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Tribe Happenings: Is there a chance Jimenez resigns?

Tribe Happenings: Is there a chance Jimenez resigns?
December 2, 2013
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Note, I am thinking of moving Tribe Happenings from its Sunday morning slot to a Monday morning/afternoon slot, so why you may see it posted on Monday's over the next several weeks as I test it out.

Some news, notes and thoughts from my Indians notebook…

Ubaldo reunion?

The pitching market continues to surprise.

So far this offseason we have seen some sizable deals to starting pitchers who are nothing more than middle to backend starters or are in the twilight of their career. Jason Vargas (4 years, $32 million), Phil Hughes (3 years, $24 million), Ricky Nolasco (4 years, $49 million),Tim Lincecum (2 years, $35 million) and Tim Hudson (2 years, $23 million) are just a few examples.

This of course should come as no surprise as teams have always overpaid for starting pitching. And in a market flush with cash because of the new national TV deal payments being distributed to teams this year, if you have any ability to haul innings and compete as a starting pitcher, you are going to get paid.

The approach taken by teams this offseason has been interesting. We have not seen much, if any, news on top free agent pitchers Matt GarzaErvin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. Perhaps teams don’t want to meet the excessive contractual demands being made by these players and have instead moved their focus to lesser pitchers that they can sign now and to smaller deals. Or, it just may be the calm before the storm as the market for all three could explode at the Winter Meetings which start on Sunday.

Several times over the past few months I have written how the Indians may not have a chance to resign Jimenez. I still think it is a long shot, but one thing that will be interesting to watch over the next 7-10 days will be how his market grows or crumbles. Jimenez, Santana and Garza have barely been talked about this offseason, but the market for all three should heat up now that we are into December and all three will probably want to sign deals before Christmas.

Then again, will the market really heat up?

I still believe in the end that all three of Jimenez, Santana and Garza will end up with deals above what Nolasco signed - at least four years and something above $50 million total.  But it is obvious that their market is starting to dry up a little. Teams will always look to add starting pitching and can never have enough, but with a lot of teams apparently focused more on the middle tier arms you better believe that the Jimenez, Garza and Santana camps are starting to feel a little uneasy.

The most interesting aspect for Jimenez is he was extended the qualifying offer by the Indians, which means for a team to sign him they will need to part with a first round pick and a huge chunk of bonus pool money in what is considered a pretty good draft next year. It should be noted that none of the 13 players extended the qualifying offer by their former teams have yet to sign, so their market is one that is still being established. But as teams weigh the cost of not only spending money on them but also the loss of a first round pick and much needed bonus pool money, you can bet that a few of the “Qualified 13” will be sweating out their offseason well into January and maybe into February.

The Indians are very interested in signing a starting pitcher. They tried very hard to sign Hudson and put on theTerry Francona full court press in an attempt to sign him, but he opted to sign with the Giants instead. Their efforts beyond Hudson are really unknown other than they are open to resigning one of Jimenez or Scott Kazmir.

The Indians can’t sign Jimenez at his current rate, which is believed to be a four or five year deal for $15 million or so a season. That price may go up or down over the next few weeks depending on who gets into the bidding, but if his market is limited because of the draft pick compensation looming over him, then it does present a possibility that he could return to the Indians.

Whether or not that would be a good thing and money well spent is another argument for another day, but the Indians remain a dark horse to resign Jimenez. They are the only team that can afford to sign him without worrying about forfeiting a top pick and valuable bonus pool money. There are teams who have multiple first round picks or who have already lost their first round pick (Yankees lost it for Brian McCann), so they may be in play for Jimenez or any of the other “Qualified 13”, but there are probably at least half the teams who are out of the running because of what they would lose to sign them.

In the end, I still believe that Kazmir on a two-year deal is what makes the most sense for the Indians and what the Indians would be open to, although based on the deals doled out so far this offseason he might be able to get three years. But as we saw last offseason things can change when the offseason gets late and players become much more desperate to sign. If the Indians have not signed a starting pitcher and Jimenez is still unsigned once Christmas comes and goes, then expect the rumor machine to start churning for a possible return of Jimenez to Cleveland.

These next three weeks will be crazy and will really shake out this market, so we should know rather soon how it all plays out. But consider me one who thinks what was once a very distant possibility a few months ago might now have a decent chance of occurring where Jimenez resigns with the Indians.

Questions loom

With the Thanksgiving holiday in the rearview mirror and Christmas under four weeks away, the Indians have some roster questions that should be answered very soon.

So far it has been an underwhelming offseason as they have already lost key setup man Joe Smith to the Angels, they released Chris Perez, and several key players like Scott Kazmir, Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Albers are free agents that look like long shots to return. Coming off a playoff season the Indians have the tough task to replace two key members of their starting rotation along with three key pieces to their bullpen, which is a tall order for a team operating with a finite budget.

The Indians did address a need for the lineup over a week ago when they signed outfielder David Murphy, they essentially are using the young phenom Danny Salazar to replace one of Kazmir or Jimenez in the rotation, and they have suitable options from within to replace Albers, but they still need at least one starting pitcher and one backend pen arm just to hold serve this offseason.

It also remains to be seen if others are traded away to fill needs in other areas.  In the net sum game of plus and minus moves, even if the Indians sign a good starting pitcher and backend pen arm, the offseason equation looks unfavorable for the Indians.

The key for the Indians next season will be their internal options stepping up. Whether it be Salazar stepping into a full time rotation role and showing he can stay healthy and perform over a full season, or Lonnie Chisenhallbreaking out and becoming the above average player at third base so many thought he could become, or Cody AllenBryan Shaw and Vinnie Pestano proving to be reliable late inning options in setup and closer roles, or players like Yan Gomes to perform and prove he can be an everyday player.

It all depends on who they sign. For example, if the Indians were to sign say a Scott Feldman type for the rotation, is a Feldman-Salazar combo a capable replacement for what the Indians got out of Jimenez-Kazmir this past season? Or, if they sign a Bartolo Colon type, is a Colon-Salazar combo an improvement?  What if the Indians sign a Fernando Rodney or Brian Wilson to close, is an Allen-Rodney combo in the eighth and ninth inning capable of replacing the Smith-Perez duo?

The opinions vary on such potential replacement options via free agency and trade, but in both cases the Indians are relying on an internal option to fill the void left by a departing player.

The same applies to the offense, though almost all improvement will probably have to come from within. With Yan Gomes now set to be the regular catcher and playing on a regular basis, if he avoids the dreaded sophomore slump he should help the lineup. Asdrubal Cabrera is in his walk year and Michael Bourn had a tough season, so both players have the potential for big rebound seasons next year. Chisenhall needs to prove he can be reliable at third base with the bat and glove and the right field platoon of Ryan Raburn and David Murphy needs to be effective along the lines of Daniel Nava and Johnny Gomes in Boston and not just be David Delluci-Jason Michaels redux.

It is unfortunate that the Indians have so many roster questions after a very successful playoff season, but that is the reality they are dealing with. Hopefully they make the right decisions this offseason so they can build upon what they established this past season and be a legit contender in 2014. But there no doubt will be some question marks going into the season that they will need to trust can be filled from within.

Creating depth

I mentioned this a few times after the David Murphy signing became public, but one thing I really like about the Murphy pickup is the depth he adds to the Indians outfield and the options it gives them to consider trades this offseason.

Consider for a moment the depth the Indians have at every position on the field:

First base: Nick SwisherCarlos SantanaJesus Aguilar (minors)
Second base: Jason KipnisMike AvilesJose Ramirez (minors)
Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera, Mike Aviles, Francisco Lindor (minors), Jose Ramirez (minors)
Third base: Lonnie Chisenhall, Mike Aviles, Joe Ramirez (minors)
Left field: Michael Brantley, David Murphy, Ryan Raburn, Drew StubbsMatt Carson (minors)
Center field: Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs, Michael Brantley, Tyler Holt (minors), Tyler Naquin (minors)
Right field: David Murphy, Ryan Raburn, Drew Stubbs, Matt Carson (minors), Carlos Moncrief (minors)
Catcher: Yan Gomes, Carlos Santana

The Indians have some versatility with their roster that gives them much needed depth at several positions, but more importantly they now have some interesting young players at a lot of key positions that they can mix in at various points this coming season. That kind of depth is important.

The Indians need pitching, so the possibility exists that they use some of their outfield depth to acquire an arm for the starting rotation or bullpen. Stubbs is the most likely player they trade, but there is the possibility that Bourn or even Brantley are dealt if the Indians really think they can be flipped for a major league asset or two to help the team now and in the future.

The offseason is still relatively young and several unknown trades and free agent signings have yet to make themselves known, but the Indians are in a good position with their depth. The Indians have a plethora of middle relief options, but have a very limited supply of options to pitch in the rotation or late in games out of the bullpen.  It is going to be interesting to see just how much the Indians tap into that depth to fill in areas of need on the roster and more specifically on the pitching staff.

Santana at 3B

Indians catcher and first baseman Carlos Santana is going to be getting some work in at third base this offseason in the Dominican Winter League. He is already out at the Indians academy in the Dominican Republic working out at third base taking groundballs and learning the position so that he is best prepared for the experiment later this month in real games.

"The Indians have told me they want me to play third base next season,” Santana said recently on the television program “This Week in Sports” in the Dominican.  “I will play winter ball with the Escogido Leones and I will start learning the position. … I'm training, which is most important. No date is yet set to play, but I have permission to play winter ball.”

Now, it should be noted that this is more likely nothing more than an experiment where the Indians are looking for a way to get Santana on the field at another position. Lonnie Chisenhall is still the third baseman and Mike Aviles will probably play against most left-handed pitching, but if Santana can play there for 15-25 games, it creates more versatility for the ball club.

There is no doubt that Santana has the arm for the position, but the biggest question mark will be his lateral movement and his ability to come in on groundballs and be athletic enough for the position.  It was a position he originally played in the minors, but one he struggled at and was eventually moved to catcher to take advantage of his strong arm and bat.

In any case, this shows the Indians are leaving no stone unturned and that they are being creative and considering all potential solutions for the lineup next season.

Indians lose Espino and Flores

The Indians recently lost two of their better minor league free agents to free agency as right-handed pitcher Jose Flores has signed a minor league deal with the Athletics and right-handed pitcher Paolo Espino has signed a minor league deal with the Cubs.

Flores, 24, is a big, hard throwing righty that made 59 appearances at Double-A Akron and went 7-3 with a 2.71 ERA, and in 66.1 innings allowed 55 hits, 1 home run, 27 walks and had 87 strikeouts. He has been a consistent performer throughout his minor league career with the Indians, and even resigned with them last offseason as a he was a minor league free agent then as well. Some may remember he was picked up by the Mariners as a Rule 5 pick in December of 2010. He is currently pitching winter ball in Venezuela and has an 11.25 ERA in five appearances (4.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R/ER, 2 BB, 4 K).

Espino, who turns 27 years old in January, went 6-11 with a 4.72 ERA in 32 appearances (22 starts) last year between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. In 141.0 innings he allowed 156 hits, 16 home runs, 44 walks and had 141 strikeouts. He has been a solid, consistent performer in his Indians minor league career and mostly filled a swing role at Akron and Columbus the last few years as a depth arm. He is currently pitching winter ball in Venezuela and is 4-2 with a 6.35 ERA in eight starts (34.0 IP, 38 H, 8 HR, 9 BB, 38 K).

With limited opportunities to advance and the Indians flush with right-handed relief arms and depth starters in the upper levels, both Flores and Espino are looking for new opportunities with other teams and potentially a better chance to crack the big leagues. Both have limited major league potential, but I believe each will get a cup of coffee at some point.

Tender deadline is today

Today, all Major League clubs have to decide whether or not they want to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players. If they tender them a contract, then they are on the hook for whatever amount an arbitrator decides they should pay the player unless a deal between the player and team can be reached beforehand. If they do not tender them a contract, then that player becomes a free agent. The deadline is 11:59 PM ET.

Here are the Indians players up for arbitration: Michael Brantley (OF), Frank Herrmann (RHP), Lou Marson (C),Justin Masterson (RHP), Vinnie Pestano (RHP), Marc Rzepczynski (LHP), Drew Stubbs (OF), Josh Tomlin (RHP),Blake Wood (RHP).

Of those players, the Indians are expected to tender contracts to Brantley, Masterson, Pestano, Rzepczynski, Stubbs, and Tomlin. The trio of Herrmann, Marson, and Wood appear to be most at risk of being non-tendered, especially Marson.

It should be noted that even if a player is tendered a contract, it does not affect the ability of a team to trade them. A lot of people may be surprised the Indians would tender Stubbs a contract, but the Indians view him as an asset and believe they can keep him or trade him if needed this offseason.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

December 4, 2013 - 10:24 AM EST

I agree, that's too much to expect from those 3. Carrasco and Bauer are high upside talents, maybe one of those two come through, but that's a lot to expect. Tomlin might be able to post a sub 5 era, but I think they are better suited IF Tomlin and / or Carrasco serve as longmen / MR.
December 4, 2013 - 8:29 AM EST
My guess is that the Indians are banking on one of Carrasco, Tomlin, or Bauer to step in and give them close to what they got from Kazmir at a small fraction of the cost. They figure with three rolls of the dice the odds are they'll come up with a winner at least once.

However, Kazmir had a 3.38 ERA after the All-Star break. Once he got into the groove he was one of the top starters in the AL. I don't think 2/22 is too much to pay for a lefty that takes the ball every five days and puts up a 3.38. And I don't know how realistic it is to expect one of those three guys to come close to matching Kazmir's performance.
December 3, 2013 - 6:47 PM EST
Say what you want about Brantley's ability, but there is no arguing that he is the best hitter with runners in scoring position on this Indians team. I usually get sick of hearing people complain about the ownership, but to let Kazmir walk without matching an offer like he received is nothing but cheap. You will not find a better pitcher for that kind of money. Hell, you won't find a better pitcher for 15 million a year. On top of that, rumors are swirling that the Indians are interested in trading for Anderson. That's great, we'll take what the A's don't want after they signed what we should have, give them a couple of descent prospects, and save 3 million a year. Unless they have something up their sleeve, we are going to be the least improved team in the central and very unlikely to make a run again. Kazmir was a key piece of last seasons success and they let him walk because they are cheap.
December 3, 2013 - 2:01 PM EST
After 90 lost season at this time our rotation was

Masterson, Jimenez, McAllister, Kluber

Hernandez non-tender. Pick up FA and trade Myers, Bauer and Kazmir minor league deal. Carrasco coming of rehab from surgery. Everyone was complaining that the Indians did not do enough to address SP rotation for 13.

Result led to 92 wins. Some would say we over achieved.

Current Rotation as of 12/3

Masterson, Salazar, Kluber, McAllister with Carrasco, Bauer and Tomlin available for the 5th spot. I think the starting rotation is better situation than it was last year.

I do believe we need to get another SP either thru Trade or FA.
Maybe they do resign Jimenez if not I would go after Garza.

If Indians are looking for SP pitcher that might not cost much to the budget there our old friend who could eat up innings in Jake Westbrook. I hope they also pursue in minor league deals on Bard and Andrew Bailey

December 3, 2013 - 10:27 AM EST
Brantley is not our best player....

If he was, we'd be in BIG trouble.

Agree with Tony. If you can get a decent pitcher with a couple years for Brantley, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Brantley is solid and shouldn't just be cast out, but he's tradeable.
December 3, 2013 - 10:22 AM EST
Not saying the Indians would or should trade Brantley, but if they were able to trade him for a good starting pitcher with multiple years of control, I would strongly consider it.
December 3, 2013 - 10:17 AM EST
Why would we ever think of trading Brantley. He is are best player and will be for years to come.
December 3, 2013 - 9:01 AM EST

Obviously if you didn't think Kaz was worth 2yr/$22M or $12-14M you don't make the QO. Questioning the logic in saying he isn't worth it with the Tribe. Obviously the injury/regression concern is there, but he pitched like a $12-13M pitcher in 2013, plus got stronger as the year went on.
December 2, 2013 - 11:59 PM EST
The good news is there are still options, but with nothing floating about about the Indians talking to any SP's or RP's is concerning. Right now there's Masterson, Kluber, McAllister, Salazar, and no one. Hopefully something happens soon, at least for one of the two positions of need.
December 2, 2013 - 7:39 PM EST
There is plenty of offseason left. Yes, losing Kazmir, Smith and probably Jimenez hurts, but the Tribe is not done. Word is the Mets had a meeting with Curtis Granderson. The Yankees extended Granderson a QO, so he'd cost the Mets a pretty high draft pick and a big chunk of pool money. The Mets had interest in Bourn last yr, maybe something could get worked out...Any of Niese, Gee, and Parnell would look good in a Tribe uniform. Just saying, the Tribe has lots of options.
December 2, 2013 - 5:55 PM EST
Giving Kazmir the QO was wishful thinking. He would have snapped that thing up within 5 minutes. We'll move on from him. It's tough to overlook Bauer, Carrasco and Tomlin but they should be safe and bring in someone to cover for an injury or poor performance to anyone on the staff.
December 2, 2013 - 5:36 PM EST
Not sure how making Kazmir a qualifying offer made sense. If the Indians were not willing to pay him $14M for one year, or in this case $22M for 2 years, then why do it? They simply did not want to pay him that much.
December 2, 2013 - 4:53 PM EST

I agree, signing Kazmir would have been ideal. Bang for your buck Kazmir seemed to be the best upside for the price. I would have liked to see them lock him up for a similar deal with an option yr. Just seems to me they want affordable pitching bc the risk of injury seems greater OR...the Indians want a pitcher like Garza or Jimenez who arguably has more upside (2 SP).

The Yankees have reportedly made an $15 M offer to Kuroda. IF he doesn't accept it for whatever reason, I think they will jump in on one of Jimenez or Garza. Outside of those two Masahiro Tanaka is the next big arm on the mkt if mlb / NPB come together on posting fees. They could still make a play on Tanaka if they land 1 of the other three.
December 2, 2013 - 4:05 PM EST
The Kazmir thing is so confusing to me. Seemed like they never planned to seriously pursue him for whatever reason, because the one free agent rumor that was being reported by the Cleveland media was that Kazmir was unlikely to return. Very curious. Kazmir for 2/22 looks like easily the best free agent pitching signing this year and is about what we expected. Would've like to pay him 2/18-20, but figure you're always going to pay a little more than what you'd ideally pay. $11/year is only $4 million more than what they were paying Brett Myers (and Chris Perez) last year, and Kazmir has WAY more upside than Myers ever did (granted Myers only had 1 guaranteed year). Just hope they have a plan here. If they are targeting someone else and get that someone else, then that's fine, but I['d much rather have Kazmir at 2/22 than Ubaldo, or Garza, at something like 4/48, or even 3/39. Colon on a 1-year deal might be less risky, but Kazmir's strikeouts and fly balls work better behind the Indians weak defense than Colon's game.
December 2, 2013 - 3:24 PM EST
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Indians go aggressively after Jimenez or Garza. I'd much prefer Garza myself, and they reportedly had interest last yr. He would not cost the club a draft pick and could easily slot in the rotation behind Masterson.

Of course going after a big-name FA would mean the Tribe would have to trade ACab and Stubbs or Bourn. But that might provide the club with another bullpen arm of use, filling that need too.

As for not offering Kazmir the QO, tough decision, but he certainly would have accepted it. I get the feeling Kazmir will fit quite nicely in Oakland.

Tommy Hanson could be a decent buy low candidate, word is he will be non-tendered by the Angels.

What would it take to acq. Brett Anderson?

What kind of SP would Michael Brantley net IF he was traded?
December 2, 2013 - 3:23 PM EST
With Kazmir signing, It will be interesting to see what Indians plan to do to gain quality SP to replace the lose of Kazmir and most likely Jimenez. Hot stove season heating up to winter meetings that start next Monday.
December 2, 2013 - 3:05 PM EST
2/22 seems perfectly fine for Kazmir. He has as much upside as any pitcher on the market. Maybe the Indians knew something about his health that scared them. They better have a plan to get someone they think is better.
December 2, 2013 - 2:59 PM EST
Just because Kaz accepts a QO, doesn't mean you have to pay him $14M in 2014....

Holding off on being upset over this until I see what the Tribe does with the rotation. If they upgrade in another way then not paying Kaz $11M could be the smart move for sure.
December 2, 2013 - 2:48 PM EST
That's a bit much for Kazmir. $11M per year, even for just 2 years, is a reach if you ask me. The Indians did not want to give him the QO simply because he would have accepted it and they did not want to pay him $14M next year.
December 2, 2013 - 2:30 PM EST
2yr/$22M for Kazmir with the A's...

Still wish we'd have made a QO. Anderson is likely to be available now. Colon just lost one destination (most likely) as well.
December 2, 2013 - 2:27 PM EST
No problem here keeping Wood. Even though I am not big on him, he won't cost much. Will be interesting to see if the Kazmir deal is true and what he got.
December 2, 2013 - 2:13 PM EST
Reports Kazmir got 2 yrs from the A's with no option yr. Haven't heard his price yet, but it seems to make Bartolo Colon readily available. Rumors were Brett Anderson would be available IF the A's resigned Colon, so it seems safe to assume the lefty could be had via trade.
December 2, 2013 - 2:01 PM EST
Brian McCann was offered a qualifying offer, declined it and signed with the one guy has signed.

I think the Tribe can find better use for $1mm than keep Marson on the 40 man, then again I would like him as a minor league free agent.
December 2, 2013 - 1:45 PM EST
Marson is only a wasted $500K if they think he'll be the backup catcher though. Gotta pay someone on the 25-man roster at least $500K. Wouldn't surprise me if he's non-tendered, but think Hermann should be first.
December 2, 2013 - 1:24 PM EST
I think the combo and Murphy/Raburn will be very solid. I can see a combined .270, 30-105. This team if they make the right moves will be a tough team to beat
December 2, 2013 - 12:23 PM EST
I'd like to see the Tribe keep Blake Wood, he was returning from TJ surgery and usually the last thing guys get back is control. Guys that can hit triple digits are hard to find, a bit erratic and truth is, he isn't likely to make much more than last yrs $600K. I think mlbtraderumors projects $800K. That's almost major league minimum plus, he has a few more yrs of control and experience at the big league level. I think it is possible they non-tender him and resign him to a minor league deal with incentives tied to it, possibly an opt out date.
December 2, 2013 - 12:09 PM EST
I'd be surprised if Marson is tendered a contract. He'd only cost around $1 million, but it's a wasted $1 million for a guy with shoulder concerns and out of options. I expect him to be non-tendered but the Indians to resign him to a minor league deal. I am not a big fan of Wood. He is too wild for my taste, although the power arm and experience in the bigs is intriguing.
MT88 in WI
December 2, 2013 - 11:39 AM EST
The silence surrounding Marson speaks volumes. I think he is gonzo. As for the others, I really hope Tomlin and Wood get tendered. I have always been a fan of Tomlin as he is a pitcher, not a thrower. Wood has some experience from the KC pen from before his injury. To me, he could be this seasons Matt Albers.

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