We’ve hit the General Managers meetings in Milwaukee this week. The season ended for the Tribe about six weeks ago, and the main focus on how to improve this team centered around two areas – finding one more starting pitcher Derek Lowe, check), and either an outfielder or first baseman who would fit that run-producing mold, presumably slotted in between the left-handed hitting Shin-Soo Choo and switch-hitter Carlos Santana. The Indians desperate need for a big right-handed stick is about as obvious as the fact the the Browns struggle offensively.
So where do they go to get one?
Well, obviously Albert Pujols isn’t walking through that door. None of the top tier free agents are. It would be a surprise if any of the mid-level guys did as well.
The perfect person to fit the Tribe mold is the Twins Michael Cuddyer. An in-his- prime free agent, the 32-year old Cuddyer can play first base, right field, left field, and even filled in admirably at second base last year when his team needed him to. With the Twins big bats spending so much of the year injured, Cuddyer had to carry a huge load. He hit .284 with 20 homers and 70 RBIs in 129 games with an OPS of .805. Not only is he solid on the field, he is a well-known and respected clubhouse leader. He versatility to play first and corner outfield is exactly what the Indians are looking for.
The issue is money.
Forget everything I just told you about Cuddyer and the Indians because it is not going to happen. The big boys with the giant checkbooks – i.e. the Phillies – are hard after him. Then their is the incumbent Twins, who still would love him back and are trying to find ways to be creative and keep him in Minnesota. You have not heard anything even remotely linking the Indians to Cuddyer, though it would seem to be a match.
One Twins free agent who has now been rumored to be of interest to our Wahoos is outfielder Jason Kubel. What attracts the Indians to him is his ability not only only drive in runs, but also to get on base. The 29-year old is coming off a season in which he was limited to 99 games, but he still drove in 58 runs. In his previous two seasons, Kubel had 103 and 92 RBIs respectively.
While Kubel is a “nice” player, do the Indians really want to give him a three- year deal between $20-$25 million, which he could command? It would still leave them as an extremely left-handed loaded lineup, as they were most of last year.
My first thought when hearing about the Tribe’s interest in Kubel, I had to scratch my head for one simple reason – he is left-handed. Isn’t this offseason a quest for a right-handed power stick? Is it possible the Indians could be making two plays – adding a guy like Kubel for left field, and trading for a right-handed hitting first baseman, or going with a cheap, veteran alternative like a Derrek Lee on a one-year deal? While Lee is on the downside (or almost end) of his career, he still has power (hit 19 homers in 2010 and 2011, and 35 in 2009) and plays gold glove defense – something this ground ball heavy staff will need.
When talking about ways to improve his roster, GM Chris Antonetti said earlier this week: “We can either go left field, center field or first base, and we have some creative ideas for other positions as well.”
Certainly adding a couple of veterans through free agency without giving away any more prospects would be a good play, but are they the smart play? Again, the Kubel/Lee theory is just that, a theory. The Kubel interest seems genuine though and with him being another left-handed bat, one would conclude that a corresponding move would have to be in the offing.
photo via Keith Allison