Saturday, March 11, 2006

Locked Up

Peralta’s deal, which is "only" guaranteed for $13 million over 5 years, represents quite a coup for the Tribe, particularly the club option for the 6th year. That 6th year would have been Peralta’s first year of Free Agency, but the Indians (like they did with Victor last year) bought that first year by giving Peralta the security of a long-term deal. By the time the contract is up, Peralta will be 30 years old and the likely Tribe career leader in HR from the SS position (the record is currently held by Woodie Held, who has 131; Peralta has 28 in 1+ year)

Is this signing another indication of the Dolans’ cheapness? Not at all. If anything, it’s a sign of their acumen, as they’re solidifying the salaries that will be paid to the players that they envision as long-term Indians.

I’m tired of fans questioning the validity of the Dolan ownership and whether they will ever “spend money” for a good team. What most fans don’t understand is that these young players are under the Indians’ control for 5 years once they come to the Majors. Contracts like Peralta’s ensure that the talent will remain in Cleveland for even longer, at a predetermined price. It’s not as if, suddenly, Grady Sizemore can sign with the Yankees. That’s not how baseball contracts are set up. Grady is under the Indians’ control until 2010, whether that includes arbitration hearings or is determined by a long-term contract to avoid arbitration (like Peralta) is the only question.

I, too, at one point questioned the Dolans’ willingness to spend money to keep the homegrown players here, but when C.C. signed a long-term deal, forfeiting a few years of FA to stay with the organization – my questions were answered.

The plan is to sign young players to club-friendly contracts (that the players sign for the financial security) to avoid arbitration and keep a “core” group of players together. That “core”, then, will be complemented by Major League-ready prospects (think Marte, Garko, or Sowers) or with veterans to fill holes (think Byrd, Belliard, or Boone). That plan will ensure that this team is not a flash-in-the-pan or a one-year wonder; they’ll be built to last. The Braves have done it very effectively, as have the A’s, to stay in constant contention.

The Indians did the same thing in the mid 1990’s (as we all know), but deviated from the plan by trying to acquire that “one missing piece” and generally overpaying for that piece. Had the Indians kept with their initial plan, Giles, Sexson, Casey, David Bell, and others would have seamlessly replaced the outgoing players (Belle, Manny, etc).

The manner by which this team is being constructed is the right way to put together a team, with strength up the middle (Martinez, Peralta, Sizemore), a power presence in the lineup (Hafner), and complementary players that can be shuffled around until the long-term answer is found (1B, 2B, 3B, LF, RF). More importantly, it hinges on strong starting pitching (C.C., Lee, Westbrook) with a few vets to eat innings, starters in the minors fine-tuning their repertoire, and a VERY deep bullpen (both on the big-league squad and in the minors).

Peralta’s signing, and the upcoming signings of Sizemore and Lee (though Lee certainly won’t get a 5 year deal), is another big step in the right direction. Another big step is a series of steps that the Indians continue to take on their way to another “Era of Excellence” that this time will hopefully include a WS Championship.


Cy Slapnicka said...

Looks like the flurry of deals extended beyond the Tribe this weekend....

Rockdawg said...

C'mon Browns....Joe. J??? Anybody but him!!! (only those of us that were at Boromayo for a certain CYO game know exactly why I hate this guy so much