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Corner of Carnegie and Ontario: The Indians in '13, Part 2

Corner of Carnegie and Ontario: The Indians in '13, Part 2
October 26, 2012
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The official 2012-2013 hot stove league is close to its official beginning with the World Series in full swing, and the Cleveland Indians will have some interesting moves to make going forward.

That majority of fans, myself included, feel that the Indians will be somewhat aggressive this offseason, and while I don’t think the front office or Terry Francona are giving up on 2013 by any stretch, I do believe they are planning to make moves that will help improve the team with an eye on a later date.

With that said, the Indians could win in 2013 if they really decided to go after it.

In yesterday’s part one of this two-parter, I took a look at the offensive side of things with regards to the current team, and noted that there were several areas with which this team could improve. Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis have the capabilities of being legitimate yearly all-stars, while Asdrubal Cabrera can do some things to become a more consistent player. Lonnie Chisenhall is an unknown, but could break out in his first full season at third base. Michael Brantley has turned into an offensive anchor on the team, and can only get better.

I didn’t mention Shin-Soo Choo yet, but I’m getting there…don’t worry.

Today, I’m going to take a look at the pitching staff, Choo, and back up to step two, which are the several massive holes that this team has heading into 2013 that the team would need to address to be not only a winning team in 2013, but a contending team.

I’m also only looking at the current team, and assuming that to win next season, they are planning on keeping it together. 

Mark Shapiro noted in his latest interview that to build a team through free agency is a mistake of giant proportions. I agree with him to a certain extent, so I’m going to ignore him for a moment and really focus on this current roster, incorporating some free agents in the mid-to-upper-mid pay tier that could be added to four weak spots on this team to help solidify a run to the playoffs.

I don’t believe all of these moves will be made, and taking into account that Chris Antonetti is the general managers, it’s equally possible that none of these moves will be made.

I’m just having a bit of fun here, looking at a possible quick-fix for a team that really could contend with an influx of some free agent talent; some costly, and some not. 

Step 7: The Bullpen

I know that most Tribe fans out there aren’t going to agree with me, but to contend in 2013, Chris Perez shouldn’t be traded. Yes, I know that he’ll likely cost the club $7.2 million in arbitration, but he plays a significant role on this team that shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s not the best pitcher in the bullpen, but he is the most significant. He absolutely stretches this bullpen, and I do question what the pen would look like if he was dealt.

I DON’T think the pen is as good as most people do without him in it. Yes, I like Pestano and his matter-of-fact flame-throwing and his ‘How I Met Your Mother’ props. Sure, I think Cody Allen can be even better than Pestano, and will push for the closing role sooner, rather than later. With that said, having a holy triumvirate of Perez, Pestano and Allen makes this team really, really good on the back-end. Remember, I’m looking entirely at 2013, and not worrying about anything else. This bullpen has a chance to be one of the best in baseball, and next season, from top to bottom.

I know there’s not a whole lot of faith in Nick Hagadone, and for good reason. Who knows if he’s going to be healthy, and who knows if his head is going to be in the right place. Who even knows if management is going to give him a chance after last season’s shenanigans?

Here’s the thing though…if Hagadone can fix that ten cent head of his, he has that Nuke Laloosh arm that may be even better than Allen, Pestano and Perez. We need to find him his Crash Davis so that he can figure all of this stuff out. Perhaps his Crash will be Terry Francona, who was the manager in Boston when he was a prospect there. Perhaps his Crash Davis will be the new pitching coach, that could be hired as early as today’s World Series off day. Perhaps the Indians will acquire another catcher that will kick Hagadone square in the butt when he’s ready to jump off the edge. Point being, to make this pen as good as it can be, he needs to be an effective part of it.

I look at a back-end of the pen with the electric lefty as a part of Perez/Pestano/Allen and you can’t get as untouchable as that.

You throw Joe Smith and a right Rafael Perez or Tony Sipp, and that’s as good as it gets. You take Perez and Hagadone out of the equation, and there are massive amounts of questions in 2013, although the future would likely have some sunshine on it, as Perez would bring some talent in.

You also can’t forget about guys like Shawn Anderson. Armstrong is progressing in a similar fashion to Cody Allen, and may be the next big arm. There are other intriguing arms that could play a part next season as well, like Matt Langwell, who could really make a splash.

Step 8-10: The Starters

I don’t have enough space in this column to talk about all the fixes that this team needs in this area. Let’s just say this: Justin Masterson is a mid-to-bottom-of-the-rotation guy right now. I’m on the fence with regards to his ceiling, as are most, but I tend to look at it a bit more optimistically.

Most scouts have his ceiling fairly low at this point, but I don’t.

I think if he can get that cut-throat mentality that all top-of-the-rotation guys have, and if he can replicate a sound delivery, I think he can be a top-20ish pitcher…I really do. Now, can Francona get him there? I don’t know. I don’t actually even believe that Francona thinks he can turn around Masterson.

He traded him once already, didn’t he?

With Masterson, it’s about mentality and repetition. When he finds it, he’s devastating, and there were games in 2012 when he found it. Without it, he’s a middle reliever, and just not all that good. That’s the problem with guys that can’t depend on velocity. If Masterson can’t locate, he is borderline terrible.

If you fix Masterson, and that’s possible, it could help right the ship. Of course, this next guy…oh boy…

Ubaldo needs a bucket of chicken, and that’s all the stamina I have for this conversation. Seriously though, if the Indians can find someone to wake this guy up, he really could be the difference in this rotation being a close to 5.00 ERA staff, and a close to below 4.00 ERA staff. He was absolutely dominating in 2010, and I understand why the Indians traded for him, even though I still don’t agree with the move.

Can a pitching coach fix these two? I’m going to say yes for one, and enough for another. If Masterson can find his delivery and get the right mentality, I think he can be an ace. If Ubaldo can just be good, I’d be okay putting them at the top of the rotation.

Good pitching breeds good pitching. Great pitching can be downright competitive. I would love to see Masterson and Jimenez working off of each other. It can happen, but it would take a miracle of all miracles, as I think these guys are just head cases.

To win in 2013, it has to happen.

Ubaldo appears to be lost, but maybe he can find a good pink garter and some Vaseline, and figure things out (yeah, that didn’t sound like a baseball sentence, did it).

The rest of the candidates are a bit of fodder. No, I don’t think they are bad, but I don’t see someone coming out and winning 15 games…although McAllister could be interesting. This team will have to supplement with new pitching.

Back to step 2: This team needs to fill in a whole bunch of holes

If this team wants to win in 2013, they have to get some significant pieces to fill in the significant holes that they have, and they’ll have to do it via free agency. I’m going to disregard the potential trades, assuming that what they’d get back for guys like Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Perez would be far less than what many other think. I’m also taking into account that Perez and Choo represent needs (you can argue that Perez isn’t, but I could easily debate that).

At first base, I would love to see the Indians go all out to nab Mike Napoli.

Napoli reportedly wants to stay in Texas, but the Rangers are going to have their hands full with regards to salary. If you combine that with the fact that he has been injured, and that he wants to play catcher predominantly, and you have the potential in making a move to get him.

Napoli is a sure thing to hit 20+ homers, and if they could find a way to get him in more than 100 games or so, he could really break out. He wouldn’t really be a true platoon for Carlos Santana at the catcher position, but I could see a scenario where Napoli could catch 80 games or so behind the plate, and plays some first and DH. Santana would split some time there as well, and you could mix in some Marson.

No, I’m not saying that the Indians are going to carry three catchers. Remember, they need a first baseman and a DH. With Napoli and Santana taking over first and DHing at times, you could fill two holes with the signing of Napoli. He’d cost money and be a risk, but it’s a risk that they would have to take to win next season.

Did I mention he’s a right-handed bat?

In left field, the Indians should do everything they can to go and get Melky Cabrera. He really has something to prove, and the Indians have a history with reclamation projects. With Francona being a bit of a reclamation project himself, perhaps he could sell Cabrera on that aspect. Cleveland may be just the place for Cabrera to come in and regain some luster for a free agent run in 2014. I could care less about his performance enhancers and his past…as long as he doesn’t do them anymore. I’m fairly certain that Francona can help fix that.

He can play baseball, and I’m frankly done with worry about personality with professional athletes. I’m not looking to be their pals here. What I do care about is that he’s a career .279 hitter against lefties, and a career .286 hitter against righties. That’s good enough for me.

He’s not a power producing outfielder, but boy, Cabrera, Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo in the outfield would be quite a change to the hole-iferous crud we’ve been putting up with for the past couple of years.

I’d love for the Indians to swoop in and steal David Ortiz from the Red Sox, but that clearly isn’t going to happen. Instead, I think the Indians should go out and get Kevin Youkilis as a final supplement to this offensive team.

Here’s what I know about Youkilis…he can play first, third and DH, and he hit .275 against lefties. There’s your back-up to Chisenhall and a potential first base option with Napoli and Santana. In a worst-case scenario, you could throw Chiz and Youk in a straight-up platoon, and roll Napoli over to first full-time, while Marson backs up Santana. When Carlos plays first, the dominoes fall, and you pick a name out of a hat to DH.

As far as starters go, that’s a trickier scenario. If they get Ubaldo and Masterson right (which is a stretch), I think they could get away with bringing back Roberto Hernandez and signing maybe a combination of Rich Harden and a Edwin Jackson/Brandon McCarthy/Francisco Liriano.

I particularly like Rich Harden, who is absolutely electric. Yes, there are questions there with regards to his shoulder, but by all indications, his surgery was corrective, and he should be ready in 2013. He’s a perfect solution to the Indians issues. He’s a one-year sign, with high-upside who could really push Jimenez and Masterson at the top of the rotation.

Sure, he’s a walking injury, but that’s the risk the Indians have to take.

Past Harden, I’d even look at bringing a guy like Kevin Millwood back into the fold. No, he’s not a big splash, but he’s also cost-effective, and consistent. I’ll get into that in a second.

Step 11: Keep Shin-Soo Choo

I’m not sure why I saved this until last, but I did.

Choo is a good player, and he’s a player that many are ready to be rid of. I am as well. But, if the Indians are going to go forward in 2013 to win, than Choo can’t go anywhere…yet.

He would be the main cog on this team, coming from the top. The lineup would be solid, and Choo would be a big piece of that. Like Chris Perez, Choo extends the line-up.

Imagine this line-up going forward:

RF-Choo

LF-M. Cabrera

2B-Kipnis

C-Santana

1B-Napoli

DH-Youkilis

3B-Chisenhall

SS-A. Cabrera

CF-Brantley

 

Honestly…that’s sick compared to what the Indians have put on the field in recent years., and there’s definitely play there depending on the hot stick, as you have a legitimate nine guys that could fill in at nearly every spot in the order.

Step 12: Pay some cash

All of this would depend on the money. Could they do this? The easy answer is no, but remember, this was just a bit of a fantasy look and some realistic names that they can get, that are better than the bottom (for the most part), but not break-the-bank. I have no clue as to how much these guys are going to get on the open market, or if Terry Francona can play a part in bringing a guy like Youkilis as a supplemental sort of player.

I have no gauge on just how much money this would cost them, but it would likely be a lot more than they will spend, but not near what a major team would spend for major free agents.

Could they get Youk for $5 million or less? Perhaps.

What about Melky Cabrera? What would he be in line for after the Giants paid him six million last year? He’s probably looking at a one-year deal, but could the Indians nab him by offering him a three-year, incentive-laden deal? Perhaps they could give him a small 2013 deal, that triggers a club-to-player option thing in 2014 and 2015. Let’s say they can figure out a $5 million dollar way to get MCab…or get creative and get him for less, with some incentives (right Grady?). Perhaps they can get him on the cheap for one-year, if they come knocking eagerly and early.

Napoli would likely be out of their price range, as he made nearly 10 million last year, and I’m sure would be looking for the same this year. I’ve heard that he really wants to play catcher, instead of first base. If the Indians got creative, and offered him some years, they could be in play. I think he’d be oughta range though. Perhaps the Indians could sign him to a three-year, $21 million dollar deal, or even a two-year with a player option for a third. That would certainly stretch their limits, which is why a guy like Youkilis would be important.

Harden and Millwood would both be cheap gets, as Harden is coming off of shoulder surgery, and Millwood is just old. I think they’d be able to get them with some cheap deals, and tying Hernandez in there as well, that would give you three legitimate arms, with one being a potential top-of-the-rotation get. The three total could be less than $5 million.

Any other starters would be some serious cash, so they’d probably be out of reach.

Remember, I’m banking on Masterson and Jimenez rebounding.

Could the Indians afford a $20-$25 million influx of salary? I’m sure it doesn’t balance out if you take into account the loss of salary (Hafner, Sizemore, Kotchman) vs. their arbitration numbers, but…it may not turn into that big of a hit as we’d think.

This could work, but a lot depends on the market (Napoli may be a $10 million a year guy, and the White Sox may drive up the price on Youkilis and Harden may not want to come to Cleveland, and…there’s just a lot of ifs), and what the Indians really are planning on doing.

Money-wise, it’s likely that the Tribe won’t be going after a first baseman, a DH, a left fielder and three starting pitchers. That would be a haul for most teams, even though the players I listed are lower-cost guys, with the exception of Napoli. It’s more likely that the Indians target a guy like Youkilis, who can fill several roles, and a guy like Cabrera for the outfield, and maybe one pitcher above the word minimum.

Three guys would still be a stretch, but if they could get Youkilis, Cabrera and a decent starter in the realm of $13 million for the season, then fill in with some minor adds, like Millwood and Hernandez, and swing some trades to bring in lower-price potential that can play now, add a Fedroff and Jared Goedert to the discussion, and you have something that at least sounds more fiscally sound, and could produce a winning team, if not a contender.

Of course, the ifs would be tremendous…but that’s what it takes to win in this market.

Step 13: The front office and the real deal

The big unknown in all of this is the front office. What really is the plan here? If the Indians are really being proactive, than we may see a mix of free agents and trades that make this team better. If the Indians are still playing saber-market baseball, and can’t swing a trade, then we could be in for another cool winter…

…and a bad 2013.

It’s possible…

But for today anyways, the potential is endless, and just imagine that line-up.

One real quick note about some baseball news. There are reports that the Yankees Mariano Rivera may retire. That will immediately put the Yankees on the Tribe radar with regards to a potential trade. The problem is that they don’t apparently have many players above the lower levels that would interest the Indians. A trade to the Yankees would signify a move to the future, which isn’t out of the equation.

Next week, I’ll take a look at some of the potential trade partners for players such as Shin-Soo Choo, Chris Perez and Asdrubal, and look at other players that may be on the market or marketable during the 2013 season.

Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as  the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

User Comments

Rich
October 27, 2012 - 7:26 AM EDT
I don't see any point in trying to contend in 2013 based on a return to form by Masterson and Jimenez, and then taking fliers on old and injured guys.

Trade Perez, Smith, and Choo for the best prospects you can get, preferably starting pitching, then limp through another losing season and wait for the wave of young talent to hit the bigs in 2014-2015.

In Shapiro's interview he talked about shooting for windows of contention like the 2006-2008 years. We were supposed to be in a window now except that Sizemore went down, Ubaldo didn't turn out to be a #1 starter, Masterson and Carmona went south, and Santana didn't become Ivan Rodriguez.

So now it's on to the next window. Throwing a lot of money at the Hardens and Millwoods and Napolis of the world maybe gets you to 80 wins next year, but that's the upside. I'd rather trade for the next Cliff Lee who's in A ball right now.
Bric
October 27, 2012 - 1:10 AM EDT
Asdrubal Cabrera is an outfielder.
Sign a good glove to play SS next year.
Sign a C to relieve Santana permanently of catching.
Napoli would be perfect except he might want too many years and too much money.
Ludwick or Heisey from Cincy could play LF or CF.
Paulino & Lindor may be in RF & SS by August.
2 SP's MUST be acquired to help until Barnes, Rondon, Carrasco, Kluber, etc. improve, stretch out, recover, etc.
Masterson & McCallister are only two SP's.
Jiminez needs to start over with his entire delivery, and if he isn't willing to do so, dump him.

Fedroff should be on the roster.

Seth
October 27, 2012 - 12:11 AM EDT
Melky Cabrera? He had been a replacement-level player for the previous 4 hours before the likely time when he started taking steroids. Unless you think he will still take steroids and do a better job of masking it, he should not be in the conversation. Upton, or Victorino as a short-term fix would be better options.

I'd be down with trading Perez for something useful and adding Upton, Napoli, McCarthy, but that's probably unrealistic. Instead of Napoli, Youkilis would not be a bad player to go after though I think he'll cost a lot more than $5 million, as he was pretty good with Chicago and they likely gave serious consideration to picking up his option.
Rich
October 26, 2012 - 11:16 PM EDT
Dick--

He mentioned Nuke Laloosh, so I'm guessing that the garter reference was an ode to Bull Durham.

Vaseline? Major League perhaps?
Steven
October 26, 2012 - 10:11 PM EDT
A reprint of a thought I had a couple of weeks ago.

Though it will never happen, they should make an effort to sign BJ Upton and two from Joe Blanton/Edwin Jackson/Gavin Floyd/Shaun Marcum/Anibal Sanchez.

Don't resign Ubaldo and Hernandez. The $$ saved from them (I know there will be some additional abitration dollars that will increase other guys salaries), Sizemore, Hafner, Kotchman would be close to $33MM. Extremely wishful thinking though it's nice to dream.

C - Santana
1B - ?
2B - Kipnis
SS - Cabrera
3B - Chiz
LF - Brantley
CF - Upton
RF - Choo
DH - Jonny Gomes

SP - Masterson
SP - Floyd/Blanton/Sanchez
SP - Jackson/Marcum
SP - McAllister
SP - Kluber/Huff/Gomez/Carrasco
Roger
October 26, 2012 - 8:00 PM EDT
jim you are missing one significant name in the starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco won eight games before the end of june in 2011 before the elbow problem. that comes to 16 wins
over a full season. and usually the second year after TJ surgery is significant production wise so that may be one less starter needed. zac mac udaldo and bat and car car is for avg plus starters i suspect. and maybe danny salazar could come by 5-15
Dick
October 26, 2012 - 7:31 PM EDT
Enjoyed the article JP with minor reservations.

Totally do not get the Vaseline/ garter reference. But I think that I really do not want to know.

Masterson is too laid back and hagadone is too edgy. But there are successful pitchers in both camps. What is the secret potion to move there stuff into success I bet both would sell their souls to the devil to have it.

MK? Not so sure. What if his career performance has been enhanced be peds? What if his recent up kick in performance is just because he found a better chemist this season?

Lastly why taunt your readers with talk of Napoli and then tell us it is a pipe dream? But the offseason should be interesting and I will be mighty disappointed when it is not.

Ck
Devin
October 26, 2012 - 7:05 PM EDT
All that said, I love the idea of going after Napoli, though he is on the high end of what we could afford, and I am 100% on board with Melky. Not a true RH hitter, but I am not in love with many of the RH hitters in the FA class this year, so why not get a guy who could play a legit LF? Power costs too much. He'll hit .280+ and be a HUGE improvement over our last two years in LF.
Devin
October 26, 2012 - 7:03 PM EDT
A name I haven't seen mentioned yet (probably due to his yet-to-be-declined option) that I thing could be an absolute steal is Ervin Santana. Not that he'd be cheap, but for his potential, he is at a relative buy-low point in his career because of his inconsistency last year. He is a guy who, when he is on top of his game, can be significantly better than anyone on our current staff, is relatively young, and does well against ALC teams (the only team he had trouble against in the ALC is the Tribe, go figure). I would LOVE to see them go after Ervin and one of Edwin Jackson (pricey) or Liriano (risky, but lefty).
Willie
October 26, 2012 - 5:24 PM EDT
I think you can add Joe Smith to that trade list.

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