Under the radar free agent options for the Indians
The hot stove league is already warm and is only going to get hotter. While Indians fans would like to see the front office add a big bat like Nelson Cruz or a front line starting pitcher like Jon Lester or James Shields, the chances of that happening are very remote.
While they have spent big dollars in the past with the big contracts doled out to Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher still on the books, it is much more likely they will look to add players that are a little more cost efficient. As I combed through the free agents, I may have found some potential matches that make some sense for the Tribe to pursue.
The Indians rotation seems to be one of the strong points heading into 2015 with Cy Young Winner “The Klubot” Corey Kluber anchoring it. With the emergence of Carlos Carrasco and the continued growth of Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and T.J. House, the rotation seems to be set – though depth and competition are wonderful problems to have. With that being said, there are two pitchers coming off of injuries who could compete for a spot in the rotation or at the very least, could carve out a niche as the long man out of the bullpen.
Chad Billingsley: The 30-year old right-hander from Defiance, Ohio has barely pitched in the majors over the last two seasons but did get some rehab innings in this past year. Prior to his injury woes, he had six straight years of double digit wins. He has a career WHIP of 1.31 and more impressively he has a better than 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio. After averaging $12 million over the last three years, his base salary will definitely tumble, possibly as low as a non-guaranteed minor league contract.
Brandon Morrow: He, too, is a 30-year old right-hander who cannot seem to shake the injury bug-a-boo. He has an electric arm with an upper 90s fastball, but he has never been able to harness his control. He has a career WHIP of 1.357 but has also struck out more than a batter per inning in his 735 career innings. With the help of pitching coach Mickey Callaway, Morrow could ascend much the same way that Carrasco did this past year.
While right-handers Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and Scott Atchison along with lefties Marc Rzepczynski and Kyle Crockett seem to be locked in place for the 2015 bullpen, there is still a need to add a quality arm or two to round it out.
Jason Motte: The 32-year old former closer will be nearly two years removed from his Tommy John surgery once spring training rolls around. Although he struggled in his return in 2014, he could easily regain his dominant pre-TJ surgery form. From 2010-2012, he had a composite WHIP of 1.00 and also struck out more than a batter per inning. If he regains form, he would also make a nice insurance policy at closer should anything happen to Allen.
Luke Hochevar: The Royals’ former #1 overall draft pick (2006) was drafted as a starting pitcher; however, he never really panned out as a starter so in 2013 the Royals moved him to the bullpen. It was there that he thrived as a premier setup man with five wins, a 1.92 ERA, more than a strike out per inning and a phenomenal 0.825 WHIP. He also had a WAR of 2.0. To put the WAR stat in perspective, the 2014 WAR stats for the top three in the Indians ‘pen: Allen (2.0), Shaw (1.7) and Atchison (1.7). Hochevar is, however, coming off of TJ surgery and will likely need some time to get back to his pre-TJ form.
The biggest glaring weakness for the Tribe on offense last year was the lack of any serious right-handed power. While Nelson Cruz would cure that ill, the Tribe may look to add someone that they can platoon in right field with David Murphy and also DH from time to time. While there are possibilities in Ryan Ludwick and Jonny Gomes, I am going to hone in on two others instead.
Corey Hart: The 32-year old right-handed slugger was a big letdown for the 2014 Seattle Mariners. Coming off of knee surgeries in 2013, Hart started off 2014 on the disabled list to finish off his rehab of those surgeries. Once he was deemed healthy, Hart literally never got his legs under him and he eventually succumbed to injury again, this time with a hamstring injury. Even through his injuries of 2013 and 2014, Hart’s track record shows that he has 25-30 home run power. After making $6 million dollars in 2014, there is a possibility that his base salary will be even lower in 2015.
Michael Taylor: This Michael Taylor, not to be confused with the Nationals’ prospect outfielder of the same name, has been a terrific player in the minors for a number of years. The 6-feet-5 250-pound Taylor is no longer a prospect as he is soon to be 29 years old. In the minors, he has career averages of a .290 batting average and an OPS of .840. Obviously any deal with him would be a minor league contract due to his age and only 107 major league at bats, so the odds are stacked against him. But then again, the odds were stacked against Casey Blake at one time as well and he carved out a nice career.
Tribe fans would love to see the Indians pay for the big name, high dollar free agents but that is just not a feasible concept for the Cleveland Indians at this time, if ever. One thing is for sure, though, the hot stove will continue to heat up and eventually the Indians will make some moves as well. So who will they get? Only time will tell.
Again, he takes a minor league deal or a low base salary, and you've exausted all other options...then maybe.
Michael Taylor is a bit interesting to take a flyer on. Massive dude just doesn't mash.
Jason Motte and Chad Billingsly are just so eye catching to also take flyers on. Talk about depth & potential payoff. Morrow as well but a little less so, I'd be interested in him out of the bullpen however.
Morrow who has all the talent but control would be enrolled in Mickey Calloway school of pitching and who knows.
Billingsley who has been around winning with LA would be a good.
Josh Johnson I have always like as a fourth choice.
I think that it would be a long shot but Michael Taylor - 6-5 250 outfielder maybe sign as invitee to camp and see what he can do.
Aguilar needs to be given an opportunity and that can only happen if Swisher can play the OF or is dealt. Van Slyke is still my favorite realistic trade target. Just as important as adding someone like Van Slyke is getting rid of contracts like Murphy, Swisher, Raburn, and Bourn. I would atleast make every effort to unload two of them even if it meant eating a good portion of their salaries. Raburn you can just release.
I really like Armstrong, he's near big league ready. He profiles as a back of bullpen arm and possible future closer.
I think it's a possibility they move an arm or two and pick up one or two in trades.
Cespides would be real nice, but at what price, for one year.
Hart would be a nice pick up as well. Has been too good in the past to be written off.
Still like Van Slyke though. Would look good in our outfield.
Nice article Sam. More things to think about, that's for sure !!!!
I'd love to get Billingsley on a cheap 1 or 2 year deal. Low risk high reward signing for the rotation. I know we don't need a starter but I think he has too much upside to pass on him if cheap.
I might be in the minority but I don't think we need more pen help unless we get someone on a great deal or get some depth minor league deals
I'm not sure he fits under the radar, but Jung Ho Kang would be an interesting addition for the Tribe. It will cost a posting fee, but whatever, the amount, it's likely to fall under $5M. Kang has RH power, and experience at multiple positions. He profiles more as a UTL guy according to some, others think he might be a everyday player.