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Tribe Happenings: Saying goodbye to Ubaldo

Tribe Happenings: Saying goodbye to Ubaldo
November 10, 2013
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Some news, notes, and thoughts from my Indians notebook…

Saying goodbye to Ubaldo

The GM Meetings kick off on Monday. It is a time when the offseason rumors with free agents and trades really start swirling for the first time because all of the general managers are in one place and in constant contact with one another.

As the meetings kick off, the Indians will go into them knowing that right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez will be a free agent and that he has declined the $14.1 million qualifying offer for 2014. That is not yet official, but he is expected to make it so before his 5:00 pm ET deadline on Monday.

Last Monday the Indians made it official when they offered Jimenez the qualifying offer – a few days after they picked up his $8 million option for 2014 that he declined. The qualifying offer was made in order to ensure they get compensation if he leaves as a free agent. If he leaves, the Indians will receive a bonus pick between the first and second round of this coming June’s draft.

The qualifying offer is a new wrinkle added to free agency last year that effectively replaced the old Type A and B free agent system. In order to avoid teams piling up picks for losing several free agents and with no risk incurred by the former team, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement now calls for any team who wishes to receive compensation for an outgoing free agent to offer a one-year qualifying offer. Last year the qualifying offer was $13.3 million and this year it is $14.1 million – a figure determined by averaging the top 125 salaries in baseball.

With the start of free agency last Tuesday, Jimenez and his agent have been able to talk to teams to gauge interest and start establishing his market. Already there have been reports that Ervin Santana is looking for a five year $100 million deal and that Ricky Nolasco wants five years and $80 million. Obviously, that’s what those guys are demanding right now and their final figures will probably come down, but with so much money in play this offseason, so many teams desperate for starting pitching and so little supply, those guys are probably going to get paid handsomely. And so will Jimenez.

At this point the Indians have probably moved on believing that Jimenez is a lost cause. It is going to take a commitment in years and dollars that the Indians are uncomfortable with, and with so many teams in the bidding they may simply thank him for his services, take the first round pick, and look at alternative solutions.

If that is exactly what the Indians end up doing, I would be in full agreement with it.

The Indians have about $70 million already tied up in players they are committed to for 2014. Last season they operated under an $80 million payroll, and they will probably be right around that figure next season though it is possible it could go up another $5-10 million with the new national TV money payouts. That means they probably only have about $10-20 million to spend this offseason, which is not a lot when you consider they need a starting pitcher, a backend bullpen arm and at least one bat for the lineup.

Considering Jimenez may get a deal which pays him at least $14 million a season, if the Indians were to resign him it would leave maybe $2-6 million to spend on other areas of need. The Indians plan to be creative with their expenditures this offseason, and may dump some salary along the way by non-tendering guys and/or trading shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, but until they do that they simply can’t afford to sign a starting pitcher making that much next season.

Even though the Indians may have moved on from Jimenez, what will be interesting to follow this offseason is how his market plays out. Remember, he will not only cost money for other teams to sign him, but he will cost a top pick in next year’s draft and severely limit a team’s bonus pool.  That said, he’s good enough and has enough of a history where several teams will probably overlook the compensation cost to sign him.

It is well documented how much Jimenez struggled in 2011 and 2012, but beyond that he has had four very good seasons in the past six years. He has front of the rotation stuff and his recent success from this past season will be enough for some teams to believe he is back to his old ways.  Additionally, he is only entering his age 30 season and has proven durable over the past six seasons making at least 31 starts a year.  All of that adds up to a pitcher that will be in the upper echelon of starting pitchers sought out this offseason in both the free agent and trade market.

But the draft pick compensation cost surely will give some teams pause when it comes to entertaining whether they sign Jimenez or not.

Teams will really need to be certain Jimenez is not only worth the risk of big money on a multi-year deal, but also worth the hit to their draft plans next year – a draft considered to have a better pool of players than in recent years.  In the new MLB Draft landscape involving bonus pool money and limitations on how much teams can spend on picks or face a significant penalty, that is a pretty big price to pay for any free agent.

The loss of the pick not only prevents a team from drafting a high upside impact player early in the draft, but also limits the bonus pool by 30-40%.  This is the dilemma that Nick SwisherMichael BournKyle Lohse and Adam LaRoche found themselves in last offseason. They were free agents, had been extended qualifying offers by their teams, and opted not to accept them. What transpired was a limited market for all four players because teams did not want to part with a high round pick and a big loss in their bonus pool. LaRoche eventually re-upped with the Nationals on a much smaller deal than anticipated and then Swisher, Bourn and Lohse signed below market deals.

Jimenez is viewed as a much higher ceiling player and a front of the rotation starter, so he probably won’t go through what those players went through last offseason. The elimination of a first round pick is crippling to a team’s draft plans, but as we saw last offseason it did not scare teams away from signing the likes of B.J. UptonRafael Soriano, and Josh Hamilton who had draft pick compensation tied to them.

It’s kind of a tough goodbye for Jimenez. He was frustrating for so long as an Indian, and just when he gets things turned around he is leaving town.  Since being acquired by the Indians in July of 2011, it took him almost two years to get going before he locked it in and was sensational in the second half of this season. He helped the Indians in their quest to make the playoffs, and at the same time priced himself out of the Indians budget.

With four rotation spots locked up with Justin MastersonDanny SalazarCorey Kluber, and Zach McAllister, it will be interesting to see who the Indians sign or acquire to fill that one open spot. But at the outset of free agency we know two things. One, that the Indians probably won’t go into the season relying on Josh TomlinCarlos Carrascoor Trevor Bauer for the final spot in the rotation, and two, that Jimenez won’t be back.

Kazmir unqualified

The Indians made a mildly surprising decision not to extend lefty Scott Kazmir the qualifying offer. He is now free to sign with any team and whoever signs him does not have to worry about losing a pick or any bonus pool money to sign him.

Kazmir had a very good comeback season going 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA in 29 starts and got stronger and stronger as the season went on. He finished with a nice 2.7 BB/9 and 9.2 K/9, and considering he will only be 30 years old in January, is a hard throwing lefty, and looks all the way back from his arm trouble of previous years, he’s going to be a guy that is strongly coveted this offseason by several teams.

There are reports that he is looking at a two year deal around $16-18 million, so about $8-9 million per season. The Indians supposedly only wish to go one year with him while he wants at least two years, so unless the Indians add a year it appears unlikely he will return to Cleveland.

But going back to the qualifying offer, it appears that the Indians simply did not find value in offering it to him because had they done so he surely would have taken it. Considering he is looking at a two-year deal for $16-18 million, he would be foolish to pass up one year for $14.1 million. There was little upside to offering it to him. Sure, he would remain with the Indians next season, but as mentioned above with the finite money available to spend this offseason, his $14.1 million salary would put a serious dent into any offseason plans and take up all or almost all of what money is available to spend.

The Indians appear more content to keep the dialogue open and see if they can bring Kazmir back next season, but on a much more friendly deal than the $14.1 million qualifying offer. They will have to bid against several other teams, but if he can be retained for $8-9 million per season for two years, it would certainly fit into their budget better.

Either way, if the Indians miss out on Kazmir, the Indians appear intent on bringing in someone to fill their lone open spot in the rotation. They have been aggressive in the early going talking to Tim Hudson, but even he might be a little too expensive and cost more than Kazmir as Hudson is reportedly looking for a two year $24 million deal. I don’t know about you, but I take the 30-year old lefty Kazmir for two years and $18 million any day over the 38-year old Hudson for two years and $24 million.

Rumor mill

The Indians have some pen spots to fill with the release of Chris Perez and the free agency of Matt Albers and Joe Smith. Albers probably won’t be retained as the Indians will look to fill his middle relief role from a strong stable of young relievers that can be paid at league minimum. The Indians reportedly are interested in bringing Smith back on a two year deal, but he wants at least three years.

There are whispers that the Indians may look into a contract extension with Justin Masterson later this offseason. He is in his final year of arbitration and is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season. has predicted he would be worth a five year deal for between $65-85 million, one which I would gladly pay to retain the anchor of the rotation for several more seasons. That is an affordable contract, even if he is only viewed as a number two starter.

If the Indians miss out on resigning Smith, expect the Indians to be very active in the free agent and trade market to bring in one or even two established bullpen arms.

Don’t expect a big splash in the lineup. With the Indians set to have the entire lineup back next season - except maybe Drew Stubbs who may be non-tendered in a few weeks – the Indians are in the market more for an inexpensive complementary bat to platoon with Lonnie Chisenhall at third base or Ryan Raburn in right field.

False alarm on Aguilar

There was a small buzz created late this week when first base prospect Jesus Aguilar started a few games at third base for his team in the Venezuela Winter League.

Without context behind the move, there was some thought that perhaps the Indians might be experimenting with Aguilar at third base in order to create some positional versatility for him and maybe look for another alternative to Lonnie Chisenhall at third base or at the least find a right-handed platoon partner for him. Knowing Aguilar and his body type, size and athleticism, it didn’t make sense why the Indians would have him play third base, but he did.

When approached with the question about the chances of Aguilar playing third base in the big leagues, a few scouts from other teams came back with similar, swift responses that were almost identical and that he had “zero chance to be a major league third baseman” and that “it was a big reach”.

Well, after two games at third base some clarity finally came. Apparently, Aguilar’s team has been decimated with injuries to their infield and they have no other options to play third base, so he was put there as a result. It is as simple as that. It was not the Indians who requested he play there, it simply was a team need by his Venezuela club. Now, it is possible the Indians interest in him at third base may be piqued because he reportedly has handled the position well with such little time there, but it appears to be very remote because of his aforementioned limited athleticism and arm strength.

Aguilar, 23, is having a sensational showing with the bat this offseason. In 25 games he is hitting .350 with 8 HR, 25 RBI and 1.035 OPS. He is slated to open the 2014 season as the regular first baseman at Triple-A Columbus and could be an option in Cleveland later in the year to fill a run producing need from the right side of the plate.

Ausmus tabbed Tigers manager

The Detroit Tigers announced that Brad Ausmus will take over the managerial duties and replace Jim Leyland who stepped down from the role a few weeks ago.

This is an interesting decision as Ausmus has no managerial experience whatsoever, not even in the minors, and he will be jumping right into the fire with a World Series contending team. Leyland has been around for a long time, knows how to manage the personalities that come with a high priced roster, and is one of the better manager’s in baseball. So no matter how you cut it, this is a clear step back for the Tigers as they go into the 2014 season.

Ausmus may prove to be the right hire and just as good a manager in time, but there are a great many unknowns about him where it should leave several Tigers fans uneasy about how he does in his rookie season as manager. Ultimately, the players win the games and managers have little effect on wins and losses over the course of a season, but anyone who saw the impact Terry Francona had in Cleveland or John Farrell in Boston this season knows there is a leadership and psychological component that a good manager can bring to a team which cannot be measured, something that remains to be seen with Ausmus.

This should be viewed as an opportunity for the Indians to close the gap between them and the Tigers. It is also funny how things work out. Last year the Indians get the proven, well regarded Francona while the Tigers this year nab the young unknown commodity in Ausmus who has upside. It is a role reversal for the Indians as you would expect them to be the ones signing an Ausmus and the Tigers signing a Francona.

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

Aussie Tribe
November 12, 2013 - 3:52 AM EST
IMO, Santana is just fine in the 4 hole,
If the guys in front of him had gotten on base more, his RBI totals would have been much more to Hiram's liking.
Would I also love to see a 40hr threat batting 4th for the tribe, hell yes, But Hart and Morse just arent durible enough to play enough games to reach those numbers.
Bourn and Swisher to have bounce back seasons getting on in front of Santana and he's pushing the magical 100.
November 11, 2013 - 11:25 PM EST
Hiram, I'm not feeling you at all on this. Let me get this straight, you want Willingham, Morse or Hart as your cleanup solution....and consider them better than Santana? Hart, he of 82 career plate appearances hitting cleanup? Willingham and Morse who have injury concerns and are coming off a brutal 2013 seasons? Santana is a much more impactful hitter than all three right now....and is the best solution to hit cleanup. Now, I am not saying they should not pursue those guys....but if they did and they did sign them, they should be hitting 5th or 6th in the lineup and should not be 4th. Santana puts up much better at bats, and contrary to what you say, he actually doesn't get himself out reaching out of the zone (a stat Seth verified and showed). Santana's biggest problem may be a lack of aggression, but I am fine with that considering the end result is he often does not get himself out.

Also, you keep comparing Santana to Victor Martinez. Well, the problem is, there is no Victor Martinez available in the market. So while Santana may not be Martinez, neither are Hart, Morse or Willingham. The thing is, a true cleanup hitting option is unavailable in free agency and probably not via trade due to the cost to acquire it. As many have said, the Indians have to get lucky and develop that player or get that player in a trade when they are still young and low in the minors (like they did with Santana in the Blake deal).
November 11, 2013 - 8:20 PM EST
Santana will already be the primary DH if Gomes if primary catcher, so no, you need them to play a position. Swisher couldn't play the outfield because his shoulder was bothering him on throws, so I really don't think you want to push him to the outfield full time and risk more shoulder problems that affect his hitting, unless it's for someone who can help a lot. Morse had a .270 wOBA last year, and Willingham .322. They would have been two of the worst hitters on the team. Asdrubal Cabrera was a better #4 hitter than Morse. I'm fine with them going after someone with upside like Hart, but the other two aren't upgrades. I still don't really get where you're coming from with the need for "right-handed power." Why right-handed? The pretty clearly have a need for a left-handed hitter. You certainly want Raburn in the lineup against lefties, and you want Swisher and Santana in there, so, where is the need for the right-handed bat? How do you fit Raburn, Swisher, Gomes, Santana and Morse in a lineup? You platooning Bourn or Brantley and having Swisher and Raburn in the corners? They need a lefty who can handle the tough right-handers who Raburn (and Stubbs, if he's around) struggle with. If money were no object then Choo would be perfect as a platoon mate for Raburn. If time machines existed, then 2008 Grady Sizemore would be perfect. As it is, barring some kind of big trade that's currently not conceivable that involves names like Masterson, Salazar, I think the best bang for their buck is to try to acquire Schierholtz from the Cubs and platoon him with Raburn.

Santana has problems with his offensive game, agreed, but his problem isn't swinging at bad pitches. I think the problem with both him and Swisher in RBI spots is they get off their game if they are trying to be too aggressive. Santana did a better job of balancing that this year, I thought. Victor is like Brantley in that he makes a lot of contact. That will never be Santana. Santana is patience and swinging hard at pitches in the zone. Which definitely makes him better suited for more like a 2 or 3 hitter, but it is what it is. I mean I agree with you that it would be nice to have another good bat, but it looks like a pipe dream. They gave a lot of runs away last year having post-April Reynolds and some other scrubs hitting in front of Santana last year, I'd hate to see them do that again with a Willingham, or even a Kendry Morales.
November 11, 2013 - 7:54 PM EST

Compare the AB's of Santana to someone like Victor Martinez. It's like night and day. You can see where Victor bares down with runners on base and will cut down on his swing when necessary whereas, Santana alot of times makes it up in his mind no matter what the pitch is or the location he's not only swinging but swinging hard, not caring about cutting back on his swing to move the runner or get that fly ball. Not saying that I don't like Santana but I will say I think it's a reach to consider him a productive cleanup hitter especially during the season he was the 4th-5th choice to hit in that position during the season.
November 11, 2013 - 7:50 PM EST

I don't need Morse, Hart or Willingham to play a position. I need them to rake and hit in the cleanup hole. I don't think Santana is good enough. You mention the position thing where it doesn't matter because if they can't play the field I can always put Swisher in RF and Santana at 1B to free up the DH spot, so that's not an issue. Raburn is considered a super sub. He'll hit some HR's but if you play him too much his swing will get really long and the SO's will pile up. Tito used him beautifully. Maybe Santana can fill that but you are going to need someone else from the right side and maybe that person is Aguilar but the position and Raburn isn't an issue for those reasons I just mentioned
November 11, 2013 - 4:17 PM EST
A lot of intense conversation regarding the clean up position. I think a clean up hitter is developed from within and the Indians have had success in developing those type of hitters. Examples Albert Belle, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez. If you try to get on through FA or trade would end up cost you are and leg. It not worth going that route.

I think Santana can fill that gap and I also agree with others in order for that to happen he would need to play 1b and DH.

November 11, 2013 - 2:41 PM EST
Hiram, the problem is cleanup isn't a "position". The actual positions the Indians can look to upgrade are left field and 3b. Right now Raburn looks like he would get a lot of at bats in left field though, so you certainly want someone who's at least better than Raburn. Also, ideally LEFT handed. The Indians need of a "right-handed power bat" no longer exists, because they have Swisher, Raburn, Gomes, and even Stubbs. They destroyed left handed pitching last year.

I don't see where Morse or Willingham are better than Raburn. They are worse defensively for sure, and were much worse with the bat last year. There isn't anyone available at 3b who would profile as a #4 hitter. In the outfield, there's Beltran. They should certainly look into the possibility of getting Beltran, but if someone wants to give him the 3-4 year contract he wants, forget that. Beltran's also shown that he doesn't really have any desire to go to Cleveland, so that's a long-to-no shot. The biggest problem with what you're saying, is Willingham, Morse, Hart being an upgrade. Hart wouldn't be a bad guy to take a shot on if the price is right, but even when he was healthy he wasn't a better hitter than Santana.

"Santana gets himself out by swinging at bad balls when the count is in his favor" is some craziness. If anything, Santana still wasn't aggressive enough when the count is in his favor. Santana has some of the best plate discipline in the league. This is a tracked stat, you know, swings on pitches outside the zone. There were 28 players in MLB who swung at fewer pitches out of the zone in 2013. And that was an "aggressive" Carlos Santana. In 2012, there were TWO hitters in all of MLB who swung at fewer pitches out of the zone than Carlos Santana: Youkilis and Alberto Callaspo.
November 11, 2013 - 12:12 AM EST

It's going to be interesting to see what he does in the cleanup spot if the Indians don't address that position in the offseason. IMO, he's not close to the same hitter as someone like Victor Martinez or someone like that. Santana tends to get himself out alot by swinging at bad balls when the count is in his favor. I sit back on twitter and give insight in how pitchers are pitching him in the game and sure enough it works alot. He simply isn't a cleanup hitter, IMO but in saying that I know money is the issue.

All in all, I think it's a huge mistake for the Indians to not address this spot on their team that has been plaguing them for so long. I would rather address the cleanup spot before the bullpen but it appears the Indians have a different opinion. We'll see what happens but I don't like this because when in this past August it was apparent that they simply didn't have the firepower to beat them and then to come back with just a "complimentary" bat wreaks of A) not prioritizing properly and B) not having the financial flexibility to make such a move

One other thing that needs to be addressed IMO, is the #3 spot in the lineup. It's clear to me that Kipnis simply isn't the answer in that position and would rather have Brantley there because of Brantley's ability to put bat on ball in crucial situations and Brantley has shown that he can drive in runs in the #5 spot and would do even better hitting in the #3 spot of the order
November 10, 2013 - 11:58 PM EST
It should be noted that the Indians made a poor decision bringing on Swisher and tabbing him their cleanup hitter. He never has been or will be that kind of hitter, something myself and others said when he was signed. He's a nice complementary bat and a guy who is better hitting 2nd or 6th in the lineup....and we saw when he was moved to 2nd how he played better. The Indians were also very slow at putting Santana in the cleanup spot, mainly because Francona said, and I am paraphrasing here, he didn't want him to have too much pressure there because he wanted his focus on his pitching staff first. It still boggles my mind how underappreciated Santana is as a hitter. He's one of the 25 or so most productive hitters in baseball.
November 10, 2013 - 11:46 PM EST

never changed the subject. I contend that the Indians need a big bat and if they felt Santana was the answer or had full confidence he wouldn't have been 4-5 on the totem poll in getting the opportunity in that position. Let's remember the Indians had Swisher, Cabby and Raburn in the cleanup hole before giving Santana the chance, If you're ok with this then fine but If money wansn't an issue I guarantee you this would be addressed in a New York Minute,
November 10, 2013 - 11:36 PM EST

I was talking about the Athletics teams of the past, but once again, Seriously?

Take 3 minutes out of your day and jump to baseball reference or something and compare Donaldson-Kipnis, Cespedes-Santana, and Lowrie-Brantley. If you would have done so you would realize how close these guys actually are. Donaldson is good, but Kipnis is literally just a small step below and both will probably be very similar players in the future.

Quit changing the subject and just defend your logic friend. I could be wrong...Its very possible...but we wont know until you quit throwing poo at the wall and actually provide some evidence for your claims.

November 10, 2013 - 11:24 PM EST

you need someone with some raw power in that spot ,IMO but I'll wait and see what they do before I judge. If it is indeed true they want a lefty hitter then Loney would be my first choice.
November 10, 2013 - 11:11 PM EST

If Aguilar can give me those years like Gabby Sanchez then it's a good thing because that's the type of bat that the Indians would need to compliment someone like Santana in the cleanup spot.
November 10, 2013 - 11:09 PM EST
Corey Hart would be a worse option as cleanup to Santana. Not only is he coming off a significant injury and there is a great risk there, but the guy has played just 24 games and piled up 82 plate appearances in his career as a cleanup hitter. He almost zero experience in the role. He is a career .273 hitter with a .824 OPS with RISP in his career, but I'd rather he hit 5th if he were signed and hit behind Santana as protection.

Morse and Willingham are lesser hitters than Santana. Not even close. He is far superior to both of them. I'd be fine with Morse or Willingham, but again, both had bad years in 2013 and would be a risk for 2014. I'd rather they bat 5th or 6th as options to lengthen the lineup if they were acquired/signed.
November 10, 2013 - 11:00 PM EST

Again IMO Santana is a protection type hitter around the cleanup hitter. I would be much more comfortable with other guys in the cleanup hole like Hart, Morse, Willingham and I could give a few more names. If the Indians feel that Santana is the answer then we need to see who they have in the lineup but having watched I don't think it will be good enough. Teams still rushed lefties vs Indians because they simply didn't respect Santana in that spot in the lineup.

All in all, I'll wait to see what the lineup looks like before passing judgment but they will need Aguilar or for someone to step to give more production because simply not enough. I think alot of ppl forget the Indians played in a ton of close games because they simply didn't have the firepower to put teams away. Going to need that vs the likes of Boston, Detroit, New York and others. This is a big reason why the Indians struggled(plenty of other reasons too) but going to need more than simply a complimentary bat if they are serious.
November 10, 2013 - 10:42 PM EST
Hiram, again, Santana had limited opportunities hitting cleanup this year (1/4 of the year). He hit .285 with RISP which is pretty good. What options in free agency or trade are out there that are better offensive players than Santana? There is not one out there if you can ask that is available at least.
November 10, 2013 - 10:35 PM EST

I agree that you have to look at the the quality of the AB's but you have to look beyond the OPS too because of the fact that everyone can bat in the cleanup position because not everyone has the demeanor for that position. Prime example of that was Nick Swisher. The Indians wanted him to put in that Cleanup position and he simply couldn't perform, Acab the same way. Yeah they can hit and get on base but simply doesn't always correlate to being a productive cleanup hitter.

Until the Indians can get a solid RBI guy who has no issues of hitting in the cleanup spot, I'm afraid they simply won't be able to compete with the big boys. In the midst of all the sabremetrics we tend to forget the real nuts of bolts of baseball or the bottom line. Can you cut the mustard with ducks on the pond?? Some can and some can't, the Indians need a guy that can and simply saying you have an high OPS doesn't really mean you can hit in the cleanup hole.
November 10, 2013 - 10:25 PM EST

I hope you're telling the Indians have a threesome Cespedes, Lowrie and Donaldson because we don't. We have no one like Donaldso in this lineup. Until we can get that bat then we won't have nearly enough to be with the big boys. The Indians simply need another hitter preferably from the right hand side that can get us another 90 RBI's.
November 10, 2013 - 10:18 PM EST

I don't know what your talking about dude. "You need a mike Napoli with his 23-92." Are you serious? Napoli batted 5th for them most the year and batted behind possibly the best hitter in baseball. He does not profile as a cleanup hitter much more than Santana does.

Do you understand what OPS is? It DOES, in fact, have a direct correlation with a player's power, and your original argument was we need right handed power cause we can't hit lefties. Hart, Morse, and Willingham will provide us a little boost...maybe, but we don't NEED any of them. None of them play defense and they all get hurt more frequently than anyone else on our roster.

I do agree that it would be nice to have a real cleanup hitter, but there are plenty of teams that don't have that who have had success. We just made the playoffs without one. The A's frequently make the playoffs without one. How bout the Giants? Who did they have batting 4th during their championships? If I was going to lay down an argument, I'd make it in defense of finding a new lead-off hitter. Maybe if Bourn would have gotten on base a little bit more (.316 OBP) you could add 10 RBI to Santana's total.

If you really want to argue look up some stats or something to defend yourself. Also, quit using RBI's as a way to measure players. It is an opportunity based stat.
November 10, 2013 - 8:50 PM EST
Preach Seth, preach.
November 10, 2013 - 8:32 PM EST
You'd trade Salazar for a guy who was out-produced by Raburn last year, and is more expensive? While we can't expect miracles from Raburn again, the Indians have 1b more than covered. You can say they can push Swisher to the outfield, but I'd be concerned whether Swisher's shoulder will even let him play outfield full time. And while Trumbo's home runs are nice, everything else about his offense sucks. Raburn probably won't put up anything close to a .389 wOBA again, but even his career wOBA is slightly higher than Trumbo's. It's definitely questionable whether adding Trumbo would upgrade the offense at all.

It would be wise to target a left-handed platoon mate for Raburn/Stubbs, but even if that fails I'd much rather roll the dice with Raburn than find someone to replace Salazar. I wouldn't mind seeing Moncrief get a shot sooner rather than later as well. He OPS'd .925 against RHP in the minors.
November 10, 2013 - 8:16 PM EST
A lot of comments to sift through here...

Walter, yes, the Indians already spent some of that new national TV money last year. I know a lot of people believe the SportsTime Ohio sale was a big reason for that, but the structuring of the contracts of the players they signed points to an eye on future revenue. Bourn and Swisher only made $18 million total in 2013....but will make $28.5 million in 2014 and beyond. They backloaded the deals, so theoretically, you can say that about $10 million of the $25 million they are getting in the TV has already been spent.

I agree the Indians need a true cleanup hitter, but really, how many "true" cleanup hitters are there anymore? There certainly are not any true guys available as free agents nor probably in trades, so whoever the Indians sign they will be inexperienced in the cleanup spot or have serious question marks going in. Santana moved to the cleanup spot on August 15th and spent the last 41 games there and hit .287 with 6 HR, 23 RBI and a .901 OPS. That's pretty good. That's top 10 in the AL during that stretch. An RBI total is tough to truly judge a guy on as he has to have guys setting the table in front of him, and remember, Santana often hit 5th to 7th for 3/4's of the year, so he was even more limited by RBI opportunities. Santana does need to be a little more aggressive in RBI opportunities, but what I love is how he won't give away an at bat. He hit .285 with 4 HR, 50 RBI and .916 OPS with RISP. Compare that to Mark Trumbo, a name I have seen thrown out there because he had 100 RBI and how he hit .222 with 7 HR, 62 RBI and .702 OPS with RISP. You have to look beyond the RBI total and look at the quality and consistency of the at bats in run producing situations. If you ask me, the Indians appear content with Santana as the cleanup hitter to open next season.....and considering what is available, I happen to agree with them. Where they can improve might be a complementary bat to protect Santana and hit 5th and/or a bat to platoon with Chisenhall or Raburn (if Stubbs is nontendered). By the way, Santana has more power from the RIGHT SIDE of the plate.

I agree that the Indians should go after Kazmir and give him two years for $8-9M per. I don't see too much risk in that. The suggestion that he take a one year deal with an incentive laden deal or a club option for a second year is not in play right now. His camp wants at least two guaranteed years.

Jesus Aguilar is a solid player, but he's a guy that is more of the complementary variety rather than impact variety. Time may prove me wrong on that, and I hope so. That said, no matter what, he is starting the year in Columbus. He would be an option later in the year if one of their bats at catcher or first base goes down (Santana, Gomes, Swisher) since all three of those guys should be in regularly as the DH when the other two are in the field. He could be another Yan Gomes-type, but like Gomes, will need an injury to crop up to get a significant opportunity later in the year. If he proves to be the real deal, I see a Gaby Sanchez type (his good years) as a solid ML first baseman for a few years.

I don't see many major moves at the GM meetings, but I foresee some interesting rumors coming out in preparations for the Winter Meetings in four weeks. Lots of build up and hype for the big guys going into that. We will see some guys start to sign though these next few weeks....but more those older vets looking for 1-2 year deals and wanting to get setup with a team. I could see Hudson signing soon....sort like Tori Hunter did last offseason.

OB, the general consensus from the people I have talked to in the industry is Jimenez is back to being at least a good number two starter. That's a front of the rotation guy. With his stuff and the ability to miss bats and be a good complement to an ace already on a staff, that's something teams will have no problem losing their first round pick and bonus pool money over. Teams are aware of his issues in 2011 and 2012, but a lot of them believe they have been fixed. His outlook is much different than a Lohse or Swisher/Bourn, which is why those guys were people teams did not want to lose the valuable draft pick and money over.
November 10, 2013 - 7:57 PM EST
Willie....I would trade Salazar for Trumbo. Given that move, here is how I'd play out the rest of the offseason;

Current Salary Commitment - $65-$70m
Final Salary Commitment - $85-$90


- Non-Tender Stubbs; (-) ~$3m
- Trade A-Cab; (-) ~$5-$7m (assuming the Tribe will have to cover some of his salary)

- Sign Kazmir/similar pitcher; (+) ~$8m
- Extend Masterson; (+) ~$5m (assuming $10m is already in base salary number)
- Sign 1 to 2 BP Arms; (+) ~$2m
- Add Trumbo's contract; (+) ~$5m
- Sign 3b or RF platoon player; (+) ~$3m

New Salary Structure - $80m - $85m (they could potentially keep A-cab if it worked out like this, and they are willing to add a bit more to the salary pool).

Line up;

CF Bourn, RF Swish, 2B Kipnis, 1B Trumbo, LF Brantley, DH Santana, C Gomes, SS Aviles/ACab, 3B Chiz/Platoon player

Bench; Raburn, Ramirez, 3B Platoon, Aviles/Giambi/Other


Masterson, Kluber, Kazmir, McAllister, Tomlin/Carasco/Bauer/Other


Allen, Shaw, Ryp, Lee, New BP 1, New BP 2, Other

I think this works.....huge uptick in the line up, with a managable risk in finding a 5th starter.
November 10, 2013 - 7:44 PM EST
all the talk of downgrading trevor bauer should cease and decist. a few short years ago the pirates were torn between two pitchers with the first pic in the draft and they were both from ucla. one was garrett cole the other trevor bauer. even one year ago trevor bauer was considered a brilliant pick up by shapanelli and yes he is eccentric and i call him the mad scientist but if the second half of 2013 taught us anything is that sometimes a light bulb goes on and players start to play to their ability now that doesnt always happen but it does enough that you dont write a blue chip prospect off who hasnt had arm problems even baltimore is talking that by june they will have rotation fronted by dylan bundy after tommy john surgery. Trevor Bauer has had no arm problems and his biggest drawback is between his ears and if he ever focuses his considerable talent to be the best pitcher he can be and gets a lil consistency in his training we could have a monster starter on our hands. Ubaldo 4months ago was considered a dud now 4 scant months later he is such a stud that tomorrow he is gonna reject 14.1 million dollars to make 33 starts that is serious turn around and dont think that bauer couldnt turn his career around that abruptly. I am not saYing that he will but i sure dont want to give up on him now. yes 2013 wasnt a very productive year but maybe look at the glass half filled and consider he eliminated some of the ideas he had about effective pitching and now has wittled down his approach. Look at cliff Lee 2007 numbers in AAA sometimes you just have to go with the million dollar arm. If bauer was like dillan howard and had his baggage i would think differently but that isnt the case
November 10, 2013 - 7:40 PM EST
Yeah, let's trade Salazar for Trumbo.

and then, while we're at it, let's deal Lindor for Pujols' plantars faciitis.

That would be awesome
November 10, 2013 - 7:30 PM EST
I think Salazar for Trumbo would possibly get it done. The second proposal, I think they'd hang up the phone.

I'd love to see the Tribe land Trumbo but the Angels reportedly want pitching, and the Tribe doesn't have it to give up, IMHO.
November 10, 2013 - 6:55 PM EST
The clean up hitter that I'd like to see the Tribe put a deal together for is Mark Trumbo. Some thoughts;

- He has a controllable contract through 2016.
- He is a rare 30/100 guy (although he strikes out a lot).
- Rumors are out there that the Angles are shopping him for a Pitcher and/or a 3rd baseman.
- This would create a bit of a back log at 1b and DH, however I think Tito could work out a rotation that would work (Trumbo - primarily 1b, rotating at DH, and some RF; Swish primarliy at RF, rotating at 1b and DH; Santana primarily at DH, rotating at C, and 1b).

Would the Tribe do one of the following?

- Salazar for Trumbo.
- Chiz/Bauer or Carasco for Trumbo/BP arm.
November 10, 2013 - 6:26 PM EST

Fine about the OPS but at some point you have to knock in runs and frankly all those guys failed to knock in runs consistently.

None of the guys you mentioned are cleanup hitters. It takes a special breed of hitter to fill comfortable in that position to do the stuff needed to win and plus it settles the other parts of the lineup when you have that guy in the middle that can drive in those types of runs. Yes, those guys hit lefties, have a nice OPS but THEY AREN'T CLEANUP HITTERS.

These guys are 5-7 hitters who protect that cleanup hitter. Raburn isn't even and every day player. What do you suggest let Raburn bat in the cleanup hole and have rotating cleanup hitters?? Where has that ever worked.

You need someone in that role to play everyday to establish the other parts of the lineup. You need a mike Napoli with his 23-92, do we have that guy- ABSOLUTELY NOT. This hitter will be able to hit lefties and righties. You wannt cheap names Hart, Morse, Willingham and maybe Ross

I hope you can see the difference between what I'm talking about and what you're talking about.
November 10, 2013 - 4:58 PM EST

I understand that you dont think Santana is what we need in the cleanup spot, and thats ok. What I don't understand is this whole right handed power nonsense.

2013 OPS Vs LHP
Swisher .918
Santana .864
Raburn 1.020
Gomes .934

These 4 represent the middle of our order when we faced lefties. As I mentioned previously, we were one of the best in baseball when facing lefties. We already signed our RHB for the offseason when we extended Raburn during the season.

If were looking to find a bat to put in the middle of the order, I'd rather look at a lefty like Adam Lind who can mash righties and play first base while Swisher moves to left. It makes way more sense than finding a righty who would have a hard time out-producing what we already have on the roster.

November 10, 2013 - 4:06 PM EST

I like/don't love Santana as a hitter. I just think you need someone who can consistently knock in runs from the right hand side like Napoli did for the Sox. Santana in the cleanup spot is a real stretch IMO. Santana's career high in RBI's is 79 and quite frankly you need more than that. Indians need to take a gamble on someone like Hart or Morse in FA or Willingham or Ross via trade. None of these players will cost you a ton and all can give you some semblance of pop on from the right hand side. If nothing else you need a Carlos Santana that can hit cleanup and knock in another 80-90 runs. Sitting back and acting as this isn't an issue when it's been an issue for the past 5-7 years won't help things. Indians simply don't have enough power in their lineup to compete with the big boys and asking them to get one of the hitters mentioned IMO isn't asking for too much.

I don't understand the Kazmir thing at all for two years, if this indeed the case.
November 10, 2013 - 3:35 PM EST
Unless you open up the DH position, no need to look at Hart or Morse. Hart's knees would prevent him from playing in RF for more than 110 games or so. Morse is a butcher in the field. If people don't want to see Carlos in RF (which I advocate) they will hate Morse with a glove on anywhere. As a DH and a guy that can play occassionally in the field, Morse would be okay.
November 10, 2013 - 3:03 PM EST
No reason to sign Jimenez long term. His history is way to inconsistent and that won't change.
November 10, 2013 - 2:49 PM EST
Random thoughts...

The Tribe obviously wants another SP. That could come in the form of resigning Kazmir, which I think they should. I would speculate that 1 yr at $10 M with a $10 M option for '15 and a buyout of $1 M might get it done. Essentially, the Tribe would be guaranteeing 1 yr / $11 M to retain Kazmir.

Moving on from ACab, should be a priority... Without entirely dumping him. He's one of my favorite players, but this is a business decision for the Tribe. Here's a random idea I heard from another fan... Trade ACab for David Freese and Seth Maness (STL). I'd prefer Lance Lynn.

There is depth in the FA bullpen mkt, which should benefit the Tribe as they search for another arm or two. Jose Veras seems like he'd be a reasonable target with exp. in setup and closing duties.

If the Tribe non-tenders Drew Stubbs than who replaces him? Maybe Chris Young or one of Brennan Boesch / Tyler Colvin (minor league deals) would be options??? I think Chris Young might be had at a cheaper price than Stubbs could get in arb.
November 10, 2013 - 1:41 PM EST
I think Kazmir is looking for 3yr deal. With everybody looking for pitching I think someone will give him that type of contract. I believe the reason the Indians only one year is they are really considering offering Masterson a long term deal.

Also look like Tomlin, Carrasco and Bauer will play important part of Indians plans in 14. If they pick up a starting pitcher will come from low tier FA or by a trade.
November 10, 2013 - 1:09 PM EST

Santana has always been way better against LHP than RHP. His power numbers are pretty similar batting from the right side too. Not having Raburn at the end of the year hurt us against lefties a bit, but overall we had one of the best lineups in the league against left handed pitching.

I don't know what makes you think Santana is not an RBI guy. I would have wanted him in the 5th and 6th spots in the lineup too just because he offers superior protection to the player batting in front of them, but eventually Tito just had to put his best player in the 4 hole because so many guys started to struggle. In 48 games batting 4th he had 29 RBI. Thats a little over 97 RBI in 162 games. He is very capable of hitting that 100 RBI mark over a full season batting cleanup

I don't disagree with you about wanting someone else to fill that role. I still like Santana in that 5th or 6th spot, its just difficult to find that type production unless you develop it yourself, and I don't think we can go out and sign someone that could do a better job than Santana filling that role.

I don't know why you think Aguilar could step in tomorrow and fill this role. Maybe eventually he could develop into something more than people think, but for now, he is comparable to guys like Ryan Garko and Kevin Kouzmanoff. Those guys could hardly make it in the league let alone anchor a lineup.
Michael H
November 10, 2013 - 1:04 PM EST
It is worth noting that almost every team is struggling to find the 30-100 guy because they are becoming more and more scarce. This is because baseball is shifting.

In 2008: 29 guys with 100 RBI's, 28 guys with 30 homers.
2013: 15 with 100 RBI's and 14 with 30 homers.
November 10, 2013 - 12:58 PM EST
I can't help but chuckle at the comment, "Jimenez is viewed as a much higher ceiling player (than Lohse, Swisher, Bourn) and a front of the rotation starter"

Ubaldo had an ERA of 4.45 and WHIP of 1.45 from 2011 to 2013. Just stating the facts.
November 10, 2013 - 12:55 PM EST
I believe Swisher playing right is not an option. If I recall he had shoulder issues that effected his swing last year and I thought I read it was a result of him playing the outfield. I would leave him at first.
November 10, 2013 - 12:50 PM EST
Hiram, there were only 15 players in MLB last year who had 100 or more RBI. There were 14 who had 30 or more HR. How exactly do you propose they go about signing such a player? Spend $300 million on Cano? It's been an ongoing issue with the Indians? There are only 10-15 players in MLB who are consistently the type that you're asking they sign. For a team in Cleveland's market, you either develop that player or you sign a Mark Reynolds and hope you get really lucky and he has a career year. But more likely you just get a guy who hits .200 and strikes out a ton. And if you're the White Sox, you pay that guy $15 million.

Regarding Kazmir, I would hope the Indians would be willing to go with 2/18, and would be surprised that they'd even prefer a 1-year deal. If even 2/20 is the best he can get, if I'm Kazmir I'd much rather take something like 1/11. No one's going to believe in him now to give him a lot of years and money, especially since if you judged him by ERA and innings pitched, he wasn't very good last year, but if he has a strong 2014, he's still young enough where he could get a massive deal next year. At the same time, if someone's willing to go to 3 or more years now with Kazmir, then the Indians are better off targeting someone like Colon. You'd think Kazmir on 2-year deal for under 20 million would be ideal for a team like Cleveland though, it's not enough where it ties them down terribly if he busts, and if his results catch up with his peripherals the next two years, then it could be a massive value for them.
November 10, 2013 - 12:42 PM EST

Yeah we'll disagree on this one. Remember Santana was 4th-5th option in the cleanup spot and if they though the was that good he would've been there alot earlier. Also, Santana isn't that RBI guy that you need from the right handed side to give balance to this lineup. Like most of the Indians switcher hitters they swing better from the left and I believe that's the case with Santana and I think his power comes from there too. IMO, you need someone who can come in like Napoli and hit from the right side and knock in some runs. The lineup is too unbalanced. I remember toward the end of the year teams throwing lefties at the Indians because they didn't respect the right handed power. This is an ongoing issue that needs to be resolved...

I also disagree with you on Aguilar and his position. You could always DH Aguilar but, Swisher in RF and Santana at 1B or put Santana at DH and Aguilar at 1B. This seams to be no issue whatsoever but the real issue is the lack of an RBI threat in particular from the right side to give balance to the order.
November 10, 2013 - 12:28 PM EST
I should also note, do not count on Aquilar. He is a first baseman only and right now that doesn't seem to be a need. If you are thinking DH then you sit Swisher, Gomes or Santana and I don't see that happening. Aquilar is a player heading for Columbus and will provide us depth or insurance if someone is hurt.
November 10, 2013 - 12:23 PM EST
I disagree. Santana's OBP was fairly high while his average was slumping. That tells me it wasn't Santana, but who he was being surrounded by. Cabrera didn't have his typical season and Swisher was not the guy to bat down in the order, but if you look at what Santana batted while Reynolds was here and hitting well, Santana is that guy. With the emergence of Brantley and Kipnis, Santana should do just fine batting in that clean up role
November 10, 2013 - 11:49 AM EST

Santana did fair better in the cleanup spot but don't make the mistake that it was good enough because it wasn't. You need someone to get in that position to be a 30-100 RBI guy. This has been an ongoing issue with the Indians for five to seven years and they've done nothing to solve this. If they are serious about winning they must sign someone or hope Aguilar can fill the void because because the lineup is far too unbalanced and having Santana in that role is ok but not nearly good enough
November 10, 2013 - 11:46 AM EST
Does anyone believe there is going any player movement FA signings or trades coming up at the GM meetings this week? Or more likely at winter meetings in December?
November 10, 2013 - 11:45 AM EST
I believe our number one priority is signing Kazmir as well as Joe Smith. Pitching down the stretch, particularly starting pitching got us to the wild card. I have to believe Santana is on the cusp of being that player in the 4 hole and if not we did not fare all that poorly this past season with the lineup we had. Also Hart is affordable and may be looking for that pillow contract if healthy he solves a lot of issues in that lineup
November 10, 2013 - 10:07 AM EST
The more I think about it the more I think the Indians feel that Aguilar is ready to play everyday and get the job done from the right hand side
November 10, 2013 - 9:52 AM EST
why not offer kazmir an option year or two based on innings pitched. lets say 180 innings automatically adds a second year to the deal for like 10 million so you have 8 mill in 2014, and 10 in 2015 just based on innings pitched. Maybe another 180 inning in 2015 ignites 12 million in 2016. it gives kaz extra money and the innings threashhold is very reachable. 6 innings a start 30 starts isnt asking for a top of the rotation work horse. and overall it is 30 million for 3 yrs and everyone wins. if he does 350 innings over 2014 and 15 he gets paid very well and we get serious innings. I am not sure all of this works but he did come out of nowhere and even though at one time he was a terrific starter who fell on hard times in 2010 thru 2012. It is worth a shot and does give the indians sort of a hometown discount.
November 10, 2013 - 9:50 AM EST

Kazmir signs a one year deal and keeps improving with Calloway and we're back in the same position. I don't think a two year deal is that expensive or unfair. THis is really cheap
November 10, 2013 - 9:49 AM EST
Complimentary bats that I would love are Hart, Morse, Willingham or Cody Ross. The Indians absolutely cannot go into next year without a cleanup hitter. They must solve this issue because it has plagued them for so long. The only other thing I can think of is if they think Aguilar is more ready than we think and that he can help out of ST. That's the only thing. If they don't take care of this issue then I realize that they aren't serious about winning it it all. Yes, I would take solving this issue over getting bullpen pieces any day of the week.
November 10, 2013 - 9:48 AM EST
With new national TV contract each team will receive 25 million per team. Is this money part of the Indians payroll already factored in, or is this additional money to increase payroll to pursue in the FA market.
November 10, 2013 - 9:48 AM EST
I would think that a 2 year deal would be exactly the kind of contract the Indians would WANT to sign guys to, but evidently even that is too rich for their blood right now.

As risky as it is letting Kazmir walk, it's just as risky giving him that money and having it blow up In their face. So while I understand some of the logic I just don't like it.
November 10, 2013 - 9:39 AM EST

Antonetti in an interview with Jim Bowden has already acknowledged that he will be active in getting bullpen arms(plural), hitter and pretty sure a SP if they lose both Ubaldo and Kazmir. He didn't say starter because it's up in the air about Ubaldo(at least according to him).
November 10, 2013 - 9:30 AM EST
I strongly disagree with the Indians on Kazmir. They should have no issues with going two year or one year with a club option. I don't get this one at all. I hope like hell it's about being cheap because if they can't swing this then the Dolans need to move on and sell the team. I'm really scratching my head over this.
November 10, 2013 - 9:29 AM EST
Indians should remember what happened when they allowed Howry to walk. Number one on there list should be to bring back Joe Smith. Give Kazmir his two year deal and then look at free agents David Murphy and a flyer on Corey Hart. Murphy would be the perfect platoon for Stubbs in right. Find a trade partner and deal Asdrubal to bolster bullpen. Asdrubal will not bring back the return he would have gotten us before last years trade deadline. I thought Tito did an excellent job with his bullpen last year using Columbus as an extension to his pen here in Cleveland. He could do it again this year with the arms he has down in Columbus and Akron

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