Now that the dust has settled on the Indians’ opening day roster, we can finally spend some time combing through the decisions the Indians made this week. Let’s take a look at the various groups to see if we can divine any of the motivations, upside and consequences of the first iteration of the 2011 25-man roster.
Starting Pitchers: The opening four have been set since sometime in November, with Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson, Fausto Carmona and Mitch Talbot being guaranteed spots in the rotation. Despite the fact that Carrasco continues to struggle big-time with the long-ball, he seems like a good choice due to his superior strikeout numbers and stinginess with the walk. Fausto is also something of a no-brainer, considering his contract situation and his bounce-back 2010 campaign. Masterson would likely not be a starter on a contending team. But we’re talking about the Indians here, and anyone with his sort of upside needs to be in the rotation: if he can overcome his occasional command trouble and his splits, he could be a solid #2 or #3 starter. Some have wondered about Talbot’s suitability for the rotation, and I tend to agree that he’s not much more than back-end fodder, but he’s out of options and there’s no way the team is going to give up a cheap and fairly durable pitcher to roll the dice with David Huff or Jeanmar Gomez. There’s just no reason to let him go to another team at this point, which means he has to stay in the Big Leagues.
Really, the only story here is that Josh Tomlin won the fifth spot. To that, I say “Meh”. I’ve written before about Tomlin specifically and fifth starters in general. In my mind, they don’t end up mattering all that much over the course of a season, but considering the crop we had to choose from, I’d have picked Tomlin as well.
Outfield: Grady will start the season on the DL, which frees up a spot on the 25-man roster (though not the 40-man). Depending on your perspective, that spot was filled by either Travis Buck or Shelley Duncan, as the team won’t be able to keep both upon Grady’s return. The opening day lineup will likely feature Choo, Kearns and Brantley, with both Buck and Duncan manning the bench spots. These are the two guys I wanted us to keep, and though I feel bad for saying it, I’m happy that Trevor Crowe won’t be on the roster, and might even free up a 40-man spot if he were to go on the 60-day DL. This was the situation I was pulling for most, and I’m fairly happy with the way the club has dealt with it.
Infield: The starting infield will be LaPorta, Cabreras Orlando and Asdrubal, and Jack Hanahan. The only bench spot will go to Adam Everett, meaning Jayson Nix will be DFA’d and Luis Valbuena will start the season at AAA.
Despite my occasional vituperative attacks on Louie V, I was actually pulling for him to make the opening day roster, if only because he has more potential and versatility than the washed-up Everett. On the other hand, this might be the organization’s way of working on Valbuena’s defense away from the spotlight of the major leagues. He was nowhere near good enough defensively last year at any of the three positions he’ll be asked to play in the future, so if he’s used as a super (f)utility player in AAA, perhaps he can develop the skills he’ll need when he makes it back to the Big Leagues as a bench player. My only concern is that he actually be given at bats in Columbus, which might be somewhat difficult with Kipnis, Chisenhall, Goedert (remember him), and Phelps all needing development time as well.
As for Jayson Nix? Jeez, what can I say? He seems like a nice guy, but when you can’t hit and you can’t field, and you don’t have any remaining options, there’s really no reason to keep you around. The Indians gave him every chance to assert himself last season, but it seemed that by the time Spring Training opened this year, they had resigned themselves to going in a different direction. I can’t see him having any future role in the organization going forward.
Catcher: The only news here is that the team is sticking with Lou Marson to back up Carlos Santana rather than Paul Philips or Luke Carlin. This is a good sign to me, suggesting that the organization was not overly influenced by Philips hot spring, and remembered instead that he’s been a pretty lousy hitter for most of his professional career.
Bullpen: No position has seen more flux over the past few weeks than the bullpen. When camp opened, it looked like only a couple of spots might be up for grabs. Then Joe Smith got hurt, Jensen Lewis was outrighted to Columbus, and Aaron Laffey was traded to Seattle. The ‘pen will now boast the likes of Vinnie Pestano, Justin Germano, Frank Herrmann in their stead. I know it’s not a particularly inspiring set of moves, but the construction of the bullpen indicates to me that the team is trying to assemble the best corps, regardless of contract situation. While I wish Jensen Lewis nothing but the best, it was the right move to clear him from the 40-man to make room for guys who have a chance to be more effective. Same goes for one of my favorites: Aaron Laffey was always a good soldier, but it seemed that he wasn’t quite good enough to merit a roster spot, and the front office’s ability to move him for some (albeit slight) value bodes well about their ability to recognize a sunk cost.
Speaking of sunk costs, Travis Hafner will be our designated hitter. For two more years.
Below is a list of the full 25-man, broken out by position:
|Chris Perez (CL)|