Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Early Free Agency Preview

After examining where the holes exist for the 2007 Tribe (2B, OF, Bullpen, Leadoff Hitter, RH Power), here’s what is available in the Free Agent Market (I didn’t include EVERYBODY, just the players that would be legitimate options…and I use the term legitimate loosely) for the positions of need:

1B
Sean Casey
Nomar Garciaparra
Scott Hatteberg
Shea Hillenbrand
Travis Lee
Doug Mientkiewicz
Kevin Millar
Phil Nevin
Todd Walker
Craig Wilson
Dmitri Young

Assuming that the Indians are unlikely to want to pay Ben Broussard $3M to play ½ of their games, the Indians need to make a decision on where Victor Martinez fits into their plans for next year. Most know that I’d like to see a combination of Martinez/Shoppach/Garko to play C & 1B next year, and hopefully we’ll get to see Garko for an extended period of time before the year is up.

That being said, if Garko is not seen as a long-term option and Martinez is going to stay behind the plate next year – this is the group to choose from, FA-wise.

Not a great-looking group, with the usual suspects that are all very similar. Casey might be a player to watch in that his wife is from Cleveland and he and Shapiro have a relationship. I don’t think that he’d be a good fit at all, but he’s a name that will be thrown around. Nomar has priced himself into a long-term deal with his year, and the rest of these guys are short-term options, at best.

2B
Ronnie Belliard
Miguel Cairo
Luis Castillo
Mark DeRosa
Ray Durham
Damian Easley
Mark Grudzielanek
Adam Kennedy
Jeff Kent
Mark Loretta

With Ronnie Belliard pulling a hammy today, we should get a good long look at what Joe Inglett can do every day in the Big Leagues (unless Wedge inexplicably puts Vazquez in the lineup). I don’t know the extent of Belliard’s injury, but it makes it unlikely that he’ll get moved and hamstring pulls are generally the injuries that take a while to get back from.

Unless Joe Inglett pulls 3 for 4’s with BB’s to boot everyday, the Tribe will look elsewhere for a 2B. These guys are mainly utility players (Cairo, Easley,Kennedy) or aging players not worth a look (Durham, Grudzielanek, Kent) or players that will be in demand (Loretta, whom the BoSox will try to lock up, Castillo, and Belliard)

To me, that gives us the option of re-signing Belliard to a 2-3 year deal, which still scares me for some reason, or trying to get Castillo out of Minnesota. It would take a significant amount of money and years, but it would also solve the problem of 2B, a leadoff hitter, and team speed. Since we’ve talked ad nauseum about the lack of a legitimate 2B prospect in the minors, I’d be OK with giving Castillo the contract he’s looking for.

SS
Juan Castro
Royce Clayton
Alex Cora
Craig Counsell
Alex Gonzalez
Julio Lugo

With the “Move Jhonny Peralta to 2B” Movement gaining steam, look at the list of what is available for a SS. The only player that is intriguing would be Lugo, who could fill the same holes as Castillo and probably for less money and years (though with less production). Lugo could be moved by the trade deadline and may be in demand in a weak SS market, as the Red Sox will likely try to re-sign Alex Gonzalez (the only other remotely attractive name on the list), so his situation could change in the next two weeks.

3B
David Bell
Mark Bellhorn
Geoff Blum
Aaron Boone
Vinny Castilla
Pedro Feliz
Aubrey Huff
Joe Randa

The importance of seeing Andy Marte grows with each passing day. If Marte comes up and (please God, no…but it needs to be said) looks completely overwhelmed at the plate, the Indians need to look at another 3B. Again, nobody on this list will blow you out of the water, and hopefully the Indians won’t need to explore this option (or Mark Shapiro will have to eat a lot of crow) but Marte is still an unknown quantity. That’s why getting Marte up here now for evaluation is becoming important as the games remaining on the schedule dwindles.

OF
Mike Cameron
Jim Edmonds
Darin Erstad
Steve Finley
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Torii Hunter
Kenny Lofton
Gary Matthews, Jr.
Juan Pierre
Barry Bonds
Frank Catalanotto
David Dellucci
Cliff Floyd
Luis Gonzalez
Todd Hollandsworth
Ryan Klesko
Carlos Lee
Jay Payton
Dave Roberts
Alfonso Soriano
Shannon Stewart
Rondell White
Preston Wilson
Eric Young
Moises Alou
Jeromy Burnitz
Jermaine Dye
Jose Guillen
Trot Nixon
Gary Sheffield

The Indians (with Sizemore, Blake, Michaels, and Gutierrez) are set in the OF…on paper. In reality, the Tribe needs to stregthen this position by adding a corner OF, allowing Blake and Gutierrez to battle it out for the other corner position, and letting Michaels slot into the 4th OF position. Acquiring a RH power hitter that can hit behind Hafner and force teams to pitch to him would complete the wish list.

Players like Cameron, Matthews (though he’s a CF who’s having a career year in his walk year), Lee (who will command a huge deal in the off-season), Soriano (who will get more than Lee), Moises Alou (who is getting old), Dye (it would be nice to pry him away from the White Sox), Jose Guillen (for those who want a headcase in the locker room full of nice guys), and Sheffield (who seems suddenly fragile with the new drug testing) would be the obvious options.

All of these players is going to be getting a good amount of money, so it may break down to seeing what Gutierrez can do (can he play RF and let Blake play LF), and what Marte and Garko can do (are they decent RH bats) in the next two months to figure out a direction.

Have I mentioned that I think that the Indians should call up some of the young guys to see what he have on this roster right now and how it affects our off-season decisions?

Starters
Mark Buerhle
Tom Glavine
Ted Lilly
Jamie Moyer
Mark Mulder
Andy Pettitte
Mark Redman
David Wells
Randy Wolf
Barry Zito
Miguel Batista
Adam Eaton
Orlando Hernandez
Cory Lidle
Greg Maddux
Jason Marquis
Gil Meche
Mike Mussina
Tomo Ohka
Sidney Ponson
Jason Schmidt
John Smoltz
Jeff Suppan
Tim Wakefield
Jeff Weaver
Woody Williams
Paul Wilson
Kerry Wood

Barring any moves, the Indians rotation next year should be identical to how it appears right now. Westbrook could be moved in the off-season, and with this weak FA class, could bring a player that would fill a need. If Westbrook goes, the Tribe would have to decide if Carmona would come back to the rotation, if Guthrie deserves a shot, or if they dip into the FA market for a replacement.

Just to float a “what it” scenario out there, Mike Mussina has said that he wants to finish his career close to home (he’s from PA) with a contender that will give him a shot at the postseason. He’s said that money will not play as much of a factor as comfort as he’s made over $120 million in his career.

I don’t see that much happening, rotation-wise, but the list is there.

Relievers
Eric Gagne
Mariano Rivera
Bob Wickman
Eddie Guardado
Ray King
Steve Kline
Denys Reyes
Scott Schoenweis
Mike Stanton
Ron Villone
Joe Borowski
Chad Bradford
Francisco Cordero
Octavio Dotel
Keith Foulke
LaTroy Hawkins
Dustin Hermanson
Dan Kolb
Jose Mesa
Guillermo Mota
Jeff Nelson
David Riske
Justin Speier
Tanyon Sturtze
Mike Timlin
David Weathers

Feeling lucky? Bullpen arms, as we found out from 2005 to 2006, seem to be like throwing dice. You give it your best roll and hope for the best. Sometimes your reclamation projects work out (Howry), sometimes they don’t (Graves).

If you don’t think it’s that easy, why are the Yankees and Red Sox, with their HUGE payrolls, always looking for another bullpen arm? There are years when you catch lightning in a bottle, other years when you look like that guy from the “Great Outdoors” who had a white streak in his hair from being lightning-struck.

I don’t know enough about these pitchers (most of whom are generally obscure and could be great this year, only to be horrible next year) to say, “Look out for this guy”. That’s what scouts are paid for.

But, again, it’s important for the Indians to know how the young players that they have fit into the 2007 bullpen (Carmona, Mujica, Davis, Slocum, Brown, Sipp, Mastny, Perez) to know how to approach the FA bullpen market.

We've seen how a bad bullpen can derail a season, first in 2004 and again this year - so I would expect the Indians to pay more attention (and more dollars) in the bullpen for next year.

Where does this exercise leave us? Full of more questions.
But questions need to be answered before November before the final Off-Season/Free Agent Wish List is finalized.

If you want the full list, here’s the link.

7 comments:

T-Bone said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
T-Bone said...

Indians trade Wickman to Braves
1:27 p.m.

PAUL HOYNES
Plain Dealer Reporter

The Indians traded Bob Wickman, their all-time saves leader, to Atlanta on Thursday afternoon for a minor league prospect.

The Indians will hold a 2:45 p.m. conference call with general manager Mark Shapiro to announce the trade.

Wickman, who made his 750th appearance in the Tribe's 6-4 victory over the Angels on Wednesday, is 15-for-18 in save situations this year. Altanta, struggling to reach the postseason for the 15th consecutive year in the National League East, has had bullpen problems all season.

The Indians signed Wickman over the winter to a one-year $5 million
contract. He went 45-for-50 in save situations last year for the Tribe.

Wickman passed Doug Jones as the Tribe's all-time saves leader on May 7 against Seattle. It was Wickman's 138th save as an Indian.

Before Wickman, the Indians traded veterans Jason Johnson and Eduardo Perez since falling out of the American League Central race. The prospect they're receiving from the Braves will not have an impact on this year's big-league team.

Wickman, with 10 years in the big leagues and five years with the same team, had to approve the deal.

Baltimoran said...

scares me that they don't even have a name of the "prospect" we got, but I'm excited to see Carmona close. I'm a little surprised that Wickman would approve the deal. As soon as they bring up Marte I'll start watching the late games.

T-Bone said...

cleveland.com message boards are saying it's some nothing A-ball prospect.

Cy Slapnicka said...

A-ball minor league catcher Max Ramirez. batting .285 with nine homers in 267 ABs.

Well, good thing we picked up another catcher. Since we have so many catchers and are in the business of turning them into field players, maybe we can make this guy an adequate 2B? This just seems like they just wanted to unload the rest of Bob's salary. I'd rather they not insult my intelligence and just say we are planning for next year and start evaluating the young talent.

If after this trade I have to watch one more Boone AB or error, I am going to be a very unhappy camper.

I think someone spiked Shapiro's kool aid with Drain-O.

T-Bone said...

Well, guess we've got the Browns to look forward to. Great news below for any uniform freaks like me.


BROWNS SPECIAL DELIVERY!

As one of our most loyal fans and a valued season ticket holder, we wanted to make you aware of some very special Browns news that hits the streets tomorrow.

The Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Plain Dealer have reached an agreement to include "Browns Huddle", the Browns' official weekly publication, in editions of the Plain Dealer this season.

The first of 26 issues, a special training camp edition, will be included in all newsstand and vending machine copies of the Plain Dealer TOMMORROW.

The issue features:

Training Camp Preview: One-stop shopping for all the information you'll need for 2006 Browns training camp. Practice times, dates, rules and information - everything you'll need to know before the Browns kick off camp on Wednesday, July 26 at the training facility in Berea, OH.

At Home With Charlie Frye: Clevelandbrowns.com staff writer Zac Jackson traveled to Willard, OH, the hometown of Charlie Frye, and spent a day with the Browns QB and his family. You can get a special "sneak peek" of the story right now on clevelandbrowns.com, but the only place you can read the entire story, as well as see the exclusive photos, is tomorrow in "Browns Huddle".

Browns: Back In Black...and Gray?: This season, the Browns will celebrate the 60 years of memories and moments that the team and city of Cleveland have experienced together since 1946. As part of that, the team has adopted several of the vintage uniform characteristics from decades gone by - which fans will see when the team takes the field for training camp next week. Get all the details tomorrow in "Browns Huddle".

And don't forget to also visit www.clevelandbrowns.com tomorrow for a unique historical look at Browns training camp, as well as more details and special video feature on the uniform changes.

More info on "Browns Huddle" in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Starting on August 10, "Browns Huddle" will be included in newsstand editions of the Plain Dealer each week through the end of the 2006 season. The publication will appear in Friday editions of the newspaper, with the exception of the three weeks that the Browns have Thursday games (August 10, August 29, December 7). In these weeks, "Browns Huddle" will be included in newsstand editions on game day.

Below are the dates you can expect to see "Browns Huddle" in the Plain Dealer this season.

Thursday, August 10

Friday, August 18

Friday, August 25

Thursday, August 31

Friday, September 8

Friday, September 15

Friday, September 22

Friday, September 29

Friday, October 6

Friday, October 20

Friday, October 27

Friday, November 3

Friday, November 10

Friday, November 17

Friday, November 24

Friday, December 1

Thursday, December 7

Friday, December 15

Friday, December 22

Friday, December 29

Cy Slapnicka said...

From espn.com's article on the trade...."The Braves are well-stocked at catcher. Brian McCann, at 22, made the NL All-Star team this year and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, playing at Double-A Mississippi, is regarded as a top prospect."

I wish they would have pointed out the obvious and noted that the Indians are as well.