with potentially limited funds to spend (after all, they still need a first baseman as well), Chris Antonetti will likely have to turn to the trade market if he wants to find a replacement for what the team was expecting Heredia to provide. And, luckily for the Indians, they might have a chance to make a deal that could allow them to bring in a pretty similar pitcher that they’re already very familiar with – Jake Westbrook.
Westbrook is currently slated to be the Cardinals fifth starter, but there has been talk that the team has kicked the tires on bringing in Roy Oswalt, who would apparently love to pitch for St. Louis and is still looking for a job. Westbrook’s presence on the roster complicates the decision to sign Oswalt, however, as they’d essentially end up just eating the $8.5 million that Westbrook is owed for 2012 if they bumped him from the rotation. However, if they found a team willing to take Westbrook and a portion of his remaining salary, they’d have both a job for Oswalt and some extra cash to throw his way.
Westbrook’s skillset is very similar to Heredia’s, and if the Indians are looking to replace his production with something in the same mold, it’d be hard to find an available pitcher with more in common than Westbrook. Here are their 2011 seasons side by side:
|Jake Westbrook||183.1||9.0 %||12.9 %||59.3 %||11.4 %||69.1 %||.313||126||114||106|
|Fausto Carmona||188.2||7.2 %||13.1 %||54.8 %||13.0 %||62.1 %||.291||130||114||103|
Westbrook traded a few additional walks for a few more ground balls, but overall, the results are basically the same. Westbrook also posted an ERA quite a bit higher than his xFIP would have suggested, though the culprit in his case was more BABIP than HR/FB, but like Heredia, he’s a decent bounce back candidate for next season.
Since Westbrook’s familiar with the Indians and they could basically guarantee him a rotation job, Westbrook could likely be enticed into waiving his no-trade clause and accepting a move back to his original franchise. The Cardinals would likely be more interested in freeing up a rotation spot for Oswalt than clearing out a large sum of money, and coming off a poor year, Cleveland probably wouldn’t have to pick up more than $3 million of the $8.5 million Westbrook is due this year. Antonetti already showed a willingness to make this kind of move earlier this off-season, when the team picked up Derek Lowe from the Braves under similar circumstances.
The move would seem to be a win-win for everyone. The Cardinals would upgrade their rotation to help fight off the Reds in the NL Central race, the Indians get a lower cost innings-eater to help replace Heredia, Westbrook gets a more secure spot in a rotation with an organization he knows well, and Oswalt would finally be able to land with a contender in the NL, where he’s used to pitching.
The Cardinals and Indians have been regular trading partners over the years. Given yesterday’s developments, it might be time for them to hook up again.