Saturday, December 31, 2005


After this mess, I have only one question: How many days until pitchers and catchers report?

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Filling out the Rotation

The Tribe signed Jason Johnson to be their 5th starter, which completed the 2006 rotations (sans Davis, Carmona, or Sowers, who could all still be just a phone call away). I was not that thrilled with the signing at first glance, mainly because my knowledge of Johnson was limited to his outings against the Tribe (0-2, 5.51 ERA) last year.

When looking deeper into the numbers, though, the Johnson signing simply represents an upgrade over Scott Elarton (while committing to one less guaranteed year) at the 5th spot. If Paul Byrd is a downgrade from Kevin Millwood (who impossibly got 4 years guaranteed with the 5th year easy to attain from the Rangers, who should have learned from the Chan Ho Park debacle), then Johnson balances that exchange by upgrading the 5th starter spot.

What Johnson will do is eat innings, as he’s thrown more than 185 innings every year but one since 2001. That kind of dependability (mostly for bad teams) could translate into wins at the Jake, particularly considering that he’s a groundball pitcher in the Westbrook mold.

Remember that Johnson was seen by some as the Tigers’ ace going into last season, which (though it’s akin to being the prettiest girl in Pittsburgh) counts for something. He may thrive in an environment where he’s pitching against 5th starters (like Cliff Lee does against 3rd starters) and turn into a nice little pick-up.

The signing of Byrd and Johnson do represent an upgrade in signing pitchers with few injury questions and with a track record. Compared to the success stories of Indians pulled off of the scrap heap (Elarton, Sauerbeck, Howry), these free agent pitchers are at least known quantities.

Essentially, we replaced Millwood and Elarton with Byrd and Johnson to fill out a deep rotation. Pitchers’ arms, being the fickle things that they are, aren’t guaranteed to stay healthy or perform identically from year to year. That being said, let’s look at the two numbers most people pointed to when extolling the Tribe rotation last year, IP and ERA:
Millwood – 192 IP, 2.86 ERA
Elarton – 181.2 IP, 4.61 ERA
-Cumulative ERA of 3.70
Paul Byrd – 204.1 IP, 3.74 ERA
Jason Johnson – 210 IP, 4.54 ERA
-Cumulative ERA of 4.14

So, are we going to get the same production from those 2 spots in the rotation? Who knows? What is known is that Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson are signed for a total of 3 guaranteed years at $18.25M, while Millwood and Elarton are locked up for their respective teams for 6 years at $56M.

If the productivity were similar, which package would you rather have, given the unpredictability of pitchers? Also, with the young arms closer and closer, do you want to tie up that kind of money and years in the rotation?

Shapiro’s core belief of financial flexibility is apparent in this signing. And while other teams (notably the Blue Jays) tempt fate in the length of contracts given out to pitchers this off-season, Shapiro quietly (and successfully) built a pitching staff that (on paper) should perform on par with that of 2005.

Where the Indians go from here is anyone’s guess. With rumors of David Riske for Ryan Langerhans and Coco Crisp for Andy Marte floating around, along with the recent Hillenbrand rumor (I hope not), expect something to be done. That something probably just won’t be on the scale that most would like to see (um…how about Broussard, Blake, Riske, Coco, Phillips, and Davis for Manny?)

In reality, Shapiro will likely upgrade one or two positions by dealing from a strength (the bullpen or pitching prospects) or trading a player whose value is high (Coco) with numerous contingency plans that ensure that there will be no glaring holes on the 2006 roster.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Tomahawk Time

Still nothing from Tribe offices, though there has been some movement that could affect the Indians' plans:

  • Reggie Sanders, a target for RF, has reportedly signed a 2 year deal with the Royals worth about $10M. The second year probably scared the Tribe off and rightly so, seeing as how Sanders is 37.
  • Jacque Jones went to the Cubs and, while he wasn't a target of the Tribe, forced the Twins to take a chance on Rondell White as his replacement. Both players probably on the periphery of potential Tribe OFs. Thank goodness the Tribe didn't get in on either one of these guys, particluarly the erratic White. The fact that the Twins added him as their "big bat" makes me feel even better that the Twins' window may be coming closer to closing.
  • Johnny Damon signed a 4 year, $52M deal with the Evil Empire, giving them an All-Star at every position with questionable starting pitching. How many rings did that strategy net for the Tribe in the '90s?
The bigger part of Damon signing is the fact that Red Sox Nation is up in arms, reeling, and searching for a CF/Leadoff Hitter. The options (as proposed by the Boston Media) boil down to Coco, Jeremy Reed, Dave Roberts, and Corey Patterson. Whose name looks the best on that list?

That's why the Indians are in a position commonly referred to (particularly by John Goodman's character in all-time fave Raising Arizona) as "sitting in the fabled catbird's seat".

The Red Sox know that they have to make a move or risk a huge PR disaster (which sometimes seems to be their main concern). The Indians can sit and demand any combination of players that they want. If the Red Sox comply, great. If not, fine; we'll go into next season with Coco.

Shapiro is really in a great spot here, where he's able to call the shots and can make a ridiculous demand and see how its received. He can ask about Andy Marte and Matt Clement and Bronson Arroyo and Guillermo Mota and see what sticks.

What the Red Sox have done is a classic Butch Davis move. They've underestimated their own players, then panicking when they lose them, they're forced to reach or overpay for a replacement. Does anyone remember the drafting of Jeff Faine to replace Dave Wohlabaugh or Ryan Pontbriand (the famous 5th round Long Snapper) to repalce Ryan Kuehl? It just so happens that Cleveland could be on the receiving end of the windfall, rather than in our usual position, holding the short end of the stick.

Whether Coco gets traded or not, I put trust in Shapiro to make (or not make) the move that is going to benefit the team, not only in 2006 but beyond. Remeber that Preston Wilson, Juan Encarnacion, and the possibility of making a trade not involving Coco are still very real possibilities.

Nothing's happened yet, though, and the deadline of Christmas (that Shapiro mentioned numerous times in interviews) is quickly approaching.

Personally, I'll be celebrating Christmas in Milwaukee which (while it is no Christmas in Hollis) always turns into a fantastic time as the in-laws and siblings-in-law always keep the High Life cold.

Merry Christmas to All!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Paging Derek Lilliquist

Some small signings, with the Tribe giving Danny Graves and Steve Karsay minor league deals. Continuing the trend of looking at former Indians, the Tribe gave the two relievers (who were at one time elite bullpen arms) a shot at the big-league roster. Reportedly, Ernie Camacho and Jaime Easterly were next on the list to gauge interest.

Seriously, on Graves and Karsay, it's a small risk move for the Indians, adding neither to the 40-man until they see what kind of shape their arms are in. Like most signings, this could be a windfall (best case scenario: see Howry and Sauerbeck) or inconsequential (worst case scenario: see Bere and Gonzalez).

Both reclamation projects (let's call them what they are) are intriguing, but I think that Graves is moreso. Karsay has only pitched 20 some games in the past 3 years and has always been on the fragile side. Graves, on the other hand, got a raw deal in Cincinnati, who rode him out of town on a rail after he made an obscene gesture to a fan. At the time, Graves was struggling, and admittedly so; but, he said publicly that he had not fully recovered from a 2003 arm surgery. After being cut by the Reds, the Mets picked him up; Graves, however, had little success after the change of address.

On a side note, remember when people wanted to trade some prospects for Graves last season? That would have been a waste.

Graves might be the kind of player who, given a comfortable situation without a lot of pressure, could thrive and force himself into the 2006 bullpen situation. Or, his arm could go John Smiley (OK, that was mean) and never be heard from again.

Regardless, it's not costing the Tribe much to find out.

And, for those of you who will take me to task for saying that a big signing/trade could be coming before Christmas - this DOES NOT qualify as that move.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Nomar decided to stay close to home (he owns 2 houses in SoCal) by agreeing to a one-year deal with the Dodgers. It seems that the other teams were probably in the same ballpark financially, but Nomar decided to stay where he's close to home. Good luck Mr. Hamm.

First Giles, then Hoffman, now Nomar. Have these people never seen the North Coast? Wait, don't answer that question.

With Garciaparra off the table, expect the Tribe to turn their attention to Preston Wilson and Reggie Sanders to fill their hole in RF and for a RH bat in the lineup. Also, with Nomar off the table, you have to think that Shapiro is burning up the phones (or e-mail, or whatever) looking at trade scenarios.

The RF/1B still could come via a trade, with Riske, Phillips, Broussard, and minor league pitchers being offered; but, as I've said before, you have to give up value to get value in return. A team isn't going to part with an established bat, just to get a shot at resurrecting B-Phil's stalled career, or at the prospect of adding Riske to their bullpen at $2M-$3M a year (which he'll probably command in arbitration).

That's why Coco's name keeps coming up in these trade talks. The Red Sox, Yankees, Braves, and Diamonbacks have all reportedly asked about Coco to solve their CF/Leadoff problems. Those teams see Grady entrenched in CF in Cleveland and think that Coco is miscast as a LF and may be available.

While he is miscast as a LF, there is no viable alternative to him there. The prospects (Gutierrez, Snyder, and even Francisco) aren't ready yet and the FA route often results in high risk, low return type players (Hidalgo, Rondell White, etc.).

I think that Shapiro would love to move Coco to fill some holes as his value will probably never be higher (Ed. note - I have always viewed Coco as a glorified 4th outfielder), but his hands are tied because there's nobody ready to step in.

On the rotation front, Scott Elarton signed a 2-year deal with the Royals. I wish Elarton the best as he really was a nice component of the rotation for 2 years and earned that payday. From the Tribe's perspective, though, couldn't you get Elarton's numbers from Carmona or Sowers at a lower price and aid in the development of a top prospect?

Personally, I'm excited at seeing a battle in Spring Training for the 5th spot. If these minor-league arms are as talented as we've heard, why wouldn't you elevate them to the Majors? To get a higher spot in Baseball America's ranking?

Rudy Seanez also signed with the Red Sox, taking a potential set-up guy off the board. Julian Tavarez is still out there, but he's looking for a 3-year deal. I think that the Indians can wait on this one until the price (and years) comes down a little bit.

But what's the deal with all of these old Indians' prospects being talked about as potential solutions? Maybe we should see if Luis Medina could fill the hole at 1B, or if Beau Allred might be able to patrol RF this season.

I think this week leading up to Christmas could be a busy one, so stay tuned.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


With the endless possibilities of the off-season in full swing, there seems to be an underlying theme, both in comments by the Indians and the perception of the (more astute) fans. The theme that seems to guide every decision made by the Indians’ deep thinkers is THE PLAN. Shapiro, Wedgie, and Antonetti always refer to “sticking with the plan”, or “staying within the plan” when decisions are made.

So, what is this PLAN? What are the “core beliefs” of the organization that factor into every decision made? Seeing as how it is unlikely that Shapiro would offer me an invitation to sit in on an organizational meeting or answer questions directly (and not vaguely in business-speak, as is his custom), I’ve come up with my best guess.

The PLAN is a philosophy of making decisions that will not only put the best team on the field today, but also have an eye toward the future, both talent-wise and financially. As far as I can tell, the PLAN has 3 main objectives:
1) Be Right More than Wrong in Talent Evaluation
2) Be Flexible – Financially and in the Field
3) Maintain a Strong Farm System to Keep the Pipeline Filled

Obviously, these objectives are pretty broad and could apply to any ML team, but I’ll take them one at a time to show how these three ideas seem to dictate the personnel decisions that are made on a daily basis.

Be Right More than Wrong in Talent Evaluation
This is obviously something that every ML team strives to do, as no team is going to be right every single time. To my knowledge, no GM has ever had a spotless record when it comes to trades, FA signings, drafts, etc. But by limiting mistakes, or being right more than wrong, you can put a quality product on the field despite the inevitable flops.

Case in point: When the Indians traded Roberto Alomar, they received Alex Escobar (the alleged “jewel” position player of the Mets’ organization), Billy Traber (a former #1 pick LH pitcher), and Matt Lawton. The thought was that Escobar would settle into RF, Traber would become a mainstay in the rotation, and Lawton would serve as a stopgap until more talented players were available.

Ironically, around the time that it became obvious that none of the 3 scenarios were going to work flawlessly, Shapiro had a decision to make on Bartolo Colon. He moved him, as we know, for Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, and Grady Sizemore (Lee Stevens notwithstanding).

Shapiro was taking another shot at prospects, this time a middle infielder that would ideally replace Omar, another hotshot LH starter, and a raw OF. We all know how Shapiro’s two “blockbusters” worked out, with Lee and Grady developing into “core players”, while Phillips, Escobar, and Traber floated off (or will float off) into oblivion. 2 out of 5 actually is not that bad, looking at the history of trading veterans for prospects.

Where Shapiro really made hay at the time, though, were the acquisitions of Coco, Hafner, Broussard, Westbrook, Gerut, and Bard in trades for Finley, Diaz, Branyan, Justice, and Jacob Cruz.

These new Indians were meant to complement the young players already in the system (Victor, Corey Smith, and C.C. among others) to constitute the new era of Indians’ baseball.

Not all of the players worked out, but Shapiro was essentially getting about 2-3 players for every position with the knowledge that not everyone would pan out. Players like Peralta eventually forced their way into those plans.

It’s a simple idea, but when executed well, it puts a lot less pressure on a team financially because it reduces the amount of money that is spent in FA. Which leads us to the next principle…

Be Flexible – Financially and in the Field

The idea to stay flexible, financially and on the field, comes from the hard lesson learned by Shapiro pertaining to the team he inherited from John Hart.
The team that Shapiro took over in 1999 was an aging, one-dimensional team that had a lot of overpaid players in the final years of their contracts.

Shapiro saw how he was handcuffed in the moves that he could make because of contracts that had one or two too many years on them and because of how older players lose versatility as their bodies age.

Consequently, Shapiro has since been reticent to give a player additional years in a contract (Thome, Vizquel) just to get the first few productive seasons. He realized that those contracts become a burden, not easily lifted.

Thome is a perfect example. The Indians wanted very badly to keep Thome, for reasons of productivity and pleasing the fan-base, but their doctors told them that Thome’s body would hold up at 1B for only so long, then even as DH for only so long. The Indians offered that many years and refused to match the Phillies’ offer when it was extended to too many years.

The results have been obvious as Thome was very productive for 2 years at 1B; but, when unable to move to DH, his body caught up with him, rendering him ineffective and on the DL. How he performs this year and beyond in Chicago will be interesting, in that he would still be in his 4th year of the contract (which the Tribe did offer) as mainly a DH.

The signings that the Indians have made have been very short on years, and thus, very short on risk. When they feel comfortable enough to extend contracts and relationships, they do with surprising ease (Belliard, Boone, Wickman).

By staying flexible, financially in particular, guarantees that there is not a $8M mistake languishing on the bench (which has actually become a common sight in baseball), but rather that money is spent on players on the rise or trying to prove themselves.

Maintain a Strong Farm System to Keep the Pipeline Filled
The last aspect may be the most important and the most obvious to the general public. When Shapiro took over the Tribe, mid-season trades and poor drafting had depleted the farm system. Shapiro re-built it by trading his commodities (Colon, Justice, Finley, even Einar Diaz).

The idea is to have a ML-ready replacement ready for the big league team when a hole is identified. If there is not an able replacement, a short-term fix is acquired to plug a hole until the minor league player is ready.

The most obvious example of having a minor league player ready to plug a hole is at SS, with Peralta replacing Omar last year. Omar’s contract was up, and rather than giving him too many years, the Indians had Peralta ready to step in (very ably, I might add).

The short-term fix approach can be seen at 2B and 3B, where Brandon Phillips and Corey Smith (two once highly touted prospects) disappointed in their development. This forced the Indians seek out suitable veterans, while not mortgaging the future. The result of that search was the contracts to Belliard and Boone. The extension of those contracts came as a result of the realization that there was still not an adequate replacement close to Cleveland.

By simply looking around the diamond, one can see the application of this principle:
C- Victor panned out remarkably well, as the Indians used the catching of Einar Diaz until The Stick was ready. V-Mart was always a top prospect and moved seamlessly into the lineup when he arrived. When he did, Shapiro was able to trade Diaz at the height of his value to get Hafner.
1B- Michael Aubrey was seen as the heir apparent to Thome, with Broussard serving as the stopgap. Once thought to be the Opening Day 2006 1B, Aubrey’s development slowed, forcing the situation of today – wondering if Aubrey is the long-term answer, and if not, what direction to go in as Broussard still represents nothing more than a stopgap.
LF- Alex Escobar’s flameout opened the door for Coco to become a part of the lineup. Coco’s long-term stay may be determined more by the development of former 1st Round Pick Brad Snyder than anything else.
CF- Milton Bradley’s meltdown left the Indians gasping for an answer that (luckily) came in the form of Grady Sizemore. Bradley was traded with the idea that CF was the deepest spot in the minors (Escobar, Crisp, Gutierrez, Sizemore), but the emergence of Grady is the real surprise.
RF- Like 1B, the development of a top prospect (Gutierrez) that was thought to have been contributing in 2006 is putting the pressure on the Indians. Matt Lawton and Jody Gerut (the stopgaps) sustained injuries or were generally ineffective, causing further uncertainty. Forced to look outside the organization for this year, the Tribe has to determine if Gutierrez is a long-term answer and, if not, where would one come from? RF has been a sort of “anything that could go wrong, has” causing the current situation, which most Indians’ fans realize without looking at the whole timeline.

The application of this idea for next year will (probably) be at the 5th starter. Shapiro’s comment that they are in a “Vizquel-Peralta” type situation makes me think that the Indians will let one of their young arms (who should be ready) compete for that spot, rather than spending the money of re-signing Elarton.

Obviously, other players are going to emerge and force their way into the discussions (as Ryan Garko has), but those players’ developments are viewed as more of icing on the cake as opposed to something that’s counted on.

This principle is the easiest to monitor and see the Indians’ working on. They draft young pitchers with the idea that not all of their talented arms are going to stay healthy or pan out. They draft Trevor Crowe, who projects as a big-league 2B, in the first round of the draft because the organization lacks a top-flight 2B prospect. And so on, and so on.
All of their moves can be dissected this way, which is what makes it fun.

This idea to have a pipeline to the Majors is not a new concept, it’s just hard to perfect. The Atlanta Braves have always been amazingly efficient at this. When a hole on the team becomes obvious, there just happens to be a stud prospect ready to step in, usually with good results (Furcal, Giles, Francouer, etc.).

Everyone knows that the best way to build a team is to build continually from within; it’s just that the execution of that idea that is not very easy.

So, there you have the PLAN, as best I can figure it from the couch and from the Mezzanine. One thing is for certain (whether or not I have any of the components right), the PLAN is a very highly held principle that should guide this team for years to come.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Waiting Game

The Tribe locked up Wickman for $5M a year, which is about $3M less than the going rate, so there should be some money to move around.

I would expect Shapiro to make a move, either through FA or through a trade (there's a lot of guys on the 40 man roster that are out of options) to get some buzz generated for next year. Though Millwood's signing didn't happen last year until January, I would think that Shapiro will strike when the iron is hot.

Another reason I'm not GM of the Indians: I would make a LOT of trades, just to make trades and mix it up a little bit. The moment that Hoffman signed with San Diego, my head would start spinning with trade scenarios. Actually, it did. Luckily, I was nowhere near Dallas.

To those who think that the Indians are falling short so far this off-season and should be spending more money, let me bring you to the case of the Detroit Tigers:

Last year, Detroit signed Troy Percival, Pudge Rodriguez, and Magglio Ordonez.

  • Percival is such damaged goods that the Tigers spent $11M over 2 years on Todd Jones to close!?! To Todd Jones!?! This guy has been cut like 5 times in the past 3 years.
  • Pudge Rodriguez promptly lost 50 lbs. after the steroid testing started, becoming a shadow of his former self. But that's just a coincidence, right?
  • Magglio Ordonez' injuries (which were common knowledge) kept him out of most of the season.
So now, looking to make a splash the give Todd Jones the aforementioned offer and give Kenny Rogers $8M over 2 years. For a brief reminder, Kenny Rogers is 41 and will be 43 at the end of that contract. If the Indians were pulling off these type of deals, I would be picketing their offices.

Lesson: By simply spending money and "filling holes", a team is not fixing its' problems.
It's just throwing money at them.

There is a plan. It's worked up to this point. Let's give the Indians the benefit of the doubt and wait until we see how this all shakes out.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Back to Wicky

Trevor Hoffman decided to stay with the Padres, basing his decision more on family and locale than the guaranteed 3rd year that the Tribe offered him. I realize that Cleveland is no San Diego, but when will Clevelanders EVER see that home-team loyalty?

Shapiro and the boys went after HOFfman (get it, Hall of Fame?) pretty hard and must be frustrated to have him return to the Left Coast. The guaranteed 3rd year was surprising, but Shapiro has always said that he might go out of his "comfort zone" to make the right signing. I think that the guaranteed 3rd year falls into that category.

The pursuit of Hoffman should also serve notice that the Indians are willing to spend money, it's just that thus far they've been foiled by lunacy (B.J. Ryan's deal) and loyalty (Hoffman).

With all of that being said and the understanding that Hoffman would have been a great signing, the 3rd year worried me. You're paying a 41-year old $8M, and hoping that he stays healthy. What are we, the Knicks?

The contracts that closers have gotten this off-season are ridiculous and the re-entry of the Padres into the Hoffman talks pushed the Hoffman contract to those heights...not B.J. Ryan, Tom Gordon (another 38-year old given a contract with too many years), but a lot of money and a lot of years for a 38-year old.

Now, the Indians go back to that Beer Keg of a man, Sticky Wicky, to close games. The Indians will offer him arbitration before midnight, which will net Wickman a 1-year deal in the $7M range. Looking at the alternatives (Todd Jones), let's just hope that the winter in Wisconsin is REAL cold, so Bobby wants to come to Spring Training next year instead of staying in the Land of Beer and Cheese to shoot pheasant.

Wickman, for all of his warts, was an effective closer last year. He saved 45 games! Yes, he's a year older (and heavier), but now I can still sport my Wickmans' Warriors shirt proudly for another year. Maybe we should just tell Nursing Homes and Cardiac Units to show the first 8 innings of a game next summer.

With Hoffman's spurning of the Tribe, expect Shapiro to be very busy before the close of the Winter Meetings. One would think that the money that was earmarked for Hoffman may be thrown in another direction, whether it be a FA or a salary absorption via trade.

Penciling Wickman into the back end means that there are very few holes remaining on this team, with about $8M-$10M to fill them.

Go get 'em Mark! Show 'em why you're Executive of the Year!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Byrd Droppings

Some thoughts on the Byrd signing and the rotation:
In case you missed it, Paul Byrd signed a 2-year, $14.25M deal, with an option for a third year.

According to Eric Wedge on WTAM, he left more money (and a guaranteed 3rd year) on the table from the Royals and another team to enter the Teepee.

Before Byrd is decried as a “cheap” alternative to re-signing Millwood, consider this: Millwood had 20 Quality Starts last year. Paul Byrd? 22. Not bad, considering that the Indians are only committed for 2 years, as opposed to the 5 years that some team will (apparently) give K-Mill.

I realize that Byrd is 35 and Millwood is 31 and that they've both had serious arm injuries, but Byrd has pitched 1,111 2/3 career innings to Millwood's 1,559 1/3. Ever hear the analogy that there are only so many bullets in a gun? Plus, pitchers who go through Tommy John earl in their career are alleged to have stronger arms after their extended rehab (I'm not a doctor, just something that I've heard). Now I'm not discounting the fact that Millwood is a great pitcher who pitched very well for the Indians last year, I'm only saying that the deal that Byrd got will be very reasonable when compared to the deal that Millwood will get.

But where does Byrd fit into the rotation? #2? #4? The only comments that I’ve heard on this are Wedge’s comments that he likes to give different looks during a series, which is to say he likes to split up his lefties and will not throw sinkerballers (Westbrook & Byrd) on consecutive days. Now, I don’t know if they’ll sign another SP (though it seems unlikely), but I would say it would be C.C./Byrd/Lee/Westbrook/Internal Candidate.

So, who will be this Internal Candidate? The top candidates would be Carmona and Sowers, because I think that JDavis (if he remains on the Tribe and is not included in a deal for a bat) will end up in the bullpen.

Elarton is still a possibility at #5, but a lot will depend on how much the Tribe pays for a closer and if they acquire a bat that costs some bucks. Elarton is apparently still looking for that elusive 2-year deal, while the Tribe is firm on a 1-year. Let's stick to those guns.

Overall, I like the Byrd signing and the rumors that the Indians are pursuing Vazquez (which is all just conjecture at this point) show that the Indians are not content to sit on their hands at the Winter Meetings.

On the Hoffman front, he is reported to be undergoing a physical in the next few days (which is usually an indication that talks are serious) in Cleveland. The Padres could swoop in and match the Tribe offer (which is reportedly getting bigger and bigger), but the fact that he's taking a physical shows that the Indians are a definite player in these talks. Expect this to all shake out by Wednesday or Thursday, for better or worse.

Hot Stove League talk, pull up a chair and warm yourself next to it.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Tomahawk Choppin'

A couple of tomahawks with all of the happenings approaching the Winter Meetings:

  • Ken Rosenthal of FSN is reporting that the Indians are the leader in the clubhouse for Hoffman. It sounds like it might take a guaranteed 3rd year at $8M per to get the deal done, only because the market drops off quickly after Hoffman (Todd Jones), and most teams are trying to get in on the Hoffman talks.
  • Another Wedge comment from tonight is a great line, “You don’t want to be high bidders in a bad market.” The FA market is very thin this year, so you don’t want to overpay for a player who normally would be a January signee in a strong FA market. That being said, I don’t think that Byrd was that much of a reach. Seeing what Loaiza got puts the Byrd deal in perspective. Yes, Byrd got a healthy chunk of change, but his history and postseason experience.

Mark Shapiro had a Q & A on the official site, which was full of Shapiro speak (lots of words, not really much said). A few interesting nuggets though:

  • David Riske’s name did not come up in discussions on the pen (nor did Wedge bring it up in today’s interview). I think that Riske will be packaged for a bat this week. Whether it will be the bat that everyone wants remains to be seen.
  • Ryan Garko-my-god-did-you-see-how-far-he-hit-that (say it out loud and let me know what you think…$1 to Cy Slapnicka on the nickname) is NOT ready defensively to play 1B at the big-league level, which would lead me to believe that the Tribe will try to acquire a RF and let Blake and Broussard platoon at 1B until Garko has proven himself defensively.
  • He listed Carmona, Sowers, Garko, and Gutierrez (in that order) as prospects ready to contribute. No Guthrie, no Andrew Brown. By the way, Gutierrez has (allegedly) fixed the hitch in his swing this off-season and is tearing the cover off the ball. We’ll see if it translates to Buffalo, but he may be 1st option when someone (usually Coco in an incident with a wall) gets hurt.
Additionally, Jason Stark had a preview of the Winter Meetings and got into some trade talk.

  • The Indians were mentioned in Barry Zito and Javier Vazquez rumors (though I don’t know what the Byrd signing does to that) on the rotation front.
  • Available bats who might appeal to the Tribe would be Aubrey Huff (in a too crowded Tampa Bay outfield), Lyle Overbay (though the Brew Crew is looking for a lot), Kevin Mench (where has that name come up before?) and Austin Kearns (see Mench, Kevin).
  • Stark lists Blake, Broussard, and Riske as Indians that could move.
  • Interestingly, some of the big-time FA pitchers who signed last year (who this time last year were seen as players the Tribe should sign) are being shopped after just one season. Carl Pavano, Matt Clement, Jaret Wright, Kris Benson are all available, so do you think that the those teams are happy with their big FA signings from less than a year ago?

The highlight of the Browns’ game yesterday (which was not as cold as the Rams’ MNF game from a few years ago, but cold enough) was highlighted by the arrival of Charlie and the happenstance meeting in section 528 with a friend that now lives in Madison, WI. I’m not talking about anything else that happened during the game, after the game, at the Cleveland Clinic on Sunday night, or any announcement pertaining to the visit to the Clinic on Sunday.

How many days until Pitchers and Catchers report?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thursday Thoughts

Well, Giles re-signed with the Padres and Konerko re-signed with the White Sox.
Konerko’s signing allows me to rehash the comments of Cy Slapnicka, a serial poster, on a potential conversation between Konerko and Thome in Chicago about contracts and loyalty:

I wonder if during BP Jimmy will pepper him with questions while he smashes HRs and Jimbo ices his back and elbow with frozen stacks of money:
JT: So what’s it like to get a fair contract and not max out the money and years from anyone that will pay it?
PK: Cool, feels good. (smashes one into the bleachers)
JT: I bet its neat to stay where you're comfortable and happy and adored by the fans?
PK: Rocks man, love it. (smashes another one into the bleachers)
JT: Golly Pauley, I bet its even cooler to get all that and play for a team that has a shot at the post-season too?
PK: As long as your country boy ass earns your money we will.
Ah.... that felt good. I've needed to get that off my chest since 2002.

Well played.

Today, I caught a little bit of the doom and gloom that is Cleveland Sports Radio, particularly Greg Brinda on WKNR. As he bemoaned the fact that the Tribe was standing pat as “all” of these FA’s were signing, Alan in Rittman called in.

An obviously knowledgeable sports fan, the caller laid out the economics of the off-season and how the Indians don’t need to fill nearly as many holes as other teams and that Shapiro is doing a fantastic job while Dolan is playing his cards (and his cash) just right.

Brinda actually told him that he was looking at the situation too logically, and that fans don’t want to hear about budgets or other “accounting matters”. The caller then said, “Let me ask you this then - who should the Indians get then? What player have we truly missed out on?”

After some uncomfortable silence and some half-baked comments about small market teams, Brinda asked him, “Let me ask YOU this - what do you think of the Indians right now?”

The answer from Alan in Rittman was a classic: “I think that’s its December 1st, that the Indians haven’t done anything, and maybe that’s a good thing.”

After some blustery talk, Alan from Rittman was ushered off so another ridiculously unrealistic caller could get on the air and say that we should have outbid everyone for Konerko, Giles, Millwood, and Ryan. Ah, back to normal.

So with that in mind, Greg Brinda has joined the list of nonsensical Cleveland Sports “Personalities” that have made the Black List, joining Kenny Roda, Bill Livingston, and Bud Shaw. I honestly haven’t read Livingston or Shaw in 2 months and my days are actually more enjoyable.

Before we all panic that “all the good players are gone, blah, blah, blah”, let’s remember the nugget from Alan in Rittman:
It is December 1st, the Indians haven’t done anything, and maybe that’s a good thing.

Take a step away from the ledge and relax. The Winter Meetings haven’t even started yet. Everything will be fine.