With all of the crazy things that are flying around in the paper and the Internet in the past few days, it reminds me of the classic Timex Social Club song, Rumors.
With so much happening though, here are some thoughts:
When the PD reported that Paul Byrd was in town to meet with the Tribe brass, it occurred to me that Byrd is the type of pitcher likely to sign with the Tribe: a solid, if unspectacular, starter who will sign for a 2 year - $12M deal and perform solidly for the life of the contract.
The Tribe is looking for a RH to slot between Sabathia and Lee who can give them innings and keep them in games. Loiaza signing with the A’s has set the market (though I think that Oakland overpaid for Loaiza, to go along with every other ridiculous pitching contract handed out so far this offseason), but at least there are some parameters to get a deal done. Pitchers like Byrd and Matt Morris fit into the mold of the Indians’ desire for this year, more so than giving a Millwood or a Burnett a 5-year deal.
Remember that the Indians’ farm system is loaded with young arms, so if you lock up too many pitchers on long-term deals, those young arms never get a chance to prove themselves.
At the beginning of the 2005 season, if someone had told you that B.J. Ryan was going to get $47M on the FA market after the year, you would have thought they were crazy. So, what’s changed? He had one nice year and has great potential as a closer. But a 5-year deal? For that money? No chance.
Reportedly, the Yankees are close to signing Kyle Farnsworth as their set-up guy and the Phillies are making a strong push for Tom Gordon, so those two “targets” may be off the radar very soon. Both players have closed in the past, but have their warts, just like a Wickman, so neither is a sure thing.
On the other hand, a possible HOF closer who was “insulted” by his former team’s initial offer may be just what the doctor ordered. IF Trevor Hoffman is able to baited off of the Left Coast and into Jacobs Field, it would be a major coup for the Indians. Apparently, he’s looking for a 2-year deal worth about $16M with a vesting option for a third year. Considering what the Tribe “allegedly” offered B.J. Ryan, I don’t think that’s an impossible request. Yes, Hoffman is 38 and has had arm trouble, but he does also have a track record and was his usual dominant self last year. Who knows what he might be able to do in the AL. But with the number of closers dwindling, time is of the essence on the Hoffman front.
Wedgie was on the radio over the weekend, singing the praises of Hoffman, using a lot of the same adjectives used about Millwood prior to his signing last year: Veteran, Presence, Clubhouse Leader, Poise. The Hoffman thing could be a replay of the Millwood thing from last offseason, where the Tribe “missed out” on the big names (Pavano, Clement, Wright of last year, Ryan and Wagner of this year) to take a chance on a veteran looking to prove his worth. The fact that Wedge (who normally is so vanilla in interviews) was so over the top in his evaluation of Hoffman makes me think that Hoffman will be the one closing games for the Tribe next year.
Think about this: Would Hoffman have the same effect on the young bullpen (Cabrera, Betancourt, Brown, etc.) that Millwood did last year on the rotation? A future HOF teaching those young arms how to prepare themselves for games, how to get out of jams, how to keep their emotions in check, etc. would be invaluable considering the talent that is out in the pen.
So with one starter taking up about $6M-$7M next year and a closer costing about $8M for next year, you’ve added about $15M to solidify the pitching staff (remember, I’d like to see Cabrera in the Howry role and have the young guns Carmona and Sowers battle for the 5th spot). My thinking is that the Tribe is probably going to add about $20M-$25M in payroll to what is there, so you’ve taken up about 2/3 of it.
The final $5M-$10M goes toward that bat. The two names now being thrown around are Brian Giles (still) and Nomah (new). Despite my feelings for Jimmy Fallon, Ben Affleck, and that whole hack SNL skit that skewered Sawx fans, if Nomar came to the North Coast, I’d be shouting NOMAHHH with the rest of the fans.
Nomar seems to fit into the Indians’ line of reclamation projects (if you want to call them that), or players who have something to prove and are given the opportunity to prove them. I have no problem with Nomar filling the “Tony Phillips role” as Buster Olney suggests, having him move around the field. As a SS, one has to be a pretty good athlete, certainly good enough to play 1B (RF may be another story, even though Kasey Blake acquitted himself nicely to the outfield). There’s one thing that Nomar has always been able to do: drive in runs. The presence of his RH bat between Hafner and the Stick would look great to Tribe fans and like a nightmare to opposing pitchers. But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself because these rumors (about Nomar and Giles) are just that.
Before my final spiel about salaries and perception vs. reality, here’s what the always-perceptive Terry Pluto had to say about the Tribe’s rotation next year from his online newsletter:
• Even without Millwood, I am very optimistic about the Tribe's starting pitching. C.C. Sabathia looks like he'll be a consistent 15-game winner, and Cliff Lee can be the same. Jake Westbrook can win 12-15 games. Most teams would love to build their starting rotation around those three guys. Then the Indians will face a decision on their prospects: Jason Davis, Jeremy Sowers, Fausto Carmona, Brian Tallet and Kaz Tadano. One Tribe executive told me that he believes Carmona is very close to big-league ready. I saw Sowers, and I believe the same is true for him. Tallet is an interesting prospect. I like Tadano, and Davis better in relief.
• One plan for the Tribe might be to sign a modestly priced veteran starter, such as Scott Elarton, for the fourth spot in the rotation, then shuffle through the kids to find a fifth starter. Let's remember how Lee and Westbrook established themselves. It happened because someone said, "These guys have the talent, now let's hand them the ball.''
Finally, I’m tired of hearing all of the talk about whether the Dolans are “going to step to the plate and pay some players or just pay us lip-service.” Last I checked the contracts that have been signed thus far have been ludicrous (see Perez, Neifi and Eyre, Scott), so the question isn’t whether the Indians will pay for their players, it’s whether they’ll pay prudently for their players.
Last year, the Tigers signed Magglio Ordonez and Troy Percival (two players many thought the Indians should have signed) and were perceived to have really improved their team. Meanwhile, in reality this year the Tigers are in the market for…a big RH bat and a closer. There’s a big difference between shelling out big bucks for quality talent and shelling out big bucks for marginal talent. The system put in place seems to be working pretty well and, within that, there has to be some level of restraint. Sure, it would be great to have B.J. Ryan, but not at those numbers. It’s about spending wisely, not spending the most. Just ask all those teams that spent more than the White Sox this past season and watched the WS the same place that we did…at home.
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