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Winter Meetings Recap: Indians shopping list is short

Winter Meetings Recap: Indians shopping list is short
Chris Antonetti (Photo: AP)
December 11, 2014
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The Winter Meetings out in San Diego have wrapped up, but the news and rumors continue to trickle in. If anything of substance regarding the Indians has legs I will provide the update on Twitter @TonyIBI and in the newswire to the right. If anything more significant gains legs I will surely post it to the front page as well.

- This is a very strange offseason for the Indians as it is the first time in some time that I can remember the Indians not having a free agent that they could potentially lose. The only player eligible for free agency is Jason Giambi and the feeling is that he is retiring anyway – plus he has little value anyway if lost to another team. Because of that the news is one-sided this offseason with who the Indians might add to the roster. When you combine the fact that the Indians have no free agents and have a pretty full roster for the 2015 season that they control for the next two years, the Indians are not going to be very big news makers this offseason.

- In this case no news is a good thing as the team as-is can win 90 games next season. Obviously, the Indians will continue to look for ways to add to their starting pitching depth with some non-guaranteed minor league deals like they have with Scott Kazmir and Aaron Harang in the past. They will also likely move one of Nick Swisher or David Murphy this offseason to make room in the outfield for Brandon Moss. But outside of that there does not seem to be a whole lot they may do beyond those depth minor league signings.

- With that in mind, what resulted in San Diego was the Indians being very quiet and patiently waiting out the market. While teams like the Dodgers, White Sox, Red Sox, Athletics, Marlins, Phillies and others dominated the news front with several moves and lots of rumors, the Indians were absent from most of the talk. After stealing the show at the outset of the meetings on Monday with the Brandon Moss trade the Indians were never really heard from again over the four days. Sure, they have been linked to some players like Alex Rios and Brett Anderson, but that’s it. Again, it shows a team that has a pretty full roster that they like and that they are looking for ways to complement it beyond the 40-man roster with minor league signings as well as doing their due diligence checking in on a few guys they may have interest in on a Major League deal. I still think they end up trading David Murphy for a minor league prospect and then use his spot on the roster for a Major League signing in the bullpen or right-handed bat.

- Also, don’t sleep on the possibility the Indians keep Murphy and everyone else in the outfield into spring training. With Swisher and Moss coming off surgery, a guy like Murphy might be good to keep around as a backup plan in the event either of them have to open the season on the disabled list. If both prove healthy I am sure the Indians could deal Murphy to a team at the end of spring training or at any point during the season.

- Again, the one thing lost on the fans in all of this is the Indians didn't need to do a lot to improve this offseason. Most of their moves happened in July when they dealt Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera and settled in on Jose Ramirez at shortstop and guys like Carlos CarrascoTrevor BauerT.J. House and Danny Salazar in the rotation. Unlike a lot of teams, they are not losing anyone in free agency so don't have to fill in for those losses. The Indians holes are more defined and smaller. I mean, really, do they need to sign a starter to a Major League deal? No. Do they need to sign a reliever to a Major League deal? Probably not, though everyone knows how I would still explore a value late inning signing. Do they need a bat? Yes, but they went and got Moss so that hole has probably been filled. Do they have room for another bat? No, at least not until they dump one of Murphy or Swisher.  Unless they ripped the roster apart with a big trade the Indians really only had room for two moves this offseason. They have made one move and I expect one more Major League move (and of course lots of minor league deals).

- This is not Indians related but I wanted to note it as a lot of people have asked. The Dodgers completed a trade sending outfielder Matt Kemp and catcher Tim Federowicz to the Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandal, right-handed pitcher Joe Wieland and right-handed pitcher Zach Eflin. The Dodgers are also sending $32 million in cash to cover some of the $107 million left on Kemp’s five year deal. In the end the Padres got one of the game’s best power hitters for what amounts to a solid starting catcher and two potential back of the rotation four or five starters. Oh, and with the money they will essentially pay Kemp $15 million a year for the next five seasons. Wow, that’s a steal. I know Kemp brings some injury concern, but that’s a bat that I hope Indians GM Chris Antonetti at least checked into as he would have been a perfect solution to the Indians right field and middle of the order right-hand bat woes. It would also be one hell of a PR move as he’s one of those “must-see” players in the game. The Indians surely could have matched a deal if they were motivated to do so, and in the end they probably weren’t because they would have to move Nick Swisher’s contact – something that is nearly impossible to do - and gutted some of their depth. Still, you wonder what might have been if Swisher’s contract was not on the books….

- The Rule 5 Draft came and went on Thursday afternoon with 14 players selected in the Major League phase, 30 players selected in the Triple-A phase and no players selected in the Double-A phase. While there was some concern the Indians would lose a player in any of the three phases, in the end the Indians did not lose a single player.

- The Indians 40-man roster was full so they could not select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, but they did select right-handed pitcher Delvi Francisco from the Phillies in the Triple-A phase. The Triple-A and Double-A phase is a bit different from the Major League phase as the Indians simply paid the $12,000 fee to make the pick and Francisco is their full property going forward. There are no roster restrictions that would result in him going back to the Phillies if they were not met. He is an Indian until they release or trade him or he becomes a six year minor league free agent.

- Francisco is a 22-year old athletic right-handed pen arm who won’t impress with the stats. The Indians interest in him is all about his stuff and low risk gamble that they can maybe make something out of him. Last season in 30 combined appearances at Short-A Williamsport (8 games) and Low-A Lakewood (22 games) he went 3-3 with an 7.44 ERA and in 52.0 innings allowed 56 hits, 2 homers, 32 walks and had 47 strikeouts. He was originally signed by the Phillies as an outfielder and played there in his first two pro seasons from 2010-2011 but was converted to the mound in 2012.  He is a project but is someone who has the potential to have two plus pitches. He has a nice 92-94 MPH fastball that he can get up to 96-97 MPH when he reaches back for extra and he has the makings of a plus slider that sits at 83-84 MPH with some good tilt. He is still very new to pitching and does not yet know all of the nuances that go into it with reading swings, setting up hitters, exploiting weaknesses of hitters. Also, his delivery mechanics still need a lot of work and that fastball command needs a lot of refining.  Not much should be expected here as he is a project, but a change of scenery could help him as a new voice and some new ideas with his mechanics could be all that is needed to hone in on that fastball command. He’s a low level prospect, but is an arm to keep an eye on with the quality of those two pitches he has. The only question is whether he will ever throw enough strikes to show how truly effective they are.

- Former Indians right-handed pitcher Justin Masterson signed a one year $9.5 million deal with the Red Sox on Thursday. His market value took a nose dive last season when he struggles with injury and consistency, so he is looking to re-establish it with a good season in an environment he knows. He was originally drafted and developed by the Red Sox and pitched for them for a few seasons before being traded to the Indians in July 2009.

- Former Indians outfielder Nyjer Morgan is going back overseas as he has signed with the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization. He spent 2013 in Japan before returning stateside to play with the Indians last season. He impressed in limited opportunities with the Indians but injured his knee and was released in early August.

- The Indians are expected to announce a new manager for Short-A Mahoning Valley in the very near future. Last season Ted Kubiak managed the club but his contract was not renewed. The club appears to be paving the way for a new face in player development, one I rumored a few months back could end up being Jason Giambi. Giambi wants to manage in the big leagues and some people behind the scenes have hinted to me that he is a possibility for a manager job with them in the minors. There is also a chance that Giambi could fill another role in player development or even become the Double-A Akron manager if Dave Wallace is named the new bullpen coach in Cleveland.

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

Rich S.
December 12, 2014 - 8:48 PM EST
Am I the only one shocked that Masterson got such a large guaranteed salary on a one-year deal? His ERA was almost 6.00 and he ended up in the bullpen for St. Louis. I thought a maximum that he would be offered is 5 mil. I'm happy from him since he is such a nice guy and wish him the best. But that seemed ludicrous.
December 12, 2014 - 7:02 PM EST
Again, the one thing lost on the fans in all of this is the Indians didn't need to do a lot to improve this offseason.

What a laugh. This is company-speak taken to the nth degree.
December 12, 2014 - 2:05 PM EST
Homer, I wouldn't be s quick to relagate Colon as a BOR pitcher just yet. There is more upside than that and the same could probably be said about Merrit too. Overall, the system could could use a big arm or two.

A perspective that has come to mind for me is assessing Swisher's past performances. I've made mention that he performs best when not looked upon as the most feared bat in the lineup. With the aquisition of Moss, Santana hopefully performing up to standard in both halves of the season, a rebound from Kipnis, and the emergence of guys like Brantley and Gomes, Swisher can once again use his surrounding cast to perform better. I'm curious to see if it makes a difference or if he is toast. I really don't think he is toast just yet.
December 12, 2014 - 2:04 PM EST
One thing I was interested in with this club in the offseason was how they would address the defensive woes of last season. Dealing Cabrera and inserting Ramirez, and possibly Lindor down the road, should help improve the defense. The rest of the position players are average to below average defenders. Gomes was sloppy at the start of last season and should prove to be a solid defender for the club moving forward and with Bourn hopefully healthy the outfield might get a small boost but other then that can we expect this club to be a frustratingly poor defensive team again? Adding a power bat is certainly a need but can this club do anything to improve its defense this offseason?
December 12, 2014 - 1:32 PM EST
I know of Kubiak and Phil Clark being let go as their contracts weren't renewed. There are close to naming a Mahoning Valley manager to replace Kubiak. Hoynes said that they have two minor league hitting coach positions open to fill before coaching staffs are announced. Did someone else leave?
December 12, 2014 - 12:20 PM EST
my fellow blogger Homer;
As for being devoid of any front of the rotation starters, a pick from the '14 draft is allready there i will predict that he will pitch in progressive field before he is legal to drink at one of the neighborhood taverns near progressive. He wont be 21 yet! even though he is a bit small he has all the ingredients you look as a TOR starter. Baseball America has him 4th in a very deep farm system and with his stuff and moxie he could come very quick. A big part of maturation of any major leaguer is mental and with his uncle Gary he has the sounding board to get thru the mental anxioush of growing into a big leaguer. Stroman at toronto is no bigger than sheffield and justin is built like a block of granite and health permitting he will come real quick and teams will be clamoring for him, and being a lefty even adds to his value. so on 12/12/14 when he is 18 i predict that before reaching 21 he will have chief wahoo on his uniform.
December 12, 2014 - 10:11 AM EST

They are set up well....honestly, they could go into next season with the roster set as is and contend for the AL Central. That's a tremendous job by CA and company to have this org. this ready this early in the offseason. Think back just 2-3 yrs ago and we were looking at a farm system many said was void of talent. They've had a cpl very good drafts positioning them them quite well. The one thing lacking is SP depth and upper tier qlty arms. That is to say, there are good arms near ready, but frankly, Will Roberts, Joe Colon, Ryan Merritt, and Adam Plutko are all BOR type arms. There's value there, but, they need to begin to add a cpl FOR type arms to the system. That's for another day, as they will have two top 40 picks and a third in the top 75. Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing them draft a cpl of high end arms. That doesn't necessarily mean HS arms.
December 12, 2014 - 7:41 AM EST
What I'm liking about the Indians is the fact they'are looking to add to this team and have assets to trade without touching the farm system.

The depth of the team and farm system will allow this team to survive injuries, under performance for the short and long term... just keep having good drafts
December 12, 2014 - 4:48 AM EST
How do you know Bourn and Murphy "aren't wanted"? I said they can cut Raburn anytime and made no mention of Swisher being useful.
December 12, 2014 - 12:56 AM EST
I also am a little bummed in not getting Kemp, him hitting #4 behind Brantley and in front of Moss and hopefully the DH option keeping him healthy for 5 years would have been nice. However the person I am most bummed about not getting is Heaney and his package for JRam.
December 12, 2014 - 12:54 AM EST
Why are you disappointed in the inability to get rid of players that are not wanted? You pretty much are bummed the Indians are not able to pull a Jedi mind trick on another team.
December 11, 2014 - 9:57 PM EST
Aquisitiion wise, I'm real happy with getting Moss. Where my disappointment lies is with the inability to rid themselves of one or two of Murphy, Raburn, Swisher, or Bourn. Not to worry, there is still plenty of time. Raburn isn't worth anything and doesn't cost much so a DFA is in order there. Murphy has to be useful to someone and the same could probably be said about Bourn.

I would like to see them add Rios to play RF with Brantley in CF, and Moss in LF, but that won't happen until someone is moved as there is a logjam now. I'm curious as to what CA's plan is.
December 11, 2014 - 9:47 PM EST
I hope you are wrong matt. I personally think bauer and salazar can be better than they showed in 2014. This is different than 1987. The 86 indians were a mirage the 13 and 14 indianss certainly are not mirages.
matt underwood
December 11, 2014 - 8:17 PM EST
the fact that we are paying swisher as much as the padres are paying kemp makes me sick - hope swisher can come back and be decent.

rotation has potential to be incredible but i think it also has the chance to be 1987 all over again. loads of potential but im still gun shy on anyone after kluber.
Ron Vollmar
December 11, 2014 - 8:02 PM EST
The two players Alex Rios and left handed pitcher Brett Anderson appear to be two free agents the Indians are targeting. How much or what range of $ would these players cost in 2015?
December 11, 2014 - 7:59 PM EST
Hey Tony, any backstory on Kubiak?
December 11, 2014 - 7:38 PM EST
Good decisions in the winter meetings by Antonetti. Rios just seems way too expensive for a modest upgrade, especially when you're hoping for a bounce back year. I'd rather see if Swisher, Murphy and Raburn can rebound and put that extra $6-8 million in our team piggy bank.

Anderson would be a perfect fit as a long man/spot starter with tremendous potential. Our starting and lefty relief depth would be awesome and after Soto wasn't selected, we could probably trade Scrabble, who's due for a raise. Doesn't seem like a huge increase in payroll, assuming Anderson doesn't get a large deal.
December 11, 2014 - 4:59 PM EST
I am not the least bit miffed that we didnt make a deal in the meatings. Meat vs meet was intentional.
signing a free agent such as Rios might be nice however he requires us to expose a player off the 40 man roster unless he does a minor league with invite and guarantee that he makes the roster and a lot more money than most minor league signings. Other than that not interested. As for adding another depth starter the odds are that he would have to go to C-bus or TJ House would have too and to me house has pitched himself into a guaranteed spot to begin the season and it is very possible that he will expand the video concept he started with kevin cash. it gives him a visual of what his pitches are doing and allows him to make an immediate adjustment to correct any flaws. As for the other 3 starters behind Klubs they all have BIGTIME ARMS they dont grow on trees. Having tomlin & Zac Mac, unless he ends up to be 8th inning stud, we have two insurance policies of semi proven starters and if magrin pitches even close to the way he pitched in Toronto I count 7 or 8. I personally hope ZMac becomes intregal to the back end of the pen. But we shouldnt need too many insurance policies with such a young rotation. I'll be 65 in january and havent seen many rotations with this youth and talent
if i ever saw one at all. Like i said in previous blog this rotation could be a pitching quality to match the offense of the mid to late 90 at the Jake and need i remind (1995---------100--44 which is in the top 10 records in the modern era which is like 100 yrs ago!!!!!

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