If the Indians want to win a World Series title in 2018, they are going to need a healthy Trevor Bauer to lead their starting rotation.
At the moment, the Cleveland Indians are comfortably cruising to an AL Central title with a 12 game lead over the Twins. That isn’t the ultimate goal for Terry Francona’s team though. The Indians have their eyes on winning a World Series title. That’s going to require a healthy Trevor Bauer to perform as the team’s ace.
Unfortunately, Bauer’s season is very much in jeopardy at the moment. The team still hasn’t announced a timetable for the pitcher’s return after going on the DL with a stress fracture of the right fibula. It’s unclear whether or not he’ll return in time to help the Indians this season. If he doesn’t make it back, Cleveland’s chances of making a magical postseason run are drastically reduced.
Optimistic Indians fans will correctly point out that two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber will still be there to anchor their staff. He can certainly pitch well enough to give Francona and company a one game advantage in every series they play. Unfortunately, the depth behind him takes a massive hit without Bauer in the No. 2 spot.
Both Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger are capable of throwing a dominant game in the postseason, but neither has the kind of talent Bauer possesses. At the very least, Cleveland knows they’re taking a big step down by going to anyone other than Bauer in a Game 2. His absence would continue to push every pitcher on the staff one slot higher than they should ideally go. That could be fatal to Cleveland’s hopes of winning a title.
In fairness to the Indians’ front office, there aren’t many teams that can lose a player like Bauer and still expect to contend for a title. Pitchers with a 2.22 ERA and 214 strikeouts in 166 innings don’t grow on trees. Cleveland has reasonable depth in their rotation, but it’s still not going to be enough if Bauer can’t rejoin the mix.
The Indians will have a puncher’s chance in the playoffs behind Kluber, but they can’t thrive with just one ace in their rotation. Bauer’s injury situation may ultimately decide whether or not Cleveland are contenders or pretenders in 2018.