Three under the radar offseason targets for the Indians
My last column on the idea of the Indians acquiring Adrian Beltre generated a lot of talk.
When I glanced among the comments I noticed a lot of people were hesitant to move a prospect the level of Clint Frazier. To get something you have to give up something, and to me Beltre is an ideal fit so parting with Frazier is worth it. The only downside with him is salary and age. But very few people liked the idea of paying such a high cost for two years of production from a player. So I decided to go back and try and find guys who might be a bit easier to acquire at a much lower cost.
I started this process by looking at the top players by wRC+ and trying to locate players who could conceivably be acquired. The vast majority of such players are guys who are cornerstone players, or ones who would cost significant pieces in return. In the end there were three names in the top 70 who stuck out as possible targets for the Indians. Here are those guys in order of their ranking by wRC+.
Michael Morse, OF, San Francisco
Over the past few years I have heard many an Indians fan discuss their desire to acquire Morse. He was viewed by many as a mammoth right-handed bat with a good average and pop. Here is the thing though, outside of one year he has never been a big power guy. He is closer to a 15 home run a year player. His 6-feet-5 frame makes you think there should be more power there than there really is.
The positives for Morse are that he is right-handed and since he is a free agent it would not cost anything to acquire him as long as the Giants don’t offer him a qualifying offer. They could though as he is currently in a tie for 24th in wRC+ along with Carlos Santana, Hunter Pence, and Seth Smith (who almost made this list). He posts a nice average, but doesn’t walk enough to help his on-base percentage. He does have some doubles pop though. Plus he is soon to be 33 years old with a history of injury, which will drive his price down. Morse only made $6 million this year. Basically he was the Giants version of Murphy. The difference is it worked out for the Giants and was for only one year.
The negatives are also there though. As mentioned above he is older with a history of injury. He has played 10 years in the majors but only six as a full time guy. In those six years this year marks only the second time he has played in 130 games or more, and he has played in 100 games only three times. He is also a very bad defender and would make the Indians worse defensively - a feat which is hard to do when you consider how bad they have been this season. On top of those issues he has a 4:1 strikeout to walk rate which I find to be suboptimal.
In the end, in spite of his production this year I would be scared to death of signing Morse. All it takes is one team to have the misconception of right-handed power because of his size and his salary could sky rocket.
Marlon Byrd, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Marlon Byrd is another right-handed bat who could help balance out the Indians lineup. He was 53th in wRC+, one spot above Jason Heyward of the Braves. This is not my first time mentioning Byrd as a target for the Indians. I mentioned him two years ago in an article of targets for the offseason. My top target then was Michael Bourn, so it turns out both the Indians and I made the wrong choice.
The pluses are that the last two years Byrd has hit 20+ home runs. He shows doubles power as well and has been well over 50 extra base hits a year - last year he was over 60. His BABIP is high but has been for his whole career and his numbers show he has still been lucky, but do not forecast a complete collapse. He is also basically an average defender who can play all three spots in a jam, but should stick to a corner. His power makes him useable there. One more plus is the Phillies were shopping him and he should be available this offseason and would be a low cost choice as his salary is only $8 million.
The downsides are pretty big with Byrd as well. As a hitter he strikes out at an Adam Dunn like rate and walks a lot less. He has a near 6:1 strikeout to walk ratio which I find terrifying. He will turn 37 next year and has a vesting option for his age 38 year. This means he could be in for a total collapse any day now. The Phillies were holding out for a legit offer for him at the deadline and refused to give him away. I am not sure what Ruben Amaro judges as a legit offer, but some were claiming it was outrageous.
I would consider Byrd but only if I can convince the Phillies to take back Murphy (or another team). The idea being that the Indians get a right-handed bat with some pop and only increase payroll by $2 million which would allow for more upgrades.
So what would the cost be? The player who came to mind for me is Erik Gonzalez who stepped up as a prospect this year and fits the Phillies two biggest desires. Gonzalez defensively is Major League ready and is a player who should be ready as a utility player sometime next season. The other thing the Phillies love is athletes which Gonzalez also is. If he was in another team’s minor league system I think Gonzalez would be more appreciated but the Indians depth up the middle means that he is often overlooked. His glove alone makes me see a guy who is guaranteed to play in the majors someday as a backup. I think the secondary piece could be one of the Indians many young bullpen arms from the similar group of Austin Adams, C.C. Lee, Shawn Armstrong, or Nick Hagadone.
I would be willing to roll the dice here. The Indians would give up two legit pieces but both from depth. If Byrd's option vests then to me that is a positive sign that he had a solid year and then everyone should be happy. If it doesn’t vest, well, you lost some useful players but no one who is going to make you regret the deal. For the Phillies they would get two pieces that can help soon and shed salary. It’s a deal that could be sold by the front office to a disgruntled fan base.
Casey McGehee, 3B, Florida Marlins
McGehee will be a free agent this offseason and unlike Morse there is zero chance he will be offered a qualifying offer this offseason. You might notice a trend here as he is another right-handed bat. McGehee is currently 65th in wRC+.
He has a rather interesting recent history. Two years ago he was offered $1.5 million to go to Japan and he did just that. He had a very rough year with Pittsburgh the year before and it was the best offer he received. He put up big numbers there and parlayed it into a $1.1 million dollar deal with the Marlins and an everyday gig.
I will be honest, I think McGehee might be the best under the radar player for the Indians and here is why. He is a right-handed bat who doesn’t strikeout too much, but walked over ten percent of the time this year. Among all third basemen he is 5th in walk percentage and 3rd in on-base percentage. He gets on base and would be a nice fit in the number two hole. If he played for the Indians right now he would be third on the team in on-base percentage behind only Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana. He would be second in walks behind Santana on the Indians.
It’s interesting that his walk rate is so high because he doesn’t see a ton of pitches per at bat. His pitches per at bat are on par with Asdrubal Cabrera who was known to love to swing at the first pitch he saw. This strikes me as a guy who will swing early, but has a good eye. The other nice bonus is he is a slightly above average defender at third this year. The difference between Casey and Lonnie Chisenhall at third base this year would have been worth just shy of three wins.
All is not perfect with McGehee and there are some big things that do scare me as someone who looks at numbers. The lack of a long track record is an issue for a guy who will be 32 years old soon. Before this year he had two good years and two bad years in the majors. His numbers also show a large degree of luck as his BABIP is .340, 43 points above his career norm. He also doesn’t have much power. His slugging this year is .365, which is just four points higher than his on-base percentage, and he has a horrific .073 isolated power percentage. He is on pace for 30 doubles but will have under 40 extra base hits this year.
I know McGehee is on the wrong side of 30 but I am very intrigued by what he can do. He would give the Indians a right-handed bat which is a big need to help balance the Indians lineup. McGehee could slide right into the two-hole and get on base at a good rate for the Tribe. His low slugging and age will hurt his market which means he is a guy the Indians could try and swoop in and offer him stability at a lower cost.
I am worried about the BABIP, but the defense upgrade alone makes it less worrisome. The reason is he can be a utility guy for the Indians if he does struggle, albeit an expensive one. This signing would allow Chisenhall to shift to the outfield, which in turn would help the Indians at multiple positions. It might not be an exciting addition, but if you don’t want to give up major pieces it strikes me as the right one. It might even be possible to add both Byrd and McGehee this offseason if the Indians focus on adding right-handed bats.
(writer edit: I should have realized McGehee not a free agent not enough years. Similar situation to Axford with the Indians. I think he could still be added, and upside is contract would be much cheaper. I think you could get him for a pen arm. After all the Marlins gave up a competitive balance first rounder to get a reliever this year.)
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To think that we would trade E.Gonzalez for Byrd is crazy. And sure, Beltre's a great great player, but trading one of our top prospects for Beltre at this point in his career, w his health issues and at his $'s doesn't really make sense to me. I think we do have young players to trade, but I would be very hesitant to give up Gonzalez, Frazier or Lindor unless you get 3+ years, and a foundational piece in return. I feel different about Naquin, Wolters, Moncrief, Wendle, Morimando, Merritt, Haase, Washington, Monsalve, etc.
Re 3B, I would rather invest the time and effort in making Chisenhall a better fielder, and trust that his maturation process will continue and that he will be able to make significant improvements, as he's been able to do. If there's a taker for Kipnis, I think you have to try to move him, basically because JRam's better. There could possibly be a number of clubs looking for the kind of thing he offers, like maybe the Orioles, Blue Jays, White Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Braves, Nationals...likewise with Bourn, but that won't be easy, w his age, injuries and high salary...and if not, then you have to hope and pray that he has one more good year in him, same with Swisher...
Beltre destroys left-handed pitching with a .999 OPS. However, the Ranger's ballpark factors in as he's hitting .973 at home versus .793 on the road.
He'd be a great addition but at a great cost in prospects and in dollars. And we'd have to find a spot for Lonnie's bat unless we trade him.
If it was a reasonable price for Beltre, I'd consider it. However, if they're asking for any of the four flamethrowers, Ramirez, or Lindor, no. If it's Frazier, Moncrief, Ramsey, and some of the lowest levels, I'd consider it. As for pitching, of House/Tomlin/McAllister, I 'd be willing to give up one, maybe two, at most (House is the one who is most untouchable for me, followed by - a toss-up - but probably McAllister by a hair over Tomlin, though this could flip-flop by the day); I'd consider Anderson if needed.
Essentially, I do not want to break up any part of the current rotation (thus I would not be fond of giving up House, would give up Tomlin and/or McAllister first), current team (Ramirez), or immediate future (Lindor). I'd consider other offers and go from there, but essentially, those are the untouchables for me. They insist on any part of those untouchables for Beltre, I say "no."
Whose spot in the rotation does Billingsley take? As much as he's fallen off and the injury issues he's had, even if he came cheaply, I don't think that would be the best allocation of resources. Personally, I'd rather have the four young flamethrowers (Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, and Bauer) and House/Tomlin/McAllister in that rotation than any veteran unless he's a significant upgrade (I.e. Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw- someone of that caliber). The Indians can bring veterans in Spring Training if they like, but I personally wouldn't want any of them in the rotation unless they are better than what we already have. In my mind Billingsley doesn't beat the top four, and I really don't think he beats the other three either, who are all younger, cheaper, and have as good or better stuff than Billingsley, who hasn't shown himself to be the pitcher he once was a few years back.
Even the pitcher Billingsley was would have a hard time slotting into this rotation, but especially the pitcher Billingsley is now. For the first time in a long time, and probably as far back as I can remember, an Indians' fan since the 80s, the rotation is not a primary concern. Certainly, you can never have too much pitching, but truth be told, I like our top 7- it's probably the best 7 we've had in any season, and unless it's an ace pitcher, I think the other veterans/FAs are on the outside looking in (I.e. auditioning for other teams in Spring Training if they come to Indians' camp).
It was an exercise in guys who could possibly help on the cheap thats all. None of these guys are my top option but the point was to look deeper based on production this year
I believe I once read during the time they were deciding on a length of contract to be given to Jim Thome that they found only one player in the history of baseball actually got better after reaching the age of 35, and that player was Barry Bonds. So with that knowledge why would we consider Beltre who is currently 35 or any of those players? Why not look at a team like the Twins who have Trevor Plouffe playing third, who is 28 and playing ahead of highly regarded Miguel Sano. There has to be other teams out there that have players that can add to our core and in need of players where we are deep in the minors. I am more inclined to add to our core than to add players who are most certainly going to decline.
However for the Indians trading for a established 3b in Beltre, who has World Series experience, is considered to old and expensive. We prefer a player who is not a big leaguer in Urshela to be the 3B instead of Beltre.
If the Indians are rebuilding than having Beltre makes no sense. However the Indians are not and this was the mandate that the fans gave to FO 2 years ago we want a team that contends.
Well they have been contending the past 2 years.
Play Aguilar to get a RH bat in the lineup. It will take courage but there is no place on this roster for Swisher and I would get rid of him any way that I could.
And why all the Beltre over the hill talk? The guy is having one of his best seasons as a pro. THe guy is hitting .323 with an .876 OPS, 135 wRC+ and 5.3 WAR. His WAR number is on pace to be the 4th or 5th highest in his career. His wRC+ is the third highest in his career. The power has ticked back a little for sure, but then he's also walking a little more as well too. This is the exact guy they need. This is not a guy they would sign for 5 years. It would be for two years. They need some stability now....and he'd make a great mentor for Urshela and allow Urshela to transition naturally into the big leagues.
But one of my favorite young power hitters from the right side is Khris Davis of the Brewers. Of course I have no idea if the Brewers would consider trading him or who they'd want in return, but I hope the Tribe at least asks.
Me personally, I still go for a little more and pay more to go get Beltre. You know you are going to get at least above average defense, and while the bat may not be the same he has the intangibles this team loves in the clubhouse and he should still be a solid right-handed bat. It's worth it to me for two years of him for a couple of prospects who might be 3-4 years away and not a sure thing to ever make it. Beltre to me is the percect stop gap addition who fills so many holes/needs in one pickup.
Your suggesting the Indians target at least one:
-35 year old..
-37 year old
-34 year old
As what?.. in charge of the rookie shuffle board team?.. smh.. The Indians don't need poor fielding geriatrics to compete.. The suggestions contained within this article should be erased from the IBI website..
Minor League Franchise move.. brilliant move for the Indians High A affiliate.. tremendous area.. great fans.. should become a model franchise in Tenn...
Morse and Cuddyer fit the bill for what they'd provide, but the injuries are a big concern with both. Ni interest whatsoever in McGehee. The asking price for Byrd was apparently sky high at the deadline, or he would have been dealt then. That's a dead end.
Oakland is a team to watch this off season as after the debacle adding payroll Beane will be wheeling and dealing. I'd have interest in Coco, as he'd really solidify the top of the order.
Safest and best move IMO would be to get Chase Headley on a 1 year deal for him to rebuild value and move Lonnie to RF. Gives Urshela a chance to develop at AAA, Walters as well. He's been much better after getting out of Petco and his defense would be a huge upgrade.
If Raburn were healthy he'd probably be in RF, with Gimenez at 1b. Why not throw Giambi out there at DH?
I just don't get it...they HAVE to do some moderate house cleaning. If they can dump Bourn (probably not happening) trade Murphy, move Chis and or Kipnis to the OF or via trade, ask Giambi back as some sort of bench coach, cut Raburn, and trade Aviles. There has to be at least 3/4 moves (upgrades) with the lineup & bench for this team to really compete for the AL.
Have any of you actually looked at the performance of free agent signees? They are fat and happy and they stink!
I'm fine with a smart trade and the Tribe had done well with trades. Otherwise, let;s stick with internal options and forget this foolhardy pipe dream. Swisher, Aviles, Raburn, Giambi should all go.
While everyone knows the offense could use a boost, I doubt that it underperforms this badly two years in a row. There are two pitchers I would like the Indians to target in the offseason. One of Chad Billingsly or Brandon McCarthy would make this rotation one of the very best in baseball. Billingsly is a year younger and an Ohio boy. I would love to see him as an Indian. I can't see the Yankees not giving McCarthy a nice contract so I think there is almost 0 chance to sign him.
Dodgers have Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe at third (except Hanley wants to play SS), and when Juan is not on the DL. Dodgers might well consider Van Slyke for Chis.....except Chis would be a defensive downgrade on Uribe.
I forgot to mention that Van Sllyke is 6' 5" and 220 or so.....I guess that's tall and rangy. He's a big dude.
The Dodgers need rotation back up pitching and some more relief pitching.....could also use a catcher ready for the majors in not more than 2 years. Maybe I'm lowballing Van Slyke, but I think he could be obtained for a guy like MacAllister plus one of the Tribe's minor league catching prospects, or Mac plus a Hagadone or CC Lee. Let's put it this way.....the Dodgers picked up Fausto a month ago and he has started 4 or 5 times since. Yeah....after Greinke and Kershaw it drops off the cliff in that rotation...especially now that Ryu is out for the season.
No offense to Van Slyke, but I see that Ramsey gets much praise and maybe he'll get the nod in 2015 at RF. Still, might be OK to let Ramsey season for a year while Van Slyke becomes more and more valuable by pumping up his numbers through regular playing time in RF for the Tribe in 2015.
Let's hope we can get some stability at High-A again- that used to be an automatic with Kinston. If the Indians can't have a closer High-A affiliate to Ohio like the other affiliates (because you have the Carolina League, California League, or Florida State League, none of which being particularly close to Ohio, with the Carolina League being the closest), let's hope they can establish a long-term relationship with Lynchburg, as having stability usually bodes well for your prospects and for your organization as a whole rather than jumping around every few years.
I noticed the same thing. Mlbtraderumors.com has the Marlins linked to Pablo Sandoval. McGehee could be a trade target for the Tribe - maybe an arm like Austin Adams get a deal done. Regardless, I think he could be a nice incremental addition for the Tribe.
Here is my candidate, assuming that Ramsey is not promoted to play right field, and that Holt's low power will keep him a defensive back up in RF until he moves to CF after Bourn is shipped out.
Scott van Slyke. OF. Right handed, Cheap. 28 next year. 274 / 377 with an 892 OPS in a bench role for the Dodgers, where he is securely blocked by Kemp, Ethier, Puig and Crawford. 44% of his 52 hits this year were extra bases, including 11 bombs. 2:1 K to BB. One home run every 17.27 at bats.
Yeah, Cuddyer makes more sense, but I think he will get crazy money (and years), because everyone could need him.
The Indians have to shed some payroll first before they can even think about adding another risky vet to the mix. If they can't, then they should stay put and hope that the likes of Swish, Kipnis, Murphy and Bourn improve a little. Both adding and shedding payroll will be much easier (without the guessing part) mid season 2015. Those big contracts cost them this season and probably will mess with next season too. That's on the FO. If they got just a little more out of all those millions, they would be in the playoffs. Instead, over half the roster payroll has produced a negative WAR. That gets you fired iin most places, just saying.
I'd just hope a determined and in shape Swisher is our "find" for next year.
I think the best option for the Indians would be to trade for Beltre. He would also replace Giambi as a potential leader for the Indians. Secondly when Santana was trying to play 3B this past off season, Santana turned to Beltre for advice/help regarding playing 3b.
Getting Byrd might be more expensive than we think. There were many teams at the trade deadline that wanted Byrd and Phillies were asking a high price. I don't see why that still might be the case this off season.
If I had to choose from the 3 names above I would go with McGehee.
I mentioned Casey McGehee in another post. Baseballreference.com has him arb eligible next season, for the Marlins it's not a given the club will bring him back. He's definitely worth a look.
I think the acquiring Beltre is a pipe dream because of his age and salary. At 37, I think his skills will diminish (they have already started to in some respects). My issue there is a combination of salary and age.
I would also be reluctant to trade Frazier because of Johnny Goryl's comments in an article on this site about a month ago. Goryl works with the kid regularly and he's an experienced baseball man. I'd take his word over the stats a 19 year old kid has put up at full season A level ball (in spite of all the K's).