Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Middle Infield Options

The off-season has started with the Tribe picking up the options for Jake Westbrook and Casey Blake and declining Aaron Boone’s option. If you’re surprised by any of that…well, you haven’t been paying attention.

With all of the possible moves that the Indians can make, one seems to be a certainty – the Indians need to add either an everyday 2B or move Peralta to 2B and acquire an everyday SS. With that in mind, this is the list of available players (or possibly available players) that we’re working with:
Ronnie Belliard
Jose Castillo
Mark DeRosa
Ray Durham (FA)
Marcus Giles
Orlando Hudson
Adam Kennedy (FA)
Mark Loretta (FA)
Brian Roberts
Jose Vidro

Alex Gonzalez (FA)
Bill Hall
Julio Lugo (FA)
Jack Wilson
Michael Young

Obviously, the players without a (FA) after their names would need to be acquired via a trade, with the costs ranging from minimal (think Jose Castillo, who may not be that much of an upgrade over Inglett/Luna) to steep (think Michael Young, who would bolster this lineup and infield in innumerable ways).

If you’re looking for the defensive whizzes to help out Peralta and the groundball pitchers on the staff, Hudson and Roberts are the best at 2B, while Gonzalez, Wilson, and Young are all superb defenders.

While it would be nice to have the pick of the litter of these players, this off-season for the Indians for the Indians will not happen in a vacuum. The Red Sox, for instance, will be looking for both a 2B and a SS if they don’t re-sign Loretta and Gonzalez. Not to mention the Mets, the Cardinals, etc.

A lot of these possibilities are going to hinge on how Trevor Crowe performs in the field at 2B in the Arizona Fall League. He struggled in Akron in his limited time there and if he does so in Arizona, the Indians will look for a more long-term solution. If he proves to be proficient in the field, he could join the Tribe at some point in 2007, meaning that the Indians will look only for a Band-Aid until he’s ready.

Taking a cue from the Air Force, it’s time to Aim High – so here’s the wish list:
#1) Michael Young
It would likely take a package of 2 (maybe even 3 top prospects) to pry him out of Texas, where he’s reportedly not happy with Buck Showalter. He’s scheduled to make $3.5M in 2007, with a $4M club option for 2008, so he’s VERY affordable. His RH 200-hit seasons would absolutely nestle into that 2 hole between Grady and Pronk, but he’s not going to come cheap. The Tribe would have to give up one of the big 3 pitchers (Carmona, Miller, Lofgren), another prospect close to the Majors (Gutierrez for example) and a lower level pitcher to get him. If he was coming though, Peralta could be part of the package.

#2) Brian Roberts
Like Young, Roberts won’t come cheap. With Orioles’ fans fed up with Peter Angelos as an owner, you would think that they’d like their team built around guys like Roberts, not see him moved. But with Angelos exerting absolute power, anything is possible, even absolute madness. Roberts is a grinder-type of player that Wedgie seems to prefer, so he could be on the radar. He could, like Young, slot into the 2 hole and be the situational hitter and table-setter that would complement the top of the lineup very well.

#3) Orlando Hudson
If you’re looking for a defensive wizard to be the glue of the infield’s defense, the O-Dog is your boy. The fact that his OPS is .820 this year doesn’t hurt. The D-Backs would look for quite a bit in return (they’ve always loved Jake Westbrook), but they have a top prospect in Alberto Callaspo (isn't he the Spanish bullfighter that Elaine Benes once claimed to date?) in AAA in case they part with Hudson.

#4) Jack Wilson
Place Wilson at SS and suddenly, a very suspect infield defense becomes palatable. He’s a decent #2 hitter in that he’s a contact hitter who doesn’t strike out too much; but he hits for very little power (.675 career OPS). Also on the “negative” side of the ledger, he’s also due to make $5.25M in ’07, $6.5M in ’08, $7.25M in ’09, and an $8.4M club option for ’10, so he’s not cheap. As an aside, if you’re still wondering how the Pirates are perpetually awful - they give contracts like that to a slick-fielding SS to pacify their fans when signing deals like that are absolute killers on a small-market payroll. Like Hudson, he would dramatically improve the infield defense, which is a priority in the off-season. But can you accept his scatter-shot single approach at the plate to get his glove in the field?

#5) Adam Kennedy
Kennedy would appear much higher on this list if he WEREN’T the top FA 2B; yes, if he weren’t. With the Cardinals, Mets, and Red Sox (just to name a few) in need of a 2B this off-season, Kennedy is going to be that vastly overpaid middle infielder whose contract has too many years and too many zeroes on it. It will be the type of contract that a team like the Red Sox or Mets can absorb when he’s making $9M a year in 2011, when his currently underwhelming stats become putrid. He would fit the Tribe’s needs at 2B, but not at the price that some poor schmuck’s going to pay.

Honorable Mention:
#6) Ray Durham – Nice pop, but palatable only with a short-term deal
#7) Marcus Giles – Numbers have fallen significantly off (loss of 100 pts. in OPS) in 2006
#8) Mark Loretta – Great glove and pivot in the DP, but BoSox may throw $ his way
#9) Jose Vidro – OPS has dropped every year since 2002
#10) Ronnie Belliard – Only as a last resort for the Jelly

Before you say that Julio Lugo would solve the problem, in that he’s a solid glove and would be a nice addition to the top of the lineup, realize that there are reports that his agent is looking for a 4 year-$40M deal (yes, you read those numbers right).

The other line of thinking floating in the wind is to bring Omar back to play SS in his last contract year, allowing Peralta to play 2B, and to pave the way for AAA SS Asdrubal Cabrera. As long as Omar, and the Tribe Front Office, can put their egos aside (remember that Omar, in a shocking turn of events for a guy who has called out Jose Mesa and Albert Belle in print, took some shots at the organization on his way out of town), this move does make sense on paper.

It would allow Omar to retire an Indian and solidify the infield defense while bringing back his still-consistent bat to the lineup.

They can also make plans for the Omar statue between NCB Park (in case you missed it, National City Bank is close to acquiring naming rights to the Park, and I can’t decide if it will go by NCB or “The Nat”) and the Q.

Expect the Indians to be creative in their acquisition of a middle infielder (and with most of their acquisitions this off-season), so a simple list a FA isn’t going to paint the entire picture.

Whatever direction they decide to go in, there WILL be a new middle infielder added as they’ve gone on record to say that Inglett and Luna are viewed as utility IF for 2006.

That’s, at least, a good first step.


Cy Slapnicka said...

My vote is for Brian Roberts. He's got a decent OBP, I like his SB totals, and he cut down on his K's this year. Why not drop Grady down and bat Roberts lead off? My only concern would be he doesn't hit leftys well and that we'd have to give up a lot to get him. I heard B-more was going to try and sign him long term this off season too. Could you imagine the havoc him and Grady would rain down on the basepaths? I'd be like the early days of the Kenny and Omar show.

Young would rock too, and he's played in ~160 games each of the past 5 seasons. He's built for comfort, not speed.

I'm comfortable with Jhonny, as we know he can still play well. I think what he needs to do is examine the career progression of Carlos Baerga this winter. I think that will bring us back a changed man.

Cy Slapnicka said...

wow, i just started thinking more about how many runs roberts would score if he had all of grady's extra base hits behind him.

And imagine being a pitcher when Roberts and Grady get on base and then having to face Vic and Hafner? Or even with just Roberts on base as a SB threat and then having to face 3 of the top hitters in baseball? I'd just throw to 1B 100 times and let the mgr come get me.

I really want a pre-1998 prototypical leadoff hitter. I wish there were more available.

Paul Cousineau said...

Buk Showalter just got fired in Texas, so Young may not be as unhappy next year as previously thought.

Baltimoran said...

i honestly believe that Angelos would be murdered if he let Roberts go, although there appear to be very few O's fans left to carry out the deed, there to busy talking s#$t about the Ravens superbowl chances. It is a nice thought though.

Rockdawg said...


Paul Cousineau said...

I pictured Jerry waving a napkin in his kitchen as I read that.


I have recently gotten into finding YouTube's music clips. The PJ stuff alone is incredible.

pojo said...

Young would be phenomenal, but I don't see it happen. I know what Dolan said, but I'll believe it when I see it. And as mentioned before, with Showalter out, Young will stay. In my opinion, they'll focus on your 2 and 3, if those are indeed the players that are going to be out there. Hudson is perenially underrated, and Wilson as well, and both would fit into a payroll more exceptable to the Dolans, IE: CHEAP. Awesome blog.