Sunday, November 09, 2008

Reading Between the Lines on a Lazy Sunday

After attending a wedding last night that STOCKED Christmas Ale at the bar (the bride proudly boasted having 6 cases, which reminded me of the days in college when we would “splurge” for an Icehouse Keg and watch the debauchery ensue), I am somehow vertical and ready to fly with a Lazy Sunday.

But before getting into a LS, let’s make a quick attempt to read between the lines in the now-famous “Shapiro-Speak” with its offshoot “Wedge-Speak” (you know, those languages that contain a lot of words, but little meaning) with one of the more telling comments that has been published pertaining to the Indians’ off-season needs and the plan to address said needs recently.

Shapiro – “We clearly need an infielder…we can't go to spring training with the infielders we've got. We could go to spring training with the starters we have. We could go to spring training with Jensen Lewis at closer. It doesn't mean I rank getting a starting pitcher any less important.”

Now let’s go back to the quote from Wedge when the season ended:
Wedge – “At some point, I do feel Jhonny is going to end up at third base and Asdrubal will be at shortstop”.

As I’ve said before, for an organization that makes such measured statements and generally refuses to comment specifically on particular players, these comments intimate that the Indians have gone over their roster with a fine-tooth comb, while surveying the scene of available FA this off-season and have come up with the conclusion that an infielder is their GREATEST need and that a 2B is going to be more readily available, prompting Wedge’s quote to lay the groundwork for the subsequent likelihood of Peralta slotting to 3B.

Are you getting this yet?
While it may not be ideal, internal options may suffice for the rotation and bullpen – but no such internal options exist for an infielder and the idea of going into 2009 with either Jamey Carroll, Andy Marte, or Josh Barfield simply doesn’t look to be an option.

Now, take it a step further and realize that many of the available 2B and 3B available via FA aren’t enough of an upgrade over Jamey Carroll (and would take dollars away from filling other holes without being a permanent fix), and it would seem that the first problem that figures to be addressed will be the infield. If the infield is augmented, the Indians can then creatively attempt to supplement the rotation or fortify the bullpen by moving some pieces and parts around.

Essentially, as it stands now, the Indians COULD go into the 2009 season with their rotation populated by Lee, Carmona, Reyes, Laffey, and Huff and be somewhat comfortable in holding down the fort until Jake returned. Certainly a 3rd starter after Carmona would be ideal to let Huff and Laffey fight it out for the 5th spot (with the “loser” being the 1st option in Columbus), but having the aforementioned pitchers as the rotation isn’t going to sabotage the season. Additionally, Jake Westbrook is SUPPOSED to be ready to go after the All-Star Break, making the Indians deeper in the rotation once July hits.

Likewise, the Indians COULD go into 2009 with Stomp Lewis as the closer, The Fist of Iron and The Fist of Steel (since it’s been a while since that one was used, that’s Betancourt and Perez because “if the right one doesn’t get you, then the left one will”) setting him up and the young arms like Bones Meloan, Atom Miller (who’s hitting 97 MPH in the Dominican and WILL be a reliever in 2009), Nasty Boy Tom Mastny, Eddie Moo, The Zach Attack, Rich Rundles, Jeff Stevens, Masa, and even Tony Sipp slotting around to fill out the bullpen. Yes, an “established” closer would help settle it, or even just another experienced reliever with closing experience would allay fears that the 2008 Hellpen could rear its ugly head again.
But, unlike last year, the Indians have better overall arms (and some who could develop into homegrown closers…finally) and better depth in the bullpen that the team could rely on its internal options.
Again, not ideal…but feasible.

With the infield, though, it’s a completely different story (and Shapiro’s comment verifies that the organization feels the same way), in that there are no internal options that can serve as “Plan B” if a piece isn’t added. Andy Marte and Josh Barfield don’t look like they’re part of this team’s plans going forward and Jamey Carroll is best used as a utility player.

But herein lies the problem, as the infield options are SO limited (unless you want to give up Asdrubal and Fausto for 1 year of Brian Roberts, as Hoynes reported the asking price of the Orioles to be) both in terms of FA and trade that the Indians may be handcuffed in what they can add that would truly represent an upgrade.
I mean, is Mark Grudzielanek worth committing 2 or 3 years to?

As for the other alleged options, they’re all fraught with questions:
What if Joe Crede is signed and his balky back gives out?
What would it cost to add Garrett Atkins or Kelly Johnson…and do we really want those players?
How many years are too many to add Orlando Hudson?
Regardless of the answers to those questions, my best guess is that the Indians address the infield issue first, probably via FA, even if it means they give too much money and too many years to Orlando Hudson, who’s suddenly the prettiest belle at the ball.

After that addition is made (whether or not it is Hudson), the Indians can then shop for the best deal for Kelly Shoppach, with the idea that they’re not hamstrung by HAVING to deal him for an infielder and can optimize his trade value by (hopefully) flipping him for a young, top-to-middle-of-the-rotation starter or a young, legitimate closing option and another piece.

Obviously, this fluid situation will be examined ad nauseum for the next few months, so let’s finally roll out the Lazy Lazy:
There’s nothing (yes, nothing) in the local fishwraps on the Indians today, so we’ll have to throw the net a little wider to find our Tribe news.
Nothing new there but…where are you today, Terry?

From the “Catcher Derby”, Jarrod Salty (sorry, I’m not typing that whole name) has said that he’d like to be the one that ends up in Boston. Not that this means anything, but it is certainly unusual for him to comment on. Imagine for a moment that this was Shoppach instead of Salty, saying that he’d love to end up in Boston…see how this is weird now?

As a follow-up to the suggestion here a while back that Aaron Heilmann may be an option to augment the bullpen by buying low on a player who may just need a change of scenery, here’s a piece that confirms that he will, in fact, be available and figures to have suitors.
Not saying he’d be a great fit, just thinking outside the box here.

Also from the Big Apple, it looks as if Mike Mussina (who had been discussed as a possible option for the rotation on a short deal given the proximity between Cleveland and Mussina’s home in Montoursville, PA) will be retiring, if what he allegedly told Joe Girardi stands.

If you’re tired of cursory, lazy looks at the Indians’ off-season from the local media outlets, here’s one from the most nationally-recognized media outlet, as Johah Keri absolutely butchers the Tribe’s “Winter Forecast”. Let’s see…Paul Byrd fetched a PTBNL (false), no mention of the Blake deal when addressing the talent infusion, no mention of Dave Huff in the rotation talk for 2009, dismissing Carmona as “Jekyll-and-Hyde” with nary a mention of injuries, and an unnecessary Mark Teahen-talk comment.

Yep, Mr. Keri hit ALL the high points and doesn’t come off at all as a journalist who quickly perused the roster and recent moves and gave little more thought to the Indians than the rest of ESPN does. Yes, that’s Bryan Bullington in the provided link penciled in as the Indians’ 5th starter on the ESPN depth chart despite the fact that Bullington is now a Blue Jay.

Nothing like the WWL covering all their bases as the Hot Stove League starts.
Although I guess it begs the question – “who really goes to for their baseball news anyway…and isn’t it a shame that Gammons, Olney, and Kurkjian are wasted there?”

Actually, if you want to know what the WWL now excels in, its pieces like this from “The Mag” on Iron Chef Michael Symon. An interesting read about a Cleveland boy made good – who makes damn good food. The DiaBride took me down to his Lola (on the fabulously revitalized East 4th) for my birthday, where I was fortunate enough to meet Symon and complement him on one of the best meals I had ever experienced.

Speaking of “Cleveland boys made good”, the incomparable Joe Posnanski (a fellow South Euclid native) has a superb piece on Rapid Robert, who turned 90 recently. The article is a not-so-subtle reminder that excellent sports writing is still out there, you just have to look past the likes of Bill Livingston (whose piece on Feller the next day is not worth your time…trust me) to find it.

Staying on the topic of Mr. Posnanski, here’s more wildly informative stuff from him on the effectiveness of relievers and other tidbits from his perusal of the new Bill James Handbook.

Finally, the last thing I EVER want to do is rely on sentences that start with “Whispers from…” or whatever that guy who used to write on Page 2 of the PD started his “columns” with, but let’s just say that if you’re thinking that a certain Hefty Lefty is even considering staying in Cleveland, there are a few initials that should clear up any of that lingering thought.
No, those initials are not CC…try PODS, as in the mobile moving unit that sits in the driveway of his Westlake home. The PODS container is right next to the silver Ferrari he’s tooling around town in.
If it was not yet official, it is now - see ya, CC.


Anonymous said...

Paul, Paul, Paul,

Are you really that hungover, or are you just baiting me? "One fist of iron, the other of steel / if the right don't getcha, the left one will." It HAS been a while. In so many ways. That's okay, though. I want my enduring legacy to be "Stomp Lewis."

Am I the only person in the world who doesn't think Josh Barfield is chopped liver? I want to believe.

Which speaks to a larger point. We may "clearly need an infielder," but that doesn't mean we can afford one, at least not by ordinary means. If there's a new face in that infield, I contend it's going to come out of nowhere, a la the Barfield method.

Not to go all Joe Biden on you ("by the trident of Neptune!") but the guys the Indians are targeting are almost by necessity not the guys we're targeting as fans. We won't see this one coming, but given that we were sipping Christmas Ales the last time we made a major infield acquisition, this move might be coming sooner than we think.

Paul Cousineau said...

Fixed on both counts when addressing the bullpen nicknames. I don't know why I always forget Stomp, given how much I like it.

Barfield's struggles in Buffalo last year are what have me really questioning if he's an option at any point down the road. I suppose that him having an option for 2009 means that he'll have another opportunity to assert himself, but he has a lot of "Forget Me Now" to pass out to make memories of his last two years disappear.

By the way, WOW, was I excited about Barfield two years ago today.

I held out hope, like you, that the infielder would come from an unexpected source - but I've tried to go through ALL of the different 2B/3B in MLB, regardless of contract, age, or assumed availability and there just isn't anyone who jumps out. You're right that none of us saw Barfield coming, so I'd love to be surprised.
I do so love surprises.

Anonymous said...

How about shifting Jhonny over, leaving Asdrubal at second, and getting a shortstop? Say, the Angels seem to need a catcher ...

Cy Slapnicka said...

mmmm, xmas ale...

Mike C. said...

if the Angels need a catcher, if they could include in a package for Shoppach their AAA 3B Freddy Sandoval that could be a solution. I live in Salt Lake and he plays great defense and has some power. Sandoval seems to be blocked by Figgins for the near future.

R.M. Jennings said...

Sad news today.

I was kind of shocked when I realized the Indians never retired Herb Score's number (27). They should have done it while he was alive to see it, but they owe it to his legacy to do it now. Hopefully Anthony Reyes won't mind (he was #23 previously).

Cy Slapnicka said...

why were you shocked? while he was good for the few years he pitched for the indians, his career as a player doesn't warrant retiring his number...even if one of the reasons for his decline was he took a liner off his face in our uni.

to be honest, i don't think they should. the reason teams haven't gone to triple digit numbers is b/c they only retire the guys that REALLY deserve it. go look at our retired numbers and read about those guys and then come back and tell me he deserves it.

was he a big part of the organization for quite sometime? sure.

do all fans over 25 fondly remember listening to his voice echo through their garage or backyard on a hot summer night? of course, i can still hear it and when i think of baseball on the radio that voice pops into my head.

if the organization wants to honor him as the voice of the team for so many years, they should do it in some other way.

Cy Slapnicka said...

btw, no disrespect to score or his legacy. as i really can hear the AM sounds of his voice on my dad's old radio in the garage. i'm just saying, he doesn't deserve a retired number

R.M. Jennings said...

You're right. As a player, he wasn't really deserving of the honor. But for someone who was with the team for so long when they were so terrible, there has to be a way to honor him.