Monday, October 24, 2005

Playing Some “9” Ball

Using the criteria that the Indians are looking for in a RF – a veteran hitter, preferably right handed, who can be placed in the lineup (either behind Hafner or behind Martinez) to give the Tribe another run-producer – this is what I’ve come up with. I’ve ranked them in terms of productivity, not necessarily availablility.
1) Pat Burrell - .281 – 32 – 117 - .892
We said that we are looking for a run-producing RH outfielder and Burrell is certainly that. The reason he may be available is the Jim Thome/Ryan Howard situation in Philly. Thome, unless he is traded, is only capable of playing 1B; leading to speculation that Ryan Howard could be moved to the outfield. Burrell’s contract (about $7.5M for the next few years) isn’t too outlandish and he can hit, but the Phillies would be looking for a heck of a lot more than Jason Davis and Brandon Phillips for Pat the Bat. They’d probably ask for Lee, or at least Westbrook and some prime prospects. Another downside to Burrell is an alleged attitude problem or “lack of heart” (so says Larry Bowa), but the same was said of Scott Rolen when he was in Philly, and he seemed to be OK once out of the glare of the Philly press.
2) Bobby Abreu - .286 – 24 – 102 - .879
See above for the reason that Abreu may be available, though it’s very unlikely. Abreu is a serious masher, who may be beyond what the Indians are looking for. Don’t get me wrong, his numbers would look good in the lineup, but at $13+M for the next couple of years, I don’t see Shapiro taking much interest in Abreu.
3) Cliff Floyd - .273 – 34 – 98 - .863
With the Mets most likely playing Victor Diaz in RF and with their top prospect Lastings Milledge on the cusp of the Majors, Cliff Floyd might be available. His OPS and run-producing bat would look awfully good in the Tribe lineup. He is LH, but his $6.5M salary makes him a more than palatable. The Mets aren’t likely to just give Floyd away (particularly with two largely unproven commodities as their corner outfielders as the alternatives), but I’m just trying to give an idea of middle-of-the order hitters that may be out there.

As a sidebar as we move on, now do we understand the problem of “just going out and getting that big RH bat”? Last time I checked, Pujols, Sheffield, and Chipper aren’t exactly available.

4) Kevin Mench - .264 – 25 – 73 - .797
The departure of John Hart leaves some uncertainty in Arlington, as it remains to be seen if new GM Jon Daniels (who is 28, by the way) is from the John Hart Knock ‘Em Sock ‘Em, Worry About Pitching Later school, or if he actually values pitching. The Rangers are stacked in their infield with hitting and seem content to go with David Delucci and Gary Matthews in OF (with prospect Adrian Gonzalez possibly getting a look).
That leaves Mench as the potential trade bait to bring in some pitching to a team that counts Chris Young as their ace going into 2006. The Rangers are sure to overpay for some FA pitcher (A.J. Burnett?) whose contract will replace Chan Ho Park’s as the albatross around the team’s neck, but they need depth, in both their rotation and bullpen. This may be the ideal trade partner for the Tribe, with a history of similar trades (pitching for hitting) on the books. Although, with the fleecing of Travis Hafner for Ryan Drese and Einar Diaz, I wonder if Daniels would be gun-shy.
The Rangers might be interested in a combination of David Riske, Jason Davis, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Tallet, Billy Traber, Kaz Tadano, and lower level pitching prospects to fortify their weak pitching staff.
Mench has been rumored in the past to be on Shapiro’s radar, and though he is arbitration eligible, he made $345K this past year, which would fit in nicely to the budget. Even if the Tribe were to give him a Victor/Hafner type deal (with less years), it would be a coup to put the 28-year-old RH Mench in the 5 spot, between Pronk and the Stick, for the next few years.
5) Mike Cameron - .273 – 12 – 39 - .819
With Cameron not even guaranteed a starting job for next year (thanks to the emergence of Victor Diaz), Cameron could probably be gotten on the cheap from the Mets, looking to unload his $7+M salary. The two-time Gold Glover’s defense has never been questioned (except perhaps by Carlos Beltran’s face one afternoon last year), but his offensive numbers drastically declined last year. That being said, a return to the AL might do some good for him. He did hit 30 HR with 80 RBI in 2004, so he may just need to be placed in the right situation. On the downside, he tends to be a windmill, averaging 152 K’s per year (Blake, who always seemed to be whiffing, had only 116 last year for comparison’s sake), and he doesn’t always necessarily hit for average (.249 career hitter).
6) Wily Mo Pena - .254 – 19 – 51 - .796 (in 311 AB)
See the Sean Casey analysis for why Wily Mo may be available for the right package this offseason. The 23-year-old certainly has power (with 51 HR in 830 AB), but, again his K totals (averages 154 a season) and his average (.248 lifetime hitter) remind us that with power potential, there are always drawbacks and risks. His salary of $440K is certainly attractive, and he may blossom when surrounded by a talented lineup and regular AB, but the Reds have been known to ask for the moon and the stars in trade negotiations. In their eyes, C.C. for Wily Mo might be an even trade. Also, the youngster Pena is certainly not the veteran presence that has been clamored for.
Interestingly, similar hitters to Pena through the age of 23 in history include Jesse Barfield, Rocky Colavito, Harmon Killebrew…Pete Incaviglia and Dave Kingman. This is one where Shapiro better have a pretty thick folio from scouts, full of glowing reviews, before making a move on Wily Mo. If he did, however, make no mistake that I would be the first online to order a jersey with WILY MO on the back.
7) Austin Kearns - .240 – 18 – 67 - .785 (in 387 AB)
See the Sean Casey/Wily Mo analysis for why Kearns may be available (if the Reds ever thought that decent pitching would help their cause), and he may be more attractive than Pena because of his consistency. Despite a lousy 2005 (by his standards), Kearns has averaged 24 HR, 95 RBI, a .266 BA, and a .821 OPS for his career. Like most on this list he swings and misses too much (average of 145 K’s per 162 games), but the 25-year-old may be just what the Tribe lineup is in need of: a solid RH bat who can produce runs and serve as a bridge between Hafner and the Stick in the lineup. As stated above, the Reds may ask for a lot to acquire Kearns (Gammons reported that the Reds were looking for 3-4 Major League ready prospects when Kearns was DEMOTED in the middle of the season!), but the young pitching depth of the Tribe may be enough to pry Kearns loose.
I believe that he is arbitration eligible (playing for $930K), but see the Mench analysis for how Shapiro would likely handle that dilemma. After Mench, I would say that Kearns might be the best fit for the Tribe. He may not bring the WOW factor of a bigger name, but he may go further than that bigger name in the solidification of the lineup.
8) Jay Gibbons - .277 – 26 – 79 - .833
Despite the fact that he looks like Sloth from The Goonies (OK, that was mean), Gibbons is a consistent hitter with some nice power numbers. He averages 27 HR and 89 RBI per season, without the gaudy K numbers (only 84 a season); so he actually might be a nice option. Whether he’s available from the O’s (with new VP Mike Flanagan in charge) will depend on where the Orioles decide to waste their money this off-season (Let’s see Sammy Sosa? No we tried that…Sidney Ponson? No, we tried that too) and if Gibbons is deemed worthy of playing in Camden by Peter Angelos. Though he is LH, he would fit nicely into the lineup behind the Stick, ahead of Jelly Belliard.
9) Aubrey Huff - .261 – 22 – 92 - .749
The crowded outfield in Tampa Bay becomes more crowded with the return of Rocco Baldelli and the imminent promotion of Delmon Young. Factor in Carl Crawford, Joey Gaithright, Jonny Gomes, and Damien Hollins PLUS the possibility that B.J. Upton may end up in the outfield, and it’s plain to see that Huff is not long for the Tampa Bay outfield. Huff, a LH, has averaged 26 HR and 96 RBI over his 6 MLB seasons, and his strikeout numbers (average of about 85) make Huff an attractive option. His reasonable $4.9M salary and versatility may move Huff onto the short list, but the possibility remains that the Rays could keep Huff as a 1B. The Rays need more pitching and a package of some young talented arms could pry Huff out of Florida.
10) Trot Nixon - .275 –13 – 67 - .804
Last season’s numbers don’t exactly dazzle (nor do his 2004 numbers), but Nixon is a solid RF whose numbers average 23 HR and 88 RBI. Whether his career is on the downswing, or if he’s worth $7.5M per would be the questions. He is 31, so his best days could be behind him, but his grittiness and experience could play out well on the young Indians. The Red Sox are sure to shake some things up, calling up some talented youngsters and signing some big FA’s, so Nixon could be available. The Red Sox could use some bullpen help and some young arms to groom for the rotation. Does that sound like Riske and Davis?

For comparison’s sake:
Casey Blake - .241 – 23 – 58 – .746

So, again, what are the options presented to the Tribe in RF? Here would be my Plan A and contingency plans

Plan A: Sign a Right-handed RF
Place into lineup behind Hafner, in front of Martinez. The order in which I would pursue the players listed above (based on productivity and availability, or what it would take to get them) would be:

Plan B: Sign a Left-handed RF
Place into lineup behind Martinez, in front of Belliard. The order in which I would pursue the players listed above (based on productivity and availability, or what it would take to get them) would be:

Plan C: Play Casey Blake
And pray that 2005 was an aberration, rather than a true indication of the player that he is. Remember that Blake hit 28 HR with 88 RBI in 2004, so he may have just needed to work out some kinks…or 2005 exposed him as something else: just a solid big leaguer, not good enough to merit a spot in a big league lineup every day.

I think it’s fairly obvious that the answer in RF for 2006 lies outside the Indians. With the only attractive FA outfielders being Giles, Sanders, and maybe Juan Encarnacion, the RF will probably come via a trade.

If I missed anyone on the trade options list, let me know. It’s difficult to determine what each and every team is thinking going into the off-season, but the players listed above have a better than average shot of being available.

Next, we’ll take a look at trade bait that the Tribe can throw into the water of trade talks, like the chum of Shark Week going after the Great White.


Cy Slapnicka said...

Bring on Gibbons, his numbers and price are nice....if we can pry him loose! Plus, when Casey plays awful, we can only cuss him. If Gibbons doesn't live up to expectations we can at least pelt him with Baby Ruth bars and yell "heyyyy, youuuu guyyyys!" He could even take the field by swinging in on a vine from the RF foul pole.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got shotgun on the hell bus....

Baltimoran said...

I don't see the O's parting with Gibbons, he's a good "team" guy and management will not do anything to piss off an already pissed off fan base

i say Mench Mench Mench