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Corner of Carnegie & Ontario: Potential Free Agent Overview

Corner of Carnegie & Ontario: Potential Free Agent Overview
November 7, 2012
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I’m sitting here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario watching the 2012 election, actually thinking to myself, “What a great country we live in.” The election was nasty and contentious and a roller coaster ride of ridiculousness that is unbelievably and finally over.

There just aren’t any countries quite like the United States, and I do mean that in a good way. We’re lucky enough to be able to express our beliefs, good and bad, and wake up the next morning and do it all over again. long is it until the next debate?

I only mention this because there are certainly parallels to being a Cleveland Indians fan, and the idiocy of Indians' fandom . If you’re reading this, you know exactly what I’m talking about. There’s nothing quite like being a Tribe fan, and I do mean THAT in a good way. One of the worst seasons in recent memory, and perhaps in Indians’ history, recently ended, and we wake up the next morning, and get ready for another season.

Rare is the year that the Indians don't provide surprises. Granted, they aren't usually on the positive side, but it certainly lends to interesting seasons...albeit on the tragic side.

With that said, let’s get started with a much shorter column this week, after a long day of election watching. If only we could vote for the Indians' needs. Of course, then who would we have to blame.

Buster Olney discussed blowing up the Cleveland Indians this past week, and while it’s not going to happen, I’m not sure I get the fervor with which some were against all the moves. His first move was to deal Asdrubal Cabrera, which I’ve talked about at length here at the Corner. There are a variety of teams that would be interested in Cabrera, and while some locals here at IPI don’t believe the Indians can get a top notch group of prospects for their All-Star shortstop, Olney clearly doesn’t agree: “He's an All-Star-caliber player just days away from his 27th birthday, and the Indians could get a nice package of prospects for him -- especially pitching prospects -- in a deal with a team” Olney’s not a swami, but I’ll take his word for it, and if the Indians were to deal Cabrera, I don’t know that anyone would think it was a stretch.

His second move was to deal Carlos Santana, and this is the one move mentioned that I really don’t see happening, but he does make an interesting case for it. Olney reported that there are some scouts that believe he can’t hack it as a catcher, and will need to move. As Tony has mentioned a few times, he’s a pretty good catcher, so I don’t necessarily buy what Olney says here, but do see his point. I still think that Santana and Jason Kipnis are the only two untouchables on the team, but if someone offered the Indians the farm for Santana, he should be on the block as well. The package would have to be massive though.

Chris Perez and Shin-Soo Choo were both mentioned in deals as well, but every writer here at IPI has mentioned these two as likely deals. Again, this isn’t a stretch, and these two should be locks to deal if the Indians plan on doing something major in the offseason.

The final move was trading Justin Masterson, which I also mentioned a few times in the past in several pieces. Masterson is at a sell low place in his career, but the sad thing here is that I’m not sure how much higher it’s going to get. The problem is that the Indians need starters, so dealing one without getting a couple would be a mistake.

My point is that Olney is looking at the Indians as being at a ceiling right now, and that by blowing things up now, could bring in a boatload of talent to rebound this team in two or three years.

I get that…but…did Olney take into account the Tribe front office?

The Indians will likely target a series of position players this offseason during free agency, and who they target will largely depend on whether or not they plan on making deals to help with regards to money. Here are the likely name targets that will be bantered about:

There are lots of different money options here, and it will be hard to speculate how much each will be offered once the market starts to stay shape, but there are clearly going to be some players listed here who are either going to be out of the price range, who are going to stay with their current team.

LaRoche, Bourn, Upton, Swisher, Pagan, Hunter, Victorino and Napoli could all be in the $10 million or so range, so they may be out of the equation. There could be some play there with guys like Victorino, but it’s still likely that they’ll be too much. Truth be told, guys like Youkilis, Swisher and Pagan could be close to the $10 million mark as well.

Who does that leave for the Indians to make a legit run at if they go strictly at free agency? If you’re looking at this list, you are looking at guys like Ross, Young, Pena and Cabrera. The money there may be stiff, but affordable in a sense that it’s not out of range for the Indians if they can get the right deal. Of course, some of those other guys may come down into the land of the affordable should the cards fall right. Of course…pitching is the main focus, so that’s likely where the Tribe will start.

Before I dive into pitching, it's likely the Indians will target one player from the list above, and I believe they'll focus on someone they think they are getting a deal on. With that said, I think Melky Cabrera could provide the exact player they need. No, it's not from a power standpoint, but he could provide a bargain, and while some may knock him for PED's (rightly so), he does have solid ability, and will likely sign a manageable one-year deal. The Indians were in on Pena last year as well, and while not perfect, I'd take him for the right amount of money as a supplemental player.

A lot depends on the mix of trades that are involved here. You also have to believe that some current Indians, like Russ Canzler, Lars Anderson and Yan Gomes will play a part in the discussion. How much will let you know how effective (or lack thereof) the front office is. If any of the three players mentioned are regulars, there needs to be serious discussion into a legitimate new direction, starting with the front office.

Pitching will clearly be the focus for the front office, or at least should be. There are a bunch of relatively name starters that the Indians will clearly be looking at, and some will be in the right price range. So…which pitchers will the Indians be looking at on that name list?

Again, there are pitchers that are $10 million or above, but I do believe that there will be several guys here in the $5 million realm. I also believe the Indians could go after a guy in the $10 million range if they think he’s a fit, and can balance the rotation.

Likely, at $10 million or better (or close), are Haren, Jackson, Sanchez (although I wonder) and McCarthy. I know there’s been speculation on McCarthy, but I really think he’s going to have several teams drive up his price. Could the Indians make a run at any of these guys? Sure, but they would have to really think he’s going to be a major member of this team going forward, and really think that the club has a shot to do playoff damage. I don’t see it.

The rest should be in play if the Indians go straight up and sign someone, or supplement a trade. I really like Scott Baker on that list, and if they can get him for a one or two-year deal, and at $5 million, that would be a nice addition. I think you could put a guy like Liriano or Blanton in that role as well, but I actually put Baker at the top of my list. Again, a lot of this depends on potential trades.

You would have to believe that the Indians are putting a premium on WAR. Shapiro really showed his hand with regards to the amount they are willing to spend, and the expectations they want to get from it. With regards to this rotation, I think that the Tribe will really focus on potential value players. Thinking about Baker, he could be the perfect guy that could provide that Paul Byrd value. Some might think that the real value could be a starter like Francisco Liriano. He's had two seasons of struggle though, and seems to be a doppleganger at this point to Ubaldo Jimenez.

I fear that the Indians could find their distressed property in Liriano.

Another guy that could be intriguing is Jeremie Guthrie. Again, he could provide a value as a back-end starter who can provide 180-200 innings, and win 10-15 games.

The slot I want the Tribe to fill is that #1 starter slot, but there doesn't appear to be a guy that the Indians can afford. The Indians would have to trade for a player of that caliber, then supplement with a player that's affordable.

Obviously, there are other names that will be involved with regards to the rotation and the position players. There are varying amounts of money that all these guys will want, but it’s really hard to know who the Indians are going to actually target based on the fact that there will most certainly be some trades involved, which should change the salary structure of the team. It's equally hard to judge what some of these players will ultimately get, like Anibal Sanchez.  There's a belief that

It’s clear that the Indians aren’t going to take on salary, so what will really be interesting is if ANY of these names are at play, or if the Indians go beyond the names listed here in a hunt for bargains. At this stage, we’d be talking about guys like Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Millwood, who are never going to be major factors, but will come at a cheap price, and have some potential upside on a one-year, or a minor league contract.

Which way will the Indians go? Not sure, but by the end of November, the picture should be a bit more clear. Remember, the Indians are trying to be cost-effective and aggressive at the same time. This takes major planning, with different levels of fall-backs. They’ve failed at this in the past, so where they go from here will go a long way to showing the league and the fans whether or not Tony was right in last week’s Tribe Happenings, and have taken a legitimate new approach.

It’s distinctly possible that they whiff, and end up without any names on the list. While that would be another strike against the management, trades can reshift this team as well. The Indians are hopefully targeting a trade or two already, have the players they want to acquire on a short-list, and are willing to pull the trigger. To get the right package of players, Antonetti needs to act swiftly, and most importantly, decisively.

The passive approach from 2011 just won't work.

Next week, I'm going to focus on a list of five-to-ten players that the Indians should target, and the plusses and minuses of each. The hope is that as the weeks progress, the Indians will start to show their hand a bit. Right now, the Mike Aviles trade shows that the Indians are aggressive-minded, but remember, Antonetti made an early trade last season as well. The Indians have to follow up. 

Time will tell if their new plan is something workable, or another smokescreen from an aimless front office.

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

User Comments

November 8, 2012 - 1:03 PM EST
See, and whenever I see fans (or Buster Olneys) talking about "blowing up" the team and "rebuilding", I always think, "They must think it's 2001." There are few if any similarities to the 2002 team that Thome, Ellis Burks, Travis Fryman, Chuck Finley, Lawton and Colon. The current team has no one of that status, either in quality like Colon and Thome, or aging veterans like Burks, Fryman and Finley. Also, that '02-'05 rebuild worked really well, Robbie Alomar was horrible after they traded him, and Cleveland subsequently witnessed a rebuild-through-trade that was remarkably successful and will likely never happen again, since that Expos deal was such a unique circumstance. In any case, if you only have 3 down years before building a contender, that's a successful rebuild. Could they have built a team better-equipped for the long-haul if they had traded Thome, Fryman and Burks before that season? Maybe, maybe not. It would've depended on the prospects they got, just as their ultimate fate was sealed by whiffing completely on all of the extra draft picks they did get for losing Ramirez and Thome.

I can see them trading Asdrubal and/or Choo if the right deal comes along, doubt it will happen (with the Aviles trade, I could see them moving Asdrubal more than Choo). When you're talking about trading Santana and Pestano, you're getting into crazy-town. At that point, what're you rebuilding for, 2017? Santana and Pestano are the type of players you want around when guys like Lindor are ready. Could you flip Santana for multiple prospects? Probably. Would you want to? Hell no. Prospects are prospects for a reason; you don't know what you'll get, and there's no such thing as "can't miss." (see Matt Laporta and Alex Escobar and the KC Royals) Kipnis, Chisenhall? Chisenhall is practically a prospect still, and Kipnis not far ahead of him.

Talking about trading those guys isn't comparable to thinking they should've traded Thome, etc before the 2002 season, it's like saying they should've traded Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner for more younger prospects in 2004.
Joe Chengery III
November 8, 2012 - 12:48 AM EST
How ironic Matt brought up 2001- I too was thinking the same thing. The last time, we tried to compete and rebuild at the same time - it didn't work, and most would agree that we didn't get the full amount of value in prospects and young players that we could have gotten for Robbie Alomar, getting Matt Lawton, Alex Escobar, Earl Snyder, Billy Traber, and Jerrod Riggan. Lawton was decent, but average at best; Escobar showed some promise, but never panned out; Traber had that 1-hitter vs. Yankees, but did little else; Riggan showed some promise out of the bullpen, but it was short-lived; Snyder was moreless a throw-in, and essentially was that.

This time around, I feel we have to go all in. I would consider any of those players, and yes, even Santana in the right deal, since I too have doubts he can remain a catcher long-term AND be a premium offensive player. I just am not convinced he can handle the strain of being an everyday catcher and being a middle-of-the-order hitter; I suspect he'd be more consistent offensively as he was expected to be if he was shifted to 1B, or heck, even if he returned to his original position at 3B, though I don't know how feasible that would be at this point.

With that noted above, I would NOT trade Lindor or any of the lower-level premium prospects; for this plan to work, we need to keep that premium level talent and add that to the mix we acquire in trades. If we go with this plan, we're trading ML talent for premium prospects, NOT trading prospects for prospects. We do have some notable pitching prospects in the lower minors to add to the mix we do get from the trades.

Additionally, guys like Joe Smith, Tony Sipp (though he likely wouldn't fetch much), and perhaps even Nick Hagadone could be on the block. I wouldn't trade Pestano unless a boatload was offered (same case with Santana- would have to be a boatload as Olney mentioned). Same would hold true for Kipnis, a little less but still notable package for Chisenhall- essentially would have to be blown away to trade away young talent.

Like Matt, though, I feel we can't have a repeat of 2001-2002; yes, we'll take our lumps if we trade our ML talent for premium prospects, but what's the alternative? We hope for a hot streak to where we might squeak into the playoffs if we're lucky in terms of health and playing consistently well for a whole season, then perhaps fall off again the following season? We could accelerate that timetable and give ourselves multiple chances with some premium trades, but those can only occur if you have quality ML talent. Right now, we DO have that, but some of that won't be around for long.

Truthfully, Choo should have probably already been traded, and you could make that argument for Perez as well. I would think Choo has to be traded in an offseason deal because you know pretty much that he's not going to be here after this season, not with Boras as his agent and Choo's "championship team" comments this offseason. As for Perez, if he came at the right price, you could keep him, but it's debatable how good he truly is, how long he'll stay that good, and the fact you do have Pestano, who seems like he could handle the closer's role (a bit risky, granted). Plus, some of Perez's comments and "attitude" don't seem to mesh with the front office, for better or worse (some like that brash "attitude," others don't).

Overall, though, I hope the FO doesn't repeat that 2001-2002 mistake of trying to rebuild and contend at the same time; it's virtually impossible for a small-market team to pull that off. Could the Indians get lucky and pull it off? It's possible, but it's likelier that they'll miss, again, and once you trade that premium ML talent, you don't have it again for a while, and thus, you have a harder time gaining premium prospects in trades. Combine that with the fact that it's harder to build through the draft quickly now thanks to the new spending limits on the draft, and the Indians have to gain the most value from the trades of the ML players they do make this offseason and in the future.
November 8, 2012 - 12:40 AM EST
Cabrera for someone like Lynn might make some sense, as a win-win type of deal for both teams, though it's often a bad idea to trade a position player for a pitcher. Injury risk is high. I'd probably be down with a move like that though, as long as they made additional acquisitions with the money they did save. Asdrubal is tough to get a read on, I feel like if he paid more attention to his conditioning he could be really good, more like a 4-5 WAR player the next 2 years ... but, he doesn't seem to be able to pay attention to his conditioning.

The rumors about Upton and Bauer being available don't really make any sense. And if AZ really were shopping Bauer, I wouldn't come near him. It would have to mean they suspect something is wrong with his arm. Like when the Mariners traded Pineda.
November 7, 2012 - 11:48 PM EST
Upton has changed his five teams...I wonder who he changed...

and I'll be flat out honest...if Upton and Bauer are part of the deal...I'd put Choo, Perez AND Cabrera in the deal. Upton greater than Choo based on length of deal and upside and age...Bauer brings a #1 starter potential...and Perez is a toss away (in the thinking that they have depth in the bullpen), and they now have coverage for Cabrera...

That said...I'd need another top ten prospect from the lower levels to swing that deal though...but would definitely do it...
November 7, 2012 - 11:45 PM EST
This is going to be an interesting offseason...whatever happens...

I'll just say this...if it's NOT interesting, the Indians had better win, or their will either be a riot...or a game or two when the only people there are IPI writers...;)
November 7, 2012 - 11:09 PM EST
I think trying to get Trevor Bauer and Justin Upton in exchange for Asrubal Cabrera and maybe Choo/Perez would be great. I don't know about Lindor, Willie. I would be too sad to get rid of Lindor and hopefully the front office would too. Just have to get past the fact that Justin Upton already stated he does not want to come to Cleveland. Maybe our fresh new skipper can fix that problem.
November 7, 2012 - 9:52 PM EST
Obviously you guys are referring to the St. Louis Dispatch story today where they have "real" interest in Cabrera, and two names the writer speculated as being available were Lynn and Adams:
November 7, 2012 - 9:45 PM EST
Cardinals have been frustrated slightly with Lynn because of lack of conditioning. Nothing to worrisome though, he's a big guy and kind of got yo-yoed as a starter/reliever last 3 years. I think with the knowledge that he will strictly be a starter he can adjust his conditioning/weight in off season. He has great stuff and pitches with a little fire and attitude, be nice if they can get it done. Hope to god not discussing Jaime Garcia, guy is an absolute headcase and they are regretting the extension he got..maybe swap Ubaldo for him..change of scenery trade.
November 7, 2012 - 9:28 PM EST
I think the Tribe should go all in on pitching with rumors of a Lynn for ACab deal being discussed, I'd do it now.

Also rumors are Trevor Bauer is on the mkt. I'd offer them Lindor straight up for him.
November 7, 2012 - 8:39 PM EST
Baseball is about starting pitching and the Indians can't afford to sign it and don't have any in the minors. They won't win without it so why spend $10mil on Youk and $5mil on Guthrie?The Indians should trade everything not bolted down for young, close to MLB ready, starting pitching and then rebuild their position players and bullpen through free agency/minors(as if!) with an eye on 2014-15. I would keep Kipnis/Chisenhall, but those would be the only untouchables. Then again, if the right pitching package came along....
November 7, 2012 - 7:06 PM EST
I love Droobs, but could get behind him being traded if it's for somebody like a Lance Lynn - a ML-ready, pre-arbitration SP - and the $5.5MM or so they save on the deal goes toward getting somebody like Anibal Sanchez. Lynn and Droobs posted identical fWAR in 2012, so there's some alignment on value.
matt underwood
November 7, 2012 - 4:34 PM EST
Remember the 2001 off season when Shapiro traded Alomar with the intent of rebuilding and contending at the same time? I have a feeling we are entering the same territory with Antonetti... I really hope they are that stupid to attempt this again.

You have to do one or the other. With 1.) no high minors help, 2.) more holes in the starting line up and pitching rotation than swiss cheese, 3.) coming off a 68 win season, and 4.) ownerships refusal to pay to play, how the hell can you justify anything other than a rebuild?

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