July 24, 2014

Lonnie Chisenhall, All-Star? While We’re Waiting…

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Are you in tune with DiamondView? Well if you’re a Tribe fan, you should be. It’s been discussed in the past, but given a recent post by Cleveland’s Alex Kaufmann over at ESPN’s Sweetspot Blog, it’s worth bringing up again. DiamondView is the team’s proprietary analytical tool that has led to decisions from not extending Jim Thome as as he was approaching his mid-30s all the way to the power surge recently shown by All-Star hopeful Michael Brantley. Naturally, not all moves have been great—DiamondView loved Matt LaPorta (along with every minor league scout in the game), and it’s “inability to contextualize” the statistics of draft hopefuls, leading to a largely suspect farm system.

DiamondView is the Tribe’s. It’s a tool that is largely mysterious, was revolutionary when it was created, and continues to evolve as the analytical world does the same. But in what is perhaps the most interesting note, former Indians scouting director—and current GM of the San Diego Padres—Josh Byrnes once offered top prospect Carlos Quentin in a trade for a copy of the program. The Indians said no.

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Should Lonnie Chisenhall be in the All-Star discussion? As of this publication, the Tribe third baseman is 20 plate appearances shy of qualifying for any rewardable batting statistics. Presently, if you set the bar at 175 plate appearances, he leads all of major league baseball in hitting with a .365 average (his .951 OPS is nothing to be ashamed of either). The Indians have 32 games between today and the All-Star game, meaning that Chisenhall would have to play in roughly every contest between now and then to get his minimum appearances—the bar is set at 3.1 per game—to a qualifiable level. He’s hitting righties and lefties at a clip no one saw coming—the latter at a .542 mark. IF he would get there, is this turnaround worthy of a nod? We are talking about a guy who was on the fence once the team was waddling things down to 40 men this past spring. But man, what a story this kid has been thus far.

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Those of you who know me know that I’m a big fan of all things technology. I’m a big fan of magazines—I dig long form writing, and the editorial care and design is something that allows them to still have value today. And I appreciate late-night television, specifically the work done by everyone involved with Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Alas, it goes without saying that Joshua Topolsky—long-time tech journalist, visionary and Editor in Chief of The Verge, one of the best tech sites on the web today—getting the nod as Late Night’s Tech Expert is pretty damn cool.

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Oh, hey…Look. Scott Kazmir threw seven shutout innings and the Athletics pounded the Orioles 11-1 on Sunday. Kazmir, who has been almost unhittable, allowed just four hits and two walks, striking out seven. The strong outing was a continuation of what’s been a terrific first half for the former Indian lefty, as he’s 7-2 with a 2.20 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 70/17 K/BB ratio in 82 innings. The Tribe rotation has been decent for much of the season, but man…

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A big congrats goes out to the QTV team over at Quicken Loans Arena as their trophy case just welcomed another addition. The hard-working folks behind the scenes took home another Regional Emmy this weekend, winning Best Promotion (Sports) for their intro video. This is as good of a time as any to remind you all of the feature I wrote about this very group a couple seasons ago.

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And just because: D-Wade being D-Wade.

Rocky start, “Smooth” ending: Tribe splits doubleheader in Oakland

Mike AvilesThere is nothing worse than fans freaking out over one game. But the first of the two in Oakland yesterday was one of those of those examples. I’m going to say this once – it’s ONE GAME.

Scott Kazmir, whom the Indians let walk after resurrecting his career in Cleveland last season, spent his afternoon completely dominating his old club. It was similar to some of the performances we saw from the 30-year old in 2013. He was in complete control, pounding the strike zone all game long. Only twice did Kazmir even get to a three-ball count. Scott worked fast and the Wahoo offense never touched him.

Kazmir, who signed a two-year, $22 million deal with Oakland, departed with one out in the eighth, allowing just three hits without walking a single batter. He struck out five and looked to be worth every penny. [Read more...]

Ubaldo Jimenez deal simply made more sense for Orioles

Ubaldo Jimenez dealing

Within the context of MLB free agency, four years and $48 million sounds about right for 30-year-old Ubaldo Jimenez. Within the context of MLB economics, it probably just was a more palatable deal for the Baltimore Orioles than the Cleveland Indians.

You see, even though the Orioles had to sacrifice the No. 17 overall pick1, they’re in a peculiar situation with potentially waning oodles of money to spend and in a division that requires spending. The Indians, although seven games better than the O’s in 2013, already have likely reached their spending limit for the coming season. Indications had been a bound for months that a Jimenez return was unlikely – the two sides reportedly hadn’t talked in weeks.

But the financial flexibility difference between Baltimore and Cleveland, although both face significant pressure for 2014, has a lot to do with TV and its associated boom of sports-related revenue. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. According to baseball-reference.com, the No. 17 pick has had a 65% success rate of reaching the majors and 8.3 WAR per major leaguer []

Indians take a flier on injury-prone starter Shaun Marcum

shaun marcum mets brewersShaun Marcum alone is not a game-changer. But with relatively little possible cost and minimal team risk, the Cleveland Indians just added a bit more upside to their 2014 roster.

Yesterday, the 32-year-old former Milwaukee Brewer and Toronto Blue Jay reached agreement with the Tribe to compete for the open No. 5 rotation spot. Marcum has struggled to stay on the mound for years, but if he can stay healthy, he could beat out some of the other competitors in spring training.

With the move, suddenly, the Indians now have become the posterboys of the offseason minor-league deal. Scott Kazmir’s storybook 2013 season is the ultimate best-case example of a former-ace-turned-reclamation-project. Again, there’s no knowing whether Shaun Marcum could be the next such comeback player. But as a fan, but you’d hate for it to be with a different team and there’s no way to truly find out unless your squad is the one making these low-risk moves.

[Read more...]

Tuesday Tribe Notes

Scott KazmirScott 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. [Read more...]

MLB Trade Rumors: Indians interested in Oakland’s Brett Anderson

Though acquiring arms at a rapid pace, it appears that the Oakland Athletics are looking to trade starting pitcher Brett Anderson. Per ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Cleveland Indians are reportedly one of the few teams interested in acquiring the 25-year-old southpaw.

In his five years in the big leagues, Anderson has a record of 26-29 but has been considerably limited by injuries over the last two seasons. In 2010, Anderson was one of the league’s best pitchers as measured by ERA, allowing an average of just 2.80 over the course of 111 innings. Unfortunately, he has appeared in just 54 games over the course of the last four seasons.

Under contract for $8 million in 2014, with a $12 million club option for 2015, Anderson could prove to be a gamble in the way the left-handed Scott Kazmir was a season ago. Excercising Anderson’s option in November, the Athletics recently signed Kazmir to a two-year deal worth a reported $22 million.

[Related: Indians to close three of four remaining team shops per report]

MLB News: Oakland close to signing Scott Kazmir

The Oakland Athletics are close to signing free agent lefty starter Scott Kazmir, reports Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Moments after, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported that the deal will be for two years. ESPN’s Jim Bowden later confirmed that the deal will be for $22 million.

Kazmir, 29, was not extended a qualifying offer by the Cleveland Indians after an oustanding comeback season in 2013. The team did send the $14.1 million offer over to Ubaldo Jimenez, who later declined it and became a free agent.

Thus, the Indians were not expected to bring back either pitcher for 2014. Kazmir, who was 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA in 29 starts, was expected to be an attractive free agent because of his upside and strikeout numbers.

The move could perhaps open the door for former Indian Bartolo Colon to walk away from the A’s in free agency. The 40-year-old was 28-15 with an outstanding 2.99 ERA in 54 starts over the past two seasons with the team. He could be a potential candidate for a buy-low offer from the Tribe.

At $22 million and two years, it’s a bit high of a price for Kazmir, who had 1.8 jWAR in his comeback season. The deal is a slightly better bargain than other deals thus far this offseason, such as Minnesota signing Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes.

[Related: Talkin’ Tribe: Winning the Ubaldo trade, Kazmir’s future, and Tim Hudson?]

How badly do the Indians need more starters? – Cleveland Indians Roundtable

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Craig: Maybe I’m blinded by optimism, but I’m not overly concerned with a pitcher. The Indians have Masterson, Salazar, Kluber, McAllister and guys like Tomlin, Carrasco and Bauer to find five guys today. Yes it would be nice to insert a name in that list somewhere, but I’m not feeling desperate just yet. Look at me being a Tribe optimist!

Am I taking those top three for granted and overrating the Tribe’s own guys? How anxious are the rest of you to add starting pitching versus other roster needs?

Scott: Ubaldo Jimenez and Scot Kazmir were worth just a little less than six wins between the two of them. In just 10 starts, Danny Salazar was worth 1.2; Corey Kluber was worth 2.7 in 26 starts. Extrapolating is a dangerous tactic, but it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that these two could help fill in the gaps that were left by pesky things like innings limits and injuries. [Read more...]

MLB News: Grady Sizemore drawing interest

As of today, Grady Sizemore has still only played in the majors for the Cleveland Indians. That might just be about to change.

According to Nick Cafardo, Grady Sizemore has been getting a lot of interest because he should be ready for spring training. Of course, it’s hard to figure exactly what “a lot of interest” looks like for a player who has played in only about 200 games from 2009 to 2011. His last appearance in a game was September 22, 2011.

But with game tape on the books like Sizemore has and with a presumed infinitesimal price tag, it’s not surprising that Sizemore would be drawing interest. The Twins kicked the tires and have reportedly moved on.

Justin Klugh of Philly.com makes the case that Sizemore could be a low-risk, high reward maneuver for the Phillies.

But he would be cheap, is the thing. He would have to be. That’s sort of the baseline of any argument that signing Sizemore wouldn’t be a waste of space. After that, you just sort of watch and wait to see if he can still be a shadow of his former self and if that shadow has any real reason to be on the big club. If he comes out hot, well rested, and ready to go, then his inexpensive deal looks brilliant. If he’s lagging, in pain, or can’t push past the Mendoza Line after a while, then at least it was only a cheap deal. And so far this offseason, the Phillies haven’t made any moves much more exciting than “Grady Sizemore,” so they’re certainly not above it.

Of course, the hometown Cleveland Indians can’t be left out of this conversation. Our own Jon called it “dumpster diving” for Grady Sizemore in reference to Jason Lukehart’s post at LetsGoTribe.

GRADY SIZEMORE (all caps) is never coming back, and I’m not confident he’ll even be a real contributor again, but I would have said the same thing about Scott Kazmir last winter, and here we are a few month later, contemplating whether the Indians should make him a $14.1 million qualifying offer. A small percentage of broken players do come back from oblivion, and it costs almost nothing for a team to see what happens. I don’t know that Sizemore would even want to come back to Cleveland. He’s said nothing but kind things, and I believe he’s sincere, but he may want a fresh start somewhere else.

I wish Sizemore nothing but the best. I always felt more sorry for him than I did for myself as and Indians fan when he wasn’t able to come back from his numerous surgeries. Of course, you can count me in on the Grady Sizemore dumpster dive.

How about you?

[Related: Tribe Talk: Murphy, 40-man additions, and the Kinsler/Fielder trade]

 

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...]

Talkin’ Tribe: Winning the Ubaldo trade, Kazmir’s future, and Tim Hudson?

Scott KazmirYou can forget any talk about Ubaldo Jimenez returning to Cleveland, no matter what GM Chris Antonetti said yesterday. Of course they want to talk to him about a long term deal. Doesn’t mean it is going to happen. I am sure that Ubaldo’s agents will give the Indians brass a courtesy meeting, but he priced his way right out of town with his superb performance after the All-Star break. As I have said for six plus weeks – the Edwin Jackson/Cubs four-year, $52 million contract from last winter should be the absolute starting point for any negotiations for Jimenez and any team he talks to. That being the case, it is obvious we have seen the last of Ubaldo Jimenez in an Indians uniform.

With the Ubaldo era all but over here, we can now close the book on the infamous trade that was panned initially by so many – yours truly included. Despite the fact that two of the two and a half years he was here were extremely uneven, Antonetti traded for Ubaldo to help pitch his team to the playoffs. In the end, that is exactly what he did, just a couple of seasons later than he was acquired to do so. You can now say with conviction that the Indians got the better of the deal with the Rockies that sent former first round picks Alex White and Drew Pomeranz to Colorado. [Read more...]

MLB News: Indians extend qualifying offer to Ubaldo Jimenez

The Indians announced this afternoon that they have extended a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer to right-handed starter Ubaldo Jimenez. The team had until 5 p.m. today to make their decision.

Notably, Cleveland did not extend a qualifying offer to lefty Scott Kazmir. He also was eligible to receive such an offer. He now will be a free agent, able to sign with any MLB team with no risk of draft compensation.

In the event that Jimenez signs with another squad, the Indians will receive an additional early draft pick for next June. Cleveland already received an extra draft pick from the competitive balance draft lottery.

It’s unsurprising that the soon-to-be 30-year-old Jimenez received the offer. He had a huge bounceback season, finishing 11-9 with a 3.30 ERA in 32 starts. Fans were mixed when it came down to Kazmir, two days older, who was 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA in 29 starts after missing over two full seasons.

Jimenez has until 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, to decide whether he’ll accept the offer.

[Related: The Scott Kazmir decision looms large for Indians]

The Scott Kazmir decision looms large for Indians

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Cleveland IndiansIn just over 48 hours, we’ll know. The Cleveland Indians have until 5 p.m. Monday to extend a qualifying offer over to left-handed comeback player Scott Kazmir.

That offer is a tricky situation. It would either make the soon-to-be 30-year-old Kazmir an Indian in 2014 at $14.1 million or, should he chose to decline the offer, would give the team yet another draft pick next June.

Yes, $14.1 million is an awful lot of money. That figure is conceived from the average of the top 125 highest-paid MLB players. It’s strange, we all know. Thus, such a deal would place Kazmir just behind Nick Swisher among the most expensive Tribe players ever. Kazmir and his decision-making group will then have exactly one week to ponder over whether to accept the offer. The deadline for qualifying offer decisions coincides with the GM/Owner meetings in Orlando.

So, digging through research and estimates and all their propietary databases, the Indians are likely mulling over this one question all weekend: Is Scott Kazmir worth $14.1 million? [Read more...]

MLB News: “No chance” Tribe offers Jiménez a multi-year deal

Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain Dealer echoes recent sentiments at WFNY, stating that there is “no chance” that the Cleveland Indians will offer starting pitcher Ubaldo Jiménez a multi-year contract this offseason. This news comes in the wake of the San Francisco Giants setting the bar for free agent starting pitchers by inking Tim Lincecum to a two-year, $35 million deal earlier this week.

On Thursday, our own TD explained that if the deal provided to Lincecum, a pitcher who is far removed from his back-to-back Cy Young seasons, is used as a measuring stick, there is little to no chance that the Indians can afford to pay two pitchers who performed much better over the course of the 2013 season.

“After watching him carry the rotation down the stretch coupled with his AL-best 1.71 post-All Star break ERA, I have carried no illusions that Ubaldo would return to Cleveland,” said TD. “Go ahead and tender him the $13 million one year offer, watch him decline it, and take your first round draft pick as compensation.”

The deadline for the Indians to make such an offer to Jiménez is 5 p.m. ET on the fifth day after the final game of the World Series. Jiménez would then have seven days to accept or decline. If he accepts, he’ll stay with the Indians on a one-year deal worth $14 million—a calculated risk that the Indians would have to stomach if executed by the player. If he signs with another team, the Indians would then receive a draft pick at the end of the first round in 2014.

If anything, this deal shows that the cost of even mediocre pitching will be higher than the $8 million player option that Jiménez will soon turn down. The Tribe could very well find themselves trying to find lighting in a bottle once again, doing so through low-cost avenues as they did with Scott Kazmir a season ago. If this plays out as expected, two of the Indians’ best four pitchers in 2013—as measured by WAR—will be playing for different teams in 2014.

[Related: Brian Sabean messed it up for the rest of us]

Brian Sabean messed it up for the rest of us

Scott KazmirThe San Francisco Giants have two World Series titles in the past four years. They have the most beautiful venue in all of professional sports in AT&T Park. If you haven’t been there, I highly suggest making the long trek. It is worth it. They have a longtime General Manager in Brian Sabean who has shown over the years to be a shrewd businessman. Ownership has been willing to pony up at the trade deadline for a big salary player to help the team get over the hump (i.e. Carlos Beltran, Hunter Pence, Jason Schmidt, etc). They have also made two of the worst long term signings in recent memory, grossly overpaying for Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand. But what they did two days ago was a borderline reckless move that may have ruined the market for free agent starting pitchers. [Read more...]

2013 Indians In Review: The Starting Rotation

Corey Kluber

The 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 will begin with the starting rotation, a group that was a huge surprise in 2013.  [Read more...]

Starting rotation an unsolved long-term mystery for Indians

ubaldo twinsWhat a season for Cleveland Indians starters. After posting the American League’s 13th best staff ERA back in 2012, the Tribe turned it around magically this year en route to the playoffs, jumping all the way to the AL’s sixth best ERA.

Not many could have predicted that success, probably not even much-applauded pitching coach Mickey Callaway. Yet, after the team’s season ended abruptly last week, it’s worth noting that the composition of the 2014 rotation is now up in the air.

There are two likely-to-be high-priced free agents, one impending free agent after next year and a collection of still-yet-unproven youngsters and inexperienced veterans. Who will step up? What will the rotation look like? What moves are necessary?

Heading into 2013, it was assumed that the Indians would pick up a starter on the free agent market. They did so in the form of $7 million for Brett Myers, but that proved to be a disaster: Myers actually managed to have a -0.6 WAR in just 21.1 innings pitched.

With the below list, I count five likely starters for the Tribe as they begin the season: Masterson, Jimenez/Kazmir, Salazar, Kluber and McAllister. That would be maintaining the same list as this season, provided they can re-sign one of the two free agents.

But Trevor Bauer has to get consistent MLB duty at some point. What will the long-term status be of Carlos Carrasco or Josh Tomlin? Is there anyone else in the minors? And is it actually plausible for the team to re-sign just one of the two free agents? Let’s go name by name.

 

Justin Masterson
Turns 29 in March
Made $5.69 mil in 2013; likely to be $8-10 mil for 2014
Free agent eligibility after 2014 season

The de facto team ace is likely to return to starting duties for 2014. He had success out of the bullpen down the stretch, but that was due to his return from injury. The biggest long-term question mark is whether the Indians will be able to afford him past next year. He’s set to make a nice raise through arbitration.

Ubaldo Jimenez
Turns 30 in January
Made $5.75 mil in 2013; likely to receive $10+ mil offer
Free agent eligibility after 2013 season

Jimenez (finally) pitched like an ace over the last few months of the season. That will only make him more difficult to keep in a Tribe uniform. Some will say Jimenez owes the Indians front office for turning his career around, but unfortunately, that’s not how the open markets operate. Assuming he wants it, he’ll get at least four years and $50 million elsewhere.

Scott Kazmir
Turns 30 in January
Made league min. in 2013; likely to receive $6-8 mil offer
Free agent eligibility after 2013 season

The more affordable free agent option for the Indians would be Kazmir. He was a reclamation project this season, signing a deal just to join for spring training before making 29 starts and striking out 162. He’s not an ace, but a guy most organizations would love to have as a strikeout-prone lefty. My guess: $15 million over two years to stay in Cleveland.

Corey Kluber
Turns 28 in April
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

As we discussed in Friday’s roundtable, the development of these next two starters are key for 2014. Kluber was a big surprise this season, jumping into the rotation and dominating for three months. But an August injury set him back to end the year. Indians have to hope he can recover that success and stay in the rotation.

Zach McAllister
Turns 26 in December
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

Two full seasons, 46 starts, ERA of 3.99. Another impressive yet relatively inexperienced starter, McAllister also wasn’t great down the stretch. He wasn’t the same pitcher after a six-week injury absence in June and July. He seems to be a fairly reliable No. 4 or No. 5 starter, but won’t be a huge difference marker.

Danny Salazar
Turns 24 in January
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

The up-and-coming Salazar supplanted the guy below as the team’s best pitching prospect. He went from Double-A prospect to playoff game starter in one season, just like 1997’s Jaret Wright. Hopefully Salazar’s next few years are brighter however, thanks to the Indians’ watchful eye throughout the season. No questions asked, just let him go full throttle now.

Trevor Bauer
Turns 23 in January
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

Remember this guy? The perhaps too-eccentric-or-maybe-ground-breaking prospect? He had a 5.29 ERA in four Cleveland starts and a disappointing 4.15 ERA in 22 starts for Columbus. The statistics are brutal: 73 walks, 106 strikeouts and 119 hits in 121.1 innings pitched. Those are Triple-A No. 5 starter stats. I’d assume he stays in Columbus to start 2014. He’s not ready yet.

Carlos Carrasco
Turns 27 in March
Made $0.5 mil in 2013; likely to be $1 mil for 2014
Free agent eligibility after 2016 season

All the evidence you need: 9.00 ERA in seven starts, 1.32 ERA in eight relief appearances. With the likely departure of Joe Smith out of the pen, Carrasco can slip into a long-term long-relief role and perhaps some sixth-inning duties. That will keep his cost low and perhaps harness his innate strikeout ability.

Josh Tomlin
Turns 29 in October
Made $0.5 mil in 2013; likely to be $1 mil for 2014
Free agent eligibility after 2016 season

The Little Cowboy appeared in only one Cleveland game this season as he recovered from August 2012 Tommy John surgery. He’ll have the offseason to fully recover, potentially returning into a bullpen role as well. It’s also possible that he doesn’t return to Cleveland, considering the lack of available innings.

 

Conclusion: So there you go, nine possible starters and a whole lot of questions still yet unanswered. I’m sure there will be more discussions on available free agent starters over the coming months, just like we had last season. Almost all of these players have had long-ish periods of major league success. Now it’s just a matter of money and composition as 2014 preparation begins soon.

As I shared earlier in the week, my optimism isn’t high. Jimenez’s emergence was a key reason for Cleveland clinching a playoff spot; my odds are probably 75-80% that he’s elsewhere next season. Kazmir would be a nice returning candidate, but who knows how much his value is right now. Then, Masterson’s upcoming availability also casts into doubt how much the Indians are willing to break the bank.

In the end, Bauer and Salazar have to develop as future leaders of a rotation. If that can happen, which certainly is a possibility, then the Indians are in much better shape with a back-end led by Kluber and McAllister. But the young guys could need to step up soon.

AP Photo/Ann Heisenfel

162+: Indians win 9th straight, one win away from Wild Card

carloshomerThe Cleveland Indians are guaranteed to play more than 162 games in the 2013 season. On the heels of a brilliant outing from Scott Kazmir and some of their classic two-out magic, the Indians clinched at least one game beyond today as even with a loss today they would at worst be playing baseball on Monday. After their ninth straight win, however, it’s time to make it a perfect ten to end the regular season. Doing so will clinch the Wild Card game being at Progressive Field on Wednesday night.

You have to start with Scott Kazmir, who turned in just a phenomenal performance. Kazmir got into some trouble in multiple innings, but the strikeout was his best friend. Kazmir put two runners on in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, yet he allowed only a single run to score in the fourth. In the third and fourth, Kazmir got fly balls to end the threats (Michael Brantley got a huge jump on the one to end the threat in the left-center gap in the fourth), and in the fifth, it was a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em double play courtesy of Yan Gomes firing it down to third and erasing Brian Dozier. Kazmir struck out 11 in his six innings of work, including striking out the side in his final inning of work. One would have to think that should the Indians get into a series that Kazmir would be awarded a start ahead of Zach McAllister, provided that Justin Masterson would stay in the bullpen. Kazmir’s had swing and miss stuff most of the year, but it’s that ability to avoid the big inning and work out of trouble that he needs to have to be the guy he’s been for most of the season. In his last two starts, it appears that knack is back. [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting… Chris Perez, 2007 vs. 2013, and getting to know the Bengals

“While We’re Waiting” serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email attips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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Leading off, Anthony Castrovince tackles the Chris Perez and now open closer position issue, “Francona would be wise not to press his luck this time around. He knows the potential pitfalls of the “closer by committee” that erupted in Boston the year before he arrived there, and I’m sure that knowledge plays heavy in his mind right now. But it’s a different thing to open a season with a relief platoon than it is to – ahem – close one, because now Francona has a full season of data – involving both his own team and the Twins and whatever other opponents might await – at his disposal to make educated guesses. In Smith, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Marc Rzepczynski and, yes, even Masterson or Danny Salazar or Carlos Carrasco, he has an array of arms with which he can play percentages or exploit weaknesses.” [CastroTurf]

Steve Orbanek at IBI takes a look at comparing the 2013 Indians to their 2007 counterparts. Comparisons are always tough, but this one does a pretty good job at lining up some real similarities between the two, “Of course, that 2007 team was also blessed with Victor Martinez, who hit .301/.374/.505 with 25 home runs and 114 RBI. The 2007 Indians were fortunate as it’s rare for a team to have a power-hitting catcher with that type of offensive production. The 2013 team has two. Individually, Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes may not possess the offensive prowess of Martinez. But together, the two make for a deathly combination. Gomes currently has a .295/.350/.491 line with 11 home runs and 36 RBI in 85 games. Santana has also been impressive and boasts a .267/.376/.446 line with 19 home runs and 70 RBI in 151 games. Gomes has also been incredible defensively as the right-handed hitting catcher has thrown out 42 percent of base stealers this season. In 2007, Martinez threw out 32 percent.” [Indians Baseball Insider]

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Tribe Weekend Recap: Sweep of Astros has Tribe on cusp of playoffs

Michael BrantleyYou can only play who is on the schedule. Playing those games is one thing. Knowing that you MUST win said games and then actually going out and doing so isn’t easy. Its late September and every single game means so much to your Cleveland Indians, especially when you consider the cluster of teams that are fighting for the two AL Wild Card spots. Everyone knows about the schedule advantage the Indians had with 10 games remaining. But playing them and winning them are two different things. That is what makes this weekend’s four-game sweep of the Houston Astros so impressive.

I was at Thursday night’s 2-1 11-inning win. Every time Houston manager Bo Porter went to his bullpen or his bench or heck, every time I looked up at the lineup, I could not believe what I was seeing. This has to be the worst roster I have ever seen in my 37 years of watching baseball. Anyone who is an Astros die hard or season ticket holder should be appalled by this garbage product ownership and the front office is putting on the field. Trevor Crowe hit third on Thursday night and fifth on Friday night. Doesn’t that tell you all you need to know? Nobody in their lineup scares you. Nobody. Sure, they have Chris Carter and his 29 homers, but he also makes Mark Reynolds look like an on-base percentage machine. He has struck out 204 times this season. The rotation is devoid of an ace and while it has some quality young arms, you also have guys like Eric Bedard toiling in it. After seeing them Thursday night, the Indians had little excuse not to finish off the four game sweep. [Read more...]