Building a Wahoo Winner: Add a free agent duo
Thus far in the Building a Wahoo Winner series, I've concentrated on keeping things within the Indians organization. All of the necessary steps I've outlined for the Indians to make a run at the 2015 World Series have involved players currently under contract with the Indians in one way or another.
Well, that's about to change.
The MLB "Hot Stove" season is upon us, as are the numerous clamors and cries by Indians fans for the front office to make their move down the chimney and bring a special present — or that annually elusive right-handed power bat — to the city of Cleveland.
Admittedly, in this market, I'm not a proponent of the Indians making a big time splash in free agency. The numbers are too high and the talent level is too low. Also, believe it or not, the Indians have done a phenomenal job of spending appropriate amounts of money on some of their brightest young stars, including Michael Brantley (4 yrs/$25M) and Yan Gomes (6yrs/$23M).
That being said, if the Indians don't stand completely pat throughout this free agent "Hot Stove" market, there are a couple of players they could bring aboard to add depth and provide a push for 2015.
While fans would love to see the Dolan family shell out cash that they don't have, the reality is that the Indians are going to keep the figures small and with that in mind, I've come up with a list of four legitimate free agent options.
1. Chris Denorfia, OF
The 34-year old Denorfia spent 2014 between the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners, hitting a pedestrian .230 with 3 HR while posting a WAR of 0.4 on the season. While the numbers from 2014 have a bit of a stench of "decline," there's evidence that it was a bit of a down year for Denorfia, who has posted a career .331 OBP and had a WAR of 4.0 with the Padres in 2013.
Denorfia isn't going to light the world on fire, but he's a platoon option in right field with David Murphy and offers a bit of an upgrade over Ryan Raburn who mans that role as of right now. Denorfia will also come with a reasonable price tag, which makes him all that much more enticing for the notoriously thrifty front office.
2. Jonny Gomes, OF
Another corner outfielder who spent time between two teams — the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics— the 33-year old Gomes could be another decent platoon option with David Murphy in right field. Gomes comes with a bit more pop than Denorfia, accounting for 155 career home runs as opposed to Denorfia's 38, but like Denorfia, 2014 wasn't great for the journeyman outfielder.
After posting a .344 OBP and 1.0 WAR with a .179 ISO mark in the 2013 World Series campaign with the Red Sox, Gomes' ISO took a massive dip to .095 last season. This dip in power may help the Indians as it may lessen his list of suitors and have him see a dip in potential salary. He could still remain a productive player in this league for years to come.
3. Justin Masterson, SP
Yes, that Justin Masterson. The same Justin Masterson that turned down a three year $45 million offer from the Indians a few months ago, had a poor season and was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals at the 2014 Trade Deadline.
Masterson struggled mightily with both the Indians and the Cardinals and, therefore, will come at quite the bargain this offseason, which works out well for the Indians. The Indians probably know as well as anyone what Masterson can be when he's "right."
There's no doubt that Masterson will beget loads of interest from teams all around the league, but it may be a plus that Masterson has a relationship with the Indians that no other team can boast. It also helps that the Indians probably understand more than anyone what was wrong with him all of last season.
In essence, the Indians will undoubtedly make an offer and Masterson may be faced with a decision. Does he spurn the team that put no faith in him a year ago or does he return to the only team with which he has a special relationship? This is something interesting to follow this offseason.
4. Kendrys Morales, 1B/DH
Ah, yes, the name with which Indians fans have made themselves overly familiar over the past couple of seasons, just to watch him venture to Seattle and elsewhere with his right-handed "power" stick.
After back-to-back 20+ home run seasons with the Angels and Mariners in 2012 and 2013, Morales stayed patient before signing a 1-year, $12 million deal with the Minnesota Twins in June, but struggled immensely with the Twins before being traded back to Seattle to finish out the season. In just 98 games a year ago, Morales hit 8 homers, posted a -1.7 WAR and a .338 slugging percentage, each of which were far below his 162-game average.
That all being said, the late start and a plethora of other factors could have contributed to Morales' terrible 2014 and he could be poised for a bounce-back 2015— a fact that has clubs very interested in the righty.
Morales would probably be the most expensive of the players on this list, but would he really be worth shelling out the money for, especially with a very similar— and more consistent— player in Nick Swisher already on board? This could once again be a situation in which the front office may be smart in avoiding a player, rather than shelling out the money for one, despite the affordable price tag.
In addition to these names, the Indians would also be wise to add depth to the bullpen, as I documented in the last edition of "Building a Wahoo Winner."
If the Indians sign any two of these players, my votes would be for Gomes and Masterson.
While Denorfia might be the "safer" option, Gomes could provide some much needed pop for a lineup that struggled with power a year ago.
Masterson has been known for a "one year good, one year bad" trajectory and would be on pace for a "good" 2015. Should that trend continue, we've all seen what "good" Justin Masterson can do for the Cleveland Indians.
Other than that, the Indians will certainly be better off avoiding the high prices for most other free agents. Fans will complain when they wake up on Christmas without the right-handed power bat they dreamed of, but they'll do so whilst forgetting that some of the team's biggest assets are locked up affordably and that some of their recent adventures into free agency for high dollar players have not gone very well.
I agree that the Dodgers' ability to unload players like Ethier and Crawford will determine the availability of SVS. From what I read in the LA Times, the unloading is not going well.
I don't believe SVS is the Second Coming of anything; I do believe he is a perfect fit for RH power bat that the Tribe needs, at the right price. When I see Hayden referring to players like Denofria with zero power and little else to recommend him, at a price 4 times or more of a SVS, my blood boils a little bit.
The sole player on the list I would have any interest in is Morales, as a guy with a real rebound potential. Problem is, we already have Nick Swisher for 15 MM so why would the team sign Morales for the position of Nick Swisher lite.....less versatility, and no more power than Swish, for an additional 10 million or so. Sheer insanity. And, last I looked, Swisher can also bat right handed, though his power is left.
"They might trade Van Slyke, who could probably start or play more frequently on several other teams, but that wouldn’t provide any cost savings and seems ill-advised since Crawford, Ethier and Pederson all hit left-handed. Van Slyke was the Dodgers’ best right-handed pinch hitter, the big bat off the bench, batting .333 in games he didn’t start."
The column says they want to trade Crawford or Ethier because of their ages and huge contracts, but it will be hard to find takers.
Van Slyke only got 1 at-bat in four playoff games, probably because the Dodgers didn't face any left-handed starters. But the fact is he didn't play in the Dodgers biggest games of the year. When he did play he put up great numbers. His OPS was over 1.000 on the road, for example.
I'd love to get this guy. The Dodgers have six strong candidates for three positions, so they have to move somebody. If they can't move Crawford or Ethier's contracts, maybe they would listen to offers for SVS.
Recently the Indians have not had much success with free agents, i.e., Bourn, Swisher, Kerry Woods, Johnny Damon. They've had much more success with trades - Choo, Cabrera, Gomes, Santana, Brantley, Kluber, Masterson, McAllister, Carrasco, Chris Perez, Joe Smith. They did have one very good FA signing in Kazmir, but most of the talent acquired from other organizations has come through trades. I'm not seeing any free agents this year that can put the Tribe over the hump.
Despite the new GM in LA, he's not going to unload the entire outfield, and odds are that van Slyke remains a part time player. I don't believe it would take as much to acquire him as many think. One pen pitcher of quality and another prospect, plus perhaps another position playing mid-level prospect might do it.
As for Denorfia and the rest trotted out in this article......say what? Three guys on the back nine of their careers, one of which has lost his power, one of which never had much, and one of which never had any. Topped off by a pitcher who was quite likely number 100 or so on the list of qualifiers in the ERA / WHIP category in 2014. Masterson is clearly a "good dude." He is just as clearly clueless as to how to consistently throw strikes start after start.....despite the fact that he's been making millions do to just that.
Finally, why does anyone wish to trade House? He pitched quite well and is the only left hander in the rotation.
The Indians could have made this deal, just saying...I wanted to see a difference maker RH bat / 3b.
I do hope that something interesting happens in terms of deals or signings, but the guys listed here are going to do it...
I've talked about the Tribe getting a FA or two, but I'm a farm system and trade first guy. Adding one or two FA might be necessary but I think should exhaust their trade options first. Scott Van Slyke has been one of the favorite guys discussed here, but fact is, it'll be difficult to pry him from the Dodgers, they have no motivation to move him, unless, they feel like they are getting paid. That's where signing someone like Alex Rios might be a necessity. That is, a shorter term deal at mkt value.
I think the best path will be to make a trade for an OF. There are some available, probably some we haven't talked about (yet) and possibly one or two we would never have guessed...it seems that's how it works. Honestly, I don't think there's an easy match for the Tribe and whoever they get will likely have a wart or two, that's the nature of it. Then there's guys like Viciedo, and Trumbo that might become available, but they certainly have warts. They would be somewhat questionable additions, but, they would fill the need. Sometimes, the best moves, are the moves NOT made. Think last yr the Angels and Tribe reportedly discussed a Kluber for Trumbo trade, THANK GOD they didn't make that deal! It might become a matter of picking up the best player available regardless of need (RH bat). What I'm saying is, if the best deal for the Indians that presents itself is picking up a guy like LH hitting RF Jay Bruce, then, by all means they should try to work the deal and then add a RH bat / SH bat for the bench.
It's really not so hard.
Sign Van Slyke to platoon with Chis in right. Urshela promoted to play third. Murphy traded and Raburn released or traded.
Other than that, Morales would be my pick for someone who could help, but I'm not seeing a fit unless they move someone like Swisher.
Personally, I like the job the GM has done, because he's not afraid to make a poor move, but he does make some pretty shrewd moves to improve the team. Don't rip him because they all don't pan out.
It would be nice to see Masterson back and healthy for one of his good years but he is very inconsistent and we cannot be sure that is the Masterson we would be getting. If not, then he is a bullpen option but hardly better than what we have and much more expensive. Do we really want to put Salazar in the pen for Masterson? Seems like the chance of ZachMac being back and pushing Salazar there are nearly as good and less costly.
Trades are where it's at. I understand teams usually don't go by hindsight but think a team like Toronto would rather spend 80 million on a 31 year old catcher, or would they rather have taken a shot on The Yan Gomes instead?
But adding Morales or Denorfia won't improve the club. At all. The Indians need to either make additions that are an immediate upgrade, or give guys like Moncrief, Urshela, Ramsey, etc. their shot.