Wednesday, November 19, 2008

All Quiet on the North Coast Front

The natives are getting restless with each day that passes without news of a move from the corner of Carnegie and Ontario as Indians’ fans are hungry for the team to make an addition to the team (or at least a rumor that contains the Tribe) as the off-season has started slowly. While the FA period started last Friday, though, the Indians are not alone in their inaction as very little has happened in MLB, outside of a lot of conjecture as to how much the Bronx Bombers are going to finally offer CC (and whether the MLB Players’ Union has any bearing on the negotiations), a couple of minor deals, and a few players coming off the board in a matter that suggests that their eyes were always focused on the team for which they will be playing in 2009.

The only announcement to come out of the Indians’ Front Office has been the naming of a new bullpen coach in Chuck Hernandez, who most recently was the pitching coach for the Tigers. The move is a bit of a surprise only in that many (myself included) thought that the Indians terminated Luis Isaac to make a logical promotion from within. That is, the thought was that they would stay in-house on this decision, simply promoting Scott Radinsky from his post as AAA pitching coach to handle a bullpen that figures to be populated in 2009 and beyond with some of his former pupils. While in AAA, Radinsky has been credited with getting Jensen Lewis back on track in 2008, with working Cliff Lee back into form at the end of 2007, and with developing a number of the young arms (Jeff Stevens, most notably) that figure to play a role in 2009.

Despite what would look to be a natural promotion for Radinsky to allow him to work with relievers that he’s experienced success with, the Indians added Hernandez, whose track record as a pitching coach is not exactly the type of resume that one would hope to see added to the organization.
To wit, the staffs that he has had control of as a pitching coach have put up the following ERA’s:
DET 2008 – 4.90
DET 2007 – 4.57
DET 2006 – 3.84
TB 2005 – 5.39
TB 2004 – 4.81
LAA 1996 – 5.31
LAA 1995 – 4.52
LAA 1994 – 5.42
LAA 1993 – 4.34
LAA 1992 – 3.84
Not the type of numbers you would like to see out of a coach that will add a “new dynamic” to the pitching staff (particularly the way that the ERA’s tend to rise the longer he stays in one place), but he’s only the bullpen coach and will basically serve as another pair of eyes for pitching coach Carl Willis. Watching the Tigers’ pitching staff the last two years, however, one hopes that this is ALL he’ll be providing as Detroit’s pitching staff certainly regressed over the last two years of Hernandez’s tenure.

As I said, he’s ONLY the bullpen coach so it’s not a move to get too worked up about. However, given Scott Radinsky’s track record in the minors with some of their top prospects (and the glowing terms that Stevens and Dave Huff have used for Radinsky’s work in AAA in recent interviews), I certainly hope that Radinsky is not going to use this perceived snub to join another organization.

See what I mean now…how NOTHING is happening, that so many words and thoughts can be devoted to the naming of a new bullpen coach, as inconsequential as that announcement is?

Regardless, outside of a few trades that the Indians should have zero interest in (the Swisher deal being the exception given how little the Yankees gave up to get him), the Free Agent tracker tells me that there are quite a few players that haven’t ordered new return address labels yet. And, truthfully, the re-signing of Ryan Dempster by the Cubs was a foregone conclusion back in July and the Giants’ signing of Jeremy Affeldt has a look to it that Affeldt WANTED to pitch in SF (for reasons only he would understand, unless he felt the NL was a better long-term fit for him and SF is the closest NL city to his home in Washington) in that he likely left money and years that would have been coming his way from other reliever-starved teams.

On Affeldt, don’t you think that SOME team (forget the Indians for a moment…think the Mets or the Cardinals) would have offered more than the 2-year, $8M deal that he got, considering that Damaso Marte just set the price for LHP by getting 3 years and $12M from the Yankees? Considering that the contract that Marte got is identical to the deals that LHP Jamie Walker signed with the Orioles and JC Romero signed with the Phillies in the past, wouldn’t you figure that Affeldt would sit on the sidelines for a while and let the reliever market shake out? Certainly the Marte, Walker, and Romero deal would simply serve as the baseline for what he could command, especially after some of the top relievers went off the board and the teams that would have missed on those top relievers were left standing alone, bags of money in hand.

Despite what conventional wisdom might say, that teams desperate to add a bullpen piece later in the game may be more inclined to guarantee more years and dollars, Affeldt went to the team that he wanted as soon as possible, the rest of MLB seemingly be damned.

And as good as Dempster would have looked in the middle of the rotation (at a price that wasn’t as outrageous as what the Yankees are allegedly offering AJ Burnett) or as good as Jeremy Affeldt would have looked in the Tribe bullpen at that salary, it’s not time to sit here and DEMAND that something be done. Yes, other moves have been made and players have been traded in some minor deals, but the Indians have a few holes to fill and plenty of time to fill them. The FA market figures to heat up after the 40-man roster decisions are made for tomorrow and before everyone goes home for some turkey next week, so let’s not say that the Indians’ off-season is looking like last year’s as…you know…it just started.

In this age of instant information and disinformation, it’s easy to think that the Indians are on the outside looking in on all of these negotiations, but the truth is that the Indians’ moves of the past have been sudden and without any warning. Whether it’s an indication of the airtight seal that they keep on rumors or whether really nothing is happening, the lack of the Indians being mentioned in many of the transactions that are taking place isn’t too troublesome at this point.

Now, if some of these names that have been linked to them that look like fits (Hoffman, Wood, Hudson, etc) start to come off the board, signing deals that look like the Indians should have been front and center on, worry will start to creep in. Until that happens (if it does, in fact), I’m content to let this off-season play out to see where the chips start to fall.

For now…we wait, which is the hardest part.


Jason said...

Maybe the organization thinks that Radinsky brings more value in AAA helping guys reclaim their grooves. If Ball Four is any indicator, the bullpen coach is really just a lackey for the pitching coach anyway.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the situation is not so much that the Indians are lock-tight on rumors, but that they move very quickly. One of the attributes of DiamondView is that they already know what they want and how much to pay for it, right?

Difficult though it is to believe that they could move faster than the lightning fingertips of Paul Hoynes.

Any who's complaining about no news? Every week with no news is another week I get to be an unapologetic Kelly Shoppach fan.

Jeff said...

Tyler, you haven't been spending time on the boards, have you? There's a thread there where folks are convinced the Tribe hasn't been mentioned in any rumors, and that their lack of activity here in November is indicative of their intention to stand pat until next season.

It's rapidly becoming lite over there. Makes me appreciate The DiaTribe that much more...

Paul Cousineau said...

Thanks Jeff.
Though I didn't see that, I guess this sense that people have that because the off-season moves aren't completed that nothing is going to happen is so ridiculous to me that it prompted the piece.

I think there is something to be said of the Indians knowing what they want and what they're going to offer as (according to Mr. Hoynes) the Indians have yet to offer a deal to anyone, simply biding their time until the players they're interested in have the market set in front of them.

Enjoy Kelly while you have him, Tyler...I don't think he's long for the Tribe.

Anonymous said...

No, Jeff, I operate in a very small baseball universe. Quality over quantity.

About that conspiracy theory, though, here's a counter argument. The Indians are quiet in the off-season because they don't care about the off-season. I think the Indians prefer to operate in the higher-leverage environment of the summer trade deadline.

Paul, about Kelly, the Indians are so conservative with trades of major leaguers ... seems unlikely he'll be moved for anything other than maximum value, so I won't whine if he's traded. At least, not publicly.

G'son said...

Just a quick reference to the latest Hoynes rehash:

Hoynes has hashed, rehashed and minced this same position over and over for the past two months:

1. Indians need a closer: Hoynes then lists each by one as being available... then claims the guy is too expensive.. needs a longer contract, etc. Hoynes never quotes anyone actually involved.. like the GM's, the manager's, the players in question, the player's agents, etc.. After going through each available guy.. he repeats it a week or two later.. this is the third time "Huston Street" has been 'discussed'.. it's endless gibberish.

2, Indians need an infielder (2B..move Jhonny P to 3B, or 3B) See above for listing, hashing and rehashing..

Cleveland is a one paper town.. sadly, the one paper has an Indians beat writer who is as lazy as he is un-motivated. There is NEVER 'NEWS' offered by Hoynes.. If Indians fans want to hear something about the club's transactions, they can get it the same way Hoynes does.. from the media in the town involved in the transaction or a national source. E.G. CC Sabathia trade was a "follow after" story by Hoynes, he didn't get the scoop.. and his story, came out the next day, repeating what was said in Milwaukee.. this is NORMAL for Hoynes...

What say you?

Paul Cousineau said...

You have to stop relying on the PD for your "news" on the Indians as your frustration is only going to grow by the lack of originality, insight, or "breaking stories" that you're going to find from that source.

Truthfully, I go to the PD to read Terry Pluto and little else, allowing the writers I've found online that are much more in-depth and in tune with the Indians to provide the information I learn about the Tribe these days.

Certainly, Cleveland is a "one-paper town" which is a cause of some of the laziness. But judging by the cuts and difficulties in the newspaper business, I wonder how much longer Cleveland will even be a "one paper town".