Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hit or Stick?

Eric Gagne has signed with the Rangers, presumably to fill out the Rangers’ bullpen or to make Akinori Otsuka available to fill the teams’ other needs.

We’ll never know how close the Indians came to signing Gagne and how the incentives contained in the Rangers’ contract compared to those contained the final offer from the Tribe, but at some point the risk associated with signing a player like Gagne have to come into play.

From one viewpoint, what’s the difference of giving up that extra $1 million to ensure a Gagne signing? On the other hand, there has to be a line in the sand that the Indians simply refuse to cross.
Maybe the Rangers had a line a little further away than the Indians…again, we’ll never know.

While it would have been fantastic to add a Gagne to the Tribe bullpen, it comes with the big IF regarding his health. It could be that, come August, the Indians are thanking their lucky stars that they didn’t spend the money on damaged goods. It could, however, just as easily play out that the Indians end up kicking themselves for not assuming more risk to sign the “Comeback Player of the Year” if Gagne recaptures the effectiveness of a few years ago.

It all will come out in the wash, but Gagne isn’t coming to Cleveland; so, we’ll pass judgment on the Gagne thing in about 8 or 9 months.

For now, the question becomes whether the Indians’ bullpen is complete, as is, or if the Indians will explore adding another arm via trade (since a Foulke signing seems unlikely). The rest of the FA reliever market lacks that player with closing experience, injury history or not.

The Indians still have some available parts that may have value in the trade market because of their youth and affordability. Are the likes of Jeremy Guthrie, Franklin Gutierrez, and others enough to pry a player like Otsuka from Texas or Chad Cordero from Washington? Those players aren’t be enough to acquire Mike Gonzalez or Scot Shields, so it’s a matter of who the Indians are willing to trade and how much they really think they need to add another arm.

As it stands now, the bullpen looks like this:
LHP (Perez, Lara, Sipp)

Since Miller, Mujica, Mastny, and all of the LHP not making the team still have options, that’s how the bullpen would probably leave Winter Haven. If another arm is signed, Davis becomes either expendable to trade or battles to keep his spot (presumably as the long man).

With all of the spare parts that Shapiro has floating around and with the depth in the minors (particularly with pitchers and outfielders), expect some moves to the roster to strengthen the team. Who those players are and what will be moved to acquire them is what will keep us busy in an off-season that is becoming less and less of an “off”-season.

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