- Winter Preview----Cleveland Indians:
The 2009 Indians screwed up my aesthetic. Totally unacceptable. Totally.
What they need: A solid, veteran starting pitcher; clear some more dead salary; bullpen help; a power bat.
Free agents: Jamey Carroll; Tomo Ohka
Carroll is a versatile utility player who'll get more money in a better venue to win than in Cleveland. He's gone.
Ohka is a journeyman who might stay as a fallback option for the Indians rotation/bullpen.
Players available via trade: RHP Fausto Carmona; DH Travis Hafner; 3B/SS Jhonny Peralta; LHP Rafael Perez; C Kelly Shoppach; RHP Jake Westbrook; RHP Kerry Wood
You want Carmona? He's got $27 million guaranteed coming to him through 2013; he went from being a shell-shocked closer in 2006 to a 19-game winner, a 4th place finisher in the 2007 AL Cy Young voting, to what he is now----a shell-shocked starter who can't throw strikes and is progressively getting worse. If he weren't so well-compensated, someone would absolutely take a chance on rehabilitating him to his 2007 form; with that contract, he's going nowhere aside from to a team like the Mets in an Oliver Perez-type swap.
You want Hafner? He has over $40 million guaranteed through 2012; he can't play the field; and his body's breaking down. They're stuck with him and have to hope for some physical rejuvenation to keep him healthy enough for a team to possibly think he'll be their missing piece as a DH in the next couple of years. Good luck.
Peralta's shift to third base makes him more attractive to teams hungry for a third baseman or someone willing to stick him back at shortstop or move him to second base. The Twins or Orioles would be good landing spots. He's durable, has some pop in his bat and his salary is reasonable ($4.85 million guaranteed through 2010). I think he'll get moved because they can get some pieces back for him.
Perez is arbitration-eligible, was rotten last year and, as a lefty who got torched to the tune of a .412 batting average by lefties (that's not a misprint); I don't see what value he has aside from breathing and being lefty. They won't get anything for him and he might be non-tendered.
Shoppach has pop and handles the pitchers well; the Indians have a couple of catching prospects acquired in trades (Lou Marson) in recent years and they'd do well to keep Shoppach around to tutor them. That said, he's arbitration eligible and is a tradeable commodity. There are a lot of inexpensive, veteran backstops available, so Shoppach will probably be moved.
Westbrook didn't pitch last season recovering from Tommy John surgery; he's making $11 million next year. Westbrook will be with the Indians to start the season, but he could be in heavy demand as the season moves along and bring back a good package if he's healthy and pitching well.
Wood's making $10.5 million for 2010 with a vesting option of $11.5 million in 2011 if he finishes 55 games. As bad as the Indians will be next year, suffice it to say that Wood will not, under any circumstances, finish 55 games to activate the contract kicker. He was rotten in 2009, but if he's pitching well next year, he'll be in the same situation as Westbrook; maybe they'll go in a deal together. I'd approach him about becoming a starter again.
Non-tender candidates: 3B Andy Marte; LHP Rafael Perez; RHP Jose Veras
Marte's gone from being a top prospect to a washout. He's 26, has gotten chance after chance to stake his claim in the big leagues and has failed over and over again.
Perez was discussed earlier. He might not get non-tendered because he's still salvageable and is a lefty.
Veras has a good power fastball, but he's not worth whatever award he wins in arbitration.
Players to pursue:
Via free agency: LHP Doug Davis (Diamondbacks); RHP Danys Baez (Orioles); LHP Mark Hendrickson (Orioles); 3B Melvin Mora (Orioles); RHP Rich Harden (Cubs); C Ramon Castro (White Sox); OF Jermaine Dye (White Sox); C Yorvit Torrealba (Rockies); 1B/3B/DH Aubrey Huff (Tigers); 1B Nick Johnson (Marlins); RHP LaTroy Hawkins (Astros); C Miguel Olivo (Royals); RHP Kelvim Escobar (Angels); DH Vladimir Guerrero (Angels); C Brad Ausmus (Dodgers); RHP Jon Garland (Dodgers); RHP Vicente Padilla (Dodgers); C Brian Schneider (Mets); DH Hideki Matsui (Yankees); C Jose Molina (Yankees); Justin Duchscherer (Athletics); RHP Pedro Martinez (Phillies); RHP Brett Myers (Phillies); LHP Erik Bedard (Mariners); 3B Troy Glaus (Cardinals); 3B/1B/DH Hank Blalock (Rangers); OF Marlon Byrd (Rangers); C Ivan Rodriguez (Rangers); C Rod Barajas (Blue Jays); RHP Ben Sheets
The Indians aren't delving into the big name free agent market, but there are already bargains to be had to fill their holes with more to come after the players who are simply let go by their respective teams start to flood the market.
There are many catchers who would be amenable to playing part-time and mentoring the young Indians catchers. Molina, Schneider, Barajas and Torrealba would be perfect for such purposes.
Starting pitchers like Harden, Sheets and Bedard are going to have to take short-term/incentive-laden deals and could fall to the Indians as the off-season shakes itself out.
Guerrero and Matsui could be productive and relatively inexpensive solutions for the Indians power vacuum.
GM Mark Shapiro has been historically successful with such mutually advantageous deals with the likes of Juan Gonzalez, Kevin Millwood and, to a lesser degree, Carl Pavano.
Via trade: OF/DH Luke Scott (Orioles); 2B Alexei Casilla (Twins); RHP Edwin Jackson (Tigers); SS Brandon Wood (Angels); DH Jack Cust (Athletics); OF Cody Ross (Marlins)
With the Indians contract situations for the likes of Hafner and Carmona, they're not getting anything back for them if they find someone stupid enough to take them. Nor does it make sense to deal Kerry Wood or Westbrook before trying to re-establish their value.
Jackson's on the block for the Tigers and would fill out the Indians rotation nicely. Brandon Wood's stock has fallen drastically with the Angels. Cust is what he is; at least you'll know what you're getting----high on base percentage, power and a load of strikeouts.
- Albert Pujols wins the NL MVP unanimously:
- Red Sox should think long and hard before giving up the house for Halladay:
One of the problems for a team with the recent success of the Red Sox is that they can't step back from acquiring glossy names even if it's not the best thing for the club. As accustomed to pain as the Red Sox and their fans became in their championship drought from 1918 to 2004, they've now become spoiled and greedy by their annual success.
Look at what the lost year of 2006 led them to do. After being the dominant team in baseball throughout the first half, the team collapsed completely over the second half of the season and responded by flinging money at each and every one of their problems with the long-term signings of J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo. While the aggressive maneuvers they made in the winter of 2006-2007 resulted in another World Series win in 2007, the club is now somewhat hamstrung by the massive contracts for veterans they're still on the hook for like Mike Lowell, David Ortiz and Drew.
They have a lot of money and revenue, but not on a level with the Yankees; now they're being forced to make drastic deals with the devil of their prospects to try and win right now. The trades for Eric Gagne and Victor Martinez have thinned out the cupboard of top minor leaguers; now they're said to be heavily pursuing Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay. The Red Sox still have enough (easily) to get Halladay, but what's the risk/reward?
As I've said before, Halladay is going to be 33, has a lot of wear on his tires and will cost a load of prospects and money. Josh Beckett's money is coming off the books next year and with each passing day that they don't reach an agreement on an extension (truth be told, the Red Sox don't appear all that anxious to get something done) is a day closer to Beckett's departure. Halladay is going to cost at least $140 million for an extension and the Red Sox would have to sign him.
Is it worth it?
Or would the Red Sox be better off sifting through the next level of free agents and non-tenders while beefing up their offense with the likes of Matt Holliday?
Getting Halladay would be a short-term boost to the Red Sox and their fans; and he'd be a Cy Young Award contender next year; but after that, you're talking about $20 million-a-year for a pitcher entering his mid-to-late 30s who's thrown a lot of innings. If it results in another title next year, it's worth it in the short-term, but long-term? Maybe not.
- Viewer Mail 11.25.2009:
Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE taking short-term command in mid-December:
Being in charge ain't all it's cracked up to be. Trust me. You'll be begging me to take the keys back. Every decision; every move has to be calculated with all conceivable results. It's all on you. It's a burden. My burden. And it cuts a wide swath through everything you do. Some good, some bad. You'll see.