Monday, December 04, 2006

JoeBo and the Possibilities

The official site is reporting that Joe Borowski is coming to Cleveland for a physical tomorrow, so there may be an offer on the table to JoeBo. Borowski saved 36 of 43 saves last year, enough to tie him for the 8th most saves last year. While he is certainly not a slam-dunk, he does have recent experience.
We’ll cross that bridge if the Borowski thing goes any further.

If JoeBo does become a potential closer, or even the set-up guy, there are still some possibilities for improvement this week. With the Winter Meetings underway, what Indians are possible trade bait to improve the team?

A quick list:
Paul Byrd
In the current FA market, Byrd’s contract is very palatable and manageable. If the Indians are able to upgrade the rotation via FA or another trade, it’s possible that Byrd can be moved to fill another need. It’s true that he could also be moved if Fausto Carmona is thought to be ready to contribute, but that scenario is unlikely. Most reports have Shapiro rebuffing all trade offers for starters, but Byrd would be the one that would be least missed, even if he wouldn’t bring the biggest return.

Jake Westbrook
In the last year of his very affordable contract, Westbrook would bring quite a bit in a trade. The question is whether a team that is built to contend this year even thinks about trading a pitcher the caliber of Jake, a perennial 200+ inning, 15-win pitcher. If I were to venture a guess, I would say no, particularly with an improved infield defense behind him with Marte and Barfield replacing Boone and Belliard. Unless the Indians get an absolute stud with about 2 years of service time, Jake should start 2007 in a Tribe uniform (hopefully with a contract extension in his back pocket).

Cliff Lee
Again, looking at the contracts being given to lesser pitchers than Lee (Adam Eaton got a 3-year, $24.5M deal), it’s unlikely that the Tribe would move Lee, regardless of whether he seems to be on a downward trend in the past few years. Lee’s under the team’s control for 4 years at $15M, with a 2010 option, so even if he ends up a #4 or #5 starter, that’s an extremely reasonable contract. While that contract does make him more attractive to potential suitors, the same question posed with Westbrook (do you move a young solid pitcher when the team has been rebuilt) is the bigger factor.

Jason Michaels
The addition of David Dellucci means that either Michaels will be part of a platoon in LF or will be counted on as a 4th OF. With him eligible for arbitration and likely to earn about $3M in that process, would the Indians rather move him as a throw-in for a team looking for a platoon in the OF or a 4th OF, possibly in a return to the NL? It’s unlikely that Michaels would bring much on his own and a potential platoon with Dellucci could be very productive. However, if Michaels is only thought to be the 4th OF, can the Indians get away with moving him and allowing Big League Choo, Ben Francisco, or Franklin Gutierrez to be the 4th OF?

Ryan Garko - Big League Choo
Shapiro has intimated that Dellucci’s inclusion on the 2007 team means that only one of these two players will be on the squad next year. You have to think that the Front Office has a pretty good idea of whom they would prefer to keep and have known since they showed interest in Dellucci. Garko would likely bring the bigger bounty as he excelled as a run-producer next year and is extremely attractive to teams in need of a 1B/DH, particularly because of his affordability (dollars-wise). Choo started off very quickly, and then tailed off as he struggled down the stretch. Considering that the Indians acquired him for Broussard straight up, it’s unlikely that Choo would bring much back in return. These would be 2 names, particularly Garko, to watch in the coming week.

Jason Davis - Jeremy Guthrie
With both of these talented, but highly unproven, arms out of options, they may be part of a package to bring in a player who plays a different position, but is in a similar situation (out of options with no guaranteed roster spot). If the Tribe could use them to upgrade the backup middle infielder, it would give the players a needed change of scenario and improve team depth. Guthrie is more likely to be moved as he has more value as a potential #5 starter, and it’s possible that the Indians didn’t give Guthrie starts down the stretch so his solid AAA 2006 season remains the most current chapter in his body of work. If the Front Office thinks that Jason Dangerously can compete for a spot in the 2007 bullpen, they’ll keep him to give him the opportunity (Lord knows the talent is there, he just needs to find consistent success); if not, Davis could be an Andrew Brown-type addition to a trade.

Hector Luna
Unless the team is convinced a slimmed-down Luna will be a huge improvement than that guy who took the field with a frying pan last year, Luna could be a throw in for an NL team looking for some versatility in the MI. Inglett seems preferable to Luna, unless can improve his defense dramatically (and Inglett doesn’t exactly remind anyone of Ozzie Smith); the addition of Barfield removes Luna from even spot time. The report that the Indians went after Craig Counsell (only to be turned down so he could stay in his hometown of Milwaukee) to fill the spot currently held by Luna/Inglett doesn’t bode well for the long-term future of either.

Franklin Gutierrez
With CF in short supply around the league (see how much Juan Pierre and Gary Matthews, Jr. got on the open market), is Gutierrez more valuable to another team than the Indians? Though he has a strong arm that allows him to play RF, Frank the Tank’s speed and hitting project him more as a CF. The dilemma of Coco Crisp could be a harbinger of Frankie’s fate. With CF pretty much sewn up in Cleveland, David Dellucci sitting on a new 3-year deal, and Trevor Crowe knocking at the door, where does Gutierrez fit in? Is he more valuable to a team in need of a speedy CF, willing to part with a young 1B or a ML-ready pitcher? If he is, I’d make that trade yesterday – memories of Giles-for-Rincon be damned.

It should be an exciting week as all of the major players are in the same confined place for a week…with a hotel bar. I’m sure it’s not how it happens, but I like to think that deals are done on cocktail napkins.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Winter Meetings!

1 comment:

t-bone said...

from Rob Neyer's column...

• Speaking of rebuilt bullpens, the Indians are doing some rebuilding of their own. I hesitate to criticize anything they do this winter, because I've been touting them as 2007's surprise team for a few months now. But it seems to me that the signing of Roberto Hernandez, while just a $3.5 million commitment, has the real potential for blowback. Hernandez is 42, and his impressive ERAs the last couple of seasons were compiled in pitcher's ballparks in a pitcher's league. His ERAs were more impressive than his other numbers. Did I mention that he's 42? The Indians also signed left-hander Aaron Fultz, who qualifies for the majors by virtue of having limited left-handed hitters to a .654 OPS during his seven-year career. I'm not going to suggest that Hernandez and Fultz won't help some. They probably will. It's just that I've always believed that a good GM will collect enough young, cheap arms that a good manager can sift through the arms and build a decent bullpen. Then again, that's what the Indians tried last season, and it didn't work too well. I don't begrudge them their new relievers. I just don't think the new relievers are going to make a real difference, by themselves. Over the last two seasons, the Indians scored enough runs and allowed few enough to win 195 games; instead they won 171. That's not the bullpen's fault. That's something else, and the most likely suspect is bad luck. If the Indians' luck turns in 2007, it won't be due to Roberto Hernandez.