The Tribe beat me to the punch by making a trade before I could post. That’s what happens when you wait till the trade deadline day to post, oh well.
The Indians traded Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals for AA outfielder James Ramsey. First about Masterson. I wrote in my earlier blogs that the Indians should jump at the chance to sign Masterson to a new deal. Masterson was reportedly looking for a 2-3 year deal around 17 million per year. The Cincinnati Reds signed Homer Bailey to a 6 year $105 million contract earlier this spring. Bailey has similiar career numbers as Masterson and the pay scale was going to be similar for Justin. I was in favor of giving Masterson this deal. For one starting pitching does not come cheap. For $10 million per year you get a hope and prayer free agent. Last year the Tribe gave free agent Brett Myers an $8 million dollar contract. Myers was not even a starting pitcher the year before and Myers delivered an 8.02 ERA for that gamble. Thank you very little. The Tribe signed Grady Sizemore to a $5 million dollar contract his last season here, and he didn’t play in one game. At least he didn’t enter any games and make them completely unwinnable as Myers did. If you up the pay to say around $12.5 million per year you get a pitcher who comes with his own gun. This is what Baltimore had to pay Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jimenez is 3-8 on the year with a 4.52 ERA. Here is the best part. Ubaldo leads the league in walks. Not so unimaginable you say. He has missed almost a month of the season with an injury to his ankle in the parking lot, and he still leads the league in walks! Enjoy that for 3 more years Oriole fan.
So as you see unless you spend some significant money on starting pitching you probably are going to be playing with fire. You could have signed Scott Kazmir as I had hoped for 11 million per year. Kazmis is currently 12-3 with a 2.37 ERA. The cost of signing other pitchers was the one reason for my wanting to sign Masterson, but also the length of the contract. Masterson was asking for a fairly sizeable contract per year, but he was willing to take a 2-3 year contract. Most pitchers will take no less than 4 years to sign and will push for 6 to 7 years. The Tribe will always be leary of offering any free agent that length of contract, exspecially pitching. I thought it would be a contract that the Tribe could live with for 2-3 years considering the cost of marginal pitching. The Indians didn’t bite and in hindsite it looks like the right move. Masterson has had a horrible season, and for the Indians to pull anything out in a trade looks to be win for the Indians.
In my 20 years being at Tribe games I have never tried to hard to meet the players. I did meet Masterson a couple of times and he seemed like the most genuine person. He was always smiling and had such a positive attitude. I couldn’t help but think he would be your best friend. I remember when Jack Hannahan was on the team and his wife was having their first child. Masterson got the team togeather and chartered a private jet to make sure Hannahan made it back from Boston to be there in time. It spoke volumes of who Masteron is as a person. So even is he is not on the team I will always root for Masty.
The player the Tribe recieved from St. Louis, James Ramsey. The reports I have read say he is decent prospect. He batted .300 with 13 HRs in AA Texas League. He probably could fill in as 4th outfielder or possible replace David Murphy. The St. Louis Cardinal have an abbundance of outfield prospects which held Ramsey up from being in AAA. The Texas League is notorious for being a picthers league so for Ramsey to be batting .300 with 13 HRs may be a good sign. The Tribe is sending him to AAA Columbus and we may see him by the end of the year. Hopefully the Indians have found a diamond in the rough. The Indians traded Jake Westbrook to St. Louis and ended up with Corey Kluber four years ago.
Ok what do I expect the Tribe to do at the deadline:
I went to the game Tuesday night with the family. On the way home the radio host was aking should the Indians be buyers or sellers this week. I looked at my wife and said they should be sellers …… and buyers. I didn’t see any harm in getting rid of Masterson, Asdrubal Cabrera, and John Axford. None of these players are helping the Tribe reach there goal of making the playoffs and can be replaced. In fact replacing them may even improve the team at some positions. Each player has some value and as we saw even Masterson can return a viable major league prospect. I assume Cabrera may return about the same if not more. There are a few teams looking for middle infield help and Cabrera would probably be the biggest name available. I’am sure he will go to another team and flourish as did Jhnny Peralta. I would still take Asdrubal over Peralta to this day. Asdrubal has been highly disappointing the last couple years but he is not worthless. If I was another team I wouldn’t touch John Axford with a 10 foot pole, but I still think there might be some team who would take him. I’m not asking for much. I look at it as addition by subtraction. These moves would not be to surprising. Any other plays shipped away would. I don’t see the Indians going into full sell mode with the playoff berth so close. The Tribe does have some relievers that have value and could be replaced. I still think the Indians have the belief they can make the playoffs this year, and are not looking to move players other than those not helping (Free agents who can be replaced).
For the last 2 plus years my main concern has been the Tribe’s bats. The Indians may be in the top half of the league in runs scored, but their offense is to sporadic to be considered great. This line up cries out for a great right handed power bat. Band-Aid players such as David Murphy, Mark Reynolds and others are not getting the job done. The Indians need to get a bonafide right handed hitter into this lineup. Swisher will never be a superstar, but I don’t think he will hit .200 all year either. He is not going to hit his career average of .265 this year, but there is no reason not to believe he can’t hit that for the rest of the year. He shouldn’t see the field again though as he has been atrocious at 1st base. Santana failed miserably at 3rd base, but has amazingly looked stellar at first. The defense may be settling in. Gomes after a shaky start has looked awesome. Santana has looked almost like a gold glove at first, while Kipnis is average defensively. Kipnis doesn’t seem to come up with balls on the ground but he is not a liability in the field either. Fransico Lindor will be taking over short next year and he is supposedly a glod glove shortstop. So other than Chisenhall at 3rd the infield looks good defensively. Brantley is a stud in left field and Bourn has won gold gloves in center. I have not witnessed Bourn being a gold glove centerfielder, but he has been so I don’t see why he can’t be a plus defender there now. Dickerson has filled in great as fourth outfielder and has a great arm. Ultimately I think the defensive lapse will settle down. Some miscues came from players who normally have been good defensively (Gomes), while others came from players being moved positions (Santana). The players who commited the most errors will either not be here next year (Cabrera) or be DHing next year (Swisher) other than Chisenhall.
The problem with adding a bat at the trade deadline is that the Indians have very little flexability at this moment. With Santana maning 1st base that puts Swisher at the DH position. I doubt the Indians would be willing to sit Swisher and his contract. As I mentioned I don’t see Swisher hitting .200 all year either, and I’am sure the Tribe is counting on that changing. Right field is another spot that could be upgraded but then again David Murphy has a 2 year contract. I don’t think the Indians would be willing to eat the rest of this year and next to sit Murphy. So the Indians really have no place to put another bat even though their lineup screams for one. Ultimately I don’t see the Tribe bringing in any major upgrades. If they did here are some names I have heard mentioned that may be available.
Who should the Indians be looking to buy?
Matt Kemp: L.A. Dodgers – No way the Tribe pays this guys salary (108 million for the next 6 years, $18 per year) even though it’s a bat that would look great in right field.
Andre Either: L.A. Dodgers – Again to high of salary for the Tribe but would be a big upgrade in right even if he is left handed.
Carlos Gonzalez: Rockies – Another lefty but a career .295 hitter with some pop having a down year.
Josh Willingham: Twins – May be on the wrong side of 30 and having his second consecutive off year. But he would be in the Indians budget at 7 million per year, and is right handed with pop.
Marlon Byrd: Phillies – Affordable contract for a right handed hitter with pop. The Phillies would probably ask for a major prospect for a 2 month rental and I don’t think the Tribe wants to rent players.
**Billy Butler: Royals – The Royals offense has not performed very well this year and Butler has been one of the culprits. If the Royals have become unhappy with Butler and if they were willing to trade him I would jump on it. Other than Lindor who do you want from our farm system K.C.?
**Alex Rios: Rangers – He may be slightly out of the Indians price range, but would he would be a great fit in right for the Tribe.
This off season: My wife has said it to me numerous times, “Wouldn’t Victor Martinez’s right handed bat look good in the Tribe lineup!” He will be a free agent this year 😉
We may say goodbye to Asdrubal and others, but the Indians will try and win with this lineup. I don’t expect the Indians to bring in anyone of importance by trade. They may try and bring in another pitcher (Bartlo Colon!), but my thoughts are they should work on bringing in a bat for this year and beyond.
Yes spring is finally here. Today is opening day and the Tribe will be playing tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays. Mark your calendar, 162 games to go plus some hopefully. It is time to start having some fun!
This has been one of the busiest off seasons ever for the Tribe. No move was more important than the hiring of Terry Francona. Francona immediately brought a fresh voice to the organization and a new vigor. Francona would probably disagree with me, but this move alone could result in a .500 season. Manny Acta had this team in first place, or within a few games at the All-Star break two years in a row. If Acta could accomplish that, I don’t see why Francona couldn’t improve upon that final record a little. Yea Francona had a complete collapse his last year in Boston, but that was Boston. Everyone jumped ship that season. The GM left and took the Chicago Cubs job. Yeah the Cubs who make the Indians look good when it comes to winning. They haven’t won a world series since 1908. It has been so long that I think they should change their name back to the Chicago Orphans. The Boston media was all over the team, especially about chicken and beer. Chicken, Beer, and Pills Francona had to deal with some of the game’s biggest egos and prima donnas in Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, and the failed Carl Crawford signing. He dealt with Manny Ramirez the years prior to his final season in Boston. So Cleveland should seem like a paid vacation to Francona. I appreciate that Francona wanted to come here. The comercials on the radio he states how he grew up a Cleveland fan. Acta choose to come here too over Houston, but here is where the difference lies. Francona actually has the ability to get free agents to want to come here too. I am not sure if any of the free agents other than Reynolds and Myers signs here if Acta is still coaching. After hiring Francona, the Tribe proceeded to spend 117 million dollars in free agency on 1B/DH Mark Reynolds, SP Brett Myers, OF/1B Nick Swisher, and CF Michael Bourn. The last time the Indians were relevant Trot Nixon was running around the dugout smashing shaving cream pies into everyone’s face after a win. I get the same feeling again this year. Francona and Swisher have made the Tribe clubhouse fun. The team has already put together a Harlem Shake video and Siri spoof.
This is a complete makeover of the positional players from last year’s team. DH Travis Hafner is in New York
and will probably be splitting time with Ben Francisco who the Tribe released during spring training. Now stop for a minute and think about that. The Tribe signs Nick Swisher from New York and the Yankees take Travis “I might play 100 games DH’ing” Hafner who has to share the DH role with Ben Francisco who was not going to make this team out of spring training. What in the Wide, Wide, World of Sports is going on here? Starting 3rd baseman Jack Hannahan is the utility infielder for the Cincinnati Reds. I did enjoy watching Casey Kotchman play 1st base, but Oh how painful it was to watch him pound every ball into the ground while batting. I think I can count my hands how many balls he hit out of the infield. Kotchman is now playing for the Miami (everything must go) Marlins, probably one of the worst teams in the league this year. 2012 starting left fielders Austin Kearns (who was released in the middle of last season and did not sign elsewhere) is playing for the Miami Marlins, and Shelley Duncan is playing for Tampa Bay’s AAA team, Aaron Cunningham was with Texas to start spring training but has sense been released, and Johnny Damon is at home dropping everything and stumbling around his mansion. (I am going to miss seeing Damon wonder around the outfield and throwing the ball around between innings. It made me giggle to go the game and watch him in the field. Thank you Johnny for making me laugh like a little school girl.) Our utility infielder this year Mike Aviles was the starting SS for Boston and Toronto last year. So as you can see even if the free agent moves this off season turn out to be horrible the Tribe should be making gains. DH, LF, 1st base, and 3rd base gave us nothing last year offensively and LF was a mess defensively. No matter what there will be improvements from those positions this year.
So offensively this team looks to be improved no matter how the year goes. No more of the entirely left handed lineup that Acta had to trot out last year every game. The Indians brought in right handed bats in Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs, Mike Aviles, Ryan Rayburn, and switch hitter Nick Swisher. Opposing teams will not have the luxury of bringing in a left handed pitcher this year and let mow down a left handed dominated lineup. The Tribe only hit 37 HR’s right handed last year as a team. Reynolds has averaged 33 over the last five years. The Tribe will be striking out a lot this year. Every free agent starting positional player signed was in the upper ranks for strike outs last year. Swisher was 27th in MLB, Bourn 15th, Reynolds 12th, and Stubbs 10th for strikeouts last year. So get ready for a lot of whiffing. I do like the speed brought to this team. Bourn who will be playing CF and batting leadoff has a career .379 on base percentage which is great. He has 257 steals in the last 5 years which is the most in MLB (Averaging 52 a year). So he can easily turn a walk or single into a double. The Tribe also added Drew Stubbs who has averaged 33 steals the last three years to join current players who are fleet of foot Jason Kipnis, and Michael Brantley. I am going to guess that with all that speed that the aft mentioned power hitters who happen to strike out rather regularly may see a greater majority of fastballs. The speed and power can complement each other quite nicely. I believe the fans may see an influx of homeruns this year. Swisher has averaged over 25 homeruns the last six years, while Mark Reynolds as mentioned has averaged 33 over his career. Not to mention Stubbs, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, and Lonnie Chisenhall who are all capable of 20 HR’s. Oh and there is this guy named Jason Giambi too. Not sure why he is on the team other than he has hit a few homeruns in his career, let’s just hope he is not Johnny Damon 2.0. I always hated seeing the Twins come to town and Denard Span in centerfield. It seemed that no ball hit to the outfield ever made it to the ground. Span ran everything down. The Tribe now has their own version of Span in center and close replicas in left and right. Bourn was rated as the best defensive center fielder last year by numerous outlets. Stubbs isn’t far behind defensively, and Brantley is no slouch. I anticipate seeing nightly highlights from this group in the outfield and I expect our pitchers will not be disappointed. Don’t walk anyone and keep the ball in the park pitchers!
Pitching is one area of concern. The improved outfield defense should help, but last year Indian pitchers usually shot themselves. Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez regularly walked batters (7th and 3rd in the league) and then proceeded to let them steal (1st and 2nd in stolen bases allowed), threw a wild pitch (2nd and 3rd in league) or hit the next batter (1st and 2nd in the league). Amazing! The three remaining 2012 opening day starters were WORSE or got hurt. I am assuming the starting pitching cannot be that horrible again. Masterson and Jimenez have looked much better this spring. At least they are not walking batters and then plunking the next one. Oh yea and Roberto Hernandez aka Fausto Carmona is in Tampa as the 5th starter after posting a 5.33 ERA this spring. I am going to enjoy watching Fausto on the other team laboring through 30 and 40 pitch innings. I believe that Scott Kazmir will have a great season. My dark horse for the Cy Young award. At least that is what I am hoping for. (As I write this I find out Kazmir will possible start on the DL, Oh well 😦 If Kazmir has any kind of decent season and Masterson and Ubaldo are not terrible, the Indians may have a shot at hanging around the playoff chase. They do have some options in AAA in Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco if one of the before mentioned pitchers proceeds to stink or Zach McCallister /Brett Myers falters. The bullpen once again should be the strength of this team. Even if one or two players have off years the Indians have bullpen depth in the minors to cover all but epic fails.
Hopefully the Indians can make the entire year as much fun as spring has been. For the first time in a while people are talking about the Tribe and there is a buzz in the air. This team opens the season against Toronto who is a favorite to win the AL pennant, followed by Tampa Bay, the Yankees, the White Sox, and Boston. Tough opening two weeks so a good start would be comforting and help spur on the enthusiasm built in the off season. The Tribe did make some moves that I believe have to help improve the team. They also have some wild cards. Carlos Santana could bust out and become a superstar. Lonnie Chisenhall could add a big bat to the bottom of the lineup, Asdrubal Cabrera becomes even a better hitter with protection around him, or Kipnis in his second year takes it up another notch. Ultimately the team’s fortunes lie with how well the starting pitching performs. Let’s hope they can have some fun and relax. Maybe McCallister grows in his second year; he has the potential to become a top of the rotation pitcher. Kazmir becomes the dominant pitcher he was when he came up with Tampa, or Bauer comes up and develops into the Ace he was touted as. There is the possibility this year that Swisher and company can entertain us and make this one fun summer. And hopefully a fun fall!
I have been following a web site on SI.com called Extra Mustard. The site deals with sports related topics on the internet that are usually quite funny. In staying with my fun summer theme I will try and add some content to each post during the year. Make sure you check out the videos.
Who knew that Danny Mainus name was so funny?
By the way for those who haven’t heard me and Danielle are expecting another child. Due on October 19 right around the start of the World Series!