Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In Full Bloom on New Year's Eve

In a surprise New Year’s Eve move, Anthony Castrovince is reporting that the Indians have consummated a deal for Cubs’ infielder Mark DeRosa, a versatile IF who is due $5.5M this year before becoming a FA after the 2009 season. The move would seem to be the short-term answer for the Indians’ infield as DeRosa can play both 2B and 3B, meaning the Indians have the option of either keeping Peralta at SS and Asdrubal at 2B and slotting DeRosa into 3B or sliding everyone to their right and inserting DeRosa at 2B.

Regardless, the deal makes a great deal of sense for the Indians, who parted with 3 minor league pitchers (Jeff Stevens, Chris Archer, and John Gaub) to net DeRosa, as it does not affect their MLB roster (Stevens was the only player on the 40-man and, while he looks like a legitimate MLB reliever, had some arms in front of him in the 2009 bullpen) and allows Luis Valbuena to mature for a full season in AAA with the idea that he’ll take DeRosa’s spot in 2010.

A player like DeRosa (versatile veteran with a capable bat and not a long-term commitment) is precisely what the Indians have been talking about adding since they netted Valbuena from the M’s. DeRosa’s versatility and OBP skills (.376 OBP in 2008, .371 OBP in 2007) make him a tremendous fit for the Indians’ roster, upgrading significantly the likes of a Jamey Carroll from being the de facto 2B until Valbuena is ready and removing any chance of either Josh Barfield or Andy Marte play in any capacity at all in Cleveland in 2009.

LOTS more to come on this as time passes, but for now – with this news – let’s celebrate the New Year in style, like Grady (ed. note - picture changed) in happier days last year.

Happy New Year’s everyone!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Lazy Sunday Remembering an Old Friend

There’s not much happening in terms of Indians’ news these days, so there’s really not too much to link up on this Laziest of Sundays (the one between Christmas and New Year’s) in which I’m really going to be lazy. With that in mind, I thought I’d go in a bit of a different direction to keep the tradition of linking an Indians’ story alive while paying homage to a friend lost this past year – the brilliant website “Fire Joe Morgan”, which took mainstream media members to task for poor writing and misinformed articles, using a tone that spoke to those of us who sat there reading the same articles thinking the same thing – namely, “what is this guy writing about?”.

If you’re not familiar with the layout or concept of “FJM”, here’s the site still up with the archives accessible for hours of fun and frivolity for you to peruse. The format is to show the articles written by the mainstream media member in bold, followed by the thoughts of the commentator not in bold below each section of the article in question.
Don’t worry, you’ll get it.

Anywho, last month the creators of “FJM” decided to focus on their “real jobs”, namely as writers for “The Office” (yes, that one) and let “FJM” disappear into Internet lore. I thought that an homage was in order as every newspaper and magazine runs those “Friends We Lost in 2008” pieces, in particular after reading a piece that appeared in the Christmas edition of the ABJ by one Sheldon Ocker, which begs for the “FJM” treatment.

So, allow me to channel my inner Ken Tremendous (the main writer at “FJM”, later identified as Michael Schur) and have at it. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve included everything that Ocker’s piece contains, so I’m not taking anything out of context:

Through little fault of his own, Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro is on the verge of being targeted by second-guessers and frustrated fans for a failure to make good on implied promises in the offseason.

Not a bad start, getting the attention of all those “second-guessers and frustrated fans” who are perpetually ready to throw Shapiro under the bus, regardless of logic or argument. The opener also floats out that perfect segue for Ocker here, though, the “implied promises” made to the fan base…what Shapiro apparently “promised” would be done – market conditions and extenuating circumstances be damned.

As outlined to the Northeast Ohio sporting public many weeks ago, Shapiro listed his offseason wish: a closer plus an additional reliever or two, an infielder — preferably a third baseman — and a starting pitcher.

Not much debate here, although I thought Shapiro’s wishes were more “what we’d like to do” as opposed to “what we need to do”…but that’s just semantics.

Let’s see Wood and Smith (“a closer plus an additional reliever or two” – check), Luis Valbuena (“an infielder” – check)…oh, that’s right, they haven’t added a starting pitcher yet. Let’s forget for a moment that it’s December 28th and that the only SP to sign as FA are CC, Burnett, Dempster, Moyer, The Big Unit, and Mike Hampton.
I just can’t wait until he gets into why they haven’t gotten a starting pitcher yet!

Maybe wish list isn't a strong enough word. After all, Shapiro wasn't going to look out his window every night, waiting for these players to fall from the sky. He expressed a determination to accomplish each of these goals through free-agent purchases or trades. As has happened in previous years, it appears that what Shapiro wants isn't necessarily what he will get. The marketplace, a sparse supply of players at certain positions, more budgetary restraint than usual caused by our sinking economy and the presence of a couple of major-population-centered franchises have conspired to foil Shapiro's grand design.

I’m sorry, I’m confused here…I thought that he HAS filled two of the three identified holes to some degree before the New Year even started. Is Valbuena the answer at 2B out of Spring Training for 2009? Probably not, but his presence at the very least changes the need at 2B from a long-term fix being needed (given the dearth of 2B in the organization) to simply needing someone to hold 2B for a while until Valbuena is deemed to be ready to contribute.

And is Ocker giving some reasons (“sparse supply of players…budgetary restraint…sinking economy”) why he SHOULDN’T be able to fill the holes, two of which he has arguably filled?

But at least he achieved Priority No. 1: obtaining a closer. Barring another arm injury — and Kerry Wood has undergone the knife for both shoulder and elbow ailments — the former Chicago Cubs pitcher should strengthen the back end of the bullpen. Yes, $20.5 million is a lot of cash for a guy who until last year appeared to be yet another promising power starter whose career went in the toilet because of injuries. But being sent to the bullpen to pitch one inning at a time instead of seven or eight seems to have revived Wood's career.

OK, here’s where he starts to get into how some holes have been filled…I thought he was just going to go all doom and gloom on us.

As a quick aside here, is everyone aware that the $20.5M committed to Wood represents the 6th largest amount of money given to any player on the FA market to date? I know…it’s still December 28th, but isn’t this spending despite “more budgetary restraint than usual brought on by our sinking economy”?

There always is a risk with pitchers, of course. More so when that pitcher has been cut open as often as Wood. But maybe Shapiro and the fans should look at it this way: He's like an old Chevy that has had its engine block, transmission and exhaust system replaced. Those new parts should last awhile.

Not sure if a Chevy is the right comparison here given what Wood is capable of when healthy, but fair enough.

Shapiro also traded for a guy named Smith, which probably is the way most fans referred to him when they learned of the deal. If Smith isn't the name of a reliever destined to be ignored, how about Joe Smith? Even worse. Yet, Smith appears to be a talented sidearming right-hander, who can jump into the mix of pitchers who will help hold the line in the seventh inning or later, especially against right-handed batters.

Good, here’s the second part of the bullpen hole filled BEFORE CHRISTMAS…surely, an admission that quite a bit of work has been done or at least that the groundwork has been laid is coming, right?

But as Shapiro said when he announced the signing of Wood, there is more work to do. The question is whether the team has the resources to get it done and whether there are viable candidates for the GM to chase.

Fair enough, there is more work to do…a player that can handle 2B until Valbuena is ready to emerge as the 2B needs to be found and augmenting the rotation remains a priority.

The longer the winter drags on, the more it appears that Shapiro will not be able to reel in an impact third baseman. Once Casey Blake re-signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Shapiro's options became drastically limited. Yes, he might have snatched Blake from the Dodgers by matching their three-year contract. But Shapiro is hoping that Wes Hodges completes his prep work in the minors and can win the everyday third-base job next year, or the year after that at the latest. What then would the GM do with Blake, versatile though he is? In 2010, the Indians probably will have multiple options at first base and in left and right field, Blake's other positions. Shapiro has spoken often about the outfield depth, abetted by talented players in the farm system. The three he mentions most are Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley and Trevor Crowe. Even if only one of them makes the team in 2010, it would be difficult to justify paying Blake $6 million or more.

“The longer the winter drags on”?
Isn’t it still 2008?
Isn’t Spring Training still 6 weeks away…

Isn’t the Casey Blake discussion dead and buried…and shouldn’t it be for the reasons laid out here?
I’m failing to see where Wes Hodges fits into this discussion, given his merely fair year at AA and his defensive deficiencies or why the idea of bringing Blake back on a 3-year deal was anywhere close to a good idea. Casey Blake was a vastly unappreciated and valuable piece of the Indians’ organization while in Cleveland, but at the age of 35 and with the reasons listed above pertaining to the Indians’ depth at 1B and OF, I’m not sure why the name of Casey Blake was invoked in this discussion.

Maybe you want Shapiro to court Joe Crede. I don't. Aside from him, there is hardly anyone available that makes sense for the Tribe.

So nobody makes sense for the Indians to add at 3B…that’s a lot of words to dedicate to simply saying, “If the Indians really wanted to add an impact 3B, the pickings were slim and none”…and this is from me, a guy who uses 1,000 words when 100 will do.

If, then, an impact 3B is simply not out there - didn’t it behoove the Indians to go after a 2B that allows them to move Cabrera to SS and Peralta to 3B.
Luis Valbuena, anyone?

That means Jhonny Peralta probably will move from short to third — a move I don't like — Asdrubal Cabrera will be shifted from second to short, and manager Eric Wedge will re-introduce himself to Josh Barfield, the forgotten man. It's also not out of the question that Shapiro will find a free-agent second baseman.

Hey, Sheldon…I’m not sure if you caught the other part of the Gutierrez deal. The Indians acquired Luis Valbuena, a 22-year-old 2B who played in 18 games for the Mariners last year and is a player that Jim Callis of Baseball America thinks “is ready for an expanded big league role and has a higher offensive ceiling than Cleveland's 2008 starter, Asdrubal Cabrera.”

What's wrong with Peralta playing third? Maybe nothing. Can he be any worse at third than he has been at short, because of his limited range? The answer is yes. Playing third doesn't require much range, but it does demand highly developed reflexes. I've never seen that in Peralta. Moreover, it is a new position for an infielder who has been exclusively a shortstop. And Shapiro let it slip that Peralta is not enamored with switching positions. But given the circumstances and unless you want to see Andy Marte play every day, there isn't much choice at this point.

I’m not going to pretend to know if Peralta’s going to make a smooth transition to 3B (and anyone who has not seen him play there should probably do the same), although reports from the Winter League (admittedly, via the organization) are that he’s handled the transition nicely. Perhaps, though Ocker has never seen those “highly developed reflexes” out of Peralta because he (like most everyone else) has never seen him play 3B.

Do you think that the Indians might have consulted Travis Fryman, who made the transition from SS to 3B during the season as a young player in Detroit, if he thought Peralta could handle it? Or maybe they would ask Fryman, who manages the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in the organization, to become Peralta’s best friend this off-season and in Goodyear…don’t you think a little more thought has been put into this other than – “hey, here’s a crazy idea…let’s see how Jhonny does at 3B!”

As for invoking Marte’s name, does anyone REALLY think that Andy Marte is anywhere close to the Indians’ 2009 plans? Didn’t the pinch-hitting and the signs from the dugout for him to constantly bunt give some indication of how much faith The Atomic Wedgie had in Marte’s ability to handle the bat? The only reason he was even in there was because Blake was gone and Barfield was hurt. And even then, he split time with Jamey Carroll!

If this is the end of the “he hasn’t acquired an infielder” discussion (without once invoking the name of Luis Valbuena), I’ll try to put a bow on it too - it’s entirely feasible that he Indians could go with some combination of Jamey Carroll and Josh Barfield until Valbuena is prepared to join the parent club or they can now go out and get a guy like a Mark Grudzielanek, who can serve as merely a place-holder at 2B as that long-term solution (like an Orlando Hudson or a Rafael Furcal) is no longer necessary because of Valbuena’s presence. Is it akin to adding Brian Roberts to the situation? No, but unless you’re willing to give up Carmona and Asdrubal for one year of Roberts, let’s just say that the infield situation isn’t nearly as dire as Ocker paints it to be.

Finding a starting pitcher also looks less than promising. The Tribe was not going to be a player for Derek Lowe or Jake Peavy, Ben Sheets or A.J. Burnett. So who is left? Raise your hand if you want Carl Pavano, Mark Mulder, Odalis Perez, Jon Garland or even Andy Pettitte, who is being pursued by the New York Yankees.

Wait…so the only way to add an arm is through Free Agency?
Man, we are so…what do you mean, you can add players through avenues other than Free Agency…trades? What are those?

Suddenly, the Indians are going to change everything that they’ve ever done and add a top-flight arm from the Free Agent market, when they’ve eschewed the strategy of overpaying for other teams’ starters, in terms of years and guaranteed money, since Shapiro and Antonetti took the wheel?

And how do Carl Pavano and Mark Mulder get lumped into the same sentence with Odalis Perez and Andy Pettitte?

The big question: How certain is it that any of these veterans will be more productive than Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers, Scott Lewis and Anthony Reyes? No, I don't know, either, and I'm not sure I want to invest relatively large dollars to conduct the experiment. Moreover, Jake Westbrook, who joined the large group of Tommy John elbow surgery alumni six months ago, might be back in the rotation a little earlier than anticipated, possibly by early June, though that is hardly assured.

If you’ve even casually followed the manner in which the Indians have added pieces and parts that are more than simple band-aids (the Kerry Wood signing aside), you have to know that they do this via a trade. Guys like Millwood and Byrd came on short deals and were given those deals because the Indians lacked MLB-ready pitchers like Laffey, Sowers, etc.

What Shapiro said is that he wanted to add a pitcher capable of starting a playoff game, which would mean that it would be a middle-of-the-rotation starter, which is going to cost more than the Indians have ever committed to a starting pitcher.

Whether it’s acquiring Andy Marte, Kelly Shoppach, Josh Barfield, Asdrubal Cabrera, The BLC, or even Reyes, the Indians have always favored the route of adding talent that is under club control for multiple years from other teams by dealing from depth in their own organization. Sometimes it works out (Cabrera and Choo, who were acquired mid-season), sometimes it doesn’t (Barfield, who was acquired before the Winter Meetings), sometimes you don’t even know how you feel about it years after the fact (the Coco deal, which happened in JANUARY).

Whatever the result is, the modus operandi of this organization has been to avoid the investment of “relatively large dollars to conduct the experiment” in the starting rotation. So why is the assumption out there that they’re going to start now and add one of these veterans into the rotation when the Indians still have fungible parts that can be moved to fill out the rotation without the commitment of dollars of the risk associated with it?

So that's the deal. Shapiro has made good on his goal to upgrade the bullpen, but there are serious doubts that he will be able to do the same for the infield and the rotation, which might not need help, anyway.

I thought that he DID upgrade the infield, which (combined with the addressed bullpen) makes 2 of the 3 holes filled…and it’s still DECEMBER 28TH! Maybe if this piece is written at the end of January, with Spring Training only weeks away, it makes sense – but there’s been very little movement in Free Agency and the trade market that give the feeling that the Indians are missing the boat somehow.

And where does that rejoinder, “which might not need help, anyway” come from?
Does it or doesn’t it?
I think it does, if only to make the 2009 rotation more of a sure thing past Lee and Carmona, and I think that the trade route is the avenue to take to get there.

Regardless of the built-in handicaps, Shapiro probably will hear it from the fans and some members of the media, even though there was little else he reasonably could have done. On the other hand, if the Indians win early and often, nobody will remember that the GM failed to offer CC Sabathia a $200 million contract to keep him from signing with the Yankees.

This first sentence make no sense as it says that he couldn’t have done anything (while ignoring that he already has) and that people are going to rake him over the coals regardless of it. Is this an admission that most fans or (gasp) media members don’t know what they’re talking about? And what is this “there was little else he reasonably could have done” – when he’s already done quite a bit, has acknowledged that he’s not done, and has until February 12th until Pitchers and Catchers report to make more moves?

And where in the world does the CC jab come into play? Apropos of nothing, the CC topic comes up with a random number (about $39M higher than the number he signed for) attached to it to fan the flames of ignorance and emotion.

All told, I really don’t know where Ocker’s going with this article – it’s at time critical and narrow-minded, at other times sympathetic and rational, and other times completely ignorant of what’s been done and how those moves affect what’s yet to come. Is he simply covering all of his bases by taking a scattershot approach that solves (or effectively addresses) the questions that remain? Or how about some creativity from Ocker, who doesn’t seem to have any answers…but will keep asking the questions.

Regardless, I’ll take off my Ken Tremendous jersey now and hang it on the wall and remember an old friend as the calendar turns this week to 2009, mourning the loss of “Fire Joe Morgan”, but knowing that Kenny T. will be there whenever lazy sports writing needs to be eviscerated.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Season in 12 Days

With the festive spirit around us and the holidays upon us (not the holiday season…the actually HOLIDAY), perhaps it’s time to fill your stocking with some goodness while everything remains relatively quiet on the Reservation. And so, I offer to you the “12 Days of Christmas v.2008 Tribe”, best read while listening to one of my Christmas favorites – THE definitive version of the “12 Days of Christmas”…you know, the one with John Denver and the Muppets.

Cue the music…
In the season of 2008, the Cleveland Indians gave to me a Cy Young for C.P. Lee

In the season of 2008, the Cleveland Indians gave to me another Grady Golden Glove and a Cy Young for C.P. Lee

In the season of 2008, the Cleveland Indians gave to me a nauseating ‘pen, another Grady Golden Glove, and a Cy Young for C.P. Lee

In the season of 2008, the Cleveland Indians gave to me an APB for “Pronk”, a nauseating ‘pen, another Grady Golden Glove, and a Cy Young for C.P. Lee

In the season of 2008, the Cleveland Indians gave to me Goodbye to CC, an APB for “Pronk”, a nauseating ‘pen, another Grady Golden Glove, and a Cy Young for C.P. Lee

In the season of 2008, the Cleveland Indians gave to me The BLC a’hitting, Goodbye to CC, an APB for “Pronk”, a nauseating ‘pen, another Grady Golden Glove, and a Cy Young for C.P. Lee

In the season of 2008, the Cleveland Indians gave to me Carmona a’scuffling, The BLC a’hitting, Goodbye to CC, an APB for “Pronk”, a nauseating ‘pen, another Grady Golden Glove, and a Cy Young for C.P. Lee

In the season of 2008, the Cleveland Indians gave to me Kelly Shoppach mashing, Carmona a’scuffling, The BLC a’hitting, Goodbye to CC, an APB for “Pronk”, a nauseating ‘pen, another Grady Golden Glove, and a Cy Young for C.P. Lee

In the season of 2008, the Cleveland Indians gave to me Betancourt imploding, Kelly Shoppach mashing, Carmona a’scuffling, The BLC a’hitting, Goodbye to CC, an APB for “Pronk”, a nauseating ‘pen, another Grady Golden Glove, and a Cy Young for C.P. Lee

In the season of 2008, the Cleveland Indians gave to me Asdrubal a’leaping, Betancourt imploding, Kelly Shoppach mashing, Carmona a’scuffling, The BLC a’hitting, Goodbye to CC, an APB for “Pronk”, a nauseating ‘pen, another Grady Golden Glove, and a Cy Young for C.P. Lee

In the season of 2008, the Cleveland Indians gave to me Victor’s body aching, Asdrubal a’leaping, Betancourt imploding, Kelly Shoppach mashing, Carmona a’scuffling, The BLC a’hitting, Goodbye to CC, an APB for “Pronk”, a nauseating ‘pen, another Grady Golden Glove, and a Cy Young for C.P. Lee

In the season of 2008, the Cleveland Indians gave to me another Cleveland heartbreak, Victor’s body aching, Asdrubal a’leaping, Betancourt imploding, Kelly Shoppach mashing, Carmona a’scuffling, The BLC a’hitting, Goodbye to CC, an APB for “Pronk”, a nauseating ‘pen, another Grady Golden Glove, and a Cy Young for C.P. Lee

Hopefully this time next year the “Five Gold Rings” line changes from “Goodbye to CC” to “A World Series Ring”…
Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Twas the Lazy Sunday Before Christmas

With preparations for a 2-year-old’s birthday party on the agenda (and little else…what “Battle of Ohio”), let’s get right to the Lazy Sunday before The DiaperTribe realizes that his parents have no idea which of his presents were supposed to be birthday gifts and which were supposed to be held for Christmas. While it doesn’t look like a Lazy Sunday in any sense for me, it doesn’t preclude “all the news that’s fit to link”:

Starting where we usually do, Terry Pluto expresses his thoughts on the 1B situation next year, surmising that “Wedge is pulling hard for Hafner, but if the DH still struggles, Garko could see time at that spot. The manager knows that Martinez missed three months because of elbow surgery and also had a hamstring problem. Guys get hurt, Wedge wants the depth. He likes the idea of having four players (Hafner, Garko, Martinez and Shoppach) to cover three spots (DH, 1B and C).” It should be noted that Pluto’s always been a big Garko fan, which accounts for his idea of slotting Garko into the DH spot if Hafner struggles and allows Victor to move to 1B and keeping Shoppach at C.

But I’m not quite sure I understand the obsession with moving Vic to 1B as his bat is infinitely more valuable behind the plate. He’s all of 30 (on Tuesday, by the way) and is only 16 months older than Shoppach, being only a year removed from his phenomenal 2007 – both at the plate and behind it. I understand the whole notion that his 30 is “older” than Shoppach’s 29 in that his body has been exposed to more wear and tear over the last few years, but I don’t buy the move to 1B to save Victor’s failing body…at least not this year.

The notion of keeping those 4 guys for 3 positions makes sense to me, but to me it’s not just to protect against Pronk never returning again. More than that, if the idea to keep Shoppach prevails, it would be because the production from Garko (or lack thereof) would force the Indians to move Victor up the line because Garko’s heading down I-71 to Columbus (he has an option remaining) and the Indians don’t feel comfortable enough with Michael Aubrey, Jordan Brown, or Matt LaPorta to man 1B in Cleveland. And that’s where part of the confusion comes for me as it would seem that the Indians DO have depth at C and 1B beyond Martinez, Garko, and Shoppach with the 3 aforementioned players who figure to be in play at Columbus at 1B/DH, but also with Wyatt Torregas and Chris Gimenez at C in Columbus.

Are those guys steps down from Shoppach being the “depth” option?
Absolutely…who isn’t, but if the Indians keep Shoppach as “depth” or “insurance” that someone gets hurt or Garko struggles, they’ll be starting the season with Shoppach ostensibly on the bench to wait for a chance when he’s proved beyond all reasonable doubt that he has not only earned that chance, but that he deserves it. And that’s not the only factor to consider with Shoppach, who is eligible for arbitration this year and under club control for three more years in that he’s about to get more expensive – true, still at a wildly reasonable number…but more so if he’s starting and not sitting, waiting, wishing. The other factor at play is the Indians’ acquisition of Carlos Santana in the Blake deal, who figures to start the season in AA and could be in the parent club’s plans in 2010 or 2011. Isn’t that just about the time that a move to 1B for Victor makes more sense than simply doing it now? And where, exactly does that leave Shoppach, who would still be under club control?

I know that this sounds like I’m banging away at the “Trade Kelly” drum, but understand that the only way that trading Shoppach makes sense is if the return is a player (preferably a starter) that plays 2009 at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario and does not become a FA after one year of playing there. If the Indians cannot get that value for him, they should absolutely keep him to serve as that insurance against Garko struggling again. If the prevailing logic behind keeping him is because the Indians don’t think that Garko is going to improve off his 2008 and the Indians would rather put the bats of both Kelly and Victor in the lineup, that’s the best reason I can think of.

My only concern with that scenario playing out would be that the Indians would be letting the opportunity to “sell high” on Shoppach (given that a team acquiring him is getting 3 years of a player coming relatively cheap) could pass and could find the logjam that their 1B/C position looks like right now turning into an area that not enough AB are there to go around as the youngsters start knocking harder at the door. There’s something to be said for depth, but there’s also something to be said about missing the opportunity to move a valuable player at a position of depth for an equally valuable player at a position of need and Mr. Show Pack is going to net more in a trade than any of the other players that constitute that depth.

Moving on, in case you missed it, Kerry Wood was officially introduced as the new Indians’ closer, saying all the right things, to have the bases loaded and none out is not the greatest situation to be in," Wood said. "I look at it as, hey, I'm out here. There were times when I wasn't sure I'd pitch again. Now that's pressure.” and attempting to allay those fears concerning his health by describing his extensive physical in Cleveland, somebody asked me about it and I told them, 'If every player had to go through a physical like that, there would only be seven or eight teams in the big leagues.’”

Obviously press conferences announcing a signing are all backslaps and giggles, but Wood certainly carried himself well and had all the right answers to the questions asked. At this point, there’s not much more that he can do, other than donning the ol’ #34 and turn the bullpen into his own personal “Wood Shed”.

Pat McManamon has an interesting medical explanation for the idea that Wood’s arm may be healthier with more consistent and less strenuous use as a reliever while taking a shot at Dusty Baker’s use of Wood (whether he knows it or not) that would make my Cub fan brother-in-law seethe.

Speaking of relievers, Branson Wright (yes, that Branson Wright…as if there would be another one) reports that the Indians may have an interest in bringing RH reliever Joe Nelson to Cleveland, presumably on a one-year deal. It’s an interesting report, if there’s anything to it, as all it says is that 18 are interested in Nelson and the Tribe are among his top 4…which is a lot of numbers to digest and looks more like an agent calling a writer than anything else. Nevertheless, it’s interesting in that the Indians bullpen (while circled as an area that needed an upgrade when the off-season started) is where 2 of the 3 acquisitions the team has made to date have come with Wood and Joe Smith.

Nelson wouldn’t be a bad addition as his 2008 season showed that he can be an effective reliever, after an uneven career to date, as he pitched mainly in the latter innings for the Fish last year, mostly on short rest. Adding him would make the bullpen awfully heavy in RHP, but more than simply looking at Nelson specifically, the rumor causes a deeper look at what exactly adding another bullpen arm does and the related questions that arise.

As much as I understand the notion that the Indians have subscribed to the theory of “throw it all against the wall and see what sticks” before, but if a reliever like Nelson was added, the assumed bullpen gets a little deeper…but also a lot more muddled once you get past the first seven names:
That’s your seven, assuming Betancourt and Kobayashi stick around – and Eddie Moo is gonzo.

On the surface if that’s the bullpen, the rest of the young relievers (Meloan, Miller, Stevens, Rundles, Sipp, etc.) all then start the season in Columbus to sort themselves out and, presumably, wait for a chance to join the parent club. That’s 5 names right there that would figure to start the season in Columbus that would be thought by some to have a legitimate shot to make the team out of Spring Training…unless, of course, another arm was added.

Of course, I get the whole depth idea as the list of relievers that pass through a MLB team on any given season is long and varied (who remembers the 5 games that Mike Koplove pitched in 2007…or the 4 games that Rick Bauer pitched last year), so the idea of adding more quality arms to the bullpen is sound.

But this move obviously means that another move is coming, in that one of the aforementioned names that figure to start the season in Columbus could be thrown in on that bigger trade to net a starter, right? I mean, it’s all too perfect – Nelson (or a reliever like him) joins the parent club, allowing the Indians to sweeten the pot for a team in a deal for a starter from a position of relative depth…didn’t we just talk about that, I mean…isn’t that how it goes?

In the words of an analyst on one of the only watchable shows on ESPN these days, “not so fast, my friend”…

It could, in fact mean the exact opposite as it could be a sign that the Indians have come to the realization that they will NOT be able to add that starter and have decided to improve their bullpen in preparation for NOT adding said starter by improving the quality and depth of the bullpen as 60% of their rotation will be filled by the likes of Laffey/Reyes/Sowers/Huff/Jackson, all of whom are far from sure bets and could be leaving games awfully early...increasing the need for a deep and talented bullpen.

It’s logically circular, I know, but a move like this (if it were to come to pass) could be taken either of those ways – that they’re improving their depth TO make a trade or that they’re improving their depth because they realize they WON’T make a trade and are preparing their bullpen for a heavy workload behind a rotation that would seem relatively suspect from #3 through #5.

Essentially, what would another reliever being added tell us?
Umm…not much.

Staying on the topic of bullpens, Tony Lastoria reports that the aforementioned Tony Sipp was shut down because of shoulder discomfort and never even was sent to pitch in the Dominican Winter League, which is a development worth monitoring.

Also, Tony and I had our weekly show this week hitting on the bullpen and talking to Rob Bryson, who was the youngest player acquired in the CC deal from the Brewers, who had some interesting thoughts on the difference between the Brewers organization and the Tribe.

Speaking of Sabathia, Nick Cafardo at the Boston Globe has an interesting interview with Indians’ Special Assistant Ellis Burks and Burks’ conversations with CC about where he wanted to play and if he was prepared to handle the bright lights of the big city. Burks’ advice about the difference between the East Coast and everywhere else:
“I just told him that there's a big difference between the two coasts when it comes to things like the intensity of the fans, the intensity of the media, and that you're much more accountable for everything. I told him when you go to New York you've got to know you can handle it. He turned to me and said, 'I think I can handle it.' And I said, 'No, that's not good enough, you've got to know you can handle it before you make a commitment like that.' That's when he turned to me and said, 'I know I can handle it.' And I believe him. He's got thick skin and he's done everything he's ever put his mind to do. He'll be very good there.”

In the same vein, reader Carolyn Bushey has been keeping me abreast of some of the better CC pieces to emerge from the NY rags, and let’s just say that I hope (for CC’s sake) that his skin is getting thicker by the day.
Here’s one from the Post, where it appears that they’re documenting his comments for the day that they can throw them back in his face:
"Look at the guys on my team," said the 6-foot-7, 290-pounder, whose No. 52 jersey is a size 56 that requires lengthening on the sleeves. "It's going to be easy to do my job."
Burnett played second fiddle to Roy Halladay in Toronto and appears comfortable working the day after Sabathia.
"Him signing, pitching behind him, that makes it easier on me," said Burnett, who pointed to being more mature about how he throws as the reason he stayed healthy last year, when he went 18-10 and led the AL in strikeouts with 231.
Sabathia and Burnett said "easy" and "easier." But nothing is ever easy in this town. Especially when the expectations are as high as they are today.

Then, of course, there was the other piece in the Post that…um…lets CC know how many different levels they’re willing to go after him on:
Of course, there is something Sabathia should know about what's in store for him across the next seven years - or, at the least, the next three, before the possibility of an opt-out and a national economic surge can vault him on his merry way west, to the land of sun, low-expectation fans and In & Out Burger joints, where the only back page of note is the Chevy ad on the last page of Variety.

It is a simple bargain, really, and it goes something like this:
It would be wise to start making a habit of seasons such as 2007 - 19 wins, 7 losses, 3.21 ERA, 1.141 WHIP - and to shy away from seasons such as, say, 2004 (11-10, 4.36, 1.319). It would be wise, starting next April, to more closely emulate the version of himself that last season wore a Brewers uniform (11-2. 1.65, 1.003) whose 3-X dimensions made him look merely husky, as opposed to the one who wore an Indians uniform (6-8, 3.83, 1.234) and had people wondering if he was eating all the cheesecake.

Enjoy New York, CC…let us know how it all shakes out for you!
Pay no attention to the sound of sharpening claws that hear coming from the Big Apple.

Though it is pretty safe to assume that the Tribe has spent the majority of the money they want to on the FA market, here’s a piece from Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus with a little caveat emptor on a couple of remaining FA, notably Orlando Hudson, who Sheehan thinks will decline (particularly defensively, where much of his value is found) as he goes down the other side of the 30 mountain.

For another excellent writer that SI has added to their stable, the Joe Posnanski portion of today’s Lazy will feature Joe’s article from the print edition of this week’s SI on the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas to remind us all what good sportswriting and storytelling looks like. Just a fantastic piece and one that gives pause to anyone who has ever considered the Winter Meetings some sort of Xanadu.

Off to the Big Bird (that’s Giant Eagle to the rest of the world) to stock up on everything a 2-year-old’s birthday party needs…and everything his father needs to cope with said party.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The New Currency

Now that the Winter Meetings are over and the Indians have addressed what they felt was their biggest need in the bullpen with the acquisitions of Kerry Wood and Joe Smith, the Indians will now make filling the remaining holes on the team (middle-of-the-rotation starter and starting infielder) priorities as the rest of the off-season progresses. With the $10M committed to Kerry Wood, it would seem that the lion’s share of the available money this off-season has ostensibly been spent, but even if there is more money to be spent, perhaps that’s not the direction that the Indians should go to fill at least one of the remaining holes as perhaps a more economical avenue may present itself.

In case you haven’t heard, spending in MLB may be limited this year as most teams (at least those not moving into new stadiums in the borough of the Bronx that willing to spend the GDP of small countries to add certain pitchers to a rotation) are likely looking to commit fewer guaranteed dollars and over fewer guaranteed years given the state of the nation’s economy and it’s short-and-long-term future. With that mind-set (allegedly) finding a toehold, it may come at the perfect time for the Indians, seemingly flush with young, affordable players under club control able to contribute at the MLB level to make some moves with their young players to augment their roster without parting with much cash in the process.

Look, I’m not interested in engaging in the argument over spending by the current ownership group, or whether the Dolans’stake in Cablevision has to do with the Indians’ payroll as I took off my “Financial Advisor” hat more than a few years ago and am pretty certain that my Series 7 certification (among the others litany of numbered certifications I once held) expired without a peep from me a couple of years back. Also, a couple of people have recently visited our nation’s capital in the past few weeks who are saying that they’re broke and they do a little more than run an MLB franchise. I’m not sure that I need to go much further on this as, unless you swim in a Scrooge McDuckesque pool or eschew toilet paper for a greener alternative (and I don’t mean more environmentally-conscious), we all can see the writing on the wall that fiscal responsibility may be coming back into vogue around the nation, including within it’s “pastime”.

If you don’t think that (most) teams are spending less or re-evaluating the allocation of their guaranteed dollars, how does 3 years, $37M sound for K-Rod from those big-market Met sounds? You know, the team that will play in a stadium named for a company that is receiving billions in federal money.
Is it a little lower than the 5 years and $75M that K-Rod and his agent anticipated on the open market?
Just a bit…and that’s for the “marquee” closer on the market.

Now with that scene set, let’s get to the crux of the discussion as most teams around baseball seem to be tightening their belts (as are most who cheer for said teams) and creativity in adding players may replace simply buying players to fill a role on a roster. As a result, perhaps the most valuable commodity in baseball is no longer simply cold, hard cash as the number of teams operating like the Indians (which is to say, within certain financial constraints) far outnumber those that don’t. As a result, the commodity of young, under-contract-for-the-foreseeable future players has become increasingly important in baseball, even more so than one would think.

The idea being that most teams in baseball don’t operate in this “write the check and worry later” environment that has pervaded the FA market in the last few years as teams are more eager to fill out their roster with talent without a huge cash commitment in doing so. While the answer is obvious, who looks more appealing to have on a roster in 2008 – Kelly Shoppach (.865 OPS, $400,000) or Jason Varitek (.672 OPS, $10.5M)?

If cash is king, how does one value the ability to fill out a roster with productive players playing at the league minimum for a number of years? That is, if a baseball team is able to get legitimate contributions from a player who is on the upswing of a career working under the league-minimum contract or a few years away from FA, isn’t that a more valuable commodity in the league than simply having buckets of money to commit to players that may be on the downslide of his career at a largely inflated price?
And isn’t that how winning teams are built and maintained?

Obviously, this isn’t a new strategy as it’s folly to think that teams wouldn’t love to have a payroll as low as possible with a competitive team on the field year after year, but think about it in terms of the acquisition of players and how it colors the off-season plans of the Indians and the rest of the MLB teams. The Indians seem to be flush with a number of redundancies on their 40-man roster, all of whom fall under the categories of cheap, under-club-control, and (to varying degrees) successful in MLB.

Wouldn’t it behoove the Indians, then, to use those commodities to acquire the talent they need to fill the holes that are on the team rather than to simply dump money into a hole on the team and hope for the best? Obviously, the way that the Indians are built is to rely on these same young, affordable players that I’m referring too here, but if the Indians have a overflow of LH starters or catchers, all of whom are under club control for the next few years (at least) and cost little more than the league minimum or an arbitration number, shouldn’t they identify which players they want to keep and jettison the flotsam to augment the portions of the roster most in need of help?

Don’t you think that the Mariners were interested in Frank the Tank for more than just his defense? He’ll make the league minimum salary this year (probably around $400,000) and can’t be a Free Agent until after the 2012, do you think that acquiring him is preferable to signing a FA like Corey Patterson (who made $3M last year in Cincinnati) or Wily Taveras (who made nearly $2M last year in Colorado), both of whom posted lower OPS than Frank did last year in a comparable number of AB?

Certainly, this justifies the greater point – that the Indians have players that can fill out a MLB roster, perhaps not spectacularly but cheaply and at a level comparable to average MLB production…or in some cases, above it. And that, as evidenced by the Gutierrez deal, is the prudent thing for teams looking to fill holes on their roster without committing outrageous amounts of dollars on the FA market.

Then again, it always does take two to tango to make a deal like this happen. But dancing partners were found in the “Frankie Goes to the Seattle” deal, and you would have to think that the OF moves are done, in terms of dealing from depth. But the Indians still retain some fungible parts that could potentially be moved to a team in need, so long as the exchange fills a hole on the Tribe. The players’ affordability in the coming years may be the great attraction for a team looking for players, playing at set (and low) contract numbers and under club control for the next few years.

Now before you think I’m advocating the decimation of organizational depth that seems to have finally been built up, or suggesting that the old “I think we can get Brian Roberts for Garko, Barfield, and Mujica” rationale is sound, know that the unstated (but obvious) factor in this is desirability…much more so than simple affordability and club control. But the Gutierrez trade illustrates perfectly how the Indians should be playing this angle, by dealing young, affordable, under-club-control players at positions of depth to teams in need and receiving similarly young, affordable, and under-club-control players at positions of need.

As the Indians approach filling their last few needs before Spring Training, they playing of their cards in their hand may be a smarter play than simply reaching deeper into their pocket – and with most of the “players” at the table sitting on thinner wallets these days, a trade partner shouldn’t be too hard to find.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lazy Sunday After the Flurry

Trying to put a nice bow on the week that was before a trip to the Christmas Tree Lot presses me to the Great Outdoors, let’s get right into another Lazy Lazy:
In case you hadn’t heard, the Wood deal is done, something that I assumed to be true when my mom called me to tell me that she was behind Kerry Wood in line at the Kohl’s in Highland Heights on Thursday as he was buying a winter jacket…no, seriously.

The deal is for 2 years and $20.5M guaranteed with a third year option worth $11M that vests if he finishes 55 games in either 2009 or 2010. If he does not finish 55 games either of those years, the third year becomes a club option. All told, the deal has the potential to be a 3-year, $31.5M deal – which is only $6M less than what the Mets gave K-Rod, but in a completely different context as the vesting option gives the Indians some flexibility to get out of the deal after two years, while the Mets do not have that luxury. So, the deals are similar, but there’s a big difference in the $17M that is guaranteed in the Mets-Rodriguez deal for those wondering why the Indians didn’t just “pony up” more cash to net K-Rod…not even attempting to imagine what the Mets might have had to give up if there was actually another serious suitor for K-Rod.

As for the vesting option, here are the Indians’ leaders in games finished for the last 10 years:
2008 – Lewis – 28
2007 – Borowski – 58
2006 – Wickman – 29
2005 – Wickman – 55
2004 – Riske – 27
2003 – Baez – 46
2002 – Wickman – 30
2001 – Wickman – 56
2000 – Karsay – 46
1999 – Jackson – 65
What do you notice about the years that the Indians’ leader in games finished topped 55?
How about this?
2007 – 96 wins
2005 – 93 wins
2001 – 91 wins
1999 – 97 wins
Yep, it’s the 4 years with the most wins in the last 10 years, which led to more opportunities for the team’s “closer” to finish off games in the 9th.
Don’t think that the “55” number came about arbitrarily, because it didn’t.

If the Indians have two down years (knocking firmly on Wood…pun intended, check the capitalization), there’s little chance that the 3rd year option vests, making it a club option and allowing the Indians to make the decision. Additionally, if Wood is injured – even for a short time in the season – look how those numbers above show that he would have to be closing, essentially, nearly every victory when healthy to have that 3rd year vest.

For more on the Wood acquisition and how the Indians approached the situation, Terry Pluto has quite a bit of insight as to how the Indians surveyed the FA market and made the decision to go with Wood as well as touching on the infield situation.

The 2009 infield and how the Frank the Tank trade (about which Tony Lastoria has a superb write-up summarizing the players acquired) affected it is the move that muddied the waters for me. Getting Joe Smith for Gutz makes sense as it adds another arm to the bullpen (showing that Shapiro is not past his “throw it up against the wall and see what sticks” philosophy…despite the Wood signing) but adding Luis Valbuena is the move that, again, looks to me like the opening for more activity.

Adding Louie V.B. (whose “Lucky Louie” was underrated during its brief stint on HBO) makes sense as it fills a hole in the upper (and middle) levels of the Indians organization for middle infielders. But it also creates a redundancy at 2B in Columbus as every indication from the Indians has been that Josh Barfield does not fit into the 2009 plans of the parent club. Perhaps that’s changed, but I seem to remember a quote from Shapiro that the Indians could NOT go into 2009 with the infield as it’s presently constructed (that is, with Marte, Barfield, and Carroll handling 2B or 3B). So, does the acquisition of Louie V.B change any of that? Are the Indians truly content to try a platoon of Carroll and Barfield in 2009, while they wait for Valbuena (or Mr. Good Valley…I think, though I’m no Spanish expert) to develop at AAA?

Valbuena has played 58 games at AAA and has 49 AB in MLB, wouldn’t AT LEAST a season at AAA benefit him, particularly if he’s been “rushed” through the Seattle system (who must fast-track everyone, if the players the Indians have acquired is any indication)? While he may eventually figure in as the 2B, I’m not so sure that 2009 is the year, even in the middle of the season like Asdrubal did in 2007 as, if you remember, the Indians dropped Cabrera back to AA when they received him from the M’s.

Is it possible that Valbuena (whose swing, according to Rosenthal, “one club official likens to "Robinson Cano lite.”) some sort of answer at 2B in 2009? Sure, anything’s possible, but this, to me, sets up something more to happen – and I don’t just mean the fact that the Indians can now get that stop-gap 2B now that there is a legitimate option in their farm system at 2B.

Examining this 3-way deal (and does anyone else feel a little dirty talking about this so openly…this, I believe the term is “ménage a trios”) a little further, it shows me that more is coming, a sentiment spelled out by none other than himself:
“Obviously, we have more work that we haven't completed yet. But we hope we have more on the heels of this, and a big portion of our offseason work will be done…We've got a lot of time left to utilize, and we're going to continue to address what we think are some holes in the team. I would expect us to get more done before we get to Spring Training.”

What “more work” he refers to remains to be seen, but the picture is getting quite a bit clearer, if only that’s it’s clear that the Indians’ philosophy of dealing from positions of depth to fill holes on the roster and in the organization is alive and well. Between Coco Crisp, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Max Ramirez, Franklin Delano Gutierrez, etc., the Indians have shown that they will trade a player (it would seem) only if they play the same position as other strong prospects in the organization or if a glut of players at a particular position reveals itself (as OF did, with Choo, Frank, Frisco, Brantley, LaPorta, and Crowe all playing at AAA or above with CF pretty much locked down), allowing the Indians to make another move.

Essentially, when depth presents itself or a redundancy is revealed to the degree that trading one of the pieces of that depth or redundancy is not going to significantly damage the overall depth of the system, the Indians are willing to make that move. And this is where I’m going with all of this now as you consider, after the Gutz deal, how certain positions are suddenly overloaded with players, while some obvious holes still exist:


Young LH Starters (not yet established in MLB)

Young RH Relievers (not yet established in MLB)

Even if the Indians were to trade a few of the names off of each of these lists (excluding Victor), there’s not going to be a huge effect on the parent club (remember, I’m in the “Trade Kelly” camp) as depth exists elsewhere to fill the holes that would be created. Now, with the economic environment that we are all experiencing (and I’ll have more on this thought this week), these young players – under club control at low salary numbers become the kind of commodity that becomes invaluable to other teams.

What I’m saying, I guess, in all of this is that the Gutz trade seemed to add the depth that could make it possible for the Indians to package a number of players, who play positions that are areas of strength, for the Indians to upgrade the weaknesses (middle-of-the-rotation starter, infielder for 2009) that still exist on the roster.

An enormous corollary to the 3-way (that’s just with chili and cheese on top of the spaghetti) is how it essentially blocked the Tigers from adding JJ Putz to their bullpen. Now, with Hoffman rumored to perhaps be LA-bound and the Cardinals romancing Brian Fuentes, the Tigers could find themselves with a dearth of options at the closer position in a market that seems so full of them. Actually, I think that this “block” played more of a role in this than we may ever know.

The situation was addressed, somewhat by Hoynes’ account of the negotiations in the 3-way today, but think about it - couldn't you just see Minaya hitting a roadblock in getting Putz out of Seattle and calling up Shapiro, telling him that he's got a deal for Putz that would keep him out of Detroit - as long as the Tribe sends Gutz to the M's? As long as Shapiro is somewhat pleased with the returning players and can get Joe Smith (who the Indians have had their eyes on) and a young Seattle middle infielder, it had to have played a role in preventing the Tigers from adding Putz to their inconsistent bullpen for 2009 and beyond.

Elsewhere, the Rule 5 Draft came and went without much activity involving the Indians’ minor-leaguers that were thought, by some, to be potential Rule 5 Picks. Tony Lastoria, as is his wont to cover all things related to the Indians’ farm system, has a nice summary and commentary on the Rule 5 passing harmlessly into the night. The accompanying sound on Tony’s site is our show from last Thursday, when we addressed the Wood signing, the 3-way, and spoke to Indians minor league reliever Randy Newsom, who was thought, again by some, to be a potential Rule 5 pick…which obviously didn’t happen. One of the most intriguing things about the Newsom interview is the fact that Newsom has been told by the Indians’ brass that he needs to improve his performance against LH hitters as his ¾ arm style baffles RH hitters but allows some LH hitters to find more success. Knowing this, Newsom was surprised (relatively speaking) at the Joe Smith acquisition as Smith’s splits are pretty close to what Newsom has done the past couple of years.

Also, I know I linked the same Rosenthal piece above, but he says to forget about Ty Wigginton as an option for 3B in Cleveland as “the Indians would not want Jhonny Peralta and Wigginton manning the left side of their infield with so many sinker-ballers on their staff. Peralta could shift to third base if the team acquires a second baseman or shortstop; he is playing third in the Dominican Republic.”
Cross him off the list, if he was even on your list…because he was not on mine.

From the ever-growing file of “I wish I were that guy”, here’s a link that shows Grady in Vegas at Tryst nightclub during a party thrown by a certain Hefty Lefty who hopes that pinstripes will have that “slimming” effect. I’ll let you do your own search on the girl on Grady’s arm, because she’s known in some circles as “Miss June 2007” and (apparently) hails from Bellevue, Ohio…the name’s Brittany Binger, if you didn’t catch it. Despite the fact that CC’s boy Milton Bradley is tagged repeatedly as Torii Hunter (and how odd is it that CC counts the Game Boy as one of his close friends), it’s pretty cool to see these guys kicking it in Vegas during the De La Hoya-Pacman fight weekend…and, um, Grady’s Lady (legitimately) is not difficult to look at either.

Finally, let us all take note of the season that we are in and join these fine gentleman in acknowledging the goodness that is Christmas Ale.
Time to go get a Christmas Tree…

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Woodzoski (The Close)

While this generally would wait for a Lazy Lazy, it’s something that must be shared as soon as possible as I nearly spit my coffee out over this morning’s edition of the PD. Casually, I was reading that (as the headline reads), “Tribe could decide today whether to sign Wood”, thinking nothing of it, when my stomach dropped.

Before showing this clipping (yes, I actually clipped it out of the paper), know that I have neither the talent nor inclination (mostly the talent) to pull off one of those Photo Shop pictures that are meant to confuse and embarrass. No, the PD pulled this one off all on its own:
What’s wrong with that, right?
Look closer at the picture, or allow me to utilize this scanner and show it to you up a little closer:

This is the closer we’re giving $20M to over two years? This…this…looks like….NO!!!
We thought we were out from under the spell of The Big Borowski and now the PD mocks us by showing a picture of “Kerry Wood” that is actually the last Cubs’ reliever that the Indians signed who had arm trouble.

Look, everyone’s entitled to make mistakes (Lord knows I’ve made my share), but the PD and have given us loads of unintentional comedy…Brodzoski (The Close), anyone? And this just brings up too many thoughts of foreshadowing and nauseas moments for me to pass up letting it slide by…much less excluding the out-of-towners on the fun.

Just thought I’d share.
See you tomorrow for the Lazy one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wooden Tomahawks

As this K-Man news really starts to settle in, I keep coming back to the length of this deal – 2 guaranteed years…for one of the top five dominant closers in baseball, just hitting his early 30’s?
Is anyone else completely blown away by this?

As the FA closer market began to reveal itself (who’s out there, who’s looking, etc.), I thought that guaranteeing a 2nd year to the 41-year-old Trevor Hoffman is the risk the Indians would have to assume to ink a back-end stopper.
But this?
Only two guaranteed years with an option for the 3rd year that gives the Indians a limited commitment to Wood with the possibility of extending his stay on the North Coast? This is almost too good to be true. Did Wood’s agents survey the landscape of the FA market for closers and decide that this was the deal that would be the best offer on the table, after they went into the off-season reportedly looking for a 3-year, $30M deal?

Truthfully, I don’t care why Wood agreed to the (alleged) 2 years and I’m not going to pretend to care – the fact is that the Indians, in adding Wood, have the dominant back-end of the bullpen pitcher that has victimized the Tribe time and time again. How often did you think that the game was over when a Papelbon or a Nathan entered the game?
Guess what, we just got that dominance in the 9th without a huge commitment of years to do so for a player that already hates the White Sox.
Cue the closer music at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario, it’s time to “take ‘em to the Wood Shed”.

In this InterWeb world of rumor and false reporting, how spot-on has Anthony Castrovince been on this whole Wood thing and the alleged 3-way deal (more on that later)? AC was talking to the folks at on this video feed as the only things coming out of the rest of the media outlets was the melodious music of crickets.

Despite this, the “traditional media” outlets remain unwilling to give credit where credit is due as I heard (while driving this afternoon listening to…against my better judgment…WKNR, “the Plain Dealer is reporting that the Indians have agreed to terms with Kerry Wood on a 2-year deal” at about 2:30 PM on Wednesday afternoon.
Wait, the PLAIN DEALER is reporting it?
You mean, the Plain Dealer has finally decided to acknowledge that the deal that was reported a full 24 hours earlier by Castrovince as something that may happen? (which is Castrovince) was cited as the source by multiple media outlets, including the AP, but for some unknown reason the credit doesn’t seem to be going to the proper channel – which is Castrovince, who broke the story and had the particulars of the deal done on Tuesday afternoon (as evidenced by the video link above) while the rest of the “beat writers” wrote their vague, “it’s-not-done-yet” drivel that has become the norm for the troika that has covered the Indians’ beat for too long now.

I’m not quite sure why this bothers me so, as I have no interest in ever “breaking” a story, but it’s right to give credit where it is due and Castrovince called the Wood deal early and correctly (assuming the particulars are worked out) and he deserves the credit for it.

Speaking of “breaking stories”, how much frustration is everyone else feeling towards the Worldwide Leader this week, as they only focused on (big surprise) the Yankees and Red Sox and the CC Sweepstakes?

I know that ESPN is supposed to be THE source for inside information, with their varied stable of baseball writers and insiders, but if the news wasn’t specifically “broken” by them, it’s as if it didn’t even happen. Maybe I’m just bitter as one of the biggest off-season acquisitions that I can remember for the Indians (maybe the biggest FA signing) was simply brushed under the rug while all of the ESPNites fell all over each other to talk about the CC-to-the-Bronx situation, but ESPN is getting awfully close to being dead to me.

Look, I know how this all works, that ESPN covers the bigger stories and the “bigger” teams and have been doing so for years – but this Wood coverage has me past the breaking point. Start with the ESPN Baseball Tonight (which is a joke in and of itself) Winter Meeting Special on Tuesday, during which Tim Kurkjian’s comments that it “wasn’t likely” that the Indians would sign Wood (after the story that the deal was imminent had broken) because he “knew” that the Indians wouldn’t go over $7M or $8M annually and that Wood would easily command more than the Indians could ever afford.
Way to know the market there, Tim.

It rolled on with Steve Phillips’ “reporting” that it was likely that, “Kerry Wood appears to be headed to either Cleveland or Texas, likely for two years and $12 million-$14 million”, not specifying if it was $12M to $14M per or total…again coming AFTER the news from AC that the deal was imminent.
Hey, Phillips…OK, it’s not even worth it to pile on the carcass that is Steve Phillips.

Even after the story was picked up by the AP and the local papers (probably begrudgingly) jumped onto the bandwagon, albeit late, ESPN was more interested in what was happening with the Yankees or what the Red Sox would do.

If ESPN hadn’t fallen out of your rotation as a legitimate source for baseball news (its shelf-life as a source for legitimate analysis expired long ago), this week in Las Vegas should have thrown the last shovelful of dirt on the grave of what was once a marvelous baseball resource with knowledgeable baseball insiders and analysts.
If you’re not on Rosenthal and AC by now, that’s on you.

Then again, maybe I’m just bitter because CC is going to the Bronx and every story that I read has no mention of the time he spent as an Indian.
Did he have a great “career” as a Brewer…all 17 starts?
Absolutely, but he was an Indian for 7 ½ years, people…at least acknowledge it.

Back to the Wood Shed, while he represents more of an “expert in the bleachers” (not unlike myself), I asked my brother-in-law (a die-hard Cubs fan who is LEGITIMATELY a die-hard Cubs fan) for his thoughts on the Wood-to-Cleveland deal.
His response when the deal was first reported as a possibility?
I think it is a great move for the Indians and for Wood. There is always the injury question but he has shown that his arm can hold up over the last year plus in the bullpen. I think he can be a solid closer and a 2 to 3 year contract doesn’t have too much risk if he does get hurt. They also don’t have to give up a draft pick because the Cubs were afraid that he would accept arbitration and didn’t offer it. I am interested to see the money but the number of years on this contract just increases my frustration with the Cubs not bringing him back.

Wood has always been a standup guy, clubhouse leader (as much as a pitcher can be), is good in the Chicago community and always accountable for how he pitches. I think he can continue to develop as a closer and be solid for years. He is still young enough for a five to seven year run of success with this workload. Adding those saves to the bullpen is a big help for the Indians and helps them as they try to get back to the top of the division. The big thing here is that it lets you slot your relievers into more effective roles. I think this is a better move than Hoffman because of the age difference and power arm difference. In my opinion, it is a great move by the Indians.

Needless to say, he doesn’t think that Kevin Gregg taking over Kerry Wood’s innings (even if the specific inning – 9th vs. 8th or 7th) represents a positive development for the North Siders.

I think his comments underscore what is one of the most intriguing parts of this (alleged) deal for me….that the Indians are the team GETTING the player that the former team’s fans wanted to keep!
How often does that happen to us in Cleveland?
While we can all moan about CC (who would have taken less money, if it was ANYWHERE near what the Yankees offered him and got an absurdly good deal with a opt-out after 3 years somehow written into his deal), but Cubs’ fans wanted Wood back…and he’s ours. It’s an unusual feeling for those of us with the inferiority complex stamped right into our heads, but it’s a feeling I could get used to.

In matters not constructed of Wood, Anthony Castrovince (again) has an early jump on a potential deal that may be happening with the Indians, Mets, and Mariners. The way that he reports is that the following players would be heading to the following teams:
To the Mets – JJ Putz, OF Jeremy Reed, RP Sean Green
To the Mariners – Frank the Tank, P Aaron Heilman, OF Endy Chavez, 1B Mike Carp
To the Indians – RP Joe Smith and minor-league 2B Luis Valbuena

At first glance, this one seems a bit confusing as the Indians add ANOTHER arm to the bullpen that suddenly looks awfully crowded, particularly given the young arms (Miller, Meloan, Sipp, etc.) that figure to perhaps come into play for 2009 and the fact that Valbuena has only played 58 games in AAA, before playing 18 games for the M’s last year.

Now, Joe Smith is an interesting arm as he is only 25 and has been successful as a young reliever in New York. But don’t we have a bunch of guys like this just waiting for a chance? And Valbuena is a nice looking 22-year-old middle infielder from Venezuela and the Seattle organization (which is a nice combination, though Asdrubal is actually younger), but aren’t the Indians looking for a 2B for this year?

Both players would be decent additions (though one wonders if Frank would be more valuable as part of a package and not on his own, given his defensive wizardry), but it doesn’t seem to solve many issues – only create more. And maybe that’s where this is going, that this is simply the first domino to fall to give the Indians depth at 2B (even if Valbuena won’t be on the parent club in 2009) and in the bullpen. What it may allow the Indians to do is include Josh Barfield in a package (with the idea that Valbuena starts 2009 as Columbus’ 2B) and throw some of the AAA arms in on a deal that may net that starting pitcher or LEGITIMATE 2B option for 2009.

Again, the trade looks curious for the Indians when initially examined (and not because Frank the Tank is going as most thought that he would be some sort of bait this off-season), which leads me to believe that it’s a “depth” move to facilitate another move that has greater ramifications for the parent club.

More on this later as details emerge…I’m off to order my Kerry Wood jersey.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Knocking on Wood

As the Hot Stove starts to put off heat, there is a report from Matt Underwood’s blog that the Indians are perhaps close to solidifying the back end of their bullpen by inking Kerry Wood:
The Cleveland Indians are moving closer to signing free agent closer Kerry Wood to a multi-year contract. Sources that I spoke to last night indicate the deal would be 2-years with a club option for a 3rd…While the framework for a deal appears to be in place an official announcement may not happen until late in the week or Monday at the earliest because of physicals and paperwork.

Now what does “closer” mean and what interest would Wood (ba-dum-dum) have in a 2-year deal, considering that it looks like K-Rod is signing for 3 years (a little less than the 5 years he was hoping for), but AC has a similar story on the official site so this one could certainly have some legs to it.

If you were hoping for that strikeout-heavy closer with dominant stuff after being treated to the soft-tossing “guts” of Brodzoski (The Close) or Sticky Wickman, certainly Kerry Wood is the answer to your prayers. When healthy (and that is certainly a caveat, but more on that in a bit), pitchers don’t get much more dominant than Wood.
Consider his 2008:
34 saves, 3.26 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 84 K, 18 BB over 66 1/3 IP over 65 games

How dominant was his stuff among pitchers in MLB with at least 60 IP last year?
K/9 rate – 11.40 - 7th in MLB
K/BB rate – 4.67 – 9th in MLB
WHIP – 1.09 – 19th in MLB
OPS against – .632 – 37th in MLB

Everyone knows the story of Wood, from wunderkind 20 K game status to constant injury while earning $12M in 2006 while throwing 19 2/3 IP for the North Siders to his renaissance in the bullpen, finding new life as a dominant closer for the Cubbies. While most casual fans know him mainly from his success as a starter, take a look at how he has adjusted to his role as a reliever:
Career Stats as a Starter
3.69 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 10.33 K/9, 2.36 K/BB, .681 OPS against

Career Stats as a Reliever
3.16 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 10.96 K/9, 3.47 K/BB, .608 OPS against

If anything, Wood has IMPROVED since his move to the bullpen (though certainly some of his stats as a starter were colored by injury) and his presence on the Cubs solidified their bullpen on their way to an NL Central title. So why would Chicago not re-sign Wood, who has often stated that he felt at home in Chicago (where his wife is from) and that he wanted to remain a Cub?

The likely answer is that the Cubs thought that Carlos Marmol, who set Wood up last year in the Cubs’ bullpen, was ready to ascend to the role of closer. It’s hard to argue with their logic as Marmol posted K/9 rate for 2008 of 11.75, while his WHIP of 0.93 also bested Wood, not to mention that Marmol’s OPS against of .508 ranked 3rd in MLB after a couple of guys named Rivera and Soria. Throw in the facts that Marmol is playing for the league minimum and that he looks to be on the cusp of dominance as a closer and you see why the Cubs felt comfortable handing the 9th inning to him. Why they didn’t keep Wood on, in a lesser capacity, and opt for obtaining Kevin Gregg from the Marlins to fill a bullpen role instead is a mystery. If the Indians are, in fact, in line to sign Wood, we would have to hope that the Cubs reluctance in committing years and dollars to Wood wasn’t the result of concerns over lingering health issues.

Ah, the health issues…the ones that seemed to add initials to Kerry Wood’s name, much like a doctor gets an MD or a dentist adds a DDS. For too many years in Chicago, Kerry Wood’s name and the initials MRI were closely connected as every article that referred to Wood had some mention of his elbow, an MRI, or some other lingering medical issue. However, knowing the Indians and their reluctance to commit multiple years to players with injury concerns (keep your Hafner comment to yourself), one would have to think that the Indians are going to run Wood through a litany of tests before any kind of final commitment to him. And even if there is lingering concerns, the length of the deal being reportedly discussed (2 years with an option for a 3rd) protects the Indians against making a huge commitment in terms of years going forward.

Going further, if (and, remember, we’re still talking “if” here as there’s been nothing official) the Indians do add Wood to the bullpen mix, the Tribe bullpen just got a great deal better and quite a bit deeper:

Those are some dominant arms at the back end with the possibility of allowing Betancourt to find himself again in the 6th or 7th inning instead of as a primary set-up man for Stomp Lewis. Additionally, it allows the young arms in that last group to work their way into the mix gradually or simply establish themselves in Columbus and wait for the first call-up to replace an ineffective or injured pitcher as the chaff is separated from the wheat in that second last line.

Obviously, we’re still talking about a deal “allegedly” happening with Wood, but adding him to the bullpen mix solidifies the back-end of the bullpen with a pitcher capable of dominating opponents. To net that type of player on the FA market without committing anything more than 2 guaranteed years on the open market looks to be a tremendous addition to the current Indians’ roster. Beyond that, it allows that ladder of progression that the Indians rely upon amongst their relievers to strengthen to the point of the bullpen being a pillar of the 2009 team and not the rickety version that handles relief duties in 2008.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Lazy Sunday Throwing Logs on the Hot Stove

The Winter Meetings are starting!
The Winter Meetings are starting!
Perhaps we’ll have more to discuss than what Tomo Ohka means to the Indians in 2009 (nothing, by the way, he’s an NRI…think Elarton or Bullington in that neither were even thought of until the season was over) soon as the Hot Stove should be kicking off some heat here soon.

And with that excitement duly generated, we’re off on a Lazy Sunday:
Seeing that is Sunday, let’s lead where we often do with Terry Pluto, who comes through with a plethora of information (and I’m not just saying that because he specifically mentions this blog this morning…though he does) about what direction the Indians are looking to take on a number of fronts.

Among the revelations (from someone who knows what the Indians are doing and talking about and not just rumor-mongering) is that the Twins have offered Casey Blake a 2-year, $12M guaranteed deal, and that the Indians have been pleased with what they’ve heard about Jhonny’s performance as a 3B in the Dominican. Jhonny’s performance at 3B would seem to open that door to moving him there for 2009, though Pluto has been told that the Indians don’t feel that Freddy Sanchez is much of an upgrade and that the Orioles are being their usual obstinate selves in the Brian Roberts talks.

Pluto also hits on some of the lesser-lights in terms of relievers, slyly intimating (after discussing the Howry-to-the-Giants news) that Hoffman is the player in the crosshairs, and finishes with a bit about Andy Marte and Josh Barfield, specifically referencing Tuesday’s article here in the process as a piece to “check out”. Pluto bangs the drum for the Indians not to give up on Barfield, who will have one more season in AAA to assert himself back onto the Indians’ radar while Marte, conversely, finds himself stuck in the no-man’s land of almost being removed from the 40-man roster but being out of options.

For an even more in-depth look at what may have gone wrong in the Odyssey of Andy, check out APV’s piece over at the LGT, where he breaks down how Marte devolved from a “can’t-miss-prospect” to the player that Pluto reports was on the cusp of being removed from the 40-man roster a mere 3 years later for Jordan Brown…who is less than two months YOUNGER than Marte.

Elsewere on the Hot Stove burner, as serial poster A.G.B. pointed out in the comments section yesterday, it looks like the A’s are out of the Rafael Furcal Party, as are the Giants with their signing of Edgar Renteria and the Cardinals, who added Khalil Greene. News that those teams are out of the mix comes with Rosenthal’s intimations that Furcal is not opposed to playing 2B and that he is not necessarily locked into looking for a 4-year deal, and to quote A.G.B here, “my head is racing with thoughts of Rafael Furcal playing 2B and batting leadoff at Progressive Field”.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, Furcal would absolutely be the type of player (like Hudson) that would represent a significant upgrade over the current infield situation and add a top-of-the-lineup hitter to the club. The back injury that forced him to miss all but 36 games last year is concerning and his full 2007 left a little to be desired – but Furcal is the type of player that represents the upgrade the Indians need in the infield that isn’t just akin to spinning their wheels (as a guy like Mark Grudz or even Casey Blake would be) without blocking any significant prospects in the process. His ability to get on base would be a huge addition to the top of the lineup and his (alleged) willingness to play 2B could give the Indians even more flexibility in their ever-evolving infield alignment.

Furcal’s going to cost a lot (the A’s offer he turned down was 4 years and $35M to $40M), but the Indians have the dollars to commit and, to me, what the Indians could get for $10M to $12M a year for an infielder on a three-year deal is vastly superior to what that type of contract nets you in the Free Agent market for the veteran Starting Pitcher that is (allegedly) on the Tribe wish list.
Even though it was two years ago, Vicente Padilla anyone?

For other Hot Stove rumblings, Anthony Castrovince identifies the Marlins, Reds, and Astros as three teams that might be looking for an inexpensive option at catcher this off-season, which should have Indians’ fans familiarizing themselves with the likes of Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, and Wandy Rodriguez (or maybe even a, gulp, Aaron Harang) if the Indians use their biggest chip to net the biggest return – a young, established, under-club-control starter.

I know that other scenarios have been floated out there with some of these teams, with players like Dan Uggla, Ty Wigginton, Jose Valverde, and Edwin Encarnacion filling holes in the infield or the bullpen as an exchange for Shoppach. However, if I’m trading Mr. Show Pack (and the three years remaining before he hits Free Agency), I’m shooting a little higher than the aforementioned infielders and relievers – I’m looking for a pitcher that has the ability to sit in the #3 hole in the rotation who remains under club control (at a reasonable price, ideally) for the same amount of time that Shoppach would for his receiving team.

Moving on, AC also has a nice summation of what the Indians have on their “To-Do List” heading into the Meeting in Vegas and promises to dispense news (by his own admission, real or fabricated) via his blog, CastroTurf.

For a national (or at least Boston) perspective on what each team may be looking to do in Vegas, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe has an exhaustive trip around the horn with a few nuggets that could play into the Indians’ plans, even if he intimates that the Indians have little money to spend, without full knowledge of what Castrovince correctly summarizes (in his piece linked above) as a payroll that has “about $57 million tied up in guaranteed contracts for 11 players for next season. The rest of their contracts, plus any free-agent or trade acquisitions, will probably have the payroll somewhere in the $80-million range, which is where it was last season.”

Cafardo asserts that Seattle may be willing to move JJ Putz and Adrian Beltre (though the prospects the M’s would demand for one-year of Beltre goes against everything we’ve ever seen executed by the current Tribe brass), that Toronto may also be looking for catching help, perhaps dangling BJ Ryan on the market, and that the Astros may be looking to move the aforementioned Wigginton and Valverde (who will probably command $9M in his final year of arbitration before becoming a FA after 2009).

Entirely unrelated to anything simmering on the Hot Stove but completely related to excellent writing, one of my favorite Clevelanders, Joe Posnanski, offers more brilliance in his piece on King George and how growing up in Cleveland may have shaped the way that The Big Stein evolved through the years as the owner of the Bombers.

Also, in case you missed the Tomahawks from Thursday, news around the Wigwam is that I’ve (gulp) created a Facebook page for “The DiaTribe” and have been absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of people who have joined. If you missed it, here’s the link again as everyone is welcome to join and participate however they want to.

I was wondering what the best way to utilize that group on Facebook would be (outside of reminding me to organize a “DiaTribe outing” at Wrigley next year) and this is what I’ve got – I thought it would be a good place to put your favorite pictures of yourself pertaining to the Tribe. Whereas your normal Facebook friends might scoff at your obvious obsession, put those pictures in a safe place, where they will be enjoyed by like-minded Tribe fans. To get it started, I threw a few up there from Game 5 of the 2007 ALCS (yes, the one that The Atomic Wedgie left the aCCe in too long for), as painful as it was to remember. It starts with The Baltimoran and myself, confident as can be that we were ready to celebrate a World Series berth with a Game 5 win until it spiraled downward into…well, some unhappiness.

Planes should be touching down in Las Vegas soon to initiate some gossip and rumors, with some of it hopefully involving our beloved Erie Warriors.
Plenty (hopefully) to talk about soon, but for now I’m off to bring the Christmas stuff down from the attic and attempt to avert my eyes from CBS from 1 PM to 4 PM.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tomahawks While We Wait

The maelstrom that is the Winter Meetings is starting to swirl, so let’s take a quick gander around some topics and release some Tomahawks accordingly:

Ken Rosenthal has an interesting bit about how the Brewers may be looking to move JJ Hardy for a legitimate #2 or a #3 starter to presumably replace CC and Sheets in their rotation using the logic that, “Hardy, who is two years away from free agency, would be worth that price. Not only is he a top defender, but he also ranked second among major-league shortstops in homers, fourth in slugging percentage and eighth in on-base percentage last season.”

Let’s see, Hardy ranked 2nd in HR, 4th in SLG, and 8th in OBP among SS last year - and Rosenthal thinks that 2 more years of him, at a premier defensive position, before he hits FA could net the Brew Crew an established front-to-middle-of-the-rotation starter.

If that’s the case, what would THREE years of a player who also plays a premium defensive position as a catcher, who ranked 3rd in HR, 2nd in SLG, and 10th in OBP among C last year net for the Indians?

A week after Jordan Brown (who was left off the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft) joined Tony Lastoria and I for our weekly edition of “Smoke Signals”, we welcomed Chris Gimenez (likely the last player added to the 40-man instead of Brown) to the show. The full podcast can be found here, with Gimenez calling in about 15 minutes into the show, after Tony and I discussed some of the infield talk (Hudson, Blake, Lowell, etc.) that’s been circulating recently regarding augmenting the 2009 team.

Gimenez, for those who aren’t familiar with him, is a soon-to-be-26-year-old super utility player whose primary position is listed as catcher – though his versatility to catch or play any of the corner positions (infield or outfield) is what makes him so attractive to the Indians – beyond his productive minor league seasons, highlighted by a minor-league OBP of .378, which has risen every year since his 2005 in Lake County.

During the course of the conversation, Gimenez described his elation over being added to the 40-man being tempered somewhat by the knowledge that a number of his close friends (notably Brown) did not get the same good news, as well as touching on how becoming a catcher improved his approach as a hitter, and how 3B is still the position that he feels most comfortable at, despite playing only 24 games at 3B in the last three years.

Interestingly, Gimenez takes the moniker of “super utility” as a bit of a badge of honor, realizing that his versatility is likely the way that the MLB door will open for him, perhaps leading to a permanent position somewhere down the line – wherever or whenever that may be.

How Gimenez fits into the Indians’ eventual plans, position-wise, or even where he fits in Columbus next year (Torregas figures to be the C – assuming no C is traded this off-season – and Hodges figures to be the everyday 3B in AAA) remains to be seen, but as long as he hits in Columbus (and he didn’t in his first taste of AAA last year), he becomes an in-house option to fill cracks that may emerge on the roster at a number of positions.

Ideally, Gimenez turns into a Casey Blakesque (is that a word?) player, whose versatility becomes an asset that the Indians can use to put a productive bat in the lineup while retaining some flexibility as to where his bat produces from.

Speaking of Blake, it looks like the specter of Casey returning to Cleveland on a (gasp) 2-year deal isn’t going to come to fruition as the Indians are (rightfully) hesitant to match the 3rd year that seems to be included in the offers on the table from the Dodgers and Twins.

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating, that Casey Blake is a nice player to have on a roster, because of his versatility and his average production from wherever he plays on the diamond. But committing multiple years and lots of zeroes on paychecks during those multiple years is not the direction the Indians should be taking in adding an infielder.

The whole reporting that the Indians “kept in contact” with Blake sounds to me like nothing more than a back-up plan (think Wickman a couple years ago being Plan B while the Indians chased other closers) in case the Indians found themselves empty-handed after looking for an infielder elsewhere. And truthfully, that’s about as far as the Indians should have gone on it – to keep Casey in mind, but not at the forefront of anyone’s mind.

The contempt for Casey Blake while he wore an Indians’ uniform is a notion that I will never understand as he played hard, put up respectable numbers, was never hurt or a distraction, and cost the Indians very little in terms of salary before 2008. Despite this, he became the poster boy for all that was “wrong” with the Indians – a veteran “grinder” who maximized his ability and fill a role on a team that asked him to do just that. That, and probably some association with The Atomic Wedgie as Wedge’s “boy” led most in the fanbase to direct their vitriol towards a player that was what he was – an excellent complementary piece and a clubhouse leader, whose presence for the last few years was vastly underrated and, often, unfairly derided.

The whole reason that the Blake return thoughts seem like a back-up plan to me is the quote I just can’t shake from Wedge that Peralta is likely to eventually end up as a 3B, with Cabrera as SS. Throw in the fact that Peralta’s mere presence in the Dominican Republic (much less the fact that he’s playing 3B) is newsworthy as he’s NEVER played Winter League Ball since making it to the Bigs, and the idea that Peralta’s move to 3B is being very seriously considered. If not in 2009, then at some point past that.

If, then, Peralta is eventually going to slide over to 3B, what logic is there in signing a 3B to a multi-year deal that essentially keeps the infield makeup the same as it’s been for the last year and a half?

A one-year “rent-a-player” at 3B or just giving Andy Marte/Jamey Carroll a shot at 3B makes more sense than getting someone who figures to man the Hot Corner for the next three years. Not as much sense as adding a 2B to the mix, but more sense than looking (again) for that long-term option.

At the urging of a few of the serial posters here, I have created a Facebook page for The DiaTribe here – apparently fulfilling all of the wishes of my inner 13-year-old girl.

If you don’t know what that last sentence means, don’t worry about it.
If it does make sense to you, come join me…if only so I can prove to the DiaBride that more people read the ramblings of a slightly obsessed Indians’ fan that aren’t of blood relation to me and go beyond my beloved serial posters.

Winter Meetings start officially this weekend, so I’ll try to get all of my Facebook giggling and “poking” out of the way to come correct and in full effect so we can talk about something…or is it anything?