Thursday, October 25, 2007

State of the Tribe

With Mark Shapiro speaking in front of the Cleveland media earlier in the week, I would be remiss if I didn’t provide a quick summary and translation on what the Tribe GM had to say (and what he inferred).

The audio is available here, but here’s what Shapiro had to say – steering away from all of the “next step” and “success vs. failure” talk that resulted from some poor questions and some spinning from Shapiro about how the Indians couldn’t get to the playoffs without C.C. or Fausto, how Fausto is mentally strong, rehashing the ALCS, etc. – as he did hit on a number of interesting topics about the team (and specifically the roster) going forward, when you read between the lines.
The lines in quotes are verbatim, the rest are my impressions from his words:

Byrd
The HGH matter is being handled by MLB and could affect the Indians picking up his 2008 option. It’s something that the team will watch as it develops and, while they were surprised by it, he gave no indication that the results of the investigation will be the end-all, be-all when it comes to 2008.

Hafner
Pronk put too much pressure on himself, “carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders” as he strode to the plate each time at the end of the season and Shapiro expects him to rebound from a season that “wasn’t disastrous, but not up to his standards”. Shapiro intimated that Hafner has difficulty separating between at-bats because of how “well he always wants to do to help his team” and it is something that he hopes to improve for 2008.

2nd Base
While not going so far as to say that 2B belonged to AstroCab for 2008, he said he had trouble seeing Asdrubal not playing a prominent role next year. The role of many players will be determined by organizational meetings in the next few weeks, including where Barfield and Cabrera end up.

Adding Pieces/Payroll
The club won’t contain many surprises next year as most of the pieces are in place and the depth in the organization will have the club asking if holes can be filled internally or if they’ll have to go out of the organization to do so. There are no restrictions on payroll that would “prevent the Indians from bringing their team back”; while a firm number certainly does not exist. Because most of the team is under contract for next year, the Tribe is in a unique situation where most of the payroll is already spoken for. Due to a weak FA market, they can attempt to find value (in the bullpen, in particular) instead of having to target one specific position or area.

C.C.’s contract
It will be dealt with “sooner rather than later” and “won’t go to Spring Training with it being an open issue” without promises of regular updates to keep everyone informed. When asked if C.C. would be traded if the two sides are “miles apart”, Shapiro said that the team is the most important thing and “C.C. will be a Cleveland Indian, no matter what the scenario next Spring”.

Borowski and the Bullpen
JoeBo’s option will be picked up as no good reason exists for the Indians not to pick it up. The pieces for a core of pitchers in the bullpen are closer than they’ve been in a long time for the Tribe. Shapiro indicated that the young arms that emerged to play vital roles in the bullpen (Perez, Lewis) were “on the radar” in Winter Haven. The bullpen will continue to be a fluid group with flexibility and evolving roles by design.

Youngsters in 2008
Players identified as young players that could contribute in 2008 were the Big League Choo (who is out of options) and Atom Miller, but with the players that emerged this year (Cabrera, Laffey, Lewis, etc.), he doesn’t expect a huge amount of farmhands to explode on the scene as a lot of the current depth is filled by players making their debuts in 2007.

Veteran OF
Dellucci will play next year, if healthy, for the Tribe and is being counted on to contribute both on the field and as a leader in the clubhouse. The Trotter and Kenny, though Shapiro never came out and said it, have played their part in the development of the team and will not return.

Veteran vs. Rookie
Shapiro explained that one of the reasons that some young players didn’t make the team out of Spring Training and were passed over in favor of a veteran is that the young players are given a chance to mature and work their way into the starting role while the production of the veteran is evaluated. If the veteran works out, the desired depth is achieved in the organization. If the veteran disappoints, the young player is (hopefully) ready to step in. On the flip side, if the young player is given the first opportunity and he disappoints, few options exist and the risk of damaging the long-term success of the young player comes into play.


The most surprising comment to me was regarding Dellucci, who it seems would be the odd man out (along with Michaels) in a suddenly very-crowded outfield with Grady and Frank the Tank patrolling 2/3 of it. Between Blake (assuming he’s not the 3B), Choo (who, again, is out of options), and Francisco, plus whatever they may be able to add “externally”, counting Dellucci in as a main contributor for 2008 seems premature. Between the starting pitching depth and OF depth, Shapiro has some areas to deal from to improve the parts of the team that remain worrisome.

We’ll see how this all plays out going forward; but in the meantime, I’m going to take a look back month-by-month at the 2007 season, pulling out my favorite lines from the stories and the comments to re-live the roller coaster ride that we’ve just finished.
It will be fun to see the absolutes that prove to be completely wrong as well as how certain predictions played out.

13 comments:

Voltaire said...

Don't get me wrong - I love Franklin Gutierrez. I want to see him succeed. But I'm not convinced that we should unquestionably hand him the RF job. I think there's a decent chance that we see a repeat of Blake's role next year - shifting positions (in this case 3B to RF) to replace the struggling youngster.

Why am I cautious about Frank? A .266 BA and a .318 OBP. He's always been a high K guy, even in the minors.

Why do I also think that I am an idiot? Incredible speed, incredible defense, and a career minors OBP of .347.

Voltaire said...

Oh, and let me guess - some comment, by me, containing the words "Koplove", "bullpen", and "savior" is going to be dragged out for all to see. ;-)

Pat Tabler said...

Fran├žois-Marie,
I am the LAST to be sold on Frank, but I think you give him the job and let him sit at the bottom of the order to work his way through his Pedro Cerrano stage.

I think your vision of Blake is dead-on. Same as this year, he'll be the one that takes over for the struggling youngster (Gutz, Marte, etc.) and quietly be solid.

I'll try not to kill you on the "Cop-Love" stuff. We all said some pretty crazy stuff in the heat of the moment. I think I once suggested Jake going to Buffalo for good...seriously.

Voltaire said...

No problems, Pat. I'm glad the pain has died down enough that we can all laugh again.

What's Koplove's contract status, by the way? ;-)

Baltimoran said...

i'm a little disappointed that there isn't even consideration to putting Peralta at 3rd, we could improve our infield and not lose any numbers in the lineup...granted it leaves Marte out...but has he earned his way in?

KonstrucktaTribe said...

PT

Thanks alot for the DiaTribe it really enhanced the Indians run for me. By the way what is your great american novel list....top 10?

Pat Tabler said...

B-moron,
I've heard Shapiro say a number of times that Peralta's highest value in the lineup right now is as a SS and probably wants the Barfield/Marte thing to shake out before moving Jhonny to 3B in 2009, which I think will happen if Marte doesn't assert himself.

K-Tribe,
The list that I have:
Moby Dick
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Scarlett Letter
The Grapes of Wrath
The Great Gatsby
Slaughterhouse-Five
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Catcher in the Rye
A Farwell to Arms
The Sound and the Fury
Farenheit 451
The Invisible Man

Since I’ve already worn my copies of Huck Finn and Mockingbird thin with multiple readings, I’m starting with the Catcher in the Rye, then moving on to Gatsby to start.

KonstrucktaTribe said...

Pt Great List

Definitely move Catcher in the rye at slaughterhouse up to the front two of my favs. It would be advisable to include catch 22 as a follow up to Slaughterhouse and you can book-end that with a farewell to arms the absurdity of war always makes for good reading. If I may be so bold as to recomend a couple of contemporary novels that judging by your list you might enjoy. They are the following:

"Heartbreaking work of Staggering Genius" by Dave Eggers and "Kavalier & Clay" by Michael Chabon these two would be good in conjunction with Catcher in the Rye.

So if we do pick up Byrd then do we trade someone like cliff Lee for someone like Carl Crawford? I know they think they are set in house with left but i think crawford would be an excellent long term fit and if Adam Miller stays healthy and Sowere rights the ship we still will have plenty of depth with laffey and others.

You know I have to say watching the breakfast cereal make that catch made me believe in such a thing as fate. Having said that I love Shoppach and here is hoping they get something valuable for Marte.

Also don't give up on Barfield I have a feeling that he is going to be special.

Cy Slapnicka said...

pluto's idea on his podcast yesterday was shipping out peralta and lee for a LF bat and starting asdrubal barfield at SS/2B. not a bad one, but i don't see it happening. his point of view was that you remain the same from an offensive perspective, but add get better IF defense. and thats assumgin barfield doesn't hit, which i hope he does. i bet westbrook disagrees about peralta's highest value being at SS.

Heartbreaking Work is outstanding, absolutely loved the book.

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Pat Tabler said...

I wish I could get rid of that spam stuff that keeps showing up.

Anyways, Heartbreaking is great. I read that a few years back. One book I finished recently which was superbly written was "The Tender Bar" by J.R. Moehringer.

I'll check out "Kavalier and Clay" and add those others to my list, which is suddenly very imposing. Spring Training doesn't start for a while though.

I still don't see the D-Rays moving Crawford as they'd rather move Dukes or the other OF they have instead of dealing Crawford.

Remember that Barfield (who I don't think they'll give up on) can spend a whole year in Buffalo if he loses the 2B derby.

Pluto did make a decent argument for the LF bat, but I'm not sure you have to give up Peralta to get it. I wouldn't be surprised to see Shapiro deal some of the players in positions of depth to upgrade LF, I just don't see that BIG bat that everyone seems convinced we need.

The D-Backs, with their glut of young OF and Young and Byrnes locked in would be an interesting partner as the Tribe could part with some young pitchers to upgrade the offense. Remember that Josh Byrnes and Shapiro worked under John Hart in the late '90s.

Voltaire said...

People have been clamoring for a big bat since 2005 and we've been winning ever since without it.

Tyler said...

Frank's talent is mercurial to be sure, but in addition to his D, I think he plays for two reasons. (1) I hate to be the guy that says it, but Grady's bound to DL himself with those dives one of these seasons. When he does, you want Guti on the roster, and you want him tuned up. I can't think of a team in baseball with better depth in center field. (2) Power: Even if Franklin simply holds the course, he's an honest threat for 30 homers. No other non-Sizemore outfielder on this roster can do that.

I think the second-half Casey Blake is what we can expect next year. Casey, God bless him, is on the verge of his decline phase. He's a league-average hitter with a lot of versatility. (Won't it be great NOT to hear that word all winter?) We'll use him the same way we did in 2007, I guess, but the best-case scenario is that Star Tribe: The Next Generation leaves him nothing to do.

Regarding C.C., I think the point has been made that back-to-back playoff appearances are far and away the most important goal for this organization: That boosts revenue in '09 and '10, when we'll need it most. We're more likely to make the post-season with C.C. than without. That seems like the end of the story to me.

RE: The rest of the rotation, I think you give Lee the first crack, but he gets 5 or 6 weeks at most. PS, God help the International League next spring: Miller, Sowers, Laffey, Lofgren, Smith, possibly Nottingham. Lots of luck, Altoona Curve.