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IBI Inbox: Don't give up on the Tribe just yet

IBI Inbox: Don't give up on the Tribe just yet
August 12, 2013
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It has been awhile, but I decided to dust off this old feature and bring it back to the site this week.

In any case, it is time for another IBI Inbox to talk about some of the questions from the minors to the big leagues that Indians fans have asked of late. If you have a question on anything pertaining to the Cleveland Indians from the minors to the big leagues that you would like answered in a future inbox, feel free to contact me. I also pull from questions in the comments sections in articles, and also from Twitter, so you can post your questions there as well.

To the IBI Inbox we go.....

Bill T. wrote: The Indians getting swept by the Tigers and then struggling against the Angels leaves me with little hope the rest of the season. Am I wrong?

Me: As bad as last week was, the Indians are still very much in the thick of the playoff chase with 44 games to play. This team has proven to be streaky all season, and if they hold true to that, then they are bound to hit a hot streak very soon. This upcoming nine-game road trip is favorable as they play against a bad Twins team, a struggling Athletics team, and a disappointing Angels team. They could very well win six or more games on this trip (or they could continue their recent slide).

I think a lot of people will agree that the division is a long shot at this point. Anything can happen on that front, but getting swept by the Tigers really was a near fatal blow. But even without the division title the Indians can still reach the playoffs via the wildcard. The two teams leading the wildcard race – the Rays and Athletics – are struggling, and the Orioles and Royals appear to be the only other teams in the mix. The standings in the wildcard race will surely change a lot over the next six weeks, just like they did from a week ago as remember the Indians were up a game as one of the wildcard leaders and a week later are four games out. The Indians also get to play several of those teams over the next few weeks, which will have a direct impact on the standings.

The Indians have surely been dealt a few blows with Corey Kluber getting hurt and needing Scott Kazmir to get some rest, so this week is a huge test with the young phenom Danny Salazar and the inconsistent Carlos Carrasco both going. If both pitch to their capabilities, the Indians may not skip a beat. Also, it is important to note that the Indians went through a ten game stretch last week facing elite or very good starting pitchers. The will get a break from that over the next week, so maybe that is what they need to get this offense going again.

Bottom line, there is no way you can count a team out when they are just 4.0 games out with 44 to go. They may not make the playoffs, but even if they do not this season should be a good springboard into a crucial offseason. Going from 68 wins last year to a 85-90 win season is pretty darn good, and is something that more people should acknowledge. As disappointing as a late season tumble in the standings would be and to miss the playoffs, this has been a fun year. Just remember where they were at this point last year. It is night and day, and there is actually promise for beyond this season.

Chad L. wrote: With the emergence of Yan Gomes, where do you see the backup catching situation being next year? I know Marson has been injured, but would there be any value for him next year especially if he plays in Spring Training and has good stats there?

Me: At this point, barring injury, Yan Gomes has solidified himself as the Indians backup catcher for next season and beyond. Depending on what the Indians do with Carlos Santana this offseason, it is possible that Gomes even becomes the starting catcher next season based on his impressive defensive showing this year and how productive he has been at the plate.

I do think that Santana will remain behind the plate next season because that is where his value truly lies as a near elite offensive player at the catching position whereas he’d just be an average player at first base or designated hitter. It also would be wise of the Indians not to put 100% faith in Gomes as the everyday catcher based on one season. It is important to note that a lot of his success this season has come in spurts and that manager Terry Francona has managed his playing time well and put him in situations to have success. That having been said, I think we will see Gomes play a lot more at catcher than the typical backup and when he is not catching he could be the designated hitter on many occasions.

As for Marson, his time appears to be running out with the Indians. He is making $1 million this season and will be up for arbitration again this offseason. Even though he has barely played, he will probably get a little bit of a raise if he went through arbitration, and when you consider the Indians will need every dollar this offseason to make upgrades to the team, he is probably all but gone. I expect the Indians will non-tender him and then look for a quality third catching option to have as depth at Triple-A and sign one or two of them to minor league deals. They will also have Roberto Perez around who has proven to be just as good a defender as Marson – if not better – and has the same suspect bat.

Paul B. wrote: With the Red Sox extending Dustin Pedroia, have you heard any discussion lately of the Indians making headway with Kipnis, Brantley and Masterson about contract extensions?

Me: Well, the Indians did extend Ryan Raburn last week. That was not the extension everyone was hoping for, but a clear sign that they are getting ahead of their offseason by talking about extensions now with several players. While the Indians have not said one way or the other whether they have had discussions with other players about contract extensions, you can bet they have talked to the representatives for Jason KipnisMichael BrantleyJustin Masterson and even Scott Kazmir about it.

There is a precedence of the Indians making contract extensions at this time of the year. Back in August of 2006 the Indians extended Cliff Lee to a multi-year deal, and did the same in July of 2007 when they extended Travis Hafnerto a big multi-year deal. But most of their extensions in the past have occurred in March or April before the upcoming season, so if the Indians do extend any of Kipnis, Brantley or Masterson, it will probably come around then. The only exception to this being Kazmir as he is a free agent this offseason, so they will probably be active in extension talks with him from now until mid-November when he hits the open market.

I think extension talk with Masterson will heat up this winter as he is hitting his final year of arbitration and will get a hefty raise where he probably makes $10-12 million next season.  As for Kipnis and Brantley, I think there is a very good chance that both get long term deals this winter or at the start of the season next year. Brantley would probably come sooner as he is entering arbitration for the first time, so a January extension announcement could happen.

Eric T. wrote: Any chance the Indians will be able to re-sign Kazmir or has he priced himself out of Cleveland?

Me: It depends on how stubborn he is. I think there is a good chance he tests free agency and he has earned that right with a very good season. But the Indians deserve some credit for giving him an opportunity to cash in, something that few other organizations afforded him last December. Also, with how the Indians have managed his workload this season and are really working with him so he can finish strong – which obviously could help him land a big deal this offseason and at the same time help the Indians win now.

If Kazmir is able to finish out the season, doesn’t show any signs or wear, avoids injury and most importantly he finishes strong, then he could cash in big this offseason. It is hard to see a team willing to give him more than three years in a deal considering he is a year away from pitching in independent ball, though the offseason is often unpredictable and anything can happen if a pitching starved team goes for broke. If he does not get a deal greater than three years, I think the Indians will be in play, even if his per year amount is in the $7-11 million range.  Starting pitching does not come cheap in free agency. Just look at the contract Edwin Jackson got last offseason when he signed with the Cubs for four years $52 million. That’s a steep price to pay for an average starting pitcher, and might be where Kazmir ends up if several teams get in the bidding and he finishes strong.

One interesting twist to all of this is the Indians could extend him a qualifying offer before free agency begins. If they do this, then they would get draft pick compensation for him and the team that signs him would lose their first round pick. As we saw last offseason, qualifying offers were the kiss of death for free agents as no team wanted to lose their first round picks unless the talent they were getting in return was of big impact variety. If the Indians did this, they would have to agree to pay him about $13-14 million in 2014 if he accepts their offer. But he has to accept that offer prior to free agency starting, and while that amount of money might be a lot to pay him for one year, it might be a good gamble and a way to push him into a multi-year deal with the team because if he accepts the qualifying offer he would need to bank on having another big year so he gets a multi-year deal the next offseason.

Scott M. wrote: I am the guy fixated with the career of Steven Wright…he got his first start [last week] which got me to see what Lars Anderson is up to.  My understanding is the White Sox (Charlotte) released him.  Do you know the Indian's rational behind this trade?   I just don't get it.

Me: Yeah, at the time that trade was made last year it was a real puzzler. There was no exact reason why they did it and to this day I myself don't understand it. Even though Wright was minor league filler for years, he had piqued the interest of several teams because of how well he was doing with his knuckleball so he had some value. But to just dump him for Anderson, a former top prospect who had faded significantly along the lines of Matt LaPortaAndy Marte, and others was a questionable decision on their part.

Wright has had a good season at Triple-A this year going 6-6 with a 3.65 ERA, but he has struggled at the major league level with a 5.40 ERA and nine walks in 13.1 innings. He may not amount to anything, but at the time of the trade at least there was some potential upside to him as a knuckleballer whereas Anderson was trending way down as a prospect and his future was limited (and over as it turns out a year later).  Part of me thinks the Indians just did not know how to truly evaluate a knuckler and they just did not want the hassle with how it can be tough on catchers. But still, that's a good guy to have around as depth for several years. It was a mistake if you ask me.

Chad L. wrote: Are there any AAA options available and good alternatives to help us out with left-handed bullpen help?

Me: At this time there just is no one at Columbus that can fill a short term left-handed relief need, which is why the Indians made a deal to pick up Marc Rzepczynski at the deadline. Scott Barnes was a disappointment in Cleveland earlier in the year and has been out injured since the first week of July. Nick Hagadone has struggled with inconsistency, JC Romero got hurt a week after he was signed and has not pitched since, and Clay Rapadahas not impressed with his stuff or command even though  he has a 1.62 ERA in 20 relief appearances. The lack of command is a big reason the Yankees let him go in the first place, and the Indians don’t want another Rich  Hill nightmare with the walks.

T.J. House could be an option but he is not really suited for a pen role right now and is a depth starting option. He might be a guy the Indians call up in September to have around in long relief and potentially get some experience pitching out of the bullpen. The only true option they have is Giovanni Soto, but he's been out most of the year with a back injury. His loss has been huge as if he were healthy and pitching as expected, he would have been up in Cleveland by late May.

Jeff K. wrote: If Carlos Carrasco stays on the major league roster for the rest of the season would he still be arbitration eligible after this season or does he not have enough service time?

Me: Good question. The way I see it, Carrasco will be a Super 2 player no matter what this offseason, so he is going to hit arbitration. But a Super 2 versus an Arbitration 1 player should mean less cost for next season.

I don’t see how Carrasco will be an Arbitration 1 player – which is a player with 3.0+ years of service time. He entered the season with two years and 67 days of service time (2.067). He’d needed to get enough days this season to get that 67 number to 172, which would equal a full year and roll the number to three years (3.000). That means he would have to spend 105 days on the major league roster, and without checking the exact days he had prior to his callup last week he would have needed to be up for 40-50 days already – which he hasn’t.

For those into player control and all that, the Indians now appear to have gained an extra year of control on Carrasco. He now projects as a free agent after the 2018 season as he would be Super 2 for 2014 and then if he stays with the team and in the bigs he would have his regular three arbitration years from 2015-2017. He’s been a tough one to watch this season, but he’s talented and could be a serviceable arm for the next several years, so the extra year of control could pay off for the Indians down the road.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

August 13, 2013 - 7:18 PM EDT
Thanks Tony, I never did the math and just assumed Kluber's option was used. That opens up a lot more possibilities for the rotation next year.
August 13, 2013 - 11:38 AM EDT
Roger, crazy as it may sound with Detroit in BK, Ilitch has not been the moneybags owner willing to throw money down a rat hole to buy a championship season. Shocking as it may seem they are 3rd or 4th in media market money - so Dombroski has arguably EVEN MORE money to play with than say Chicago - a 200 mil payroll is no sweat.

Of course it never hurts that they have excellent season ticket buyers - and good overall attendance.

I also thought years ago - when Ilitch was throwing away tens of millions on busts like Bonderman & Willis - and had no post seasons to show for it - that it would hamper them long term. It didnt' - and these challenges won't now either.

They have a scary rotation now that Max has emerged - and it could be like Baltimore back in the 70's.

But that can be a plus - this franchise needed the push to get this far. And we have made huge strides this year - win or lose.
August 13, 2013 - 12:24 AM EDT
No matter how bleak it is, it is still way too early to give up. And besides, like I said, they just need to play hard to the finish and let the chips fall as they may. We are all greedy and want playoffs but forget that four months ago most fans would have considered a .500 season a victory.

As for Pestano, yeah, it is looking like he is going to finish under a full 3.000 of service time which means he will be Super 2 and get arbitration, but also less money than he was maybe hoping for and also the Indians will gain an extra year of control (and have two options remaining on him). That hurts him a little.

Carrasco is out of options next year, but Kluber actually has an option remaining. They did option him this year twice in April, but both times were less than 20 days so they don't count.
August 13, 2013 - 12:15 AM EDT
I think it is time to give least they got us to the NFL preseason I guess

Now the Royals are ahead of the Tribe in the standings....this team really knows how to fall apart and play dead when it counts
August 12, 2013 - 11:00 PM EDT
Matt I am not so sure that the pertano situation wasnt partially control of his rights the extra year. if he would have been say 2 yrs 75 days would he still be there in c-bus if the team didnt win in the arbitration regulations aspect. I might be wrong based on the winter of 2012-2013 but there was a lot of dolans being careful about things like that. contrast in terms with another city that has big financial problems Detroit.
August 12, 2013 - 8:33 PM EDT
Roger, I was thinking the same thing about Pestano. It's nice to have a silver lining to his issues this year.

Rich, Carrasco and Kluber are both out of options I can't imagine cutting either of them loose. I can't see Salazar or Bauer making the team out of spring training unless they are absolutely lights out or someone gets hurt.

Tony, what is Tomlin looking at salary wise if the Indians offer arbitration? Any chance they give him $2m or so and option him to Columbus as another safety net?
Rich Smith
August 12, 2013 - 7:25 PM EDT
Isn't Carrasco out of options next year, meaning he has to make the 25 man or be exposed to waivers?
August 12, 2013 - 7:01 PM EDT
vinnie is in the same boat now that carlos is he only had 11 days to the good side of two years so his best case is super two this off season. Speaking of pitchers the tigers closer is free to walk this off-season as he signed prior to 2010 for 16 and change for 3 yrs, in addition they have 3 arbitration cases in fister, porcello and get this max scherzer (cy young award) with a 150 million payroll now dombroski has his work cut out for him to try to get that deal done. Little ceasers and the motor city casino arent that huge of entities for mike ilitch at mid 80's to consider. The contracts of verlander, sanchez, fielder, and miggie doesnt give him the wiggle room and add scherzer to the equation and you are looking at huge bucks he will get out of the bidding for jhonny, But for 2014 hunter and v-kmart add about 30 million to the numbers of those listed earlier. in addition i think fister porcello and scherzer are all near 6 million now in 2013 That makes for a lot of balancing of numbers in 2014 add to that i high priced mgr in leyland. If ilitch though the red wing contracts were a headache he has some much bigger ones looking him in the mirror in the next 7 months. good luck mr and mrs ilitch!!!

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