Cleveland Indians fans have had the fortune of rooting for some elite starting pitchers over the years.
Since 2007, the Indians have had five Cy Young winners, which is far and away the most in the Majors over that span.
Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever, and Cleveland has let some exceptionally talented arms go in recent years.
Right now, the Indians are scraping the bottom of the barrel for starting pitching depth.
The team would go to great lengths to be able to go back in time and retain some of their previous stars.
Which three losses should the team regret the most?
3. Mike Clevinger
Mike Clevinger recently underwent Tommy John surgery.
That’s the only reason he isn’t higher on this list, because otherwise, he has been impressive at nearly every turn of his MLB career.
After the Indians traded Clevinger to the San Diego Padres in the middle of the 2020 season, he posted a 2.84 ERA over four starts with his new team.
That, of course, came after he managed a career 3.20 ERA with the Indians.
Cleveland got a haul in return for Clevinger—six players in total—but many of them haven’t panned out at the MLB level.
The only player in that deal who has paid dividends for the Indians so far is Cal Quantrill.
Quantrill, 26, has been a key piece in Cleveland’s bullpen this season, pitching to a 3.21 ERA over 33.2 innings.
He isn’t a free agent until 2026, so the Indians will get to enjoy his presence for several more seasons.
But if Quantrill ends up being the only player in the six-man haul who is a net positive for Cleveland, then it’s safe to say the Indians would regret the deal.
2. Corey Kluber
The Corey Kluber discussion is an interesting one.
In December of 2019, the Indians traded Kluber to the Texas Rangers and got two players in return.
It was not viewed as a high-upside trade for either club at the time, but as it turns out, that assessment was wrong.
To be clear, the Kluber acquisition did not work out for Texas.
He pitched just one inning for them before being shut down for the remainder of the 2020 campaign.
They then parted ways after the season.
The Indians, however, are currently reaping the benefits of their return on the Kluber trade.
Cleveland acquired an average outfielder and a relief pitcher by the name of Emmanuel Clase in the deal.
And all Clase has done this season is manage a 1.01 ERA, a 2.36 FIP, and record 10 saves in 11 attempts.
Emmanuel Clase, Diabolical 101mph Cutters. 🔥✂️ pic.twitter.com/Ypj0RroAE3
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 9, 2021
The 23-year-old looks like a staple in this Indians bullpen, and he’s not a free agent until 2027.
On the basis of Clase’s performance alone, most Indians fans are probably satisfied with the Kluber deal.
But here’s where it gets interesting: Kluber—who is in his first season with the New York Yankees—looks like his vintage self.
He has a 3.04 ERA, a 3.77 FIP, and a 1.20 WHIP over 10 starts.
He’s 35, but it seems like he still has a lot left in the tank.
It’s entirely possible that the Indians moved on from Kluber too soon, and one thing is certain: They could desperately use a Kluber-caliber arm in their struggling rotation right now.
1. Trevor Bauer
Trevor Bauer spent seven seasons with the Indians before being dealt to the Cincinnati Reds at the 2019 trade deadline.
As good as Bauer was with the Indians, some of his best baseball has come in his post-Cleveland years.
The righty won the Cy Young Award with Cincinnati in 2020 thanks in large part to a minuscule 1.73 ERA, a 292 ERA+, and a 0.78 WHIP—all of which led the National League.
This season, in his first season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he’s working on a 2.64 ERA, a 145 ERA+, and a 0.95 WHIP.
Trevor Bauer, Filthy 94mph Front Door Two Seamer. 😷 pic.twitter.com/R7KEbFrXLU
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 13, 2021
Bauer was never able to sustain those levels of success on a year-to-year basis in Cleveland.
His best year with the Indians came in 2018, when he posted a 2.21 ERA, a 2.44 FIP, and a 1.09 WHIP en route to an All-Star selection and a sixth-place Cy Young finish.
That year aside, Bauer never finished a full season with an ERA below 4.19 with Cleveland.
The Bauer era is one that the Indians likely wish hadn’t ended when it did, because at the time of the 2019 trade, the organization had no clue that he hadn’t reached his ceiling yet.