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In defense of a dull offseason

In defense of a dull offseason
February 9, 2012
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Ho hum.  To the majority of the Cleveland Indians fan base, this has undoubtedly been a boring offseason.  Especially when the Tribe’s offseason is compared to that of other teams.

The Miami Marlins sign Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell, while the Indians trade for a 38-year old Derek Lowe and his 5.05 ERA.  The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim sign Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, while the Indians resign the perpetually broken down Grady Sizemore.  The Texas Rangers sign Yu Darvish, while the Indians invite a laundry list of “undervalued” talent to spring training.  The New York Yankees trade for Michael Pineda, while the Indians trade for Kevin Slowey.
And perhaps most galling for Tribe fans, the Detroit Tigers sign Prince Fielder, while the Indians counter with their own new first basemen, Casey Kotchman.
All of which have not exactly moved the excitement meter when it comes to the Indians’ 2012 season.

What follows, however, is a defense of the Tribe’s offseason.  Not because it is not frustrating to see the Indians fail to lay out the money necessary to obtain/retain premier baseball talent, but because in most of these cases, the Indians made the better decision to abstain from the pursuit of these players.

Reyes, Pujols, and Fielder come with long-term durability questions.  As the Tribe has unfortunately learned with Travis Hafner, locking up significant payroll with an injury prone player well into their mid-thirties can leave roster flexibility hamstrung.  While it could definitely be argued the Indians could have gotten creative and offered Fielder the same yearly average over three years had Scott Boras gone the short route, once it was clear he was pushing 8, 9, 10 years, it would have been a foolish pursuit on the Indians part, unless of course you’d like to replace one albatross with another one.

Buehrle and Wilson are both fine pitchers but not worth the prices they commanded on the open market and they are not that appreciatively better than what the Indians currently have on their staff, Slowey excluded.  It would have been nice if the Indians could have gotten in on the trade market for Pineda, Gio Gonzalez, or Mat Latos, but the Tribe blew the wad they would have had to get in on those transactions when they traded for Ubaldo Jimenez.  Yes, Jimenez has a few question marks, but if he is right he is as good if not better than any of them, at least in terms of 2012.

The Tribe’s choice of abstinence from pursuing the big-ticket items is actually in accordance with the general trend in Major League Baseball, and not just for the teams in the perceived smaller markets.  The Boston Red Sox signed Cody Ross to a 1-year, $3 million dollar contract to serve as a platoon player in right field.  That is the same contract the Tribe just gave to Kotchman to essentially serve as a platoon player at first base.  The Philadelphia Phillies are paying even less to Laynce Nix to serve as a super utility/platoon outfielder.  Just look around baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays have signed Jeff Keppinger and Luke Scott, the Colorado Rockies have stockpiled veteran low-cost options to field around their stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.  The Indians are no different; they’ve supplemented some cheaper veterans to compliment their very good young lineup.  They’ve also added a lot of minor league depth as insurance for the now-fragile Sizemore.

All of which does not exactly make for the splashiest of headlines, but the moves are in accordance with the moves of some of the smartest organizations in baseball.  It would be nice if the Indians would spend a little more money, but spending a lot of money would not have made a lot of sense this offseason.  Spending money will be imperative in the years to come, but for now, they’ve wisely refrained from offering a bunch of bad contracts.

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Tony Lastoria
February 15, 2012 - 2:29 PM EST
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