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Plenty of movement at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

The Indians are in position to wrap up a nice offseason, whether you see it or not...

Plenty of movement at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario
December 8, 2013
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Major League Baseball’s 2013 Winter Meetings are set to officially kick off tomorrow, on December 9th, at Walt Disney’s World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida. While things have been quiet since the David Murphy signing a couple of weeks ago at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, the rest of baseball has blown the doors off of free agency with a slew of signings that have taken place over the past few weeks.

Off the board is Robinson Cano, who is heading to the Great Northwest to play for the Seattle Mariners to the tune of ten years and $240 million dollars. The Cano signing came on the heels of Jacoby Ellsbury signing with Cano’s old team, the New York Yankees, for seven-years and $153 million.  This is after the Yankees had signed former Braves’ catcher Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million dollar deal and Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $16 million dollar deal. Oh wait, we aren’t done yet. The Evil Empire also signed Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45 million dollar deal.

According to, those players represent four of the top 12 players that were free agents. You could argue that they were a lot higher than that.

The Tigers have been busy as well, dealing Prince Fielder to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler, and trading Doug Fisterto the Washington Nationals for a potential star in left hander Robbie RaySteve Lombardozzi (a back-up infielder) and Ian Krol (a lefty reliever). They then signed closer Joe Nathan to a two-year, $20 million deal.

And how about the Twins. They unleashed a four year, $49 million dollar deal to Ricky Nolasco, then followed that up with a three-year, $24 million dollar deal to Phil Hughes.

I could continue discussing all of the signings that have taken place inside and outside the American League Central since the hot stove season began, but I just don’t feel like analyzing all of the exorbitant amounts of money that has been spent by a variety of teams that normally break the bank (who said the Yankees weren’t going to spend freely anymore?), and all of the odd teams that have dipped their feet into the free spending pool known as 2013-2014 free agency (yeah, you Houston an Minnesota).

Some of the moves have been prudent, and some of the moves have been idiotic, but all of the moves have been relatively chaotic.

It’s a different dance than last year, but one that you can never really predict, can you?

What have the Indians done so far?

They’ve signed David Murphy to a two-year, $12 million deal. They’ve re-signed Jason Giambi to a minor league deal. They’ve watched Scott Kazmir sign with the Oakland A’s for two-years and $22 million. They’ve watched Joe Smith sign with the Los Angeles Angels for three-years and $15.75 million.

They’ve watched a market that they predicted would go off the map one-year ago, when they took advantage of a softer market that was trying to figure out how to handle the new draft-pick compensation rules for players that were tendered qualifying offers by their respective teams.

I admire the Indians foresight last season, when they seemingly made ten more moves than they had over the past three or four seasons combined.

Okay, take out the seemingly.

They did, and it worked.

The Indians furious charge in September got them into the playoffs for the first time since 2007, and left a fan base hungry for more.

The question remains though: What will that “more” look like?

The Indians needs heading into this offseason after it became apparent that they weren’t going to sign any of their major free agents were clear. They needed to sign an outfielder who could likely play right field. They needed to replace Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, who were arguably their best pitchers in September. They needed to bulk up a bullpen that was already shaky before they lost Joe Smith and non-tendered Chris Perez.

The Murphy deal was a sound move, and while it wasn’t splashy, he should rebound in 2014 and give the Indians better offense than folks expect, and be an outstanding defender.

Like the Mike Aviles move in 2012, the Murphy deal gives the Indians versatility and options. My immediate thought when they signed Aviles was that they could really begin to shop Asdrubal Cabrera if they wanted to, which is exactly what they did. They didn’t want to deal him per se, but it allowed them the flexibility to explore that option.

In doing so, they were able to swing a deal with the Reds and the Diamondbacks to acquire Bryan ShawMatt Albers and Trevor Bauer. They were able to make the deal without losing Cabrera, and while that looks like idiocy today, it was heralded by everybody as brilliant back then.

It really was brilliant. You can’t blame Antonetti for Asdrubal Cabrera playing like garbage. He had two years of control, and would allow the Indians to pull of another deal for their shortstop, if it ever came up.

Fast forward to 2013.

The current Indians outfield is jam packed full of really good players. Michael Brantley holds down the outfield spot, and is a much better player than his obvious numbers suggest. Michael Hattery and I discussed this very point in our latest Cleveland Sports Insiders podcast. In center, you have Michael Bourn, who is slated to make $13.5 million in 2014, and is coming of a year in which he’ll either rebound, or spiral into the abyss known as bust-ville. In right you have David Murphy, Ryan Raburn and Drew Stubbs, who should also serve as a backup to all three outfield positions.

It’s a lot of flexibility.

It’s a lot of value.

It’s the same situation that the Indians had entering the Winter Meetings in 2012.

Before we explore that a bit, let’s back up and discuss the Indians money strategy, because I think there’s some misconception with regards to this year’s mentality, as opposed to past years.

In the past, as I’ve documented several times, the Cleveland Indians have capped their money and done nothing during the offseason. In 2006 and 2008, the Indians saw a wide-open window slammed shut. It was most distressing in 2006, when a key signing or two could have elevated a team that ultimately regained its mojo in 2007, and nearly went to the World Series. Imagine what happens if that team was supplemented in 2006.

The 2006 season would have been better, and the 2007 season could have gone in a completely different direction than it ultimately did.

The Indians are in a very similar position as they were back in 2006. This Indians’ team is certainly built to win, even now. I think it’s a safe bet to say that in its current construction, and with Terry Francona as manager, this team can win 82-85 ballgames, and with an influx of youth, has some longevity as well.

Now taking all of that into account and fast forwarding to today, the Indians have a chance to do some damage heading into 2014.

Understand this. The Cleveland Indians will spend money if it makes sense.

That’s the difference.

Their definition of “making sense” may differ from many of us, but they’ll spend money if they see fit. They’ll make deals if they make sense. They will improve this team.

In my estimation, the one deal that I would have made that this front office chose not to was the Scott Kazmir deal. I know there are several people that won’t really read this piece and will pick apart that one sentence, and that’s fine. The simple piece of the puzzle for me is that I firmly believe Scott Kazmir can be a steal at that amount of money. I get that he missed two years. I get that it is a risk. I get that $22 million is a lot of money.

I also believe that there’s more to the puzzle than the gaps people keep bringing up.

But that’s not the point of my piece today.

My point is that Antonetti didn’t see it as the type of deal that the Indians should make.

While I don’t agree with it, I do understand the questions with regards to Kazmir, and I also understand that he has other options that are likely more apparent to him than to me at this point.

Antonetti enters the 2013 Winter Meetings with a similar deck of cards as last year with regards to a willingness to make moves, and the ability to make a trade. The major difference is that now, he has a team that only needs tinkering, and not an overhaul.

If a trade becomes available to take on salary, and it improves the Indians and gives them a controllable piece or two that can have impact on the major league roster, Antonetti will make that move.

Trust me.

Trust Terry Francona.

He wouldn’t have joined this team without that promise from his good friend and colleague.

In 2006 and 2008, Eric Wedge didn’t have that type of collateral with Mark Shapiro. Wedge was a good-enough manager (arguable), but certainly was never in the realm of respect, friendship and ultimately never had the voice that Francona has had since he became a manager with the Red Sox in 2004.

The Indians don’t want to spend more than $85 million, but they will.

The Indians don’t necessarily want to deal Drew Stubbs or Michael Bourn, but they will.

The Indians know they are selling low on Asdrubal Cabrera, but they will sell low if they can bring in a cost effective and more importantly, a tangible piece to apply to the 2014 puzzle.

If that’s a reliever, so be it.

If that’s a starter, so be it.

If that’s something else that the Indians aren’t talking about, so be it.

This isn’t the same team that let the general public down after making runs in the past. This isn’t the same front office.

Don’t trust me, trust the action.

Antonetti came out at the beginning of the free agent period swinging.

The first message sent was the signing of Jason Giambi, and the release of Chris Perez.

Keep a quality voice in the locker, and get rid of one that had worn out his welcome.

No, I don’t think either one of those moves are a major factor on the field, but they certainly continued that move forward mentality that they showcased last season.

Yan Gomes was named the starting catcher, which immediately meant that Nick Swisher and Carlos Santanawould be sharing the DH and the first base roles. There was no hesitation to the move, which lets you know exactly what Francona thinks of Gomes and his ability to maintain his level of play from 2013.

Last year, Mark Reynolds looked like he was going to be a semi-regular at first base. Now we have Swisher and Santana.

Defensively, the catcher position is in good hands. Offensively, first base and DH have never looked better.

Antonetti then came out and said that the Indians needed a left-handed outfielder, a back-end reliever and a starter, in that order.

Almost immediately after, they signed David Murphy, and under-the-radar guy that most sabrmetric fans love, and so should you. He’s a Terry Francona guy (seriously), and a guy that can fill any role that he needs to.

He’s this season’s Ryan Raburn, but likely with more upside and flexibility. He only cost the Indians $6 million dollars, which is one million less than Mark Reynolds cost last year, by the way.

Brilliant may be hyperbole here, but it certainly was a smart and shrewd signing. No, it wasn’t the massive splash that someone like John Hart would have perhaps made, but it was a really good baseball move.

And it gave this team flexibility.

There have been other rumblings as well with this team, that should fill other holes that I haven’t mentioned yet.

Carlos Santana offered to play third base.

When I initially saw that statement, I couldn’t help but cringe. Part of it was because it came off the heels of Jesus Aguilar playing third base. Part of it was because, well, Carlos Santana offered to play third base.

Then I thought about it.

Bare minimum, how phenomenal is the attitude that would make last year’s starting catcher say, “Hey, I think I can help out at third base, let’s give it a try.”

How many people do that these days?

Francona, ever the media specialist, tempered expectations. “He’s going to go over there and play a little third, just to see. It can’t hurt anything. If he wants to go over there and do that, all that can really happen is positive.”

I’d say.

Santana is looked at as an offensive weapon by the Indians’ management, as he should be. He’s an impact player, and now will be working with third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh in the Dominican to see if this project can’t become something more permanent.

It’s funny.

My Cleveland Sports Insiders buddies discussed dealing Santana for a third baseman prior to the offseason. Now, before you get all hot and bothered by the shear mention of dealing Santana, it’s not because I don’t like him, value him, or think he’s a good player (my goodness, that sounded like something straight from Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night fame). It’s the exact opposite.

With Gomes performing, the thinking was that the Indians may be able to deal for a third baseman with similar skills, allowing the team to better balance their numbers.

I never thought that Santana could play third at the big league level.

The fact that Sarbaugh is going to be Santana’s best friend for the foreseeable future lets me know that the cart isn’t before the horse.

I’d be intrigued with a Santana and Chisenhall platoon at third base.

Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Indians found a third basemen in the coming weeks, as well.

Offensively, this team has upside.

Yan Gomes will likely regress offensively this year, but is that really a major impact to this team going forward? He played in 88 games in 2013, and while they were impactful, it’s not like Gomes was the focal point of the offense.

He could be a star in the making. Time will tell.

At first base, I don’t think anyone believes that Nick Swisher is done yet, and while his numbers turned into something more normal than most thought, if he’s healthy, he will be better.

Carlos Santana is just good, and will continue to be good.

Jason Kipnis is nowhere near as good as he could be, and while last year was a great season for the Indians second baseman, we haven’t seen the tip of the iceberg.

Whoever plays at shortstop this year, whether it be Jose RamirezFrancisco Lindor, Asdrubal Cabrera, Mike Aviles or a combination of all four, it can’t get any worse than last year.

I know that Cabrera’s numbers were similar to 2012’s numbers for the most part, but are you kidding me? He wasn’t that good in 2012, and was an absolute hole in the offense last year. I’ve never seen more meaningless hits in all of my life. Cabrera is terrible, and he needs to go. But, the good thing here is that he’s likely bottomed out. It can’t get any worse.

Oh, I know, he’ll bounce back in his contract year…yada…yada…yada. My Dad always used to tell me to wish in one hand and…well…you get my point.

Third is up for debate, but it was worse than short offensively. My goodness, can I pray for Super Jack Hannahanagain? I do think that Chisenhall can be better, and am intrigued by Santana. Aviles is always an option as well.

In the outfield, I’m bullish on everyone.

Michael Brantley has improved every year, and that will continue. No, he may not hit a million with runners in scoring position, but I do believe that he has more ability that many give him credit for. The Indians and Francona feel that way as well.

Michael Bourn wasn’t very good last year, and people point to the trends in saying he can’t rebound, and will continue to regress.

I don’t disbelieve that, but do think there’s enough question to actually say he could prove to be worthy of his $13.5 million dollars, especially taking into account the money that’s gone out to outfielders in recent weeks.

David Murphy is going to be a major factor for the Indians, and Hattery’s analysis of the move with regards to ballpark factor is brilliant, and correct.

Raburn is going to regress, but the Indians signed Murphy to play more than Raburn. The balance will make a really good right field. Don’t forget about Drew Stubbs, who provides incredible value.

The Indians offense is good, and has the potential to be better…especially if they subtract Asdrubal Cabrera out of it.

The focus will be on pitching over the next week, and whether or not the Indians can sign someone they trust to supplement their returning starters.

There is also questions about their current starters that nobody really wants to answer.

Last year, if I said, Corey Kluber was a long-term solution as a starting pitcher, you’d have laughed me off the planet. He was borderline dominant over a short period of time in 2013. Now, if I said Corey Kluber has questions about being a permanent starter in 2014 and beyond, people will laugh me off the planet.

I’m a big believer in a body of work.

He’s yet to prove that to me.

He’s our #3 starter as of now.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I’m just saying there are questions there.

Zach McAllister is our number four.

There are questions there.

Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer or flipping Josh Tomlin is our number five.

There are questions there.

I’m buoyed by the fact that Justin Masterson and Danny Salazar are out top two starters. One will prove to be an ace. The other will continue to be the most consistently good starter in the rotation.

There are questions with the rest, even if you don’t want to believe it.

The Indians have to address that, and I think they can in a cost effective manner, either by trading or signing someone.

Antonetti will, if the right player is there. Eventually there will be a right player.

The bullpen needs some veteran leadership, and I’m not as concerned about the back-end as many are. The Indians will find their Matt Albers. The Indians will likely find their Joe Smith. I think the Indians will even find a veteran to close, although it could be a guy that doesn’t enter the equation until July or so, because of injury (I’m sure you can figure out the couple of guys I mean there, with a little research).

Antonetti will fill those holes.

Because that’s what the Indians do. They march to the beat of their own drum, and don’t let the market dictate their policy. If they can improve, they will, it’ll just look a bit different than the rest.

I don’t believe the Indians will sign Justin Masterson to a long-term deal, as many are speculating. I believe this for two reasons. First off, Masterson has eyes. He sees what pitchers that may be valued beneath him are signing. He’s not going to take less than what’s out there to stay in Cleveland. Secondly, when do the Indians sign starters to long-term deals who are over 30?


If you get a chance, check out IBI’s sister site, It’s a site that the podcasters of Cleveland Sports Insiders built to give us an avenue to talk other sports other than the Indians, but also to add some interesting Indians content as well. For example, I’m currently revisiting a piece that I did four years ago on the Indians All-Decade team, called the All-Aught Indians. My goal is to meander through the 26-piece series and revisit it with the help of some folks at IBI and CSI and see if Metrics may change the ultimate end game.

I’m also going to take a look at the player of the decade once it’s all done.

Don’t forget about the C.S.I. podcasts as well. Two are in the coffers as we speak, and will be going up today and tomorrow respectively. Also look for guest gigs from Steve Kinsella, Jacob Rosen, Al Ciammaichella and others over the coming weeks. I can’t wait to talk Indians specifically, Cleveland Sports in general, and well, anything else that may come up.

Smoke Signals will be kicking into gear as well, with the advent of the Winter Meetings, so look for Tony Lastoria and I to break down what’s what at some point over the next week.

Last but not least, I want to send a shout out to my good friend and brother Steve Orbanek. Without getting into too much detail, he has been out of commision here at IBI and at C.S.I. for several weeks while he is taking care of his wonderful family back home in Pennsylvania. He will be back at some point, but please keep him in your thoughts and prayers over the holidays, and I know that I speak for everyone Steve when I say that I can't wait to see Orbiting Cleveland gracing the front page of IBI and CSI once again.

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

December 10, 2013 - 11:04 AM EST
Except the Tribe has done extensions at this stage with pitchers before. Just not for quite the length I suggested though, will give you that. They essentially gave Westbrook a 4 year extension when you consider the upped what he as making in 2007 from his previous deal plus gave him 3 years on top of that. Maybe my 5 year extension was a bit extreme as they haven't done that, but saying a 3 year extension is the ceiling doesn't jive either as they have gone further. Giving him 4 years including 2014 is very reasonable.

You're not really explaining things, your saying things that are just inaccurate. In the end I agree with you that the Tribe isn't likely to extend Masterson this winter (the "he's available" rumors pretty much confirm that). Saying they won't because of age is dumb though. He's not over 30, nor will he be next winter. Hell, he'll turn 30 about 10 days before the 2015 opening day (when he'll be a free agent).
December 10, 2013 - 10:51 AM EST
I'm going to chalk all of this up to words on a computer, because I keep having to explain the same things over and over again. You certainly can't be this patronizing in real life.

I know Masterson's K-Rate...I was generalizing, and again, not trying to poke and prod to argue. I do think you get that as well, but whatever.

I also don't believe THE INDIANS would wait a year to try and sign Masterson. Their history has ALWAYS been to talk contract with years available to save value. What I alluded to was HIS AGENT waiting until next year to maximize his value, although the injury could give him pause.

If he waits until next year and pitches well, as Tony and I suggested, he's looking at a much more substantial deal than this year.

Again, I'm not saying that the Indians shouldn't extend Masterson. I'm pointing out that they have never done it before, and likely won't do it again.

There isn't a writer on the planet that's talked about their change in mentality with regards to free agents than I. I may have even been the first, last October when they signed Francona. As of yet, though, they've handled starting pitchers exactly the same way.

If they lose Masterson, they have no true viable replacements, and it's really not good business in the win game if you lose TOR guys without replenishing them.

So I'm guessing that as fans, we both agree.

What they're likely to do, as a writer, I'll kindly disagree, and hope my fan-side is right, and my writer-side is wrong.

December 10, 2013 - 9:32 AM EST
The Indians would be signing him before his arbitration years were up though, that's the whole point of signings the extension this winter.

I disagree that 3 years is the ceiling. 5 is the ceiling IMO. Tribe won't go 5 years of free agency but 1 year of arby plus 4 years of free agency the Tribe would do. They tried to get CC to do 4 years in free agency and essentially said that's their limit on pitchers there (5 for position players).

As far as waiting to see how Masterson does this year...don't get that logic really. Wasn' his best season in 2013 (2011 was) and despite his bad ERA in 2012, pitched much better as seen his xFIP that was nearly 80 pts lower. Groundball rate is going up, k-rate is going up....even injured still threw 190 innings.

If there was a Tribe pitcher you would give 4 free agent years to it's Masterson. Not the Ace CC was but guy that can pitch at the front of the rotation and give you 190-220 innings.

As far the Tribe's past history...fair point, but then again prior to last year the Tribe had never signed a free agent to a big deal and the Tribe signed two. Not someone that expects the Tribe to go out and spend big every year, realize it was a unique situation. But also think the Tribe will keep their payroll around $80-85M for the time being if they can keep winning or at least competing. Adding Masterson and moving some money (ie, Bourn) can still allow them to do this while adding some smart secondary pieces. Some risks will need to be taken if the Tribe wants to go to the next level. Even a team like the Rays has taken some.

As far as Westbrook and Masterson being good comps...yes and no. Both good groundballs guys but Westbrook's best K-rate while with Cleveland was 6.68 in 64 innings in 2001. Best in a full season with Cleveland was 5.51 in 2007. Masterson's worst K-rate in Cleveland was his 6.58 in 2011 (he was over 9 in 2013). Masterson also has the better xFIP leading up to free agency than Westbrook had. Masterson's ceiling is just plain and simple, higher than Westbrook's was. Westbrook was #3. Masterson is a #2 and should get more years.
December 10, 2013 - 7:16 AM EST
Hermie, c'mon man, don't be that guy. don't be the guy that makes the age argument on a technicality when you know exactly what I'm saying. If you want to be right, be right.

You get my point.

The Indians don't give long-term extensions to starting pitchers that aren't in their arbitration years.

They've done it once that I can remember since 2000, and they considered that a lesson learned...and that's not just me speculating. I actually know that from talking to people that actually work with the team.

The only extension they've offered and has been accepted for a similar pitcher since this regime has been in control of this team is Jake Westbrook. He's actually a fairish comp, and they would do a three-year, $30 million deal in a heartbeat. There isn't any chance he takes that though.

Past that, how many starters since 2000 have they extended to a three-year deal, a four year deal, a five year deal?

How many free agents, for that matter, have they signed to a substantial long-term deal?

They signed Sabathia to a four-year deal to cover arbitration, then a two year extension, but he signed both of those before he was 25, or when he was 25, I don't remember.

They signed Paul Byrd to a three-year, $21 million deal when he was 34.

I guess that could point to a willingness to extend Masterson, but I think it's fair to say that three-years is a ceiling.

I'm more than willing to be wrong here, and am certainly not trying to have a pissing match with you, but I'm just showcasing their history as the substance to my argument.

It's not something that they do, with the money that Masterson will command.

Now, as to the money, maybe he WOULD sign a 5-year $75 million deal right now, but you're right, the Indians won't offer it to him, and if they dump salary, I still doubt that the Indians sign him to a five-year deal.

I still think his agent will be offering more, although the injury that Masterson had at the tail end of 2013 may make him more accepting of a deal.

Of course, it may make the Indians more tentative as well.

The one scenario I COULD see is if the Indians would offer him a biggish three-year deal, at say $45 million. My belief is that the gold standard for starters right now is four or five years, if not six.

That's got to be his goal.

As Tony and I said last night on Smoke Signals, if he goes out and has the same exact season he had this year, next year, he could be worth $100 million as a 200 innings guy, who can dominate when he's on, and win you 15 plus games.

Of course, that can work both ways.
December 9, 2013 - 9:59 PM EST
The extension "technically" would be begin when Masterson signs it.

The free agent years for Masterson would be from his 30 year season thru 33 year season. Don't see that as an issue. Tribe has signed guys to extension at the same age that Masterson is now before.

Again, don't see it but age is absolutely not the issue.

As far as what he's looking for...I'd say John Danks 5 year $65M deal is a good comp. Took out 1 year of arbitration and first 4 of free agency. Maybe add in a bit since that deal was signed a few years ago (though Danks was better leading up to the signing). I think 5yr/$75M is fair for Masterson though. Can the Tribe afford that? least not without dealing Bourn IMO....
December 9, 2013 - 7:13 PM EST
To Seth:

I disagree with your assessment of Tomlin. My recollection is that he pitched well against the Tigers, Red Sox and Yankees.
December 8, 2013 - 8:58 PM EST
I'm not at all disgruntled by inactivity towards big money free agents. I think the Cano signing is a terrible thing for all of baseball. However, when they fail to resign someone like Kazmir at a relative affordable price compared to the rest of the market, I lose hope that they will be better next season. They cannot afford to sign someone that will pitch as well as Kazmir and finding him was pure luck. If they go into each season with that strategy, they will never have sustained fan support because they will not have any sustained success. Masterson is next, followed by Santana. They will walk and we will be left at the mercy of minor leaguers. This is not the fault of the Dolan's, as I believe they are the victims of an unfair, unbalanced MLB organization. If Antonetti fills the voids created by the losses of Kazmir and Jimenez and has another good year, it will only be due to him being the best damn GM in baseball. To think what he could do with a payroll in the 90-100 million range is scary.
December 8, 2013 - 3:10 PM EST
Seattle, Colorado, SF, AZ, Boston, NYMets, ChiCubs all with some level of interest in OF. I'm sure there are others who would like a young controllable OF.

I'm a pitching first guy, so I think this club needs to add at least 2 or more options for the rotation. There's too many questions with the SP, to not make some serious adds, IMO.

Furthermore, I would suggest they have to re-evaluate their focus on drafting and acq. young talent. That is, drafting and developing loads of SP. A team with SP pitching to spare can get whatever it needs.
December 8, 2013 - 2:45 PM EST
I'm telling you Willie....I love Brantley....but if he can be had for a good cost-controlled starter, I do it. People won't like it, but I value starting pitching much more and think it is much easier to find a replacement for Brantley than it is to get a good starter.
December 8, 2013 - 2:38 PM EST
To clarify my comments re: Kendrys Morales, I like him, but microscopic chance the Tribe pursues him. My point was, he seems like the one guy with a very limited mkt and could sign for less than anticipated.

2 yrs of Dexter Fowler got the Rockies young SP Jordan Lyles and OF Brandon Barnes. What would 3 yrs of Michael Brantley get the Indians?

I don't think the Indians will dump ACab, but I do think they will move him this offseason. I'm much less concerned moving him, I'd rather see Bourn get traded, but I think ACab is more likely to be moved.
December 8, 2013 - 2:22 PM EST
I'd like two of the three of those names, and would take the third if the price was right...

I don't know how much the trade market opens up until Price is moved though.

I think the Cubs are asking for a boatload for Samardzija, and wouldn't give them a boatload yet, although the price could come down.

Niese is interesting. I haven't heard his name this year...but would certainly be on board if the Mets weren't asking for a ton...
December 8, 2013 - 2:15 PM EST
The top 3 options for pitching via trade should be Jon Niese from NY Mets; Brett Anderson from Oakland As, and Jeff Samardzija from Chicago Cubs. Any 1 of those guys would provide a huge upside to the rotation. The Indians have the pieces needed to trade for one of those guys and the depth to cover their losses. Getting one of those three should be mission #1 for the FO.
December 8, 2013 - 2:14 PM EST
Couple names keep sticking out to me as potential targets by the Indians (NOT SAYING these are guys I'd necessarily target) but Jerome Williams or James McDonald or someone like JA Happ.
December 8, 2013 - 2:12 PM EST
Yeah Seth, and like I said, I don't think that the Indians are done. I think they'll continue to gain.

That's not to say that the Tigers are done either, but if the starting pitching is supplemented and supported, this could be a big swing year....
December 8, 2013 - 2:10 PM EST
And I'd rather see the Indians do nothing than do what the Tigers or Twins have done. While everything Dombrowski touches has an annoying tendency to turn into gold, you cannot argue that they are better on paper by subtracting Fielder, Peralta, Infante, Fister and Benoit and replacing that with Kinsler and 39-year-old Nathan. Kinsler and Fielder's about a wash, but Peralta, Infante and Fister were worth 11.3 WAR last year. Ubaldo, Kazmir and Joe Smith were worth 5.9 WAR.

And for what they did add, David Murphy is projected for 2.4 WAR next year. (Beltran's projection is 1.8) Joe Nathan's projected at 0.8. It would seem the Indians have gained significant ground on the Tigers by doing virtually nothing.
December 8, 2013 - 2:08 PM EST
Willie...they were massively active during last year's Winter Meetings, focusing on the Asdrubal deal to Arizona, and making the offer for Kevin Youkilis, if I remember correctly. I want to say it was right after, they made their trade for Choo, once they worked out the Reds as the third team, and then a day or two later, they announced that Reynolds was going to sign, although I don't think that became official for another few weeks...but I'm pretty sure it all happened fairly immediate...

I don't think the Indians are going to be as active, but I do think we'll see something come out of the meetings, either immediately or residually...
December 8, 2013 - 1:58 PM EST
Willie, no chance on Kendrys Morales. He will cost the Indians a first round pick to sign. I've already been flat out told several times there is no value in such a signing and they won't give up a 1st round pick like that. So just cross any qualifying offer guys off the list.
December 8, 2013 - 1:54 PM EST
I don't know what he would have netted a year ago Willie. Remember, the Diamondbacks didn't want him in that deal.
December 8, 2013 - 1:53 PM EST
Hermie--when the extension would technically begin, Masterson would be 30, and even if they wiped out the contract of his 29th year next season, the majority of his contract, he'd be in his 30's, which was my point.

For the record, I did also say, " First off, Masterson has eyes. He sees what pitchers that may be valued beneath him are signing. He’s not going to take less than what’s out there to stay in Cleveland."

I think the money may also have something to do with it.

Masterson is going to arbitration, so the Indians will talk deal for sure, but what is Masterson worth right now if Ricky Nolasco is worth 4 years and $49 million in the current market?

Are they equivalent?

Is Masterson worth only a couple million more a year?

Will Masterson sign a two year deal at $20 million, wiping out this year's deal, but valuing him at Scott Kazmir money or below?


Will he be looking at a five or six-year deal, in the fifteen million range?

Will it be somewhere in the middle?

I don't know the answer to that. My belief is that bare minimum, he's at least LOOKING for a Sanchez-type deal, and that in the open market, he'll likely be offered a deal like that from someone, or at least in the ballpark.

Should the Indians offer it?

That's not really my point.

My point is, when have the Indians ever offered any pitcher a deal like that, at any age...especially 30...well...not 30 yet...but close to 30...and 30 when he actually starts his new contract?

Now, Francona has changed things. But, have you seen any suggestion to see their approach with starters change?

Based on history, I think it's a decent assumption that it's a long-shot that the Indians make a move like that.

Of course, Masterson will be 28 in spring training next year, so perhaps they'll say he's young enough, right?
December 8, 2013 - 1:50 PM EST
I think they will look to add a few pitchers this week. But right now, the mkt is over priced so either a bounce back candidate or controllable SP through a trade seem likely.

The one FA I think could be this yrs Bourn / Lohse signing might be Kendrys Morales. He is tied to draft pk comp and is limited to probably AL teams only, right now his mkt is quiet, but a team looking to add some pop to their lineup could jump in. Morales would look good with Chief Wahoo on his sleeve, but that's probably not happening. In the end I think his limited mkt may push him into a deal, something like 3 yrs / $39M.

Just speculation on my part, but I believe the Tribe add a few pitchers in the next week or two. I believe it was a week or so after the Winter Mtgs last yr that the Tribe was really active. I expect to hear them linked to some pitchers via trade in the next week or so.

Furthermore, I'd suggest we will see ACab traded in the next 10-14 days. He won't net what he would have a yr ago, but nonetheless, I believe they can get a few useful pieces for him.

December 8, 2013 - 1:35 PM EST
Yeah Seth, we are assuredly on the same page with regards to Kazmir. Having him makes me a bit more comfortable with the Carrasco, Bauer and Tomlin conversation. Maybe there is something there, or maybe Kazmir really wanted to play on the left coast.

Either way, I would feel really comfortable with a couple of starters, one for the actual rotation, and a flier to supplement what happens when someone we're counting on falters.
December 8, 2013 - 1:30 PM EST
Antonetti runs a tight ship. He demands no leaks. Anything you hear with regard to rumors from the Indians is 99% of the time coming from outside the Indians front office. Either the front office for another team they are talking trade with, from teams in search of players the Indians are that the agent says the Indians are after, or the agents themselves. I have seen and heard it firsthand from some higher ups....won't even share things off the record.
December 8, 2013 - 1:26 PM EST
I am trying to keep an open mind about this off season, so even if they don't make any major moves, I'll wait to see how it plays out. They let Kazmir go and the A's signed him for what I thought was a reasonable price: I don't like that move, but the Indians have earned some benefit of the doubt, so maybe they have good reasons for this and Kazmir will break down. It would seem a little crazy to depend on one of Carrasco, Bauer or Tomlin to hold down the #5 spot, but maybe they have seen something from Bauer to make them think he's fixed himself and will be successful in 2014. Or maybe they will still make a move.

Tomlin is okay depth, like a 6th or 7th option, but he doesn't seem to have much upside, and don't think he's a reasonable option myself. In 2011-2012 he was okay relative to the other pitchers the Indians had at the time, but he was never very good, the level of his competition was so low that it made him look like a decent option. If he "comes back to his previous levels" of a 4.25 ERA and 4.27 FIP, that's a considerable downgrade from their top 6 pitchers a year ago. His career 4.92 ERA and 4.58 FIP isn't much different than Carrasco's 5.29 ERA and 4.48 FIP.
December 8, 2013 - 1:22 PM EST
I just think most fans in general are being a bit unreasonable. Maybe I'm conditioned to think this way, but I say wait it out. The Indians will make moves. Maybe not quite as many as last year, but it's not as necessary to remake 2/3 of the entire ROSTER. There are a number of teams, not just the Indians who are doing exactly this, in waiting out the redonkulous spending spree teams are on right now.
December 8, 2013 - 1:16 PM EST
Masterson isn't over 30 though, he is still 28. Will be 29 during the season. I am not sold they will extend him but age is not a reason the Tribe should shy away from one. If anything Masterson's age is a reason to look at an extension if you are Cleveland.
December 8, 2013 - 12:56 PM EST
Yep, rightfully so with increased expectations after 92 wins. I think the Swisher and Bourn deals though created a false belief that the Indians will sign such deals going forward. They will potentially do those, but the value has to be right. So far, there has been no one signed to a three-plus year deal where the value fit as almost every signing has been an overpay. I expect one year deals like Reynolds/Myers last year or 2-year deals like Murphy. Which is why they were after Hudson. They just did not view Kazmir as the right value on two years, they only wanted to go one year. I don't necessarily agree with this or any of it....but that is their thinking.

All that said, I do think we will begin to see things materialize this week. The Indians have a plan for the offseason and it was not to do nothing. I'm not sure when the dust settles if people will be happy with what they do, but when are the fans really ever impressed (outside of last year)? I see some low risk free agent signings and the potential for a trade or two with players leaving and/or coming in which help re-shape the team a little.
December 8, 2013 - 12:50 PM EST
When a team win 92 games expectations increase, When you see other teams sign FA and wonder why not the Indians. I think part of why some people might be disgruntled is the trade market started a lot earlier that usually happens at the Winter Meetings or right after the Meetings. Maybe this the week we might start hearing of potential trades that the Indians might be involved in.

December 8, 2013 - 12:35 PM EST
Really interested to see how this offseason plays out. Already some people disgruntled by the Indians lack of activity....but I think some unrealistic expectations going into the offseason may hurt that perception some. I will dive into it more in Happenings tomorrow, which figures to be a big piece with some interesting news on Ramirez that I have learned.

In any case....keep in mind that the impactful moves on the field that the Indians made last offseason were of the small variety: Raburn, Gomes, Kazmir, Giambi, etc. The big money moves for Swisher, Bourn, Reynolds and Myers helped show they would spend and brought some leadership, but they didn't get anything near the return on investment with their production. It was the minor moves coupled with the emergence of other guys within (Kluber, Salazar, etc) which paved the way to the playoffs. I expect to see a similar strategy ensue this offseason.....unless like last year a big free agent sees their market tumble for which the Indians could then strike when that "value" is reached in terms of dollars/return/risk.
December 8, 2013 - 12:24 PM EST
Thanks for the article - really interesting and accurate in my view. I think the wildcard in all of this is Josh Tomlin. For awhile a couple years ago, he was the Indians' best pitcher (Acta stated - " A strike-throwing machine"). If Tomlin comes back to his previous levels, the entire blueprint for what is needed seems to change.

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