Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Closer on Board?

JoeBo is on board and in the mix in the bullpen. The Indians filled another need in getting a guy with closing experience on a 1-year, $4M deal with those magic words, “club option for 2008”, allowing a successful year for Borowski to translate into bullpen stability for the Tribe for another year.

On an interview on WTAM this afternoon, Shapiro stated that Borowski was not guaranteed the job of closer, but that he provided the team a “closing option”. To me, that sounds like Shapiro is not done adding experienced arms to the bullpen, either via FA (Dotel, Foulke, Gagne) or via trade (Gonzalez, Shields).

Borowski is certainly not a perfect answer (remember, he had to have an MRI exam looked at before the Tribe would sign on the dotted line and the Phillies pulled a 2-year deal off of the table after seeing an MRI), but to the Indians credit, they’re not touting him as such. By Shapiro’s own admission, Borowski doesn’t have filthy stuff; he has the mindset and “courage” (Shapiro’s word) to close out games. As we learned last year, your stuff could be electric (Carmona), but unless you have developed the mentality of a closer, those last 3 outs become the toughest of the game.

Shapiro said that, because of the risk that exists with all of the available relievers, the team would attempt to defray the risks with numbers. That is, they’ll keep adding arms to bring to Spring Training so a successful mix of relievers is brought up to the North Coast.

If, in fact, they do add another arm, they’re looking at 4 new relievers in a 7-man bullpen. That would constitute the overhaul that we were all looking for, and they’ve already added 409 career saves to a bullpen badly in need of some experience in closing ballgames. The question is which of the existing Indians fill those 3 (or 4) spots, but there’s plenty of time for that once the dust has settled.

Back to JoeBo, who successfully closed out 36 games last year, more than the entire Indians’ 2006 team, for a Florida team that won the identical amount of games as the Indians (78). The only players with more saves than Borowski last year were K-Rod, Hoffman, Jenks, Wagner, Ryan, Jones, and Street. He was tied with Joe Nathan and J.J. Putz, ahead of Gordon, Rivera, and Lidge, among others. That’s some nice company for a guy the Indians seem to be settling for and not guaranteeing the closer role to.

The last closer to move from Florida to the AL Central worked out pretty well and, admittedly, Todd Jones had some pretty lean years between his years of effectiveness. Borowski lost 2004 and 2005 to injuries, but he seems to have regained his 2003 form, when he saved 33 games for the Cubs.

This move, even if it is the last addition the Indians make to fortify the bullpen, stands up pretty well on its own. The fact that the Indians don’t sound like they’re done gives more validity to the idea that once they completed their “To-Do List”(and it essentially is, once an adequate backup middle infielder is found), they’ll roll up their sleeves and see if there are any other ways to improve this team.

For now, let the Polish community of Cleveland welcome Joe Borowski. I haven’t figured out if he should enter the field to Polka music or a montage of RoboCop with the graphic “JoeBoCloser” on the JumboTron. I’m leaning towards the Polka music, but it’s early.

The Winter Meetings are still happening and things are starting to happen, so let’s see what other cards Shapiro and the boys are willing to play.


pojo said...

Finally, someone that sees the light. As I said in my blog, if you sign one more back-end relief pitcher, you hope you get 3 out of the 4 to perform...and if you get 4, it's icing on the cake.

A good signing when you look at the whole of it.

t-bone said...

I think I like it, and will probably love it if we get one more vet back-end guy.

Sorry to turn to Cavs, but this was the video tribute to Brad Daugherty last night at the Cavs game. Brought a tear to my eye... ha.

t-bone said...

Buster Olney:

Rise of the Tribe
posted: Thursday, December 7, 2006 | Feedback | Print Entry

The Indians haven't spent the most dollars or landed the biggest names, but they have quietly had a very nice offseason so far, augmenting a team that could be very dangerous next season.

Some scouts believed that at season's end, Cleveland was playing the best baseball of any American League club. The Indians ranked third in the AL in ERA in August, fourth in September, and they finished the year ranked second in the majors in runs scored, behind the Yankees. Cleveland went into the winter as one of the very few teams with its starting rotation -- C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook, Jeremy Sowers and Paul Byrd -- basically set, and in good shape.

Cleveland needed bullpen help and a second baseman, and right away the Indians landed second baseman Josh Barfield from San Diego without giving up any of their frontline guys.

In the last five days, the Indians have signed three veteran relievers who aren't necessarily dynamic but will provide Cleveland with a bullpen framework and give the young Indians relievers, like Tony Sipp, some time to develop. Cleveland grabbed Joe Borowski, Aaron Fultz and Roberto Hernandez on short-term deals, and those guys will be at least OK in handling the end of games -- perhaps good enough for a team with a good rotation and a powerful offense.

And the Indians were able to do this without committing to big-money, long-term deals, in keeping with their modest financial constraints.

"We have added some depth and experience to the bullpen," Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro wrote in an e-mail late Wednesday. "Hernandez with over 300 career saves and Borowski with back-end experience and 36 saves last season give us some back-end stability. I feel better about our bullpen now, but still would like to add one more guy who has had some closing experience if possible.

"Knowing this bullpen market was thin and had some risk to it, we felt it important to add as much depth as possible in order to give us the best chance to build a quality bullpen for the '07 team."

If the bullpen can be at least stable, and if Lee can take the next step and become a consistent force, the Indians could be poised for a breakthrough season in '07. We'll see.

The Indians are looking for one more veteran reliever, writes Paul Hoynes; I bet they wind up signing Octavio Dotel, too.

rodells said...

I'll be happy if 1 of them pans out well. If not, then it's not like we're stuck with them long term.

I still think they should go hard after Gagne. Not sure what to believe about his guaranteed money demands, but I've heard between $5M and $10M is the base of what he's looking for. I'd throw him a $5M bone and set up realistic incentives to boost the final value.

Cy Slapnicka said...

man, here we go again. all it took was me to read Olney and I'm all excited for April again.

Paul Cousineau said...

I think the Olney piece nicely summarizes that the Indians didn't have to add nearly as much as other teams (like the Cubs) that everyone says are the "Winners" of the off-season.

The moves they've made are solid, unspectacular moves that aren't going to be front page news.

But they're the solid additions that fill the holes that the Indians ended 2006 with.

Plus, it certainly doesn't sound like they're done - whether it be Dotel (who I would prefer), Foulke, or Gagne.