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The Tribe is alive, but next year they will thrive (Part 2)

The Tribe is alive, but next year they will thrive (Part 2)
Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes (Photo: AP)
September 25, 2014
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Editor's note: Part 1 which focused on the pitching was posted last week.

Throughout the final two months of the season, the Cleveland Indians have boasted one of the best rotations in baseball. Unfortunately, a fried bullpen and impotent offense have cost them any realistic shot at the playoffs.

Looking at the lineup, the Indians have three young, budding stars who anchor the offense in Michael BrantleyYan Gomes and Carlos Santana. The trio has combined to carry the load throughout the season, unfortunately, there has been little consistency from the rest of the order to allow the Tribe to maintain any kind of reliable offensive output.

Left Field - Michael Brantley (27) has been terrific. It has been said that one of Brantley’s goals as a professional has been to improve every year, and he has done exactly that. Initially slated for the top of the order, Brantley has improved as a hitter in every conceivable category, doubling his HR total (20) from last season, as well as bloating his RBI by 20+. Fact is, he’s made himself an All-Star, professional stick and has moved into the three-hole which is reserved for a team’s best, all-around hitter. Better yet, he’s become an on-base machine who can steal a few once he gets there, too. The Garrett Anderson comps have come to fruition. (2014 stats: .329 BA / 20 HR / 97 RBI / 22 SB / .387 OBP)

Catcher - Yan Gomes (27) has grown up right before our eyes in his two full seasons with the Tribe. Coming over from Toronto with Mike Aviles in the Esmil Rogers deal, Gomes has exceeded any expectations of management and fans. Obviously, the brass saw something in the young Brazilian, but I’m not sure they could ever have imagined the absolute stud that Gomes has become behind the plate. A finished receiver, Gomes frames the ball well and has a gun for an arm.  Gomes has really come into his own at the plate, where back-to-back seasons of  .280+ with 20 HR power earned him an extension this past off-season along with Brantley. Realistically, Gomes is what the Tribe thought they had in the next guy on the list, a catcher who was an offensive weapon. (2014 stats:  .282 BA / 21 HR / 74 RBI)

First Base - Carlos Santana (28) was supposed to be that guy who brought pop from behind the plate, but inconsistent receiving skills and a number of concussions ended any probability of that idea. To his credit, Santana has worked hard at his defense, and after the experiment at third ended poorly, actually has made himself into at least a decent defensive first baseman. Since the permanent move to first, Santana’s bat has caught fire, where he once again is flirting with 30 homers and has been one of the few Indians to drive in runs consistently. He has crafted himself into the poor man’s Adam Dunn, with a little less power, fewer strikeouts and a better defensive skill set. (2014 stats: .232 BA / 27 HR / 83 RBI / .367 OBP)

The Indians should be applauded for not only targeting the trio in trades, but for identifying them as extension candidates. Another player recently extended hasn’t quite had the kind of year the first three had, but he is equally important to the Tribe’s future success.

Second Base – Jason Kipnis (27) had a breakout season in 2013 ( .284 BA / 20 HR / 84 RBI / 30 SB / .366 OBP) in which he became a success story for the Indians’ farm system. Unfortunately, after being such a pivotal part of Cleveland’s 2013 playoff team, Kipnis fell on hard times during an injury-plagued 2014 campaign and never seemed to be able to get untracked. It would be a mistake to give up on Kipnis now, however, as he is part of a core group signed through 2017 that should be able to give the Indians competitive teams the next few seasons. (2014 stats:  .241 BA / 6 HR / 41 RBI)

Third Base – Lonnie Chisenhall (25) came out of the gates on fire as Manager Terry Francona did quite well to place him in situations where he could have success and build confidence. After flirting with .400 and an All-Star nod for a good portion of the first half, Chiz saw his average plummet like a rock. Another Tribe draftee, Chisenhall certainly has had an acceptable if not powerful showing at the plate this year as he still seems to be a work in progress. His glove, or more accurately, his arm, has been of major concern to anyone following the Indians with any interest. Lonnie has had a whopping 17 errors in 109 games at the hot corner, and many of those were of the throwing variety. Maybe he can straighten that out as he matures as a player and grows as a hitter as well, but the jury remains most definitely out. (2014 stats: .280 BA / 13 HR / 59 RBI)

Poor defense tanked the Tribe’s chances of a playoff push this year, even with the emergence of great pitching.Asdrubal Cabrera’s defensive deficiencies helped get him shipped out to Washington, as the Indians opted for the slick fielding Jose Ramirez at short in a move also designed to get a prospect in return.

Shortstop – Jose Ramirez (22) has been a pleasant surprise with the bat and has been as advertised with the glove. The young Dominican has always shown a great proficiency flashing leather, but has really surprised with the bat since emerging as an emergency fill-in late last season. While not having the strong arm of likely successorFrancisco Lindor, Ramirez has not wilted in the bright lights of the big leagues and at the very least has caught the eye of a few GMs around the league. Speaking of Lindor, he should be ready to make his entrance sometime in 2015, but without a full season in Columbus, Ramirez has given the Indians the luxury of not rushing their top prospect to the majors. (2014 stats:  .248 BA / 1 HR / 15 RBI)

The sad fact of the matter is, three of the Indians’ veteran players are eating up most of the salary and not paying dividends on the field.

First Base / DH – Nick Swisher (33) (2014 stats: .208 BA / 8 HR / 42 RBI)
Center Field – Michael Bourn (31) (2014 stats: .264 BA / 3 HR / 28 RBI)
Right Field – David Murphy (32) (2014 stats: .262 BA / 7 HR / 56 RBI)

This trio is a complete mess. While sucking up most of the Indians’ payroll, on the field they’ve been basically, well, you know… disappointing. Swisher over swings, Bourn can’t stay healthy and is no longer a base-stealing threat and Murphy is Murphy. Seeing as the Tribe owes Swish and Bourn each over $28 million over the next two seasons, it’s highly unlikely they’re going anywhere soon.

So what is a cash-strapped mid-market team to do?

Fortunately, for the Tribe their pitching is cheap, very cheap, as Trevor Bauer is the only hurler owed more than $1 million in 2015. The Indians are on the hook for approximately $60 million in guaranteed contracts for next year, and while escalators will certainly come into play, that still leaves some wiggle room to maneuver in the trade and free agent markets.

Historically, they’ve failed miserably in free agency, trying to pick up borderline guys like Murphy and John Axfordwhile hoping to scrape up a measure of success, or overpaying for past-their-prime names like Swisher and Bourn.  One has to wonder why the Indians don’t scrap this idea of paying three marginal free agents over $30 million a season together with marginal results, and instead going out and getting one stud player for the same money. That plan just isn’t working.

The Tribe actually has the core position guys, talented young rotation and a name-brand manager where the club could be appealing to the right free agent.

One problem spot is third base, where Chisenhall’s defense has been a real issue. Potential free agent fixes would be Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley, but would either actually be any better for what you’d overpay? Not likely.

There is only one free agent who could really impact the Indians’ lineup, and he’s a familiar name – Victor Martinez.

Victor is the poster boy for “professional hitter.” He’s proven throughout his career that crunch time is his time, and is one of the toughest outs in the circuit. Is he old? Yes. Is he primarily a DH at this point in his career? Yes. But he’s an outstanding hitter, a great guy in the clubhouse and may love to end his career as an Indian.

But what would he cost, and doesn’t the Tribe have too many DH-types already?

Martinez would be expensive, and his age 36-38 year old playing years would likely cost the Tribe a three year, $45 million deal (or more), but it would be worth it, because they need a quality hitter of his ilk that badly. Also, don’t underestimate the effect that Victor could have on other young hitters like Santana, Kipnis and Chisenhall.

Unless Swisher can play some right field, he would become the new Jason Giambi, as a spot-starting DH/1B to give Santana and Victor a blow, as well as a powerful switch-hitting bat off the bench in the late innings. Yes, he’s expensive for that role, but the money is already committed, and the Indians need to get better.

The other alternative would be to target Adrian Beltre from the Texas Rangers. Beltre would also give the Indians a quality defensive third baseman and powerful right-handed bat for the middle of their order. The move would also be expensive in cash and players, likely costing Cleveland something in the order of Lonnie Chisenhall and outfield prospect Clint Frazier, although Texas has their own third base prospects on the horizon as well. Hopefully, the Rangers would take on the familiar Murphy to lessen the financial burden of the Tribe.

Making one of these two moves is a must, as the Indians need a reliable RBI guy with a right-handed bat (or switch-hitting bat) in the middle of the order. If they could somehow swing both, it would be a coup of dramatic proportion, and would solidify the Tribe as the frontrunner in a weakened AL Central.

Imagine a lineup consisting of Bourn, Kipnis, Brantley, Beltre, Martinez, Santana, Gomes, a young right fielder and Ramirez. That would be exceptional. And with youngster Francisco Lindor on the way, it would also give them the option of moving Kipnis back to the outfield and sliding the smooth-handed Ramirez to second, thus improving the defense even more.

A dream scenario? Certainly. Impossible? No.

Both moves are very possible, and should be pursued at every opportunity. It would balance the clubhouse with a great blend of youth, young veterans and seasoned professionals, pairing with a talented, young rotation to create what realistically could be a World Series caliber team in the wide-open window presented in the AL Central.

Hey, nobody thought LeBron was coming back, either.

Why can’t it happen for the Tribe?

User Comments

alton
September 27, 2014 - 9:04 AM EDT
To address one other point made here what Kipnis did in May and June of 2013 was far more impressive than Lonnie's first half for one reason, he was playing every day. Francona wasn't picking and choosing optimal matchups for Kipnis like he wisely did for Chisenhall. Also on the Chisenhall topic is it a coincidence that his numbers plummeted the more he got exposure as an every day player. Look we all knew there was going to be correction in his BABIP over the course of the season but the difference has been pretty drastic, to the point who really knows what to expect from him next year.

Kipnis is an unknown as well for next year but I figure Kipnis healthy and in better shape is a much better bet than Lonnie Chisenhall who had one foot out the door before and extraordinary first half. Kipnis was solid his first full year, elite (for a second baseman) his second full year, and had a dud of a season this year. Give him a chance to bounce back.
Jeff P
September 26, 2014 - 11:50 PM EDT
Joe, JRam has an OBP of less than .300, in a good line up he's hitting 9th. Can he improve that, sure, and he probably will. But Kipnis's career numbers coming in to this year are well above average for a 2B offensively. You act like you expected him to be Joe Morgan or something. When healthy and right, he's a guy with a .750+ OPS and 25 SB, and at 2B, that's well above average offensively. All your pages of stats show is he's streaky, and we already knew that. I like Ramirez. I think he's a very useful player. But if he can be packaged for a RH bat with his value pretty high right now, I do it in a heart beat. Kipnis' value is very low, if you deal him, you don't do it now. And as already stated by Tony, his bat does not play near as well in the OF as at 2B
Tony
September 26, 2014 - 11:36 PM EDT
I will touch on the Kipnis thing in greater detail in a piece probably next week, but I just don't get the feel that they are ready to pull the plug on him at second base. Plus, Ramirez is starting next season at shortstop, so who plays second base if Kipnis is moved off the position in the offseason? That's why it is unlikely to happen. As I mentioned, when Lindor arrives you reassess. It should be late May or mid-June by then. If Kipnis is hurt or struggling, then I could see a move made at that time. If he is back to career norms (not 2013 levels), then when Lindor arrives Ramirez moves to the utility role. Again, the utility role IS NOT A BAD THING. It's great to have that depth and ability to mix in a player you have confidence in and feel like you don't lose much when he comes in.....and he could play a lot more than the typical utility player (some outfield and even some third base). Good problem to have. And if a team comes calling with a good Major League player under control for at least two years who helps this team, I am all for trading Ramirez (or Gonzalez....or prospects like Frazier, etc) if the move makes sense. The Indians don't have money to buy free agents.....but prospects are like gold as just as much valuable to find players in trades. It is time to cash some of that gold in.
anonymous
September 26, 2014 - 11:30 PM EDT
Jeff,

If Kipnis offered something on the defensive end, I would consider it, but Kipnis was supposed to be a premium player because of his bat - I remember hearing a few reports thinking he could be the next Chase Utley, on that order. Well, obviously, he's not even in the same zip code. Besides that, there's a number of times he hasn't even hit .700 OPS (and I know there are more than 2 2B who have done that) - case in point, Kipnis is not an offensive difference maker, which he was expected to be, and he's had three full seasons in the league now, two of which at least were healthy (plus this April). Kipnis has underwhelmed no matter how you slice it and his defense leaves much to be desired - that is certain.

Obviously, the Indians have to consider moving him off of 2B as an option going forward if nothing else and hope that his offense can be more impactful and consistent, two areas he hasn't shown enough in his career to this point.
Joe Chengery
September 26, 2014 - 11:25 PM EDT
Tony,

That's what worries me - the Indians will hang the "injury hat" on Kipnis' 2014 season when his career largely has been underwhelming in terms of offense. Outside of May and June 2013, he really has not been the offensive force that people were thinking he would be, so I really don't think his oblique injury is really negating his offense - he just has not adapted to Major League pitching as most people thought he would.

Could he yet? It's possible, but he's not THAT young anymore - he's 28 next season, and it will be his fourth full season. Usually, most hitters will start to come into their primes after having a few years of experience, and one can't really say he had a great 2013 outside of those two months. Truth be told, he hasn't even had a stretch like Chisenhall did for a whole half of a season, and Lonnie is two years younger. Yet, many seem ready to write off Chisenhall and hang their hat on Kipnis, even though Kipnis hasn't even done what Chisenhall did over half-a-season, and Kipnis has much more ML experience than Chisenhall does.

Both of them have consistency issues; one of them has a large contract. I just hope that there are no poor trades or signings to try to "make up" or "compensate" for that contract - I think trading Ramirez prematurely when it's an uncertainty Kipnis can remain at 2B long-term would be a bad/poor move for the Indians, even for someone like Beltre. If Kipnis can't remain there and Ramirez is gone, finding a capable long-term 2B will likely be harder than one might think. I don't expect Ramirez to be a superstar, but I do think he can fill a hole that is larger than some think on this team (middle infield defense and #2 spot in the batting order) in a way that Kipnis likely can't, and I don't see much beyond Ramirez in the farm system who can do the same, especially on the immediate horizon, and the team is ready to contend now.
Hiram
September 26, 2014 - 11:19 PM EDT
Tony,

I think you're making assumptions about ppl and Ramirez. No one is expecting huge numbers out of Ramirez. As I spoke to you before he'sthe exact same player as Luis Castillo who won the WS with the Marlins. I see a .285, 5- 50 guy who will make solid contact at the player still about 25-30 bases and play a good to very good middle infield. To me that's not a utility player and someone who will coveted by other teams for those reasons and for his cost.

On the Kipnis front. Indians are not in a position to wait to see if he bounces back or what not. Chipper Jones moved 3-4 times in his career coming off big time seasons, Thome did the same. The key question will be if the Indians are a better team if Kipnis moves to OF or wherever they need for him to move to. If it's yes then make the move.

Not an attack on you but I do think you get caught up in well..you play this position you should hit this or that. Go with what players give you the best chance to win and don't worry about if they play a Corner outfield position if they don't hit 30 HR's. It might be they hit 15 and knock in 100 but your INF saves many more runs.

Ultimately, Idk what they will do but if they think anything else besides what's in the best interest of the team then they are WRONG as two left shoes, IMO
Jeff P
September 26, 2014 - 11:18 PM EDT
Joe, you're throwing around the .800 OPS for Kipnis as if that should be the norm. Only two 2B in baseball have an .800 OPS this year. One is Cano, the other Altuve, the batting champ.
Joe Chengery
September 26, 2014 - 11:00 PM EDT
Jeff,

Kipnis' OPS by month:

2011 (3 months - Jul-Sept)

July: .527
August: 1.151
Sept: .841

2012 (April-Oct)

April: .765
May: .810
June: .703
July: .694
Aug: .531 (missed 5 games)
Sept: .745
Oct: .697 (3 games)

2013 (Apr-Sept)

Apr: .555 (missed 7 games)
May: .880
June: 1.216
July: .736
Aug: .681
Sept: .761

2014 (Apr-Sept): (One game in March - went 1/5, .400 OPS)

Apr: .766
May: .583 (played in just 3 games, missed 25 games)
June: .636
July: .666
Aug: .611
Sep: .537

Kipnis largely got that WAR because of one stellar month in 2013 (June) and one good month (May); the rest of the year was largely underwhelming. And, worse than that, the rest of his monthly stats back up the largely underwhelming portion, both in 2012 and 2014. He was reportedly healthy in April 2014, but still didn't crack .800 OPS. He was definitely healthy in the last three months of 2013 after that good May and stellar June, yet he didn't crack .800 OPS there either. In other words, he fell off so badly that if he hadn't, that WAR would have probably been 8-10, so as good as that 5.9 WAR in 2013 sounds, it really should have been better if Kipnis hadn't fallen off so badly, which he did, as you can see by those numbers.

As for Gonzalez, is Gonzalez ready to play on this team right now? No! So he's rated higher than Ramirez; I know he's not a better defender than Ramirez and he's not better with plate discipline; that is one of Gonzalez's biggest weaknesses in his game, and it showed at the AA level - if I recall correctly, he got off to a hot start at Akron, then fell off when the league adapted before he came back a bit. Still, he probably opens 2015 at AA and is probably 2-3 years away from being able to help the Indians as Ramirez can right now. It'll probably be even longer before Gonzalez can do what Ramirez did tonight to that 96-MPH fastball thrown by Archer and depositing it in the right-field seats. Never mind the fact that Ramirez fits the #2 slot in the batting order; Gonzalez will likely never fill that area because his plate discipline will likely never be strong enough to fill that role, a hole that Ramirez is perfect for, and the Indians really don't have a #2 hitter - who is that hitter? They put Cabrera in that spot the last few years, but he wasn't really made for it either due to his weak plate discipline. As I said, the last one we really had that filled that hole well was Omar Vizquel, and he last played with the Indians in 2004.

As I said, Ramirez fits this team both offensively and defensively in a way Kipnis can't, plus he's cheap, he's cost-controlled, he's 22-YO, and he's ready NOW. So he wasn't a Top 100 prospect; Michael Brantley wasn't either if I recall correctly, while Matt LaPorta was.

(From what I can tell, Brantley was never ranked in the Top 100; if my source is correct, Kipnis was actually 54th at age 23, Chisenhall was 25th at age 21, Swisher was 24th at age 23, and Santana was 10th at age 23).

Case in point, not every Top 100 prospect makes it - a lot of them don't, while a lot that aren't on that prospect list do have productive ML careers - Brantley's even expected to get some MVP consideration. Meanwhile, LaPorta has been out of the league for a few years now. Therefore, don't just base player values on what rankings they've been given; a better estimation is how well do they fit with your current ballclub, and Ramirez upgrades the up-the-middle infield defense and is the perfect partner for Lindor when it comes to youth, defensive ability, and range, none of which Kipnis has. As I said, Lindor will have to cover for Kipnis, and his range will continue to decline as he gets into his 30s - Kipnis will have to move at some point due to the fact his 2B defense is barely passable now at age 27 - now would be as good a time as any in my opinion for all of the reasons I've mentioned.
Walter
September 26, 2014 - 10:57 PM EDT
Lets end this false premise that a owner with deep pockets would solve the problem with the Indians. First of all there is no salary cap in baseball. Which means they operate on revenues generated by it market size. The last I checked the market size of Cleveland continues to shrink.

I believe that if Haslem or Gilbert owned the Indians they would run it similar to how Dolan is running it now.
Tony
September 26, 2014 - 10:53 PM EDT
Can't see the Indians moving Kipnis to the outfield. The reason he was moved from the outfield out of the draft to second base was because he was barely average out there with a below average arm....and that his offense would play up at second base. If he goes to the outfield the Indians lower his value to them. Is it the right move to make? Sure, I can certainly agree that they need to consider it. But what I am saying I just don't see any change coming at all given that they will hang their hat on his injury(ies) all season and that they just committed $50 to him to be their second baseman for the foreseeable future. I can't see them abandoning that after one year. Now, if the problems persist into next season, I could see a scenario where in June or July maybe a move is made or after next season. But as long as Lindor and Kipnis are here, the plan is for them to be the SS/2B combo and for Ramirez to be the super utility guy. That doesn't diminish Ramirez's value at all. I think that is what some people are missing. It is just how he fits onto this team unless another opportunity to start comes up (Lindor fails or gets hurt, or Kipnis' struggles continue or he gets hurt). Ramirez is a solid player....but I think his value is being overblown where people are going to be disappointed when seeing him play over a full season and expecting too much. And that comes from someone who pretty much started the J-Ram bandwagon a few years ago and has been high on him for a long time.
ted l
September 26, 2014 - 10:24 PM EDT
One who does not understand history is doomed to repeat it. The Indians usually do not go after top dollar free agents. They signed Swisher and Born two years ago because they had a sudden source back then. Also because fans had it with minor league with an invite to spring training types. The Indians will not sign Martinez unless they get a real discount. I don't think they have an abundance of prospect to spend and get Beltre.

So now they have to look at prospects like Aguilar and Moncrief to fill some of the void. Of course, Lindor will help fix a sagging defense. Ursuala may get a hard look to. Whit his glove at third and Lindor's at short, it could make the infield defense a plas rather than this seasons disappointment.

As for Lonnie, he has come back to earth after his first half sky rocket start. He may get a couple of minor league prospects, if the Indians don't mind another Low A Full Season player or two. Furthermore, I don't think he would bring that from another team. His offense is pretty good against righties. As for his glove, he hits well against righties. This season was a big step for Lonnie, but he needs to do it regularly first.

Another reason the went after Swisher and Bourn was to give the system time to develop some kids. With their current contracts, they are pretty much not tradable. So get used to their smiling faces. But, the front office has used the time wisely and do have some guys on the way. Many are about 3 years away: Frazier, Hockin and Papi. They should be no higher than Lake County or Lynchburg.

Despite the inability to make blockbuster trades or big signings, I think they are on the threshold og bigger and better things. The rotation should be solid. Carrasco needs to prove he is real. Salazar and Bauer need to find consistency like Kluber has developed. Remember when he seemed like a low level prospect that many wanted the Indians to dump him. House needs to improve a little bit too.

In summary, I don't think the Indians are in a position to sign free agents or make a blockbuster deal. I think no one want Bourn or Swisher so we just have to get used to them. The farm system is not the barren waste land it was just 2 years ago. Plyaers are on the way.
Robert
September 26, 2014 - 9:35 PM EDT
One of our left handed - at least one - "name" players has to leave the team and be replaced by an at least equivalent RH bat. The basic structure of the team needs to be modified. Simply moving another left haned batter to the OF that is already full of left handed hitters solves only the infield defense issue - but not our sad and sorry offense.
Jeff P
September 26, 2014 - 9:33 PM EDT
Kipnis had a 5.9 WAR last year. That's an All-Star. Writng him off so quickly is foolish. Gonzalez is in AA and is a higher rated prospect than Jose was
Canadian Joe
September 26, 2014 - 9:31 PM EDT
Another outsanding performance by Kluber. He just may steal the Cy Young yet. Here's hoping !!!
Joe Chengery
September 26, 2014 - 9:00 PM EDT
Tony,

I wouldn't mind the addition of Beltre on this team, but I think you're underestimating Ramirez's present and future value to this team. Kipnis has been erratic and largely a disappointment offensively, while not bringing anything defensively. For all the knocking Chisenhall is getting, Kipnis is as big a problem on the INF, and may even be a bigger problem because he plays in the middle of the diamond. If the Indians do not do anything with him because of that contract, I agree that it is definitely a flawed way of thinking, and one that will likely undo or negate much of the good that they've done. Leaving a poor infielder who really should not be playing the infield does not play to the best interests of this team going forward, not when you have a superior player who is just tapping into his potential.

The Indians made some mistakes with contracts back in the early 90s - Dave Otto and Jack Armstrong come to mind. Yet, the Indians did not let that hamper their approach and trade other young talent as a result of those bad contracts as they headed to the mid-90s. The Indians hit on three of the four recent contracts they signed: Brantley, Gomes, and Santana (yes, the BA is low, but think his playing 3B had some to do with that, and with his HRs and OPS, still think it was a good signing); Kipnis is the lone bad one. Yes, some may say that it hasn't been long enough, he's been injured, etc. But his performance even before this year- it was really debatable to sign him to a long-term contract to begin with. And, as I said, if the Indians leave him at 2B just because of that contract, it really is a poor way of thinking that does not help the team long-term.

Besides that, why should it matter where Kipnis plays- if the Indians aren’t going to trade him, who cares if his value goes down a bit by playing in LF instead of 2B; he doesn’t have much value now anyway. The betterment of the team should be the primary focus, and leaving Kipnis on the infield at 2B when you have a clearly superior young, inexpensive player for that position just because of a long-term, and probably ill-advised, contract will likely backfire for the Indians both now and in the future.

Trading Ramirez would only compound the Kipnis contract mistake, not alleviate it. It does not matter if Ramirez is not a Top 100 prospect- I don't think Brantley was either, but pretty sure LaPorta was. I think every recent Tigers pitching prospect was in the Top 100 at one time: Andrew Miller, Jacob Turner, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly. All at one time or another were considered frontline starters - the main reason why I believe all were on there at some point.

Yet, how many of them are aces/frontline starters? Porcello is the closest, and I don't think you can say he is an ace or frontline starter, certainly not at the level of a Verlander or Scherzer. Turner is still faltering with the Cubs. Miller has only become a dominant reliever recently, and Smyly looks more like a mid-rotation starter.

As I said, it's not whether they're a Top 100 prospect; it's how do they fit on your ballclub going forward and who would fill their shoes if they are traded. Kipnis can't play 2B at Ramirez's level- he's much like Seattle's Dustin Ackley where he should remain in the OF. Kipnis isn't a #2 hitter either, struggling more and more to make contact, not showing any consistent, solid hitting skill (.241/.312/.331, 50 BB/100 K in 498 ABs, no OPS above 800 since June 2013), and struggles against LHP. Plus, Kipnis can fill that LF gap or could perhaps provide either talent and/or some salary relief in a trade to allow the Indians make a better run at a guy like Victor Martinez. And, Beltre will do nothing to alleviate the middle infield defense weakness that Kipnis has shown. Beltre's addition doesn't do anything to address Kipnis' lack of range or inconsistency (he may not be as inconsistent as Chisenhall, but he's not much better either; whereas, Chisenhall has the range, just not the consistency).

Unless you want to run Lindor ragged covering for Kipnis, and especially as his range continues to decline, you have to move Kipnis off of 2B, and you have the perfect replacement to do it in-house, cheaply, and one you can't readily find on the open market (certainly won't be as cheap or have as much potential as Ramirez) right now. The Kipnis contract was likely a mistake; in my opinion, trading Ramirez would only exacerbate that mistake, not alleviate it, since you have no suitable replacement, and Kipnis is going to have to be moved off there eventually, as his range will only worsen, not get better, as he approaches and moves past 30.
Joe Chengery
September 26, 2014 - 8:59 PM EDT
Tony,

The contract to Kipnis was likely a mistake because Kipnis is nowhere near the hitter they thought he was - outside of June 2013 with that 1218 OPS and May 2013's .880 OPS, he hasn't looked at all like a difference maker offensively. This is further confirmed by the fact that his next-highest OPS was 766 this April (when he was reportedly healthy until the last week of the month), followed by his 761 Sept 2013. He hasn't been close to breaking the .800 OPS since June 2013, and we know his defense at 2B is passable at best.

Looking at his ESPN career stat page: .262 AVG, 44 HR, 220 RBI, .339 OBP, and he'll be 28 next April (kept thinking he was 28 already- my bad). Still, why does Francona keep putting him 5th/6th ahead of Gomes and Chisenhall in the lineup? I almost think there is a stipulation in his contract that says he must bat 5th or 6th each night. :-)

The Indians would only compound the mistake by trading Ramirez for anything short of a difference maker like a Trout or Stanton or a pitcher of the caliber of a Hernandez or Kershaw. (No, I don't mean that Ramirez would be the centerpiece; I mean as part of a larger package- let's face it- Ramirez is not going to be the centerpiece of a Beltre trade either- that would be Frazier, Anderson, etc- Ramirez is more of a complementary piece). The reason why is because Ramirez is the best fit at 2B long-term for the Indians, allowing the Indians to either trade Kipnis (and I would do it even if I didn't get much value in return, and you would probably not get that much either) OR allowing Kipnis to move to LF, and outfield was his position at Arizona State, and that's his best defensive position. Maybe having him play out there will allow him to post more solid offensive numbers, such as a regular OPS of 800+, something he hasn't done in well over a year, including the last three months of 2013 when he was reportedly healthy, plus April 2014 when he was reportedly healthy for most of the month.

Let's face it- Ramirez is really the only option at 2B moving forward if you really care about INF defense for our groundball pitchers (and while they do strike out a good share of hitters, they still get a good number of groundball outs and still need a good INF defense behind them). You're not going to put Aviles, Walters, or Sellers there long-term, and what other farm option is ready and able to match Ramirez offensively and defensively? Rodriguez? Wendle? Gonzalez? None of them are even close to the Majors, and none of them have Ramirez's tools or youth. Not to mention, Ramirez also fits the two hole probably as well as anyone since Omar Vizquel. The guy can hit and run, steal a base, lay down a sacrifice, switch-hit, and he's only 22. Why would you want to trade him for a piece that you only control for a few years, who will be 36 next year, and who only hit his second HR since Aug 10 last night against Oakland (though I do thank Beltre for that because it still keeps the Indians' playoff hopes alive- may he and his Rangers keep hitting)?
Hiram
September 26, 2014 - 8:56 PM EDT
Homer,

I'm convinced that the poor attendance is because of a number of different things. The biggest one is the Dolans themselves. I say this because when they took over the team the correctly had to gut the team but they admitted that they overpaid for the team, hamstrung Shapiro and traded away popular players up until two years ago. Yes, the Indians had success in '07 but they clearly lost the momentum with bad business practices and short pockets. Also, I think the ticket structure is out of wack from what I'm hearing but the Indians are addressing this in the offseason


I'm not one who will tell you that the fans are right in some of the things they are blaming the Dolans for but I am saying that the Dolans haven't done all they could've done either OR they are in over their heads and unable to compete. I remember Jacobs went out to overspend so he would pack the stands because he knew that if he did they fans would come out and support the team for many years to come. Hence, he would make his money and much more. When the bottom line got smaller then he got out.


The Dolans on the other hand either don't have the business acuman to do that and/or don't have the finances. Both are which aren't good. Get a new ownership group in here with Deep pockets who will be willing to invest both short and long term and has good business practices. Dan Gilbert owner of the Cavs has a phrase in which he says: "Money follows but it does not lead". The Dolans would be wise to take heed to these words.

The payroll the Indians have was average 15 years ago. Goes to show they are way behind. You give the Indians 90-100 M payroll then you get some wiggle room. The Dolans lack the acumen and the money to compete on that level
Robert
September 26, 2014 - 8:47 PM EDT
I hope everyone say Aviles do his dive into the 2b hole and take away at TB hit.

I think everyone agrees that in 2014 the entire infield stunk. It will take more than one player change to fix that. The questions to be answered include which if any of our current players are best able to change position and which of our current players are most tradeable for value.

That said, moving either Kipnis or Chiz to the OF simply puts another left handed bat into outfield mix.

We talk a lot about defense, but we also need to talk about moving left handed hitters as we have TOO many.

Bob
Homer
September 26, 2014 - 8:22 PM EDT
Hiram,

I'm in no hurry to change ownership. At least we know Dolan wants the club here, who knows the Tribe could end up with a new owner like the Marlins owner...or one that wants to move the club out of town citing poor attendance.
Hiram
September 26, 2014 - 8:15 PM EDT
Ultimately no one knows what the Indians will do in the offseason or what they will conclude in their organizational meetings. In saying that, if they are thinking that they can't move Kipnis to another position because of the amount of money they are paying him this is a very flawed way of thinking. Other teams routinely move star players to different positions and do it when they are getting paid. Hell, I don't even consider Kipnis a star.

This type of thinking shows you that the Dolans are really in over their head in terms of ownership. Kipnis makes a decent amount of money but nothing close to star level or considered big money and here we are making it seem like he's make 20 M a year. I won't get on the bandwagon and I do think the fans have mistreated the ownership but, I'll say it again. It's probably best for ALL parties that they sell out and move on so we can get an Ownership group with better business plan and deeper pockets.


Nothing unusual but totally disagree with Tony on Jose Ramirez. Ramirez is showing all of us that he's much more valuable than just a utility INF. He's showing that he can be a solid to good at SS and we know he can play 2B. Listening to other teams broadcasts they are raving about him in how he's surprised alot of ppl in the Indians FO about how good a SS he's been. Also, how the Indians will have tough decisions to make when Lindor is called up. What I'm saying is this. If they think Lindor is so much better and deserves to start, FINE. In saying that, trade Ramirez and get a nice couple of prospects for him because he is so much better than a utility player.


Again, the Beltre thing is moot because Rangers feel that this year was a fluke with all the Injuries and that they will contend when everyone is healthy and another productive off season. I can't get over how absurd it is to trade a really good prospect and maybe someday a star for a guy who is 36 and very good but with two years left on contract. I like Beltre but can't make that trade under any circumstance.


Also, please let the Giancarlo Stanton talk cease too. It ain't happening. Indians don't need to make many moves just get Kipnis, Swisher healthy and swinging the bats well. Then Add a significant bat to RF and we are on our way after adding AAA pitching depth.
Jeff P
September 26, 2014 - 7:43 PM EDT
Kipnis has little range even when healthy but at least he fields we gets to. He only committed 6 errors this year. Convsersely, Lonnie has 17 errors in far fewer chances at 3B. That's where the IF defense desperately needs improvement. Kipnis was a 5.9 WAR player last year, that's huge value from 2B, and something JRam will never approach. Ramirez's value is high now because he's shown he can play SS and has 5 years of control. But Lindor is the SS here beginning at some point next year, and Gonzalez is now very close. I'd much rather deal JRam than Frazier. We've been crying for a RH power bat for years. Granted, he 3-4 years away, but he is the best RH power prospect we have had since the 90's. I sure hope we don't deal him.
Robert
September 26, 2014 - 7:23 PM EDT
Ooops - J Ram just homered!
Robert
September 26, 2014 - 7:15 PM EDT
In all of this excellent thread is the ultimate question of how we improve our infield defense. If there is one constant theme it is from Tony that in no way are the Indians moving Kipnis from 2b. If that is the case - one has to truly question if the team is committed to improving the infield defense.

Perhaps the hardest thing for an executive to do is to publicly admit a mistake. If such is the reason Antonnetti cannot move Kipnis - it would be a very sad commentary.
Seth
September 26, 2014 - 6:36 PM EDT
You have no problem giving up Ramirez on a trade but "trading" a first round pick to sign a V-mart is too much? That is really overvaluing a lottery ticket. Ramirez is a ticket that's already won
Tony
September 26, 2014 - 5:15 PM EDT
I have no problem giving up a Jose Ramirez in a trade....so long as the return makes sense. Again, you are dealing from a position of strength if you trade him. Lindor is going to be the shortstop at some point next season and Kipnis is not moving off second anytime soon.....so Ramirez will become the utility guy or a depth guy at SS/2B. The Indians also have a shortstop by the name of Erik Gonzalez who is close to ready and may be even better than Ramirez (certainly better defensively at SS and more versatility and power....approach is questionable and not as much speed). Shortstop is a position of strength, so if the Indians want to trade Ramirez (or Gonzalez) to get a need that makes sense, I am all for it. Same goes with prospects like Frazier and the like who are three to four years away. If the Indians can get a very good player in return and it makes sense, I am all for it. No one is saying to give away a prospect. The Indians simply can't play in the FA game....they have to use their resources (prospects) in the trade game if they want real upgrades.
alton
September 26, 2014 - 5:14 PM EDT
Seth I think your missing your own point. You would prefer to give up a pick and keep prospects that are already in the system because they would be closer to helping us rather than trade our prospects and keep the pick. There is one important factor that Tony is trying to highlight, any major prospect we move in a trade would be used to supplement/upgrade the major league roster next year. We're not giving them up for no return!

Given we won't have as "many years of control" but if we can get a significant upgrade, like Beltre though I find that scenario unlikely, don't tell me that Urshela who can't sniff Lonnie's prospect pedigree, is a sure thing. We have enough redundancy in our farm system at SS, C, OF, and RP to trade some and not feel a pinch.

We all know we need at least one (preferably two) legit hitters who can also play defense. Those types of guys don't grow on trees and free agency really isn't much of a viable option with the Dolans and our attendance situation so I don't see another avenue besides trading some valuable prospects for valuable players. If the prospects we trade turn into great players in three years so be it, I'll take a ring or at least couple deep playoff runs over waiting until all the current players are free agents to bring up the next crop of prospects and continuing this never-ending cycle.
Homer
September 26, 2014 - 4:50 PM EDT
IF the Tribe would readily give up Trevor Bauer in a trade I think it, would raise a red flag with other clubs and potentially depreciate his value.

Whatever you call him, eccentric, crazy or gifted, his talent is undeniable, IMHO. I would prefer to keep Bauer over Salazar myself, but I could a scenario where either where made available in a trade for a controllable RH hitting bat.
John M
September 26, 2014 - 4:38 PM EDT
I'm thinking along the same lines Tony is on the prospect thing. First, because he has had conversation with actual Tribe staff, and second, because prospects are just that, prospects. Think back to a guy as advanced as a AA-AAA can't miss in Matt LaPorta. Milwaukee dealt him but wouldn't part with another stud Mat Gamel, who is now more or less following LaPorta's career path out of baseball. Everyone salivates over Boston's system and how they draft and move guys through quickly to the majors. How are Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Will Middlebrooks looking lately, as well as the great pitching they had coming with Clay Buchholz (5.31 ERA)? Just because prospects are broadcast as the next great thing by ESPN doesn't make it so. And If i can use one to get me a bonefide big leaguer who can help me win now in a time of opportunity, sign me up.
yourtribe
September 26, 2014 - 3:06 PM EDT
Robert, no please. Make no mistake, Bauer is a head case.
And where did I say he couldn't pan out???
But we need a bat very bad. And all we have to trade is young pitchers. So Bauer is it !

If I didn't think Bauer was any good, why would I expect to get a bat for him? Read more carefully.
Seth
September 26, 2014 - 2:57 PM EDT
Same goes for Frazier. Just from where he was chosen, and that he's advanced in his professional career, he is easily more valuable than a draft pick and draft pool money when your first pick is in the second half of the first round
Seth
September 26, 2014 - 2:51 PM EDT
If that is seriously how major league front offices are thinking, then they are not thinking about it correctly. It does seem to be that they overvalue the draft picks, so you could be right. The chances that any pick that's not in the first half of the first round turns into something that's even useful, ever, are slim. Giving up even someone like Jose Ramirez would be giving up a ton more value than that draft pick and the associated pool money. Ramirez has already been worth about half the WAR you'd get on average from that pick. Where the Indians specifically are at as an organization, this would even make less sense. They are in a position to compete now, and for the next couple years, so losing a pick that has a small chance of helping them 4 years from now, versus trading a piece that can definitely help them next year, makes even less sense. And if whatever they pick turned into Jose Ramirez 4 years from now, that would be one of the better-case scenarios. There's a 90% chance that what they would get would never be as valuable as Ramirez.
Tony
September 26, 2014 - 2:01 PM EDT
Huge difference between giving up a first round pick to sign a FA and trading a prospect. Like Homer said, the first round pick is not just the loss of a pick, but it has a dramatic effect on the rest of the draft and the allotted bonus pool money. I know in talking with Mirabelli and Grant about it numerous times, while they say anything is possible, they said the organization is not interested at all in signing players that result in the loss of a first round pick. Trading prospects is different....the Indians have some depth.....and with the pickup of someone like Zimmer in the draft and to a lesser extent Papi and Allen in the outfield, the Indians could afford to part with a top prospect in the outfield in a trade. Same goes for other positions where they have depth. Now is the time to use that depth in the system to round out the ML roster....don't sit on the talent and watch them erode as is often the case and will happen. It's the natural way things work in the minors. If one goes on to be a star, so be it....you just hope the player you traded was worth it and helped the team. An example is the Ubaldo trade when they dealt their top three pitching prospects for him. Now, they had no depth with starting pitchers and at the time so many people were scared to deal those guys and Jimenez brought risks.....but in the end the deal didn't hurt anyone (probably the Rockies more).
rsamak
September 26, 2014 - 1:58 PM EDT
Some very good comments.

If the reason for Kipnis have such a poor season fielding and hitting is an injury. I would have to say that his manager is somewhat foolish. Kipnis had good success driving the ball to left/center. Now, many times he's pitched low inside which negates that.
Homer
September 26, 2014 - 1:43 PM EDT
Seth,

I think the flexibility of the draft pk, and the attached pool money is more attractive to the Tribe (and many other teams) then the potential (limitations) of real prospects.
Seth
September 26, 2014 - 1:36 PM EDT
I don't really get how you can think the Indians would balk at Victor Martinez due to the draft pick, but then be interested in giving up major-league-ready prospects for Beltre. I'd agree neither is likely. But if you don't think they're going to want to give up a later-first-round pick to sign a guy, why even speculate about trading prospects for an expensive, old player?
art
September 26, 2014 - 12:26 PM EDT
I agree completely with Rich.
pathofkindness
September 26, 2014 - 11:51 AM EDT
I think you're probably right about what the Indian's will do Tony. And my comments have nothing to do with what I think the Tribe will do, but what I hope they do, which is push the envelope a little and use a very valuable asset and a position of strength to fill a critical need. Our only other assets (besides maybe Chisenhall) are a few prospects, none of which have tremendous value at this point, and certainly not as much as Kipnis.

I do disagree with you about the rather absurd comment "but when both are playing up to their potential Kipnis is by far the better offensive player. It's not even close."

The only category that Ramirez is definitely inferior to Kipnis is power, that is clear. However, JRam's a much better fielder, and that counts for a lot in the infield.

Also there are in fact stats that show he is comparable to Kipnis as a hitter (granted, without the power) and here's a couple: at age 21 (which is when Kipnis was still in college) JRam hit .302/.360/.401 at AAA. Kipnis hit .280/.362/.484 in AAA at age 24. More recently, since the AS break Ramirez (at age 21 and now 22) has hit .269/.315/.348. And Kipnis has hit .226/.289/.312. We can all cherry pick our stats, but the fact is Ramirez can hit and he can field, and he's doing it at an age when Kipnis was in College and Low-A ball.

You seem to be suggesting that we should let Kipnis "play up to his potential," but not Ramirez, and that seems kinda weird...
anonymous
September 26, 2014 - 11:41 AM EDT
Re: Kipnis -- I had great seats along the first baseline at a game in early July and saw two slow groundballs within 3 feet of Kipnis get by him and trickle into right field for base hits. Off the bat, I figured they were both easy groundouts and I couldn't believe that they got through for base hits. Most second basemen could have easily dived (or even just leaned over) and fielded them. From that point on, I was convinced Kipnis was playing hurt. I can see a "dirtbag" like him trying to grind it out; an oblique injury is just minor enough to keep him in the lineup but still significant enough to cost you in the "game of inches." Bottom line is I'd like to see him healthy next year. And if he isn't the team will at least have some MI depth in the minors that can step up and replace him.
Tony
September 26, 2014 - 11:28 AM EDT
Robert, Ramirez is starting at shortstop next season. Lindor moves into the spot by May-July (depending on injuries and performance of several players).....and once that happens then Ramirez takes over for Aviles as the club's utility guy.
Robert
September 26, 2014 - 11:23 AM EDT
Tony, Who plays SS? How many 21 year olds are playing the majors (he just turned 22). Where was Kipnis playing when he was that age?
Tony
September 26, 2014 - 11:07 AM EDT
I keep seeing people say Ramirez is arguably a better player than Kipnis. I just don't see it. He's a fine prospect and certainly is a better defender at second base and at least on par as a runner....but when both are playing up to their potential Kipnis is by far the better offensive player. It's not even close. I find it interesting how some are excited about Ramirez playing everyday when he has a .298 on-base percentage and .076 isolated power in 80 games in the big leagues so far. Yes, he has upside to be better....but you can't bank on that.

Also, I don't see the Indians moving Kipnis off second base or trading him. They have too much invested in him and the committed to him in that role when they signed him to his deal.....he struggled with injuries....that going by their history I don't see them making such a quick change. They are going to bank on him coming back next season healthy and in shape and the offense/defense improves. If it doesn't, then they move him later in the year or in the offseason to another position. To me the focus will be on what they do at 3B and RF this offseason and that is it.
pathofkindness
September 26, 2014 - 10:58 AM EDT
One of the best discussions I've seen here, so thanks John for setting it up so well and for participating!

I could imagine them moving Kipnis to LF, but not to RF, I don't think he has the arm. Brantley's arm seems to have improved and he keeps getting stronger, so he might be able to handle RF, allowing Kipnis to move to the OF.

I'm not so sure that trading Kipnis is selling low though, people around baseball know what happened this year with him and recognize what a darn good player he is. The Tribe just happens to be lucky enough to have a younger and arguably better player ready to play 2B.

Re Beltre being a "ridiculous idea," of course he's not, and neither is Giancarlo Stanton of Mike Trout. They are great ideas! Its only ridiculous in that there's absolutely no reason for Texas to make that move. Homer said it all, Texas values Beltre a billion times more than it does some decent prospect three years away from the majors...or anybody else we could send them...
Homer
September 26, 2014 - 10:38 AM EDT
I don't think anyone guy is the answer for the Tribe. Banking on one guy to be the difference maker is setting the team up for failure. IF that one player is injured or under performs then what?

If the Rangers didn't trade Beltre in the midst of a horrible season why would they wait until the offseason? IF anything the Tribe would have to over pay him and tie up a huge portion of their payroll with his salary. I just don't see it happening.
Jeff P.
September 26, 2014 - 10:04 AM EDT
Walter, Beltre's stats are great. It's the 34 million owed to him the next 2 years and the high probability that Texas intends to contend next year and would need him that make it basically an impossibility
John M
September 26, 2014 - 10:03 AM EDT
A lot of good insight here fellas, keep it coming. Obviously, the odds of getting both V-Mart and Beltre are very low, the odds aren't even better than 50-50 to get one of them. The thing about this team is that they have exactly ONE clutch hitter who adjusts his approach according to the situation and that's Brantley. The Indians cannot waste another year with poor defense and a lack of hitting that victimizes the staff they currently have coming to fruition.

Whether it's moving Kip or Chiz to the outfield, signing pros like Victor or stop-gap guys like Headley, the Indians cannot sit on their hands and hope for development out of their current roster. The defense needs to be better, the offense needs to be more consistent. How does that happen? It's really hard to know without sitting in those offices and having the conversations those guys have amongst themselves and with other teams. I have a good amount of faith in Antonneti -- not that he makes every decision correctly, but because of his attitude about making this team better and he's not afraid.

Regardless, the Indians aren't dumb, they are going to try to upgrade somehow, but undoubtedly it won't be expensive and will rely heavily on their own guys or someone they might deal for. The attendance has been disappointing, and I'm tired of hearing people rip on ownership for not spending...they have spent in the last two years, have gotten Tito to manage, built a great young team that contended two straight years and still draw 12k a night. If anyone has a right to be angry it's ownership.

Guy I see bouncing back in 2015: Kipnis, Swisher
Still useful: Murphy, Aviles, Bourn, Chiz (maybe even better)
Voted most likely to not succeed: Rayburn (ask those people in DET, he had his one good year and...)
Drop off from overuse: Allen & Shaw (from overuse the last 2 years, we've seen it before)

Nonetheless, it's great talking baseball and everyone has different opinions, that's what makes it fun! I've enjoyed following another competitive, yet frustrating year of Tribe baseball, and look forward to a very successful 2015!
Rich
September 26, 2014 - 8:55 AM EDT
This is the comment I disagree with:

"Historically, they’ve failed miserably in free agency, trying to pick up borderline guys like Murphy and John Axford while hoping to scrape up a measure of success, or overpaying for past-their-prime names like Swisher and Bourn."

If you criticize signing a player like Axford, who they invested nothing in, then you should also criticize the signing of Kazmir the year before. They both were formerly successful players who were still young, healthy and needed some mechanical fixing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it's always worth a shot.

Murphy was signed to be part of a right-field platoon with Raburn. Murphy had a decent .719 OPS against right-handed pitching, but what's more significant, he made his hits count. He hit .331 with runners on base and .364 with runners in scoring position. He was a solid contributor, which is all he was signed to be.

Bourn was a disappointment, but the year before he was signed he had a .739 OPS, 42 stolen bases, and a 6.0 WAR in Atlanta. He was just turning 30 when we signed him and had no significant injury history. Unfortunately he's developed chronic hamstring problems, but there was no way to see that coming. Ricky Henderson was healthy and productive into his early 40's, so speed guys don't automatically drop dead at age 30.

Swisher was productive for years before we signed him and was also not an aging player.
Nobody criticized the signings of Bourn and Swisher when they happened.

In general I would not be too eager to trade Kipnis, despite how well Ramirez has played. In 2013, at age 26, Kip hit .284/.818 with 17 HR, 84 RBI, and 30 stolen bases. His WAR was 5.9. He was a legitimate All-Star. There's no reason he can't put up those numbers for the next five years if he's healthy. Selling low is not a good idea on a player in the prime of his career who had one bad season due to playing through an injury.

If defense is that big a problem, his 2013 numbers will play in the outfield. Those numbers are not far off what Brantley has done this year except for the BA. I would love to have had those numbers in right field this year.

Chisenhall's fielding has gone from being a disaster to being a little short of average. HIs throws have improved considerably. He made a big step up with his bat this year and I would give him another half-season to see if he can take the next step. Right field is another possibility if Kipnis doesn't end up there.

I really don't think the Indians need to make a big splash in FA. Just get Kipnis and Swisher healthy. Let Santana play first base all year (the 3B experiment ruined his hitting the first couple of months and he still drove in nearly 90 runs). Swisher can DH and fill in at 1B and RF. We need to get Bourn working out with the same trainer who is working with the Browns' WR (Austin) who also had chronic hamstring problems but is now productive.

Beltre and VMart aren't coming, folks. I'd give Jesus Aguilar a legitimate shot at the DH role in spring training. He's our best chance at getting an impact right-handed bat that's affordable.
Chip
September 26, 2014 - 1:40 AM EDT
The 2nd half SP has been fantastic and there is no reason to think that these young arms won't improve as a whole next season. To make them even better is easily done by improving the IF defense. There are several ways to do that, but each option has one thing in common and that is getting Kipnis off of 2B. I still say that the Giants are a perfect trading partner in regards to Kipnis. About 15 of their top 20 prospects are pitchers and they need a 2B badly.

Tony claims that there is zero chance of Urshela starting the season at 3B, but I hope that the powers that be don't feel the same. He has demonstrated improved plate discipline at each level. He has as much or more power than Chisenhall. He is a defensive wizard and a gold glover waiting to happen. If he falters with the bat then he has options and Chisenhall moves back to 3B. I don't see any reason not to give him a shot and several reasons to do so. The same could be said of Lindor, but typically contending teams don't have that many "ifs" in their starting lineup. I loathe for the day that Gomes,Urshela, Lindor, Ramirez, and Santana are manning the IF. That is the best infield defense since the days of Visquel, R Alomar, Williams, S Alomar, and Thome.

The difference in the system now compared to the last few years is ready, or soon to be ready, depth and talent. The Indians' minor league system is so much more improved that signing midling free agents like Murphy, Aviles, Swisher, and Raburn are no longer needed. There is young talent with more upside that costs a fraction of the afformentioned. Think about it. Last year everyone knew that Lindor, Ramirez, Urshela, Moncrief, and Aguilar were not ready to contribute. Now, while there is a legitimate argument that some still aren't ready, we can atleast agree that they are very close. The system now includes a couple guys like Ramsey and Walters who have the potential to help. This depth to go with the established players eliminates the need for spending money on mediocrity.
Walter
September 26, 2014 - 12:47 AM EDT
Beltre is not a ridiculous idea.
Walter
September 26, 2014 - 12:45 AM EDT
Beltre is not are ridiculous idea.

Compare stat before tonight's games

Brantley 329 20 97 BB 52 SO 55 OBP 387 SLG 510 OPS 897
Beltre 325 18 75 BB 57 SO 70 OBP 390 SLG 492 OPS 881

Beltre went 2 for 4 with game winning #19 HR tonight. Not bad for a person that is 35.


pathofkindness
September 26, 2014 - 12:13 AM EDT
I agree with Robert's and Hiram's comments, and some others here.

Murphy definitely hasn't been the problem, and neither has Bourn. Kipnis and Swisher (and to a lesser degree, the terrible start by Santana and the ineptness of the starting pitching in the first half) were the reasons this team could never get over the hump.

Chisenhall should be a keeper, as he has the tools and capacity to improve, and I think he will. Not very enthusiastic at all about the idea of a one-year rental at 3B.

They do need a RH bat and to me it makes the most sense to look for a RH hitting outfielder that can hit in the middle of the lineup. A package that included Kipnis and some prospects could net someone. Will need to get creative though...a la Ryan Zimmerman who seems to be getting squeezed out in Wash?

Victor and Beltre are ridiculous ideas...8--)
Robert
September 25, 2014 - 11:35 PM EDT
Reality:

1. We could not trade Swisher for a bag of balls. That bag of balls would cost the other team ~$15 million. Our best hope is that he can be a productive DH next year or have the integrity to retire rather than embarrass himself.

2. Bourn has not been the solution but he has played ok. If Swisher had played as well as Bourn we would be in the playoffs.

3. Adding VMart as long as Swisher is on the roster is DELUSIONAL.

I personally think the most realistic approach is to try to trade Kipnis. IMO someone would take him and his contract. That opens 2b for J Ram. I also think we could easily trade Chiz. Then we need to find a RH 3b. Add in a productive Rayburn or an acquisition to take his place. The key in those trades is not selling low - I know - not so easy!
Tony
September 25, 2014 - 11:35 PM EDT
Victor is not happening. He will cost the Indians 1st round pick, something they refuse to give up to sign any FA. Besides, he is a DH only and will cost a ton.....just not the kind of guy they are going to go after.

Also, there is no way Urshela opens the season as the Indians third baseman. Zero chance. Now, can he move into that role come May or June? Yes, that is possible. But I think they are going to look for an upgrade for at least the one season.
Robert
September 25, 2014 - 11:20 PM EDT
Please!
"yourtribe
September 25, 2014 - 2:16 PM EDT
Bauer scares me. Would package him and Lonnie or kipnis for a bat."

Bauer is a kid with HUGE upside. People who do not think 23 year olds are super stars need to look at the years it took for Kluber to succeed. Bauer could well be a super star in the making. That he is not there yet should be no surprise to anyone dealing in reality.
Aussie Tribe
September 25, 2014 - 11:16 PM EDT
That bat we need is not impossible to get, though easier said than done.
How about this.
Trade Murphy - 6m saving
Trade Swisher for a bag of balls and we'll still pay 4m - saving 10m
Urshella plays 3rd, chiz plays RF
Urshella only needs to produce at the same level as Murphy/Swisher and we are already better off with his glove at 3B and at league minimum wages.
wonder if VMart would want to come back for 15-16m

If no one will take swisher (most likely) trade Bourn in his place, just means that Holt or Ramsey starts while other is the 4th OF, again, they only need to produce at Bourns level.

So we get Vmart's bat instead of Beltre but we haven't traded 1 prospect.
Any available $ can go on Sp depth and relief arms and think most would agree we dont need to get many more of these.
If Lindor starts at short, then Jram is the utility infielder, bye Mike.

AT
Robert
September 25, 2014 - 11:15 PM EDT
1. For a contending team our attendance was horrible. For fans to b and moan about the Dolans not spending more is laughable.

2. Tony - Muryphy is not the problem or the solution. He was not signed to be the solution. Not sending love his way - in fact sending the opposite - is ridiculous. He is fifth on the team in RBIs. Murphy is NOT the problem. The melt down of Rayburn is the problem here. Get off his case!

3. Those who are down on Frazier need to get real. Look at his age. Look at what age Kluber made it.

4. Neither Chiz nor Kipnis should be in the infield next year. One needs to move to the OF. My persona belief is that Chiz has a higher upside than Kip - especially as I think Chiz has an arm that works in RF. Lindor needs to play SS, J Ram needs to play 2b and we need to find a new 3b. Ingram had a good column on this in the News Herald this morning.

5. The team is too "left handed". Why in the world the team paid a dime to sign Shuck is beyond me and IMO beyond stupid. He is more mediocrity of the type we do not need. His signing was to me pure idiocy.

Ultimately some "deep thinkers" need to make a talent judgement. Where are Kipnis and Chiz best suited for? Also, at what age do most major leaugers emerge? For instance, Brantley is a year older than Chiz. What age was it that Gordon emerged for KC? I personally think Chiz has far more upside than Kipnis.
Jeff P
September 25, 2014 - 10:23 PM EDT
Who one here believes there is better than a 0.001% chance of the Indians adding 30-35 million to payroll and acquiring Victor and Beltre? So why even talk about it? I say we trade David Murphy for Giancarlo Stanton and Bourn for Mike Trout. About the same odds
Joe Chengery
September 25, 2014 - 10:01 PM EDT
John,

I had written in the other thread about signing Victor Martinez before seeing your post - glad to see we're thinking along the same lines.

Now, as for Beltre, if you can get him without giving up Ramirez or Lindor, and preferably without giving up House, McAllister, and Tomlin (in that order in terms of not wanting to be traded- I.e. I'd give up Tomlin first, House last, although McAllister is close to House because he could be a nice addition to the bullpen, especially in the 7th/8th inning with Shaw), I'd be for it.

Essentially, I don't want to give up anything that would impact the ML team, so if I could keep all of those aforementioned guys and acquire Beltre, I'd be all for it. I don't have a problem trading Frazier or Anderson- Frazier is some distance away- at least 3 years, probably 4-5 years, and 3-5 years is our window with this current rotation. As for Anderson, not totally convinced about him- I think he might be a late bloomer if he develops, he might be no more than a 3 guy/middle of the rotation starter rather than a frontline starter. Thus, I'd be willing to have a package with those two in it. If you absolutely had to trade Chisenhall, I'd consider it, though I'd consider Kipnis instead.

I don't see him as a premium offensive player- he had a 1218 OPS in June 2013, but hasn't had an .800 OPS since then, and he was healthy from July to Sept/Oct 2013 and most of April 2014. Plus, he's incredibly streaky for a guy with his experience level, and he hasn't put together a streak like Chisenhall's first half, never mind the fact Chisenhall is three years younger and showed he could hit LHP (Kipnis never has). Plus, I think Kipnis' defense at 2B is as big or an even bigger issue than Chisenhall's defense at 3B, mostly because 2B is a middle of the diamond position, plus the fact Chisenhall seems to have a problem with consistency, something that can be corrected over time (no guarantee it will, though). Kipnis has enough problems with consistency himself, but has an even bigger problem: range, and that's something that doesn't improve with experience and age- in fact, it gets worse.

That's why I wholeheartedly agree with you on keeping Ramirez and having him play 2B long term- the INF defense won't be improved if Kipnis remains ion the INF, even if Beltre and Lindor are manning the left side of it. Thus, even with the contract, and though you'd take a loss in terms of not getting much in return, I'd be willing to trade Kipnis before Chisenhall, never mind the fact the saved money from the Kipnis contract could help the Indians pay for Martinez, as I mentioned in the other thread, to add along with Beltre,

Jerry
September 25, 2014 - 8:58 PM EDT
The fact that so many Indians' fans seem willing to trade Clint Frazier means nothing. And, who said besides here that Frazier can't hit curve balls? In fact, if one would have diligently read this site's analyses, especially toward the end of the season, one would clearly get the impression that Frazier was starting to "tear-it-up". Additionally, Frazier is consistently rated the Indians' #2 prospect by practically all expert sources. So, I am tired of the "talking points" writers of this site who keep saying Frazier would be a good trade piece for a 36-going on 37 year old, not DH like Martinez, but THIRD BASEMAN. I am ridiculously glad the Chris Antonetti is generally not that short-sighted.
Daniel
September 25, 2014 - 8:01 PM EDT
Murphy can easily be traded. I think Bourn can be traded in the right deal. Swish probably is untradeable at this point. I can see Oakland being desperate enough to do a trade simply because Dunn will most likely retire and there'll be a huge hole in their lineup without Cespedes. Even if we do find a way to trade Swish we'd probably still have to eat some of his contract. It sucks the guys we thought would add some impact to the lineup have turned out to be duds so far. If Swish can still play RF then his value may increase at least a few more points. Is it likely we can trade him? Probably not but I can hope. I can also only hope that Antonetti and the FO see what a mistake they made by being too complacent and doing very little to tweak the lineup and trotting out virtually the same lineup as last year only to see the rest of the league catch up with us. The inconsistency this year was extremely disheartening to see because there were at least 10-20 games we could've won easily. Praying that Antonetti learns from his mistake and recognizes the areas we need to improve upon and is more aggressive this offseason.
Mike
September 25, 2014 - 6:44 PM EDT
I agree that calling the Swisher and abourne signings "bottom feeding" is revisionist history of the worst kind. They were the two highest regarded free agents of their positions in the class, and Bourne's delayed signing was only the predictable result of trying to score too big a contract. But, moving on.

If the Mets, with their surplus of pitching, woukd part with Jon Neise I'd be I the rested in talking. He's just the sort of depth rotation arm we could really use. But for a hitter, ideally, I'd look young. I like Khris Davis a lot but have no idea what the Brewers would ask in return. Slotting Adrian Beltre in at third would be great defensively and offensively (as an outstanding option B) but, like many have already said, I'd be wary of the trade return the Rangers would want.

With those two additions, a pitcher and a hitter, I'd be in Vegas putting down my WS bet. Truthfully I think we have a great shot even without those moves, and I am really excited about next year.
Seth
September 25, 2014 - 6:03 PM EDT
Swisher was not "bottom feeding." If there was ever a bet to give you a decent return in free agency it was Swisher, who had been healthy and consistent. You never know when a player's going to lose it. I think there would be a great likelihood that Beltre would be a huge bust. Victor makes a lot more sense, a similar price but just requires losing a draft pick to sign, plus the history and his name is a bigger draw in Cleveland than Beltre's. They could not make both of those moves, as much as we might think it makes sense for ownership to push the payroll up to reinvigorate the fanbase, they haven't done that. They're not gonna start now
Jeff P
September 25, 2014 - 5:47 PM EDT
"Nobody thought Lebron was coming back, either. Why can't it happen for the Tribe?" I believe it's called a salary cap, of which the NBA has one, and baseball does not. As long as large revenue teams can spend in an unlimited way, their aren't going to be any high dollar free agent signings in Cleveland.
Vic Venom
September 25, 2014 - 5:42 PM EDT
Please for the love of god stop talking about trading Frazier for Beltre. This is the dumbest ish i have ever read on here.
Homer
September 25, 2014 - 3:21 PM EDT
I see no reason TX needs to or even wants to trade Adrian Beltre...if they didn't do it in the midst of this brutal season, why in the offseason? It just doesn't make sense for them / unless they are blown away with the return.

Chase Headley makes sense as a 1yr rental. One yr /$10m would probably get a deal done. I'd even consider 2/$18m. Alex Rios makes sense too, maybe 2/$22m. Nori Aoki and Michael Cuddyer make sense too. Aoki mashes LH pitching, Cuddyer an interesting vet. Of course Victor Martinez, Yasmani Tomas, Melky Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval should be targets, but I don't see the Tribe aggressively going after them. Any big move likely comes through trade.

As for Michael Bourn, I think he's tradeable in a bad deal for bad deal kind of move. I've suggested Edwin Jackson as a candidate. He'd save $5.5m over two yrs for the Tribe. At worst I think he's an over paid long man. It would be risky, but IF Mickey Calloway and Kevin Cash work with him they may straighten him out.
yourtribe
September 25, 2014 - 3:17 PM EDT
Nick,you really think at least two teams would love to add Bourn at 14 mill for two and maybe three more years ? An aging CF who hits in the 260s and Ks a lot and doesn't walk and doesn't steal. And gets hurt? Don't buy it. Would trade him yesterday if they could.
Nick S
September 25, 2014 - 2:17 PM EDT
Bourn can be traded.The Mets and redsox would love togetborn on their team. To say Bourn is untradeable is a joke !PS. Do not pick up Mike A. OPTION FOR 2015. Buy him out for 500,000 use 2.5 million some where else!
yourtribe
September 25, 2014 - 2:16 PM EDT
Bauer scares me. Would package him and Lonnie or kipnis for a bat.
Nick S
September 25, 2014 - 2:08 PM EDT
No Baseball fan in their right mind trades Allen and Chisenhall for 38 year old 3baseman. Urshela has be at 3 base next year . Who in heck isgoing be the closer if Allen is traded, all you know it alls?
Aaron
September 25, 2014 - 2:06 PM EDT
Indians 2015
Lineup: Rotation: Bullpen
1. CF Bourn 1. Kluber Allen
2. SS Lindor/Ramirez 2. Carrasco Salazer
3. LF Brantley 3. McAlister Crocket
4. 1B Santana 4. Bauer Rczep
5. DH Martinez 5. House Atchinson
6. C Gomes Shaw
7. 2B Kipnis Tomlin
8.RF Swisher/Murphy
9. 3b Chishenhall/Aviles
John M
September 25, 2014 - 1:37 PM EDT
Caff, I see your point, but the point I was trying to make is that the Tribe consistently bottom feeds in FA, partially because they've had to, trying to catch lightning in a bottle with guys like Axford, whom they intend to fix. Then they buy two or three of these guys for 6-7 million. When they don't pan out or produce mediocrity, the Indians paid 15-20 million on mediocre players, which they already have.

Point is, Victor is a special player, especially in run producing situations. The only guy that adapts his batting approach situationally is Brantley, who is just as capable of jacking a late-inning homer as he is slapping an RBI single up the middle. I don't see Victory as over the hill. I see him a a guy that just has to hit and keep doing what he always does -- produce. And his numbers back that up.

Swisher is a 20HR/70 RBI guy throughout his career with a .250 BA. The Indians brought him in to be their cleanup hitter. It's not what he does, and he may be pressing as a result.

Bourn was a mistake from the get-go (see Crawford, Carl), as a speed guy on the wrong side of 30. Giving him a huge deal wasn't hard to see coming as a bad decision.
Caff
September 25, 2014 - 1:25 PM EDT
"Historically, they’ve failed miserably in free agency, trying to pick up borderline guys like Murphy and John Axfordwhile hoping to scrape up a measure of success, or overpaying for past-their-prime names like Swisher and Bourn. One has to wonder why the Indians don’t scrap this idea of paying three marginal free agents over $30 million a season together with marginal results, and instead going out and getting one stud player for the same money. That plan just isn’t working."

I'm a bit confused when you discuss scrapping the plan of overpaying for "past-their-prime" players, yet you advocate signing two 36 year old players who would be "expensive". I agree that the Tribe should scrap their multiple mediocre, quantity-over-quality approach but sign one guy who has a chance of being good at the end of his contract, not another albatross.
Hiram
September 25, 2014 - 12:56 PM EDT
Having the payroll where it is was average back 15 years ago. It further illustrates that the Dolans are in over their heads in owing this team and really should consider selling it. In the meantime, I'm going to support the team, Dolans and everyone else associated with the team
Hiram
September 25, 2014 - 12:54 PM EDT
I don't agree with the author saying that Lonnie is a question mark at the plate. To me he's in a similar position as Michael brantley in '13. I can easily add 10-15 more RBI's if he was hitting higher in the order. His defense needs work but hasn't been as big of an issue lately.

I don't see alot of moves coming. I see the Indians doing whatever they need to do to get the most out of Swisher, Bourn and Kipnis then making one semi-splash move and then adding depth in AAA. I think Rios and Cuddyer make the most sense. Then the ability to add guys from the farm system during the course of the season will prove to be invaluable.

Bourn
Ramirez
Brantley
Santana
Kipnis
Rios
Chisenhall
Swisher
Gomes

is a formidable lineup and during the course of the season the Indians will be able to add Aguilar, Ramsey, Naquin, Moncrief, Ursehla, Lindor and others when needed


The key for the Indians is developing the starting pitching in both A and AA so it will be ready when needed to fill in.

Trading Frazier for Beltre, calling Frazier a bust is totally absurd, IMO. BTW, I can see the Indians adding a bullpen arm later on in the offseason too.


This team appears to be deep enough to make a sustained drive toward the WS. Not so sure I agree with the other in how to get there but we definitely agree that the Indians should be tough next year
Jeff P.
September 25, 2014 - 12:50 PM EDT
Fangraphs had an excellent article on why young hitters(aside from Mike Trout) struggle early in their careers. Anyone suggesting we trade Frazier needs to read it. His first full year in the minors was hardly a disaster in a pitcher friendly league. And I'll certainly trust the opinion of a career baseball guy like Johnny Goryl over our fans any day, and he absolutely loves Frazier.

Adding Beltre or Victor and taking our payroll over 90 million is something we can dream about all off season but it is not happening. We are not going to pay Swisher 15 million next year to be Giambi. That's just asanine.

Not sure why you think Headley will be to expensive. His value is low, and a 1/10 contract for him to build value on a team that should contend would have a lot of appeal I would think. He greatly improves our defense, and if he bounces back offensively, he'd be a bargain. Question would be what to do with Lonnie? Trade him or move him to RF and trade Murphy. I'm fine with either of those options. We can't have him at 3B again next season. Kipnis has little range but at least he fields what he gets to, so who moves to the OF would be an easy decision for me.

Our pitching should have Indians fans optimistic for next season, and really the next few. I'm 50 and the only time we may have had a collection of arms like our front 4 is the late 60's. The reality of our situation is that we need Bourn and Swisher to stay healthy and at least approach their career numbers and Kipnis to bounce back. That happens, and we add a useful piece like Headley and 1-2 bullpen arms, and we are in great shape. I'd love to have the payroll flexibility to sign a big hitter, but unless we can unload one of Bourn or Swisher, that is not happening. So, that is not happening. It's the lot of being an Indians fan.
Roger
September 25, 2014 - 12:46 PM EDT
Green----------------GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE------------------------------I am convinced that he comes a lot cheaPER than v mart and maybe one year contract with incentives and a club option for 2016. versatility right handed bat 2013 Btting champ and i suspect 10 to 12 million contract and gives us 12 to 14 million to reward kluber and carrasco and have money for arbitration. I LIke the pitchers we have to go to war with. they should improve except kluber he is allready cy young material i like our versatility of bench and the core is locked up for several years. As for kipnis get your head out of your posterior and if you are injured the depth on this team is such that if hurt let self heal before playing. Chiz take 5000 ball a day at third all off season and work hard on defense offense is hand to eye but defense can be improved imencily with hard off season work and maybe try to double home runs to about 20 by strenthening forarms with dumb bells. but primarily hire a person to hit you balls and a guy to catch throws at first base maybe the sabre guy who was free agent could use extra money for being your first baseman.
John
September 25, 2014 - 12:33 PM EDT
But that's why Frazier is a commodity. His numbers aren't awesome, and he struggles hitting curve balls, but he's very young. Low minors are where guys learn to do such things. What you can't teach is his Popeye forearms and raw power potential in a center fielder body. Will he be good? Nobody knows, but he's a chance worth taking for other teams. Where was Grady Sizemore when the Tribe targeted him? Wasn't he just into AA ball? The knock on him was lack of power as well. His developed power actually was part of his undoing in the end, as he being an all-pull type of guy. Thanks, home run derby!
C L Who
September 25, 2014 - 11:52 AM EDT
If the pitching stays consistently good, then I tend to agree that one or two more producing players can put the Tribe deep into the playoffs.

How about trading for Todd Frazier? Expensive, but right handed, young, cheap, power, and improves the D.

Wouldn't Victor cost about 14 million per year? I like the idea of him DHing but I wonder if the FO will incur the cost.

While you don't say it specifically, I'm reading between the lines that Chisenhall, Murphy, Aviles, Raburn, Giambi.....at least....are shipped out, and probably Ramirez too. Are you figuring that Kipnis will play 2B or RF in 2015?
Green
September 25, 2014 - 11:46 AM EDT
Michael Cuddyer would be less expensive than Victor, is familiar with AL Central, and can handle RF and 3rd base in a pinch. He's on my Christmas list.
Western Canadian Select
September 25, 2014 - 11:45 AM EDT
The fact that so many Indians fans seem so willing to trade Clint Frazier speaks volumes, and suggests the Indians won't get as much as they think for him in a trade. The guy is a smaller Mike Trout on tools, but he can't hit curveballs. He really didn't even hit for much power this year when you look at his 2B and HR totals relative to the K's -- not good. Those low-A level breaking balls aren't nearly as good as the ones he'll see as he moves up the minor league ladder. Clint Eastwood wouldn't have drafted him.

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