IBI Digest: 1/23/14 - 2/1/14
Recapping the week on Indians Baseball Insider
Baseball is in the air as we are down to the final couple weeks before Indians pitchers and catchers report to the team's spring training complex in Goodyear, Arizona. The equipment trucks have already departed for that destination as final preparations for spring training are now underway all around baseball. The Indians still have some loose knots to tie up this offseason, however, as they have not yet agreed to terms with their aceJustin Masterson. Needless to say, the over-20-year-old streak of offseasons without arbitration hearings may be coming to an end. On a lighter note, the Indians hosted their second annual Tribe Fest last weekend and despite inclement weather had a healthy turnout as fans got to meet some their favorite players.
Here's what happened this week on IBI:
2014 IBI Top 50 Prospects: #50 RHP Will Roberts: Tony Lastoria kicks off this year's Top 50 Prospects countdown with right-hander Will Roberts. Despite his struggles late in the year and in Arizona Fall League, the Indians are intrigued with him as a potential starting pitching option and look to him to continue to progress in 2014.
2014 IBI Top 50 Prospects: #49 LHP Elvis Araujo: Time is not on the side of left-hander Elvis Araujo as he has battled his way through injuries in his pro career with the Tribe thus far. He will need to prove that he can stay healthy and consistent in order to continue to work his way up through the farm system.
2014 IBI Top 50 Prospects: #48 RHP Casey Shane: This right-hander from Texas was selected in last year's draft by the Tribe and overall was a bit of a disappointment in his first professional season as his conditioning and work ethic became a concern. However, his outlook as a pitcher remains strong if he can commit to staying in shape.
2014 IBI Top 50 Prospects: #47 RHP Jeff Johnson: While bullpen prospects are never a sure thing, Jeff Johnsonlooks to figure into the future for the Tribe 'pen as he is coming off a strong showing at AA Akron in 2013. The development of his splitter is one of the things that could make him a viable big league option soon.
2014 IBI Top 50 Prospects: #46 OF Tyler Holt: In addition to celebrating a BCS Championship with his alma mater Florida State Seminoles, Tyler Holt can take pride in his solid year at AA Akron. His speed, plate approach and elite-level defense in the outfield could make him an outfield depth option for the Tribe sooner rather than later.
2014 IBI Top 50 Prospects: #45 LHP Ryan Merritt: This lanky southpaw has proven skeptics wrong thus far in his pro career as he has managed to stick in the starting rotation at every level he has pitched at thus far. Now whether Merritt can continue to do so remains to be seen, but his progress will be interesting to watch in 2014 and beyond.
Around the Farm: January 25, 2014: There may have been no Indians playing on Saturday night, but Tony Lastoria has news abut Carlos Santana and his play at third base in winter ball, including video evidence of how much he has improved at the position this offseason.
Indians to unveil new Jim Thome statue: At Tribe Fest this weekend, the Indians officially revealed plans to erect a statue of former slugger Jim Thome. The statue will be unveiled in early August. Jim Berdysz has all the details about the team's decision to honor their all-time home run leader.
IBI Power Poll: How much time will Santana see at third?: It's become more of a reality at this point that Carlos Santana will be getting reps at third base this season. The question now is how much time will he actually see at the position? Jim Pete throws it out to the fans in this week's power poll.
Around the Farm: January 26, 2014: Carlos Santana reached base three times on Sunday via a double and a pair of walks as he drove in a run and scored a run in game six of the Dominican Winter League Serie Final. Arthur Kinney recaps all the winter league playoffs as well as which Indians will and will not continue playing this offseason.
MLB Storylines: Garza deal finally complete: A few days after the deal was initially reported as final, the Brewers have officially announced the signing of free agent starter Matt Garza to a 4-year/$50 million deal, plus incentives and a vesting option for a fifth year. Andy Nichols has all the details on the latest MLB news and rumors.
Tribe Happenings: Masterson might be wise to sign now: As the 20+ year streak of arbitration-free offseasons may be coming to an end with Justin Masterson and the Indians still not in agreement on a potential contract extension, Tony Lastoria explains why he thinks the Tribe ace should sign now.
MLB Storylines: Masterson extension talks put on hold: As the arbitration deadline looms, the Indians and ace Justin Masterson have agreed to put extension talks on the shelf for now and focus primarily on getting a deal done for next season. Andy Nichols discusses that, the Tribe picking up Elliot Johnson on a minor league deal and other news and notes from around the league.
Indians create a memorable Tribe Fest for the fans: The sophomore edition of Tribe Fest proved to be a rousing success as hundreds of fans descended on Progressive Field this past weekend to meet their favorite players and personnel. Steve Garton provides details and other tidbits from the event.
Swinging for the Fences: Waiting to trade Cabrera: Many wanted to trade Asdrubal Cabrera at the end of the season as the sting from the crucial double play he grounded into in the Wild Card Game capped off a disappointing 2013 campaign by the former All-Star shortstop. But Jake Dungan wonders if a trade will actually happen this offseason, and if not, when?
Around the Farm: January 28, 2014: These articles have pretty much become Carlos Santana updates as this offseason's winter ball campaigns continue to wind down. Santana put up 1's across the board as he had a hit, a run, a walk, a strikeout and an error on Tuesday. Arthur Kinney reports.
MLB Storylines: Burnett to return for 2014: The free-agent starting pitching market has become more interesting with the news that veteran starter A.J. Burnett has announced that he will return to pitch in 2014 after pondering possible retirement. Andy Nichols has all the details.
Ubaldo just won't leave the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario: With Matt Garza being signed to a 4-year/$50 million deal by the Brewers, there's been plenty of speculation regarding whether the price tags on Ubaldo Jimenez andErvin Santana would fall to bargain values. And with that, the possibility of Jimenez returning to Cleveland appears to be increasing every day. Jim Pete analyzes if it would be worth it.
Starting from the Top: Bourn, Swisher and Kipnis: Jim Berdysz begins looking at the projected 2014 Indians lineup starting with Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis. The Indians are hoping for improvement from Bourn and Swisher after down years and for Kipnis to continue to blossom into a superstar after his All-Star campaign in 2013.
MLB Storylines: Arroyo still waiting for his next contract: As the starting pitching market continues to slowly but surely get moving again, Bronson Arroyo claims he has yet to receive an offer. In other news, the Mariners have been reported to have strong interest in free agents Nelson Cruz and Fernando Rodney. Andy Nichols reports.
Trend Spotting: On Larry Doby, Jim Thome and a statue travesty: Despite the accomplishments of Jim Thome in his time with the Tribe, many are not happy with the team's decision to erect a statue of him this summer, particularly because the first African American player in the American League, Larry Doby, has not received the same honor. Michael Hattery discusses the controversy in his weekly feature.
MLB Storylines: Michael Young calls it a career: Another star player is hanging it up this offseason after a memorable career. Michael Young spent 14 years in the major leagues (13 with the Rangers and one with the Phillies and Dodgers). He had been pondering retirement all offseason and finally decided to call it quits despite drawing interest on the free-agent market. Andy Nichols has all the details.
Orbiting Cleveland: Ubaldo Jimenez or Justin Masterson?: The saga continues as Justin Masterson and the Indians look to be heading to arbitration and Ubaldo Jimenez continues to sit on the free-agent market without any significant interest. Steve Orbanek tries to decide which to pursue long-term if the Tribe had to choose one.
MLB Storylines: Cubs add more pitching with Hammel, McDonald: Jason Hammel was someone the Indians had shown interest in earlier this offseason, but decided to move on due to his high asking price. Well, whether the right-hander was really expecting to get a multi-year deal or not, he has now accepted a one-year deal from the Cubs. Andy Nichols has all the news and notes from around the league.
Jason Kipnis watches the world go by: John Grimm picks up where he left off on his analysis of Indians All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis by looking in-depth at his swing patterns and habits and how they've changed over the past couple seasons.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.