Friday, January 19, 2007

A New Trotter for the Stable

The Tribe added a veteran bat today in the form of Trot Nixon, designating Jeremy Guthrie for assignment off of the 40-man roster to make room for him. The move came as a total surprise as there hadn’t been anything even resembling this out there. It was even more surprising in that most indications were that the Indians’ roster was set for Winter Haven.

The Nixon signing represents a move that the Indians didn’t NEED to make, but obviously Shapiro had some misgivings about going into the 2007 season depending upon the youngsters (Barfield, Peralta, Marte, Garko) to augment the meat of the lineup. Nixon provides some veteran certainty (assuming that he can stay healthy, which he hasn’t done since 2003) and some grittiness and leadership to a group of position players largely made up of young talent (proven and unproven) and some veterans who haven’t experienced the level of success that Nixon did in Boston. While Nixon will never be the rah-rah guy at the top of the dugout, his style of play (hard-nosed hustler who goes all out, all the time – sometimes to his detriment) could serve as an example (along with what Grady gives every night) to show some of these young players how to approach life as a MLB player.

Nixon’s health is the obvious unknown and you would have to think that the Indians have done their due diligence on him before guaranteeing him $3M. The money, while big in any other walk of life, is not a huge commitment as the Indians are providing themselves insurance and depth in the outfield by adding a veteran.

There are a lot of ifs with Nixon, as well as the major question of whether he really would outperform the BLC in Cleveland this year, but his addition gives the Indians more depth in the OF and insurance in case of an injury to any of their OF. Similar to the way that the bullpen experienced the trickle-down effect of adding veteran arms, the Indians OF depth has been augmented by Nixon…but almost too much.

The Tribe’s organizational OF breaks down like this:

Cleveland
Dellichaels (sounds like “Delightful”)
Super Duper Sizemore
Blixon (Blake/Nixon to the unimaginative)

Buffalo
Francisco
Gutierrex
Choo

Akron

Crowe
Snyder
Barton

Using that depth chart, the Indians will ask all of those players in Buffalo to repeat a year in AAA and for Snyder to repeat a year at AA. Sorry, I just don’t see that stagnancy on the farm for an organization that prides itself on having “waves” of prospects ready to step in.

So, a trade would seem to be in the offing. Gutierrez is the most likely candidate; as he is pretty highly regarded in baseball circles and has more value outside of Cleveland, where he could actually supplant a CF.

Don’t believe me that Gutz is highly regarded? Here’s what ESPN’s Jim Callis said about Frank the Tank and Juan Pierre in a recent chat:

Joe (Syracuse): Who would you rather have as your CF, Juan Pierre or Franklin Gutierrez, with salary factored in?
Jim Callis:
Gutierrez. If Pierre doesn't hit .320, he's a drag on your offense; he's not that great a basestealer; and he's not that great a defender.

Gutierrez, on his own, isn’t going to bring a huge return; but he could be a part of a package to acquire a LHRP or obtain a better long-term 1B prospect.

Basically, the Nixon signing allows Shapiro to explore those options, with the knowledge that he is covered in the OF in Cleveland and would still have Choo and Francisco at AAA ready to help in a pinch (in case the 5 current outfielders go down). Could the signing be the precursor to a bigger trade, with Westbrook or whomever else to really rock the boat? Who knows?

For now, let’s hold off on final judgment on this signing until the other shoe drops; because in a vacuum, the trade looks like more of a depth signing than it does a legitimate need on the roster. Did the Indians HAVE to make this deal or does this deal allow them to improve their team in other ways?

Much more on the surprising signing of Colonel Trotman in the next few days as we try to get inside Mark Shapiro’s head (one that doesn’t dump us on the side of the NJ turnpike after just 15 minutes).

Oh, yeah…anyone want a Jeremy Guthrie jersey?

2 comments:

Cy Slapnicka said...

you are baiting me, aren't you? there is no need to be bringing my boy juan pierre into this. i am beside myself about callis' comments. i just can't understand why someone that gets on base and gets into scoring position isn't valued.

anyway, i will just wait patiently for the expected trade and the kool aid man to come busting through my wall. i'll be disappointed if we lose choo, as he's the asian mark whitten in my mind all based on one throw i saw him make. but i might have just had a few too many pops to be able to follow the ball well.

Pat Tabler said...

I saw the Callis comment and was shocked by it.
Our little Frank the Tank?

The fact that it discounted Pierre's value on top of praising the Tank made it a necessity to put it on the post.

Yes, obviously to bait you.