The Cleveland Indians were expecting a lot more out of their 2008 season than what they got. What they did get was a .500 team with a lot of injuries. The Tribe lost the meat and potatoes of their lineup when Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez went down. They also had to live the final 3 months of the season without CC Sabathia, as he was traded to the Brewers for a bevy of prospects including stud left field prospect Matt LaPorta. This team was just flat out bad in the first half of the season, but they rallied back in the second half and got to up to .500. If the Indians can play the way they did to end 2008, or the way they did the entire 2007 season, they’ll be in the playoffs.
They knew that they could compete when they went into the offseason, and GM Mark Shapiro knew that he had to improve the bullpen and tweak the offense if the Tribe were to compete. So, he went out and did just that. The Indians signed Kerry Wood to a 2 year, $20 million contract to be their closer. Then they dealt fourth outfielder Franklin Gutierrez to the Mariners as part of a three way trade that netted them middle reliever Joe Smith from the Mets. Those two additions, plus a bounce back season from Rafael Betancourt could lead to a stellar bullpen in ’09.
Shapiro also addressed the lineup when he traded 3 young pitching prospects to the Cubs for third/second baseman Mark DeRosa. He’ll be just as good as Casey Blake was, and could be even better. If Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner bounce back the Indians could have a very powerful lineup on their hands. That’s a big “if,” but at least one bouncing back is necessary to the Indians hopes of contention
The rotation will miss CC Sabathia, but Cliff Lee is still going to be a monster. They key to the pitching staff is Fausto Carmona. He was injured to end the season, but pitched very poorly before he got hurt. If that injury is behind him, and he is able to bounce back to the dominant pitcher that he was in 2007, this starting rotation is going to be just fine. Jake Westbrook should be back around the All-Star break to help solidify the team’s pitching staff.
As you can see, there are a lot of questions about this Indian club. Will Hafner return to form? How about Martinez? Carmona? Betancourt? They are all question marks, but if at least half of those players bounce back the Indians will be in the thick of the AL Central race. If all of them bounce back, you’ll see a 96 win team again.
The Indians have signed Kerry Wood to a 2 year, 20 million dollar contract. This looks like a really nice signing to me. Woody can come in a be the great closer that the Indians need. It eats up 10 million of the 15 million they had available this offseason, but I think that it’s worth it. This guy was very good last year and has the stuff to be a completely dominant closer. This is a great move on the Indians part.
Now that there is only 5 million left to spend, it looks like the Tribe will look for an infielder. Mark Grudzielanek could make a lot of sense if he is convinced the Indians can compete. Orlando Hudson now looks like he’s out of their price range. Ray Durham would be an OK aquisition if Grudzielanek cannot be had. There’s not much left at second base past those two. Not many shortstops either unless the Tribe can afford Rafael Furcal or Orlando Cabrera, which is unlikely. Joe Crede or Ty Wiggington make a lot of sense for the third base hole, but those players might also be out of the Indians price range.
If no infielder can be aquired, the Tribe could look at a cheap starting pitching signing. There is not much depth in that rotation. Freddy Garcia, or maybe even a return of Paul Byrd could make a lot of sense. Brad Penny could be another option.
Kerry Wood was a good signing by the Indians as they attempt to compete for the AL Central crown next year. This division should be wide open.
I’m just upset that Wood didn’t return to my Cubbies.
- Mets get: JJ Putz, Jeremy Reed, Sean Green
- Indians get: Joe Smith, Luis Valbuena
- Mariners get: Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez, Mike Carp, Franklin Gutierrez, pitcher Maikel Cleto, outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, pitcher Jason Vargas
- Mets lose: Aaron Heilman, Joe Smith, Endy Chavez, Mike Carp, Maikel Cleto, Ezquiel Carrera, Jason Vargas
- Indians lose: Franklin Gutierrez
- Mariners lose: JJ Putz, Jeremy Reed, Sean Green, Luis Valbuena
I absolutely love this trade for the Mets. They add two lights-out closers cheaply. Francisco Rodriguez got only 36 million and then they nab Putz for a bunch of mid-tier players. Could you imagine how they’ll fare in the playoffs? (I’m not saying that they’ll make it, but if they do) They could have Johan Santana go 7 lights-out innings to set it up for Putz and K-Rod to end the game. That’s sick stuff. Green and Reed also add depth to the ‘pen and outfield.
It’s not like they sold the farm, either. They gave up a lot of players, but none are anything special. Smith and Heilman were fairly solid bullpen pieces, but Heilman is coming off an awful year while Smith seemed to get lucky. His peripheral stats were terrible. Endy Chavez was a nice little fourth outfielder, but it doesn’t kill your team to lose a fourth outfielder. Besides, Angel Pagan or Reed could do just as well. Mike Carp was never going to be the Mets’ first baseman. He has some solid potential, but they would never take the below-average power he would of brought to first base because of all their money. Carrera has bad stats, but he does have speed. Vargas is doing really good in the Winter Leagues, but he’s been unsuccessful in his trips to the big leagues. Cleto has high upside because of his great stuff, but his stats weren’t anything special. Still, it is tuff to trade
a young prospect who throws a 98 MPH fastball to go along with a solid slider. He could become a closer one day if he gets his slider under control. I really like this trade, because none of these players would have had a big impact on the Mets in 2009, and probably even beyond.
It seems like a decent trade for the Indians. It was obvious that Gutierrez wasn’t in their long-term plans, and they got a pretty solid return for him. Smith was a good reliever last year, and should still be solid despite bad peripheral stats. Valbuena was solid in the minors, and could become a solid utility player eventually. This is a decent swap for the Tribe.
I’ll be honest by saying that I don’t like this deal for the Mariners. There is not one high upside player in this trade aside from Cleto, but he’s only got one great pitch. I suppose that Heilman could bounce back and become a solid back-end starter for the Ms, but he could also blow up again. I don’t see any of the outfielders —
Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, or Ezequiel Carrera — becoming anything better than a fourth outfielder. Maybe one of them becomes a fringe center fielder. Mike Carp looks like he will have an above average OBP, but his lack of power doesn’t make him a very attractive prospect. Jason Vargas is basically your AAAA player, and that’s being generous. I’m just not understanding why the Mariners felt they had to trade JJ Putz without getting a package with some solid prospects. I would’ve waited until the trade-deadline.
Whew! That was a long post, but it had to be because it was such a huge trade.
Rafael Furcal has been a hot topic among baseball writers, but not among baseball teams. They have been disappearing from the Furcal sweepstakes after the A’s dropped out. The Indians could be interested, however.
I’m surprised that the A’s dropped out. They seemed like the perfect fit for Furcal, especially after the Giants signed Edgar Renteria. They offered him 4 years 35-40 million. Furcal declined, and the A’s ended their pursuit. I’m sure talks will start up again, partly because teams are dropping out of the Furcal sweepstakes.
There no longer seems to be a great fit for Rafael. The Dodgers don’t want to pay the amount of money he wants, and even if he came back with a smaller demand it’s possible the Dodgers could decide to fill different holes with their money. The Giants are out, and the A’s won’t up their offer. Just like that, the top three bidders are all out.
Some wild cards could enter the mix, however. Like mentioned above, the Indians have shown interest. Furcal would make so much sense for their team. A signing would allow them to move Grady Sizemore down to the #3 hole in the lineup, greatly improving the overall team. Jhonny Peralta could move to third base in order to accommodate such a move. The Indians seem like the team that could jump in and steal Furcal right off the market.
The Twins could also make sense. They have 15 million to spend, and don’t have much speed in their lineup. They pulled out of the Casey Blake sweepstakes (more on that later) almost right after the A’s dropped out on Furcal. This could just be a coincidence, but you never know. It seems to make a lot of sense to me.
The Cubs want to add a leadoff man and almost had Furcal signed when he last entered free agency 3 years ago. He still fits great on their team. Ryan Theriot would move to second base, and Mark DeRosa would move to right field. Adding Furcal to their already impressive lineup would make them a much better team, which is hard to do when you win 97 games. The only issue is payroll. The Cubs only have about 3 million left to spend after arbitration raises if my calculations are correct. Jason Marquis could be traded, but it would still be a stretch to fit Furcal in. This is possible nontheless.
So we have learned that Furcal won’t sign with the A’s unless he takes less than what he wants, his market is not exactly booming, and the Indians, Twins, and Cubs could be possible dark horses.
The Indians have 3 big holes to fill this offseason, but limited resources. Can 15 million buy a quality player for the rotation, infield, and bullpen? The Indians will have to get creative with trades or free agent signings. It doesn’t seem like the Tribe’s way to spend big money on a starter, so expect most of the money to go toward the bullpen and/or infield. Instead of paying for a top notch closer like Francisco Rodriguez or Brian Fuentes, it would be smarter to give the job to a set-up man like Juan Cruz. Trevor Hoffman is the exception because he is a possible bargain. So, 4-7 million goes toward the ‘pen. A reclamation project could be imported on the cheap. Freddy Garcia could make sense for 5 million. With the remaining money, a guy like Mark Grudzielanek or Joe Crede could be added on a short-term deal. This could be the way it happens; they sign Hoffman, Grudzielanek, and Garcia all to short-term contracts. It seems like the thing Mark Shapiro would do: no risk, some upside.
A big free agent could be signed, however. Orlando Hudson finds himself in a bad market for second baseman, and could come at a below market price. Maybe for 8 million or so he could make sense. Then use 7 million on Hoffman and hope for the best with your starting pitching. Maybe even sign a guy like Jon Garland. Use the remaining money on Grudzielanek or Cruz and settle with internal options for the other positions.
The other possibility would be to make a trade. Kelly Shoppach could be moved to fill one of the holes. With so many teams interested in catching help, he could draw something nice. If they believe that Michael Bowden can make a good impression in his rookie year, he could be aquired for Shoppach. Ty Wiggington from the Astros is an option if other pieces are involved. Don’t bring up Jose Valverde; he will cost the same as Trevor Hoffman for the same amount of years, one. The Tribe would be much better off with Hoffman and Shoppach rather than Valverde and Ryan Garko. A deal could be worked out if the Tigers offered Placido Palonco, but that makes little sense for Detroit. So maybe it would be smarter to just keep Shoppach.
In that case, the other catcher could be moved. Victor Martinez has two years left on his contract and could be a very appealing option to many teams. He’ll earn only 5.2 million next year, so it wouldn’t clear much salary, but think about the possible return. I recently wrote about how Victor Martinez for Mike Lowell made sense.
So it looks like Indians’ GM Mark Shapiro will have a very busy offseason in front of him. He will have to get creative if he truly wants to fill all of his holes.
Of course this wouldn’t happen unless the Red Sox aquire Mark Teixera, but if they did, I think Victor Martinez for Mike Lowell would make a lot of sense for both teams.
The Red Sox, flush with cash, would pay the remainder of Lowell’s contract. They could easily afford this. Let’s assume Teixera gets 20 million per year. Martinez will get paid 5.2 million this year. That equals 25 million, leaving the Sox with 10 million extra to sign a fourth outfielder with or just sit on until the deadline. Martinez is a great addition to the team, and that becomes the best lineup in the MLB if you add Tex and V-Mart.
This trade also makes sense for the Indians because they get to aquire a great third baseman for no cost at all. They actually dump salaryb by making this move. It would leave them with 20 million to spend to fill the closer and starting pitching holes. Brian Fuentes and Jon Garland could be two nice aquisitions. So, the Indians would be adding Lowell, Fuentes, and Garland by just subtracting Martinez. They would then give Ryan Garko another shot at first base. Or move Matt LaPorta to the cold corner and sign a left fielder instead of Fuentes or Garland. This idea is much better than the other option. Having Mark Grudzielanek, Trevor Hoffman, and Freddy Garcia while keeping Martinez is not as good as the above mentioned idea.
So I think this trade has the potential to be a big win-win for both teams. Tell me what you think in the comments.
Believe it or not, Trevor Hoffman will not be returning to the Padres next season. The Padres offered him a low ball 1 year, 4 million dollar contract with a 4 million club option. The guy’s a Hall-Of-Famer, you’ve got to offer more than that, at least for sentimental reasons. I know they don’t want to raise payroll, but with Jake Peavy likely to be dealt, they would be able to afford him. Anyway, now that Hoffman won’t be a Padre, he’ll hit free agency. All teams in need of a closer seem like fair play. The Indians showed interested back when Trevor last hit free agency. They still need a closer now, and I think they make a lot of sense. It’s possible, but I think the Mets would want a younger closer. The Tigers could check in as well. The Cardinals and Brewers are possibilities. If none if these teams suit him, then Hoffman could decide to retire. It seems like he wants to continue playing even though he won’t be a Padre. I just can’t believe he isn’t going back.