August 26, 2014

Why Missing Out on Victorino is a Good Thing

You should be happy this morning, Indians fans.

In case you missed it, veteran outfielder Shane Victorino chose the Boston Red Sox over the Tribe last night and signed a three-year, $39 million deal with the AL East beast. It had been widely reported that the Indians went to four years and $44 million on the man they call “The Flyin’ Hawaiian.” To me, the offer to Victorino has many layers to break down.

The notoriously cheap poor Dolan Family ownership just threw money at a big free agent. A year after refusing to give a third year for OF Josh Willingham and being burned by it, ownership signed off on a four year deal for Victorino. Like it or not (I didn’t), the front office is showing that they are serious about wanting to build a winner right now. Terry Francona is their trump card, and they are playing it. Tito was said to be putting on the full court recruiting press with Victorino in efforts to get him to Cleveland.  However in the end, the free agent chose a shorter deal at money money per year to play for a perennial contender. I can’t say I blame him.

But trust me when I tell you, this was a major dodged bullet for the Indians.

Shane Victorino by all accounts is a great guy and teammate. He is a 32-year old switch hitter who does well against left-handed pitching (.906 OPS in 2012 vs. lefties). Victorino is durable and has good speed. With all of that is the other side – he is clearly a player on the decline. Like Grady Sizemore, Victorino is a all-out hustle player who takes a beating on the field. In a lineup so bereft of power, bringing in the former Phillie would make little sense at that price tag. He is a slap hitter coming off of the worst season of his career in a contract year. Philadelphia, who is in dire need of a center fielder, traded him at the deadline and was more than happy to let him walk with no ready-made replacement because keeping their pitching intact is the most important thing to them.

Had you told me that Victorino would come to Cleveland at say two years and $15 million, I would have been on board for that. But four years for him makes zero sense. Consider that last year Carlos Beltran only got two-year offers (including one from the Indians), and ended up with $26 million from St. Louis. 100 out of 100 baseball people would take Beltran over Victorino today despite the age difference.

Now to the bigger issue.  I truly worry that Antonetti threw all of that money at Victorino in order to appease an angry fan base, which we all know is just plain bad business. The rabbit ears that both he and Mark Shapiro have been developing (see the Les Levine interview backlash and the defensive nature of Shapiro’s season ending interview on All Bets are Off with Bruce Drennan) are disturbing. Missing out on Willingham and the subsequent moaning and groaning over it have them making reactionary moves. Antonetti cannot lose focus and have stars in his eyes for the wrong reasons.

Look, I am all for the Indians wanting to finally spend some money on free agents, but as we’ve said many times, that is not the way to build a team in this market. If you are going to pony up, it has to be for the right player. Victorino was not that guy. Had Victorino come here and been a huge bust, his contract would have been the same kind of immovable anchor that Travis Hafner’s deal was. We just got out of that four-year nightmare, now they want to enter back into one with a declining, 32-year old, corner outfielder with no power?

It wouldn’t surprise me if Antonetti turned his attention to Nick Swisher, who is looking for a home. He can play both first base and right-field, has power from both sides of the plate, is a fantastic clubhouse guy, and has Ohio roots. Swisher has been incredibly consistent these last four seasons, averaging 25 homers, 87 RBIs, and an .850 OPS. He fits with the Tribe’s needs much better than Victorino would have. I’d be much more comfortable taking that money and giving it to Swisher if they are hellbent of buying a free agent outfielder.

I believe Antonetti needs to stay the course and deal from their strengths to rebuild the rotation first. You cannot win with the rotation as it is currently constructed. Reports this morning are that the Indians and Diamondbacks are discussing a deal that would include Asdrubal Cabrera and could net one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, Trevor Bauer. That would be a great place to start.  I think its become clear over the last 24 hours that Asdrubal is not long for this team. The time seems to be now to maximize his value, which is smart.

They also need to find themselves a first baseman (I vote for Mark Reynolds on a one-year deal) and an outfielder (could they get involved in the Justin Upton sweepstakes, perhaps in an Asdrubal deal? )

Stay strapped in folks, I expect something major one way or another to come from the Indians in the next two days.

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

 

  • mgbode

    “he is clearly a player on the decline”

    why is this clear? his 2012 was as bad as his 2011 was great. i am not worried about missing out on Victorinio, but i don’t think anything is clear about him being on the decline either.

  • MrCleaveland

    I’ve had Victorino on my fantasy team for the past five years, and so I watched his play every day. Believe me, he’s on the decline, no doubt about that. It won’t be long before he becomes a gigantic dead-weight on Boston’s roster.

    TD’s absolutely right that missing out was a good thing. And I think TD might be right about the Tribe’s motive being to mollify an angry fan base.

    If we’re going to spend $44 mil, let’s do it on a guy with some upside, not another Johnny Damon-to-be.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    Victorino is most likely on the decline, but sorry if I am not blown away with relief that the Indians missed out on him. The Indians just can’t be in free agency I guess. The same people who blush at the money that Victorino just got would think that Anderson Varejao’s contract was a bad idea from day one even before he started showing off this year. Big, tall NBA players make a lot of money and so do free agent outfielders in major league baseball.

    “Worth” is a relative term and I’m tired of pretending to be a business partner with the Dolans on free agency decisions. I want someone who can play left field next year and I want his upside to be higher than that of Johnny Damon. Victorino would be the best potential left fielder to play in Cleveland since the final return of Kenny Lofton in 2007. This deal would pay Victorino less than what J.D. Drew got from the Red Sox in 2007 at age 32 when they signed him to a 5-year $70 million deal. I’m not saying that was a good value either, but “worth” is a relative term and this is what free agent outfielders in their 30s tend to cost. The Red Sox prism views Victorino as a bargain.

    If they’re not going to spend at least $10 million on the left fielder, then just stop trying to plug the hole from outside and play Ezequiel Carrera there, I guess.

  • Harv 21

    “The notoriously cheap Dolan Family ownership …”

    Et tu, TD? They have never been “cheap” – see Hafner, Travis and Wood, Kerry. They have been cash-strapped for payroll (Fire Sale, ’09), they have been stupid ($5m for injured Grady but no extra year for Willingham).

    Call them poor, call them impulsive and idioic risk-takers given their financial condition. But stop with the “cheap” already. We’ve never an indication that they’re sitting on their hidden piles of money and falsely claiming they need to pick their spots.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Man it’s not even 2013 and the excuse/apology tour that is TD is already underway. I guess you got over the 2012 season already huh?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’m with you but hey at least this way when they end up with Jason Bay they’ll have covered their bases. Plus it will take the “baseball/Indians” fans three months before they figure out Bay sucked.

  • mgbode
  • Kildawg

    Swisher would be a big help on this team. I would take Youkilis over Reynolds, as Tito would be enough to lure Youk here (not asking either to play 1B ‘everyday’- rather rotate between 1B and DH). Reynolds strikes out as much as Dunn, whereas Youk is more a contact hitter with some power.

  • mgbode

    Swisher has an OPS+ of 120 or better in 6 of the last 7 seasons. He should get much more than Victorino. If not, then we should be all over that deal.

  • Kevin B

    I do not believe for a second that they offered Vic 4 years and $44 million.

  • Steve

    Beltran got a two year deal solely because of his age. We can’t use that contract as a predictor for future deals. Everybody wants the Indians to sign free agents, but then when they see how much these guys get say “they got overpaid”. Its a two-edged sword.

    In the same thought, you won’t be able to take that some money and get Swisher. It will probably start at 5/$75 to get him. Are you willing to do that? Before you answer, realize that he’s already pretty bad in the field, and will be very unlikely to play RF much longer. Do you want to spend $15+ mill a year on a 1B with a 120 OPS+ (and already heavily reliant on old player skills) and mediocre glove? That doesn’t sound any better than Victorino.

  • Steve

    Well that settles that then. You’re right, its a huge conspiracy to fool you.

  • Steve

    Agree. He’s also a player who say his BABIP dip about 20 points below his career norm.

  • TD
  • MallaLubba

    “…the former Phillie would make little since…”

    *sense

    copy-edit’ed

  • mgbode

    he “could” be on the decline. but, he is very similar to Damon who was able to continue to put up stats through his 37yo season.

    also, there are many things in sports that I am willing to pay for, but Keith Law is nowhere near that list.

  • MrCleaveland

    Diminishing returns, my man. I don’t want to spend all that money on someone who is going to get worse every year. Spend it on someone who is going to get better every year (at lelast for a significant length of time).

  • mgbode

    so you want to find a 26-27yo guy who is hitting the FA market with the chances of improving and get him for the same deal that Victorino just signed.

    given how MLB works, I do not see that happening very often.

  • MrCleaveland

    Go root for Boston. *%^$* you. :)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    He’s no Duncan, Damon or Rottino that’s for damn sure!

  • BisonDeleSightings

    I fully endorse this post.

    The big issue with this hypothetical signing is that it would take place within the context of a mini-flresale (which most of us expect to happen). Why balk at extending Choo for maybe $15M/year, then sign Victorino for $11M?

    Of course, maybe Francona has convinced the front office to keep everyone and go all-in in ’13. I guess we’ll find out in the next few days.

  • mgbode

    because Choo is asking for much, much more than that.

    i think our FO would do cartwheels for Choo @$15mil/year

  • mgbode

    Boston? that’s below the belt. Can’t be Buffalo anymore either.

    uh, how about Columbus?