Scott Kazmir, the Indians 2013 reclamation project extraordinaire , has officially left Cleveland for the West Coast. Like his former teammate, reliever Joe Smith, the left-handed starter is headed to the AL West. The Oakland Athletics thought enough of Kazmir to give him two years and $22 million. It is easy to disparage the signing and to say “well it is quite the risk to put $22 million into a guy who could break down at any time.” The Indians obviously know his medical history better than anyone and the going rate for a quality veteran starter on the open market is right about what Kazmir got – $11 million per season. The Giants gave Tim Hudson roughly the same ($23 million over two years).
What you can’t discount is how valuable Scott was to the 2013 rotation. He and Corey Kluber came completely out of nowhere and without their contributions, this team doesn’t win 92 games and make the playoffs. At times he was terrific, others he looked pedestrian and tired. The future for him is the great unknown and while the Indians are unwilling to gamble on Kazmir at that price, the A’s were. The thing that bothers me is that a GM like Billy Beane seems to be willing to bet on Kazmir’s future. This isn’t Seattle’s Jack Zduriencik making this move. Its one of baseball’s best front office heads. Two years is not an eternity, but I think giving Kazmir $22 million is something I wouldn’t have done. We may have seen his best in 2013 and while it was still pretty good, I would rather see the Indians go long on a one year deal with someone like Bartolo Colon or attempt to unearth another Kazmir type on the cheap.
There has been chatter that the Wahoos have interest in Oakland lefty Brett Anderson, but he is a serious injury risk who hasn’t made more than 19 starts in a season since 2010. The talent is there, he just cannot stay healthy. At an $8 million price tag, I don’t see how the Indians would take him on unless Oakland ate some of that money. I can’t see that happening, considering they just signed Kazmir at $11 million per and added closer Jim Johnson in a trade, who will command around $10 million in arbitration.
Then there are the internal options for the final rotation spot – Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, and Trevor Bauer. Because rotation injuries always seem to pop, I would imagine we would see one if not all of them at some point. I’m on record as saying Carrasco to me looks like a stud late inning reliever in the making. But of the three guys mentioned, he has the most upside. Tomlin has that steady thing going on, but he is what he is. If the Indians don’t end up adding anyone in free agency or trades, I think he wins the fifth job out of Goodyear with Carrasco heading to the pen and Bauer back to AAA.
….. Meanwhile, the Indians continue to have holes on this roster that have to be filled. Other than figuring out the right field situation with the signing of David Murphy to platoon with Ryan Raburn, they are still needing to replace two starters, at least three relievers with the departures of Smith (Angels), Matt Albers, and closer Chris Perez. Plus, GM Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona have to decide what they want to do about third base. As much as I want to see them add a significant big bat to the lineup, I just don’t know where that is going to come from. The trade route is going to have to be the way, as much as I would have loved to have seen a guy like Carlos Beltran come here in free agency. Third base is still the spot where it could all go down.
….. The bullpen situation is very interesting to me. Unless the Indians look into a one year rental of a closer like Fernando Rodney or Francisco Rodriguez, then holdovers Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen are expected to get the first look. As of today, those two, along with lefty Marc Rzepcynski are really the only true locks. Blake Wood, who can dial it up to triple digits, spent most of the year rehabbing with the Indians and was tendered a contract yesterday. They would not have wasted all of that time with him if they didn’t think they could count on him for this upcoming season. C.C. Lee showed some nice signs in his brief stints with the Indians and should have an good shot at making the club.
You can bet a second lefty, like rookie Colt Hynes who was claimed off of waivers from San Diego, will be on the roster opening day. Rays lefty Wesley Wright was non-tendered last night and could be a guy the Indians look into. They are also said to be kicking the tires on old friend Edward Mujica, who closed in St. Louis last season before losing his job in September. He still saved 37 games, had an ERA of 2.78, a WHIP of 1.00 and a 1.5 WAR. Another reliever to keep an eye on is the recently non-tendered Andrew Bailey. He spent part of last season closing in Boston before a shoulder injury ended his season. He may come on the cheap considering he isn’t expected to be ready until the middle of the season.
….. Last night the The Tigers decided to make a move with their “six man rotation,” sending Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals. Lefty Drew Smily, one of the only reliable relievers Detroit had last season, will now assume a spot in their rotation, behind Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Rick Porcello. Fister had great success against the Indians in his career, both with the Mariners and Tigers, and the Tribe won’t be shedding any tears seeing him leave for the National League. Smily does have good stuff, but for 2014, Fister to me is the better option.
One would think that a solid veteran innings eater, who is arbitration eligible this year and under team control for three more years would command a nice haul. Instead, the Tigers got a 22 year old lefty reliever Ian Krol, who made 30 appearances with the Nats last year (27.1 IP/28 H/22K/8 BB/5 HR/.220 vs. lefties), utility man Steve Lombardozzi, (a -1.5 WAR player, slap hitter, who can play all over the diamond) and minor league lefty starter Robbie Ray. Krol better be special and take over the Smily role with ease or the Tigers may be right back where they were last season.
This reeks of a salary dump. GM Dave Dombrowski knows that extensions for both Scherzer and Miguel Cabrera are on the docket. Smily is a young player who costs them next to nothing who can easily replace Fister, who would have commanded something around $8 million in arbitration.
From the Indians perspective, thus far the 2014 Tigers look worse than the team that finished one game ahead of them in the AL Central. Offensively they essentially traded Prince Fielder and Jhonny Peralta for Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos. From the pitching side, they moved their best set up man into the rotation and need to replace both he and the closer. I have no illusions that Dombrowski is done. This team will 100% add more pieces, most likely an outfielder (Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury perhaps?) and a closer. But thus far, they look worse, not better.
It is also still very early and lots of movement will take place on both sides.
…..Lou Marson and Matt Carson (they rhyme!) were both non-tendered by the Tribe last night before the deadline. Both are now free agents and can sign elsewhere. The Indians would like to bring both back on minor league deals. Marson’s departure leaves Carrasco as the only remaining player left from the Cliff Lee deal in 2009. Jason Knapp was supposed to be the big chip in that trade and would probably be battling for a rotation spot had he not had the shoulder issues that forced him to quit the game of baseball. Jason Donald never turned out to be the utility man the Tribe hoped he would be and he spent all of 2013 in AAA for Cincinnati where he hit .219. Marson was never more than a all-field, no-hit backup catcher.
Is that really all the Indians got for a Cy Young winner? Not exactly Antonetti/ Mark Shapiro’s finest hour.
I could see Carson returning on a minor league deal. He did well here and was liked enough by Francona to make the playoff roster. I still expect the Indians to use Drew Stubbs in some sort of trade, which would mean they could be a spot for Carson. I would think the Indians would prefer that prospect Carlos Moncrief played every day in AAA.
(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)