August 26, 2014

MLB News: Matt Albers signs with Houston Astros

Amid a busy two days in Cleveland Indians free agency news, one 2013 pitcher officially left as well: Reliever Matt Albers has reached a one-year deal with the Houston Astros, as first reported by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

The deal is worth $2.25 million with a $3 million option for 2015 and a $200K buyout. The soon-to-be 31-year-old earned $1.75 million last year with the Tribe, where he arrived via the December 2012 Shin-Soo Choo trade from Arizona.

Albers was very solid as a middle reliever for the second straight year, as he now has a 2.77 ERA in 123.1 innings since 2012. He was especially useful down the stretch for the Tribe, allowing just one earned run during the pivotal month of September mostly without the services of beleaguered closer Chris Perez.

It’s a low-money deal for the Astros, who also added veteran Chad Qualls this offseason. But it was just money the Indians likely felt comfortable passing on for bullpen help. Yes, Albers has been great two straight years and that usually carries value in the reliever market. But he also had a 4.91 ERA from 2009-2011 and has primarily been used in low-leverage situations.

Cleveland’s bullpen likely has four guaranteed spots in 2014: Closer John Axford, key setup men Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw, lefty Marc Rzepczynski. Other in-house candidates, who likely will just cost around the minimum: Vinnie Pestano, Blake Wood, Nick Hagadone, C.C. Lee and Preston Guilmet. Veterans Matt Capps and Mike Zagurski also have signed minor-league deals. It’s expected that Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin will get first cracks at the No. 5 rotation spot, but they also could slide into relief roles if necessary.

So in the end, the Albers-Houston deal is a cheap, low-risk one, but GM Chris Antonetti obviously felt comfortable with the names above moving forward with no salary guarantees. We’ll see if the chess move pays off.

[Related: John Axford – A Calculated Risk]

MLB Rumors: Indians Matt Albers could be the next member of bullpen to leave

Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that several teams have shown interest in free agent Tribe right handed reliever Matt Albers. Hoynes believes one of the teams strongly interested in the 30 year old rihty could be division rivals Detroit Tigers or the Chicago White Sox.

Albers made $1.75 million in his only season with the Tribe after coming over from Arizona in the Shin Soo Choo three team trade last winter. Albers could be the next guy in line to get a pay day  from an Indians bullpen that boasted a 3.62 ERA last season. Joe Smith recently cashed in on his five years of service with the Tribe, signing a three year 15.75 million deal with Anaheim a couple weeks back.

In addition to Smith’s departure, the Indians bullpen will be without closer Chris Perez in 2014 as Perez was released back on October 31st and could lose left handed specialist Rich Hill to free agency as well as Albers.

Hoynes writes that Indians are looking to bring Albers back on a possible one year deal, but it is believed Albers has a two year offer elsewhere on the table.

Albers posted a 3.16 ERA while striking out 35 and walking 23 over the course of 63 innings and 56 appearances.

[Related: The recquiste Jacoby Ellsbury and Michael Bourn contract comparison]

The Diff: Indians offseason, 2014 salary and contention windows

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. This is my 41st edition of The Diff. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I injected some stats into a Cavs rotation projection. This week, I’m writing about 2014 Indians salary issues.

The Diff

For many, talking about baseball salaries is a tiring and depressing issue. These fans will point to the unfair system that allows teams like New York, Los Angeles and Boston to spend their way into the playoffs each year while teams like Tampa Bay, Oakland and Cleveland wilt away at the bottom. But this idea ignores a clear truth: Teams like the Rays (four straight 90-win seasons) and Athletics (seven playoffs in 14 years) still have managed to win baseball games consistently. Their small-budget success makes one wonder how the Cleveland Indians could be even more efficient in the future. That continues with this current offseason. [Read more...]

2013 Indians in Review: The Bullpen

ChickenThe Indians wild ride has come to an end. The 2013 season was one that nobody expected. A 96 loss team turned into a 92 win club that advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. GM Chris Antonetti and Manager Terry Francona helped changed the culture of the organization and has our baseball team on the rise. There is a buzz in the city about the Indians again. It was a season to remember with so many great moments and the arrival of some new fan favorites.  

Each day this week, we will look back at a different portion of the club and see where we are today, a plan for 2014, and so on. We began with the starting rotation, and now we move onto the relievers. [Read more...]

Closer Jeopardy: Who’s the man for the Indians now?

Josmil Pinto, Chris PerezIt’s not like many fans didn’t see this coming, right? Perhaps not the 89-70 record, but maybe the Chris Perez demise?

Here we are. Three games left in the regular season. The Cleveland Indians are on the verge of the playoffs and, it appears that with last night’s performance, Perez might be out of a closer’s job. Heck, he nearly volunteered it up with an “I don’t want to cost us games” statement, per Terry Francona in his post-game press conference.

So what’s next? Playoffs are on the horizon and it’s fairly unprecedented for a contending team to drop their allegiance to their designated **ninth-inning win-or-die guy** suddenly after game 159. Let’s review all of the options available for Francona and the Tribe as we head into this incredibly dramatic final weekend.

The Hot One: Bryan Shaw
Season stats: 7-3 record, 3.24 ERA, 70 games, 75.0 IP, 60 H, 28 BB, 73 K [Read more...]

Indians All-Star Break Review: The Bullpen

Chris PerezWe have arrived at baseball’s All-Star break. The Cleveland Indians sit at 51-44, a game and a half out of first place in the AL Central. It has been quite a ride since GM Chris Antonetti hired Terry Francona to manage this club. The shot had been fired – a change in culture was about to arrive in Cleveland. We expected some changes, but nobody could have expected that this team would be as good as it has been. Yes, they have been up and down and have the nickname “Team Streak,” but this start has a completely different feel than the last two years. This seems real.

With that said, this week  we will take a look at the three aspects of the club. Yesterday we examined the starting rotation. Today we will go deep with the bullpen.  [Read more...]

Tigers 4, Indians 2: Golden opportunity slips through Tribe’s fingers

Mike AvilesIf the Indians don’t end up winning the AL Central title, all they will have to do is point to their performance against the rival Detroit Tigers as the key reason why. They had every chance to take last night’s 4-2, 10 inning, rain-soaked loss, but just could never capitalize on their bevy of chances. The Tigers and Indians have now played twelve times this season – Detroit has won nine of them.

The night started out so nicely. On his own bobblehead night, Tribe legend Omar Vizquel emerged from the third base dugout in his old #13 white jersey to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to old friend and teammate Sandy Alomar Jr. It was a goose-bump inducing moment for the 23,640 people in attendance. It felt like a nice shot in the arm, as if the Indians were going to do something special in this one.

Lefty Scott Kazmir had the unenviable task of squaring off with the undefeated Max Scherzer. After a scoreless first, the Tigers jumped ahead on back to back doubles from ex-Indians Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta. Yes, it was truly old-home week. This was about the time when the rains started. They essentially wouldn’t stop all night, sometimes heavier than at others. Kazmir would put two more on in the second, but got out of the two-out jam by striking out Austin Jackson. The long second most likely cost the Tribe starter an inning later in the game. [Read more...]

MLB News: Indians make bullpen move after rain-delay madness

Friday night, the Indians and Rays were scheduled to play a game of baseball at 7:05 p.m. It was Dollar Dog Night and there seemed to be a large crowd in attendance — the Tribe eventually announced an attendance of 29,603. But unfortunately, 4.5+ hours of rain delays derailed the enthusiasm, yet the game continued.

The game restarted at 12:10 a.m. in the bottom of the second inning. Right-hander Jamey Wright shut down Cleveland for three innings, while left-hander Scott Barnes got the opportunity in relief for the home team. He didn’t last long. In just one inning, Barnes tied his MLB-worst performance with five runs allowed, including two home runs. He made 30 pitches in the inning.

Thus, right on cue and to provide additional bullpen help for the weekend, the Indians sent the 25-year-old Barnes back down to AAA Columbus where he has spent the majority of his time this season. The corresponding move was the purchase of right-hander reliever Matt Langwell’s contract from the Clippers.

Langwell, 27, is 7-1 with a 3.15 ERA in 64 games over parts of the last three seasons with Columbus. He has 103 strikeouts against 42 walks in his 100.0 innings for the Clip Show. The team’s 11th-round draft pick in 2008 out of Rice, he has consistently ascended through the minor league levels and likely will be getting his first crack at the majors at some point against Tampa Bay this weekend.

Eventually, Matt Albers, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Shaw shut down the Rays for just one run over the next five innings. But then Rich Hill imploded in the ninth, allowing another three runs to provide for the final 9-2 deficit. The Indians bullpen struggled mightily overall in the month of May, finishing with a 5.75 ERA compared to a 3.70 mark for the previously maligned starting rotation.

[Related: Cleveland Sports bits and pieces]

MLB News: Indians activate RP Matt Albers

The Cleveland Indians have activated right-handed pitcher Matt Albers from the Restricted List.

Albers, 30, is 1-0 in four appearances this season. In five innings pitched, he has allowed three earned runs, striking out four batters while walking three. He was placed on the Restricted List after his time on the Paternity/Medical Emergency List drew to a close. He will rejoin the Indians bullpen which combined for four innings of scoreless baseball on Sunday1.

To make room for Albers on the 25-man roster, the team has opted to designate right-handed pitcher Fernando Nieve for assignment. Nieve was recently called up when the team placed starting pitcher Brett Myers on the 15-day Disabled List.

[Related: Tribe Weekend Recap: Getting Healthy in Houston]

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Footnotes:

  1. Yes, Nick Hagadone was given a blown save, but the run was attributed to Ubaldo Jiménez []

Indians put RP Matt Albers on ‘family medical emergency’ list; make minor trade

Today the Indians announced that they have moved relief pitcher Matt Albers to the family medical emergency list. The move will allow Albers more time to be with his wife during the birth of their child. He can stay on that list until Friday.

They also announced a trade-

“The Indians completed a Minor League trade, acquiring CA CHRIS WALLACE from the Houston Astros in exchange for LHP ERIC BERGER. Wallace, 24, was Houston’s 16th selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Houston(TX). He has been assigned to the Double-A Akron after appearing in 1 game for AAA Oklahoma City in 2013. Berger started the year on the AA Akron roster.”

Injuries to Carlos Santana and Lou Marson no doubt have the team looking for catching depth.

[Related: Michael Bourn day-to-day after receiving stitches]

Yankees 11, Indians 6: Home Opener interrupted by the Pronk Show

Travis HafnerOpening Day is all about the pageantry of the grand old game. Fireworks and balloons. A fresh start with fresh faces. It is a chance for a team to capture the city’s imagination for at least one day. Here in Cleveland, with a new era of baseball upon us, the Tribe welcomed a packed house of fans decked out in Wahoo Red, White, and Blue.

With a city full of apathetic baseball fans, you get one chance to make your mark in front of a sellout crowd. There were 41,567 people inside of Progressive Field yesterday. Of those, probably a third of them will go to this game and make up their minds if they should go back based on this one game. Right or wrong, the Tribe gets that one opportunity to bring in that casual fan.

With that chance, manager Terry Francona turned to Ubaldo Jimenez, the team’s number two starter in name only. Look, we all know what Ubaldo is at this point, yet here we are on year three of hoping that he finds his old Colorado form. His first start in Toronto last week was encouraging, but then again, so was his first start in 2012 where he had a no-hitter going into the seventh. The problem with Ubaldo is that you never know which guy is going to show up. Fausto Carmona post-2007 was the exact same way. But when you are counting on a guy to be a top of the rotation starter yet he really is a fifth starter, it is going to present issues from time to time. Sometimes it is there, sometime it isn’t. [Read more...]

Indians 3, Blue Jays 2: Ubaldo’s alive, Reynolds shows why he’s here

Mark ReynoldsSometimes when you go into something with low expectations, things work out in your favor. For the second consecutive season, arguably the most important pitcher on the Indians is right-handed starter Ubaldo Jimenez. His success or lack there of is a gigantic key in the success of this team in 2013. If we get the 9-17, above five-ERA guy we saw in 2012, the odds that the Tribe will be contending for a playoff spot are just about slim to none. So it was with a huge grain of salt that I took the reports of how “well he threw” this Spring in Goodyear. Last night in Toronto, Jimenez got his first chance to translate this into real game action that counted.

For six innings, Manager Terry Francona got the kind of start he would love to see on a regular basis from Ubaldo. Sure, he got himself in a couple of jams, but for the most part, Jimenez was in control. His six innings of one run, three hit, ball was a far cry from his last start in Toronto last July where he couldn’t get out of the third inning.

“I remember the last time I was here,” he said. “I want to forget about it, but tonight was a really good game.” [Read more...]

Pestano and Perez to the WBC gives others their shot

Nick HagadoneChris Perez and Vinnie Pestano are the backbone of the Tribe bullpen. Joe Smith is right there with them. There is no denying that the success of these three relievers will have a huge impact on which was the 2013 season will go for the Cleveland Indians. Each is at the top of their game and have the personalities to match. They are the core of the “Bullpen Mafia.”

Today, CP and Vinnie leave Goodyear to join the Team USA squad in the World Baseball Classic. Smith is still nursing an oblique injury and is about two weeks behind the rest of the pitchers. There is an opportunity that has arisen. The question is, who will step up and make manager Terry Francona take notice?

Tito was quoted as saying that CP, Vinnie, And Smith are the only locks at this point for the pen. That leaves four spots open with a lot of arms in the mix. Depending on how Francona and pitching coach Mickey Calloway want to go, there could be one or two lefties in that opening day mix. [Read more...]

MLB News: Indians sign Perez, Smith, Masterson and Albers to one-year deals

Just as they had late Thursday evening with Drew Stubbs and Lou Marson, the Cleveland Indians have agreed to terms with relief pitchers Chris Perez and Joe Smith. Both players have signed one-year deals that effectively avoid arbitration.

Perez, who made $4.5 million last season, agreed to a $7.3 million deal with the team. He is coming off of consecutive All-Star appearances, saved 39 games in 2012 and struck out 59 batters in 57.2 innings of work. Perez was largely considered to be a potential asset in the trade market this offseason due to his volatility in the clubhouse and expected increase in compensation following his second straight season of at least 36 saves. He will be the second-highest paid player on the Indians heading into 2013.

Smith made $1.75 million in 2012 and will make $3.15 million in 2013. Through 67 innings of work, Smith struck out 53 and walked four, serving predominantly as specialist against right-handed hitters.

Smith exclaimed his happiness over being finished with the negotiation process via his Twitter account:

In addition to the bullpen arms, the Indians have agreed terms with one-time ace starting pitcher Justin Masterson ($5.68 million) along with Matt Albers ($1.75 million). Masterson is coming off of a 2012 season to forget, appearing in 34 games and finishing with an ERA of 4.93 and 14 wild pitches and 13 hit batters. He received a $2 million raise.

The Indians have avoided arbitration every season since 1991. Mike Aviles remains the only players who are eligible to head to arbitration if they remain unsigned. Any unsigned arbitration-eligible players were required to exchange proposed salary figures with their team by 1 p.m. ET on Friday.

[Related: Indians’ Pestano aims to make up for a rough finish to 2012]

WFNY Top 10 Cleveland Sports Stories of 2012: #9 The Trade of Shin-Soo Choo

2012 was one crazy year in the wild wacky world of Cleveland Sports. Some would tell you 2012 was as bad as it has ever been here. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last four years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the 10 biggest sports stories affecting our local sports scene. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. We started earlier today with the Buckeyes Final Four trip . Number nine is something that happened just a short two weeks ago.

#9 The Indians send Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati in a blockbuster three-team deal that netted them the ace of their future, Trevor Bauer.

It literally came out of nowhere. Sure, there was a lot of speculation both at the 2012 trade deadline and all winter long that the Indians would move perhaps their best player, Shin-Soo Choo, but the price was reported to be very steep. No true rumors have been floated or names bandied about. All seemed quiet on the Choo front. After the Winter Meetings ended with Choo’s name never mentioned, I was resigned to the fact that the Tribe would hold Scott Boras’s flavor of the month, hope he had a great year, and then move him to the deadline.

Then it happened. [Read more...]

Antonetti pulls off a coup for Choo

To quote the great Nick Gilbert…. “What’s Not To Love?”

I have killed Chris Antonetti time and time again for his head scratching roster decisions, but none of those will be mentioned in this piece. I am here to stand up, clap, and give the much maligned Tribe GM his proper due.

Throughout this offseason, the Indians have been in the center of activity in baseball’s hot stove league. They have a powerful and well respected new manager in Terry Francona, and a roster with a young core group of players, four of whom were prime trading chips. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Indians needed a makeover.

But would they actually have the stones to go through with it? And if so, how would they go about it?

It started with the trade for Mike Aviles. It seemed like a small move, but it was one that would start the facelift. On Sunday, the Indians decided they no longer wanted to wait on Kevin Youkilis and instead signed free agent first baseman Mark Reynolds for half of the cost (one year, $6 million) of Youk (who signed a one year, $12 million deal tonight with the Yankees).  But as I said on Monday, there was no chance Antonetti was done. [Read more...]