Tribe Happenings: Roster review, Murphy thoughts & Smith bolts
Some news, notes and thoughts from my Indians notebook….
Reviewing the roster decisions
The Indians finalized their 40-man roster in advance of the November 20th roster deadline on Wednesday. The team can still sign free agents and trade for players, but the deadline is for adding players to the 40-man roster who are eligible for roster protection from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft in December.
To review, the Indians added five players: right-handed relieverAustin Adams, first baseman Jesus Aguilar, infielder Erik Gonzalez, outfielder Carlos Moncrief, and right-handed reliever Bryan Price. The roster was at 36 players, so to make room on the roster for a fifth addition the Indians designated infielder Cord Phelps for assignment.
Adams, 27, spent the entire season in a relief role at Double-A Akron and went 3-2 with 4 saves and a 2.62 ERA in 45 appearances, and in 55.0 innings allowed 44 hits, 3 homers, 29 walks and had 76 strikeouts. Overall, he had a 12.4 K/9 and limited right-handed batters to a .158 batting average. It was a stellar showing after missing the entire 2012 season due to right shoulder surgery.
It was a very impressive return for Adams as he not only performed, but he showed no fear and did not hold back at all. He was back to the high 90s velocity he had prior to his injury and he was as close to a lock to be added as there was. He has some ways to go with his fastball command so he probably won’t be on the immediate pecking order as a major league arm early next season, but a very good showing at Triple-A Columbus combined with notable improvement in the consistency of his fastball command and a need at the major league level could get him to the bigs by mid-season.
Aguilar, 23, was at Double-A Akron all season and hit .275 with 16 HR, 105 RBI and .776 OPS in 130 games. He set the Akron franchise single-season record with an Eastern League-best 105 RBI, which also led the entire Indians minor league system and was the 6th highest total in all of minor league baseball. He is currently raking out in Venezuela hitting .309 with 10 HR, 31 RBI and .925 OPS in 34 games, and ranks in the top 10 in almost every offensive category.
I went into a rather deep detail on Aguilar in my Breakout Barometer piece on Thursday. There are some very interesting things with him to note, many of which I dissect in the piece. In a nutshell, he’s a good depth option for the Indians this coming season and will probably be the first bat recalled if any of Nick Swisher, Carlos Santana orYan Gomes are injured and are out of the lineup for some time. This was an obvious roster addition because right-handed power is hard to find - and he has some. Now, he just needs to start showing it on a more consistent basis to make him more than a depth option.
Gonzalez, 22, played in 132 combined games between Low-A Lake County and High-A Carolina and hit .254 with 32 doubles, 12 triples, 9 HR, 76 RBI, 75 runs scored and .710 OPS. His versatility was well on display as he appeared in 65 games at third base, 55 games at shortstop, 13 games at second base and 1 game apiece at first base and center field. His 76 RBI were second in the organization to Aguilar. He is playing winter ball and having a fantastic showing hitting .356 with 1 HR, 10 RBI and .840 OPS in 27 games so far.
This was a mild surprise, although if you read my piece on Monday where I predicted the roster additions, I had him as someone in serious consideration, so it was not that much of a surprise - at least to me. I get to talk to the Indians a lot over the course of the season, and not just one person, but many people in the front office, scouting department, coaching staff and so on, and Gonzalez was a guy that they really started talking a lot about in July. I’m not saying he is of Jose Ramirez potential, but the way he was being suddenly talked about with his out of nowhere performance reminded me of how the Indians were talking about Ramirez halfway through the season last year. The Indians plan to start Gonzalez at shortstop at High-A Carolina next season, but short and long term he may best fit a utility role because of his athleticism, versatility, and some pop in his bat.
I personally would not have rostered Gonzalez, but the Indians always put out feelers prior to the roster deadline to gauge interest for the Rule 5 Draft, and apparently they felt he could be taken. Versatile middle infielders like himself can easily be stashed on a 25-man roster, especially on a bad team, and it looks like the Indians valued him too much to take that chance. It is also possible they view him as a trade asset they don’t want to lose for nothing.
Moncrief, 25, spent the entire 2013 season with Double-A Akron and hit .284 with 26 doubles, 7 triples, 17 home runs, 75 RBI, 77 runs scored and .824 OPS in 129 games. His 17 homers were tied for 1st among Indians farmhands while his 75 RBI were 3rd in the system, and he finished among the Eastern League leaders in OPS (7th, .824), hits (T4th, 139), runs (T6th, 77) and triples (T6th, 7).
There probably is not a person happier to hear the news of Moncrief being rostered than yours truly. I have been on his bandwagon since the day he signed with the Indians as I was always intrigued with his two-way status as a player. When he made the move from the mound to the outfield in spring of 2010, it was exciting and the progress he has made since then has been incredible. This is a guy who has all the tools to be an everyday player for a long time in the major leagues. The only question is whether he will remain disciplined in his workouts to ensure he doesn’t let his body go and if he can reduce his strikeouts. He proved both this past season, and if he has a very good showing at Triple-A Columbus he has a chance to call right field his home in Cleveland in the not too distant future. Another slam dunk roster decision.
Price, 27, had a fantastic showing in 47 combined appearances between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus going 2-3 with a 2.04 ERA and in 75.0 innings allowed 57 hits, 5 homers, 16 walks and had 92 strikeouts. He held hitters to a .206 batting average and had a 11.0 K/9. He is also having a very good showing in winter ball out in Venezuela as he has a 1.89 ERA in 15 appearances, and in 19.0 innings has allowed 8 hits, no homers, 6 walks and has 19 strikeouts.
The addition of Price to the roster now has all three of the players the Indians received from the Red Sox for Victor Martinez in July of 2009 now on the 40-man roster (Justin Masterson and Nick Hagadone). The year after the trade, Price sort of disappeared and was lost in the shuffle for several reasons ranging from nagging injuries and inconsistency, but he came through with a banner year this past season. He has the swing and miss stuff with his fastball and slider to impact a bullpen, either as a seventh inning reliever or potentially as a setup man someday. Because he has no major league experience he will be a depth guy to start the season, but a good showing in spring training could align him as the first or second option called upon when a need arises in the pen – and we know there will be several needs over the course of the season. I did not predict him to be rostered, but that was because I worked under the assumption that only four players would be added based on the 36 players on the roster at the time.
Phelps, 26, only played in 65 games this season at Triple-A Columbus hitting .267 with 9 HR, 46 RBI and .776 OPS. He also played in four games in Cleveland going 0-for-9 at the plate with two strikeouts. If he clears waivers, he must accept an outright assignment to the minors and would be under the Indians control for the 2014 season as a non-roster player. He struggled with injuries this season, and given his inconsistent play at the major league level, he is expected to clear waivers.
Indians find a right field solution
It might not have been the big bat that Indians fans were hoping for, but earlier in the week the Indians inked outfielder David Murphy to a two year $12 million deal with an option for a third year. The deal is not yet official, but the official announcement is expected to occur on Monday.
I won’t get too into detail on this signing as I think IBI writers Jeff Ellis, Michael Hattery and Jim Pete already covered all the angles very well. But I wanted to offer up a few quick points as well, some of which may be a little different from what the others wrote, but mostly to hammer home their points.
In a market void of any real impact bats that the Indians can realistically sign, the platoon route makes a lot of sense. I know Indians fans are gun shy about “platoons” after they were force fed one a few years ago with David Dellucci and Jason Michaels, but the premise of a platoon makes a ton of sense. That Delluci-Michaels platoon failed so much because of injury issues right out of the gate, so it is important not to get all caught up in past results when maximizing a player’s strengths makes a ton of sense.
The Boston Red Sox had a platoon in the outfield this season with Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava. Gomes hit .247 with 13 HR, 52 RBI and .771 OPS, and for the advanced metrics fans had a 109 wRC+ and 1.1 WAR. Nava hit .303 with 12 HR, 66 RBI and .831 OPS, and also had a 128 wRC+ and 1.8 WAR. Now, both did overlap and play at the same time on occasion, but the two formed a very effective platoon for the Red Sox where they got All Star production from a corner outfield spot when you combine their numbers.
This is what the Indians are hoping to do with the Ryan Raburn and Murphy platoon. It won’t be a strict platoon as Murphy will probably be in the lineup the same time as Raburn on occasion as either could be the designated hitter or Murphy could give Michael Brantley or Michael Bourn a rest.
But consider for a moment that Murphy is a career .280 hitter with a .816 OPS against right-handers and that Raburn is a career .263 hitter with a .828 OPS against lefties. That’s an effective platoon, and one where if Terry Francona continues to matchup his players and put them in a position to have success, both could have good years so long as they stay healthy. So while the Indians may be searching for that big producing right fielder that can hit .280 with 25-30 homers and 90-100 RBI and a .800+ OPS, they could very well get that from their right field position next year if Raburn and Murphy play up to expectations.
Also, at first glance the two year $12 million deal for Murphy appears steep, but if you consider what other similar outfielders are getting in free agency such as Marlon Byrd (2 years, $16 million) and David DeJesus (2 years, $10.5 million), it is not a bad deal at all. Money is flying around and unfortunately that is the going rate for a league average player - though again, one that can be more than league average if used right.
It is important to note that the Murphy signing is not expected to be the only move the Indians make this offseason, so fans should not be so quick to jump to conclusions and feel a bit unimpressed with the signing wondering where the real “meat” moves are for this team. On its own, it would be a disappointing move, but I expect to see a trade or two and/or potentially another signing or two in free agency this offseason.
It will be interesting to see where things go from here. As long as this move is simply just a start and not a finish, then it is a solid start to their offseason.
Stubbs on the block
With the pickup of Murphy, it means that someone in the Indians outfield is going to be traded. That person most likely is Drew Stubbs, although there is an outside chance that Michael Bourn could be dealt this offseason.
The non-tender deadline is December 2nd, so the Indians have about eight days before they need to make a decision on Stubbs. In the meantime, they have been shopping him around the league and there already are several teams interested in acquiring him. It looks pretty obvious that he will be dealt because there is no room to carry a fifth outfielder and one that will make a projected $3.8 million in arbitration.
It is possible that the Murphy official announcement has been held up because the Indians are working the phones hoping to bring a resolution to the Stubbs situation and find him a new home and potentially bring back a major league bullpen piece they need. It is also possible that if the Indians don’t find a deal they like that they simply just tender him a contract and continue to talk to clubs about trading him the rest of the offseason and into spring training until they find a good fit.
Bottom line, the Indians have options now. The Murphy pickup reminds me of the Esmil Rogers for Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes trade which kicked off the Indians’ offseason last year. The pickup of Aviles gave the Indians the option to trade Asdrubal Cabrera, and they came close to trading him several times last winter. Along the same lines, the Indians can shop Stubbs to get a piece they could use, or even listen to offers for Bourn.
Don’t laugh at that Bourn suggestion because it would not come as a surprise if he is involved in trade rumors going into and through the Winter Meetings. He still has three years and $41 million left on his deal, which for the Indians may be too costly for what he ultimately provides them. I for one do not think he brings nearly enough of an impact at the top of the lineup or defensively as others think he does. With the Indians in a payroll crunch, he along with Cabrera are the top two targets to see dealt to slash the payroll enough in order to make other moves. Without trading at least one of them, the Indians are probably very limited in making any other significant moves to upgrade the bullpen and starting rotation.
If a team came calling and was interested in Bourn, I would send him away in a heartbeat to get out from under his contract and use that money to fill pitching needs. Players like him who have leg issues scare me, especially when they are over 30. He could be a rebound candidate, but rebound to what? The metrics loved his defense again, but I just don’t see it and think they severely over-rate his defense which I think is plus but hardly elite. Then again, that's just my opinion, and his remaining contract is about the market rate and nothing that would be hard to shop if the Indians wanted to, and I am sure if he was dangled that someone would be interested.
It will be interesting to see what shakes out with Stubbs and Bourn. Stubbs is the one that is most likely dealt, but don’t sleep on Bourn being the guy. Stubbs could be retained and Bourn traded, which would be about a $10 million savings for a very similar defensive player and runner, and not too far behind offensively either (Bourn career .699 OPS, 92 wRC+; Stubbs career .691 OPS, 89 wRC+).
Either way, someone is gone.
Smith goes to Hollywood
The Indians lost a big piece to their 2013 success when free agent right-handed reliever Joe Smith signed a three year $15 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday.
Anyone who has been reading my tweets on Twitter or my Sunday column this offseason knows how much I value the consistency of Smith over the past several seasons and how he was a big key to the bullpen rounding into form this year after trouble in the middle part of the season. His loss is real and he is not easily replaced. Now, with Smith leaving as a free agent and Chris Perez being released, the Indians have to find both a closer and setup man.
I pretty much already said my good-byes to Smith weeks ago because I saw no way the Indians would bring him back on a multi-year deal, so there are no hard feelings here from me. The unfortunate reality is that a team like the Indians can’t afford to pay a setup man $5 million a year and more importantly be on the hook for that guaranteed amount for several years. That said, I have been banging the drum all offseason that the Indians need to bring in someone with proven success and experience for either the eighth or ninth inning role.
For a team expecting to contend next year, there is a lot of uncertainty to the backend of the pen.
The Indians have Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw as their defacto eighth and ninth inning guys right now, and Vinnie Pestano could find his way back into the mix as well. But the Indians need more to go on than that, and they have been pretty honest saying that the bullpen is an area they would like to address this offseason, so I expect at least one guaranteed deal this offseason for a pen arm and then several minor league deals for lottery tickets.
I still think, if he checks out, that Jesse Crain would be a great fit for the Indians on a one year deal.
The Indians made it official this week naming Matt Quatraro as their new assistant hitting coach to Ty Van Burkleo. Quatraro was a roving minor-league hitting coach for the Tampa Bay Rays last season, and is part of a growing trend of teams having two hitting coaches. … Former fan favorite Omar Vizquel has been named to the Detroit Tigers coaching staff and will be the first base coach and handle infield and baserunning coaching duties. … The Indians have signed left-handed pitcher Mike Zagurski to a minor league deal with an invite to major league spring training. He’s a big bodied power armed lefty with command issues. … Infielder Juan Diaz has signed a minor league deal with the Marlins. He was designated for assignment in September, cleared waivers, and became a free agent after the season.
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I agree with you 100% that it is going to be very difficult to replace Ubaldo, Kazmir and Joe Smith. No longer do we have the depth in our starting rotation, injuries will happen, last year the pitchers at Columbus gave us innings and some quality starts when our starters went down with an injury. Also I just don't see another Joe Smith on our roster and if there is a free agent that is anywhere near him either. To me relievers who shorten the game are as important and maybe even more important than a closer. I have been saying all along this off season is looking more and more like the off season that followed the 05 season
Any team that is in on guys like Ellsbury, Choo, or Granderson but don't like the asking price would probably have some level of interest in Bourn. Can argue all 3 of those guys are better than Bourn (Granderson is iffy though) but each costs a draft pick.
Teams I could see having some level of interest in Bourn:
Red Sox, Mariners, Mets, Phillies, Yanks, Rangers, Houston
Some obviously more likely than others. Red Sox would be an interesting trade partner I think if Ellsbury leaves. They could turn to Jackie Bradley Jr but coming off a World Series win, may want to go for it again and have a vet leading off and in CF. Have some pitching they can move too. And Bourn's deal is nearly identical to the one they gave Victorino last year...a deal that was panned at the time by most, but has worked out.
When contracts like the ones Vernon Wells or Alex Rios (among others) had can be moved I have no doubt that Bourn can be moved if that's how CA wants to play it.
where are you seeing that Bourn is being shopped?? I don't see a wide variety of teams out to get him, maybe Philly
Maybe more people are starting to believe me that Bourn will be shopped this offseason.
CA's comments were interesting...he made no mention of Bourn in the portion of his discussion in which, he mentions Raburn, Murphy, Brantley and Stubbs. He even mentions Stubbs ability to play all three spots and Brantley's ability to slide back over to CF. It leads me to believe he'd like to move Bourn's salary. Furthermore, the Tribe DFA Tyler Cloyd over someone like Matt Carson. It seems the Tribe wanted to have some depth to their OF, perhaps to make a few deals from their depth.
One change Tito must make is putting Brantley in the #3 spot and Kipnis in the #5 spot. Brantley is a much tougher out and much more disciplined,
Highest payroll the Indians had was 91 million which was under the Dolan regime. If ownership and FO feel they could make another run at the playoffs maybe payroll could get pushed to 95mil. I don't see that, but time will tell.
Does the forum believe that Pestano has anything left to offer to the bullpen? If no, would you consider to non tender Vinnie. I say he still has something to give to the bullpen.
For the record it should be Kazmir, I see no reason why it can't be. I also don't want it to be like Kazmir can't be replaced and other guys aren't interesting. I think the gamble is putting Pestano in the place of Smith because if this is the old Pestano then it's a wash. If the Indians come out of this offseason with Kazmir, Murphy, Rodney/Crain, Collins along with a nice utility player, I think they will be a strong team and be ready for Spring Training.
I think with the depth in the minor league system and just having a very solid team in the Majors they'll be able to compete with anyone. They aren't as star studded as the Tigers will be but those teams have some MAJOR deficiencies as well that will catch up to them during the course of the season as we saw last season
I see something different than you on that Smith, Kazmir and Ubaldo can't be replaced. I think Ubaldo is gone but I think Kazmir is still a strong possibility to come back and the fact that he hasn't signed O's standing three year offer makes me believe that negotiations are still going on and maybe turning for the better. Even if they didn't sign Kazmir they will still have options to replace him with guys like Feldman, Nolasco, Hughes and others. BTW, not the biggest Nolasco fan but he would help.
As far as Smith is concerned, I think the Indians weren't going to pay him 5 M/ and I think Smith put his asking price just out of reach so he can be with Allie. I also think the Indians have been consistent in saying on three separate occasions that they are going to come out of this offseason with two RP's and one starter( I hope Kazmir). If they came out with a R Perez and a Fernando Rodney with Pestano sliding into Smith's position and Allen maintaining the 8th inning role OR you have Allen moving into the Closers spot, signing Jesse Crain along with Perez. That more than makes up for the loss of Smith. Plus you have the the depth in the farm system to overcome injuries.
Hiram, I am fine with signing Rafael Perez, but only on a minor league deal and someone they just take a look at this spring. He's not a guy you can rely on or pencil into the bullpen right now though. Huge health question mark with him.
I too expect Stubbs to be dealt.....but I still believe there is a possibility that Bourn is dealt. The Heyman talk about the Indians interest in Beltran would make sense then. To sign Beltran, the Indians would need to trade Bourn to create a spot in the outfield and also money on the payroll. Trading both Stubbs and Bourn would clear over $17M of payroll and allow for a Beltran signing and save some dough....and then Brantley moves back to center with Murphy as the secondary option there. The Beltran stuff though to me is an extreme longshot....and I think his agent is just including the Indians in order to pump up his market. I'm sure the Indians have talked to the agent about Beltran, but it is probably not as aggressive as the others.
Also, I don't think the Tigers have financial constraints. That Fielder-Kinsler trade may open the door for them to sign one or Choo or Cano.
If Francona goes with 13 pitchers again, then there is no way based on the current setup of the lineup that Ramirez opens in Cleveland unless an injury occurs to Cabrera, Aviles or Chisenhall. But, the offseason is still young and there could be some moves which change things.....but for now he is opening in Columbus based on the setup of the roster.
Bottom line, the Indians are losing three guys in Jimenez, Kazmir and Smith who they simply can't replace in value no matter what they do this offseason. It is going to be up to the players they have returning to make up the slack and then some.
not so sure Ramirez will start in AAA because it depends in what else they do. I could see a case where Aviles and Chisenhall platoon at 3B and Ramirez is the utility middle infielder. I guess I see no reason that if they do nothing else with the infield that all of them can't make the team.
It's Smith's fiancee
I think the Indians will trade Stubbs before Winter Meetings. I think they will sign Kazmir and two Relievers before Winter meetings too. I think the Indians want to make their moves for specific needs and then get out because the bidding wars keep the the prices sky high. I can't blame them for this. Indians make these moves I will consider it a successful offseason when you consider what they have common in the farm system
Only time will tell if Cabrera or Bourn gets moved. I'm betting they will be on the team on Opening day. I also think they both will have rebound years for the Tribe.
Hot Stove season heating up. My question does the forum think the Indians will make more moves before, during, or after the Winter Meetings.
also look for Sutbbs to be dealt with the next week. It was said on MLB Tonight that the Indians would like to move him before the Tender date and several teams have approached the Indians about him. Mets were one of them before they signed Young and I 've heard Phillies were another team that's really interested, expect the A's and a few others. Bottom line is that expect Stubbs to be dealt sooner than later and Marson will be non tendered and then brought back.
This will help the Indians to clear a little over 5M off te books so we could use money elsewhere
I agree 1000% on Crain being a perfect fit for the Indians. I don't think we can get him on a one year deal. I think you would have to go two years and maybe an option and I would be cool with that. I would also be cool with one of the following as 8th inning set up guys Mujica, Benoit, Breslow and Veras.
I think Joe Smith wanted to go out to CA to be with Allie(I can't blame him-smile) and I think he set his price tag just so high enough so he knew the Indians wouldn't match it. This is why I am careful when I say guys want to be some where but they don't bend on their demands.
Also, I would keep in mind of the lefty specialist that I would keep my eye on like R Perez, Narveson, Thatcher and maybe a few others.
I know you're wondering where the Indians will get the money from. I'm going to let them figure that out because no one knows where the budget is, I've heard many different things but what I do know is that Antonetti has said on three occasions that he wants a starter and two guys in the bullpen which brings me back to Crain and Perez along with resigning Kazmir
maybe another player
This looks like a very solid team that can compete with anyone. I know they aren't as star studded as some but this is a team that can beat you and very deep to the point where they can withstand injuries thru the long season.