Tribe Happenings: Indians in good spot as meetings begin
Some news, notes and thoughts from my Indians notebook…
As the Winter Meetings get cranked up today, the Indians sit in a good spot as an organization. Do they have holes they would like to fill? Yes. Do they need a little tinkering here and there? Yep. But that’s true of any team.
But the advantage the Indians had going into the offseason is every player on the roster except one is under club control for 2015. That one exception is Jason Giambi who had little impact in 2014 and is expected to retire anyway.
When a team doesn’t need to worry about replacing players lost in free agency it puts them in an interesting position of power going into the next season, particularly if the players on the 25-man roster are good and the team can contend as-is currently constructed like the Indians can. Yes, if the Indians do not make one move this offseason and return the team that ended the 2014 season they will be a strong favorite in the American League next season. Recently on MLB Network both Dan Plesac and Joel Sherman expressed their love for the team as-is and how they should be a force next season and a possible World Series sleeper.
I’m inclined to agree with them. Yet, I also know that this team needs a little tinkering in order to improve those odds and it needs a little more depth to help ensure an injury or two doesn’t ruin their season.
The Indians front office catches a lot of flak from fans, but they have done a nice job in setting up the roster over the past few seasons. Sure, there have been some free agent misses and they are bogged down at the moment by contracts to Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, but overall they have made some key trades, aggressively pushed some prospects and found some diamonds in the free agent bargain bin.
Probably most impressive is that they control this roster as-is for the next two seasons as only Mike Aviles can be a free agent after next season. Others like Scott Atchison, Ryan Raburn and David Murphy have club options after next season, but that flexibility with the roster based on how they perform in 2015 puts the Indians in a position of power to keep them or move on from them after next season.
The team has the control to keep things intact or tinker as they see fit the next two years. They don’t have to worry about players leaving. And their core players are under control for at least the next three to five years. Again, that is a powerful position to be in.
Not only do the Indians have a lot of control on their 25-man roster and a pretty good roster, but they have created some amazing depth behind them with prospects in line to come up and impact at some point next season at just about every position and in any role.
Check out the position player depth the Indians have right now:
|Position||1st level||2nd level||3rd level|
|CA||Yan Gomes||Roberto Perez||Adam Moore|
|1B||Carlos Santana||Jesus Aguilar|
|2B||Jason Kipnis||Zach Walters||Joe Wendle|
|SS||Jose Ramirez||Francisco Lindor||Erik Gonzalez|
|3B||Lonnie Chisenhall||Giovanny Urshela||Mike Aviles|
|LF||Michael Brantley||Ryan Raburn||Destin Hood|
|CF||Michael Bourn||James Ramsey||Tyler Naquin|
|RF||David Murphy||Tyler Holt||Carlos Moncrief|
The Indians are almost three deep at every position, and may be even deeper as the list shows as players like Jose Ramirez, Zach Walters and Erik Gonzalez can move all over the diamond and fill in as needed.
Where you see the gaps on the roster is at catcher, first base and designated hitter. Beyond the Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez duo at catcher the Indians really don’t have another catching option. Tony Wolters is on the 40-man but probably not an option until much later in 2015 and Carlos Santana is all but done catching except in an emergency. At first base they have a trio or options with Santana, Nick Swisher and Jesus Aguilar, but not much else beyond that.
This is where the Indians interest in Brandon Moss comes into play as he not only fills a need with a power bat in the lineup, but he helps fill an area in need on the roster as while he would play a good amount of right field he also adds a potential third catching option and another bat in the mix at first base and designated hitter. It also helps explain the interest in a free agent like Kendrys Morales.
Beyond the position players, the Indians also have an incredible amount of depth in the bullpen:
|Position||1st level||2nd level||3rd level|
|Left-handed relief||Marc Rzepczynski||Kyle Crockett||Nick Hagadone|
|Middle Relief||C.C. Lee||Austin Adams||Enosil Tejeda|
|Middle Relief||Scott Atchison||Bryan Price||Tyler Sturdevant|
|Middle Relief||Zach McAllister||Shawn Armstrong||Louis Head|
|Setup man||Bryan Shaw|
All three of the depth options they have in the left-handed department in Marc Rzepczynski, Kyle Crockett and Nick Hagadone should be on the Indians opening day roster and they also have a couple of interesting lefty options beyond them not listed in Giovanni Soto and Nick Maronde.
The middle relief corps are strong as they are deep with lots of options and depth. The first line of relievers of Scott Atchison, C.C. Lee, and Zach McAllister are backed up by a group of top prospects on the 40-man roster in Austin Adams, Shawn Armstrong, and Bryan Price, and then an interesting additional level of depth beyond that with the likes of Enosil Tejeda, Tyler Sturdevant and Louis Head. They don't have much depth in the setup and closer department, but what team truly has depth there? The evolution of some of their middle relief arms could help fill that need, though they could use another veteran backend pen arm.
The starting rotation depth is an area that is in need of improvement:
|Position||1st level||2nd level||3rd level|
|Starter||Corey Kluber||Zach McAllister||Cody Anderson|
|Starter||Carlos Carrasco||Josh Tomlin||Will Roberts|
|Starter||Danny Salazar||Nick Maronde||Joseph Colon|
|Starter||Trevor Bauer||Shaun Marcum||Ryan Merritt|
|Starter||T.J. House||Charles Brewer||Adam Plutko|
The five man rotation is strong with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and T.J. House, but they are also still rather young and inexperienced at the Major League level. None of them really have an established track record of success over three seasons, even the Cy Young award winning Kluber.
Their sixth and seventh starting pitching options Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin might be as strong a six-seven combo in baseball. Few teams have options like those two who offer Major League experience and some history of success as immediate depth options. But beyond them there are lots of question marks. The Indians don’t have any hot shot prospects coming up, though they do have some interesting arms in Cody Anderson, Ryan Merritt, Will Roberts, Joseph Colon and even Adam Plutko who could help to varying levels of degree by the end of the season.
This is why when you look at the questionable depth beyond the Indians seven starters of Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, Bauer, House, McAllister and Tomlin, you can see why they are targeting depth for the starting rotation this offseason. Whether that depth is created by signing someone to replace one of their current five-man rotation options and push that guy to Triple-A Columbus as depth or someone to have stashed at Triple-A as depth to call up remains to be seen.
The Winter Meetings bring the baseball Hot Stove season to a height. Rumors flow and some big moves always happen.
The Indians traditionally are not a big spending team so they are often not involved in a lot of the hoopla created at the meetings with the big free agents, but they have been involved in a few free agent rumors in the past. Where they have made the biggest news is in the trade market. Here is a quick look back at some notable moves since 2000 they have been involved in during or just after the winter meetings:
Shin-Soo Choo, Tony Sipp, Lars Anderson and Jason Donald for Trevor Bauer, Bryan Shaw, Drew Stubbs and Matt Albers: This was the three team trade between the Indians, Reds and Diamondbacks completed five days after the Winter Meetings two years ago but most of the work on it was done at the Winter Meetings. Considering the four players the Indians lost and the four they gained, the Indians really made out in this deal.
Nick Swisher: While Swisher did not formally sign until just before Christmas two years ago, a lot of the leg work was done during the Winter Meetings. The Indians were hot and heavy after Shane Victorino during the meetings and upon losing out on him immediately shifted their focus to Swisher.
Franklin Gutierrez for Joe Smith and Luis Valbuena: This was the three team trade between the Indians, Mets and Mariners at the 2008 Winter Meetings that involved 12 players in total. While Valbuena did not work out with the Indians, Smith was a very valuable pen arm for years before leaving the Indians last offseason.
David Dellucci: Dellucci signed a three-year $11.5 million deal with the Indians during the 2007 Winter Meetings. This one did not really work out well as he struggled with performance and health during his time with the Indians.
Matt Lawton for Arthur Rhodes: The Indians and Pirates worked out a deal during the 2004 Winter Meetings where they eventually agree on this one-for-one swap. Lawton was a disappointment in his three years with the Indians and Rhodes was excellent in his one year with the Indians in 2005.
Roberto Alomar, Mike Bacsik and Danny Peoples for Alex Escobar, Matt Lawton, Billy Traber, Earl Snyder and Jerrod Riggan: This was new GM Mark Shapiro’s first big trade and arguably his most defining of his career that he completed at the 2001 Winter Meetings. It signaled the start of a rebuild after several years of winning at then Jacobs Field, and is a deal that never worked out for both the Indians or Mets.
Ricky Gutierrez: He signed six days after the club sent Roberto Alomar to the Mets at the 2001 Winter Meetings. The Indians had already contacted Gutierrez and his representatives about a free agent deal during the meetings and signed him to a three year $11.5 million deal.
Manny Ramirez: Arguably the most intense negotiations the Indians have ever had at the Winter Meetings, this was memorable at the 2000 Winter Meetings because of how his negotiations were made public by Ramirez and then agent Jeff Moorad as an ESPN Outside the Lines special. He signed an eight-year $160 million deal with the Red Sox.
Late last week the Indians signed outfielder Destin Hood to a minor league deal with an invite to Major League spring training. He is a 24-year old right-handed hitting outfielder who hit .298 with 11 HR, 42 RBI and .808 OPS across three levels with the Nationals last season, most of that time at Triple-A Syracuse. He is expected to open the season at Triple-A Columbus. … The Indians also signed catcher Adam Moore to a minor league deal with an invite to Major League spring training. He has played in 86 games at the big league level over his career (.200 AVG, .551 OPS) but has had a solid career in the minors and hit .298 with 12 HR, 34 RBI and .844 OPS in 91 games at Triple-A El Paso. He is expected to be the regular catcher at Triple-A Columbus next season.
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You also go from "one of the best hitters in the game. Period" to "one of the top 10-15 hitters in the AL". BIG difference. I agree with top 10-15 in the AL, easily, but he's definitely not one of the best hitters in the game. Pitchers exploit him all the time; he's got great bat speed, extension, swing, etc. but the dude tries to pull everything. Good hitters don't bat below .250 consistently.
Math is hard.
Santana ranked 1st among all AL players in walk percentage (17.1%) and 11th in on-base percentage (.365). Only 10 other AL hitters got out less than Santana. The name of the game is to get on base and not make outs. From a power standpoint, Santana was 13th in the AL with a .196 isolated power (just below Donaldson and just above Pujols), 13th with a 131 wRC+ and 16th with a .792 OPS. So not only does he get on base, he has power and can also drive in runs.
Santana is easily a top 10-15 hitters in the AL. But, if people want to fixate on batting average to determine value then by all means.
I don't think Bourn is a better player than Holt at this point. Bourn barely has a better bat and on base ability, they're probably equal defenders, while Holt is more versatile, younger, more durable, a better base stealer, bats right handed, and costs $500 K.
With his age, Bourn will probably be worse over the next two years than he was in his previous two. Time to get out of this contract while we still can.
Also, the Indians should trade for Justin Upton right meow.
Could he Tribe try to work another deal with the A's? I mean put Shark, Kazmir, Doolittle, Cook, Norris, Reddick, Pomeranz and others on my short list.
It is not my money, but this seems like a good gamble given the cost.
whats the next domino to fall? something has to, right? at the very least from the 40 man roster standpoint
Doesn't Brewer fit into that second tier of SP options?