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January 25, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT -- Sunday, January 25
Thank you to everyone for your kind words and support in welcoming our daughter Jennifer into the world. All of your messages were greatly appreciated and I particularly enjoyed reading the similar tales of mad dashes to the hospital. It's been a hectic week, including a broken-down car and a stomach bug that wiped out 3/5 of the household, but I think we're slowly returning to normal, albeit a completely different normal than before :-).
Given the above, today's CIR will serve as a general news update with the organizational position reviews following later in the week. Here we go...
Aside from the previously announced NRIs, the Indians have invited minor leaguers Michael Aubrey, Zach Sorensen, Brad Snyder, Dave Wallace, Dusty Wathan, Brian Luderer, Victor Valencia, Kyle Denney, and Kazuhito Tadano to spring training. Aubrey and Tadano are the biggest names among this group and both could possibly see time in Cleveland at some point this season (see note below on Tadano). Wallace, Wathan, Luderer, and Valencia are all catchers and their presence in camp will ensure that there's somebody available behind the plate for all the pitchers scheduled throwing sessions.
Francisco Cruceta is the subject of an article on mlb.com in which it's noted that command of his fastball is the key to his future. He'll start the year in the Bisons rotation.
Kazuhito Tadano is also the subject of an article on mlb.com in which John Farrell is quoted as saying that he will have the opportunity to compete for a major league job this spring. Very interesting, although the bullpen is awfully crowded on paper. After sailing through single-A and double-A last season in his first year in the States, Tadano will likely start this season in the Bisons bullpen.
Paul Hoynes noted in the PD yesterday that the Indians were impressed with Scott Erickson after watching him throw last week in Arizona but feel he may be out of their price range. The Tribe also watched an Orlando Hernandez workout last week and will continue to monitor El Duque as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery. Either pitcher would be worth a look at the right price (i.e., pretty much bargain basement) although I suspect their respective agents will be more interested in a guaranteed spot in the rotation (chance to show their stuff for future big dollars) than haggling over an extra couple hundred thousand dollars. I'm not sure the Indians can guarantee anything at this point (dollars or starts).
Mike Jackson and Jose Santiago signed minor league deals with the White Sox that include an invite to spring training.
Nick Bierbrodt signed with the Red Sox. While he was only with the Indians a short time, I hope that he does not become "one who got away".
Karim Garcia officially signed with the Mets for one year and $800k.
Jim Brower received a 2-year, $1.825 million contract from the Giants. He went 8-5 with a 3.96 ERA in 51 appearances last year.
The Braves added to their list of former Indians top prospects (joining Julio Franco, Jaret Wright, and Tim Drew) by signing Russ Branyan to a minor league contract and inviting him to spring training. Branyan was nontendered by the Reds in December after hitting .216 with 9 homeruns and 69 strikeouts in 176 at-bats last season.
Jeremy Ware signed a minor league contract with the Expos. Derek Wathan (Dusty's brother) did the same with the Marlins. Mike Matthews signed with the Reds. Pat Borders re-signed with the Mariners.
Grady Little will work for the Cubs this year as an assistant general manager and scouting consultant.
Jesse Orosco announced his retirement after a 24-year major league career, including three seasons in Cleveland (1989-1991). He had signed a minor league deal with the Diamondbacks this past November.
Sad news to report regarding former Indian outfielder Otis Nixon as he was arrested on aggravated assault charges after allegedly pulling a knife on his bodyguard at a motel.
WTAM and the Indians announced that 20 games will be broadcast this spring, including all three opening weekend games (March 5-7) and eight of the final nine games of the spring, including the two exhibition games against the Phillies in the new Citizens Bank Park on April 3-4.
Fox Sports Net also announced that they will televise four games this spring (March 22 vs Cincinnati, March 24 vs Tampa Bay, March 25 vs Montreal, and March 27 vs Cincinnati).
It sure is nice to have Mike and Mike (and espn radio) back on the Cleveland morning airwaves. I'll miss Ken Silverstein's Indians updates this spring, that was good stuff.
Can someone please explain to me how Cleveland State took North Carolina down to the wire? Simply amazing. As bad as this season has been, though, Mike Garland and the kids deserve some credit for playing hard and being in virtually every game until the final minutes. It will be interesting to see what kind of recruiting class Garland can bring in next year in, realistically, his first full year on the job. I'm cautiously optimistic.
Speaking of being optimistic, anyone else starting to think the Cavs can sneak into the playoffs this year? I am. Gotta make it happen.
January 18, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT -- Monday, January 19
This is not exactly the kind of report that I planned on sending out this evening but that's ok because it's for a very good reason. As some of you may know, my wife and I were expecting our third child in early February but last night little Jennifer Rian decided to take things into her own hands. Checking in three weeks early, she weighed in at a healthy 7 lbs - 14 oz and 20 inches long with a decent head of blonde hair. The whole evening remains a blur as we were having dinner at Bob Evans at 6:00 and by 7:30 Jennifer was born. Yeah, it was fast. Both Mom and baby are doing well while Dad is in need of a stiff drink. Needless to say, I'm going to be a little busy this week as we all settle into our new routines. The next CIR will begin the annual organizational position review which should take us right into the start of spring training. Until then, the following is the report I had planned to finish this evening until a little girl dictated otherwise. Talk to you soon!
Jose Jimenez signed with St.Louis in 1991 out of the Dominican Republic where he remained in-country for the first three seasons of his Cardinals career. He finally made the trip to the States in 1995 and began his advancement through the Cards system, culminating in a 1998 season in which he was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Year after posting a 15-9 record and a 3.11 ERA in 26 starts (179 IP, 156 H, 68 W, 88 K). That performance was rewarded by the Cardinals with a September call-up and Jimenez continued to impress, going 3-0 with a 2.95 ERA in four appearances. Baseball America ranked Jimenez as the number eight prospect in the Cards system entering 1999 and with the exception of a brief stint in the minor leagues, Jimenez spent the majority of the year in the Cardinals rotation, going 5-14 with a 5.85 ERA (163 IP, 173 H, 71 W, 113 K). Despite the less than gaudy numbers, Jimenez did make history in 1999 when he tossed a no-hitter on June 25 (9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 W, 8K), outdueling Randy Johnson (9 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 W, 14 K) 1-0 in the process.
That offseason, Jimenez was included as part of the Darryl Kile trade and was dealt from the Cardinals to the Rockies where he has spent the last four seasons pitching out of the Colorado bullpen with the exception of seven starts last year. In 2000, Jimenez worked in 72 games and eventually was named the teams closer, saving 24 games and going 5-2 with a 3.18 ERA (70.2 IP, 63 H, 28 W, 44 K). In 2001, he pitched in 56 games, saving 17 and posting a 6-1 record with a 4.09 ERA (55 IP, 56 H, 22 W, 37 K). The next year brought Jimenez' greatest success as he saved 41 games despite a 2-10 record, posting a 3.56 ERA (73.1 IP< 76 H, 11 W, 47 K) in 74 games. Last season, Jimenez struggled, eventually being removed from the closer role, and posted a second consecutive 2-10 record with a 5.22 ERA (101.2 IP, 137 H, 32 W, 45 K) in 63 appearances, including the previously mentioned seven starts.
Any discussion involving a Colorado hurler needs to consider the Coors Field effect and Jimenez is no exception, although the outcome is probably not what you expect. Last season, Jimenez actually pitched better at home (.306, BAA, 5.29 ERA, 61.1 IP) then he did on the road (.343 BAA, 5.13 ERA, 40.1 IP) and that is the continuation of a three-year trend in which Jimenez has pitched better at altitude (.277 BAA, 4.48 ERA, 136.2 IP) than in more pitcher-friendly confines (.310, 4.34 ERA, 93.1 IP). He also has a heavy split towards the right-side as he's held righthanders to avreages of .266/.311/.394/.705 versus lefthanders averages of .318/.367/.471/.838 over the past three seasons and lefites hit him particularly hard last year (.382/.435/.525/.959).
When successful, Jimenez keeps his 90-93 mph fastball down in the zone and induces a lot of ground-balls as evidenced by the extreme groundball/flyball ratios (2.88, 3.03, 3.04, 2.57) and few homeruns he has allowed (24 in 300.67 IP, impressive for someone who pitched half the season at altitude) over the past four years. He also throws a slider but does not has a "strikeout pitch" which is reflected in his low K/IP ratios. Control is generally not an issue and even though his walks were up last season, his BB/IP ratio (32 BB in 101.2 IP) was still within acceptable limits. Command (being able to put the ball where you want it within the strike-zone) is an issue, however, and what I suspect happened last season is that Jimenez' was unable to keep his pitches down and he got hit. This is supported by the big increase in his H/IP ratio (137 H in 101.2 IP), the decrease in his BB/K ratio (32 BB, 45 K), and the decrease in his GB/FB ratio (3.04 to 2.57). In short, his pitchers were up and he got hammered. Whether this was a mechanical issue, a psychological effect of pitching at Coors, or Jimenez compensating for an undisclosed injury, I'm not sure. He did pitch better in the second half (4.08 ERA, .302 BAA, 13 W in 57.1 IP) and that offers hope for a rebound this season.
With 102 career saves, Jimenez is the Rockies all-time saves leader but he'll serve as a setup man for Bob Wickman and/or David Riske for the Indians. He signed for $1,025,000 (plus incentives) and gives the Indians "five guys in the backend, all of whom have closed, all of 'em have track records" according to Mark Shapiro. Those five guys would be Wickman, Riske, Jimenez, Scott Stewart, and Bob Howry. Assuming a 12-man staff, those five would appear to have secure positions in the bullpen with Wickman and Howry's health obvious question marks. If you also assume that one of the starting pitcher candidates (Westbrook, Bere, D'Amico, Stanford, Durbin) will start the season as the long-man in the bullpen, that leaves only one bullpen opening for the likes of Jack Cressend, Rafael Betancourt, Cliff Bartosh, Carl Sadler, Luther Hackman, Giovanni Carrara, among others, to fight over this spring which should make for an interesting competition. One thing to keep in mind is that Jimenez' versatility (starter, long relief, short relief) could also come into play as the bullpen is structured this spring.
Speaking of Stewart, he and the Indians avoided arbitration on Friday when they agreed to a $875,000 contract for the 2004 season. With Milton Bradley, Tim Laker, Jake Westbrook, David Riske, and now Stewart in the fold, the Indians have successfully avoided arbitration for the 11th consecutive year. That streak will likely be challenged in the 2005-2006 offseasons when all the kids who have made their debuts the last two years gain arbitration eligiblity.
Speaking of Stewart again, I had wondered to myself if the Indians had considered signing left-hander Scott Sauerbeck as a free-agent in leiu of persuing a trade for a bullpen lefty. As it turns out, Sauerbeck failed two physicals and will have shoulder surgery next week that will likely cause him to miss all of next season.
Back to Jimenez, the Denver Post reported that the Indians had persued free-agent Turk Wendell prior to signing Jimenez. Wendell went 3-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 64 innings for the Phillies last year but the two halves of his season could not have been more different as he posted a 0.67 ERA in the 1st half (27 IP) and a 5.35 ERA in the second half (37 IP). He eventually signed a minor league deal in the $600k range with the Rockies (he lives about 25 miles south of Denver).
Corey Smith is the subject of this article in the Plain Dealer.
Cuban right-hander Maels Rodriguez will audition for big league scouts next week in El Salvador. He reportedly possesses a 100 mph fastball that Cuban baseball officials have claimed (since his defection) is down to the mid-80s range in a possible attempt to discredit the fireballer. Rodriguez' agent has hinted that Jose Contreras four-year, $32 million contract will be the starting point for negotiations so I think we can assume the Indians will not be active bidders but I wonder if they'll send a representative just to monitor the proceedings.
Well, if they're not checking out Rodriguez, Paul Hoynes noted in the PD yesterday that Indians scouts will be attending a Scott Erickson workout this week.
Scott Threinen was reinstated off the restricted list which I'll assume means he's going to be playing in the Indians system again this season.
Karim Garcia is close to signed a one year, $850k contract with the Mets according to the Bergen Record. He'll compete with Roger Cedeno and Timo Perez for right-field at-bats and I like his chances in that contest.
The Indians officially announced the reporting dates for spring training and they are as follows...
Feb 20: Pitchers and Catchers Report
Feb 21: Physicals
Feb 22: First Workout
Feb 25: Position Players Report
Feb 26: Physicals
Feb 27: First full-squad workout
Mar 02: Photo Day
Mar 05: First game
Tim Drew and native Clevelander Chuck Smith signed minor league deals with the Atlanta Braves. Drew will be reunited with his older brother J.D. as well as with fellow former Indians top pitching prospect Jaret Wright.
Danys Baez will either have a lot of support or a lot of competition should he stumble in the closers role in Tampa Bay as the D-Rays signed two former closers (Mike Williams and Todd Jones) and also added veteran major leaguers Mike Holtz and Al Reyes. Mitch Meluskey also signed a minor league with the Rays.
Dave Maurer signed a minor league contract with the Blue Jays. Mike Matthews did the same with the Reds.
Alvaro Espinoza was hired by the Pirates as an infield instructor. Grady Little was named a scouting consultant and assistant general manager with the Cubs.
January 13, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Spring Training Dates
The Indians officially announced the reporting dates for spring training and they are as follows...
Feb 20: Pitchers and Catchers Report
Feb 21: Physicals
Feb 22: First Workout
Feb 25: Position Players Report
Feb 26: Physicals
Feb 27: First full-squad workout
Mar 02: Photo Day
Mar 05: First game
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT -- Tuesday, January 13
I can't believe that we're closing in on one month until the start of spring training. Have the equipment trucks left yet? That's always a sure sign that spring is right around the corner.
The Indians made a minor move yesterday when they signed veteran infielder Lou Merloni to a minor league contract that includes an invite to spring training. Merloni is a 32-year old infielder who was originally drafted by the Red Sox in the 10th round of the 1993 draft, making his major league debut five years later in 1998 (.281/.343/.375/.718 in 96 ABs) and spending the next four seasons riding the shuttle between Boston and Pawtucket with a short stint in Japan in 2000 mixed in for good measure. Claimed off waivers by the Padres late last spring, Merloni spent the first five months of the season in San Diego (hitting .272/.362/.364/.726 in 137 ABs) before being dealt back to the Sox in late August for the stretch run where he hit .233/.324/.276/.591 in 30 ABs. He also sat out nearly the whole month of June with a sprained MCL. The Sox non-tendered him last month, making him a free-agent, and leading to his eventual signing with the Indians yesterday. In parts of six major league seasons, Merloni has never had more than 200 at-bats in a season and has career averages of .270/.332/.380/.712 with 10 homeruns.
A shortstop by nature, Merloni was obviously blocked by the presence of Nomar Garciaparra in Boston, and that led to him developing into a utility player, highlighted by the fact he played in 32 games at third base last year, 23 at shortstop, 17 at second base, three in the outfield, and two at first base. Rotoworld essentially referred to him as a "poor mans Tony Graffanino" and if there ever could be such a thing, Merloni might fit the bill due to his versatility, his never receiving an opportunity for full-season at-bats, and the fact he has been able to hit left-handers very well in the past. I say in the past because left-handers dominated Merloni last season, holding him to a .196 average in 92 at-bats after being hit at a .321 clip in 2002 (56 ABs) and a .303 clip in 2001 (33 ABs). Admittedly, these are all very small samples sizes but that's all we have to go on at this point. Merloni did hit much better against right-handers last year (.337/.404/.427/.831 in 89 ABs) after a .217 campaign in 2002 (138 ABs) and a .257 average in 2001 (113 ABs) to complete the backwards season he enjoyed in 2003.
The interesting thing about this signing is that Hal Lebowitz reported in the News Herald this weekend (thanks, by the way, to the person who posts Hal's column on FanHome every week, you rock!) that Merloni is expected to make the big league club to provide infield depth along with John McDonald. He goes on to say that Eric Wedge is considering playing Casey Blake at first occasionally against left-handers, Merloni could fill in at third-base, and Wedge likes the fact that Merloni can play anywhere in the infield. Hmmm.... Filing that Blake note for later discussion, what I'm more interested in is looking at the impact that Merloni breaking camp with the Indians will have on the rest of the roster.
Assuming a 12-man pitching staff and Brandon Phillips and Jhonny Peralta are headed to Buffalo to start the season, here's how the position players shape up one month before spring training...
(2) Catchers: Victor Martinez, Josh Bard
(8) Infielders: Travis Hafner, Ben Broussard, Ron Belliard, Ricky Gutierrez, Omar Vizquel, John McDonald, Casey Blake, Lou Merloni
(6) Outfielders: Milton Bradley, Coco Crisp, Jody Gerut, Alex Escobar, Ryan Ludwick, Matt Lawton
Yeah, that's 16 players for 13 spots. We'll get into this a lot more when the organizational position reviews start later this month but here's a couple of quick thoughts (with "barring injury" assumed at the beginning of each line)
1) It doesn't look like there's any way that both Ben Broussard and Travis Hafner can make the opening day roster. Broussard has an option remaining, Hafner doesn't (I think) and that gives Hafner the advantage if the spring numbers are close. I would also not be surprised to see the loser traded during the spring.
2) While it's true Merloni could simply be insurance in case Ricky Gutierrez is not ready for the start of the season, I think this signing hints more at the fact that the Indians don't expect Gutierrez to play this year.
3) If six infielders (Merloni, Blake, Vizquel, Belliard, McDonald, Hafner/Broussard) make the opening day roster along with two catchers, that leaves room for only five outfielders (assuming a 12-man pitching staff). Who goes? Coco has an option left.
4) Could Merloni replace John McDonald as the Indians primary backup infielder? It allows the Tribe to keep six outfielders, Ryan Ludwick could backup at first, and Merloni is likely to provide more offense off the bench than Johnny Mac.
Merloni's signing makes 16 spring training invitees who will descend on Winter Haven next month: Jason Bere, Bob Howry, Giovanni Carrara, Lou Merloni, Jeff D'Amico, Chris Clapinski, Luther Hackman, Kevin Orie, Dave Lee, Adam Piatt, Mike Porzio, Ernie Young, Mark Wohlers, Carl Sadler, Matt Miller, and Tim Young. Of this group, Merloni, Howry, D'Amico, and Bere have the best chance of sticking with the Indians. Keep in mind that for every one of these NRIs who break camp with the big league club, a player will have to be removed from the 40-man roster.
Two of those spots will come when Billy Traber and Brian Tallet are placed on the 60-day disabled list. Mark Shapiro told the local papers that if either Traber or Tallet (both recovering from Tommy John surgery) pitch in the majors in 2004 it will be as a reliever in September. I don't have a problem with that, rushing young arms (or any arm for that matter) back from injury is generally not a good organizational practice. Sounds like they both may follow the same rehab program as Bob Wickman last season (i.e, a few games in the minors late in the season and then shut down until the following spring training).
David Riske avoided arbitration by signing a one-year contract for $1,025,000 that includes the opportunity to earn an additional $50k in incentives tied to appearances and games finished. The recently acquired Scott Stewart is now the lone arbitration-eligible Indian.
Paul Hoynes had some good info in the Plain Dealer on Sunday....
-- Jody Gerut is rehabbing a sore left shoulder and may not be 100% by the start of spring training. It's possible he could start the season at DH.
-- Jhonny Peralta and Victor Martinez are in town as part of the Indians conditioning program with Eric Wedge saying that "(Martinez) looks like a different guy".
-- Bobby Howry impressed the Indians in a throwing session at Jacobs Field last week. It sure sounds like Howry's on the roster if he makes it through the spring healthy. I'm being cautiously optimistic but I really like Howry.
-- Kevin Orie will open the season in extended spring training as he continues to recover from two shoulder surgeries last year. When he does return, he'll start at first base before moving across the diamond to the hot corner in midseason (once his shoulder has been deemed healthy enough to make the throw). Looks like it will be Adam Piatt/Chris Clapinski at third this year in Buffalo (unless Jhonny Peralta is moved over) with Corey Smith returning to Akron for another year of double-A seasoning.
-- The Indians are talking with Derek Thompson about returning to the organization after he was non-tendered by the Dodgers last week. I'm still not sure how his Rule 5 status no longer applies but that appears to be the case.
-- Regarding Luther Hackman..."If he doesn't make the bullpen out of spring training and agrees to go to the minors". I'll take that to mean that Hackman can elect to become a free agent if he doesn't make the big league club.
The Indians winter development program (January 5-30) is in full swing with Fernando Cabrera, Jason Cooper, Francisco Cruceta, Jake Dittler, Trey Dyson, Travis Foley, Mariano Gomez, Mike Hernandez, Joe Inglett, Ivan Ochoa, Luke Scott, Grady Sizemore, Corey Smith, Kazuhito Tadano, and Dave Wallace taking part in the four-week session and Eric Crozier and Jeremy Guthrie participating in the two-week "finishing program". The winter development program is now in its 8th season after being developed by then Director of Minor League Operations Mark Shapiro in January 1996 and it's designed to hone the players physical, mental, and fundamental skills.
Mike Hernandez's agent reports that the left-hander is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a torn labrum and is expected to begin light throwing this Friday.
Danny Aquino was released by the Indians. He signed in 1999 out of the Dominican, made his US debut in Burlington in 2001, but sat out the last two seasons.
Spring training tickets are now on-sale so if you're headed down to Winter Haven, you can now purchase your ducats at www.indians.com, Jacobs Field, Indians team shops, and Office Max kiosks.
Carlos Guillen, who was slated to come to the Indians in the ill-fated Omar Vizquel deal, was dealt to the Tigers after the Mariners signed Rich Aurilia to play short.
Dave Roberts resigned with the Dodgers for one year and $975k. Roberts posted a .331 OBP and .638 OPS in an injury plagued 2003.
Julian Tavarez signed a two-year contract with the Cardinals that will pay him $4.2 million.
Bob Ojeda left the Mets organization after serving as a double-A pitching coach last season, according to the New York Daily News.
In his latest diamond notes column, Peter Gammons quotes a scout as saying that former Indians minor leaguer Simon Pond had "one of the best power swings I saw" in Puerto Rico after Pond hit .338 with 10 longballs this winter. Pond is now 27 and spent two seasons in the Indians system, hitting .268 with 11 homeruns for Akron in 2001, before being released in the spring of 2002.
Gammons also notes that Nick Bierbrodt (unsigned Tribe minor league free-agent) is talking contract with Boston. I've always liked Bierbrodt but it looks like he may not be headed back to the Tribe. I wonder what happened?
Blake Stein signed a minor league contract with the Pirates, former Kent State star Mike Gulan did the same with the White Sox. David Cortes signed with the Tigers, Aaron Myette signed with the Reds, and AJ Hinch signed with the Blue Jays.
Former Indian outfielder Leon Wagner passed away last week at the age of 69. In five seasons (1964-1968) with the Tribe, "Daddy Wags" hit .265/.332/.437/.769 with 97 homeruns, highlighted by 31 dingers in 1964 and a .294/.369/.495/.864 campaign in 1965 that included 28 more longballs. Wagner was a little bit before by time but most everything I've read about him this past week mention that he was one of the friendliest players in the game. Yet Hal Lebowitz reported this weekend that Wagner apparently passed away without any friends or family to claim his body. When the Indians learned about this, according to Hal, the Dolans immediately notified Mudcat Grant (who had tracked down Wagner's body in the LA city mortuary) that the Indians would cover all expenses and to make sure that Wagner had a fitting funeral. Very nice gesture by the Dolans.
The West Coast Indians Backers are planning their 2004 get-togethers for the Tribe's visit to Anaheim June 3-6 (Thurs-Sun). For more information, contact Ed at EdGold14@aol.com.
Baseball Truth has an interview with John Sickels on his new book Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation. Check it out and if you're interested in ordering the Feller book, you can do so by clicking the above link or by clicking here.
I'm not sure if I've mentioned this previously but the CIR is syndicated via RSS so if you have a newsreader you can subscribe to the CIR by using this link. I've just started messing around with News Readers (currently using freeware Sharpreader) so if anyone has any thoughts or suggestions on RSS or News Readers in general, I'd love to hear them.
The Transaction Guy is a new blog that focuses on (you guessed it) baseball transactions. Great stuff.
Man, I still have to get to Ronnie Belliard and Jose Jimenez. Next report.
January 12, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Riske dollars
The AP is reporting that David Riske signed for $1,025,000 with the opportunity to earn an additional $50k in incentives that are tied to appearances and games finished.
CIR UPDATE: Clemens signs with Astros
I know this isn't Tribe-related but as baseball news it's huge. ESPN and other sources are reporting that Roger Clemens has unretired and will sign with the Astros. It's expected he'll receive $5 million to pitch in Houston this year which seems awfully low to me. Talk about high drama, though, if the Astros make the World Series and Clemens takes the mound at Yankee Stadium.
CIR UPDATE: Indians sign David Riske
The Indians avoided going to arbitration with David Riske as they announced this morning that Riske has signed a 2004 contract. Terms were not disclosed.
CIR UPDATE: Indians sign Lou Merloni
The Indians signed Lou Merloni to a minor league contract today that includes an invite to spring training. Merloni has spent most of his career in a utility role with the Red Sox save for five months last season in San Diego and a few months in Japan in 2000. Versatility is what he brings to the table as he can play all four infield positions. Hal Lebowitz reported in the News Herald that Merloni is expected to make the big league club out of spring training. Now that's interesting and we'll discuss that and more tomorrow in the next CIR.
CIR UPDATE: Next CIR on Tuesday
The next CIR will be posted on Tuesday. See you then!
January 08, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Indians officially sign Jose Jimenez
The Indians officially announced the signing of Jose Jimenez this afternoon. FWIW, the Denver Post reports that the Indians were involved in the pursuit of Turk Wendell before signing Jimenez. More in the next CIR.
CIR UPDATE: Indians close with Jimenez
According to the Plain Dealer, the Indians are close to signing former Rockies closer Jose Jimenez to round out the bullpen. Jimenez struggled last season, finishing with a 2-10 record, a 5.22 ERA, and allowing 137 hits in 101.2 innings. He also went 2-10 in 2002 but saved 41 games in 47 opportunties. Good arm, up-and-down career, closer reputation because of the saves not necessarily the performance. More in the next CIR.
January 07, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT -- Wednesday, January 7
The Indians began the first working week of the New Year with a bang on Monday as they signed four players and moved to shore up the late innings with a deal with the Montreal Expos. The update went out yesterday and the details now follow.
Scott Stewart was acquired from the 'Spos for prospects Ryan Church and Maicer Izturis and instantly becomes the Indians main left-hander out of the bullpen although Mark Shapiro considers him more than just a LOOGY (lefty one out guy). Originally drafted by the Rangers in 1994 (20th round), Stewart lasted only two seasons with Texas before being released. He spent 1996 in the independent Northern League and then signed on with the Mets where he spent the next four seasons. A starter for most of his unspectacular minor league career, Stewart converted to the bullpen during his final season in the Mets system in a move that ultimately salvaged his career. He signed with the Expos that offseason as a minor league free agent and debuted in the Expos bullpen, posting a 3-1 record with a 3.78 ERA in 47.2 innings with 39 strikeouts. The following year found Stewart pressed into the closers role and he responded admirably, saving 17 games, holding hitters to a .207 BAA and .593 OPS, and fanning 67 in 64 innings (49 H, 22 BB) to go along with a 3.09 ERA. Offseason elbow surgery slowed Stewart down somewhat to start 2003 and he also lost a month and a half due to an emergency appendectomy but still managed to post a 3.98 ERA in 43 innings, although his H/IP and K/IP ratios tailed off dramatically from 2002 (43 IP, 52 H, 13 BB, 29 K).
When healthy, Stewart has shown that he can be a strong force in the back end of the bullpen, especially against left-handers whom he held to a .159 BAA and .398 OPS in 2002. His splits last year were much higher (.283 vs lefties and .318 vs righties) but let's hope that can be attributed to the injuries. Eligible for arbitration, Stewart should command a salary somewhere in the $1 million range for 2003 and that's one reason why, along with the presence of Joey Eischen and Randy Choate in the Montreal bullpen, he was available. He'll likely join David Riske as the primary setup men for Bob Wickman and should help solidify the 8th and 9th inning for Eric Wedge.
I like Stewart and I think he can help the Indians this season. My concern (or reservation) about this trade is why now? This seems like the kind of deal you would make if you're a 90-win ballclub and the tough lefty out of the pen gets you to 95 wins or shuts down Jason Giambi in the playoffs. The Indians are not that kind of team (yet) and if Stewart improves you to 75 wins instead of 70 is that really worth two decent prospects? Perhaps it is (especially if you think Church and Izturis are less than decent prospects), but my other reservation is whether or not Stewart will be anything more than a one year player for the Indians. Keep in mind that he's arbitration eligible this year which will bump his salary into the $1 million neighborhood. If he pitches as well as the Indians expect (and you had better believe they expect him to pitch well considering what they gave up) his salary could jump into the $2.0-$2.5 million range for 2005 which may price him out of the Indians price range. Even if he just has a solid, but not spectacular, season his salary will still take a big hike next year and I would think there's a good chance the Indians could non-tender him rather than pay that kind of money to an average reliever. Of course, we won't know whether any of this will play out until the fall but I think it's a concern worth noting.
As for what the Indians gave up, neither Ryan Church or Maicer Izturis would have been high on the Indians prospect lists when they are released in the next month or so but that doesn't mean that they don't have any value. Church, in particular, has been recently compared to Jim Edmonds by Indians management and even yesterday, Mark Shapiro was quoted in the paper as saying that "Church has great athleticism and a good upside as a left-handed hitter". That good upside part is what has me worried especially if Stewart turns out to be nothing more than a one (or even two) year pitcher for the Tribe. He's still a year away from the bigs (I'm talking about Church) and he's getting old for a prospect (he'll play 2004 at the age of 25) but good upside is good upside. It's true that the Indians have a logjam in the outfield and the odds of Church bypassing Milton Bradley, Coco Crisp, Ryan Ludwick, Alex Escobar, Matt Lawton, Jody Gerut, and Grady Sizemore were pretty slim so there's no debating the fact that he was expendable but when you're working under tight financial restraints, maximizing your resources is a key and I question whether or not the Indians did that in this deal. I like adding Stewart, I don't mind dealing Church (or Izturis), but I just wonder if we moved him in the right deal for the right return.
And, it bears mentioning that it didn't exactly work out well the last time the Indians traded a young outfielder (Brian Giles) for a left-handed reliever (Ricardo Rincon). Although, to be fair, Giles was already an established major leaguer while Church has yet to face triple-A pitching but wasn't the Giles-Rincon deal one of the first thoughts to pass through your mind when you heard about this trade?
As for Izturis, he's another whose path was blocked by higher profile prospects ahead of him, in this case Brandon Phillips at second and Jhonny Peralta at short (not to mention Hector Luna, if he's returned from the Cardinals, and Ivan Ochoa). When Mark Shapiro was quoted as saying that "we've got two guys ahead of him that would have made it difficult for him to play at Buffalo this year" I'll take that to mean Peralta will stay at short this year with Phillips at second and third base is open in Buffalo (perhaps for the recently signed Kevin Orie or Chris Clapinski). Izturis has some skills but lacks power and since he really profiles best as a utility player his loss is not a major one for the Indians system.
On a side note, this may be the first of several multi-prospect for one deals the Indians make this season as they work to clear roster space for all the players that need to be added to the 40-man roster next offseason as well as remove logjams at various levels in the system.
For the record, Church hit .261/.325/.429/.754 last season in Akron with 13 homeruns and was bothered by a nagging hand injury that allowed him to play in only 99 games. He also left the Arizona Fall League after five games with a sore hamstring. Izturis hit .280/.351/.390/.741 with 14 steals in Akron and .262/.317/.362/.679 with 14 steals for Buffalo last year with a combined 27 doubles, 9 triples, and 3 homeruns.
The Tribe next added a candidate for the rotation when they signed right-hander Jeff D'Amico to a minor league contract that includes an invite to spring training. The 28-year old D'Amico spent last season with the Pirates where he went 9-16 with a 4.77 ERA in 175.1 innings (204 H, 42 BB, 100 K, 23 HR). Opposing hitters reached him at a .291/.331/.469/.793 clip and his splits were almost dead-even at .290 vs righties and .293 versus lefties. As a continuation of a three-year trend, D'Amico pitched much better in the first half of the season with a 3.77 pre-all-star game ERA as opposed to a 5.76 post-all-star game break ERA (three-year trends, 4.38 pre-ASB ERA and 6.05 post-ASB ERA) and that may be related to D'Amico's lengthy injury history which we'll get to in a second.
Originally drafted by the Brewers in 1993 with the 23rd overall pick of the first round, D'Amico underwent elbow surgery and missed the entire first season of his pro career. He then rushed through the Brewers system in the next year and a half and made his pro debut at the age of 20 in 1996, making 17 starts and posting a 5.44 ERA with a 6-6 record. As befalls many young pitchers rushed to the majors too soon, especially those recovering from injury, D'Amico broke down again and required two separate shoulder surgeries that forced him to sit out the next two seasons.
Healthy again in 2000, D'Amico fulfilled the potential the Brewers saw in him as he turned in the third best ERA in the National League at 2.66, trailing only Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson, and posting a 12-7 record in 162 innings (143 H, 46 BB, 101 K). That led to a nice $2.3 million contract for 2001 but a compressed nerve between his shoulder and elbow required surgery to correct and caused him to miss the last four months of the season after making only 13 starts. The Brewers finally gave up on D'Amico (or pleaded no mas to the injuries) and dealt him to the Mets that offseason in the Jeromy Burnitz-Glendon Rusch deal. Healthy again (didn't I just say that?), D'Amico got off to a hot start for the Mets, posting a 2.94 ERA in April and a 3.12 ERA in May before tailing off the final four months of the season to finish with a 4.94 ERA in 29 appearance (22 starts) and allowing 152 hits in 145.2 innings. As noted above, D'Amico trended similarly last season with the Pirates, pitching well in the early months before tiring and being hit hard in the second half. After four surgeries in eight years, you have to wonder if he and his arm can hold up (or pitch effectively) for a full season.
That said, he's a decent risk for a minor league contract. If he can come anywhere close to his 2000 performance, the Indians will have a major bargain. If he bombs, or his arm blows up, it's at minimal cost and the Indians can cut bait relatively quick and inexpensively. He'll compete with Jake Westbrook, Jason Stanford, Chad Durbin, and Jason Bere for one of the two vacant spots in the Indians rotation.
It's also worth noting that the Indians apparantly pursued Cory Lidle and Jason Johnson but were outbid by the Reds and Tigers respectively. Lidle, especially, I think would have been an interesting option if the Indians could have landed him for a decent price (read: cheap). Oh well, I'll just have to bid $3 (the perfect bid) for him in the CCARBL auction this year.
Luther Hackman is a 29-year old right-hander who spent last season working out of the Padres bullpen, posting a 5.17 ERA with a .261 BAA and a 2-2 record in 76.2 innings (78 H, 36 BB, 48 K). Not that impressive, but if you remove five outings in which he allowed 19 runs in four innings, his ERA drops to 3.10. Of course, you could probably make similar claims for a slew of pitchers. Originally drafted by the Rockies in 1994 (6th round), the 6-4, 195 lb. Hackman made his major league debut in Colorado in 1999 before being traded to St.Louis (along with Darryl Kile) in November of that year. He stuck in the big leagues for good in 2001 when he went 1-2 with a 4.29 ERA in 35 innings for the Cards and followed that up with his best season, a 5-4, 4.11 campaign in 81 innings in 2002. For his career, Hackman has a 9-10 record with one save and a 5.09 ERA. Depsite his size, he's not a strikeout pitcher as his K/IP (128 K in 212 IP) and K/BB (128 K vs 105 BB) are both poor.
Of some note are his righty/lefty splits although he's trending the opposite of what you might expect. Over the past three years, right-handers have hit Hackman to the tune of .172 (2001), .279 (2002), .277 (2003) while left-handers have managed averages of .308 (2001), .298 (2002), and .238 (2003) marking him as a candidate for a Daber "reserve righty" role in a strat-o-matic bullpen. If he could ever combine his 2001 righty success with his 2003 lefty success, that would be the makings of a pretty interesting back of the bullpen horse. Until then, however, he's injury insurance at triple-A and should be viewed as a longshot to break camp with the Indians this spring.
Matt Miller is a 32-year old right-hander who made his major league debut with the Rockies last year, allowing a run in 4.1 innings and striking out five last summer. Sandwiched around that performance in the show was a dominating season in triple-A in which Miller struck out 83 in 63.1 innings while holding opposing hitters to a .204 average and posting a 2.13 ERA. He permitted just 46 hits, walked 15, and did not allow a homerun all season. Wow. And those numbers are all the more impressive considering that he pitched in the Pacific Coast League and at altitude in Colorado Springs. Wow (again). Miller continued his fine season in winterball in Puerto Rico where he finished the just completed Puerto Rican winter league regular season by not allowing a run in 19. innings (0.00 ERA) and striking out 21. Wow again (again). He did walk 14 in those 19 frames so consider that a note of caution.
Despite all these gaudy numbers, however, Miller was nontendered by the Rockies in December which rendered him a free-agent and led to his eventual signing with the Tribe. Miller's baseball past is a difficult one to google but here's what I turned up. He was an undrafted free-agent who attended Delta State and the Indians will be the 5th organization for whom he has played. He spent 1998 with Greenville of the independent Central League, 2002 pitching for the A's triple-A affiliate in Sacramento (3-7, 4.31, 71 IP, 63 K), and the Sporting News says that the Rockies returned him to triple-A this past summer because of concerns on how he would fare against left-handers in the big leagues. Consider him more triple-A insurance for the bullpen.
Kevin Orie was once considered the Cubs third basemen of the future but those days have long since passed for the 31-year old journeymen. In fact, he sat out all last season after undergoing two surgeries to repair a torn labrum and was released by the Cubs last March after his second tour of duty with the Northsiders. His most recent experience came in 2002 when he hit a healthy .299/.358/.578/.936 with 20 homers in 299 at-bats for triple-A Iowa and also went 9-for-32 (.281) with the Cubs. Those 20 longballs were a career high for Orie and the first time he ever knocked out double-digit homeruns.
The Indians will be his 7th organization after he was originally drafted by the Cubs in the 1st round of the 1993 draft and subsequently bounced around to the Marlins, Dodgers, Royals, Yankees, Phillies, and then back again to the Cubs. If healthy, Orie is another solid bat for the Bisons lineup and will serve as big league insurance if anything happens to Casey Blake. At the same time, all bets may be off if rule 5 pick Luis Gonzalez is returned by the Rockies.
Terry Mulholland will not return to the Indians next season after he and Mark Shapiro could not agree to terms and I suspect the "terms" had more to do with innings and opportunity than money. With Scott Stewart and Bobby Howry joining incumbents Bob Wickman, David Riske, Jack Cressend, and Rafael Betancourt (and the Indians reportedly ready to add another bullpen arm this week), the bullpen is suddenly a crowded piece of real estate and I doubt the Indians were ready to guarantee Mulholland a spot on the opening day roster especially when one of the starting candidates could start the season as the long-man out of the pen. The Indians had until January 8 to sign Mulholland since he refused their offer of arbitration last month.
Danys Baez passed his physical and officially signed a two-year contract with the Devil Rays yesterday. The St.Petersburg Times reports that Baez will receive a $500k signing bonus and a base salary of $1.5 million this year and $3.5 million in 2005. He'll also have the opportunity to earn $250k in incentives in each of those seasons. The Rays can buy out his $4 million club option in 2006 for $1 million which brings the guaranteed value of his contract to $6.5 million. He'll face his former teammates for the first time on Friday, May 14 at the Jake.
Roberto Alomar has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks where he'll join former teammate Richie Sexson to form a new right-side of the infield in the desert.
Eric Young officially signed with the Rangers and Damian Jackson did the same with the Rockies. Jackson's is a minor league deal with a spring training invite.
The Royals inked Juan Gonzalez to a one-year contract that will pay the former Tribe slugger $4 million with the opportunity to earn an additional $2 million in incentives that are tied to at-bats. The Royals hold a $7 million option for 2005 with a $500k buyout. Even with all the baggage Juan Gone brings, this is a good signing for the Royals with potentially huge dividends. And if it doesn't pan out, at least it's only for one year and not for all that many dollars. Hopefully, the Indians will be in the market for such signings next offseason.
Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor were elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday. I wonder if Eck will go in wearing a Tribe hat :-) Here's the results (380 votes or 75% needed for election, Indians in bold): Paul Molitor 431 85.2%, Dennis Eckersley 421 83.2%, Ryne Sandberg 309 61.1%, Bruce Sutter 301 59.5%, Jim Rice 276 54.5%, Andre Dawson 253 50%, Goose Gossage 206 40.7%, Lee Smith 185 36.6%, Bert Blyleven 179 35.4%, Jack Morris 133 26.3%, Steve Garvey 123 24.3%, Tommy John 111 21.9%, Alan Trammell 70 13.8%, Don Mattingly 65 12.8%, Dave Concepcion 57 11.3%, Dave Parker 53 10.5%, Dale Murphy 43 8.5%, Keith Hernandez 22 4.3%, Joe Carter 19 3.8%, Fernando Valenzuela 19 3.8%, Dennis Martinez 16 3.2%, Dave Stieb 7 1.4%, Jim Eisenreich 3 0%, Jimmy Key 3 0%, Doug Drabek 2 0%, Kevin Mitchell 2 0%, Juan Samuel 2 0%, Cecil Fielder 1 0%, Randy Myers 1 0%, Terry Pendleton 1 0%, Danny Darwin 0 0%, Bob Tewksbury 0 0%. Note that anyone who received less than 5% of the vote will be removed from future ballots. I'm a little surprised that Joe Carter and Dennis Martinez didn't receive more support.
So Pete Rose finally admitted that he bet on baseball and Reds games. What a surprise. I just hope that Bud Selig has the cajones to say "you bet on baseball so you're banned for life, end of discussion". That would be awesome. I just wonder if it will take him an additional 14 years to admit that he bet against the Reds.
Nina back on 24 is very cool. How long before they bring back President Cerrano's wife? That would be sweet. Arrested Development is the best comedy on TV (note: I don't have HBO so Curb Your Enthusiasm fans please curb your venom). Celebrity Mole returns tonight. Yeah, it doesn't take much to get me excited.
Looks like I forgot about Ronnie Belliard. Oh well, that's old news by now so there's no harm in saving that for the next report.
January 06, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Eckersley and Molitor are Cooperstown bound
Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor were elected to the Hall of Fame today. I'll post the rest of the results as soon as they're available online. I wonder if Eck will go in wearing a Tribe hat :-)
RESULTS (380 votes or 75% needed for election, Indians in bold)...
Paul Molitor 431 85.2
Dennis Eckersley 421 83.2
Ryne Sandberg 309 61.1
Bruce Sutter 301 59.5
Jim Rice 276 54.5
Andre Dawson 253 50
"Goose" Gossage 206 40.7
Lee Smith 185 36.6
Bert Blyleven 179 35.4
Jack Morris 133 26.3
Steve Garvey 123 24.3
Tommy John 111 21.9
Alan Trammell 70 13.8
Don Mattingly 65 12.8
Dave Concepcion 57 11.3
Dave Parker 53 10.5
Dale Murphy 43 8.5
LESS THAN 5% -- REMOVED FROM FUTURE BALLOTS
Keith Hernandez 22 4.3
Joe Carter 19 3.8
Fernando Valenzuela 19 3.8
Dennis Martinez 16 3.2
Dave Stieb 7 1.4
Jim Eisenreich 3 0
Jimmy Key 3 0
Doug Drabek 2 0
Kevin Mitchell 2 0
Juan Samuel 2 0
Cecil Fielder 1 0
Randy Myers 1 0
Terry Pendleton 1 0
Danny Darwin 0 0
Bob Tewksbury 0 0
CIR UPDATE: Terry Mulholland gone
Mark Shapiro was quoted in the Plain Dealer this morning that Terry Mulholland will not re-sign with the Indians. More in the next CIR.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Tuesday, January 6
Happy New Year everyone!
Quick thoughts on yesterday's moves, I'll save the details for tomorrow.
Scott Stewart has shown he can be a dominant lefty in the back of the 'pen when healthy. But, he's arbitration eligible this season (expected to sign for similar dollars as David Riske) and could be looking at a $2 million plus contract for 2005 which could/might price him out of the Indians price range. Does this make him a one-year player? Hmmm....
Ryan Church struggled last season with injuries and would likely be far down the Indians prospect lists this spring (realize that's also a reflection of the Indians overall system depth) but it wasn't that long ago that the powers that be at Jacobs Field were comparing him to Jim Edmonds. He also was protected on the 40-man roster the last two years which indicates a fair amount of value. It's true that the road ahead of him was blocked by many an outfielder but did we move him for the right return? And, of course, it's impossible to not think of Brian Giles for Ricardo Rincon when thinking about this deal.
Jeff D'Amico is a decent minor league pickup. He's shown it once before and maybe lightning will strike twice. Yeah, you'd like to see someone more proven (or just plain better) but at least they didn't throw guaranteed money at him (and even if there is some, it's probably not a whole lot of jack).
Anyone know where Kevin Orie played last season?
Luther Hackman is cool but if he spends a lot of time in Cleveland this season something has gone wrong in the bullpen (or something went very right for Luther).
Matt Miller is more triple-A insurance for the bullpen and if this is the guy who pitched in Colorado Springs last year he posted some pretty nasty numbers (83 K in 63.1 IP).
The Indians also announced that Carl Sadler was re-signed to a minor league contract. With Stewart aboard, he'll likely start next year in Buffalo unless he has a dominating spring. That's probably the best thing for him after his disappointing 2003.
The Hall of Fame will announce the class of 2004 this afternoon and you can listen to the announcement live on mlb radio. The 31 players (former Indians in bold) on the ballot are: Bert Blyleven, Joe Carter, Dave Concepcion, Danny Darwin, Andre Dawson, Doug Drabek, Dennis Eckersley, Jim Eisenreich, CeCil Fielder, Steve Garvey, Rich Gossage, Keith Hernandez, Tommy John, Jimmy Key, Dennis Martinez, Don Mattingly, Kevin Mitchell, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Randy Myers, Dave Parker, Terry Pendleton, Jim Rice, Juan Samuel, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Dave Stieb, Bruce Sutter, Bob Tewksbury, Alan Trammell, Fernando Valenzuela.
BERT BLYLEVEN (1981-1985)
Acquired from the Pirates along with Manny Sanguillen (who never played for the Indians) for Gary Alexander, Victor Cruz, Rafael Vasquez, and Bob Owchinko (man that was a great deal for the Tribe) at the 1980 winter meetings, Blyleven spent four and a half seasons pitching for the Tribe from 1981-1985, posting a 48-37 record and 3.23 ERA. His 1984 season was the highlight of his Indians tenure as he went 19-7 with a 2.87 ERA, allowing just 204 hits in 245 innings with 170 strikeouts. Traded to the Twins on August 1, 1985 for Curt Wardle, Jim Weaver, Rich Yett, and Jay Bell, his Indian legacy can be felt to this day as Bell was later traded to the Pirates for Felix Fermin who was eventually dispatched to Seattle for Omar Vizquel. Blyleven finished his career with 287 wins (25th all-time), 3,701 strikeouts (5th all-time), 60 shutouts (9th all-time), and a 3.31 career ERA (as compared to the 3.81 league average during his career). Possessing one of the most memorable curveballs in history along with one of the best Bermanisms ("Be Home" Blyleven), he's definitely the best product of the Netherlands to ever grace the diamond but I'm not so sure he's a hall of famer. If there was a "Hall of the Very Good", he'd be a lock.
JOE CARTER (1984-1989)
Joltin' Joe was involved in two of the biggest Indians trades of the 1980s when he was first acquired from the Cubs in June 1984 along with Mel "The Gunfighter" Hall, Darryl Banks, and Don "The Rock" Schulze for Rick Sutcliffe, George Frazier, and Ron Hassey and then was shipped to the Padres in December 1989 for Sandy Alomar, Chris James, and Carlos Baerga in the deal that began the Indians rise to prominence in the mid-90s.
Carter was a good, not great, player for the Indians. In five seasons, he smacked 151 homers and drove in 530 runs but managed to post an OPS over .800 only once. That figure came in his career-year (OPS-wise) of 1986 when he hit .302/.335/.514/.849 with 36 doubles, 9 triples, 29 homeruns, drove in 121 runs, stole 29 bases, which led to all sorts of false expectations that eventually led Sports Illustrated to pick the Indians as their preseason American League favorite in 1987 (oy vay). While it's true he was an "RBI machine" (thanks to Brett Butler and Julio Franco hitting in front of him), his inability to draw a walk (.309 Cleveland OBP, .306 career OBP) will forever make baseball analysts wonder "what if" he could have exercised a little more judgment at the plate.
Carter will forever be remembered by baseball fans for his homerun off Mitch "The Stitch" Williams ($1 to Dr.Sale) in the 1993 World Series but Indians fans will likely remember him more for his countless popups to second base with the game on the line. Not to mention his run-in with Tribe management over the right for families to fly with the ballclub (or something like that). Carter finished his career with averages of .259/.306/.464/.771 and 396 homeruns. He also earned $47 million (according to baseball-reference.com) during his career which is just an astounding figure to me. Good, solid career but no hall of famer.
DENNIS ECKERSLEY (1975-1977)
Originally drafted by the Indians in the 3rd round of the 1972 draft, the Eck made his major league debut in 1975 and spent three seasons with the Tribe before being dealt, along with Fred Kendall, to the Red Sox in March 1978 for Rick Wise, Mike Paxton, Ted Cox, and Bo Diaz. I was seven years old and I all remember thinking was that Mike Paxton and Ted Cox were going to be awesome. They had to be if we traded Eckersley for them, right? Yeah, right.
Eckersley's best season with the Tribe was his rookie year of 1975 when he went 13-7 with a 2.60 ERA (186.2 IP, 147 H, 152 K) and his three-year tenure (40-32, 3.23) was highlighted by his May 30, 1977 no-hitter against the California Angels. Of course, Eckersley went on to greater fame and fortune, first as a starter with the Red Sox and then as a closer with the A's and he finished his 24-year major league career with a 197-171 record, 3.50 ERA, and 390 saves.
It's going to be very interesting to see how the voters evaluate his body of work as his career is distinctly broken down into 12 years as a starter (with some very good years and some very bad years), six years as a dominant closer, and six years as an average closer. He doesn't hit any of the automatic starting pitcher benchmarks (250 or 300 wins, 3000 strikeouts) and relievers have not gotten a whole lot of respect from the voters in recent years (see Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage, Lee Smith). He was good, even great at times, and he and Tony LaRussa changed the way late innings are managed (I'll let you decide if that's good or bad) but does that make him one of the best players of all-time? Like I said, it's going to be interesting.
CECIL FIELDER (1998)
Signed as a free-agent on August 13, 1998, the big guy didn't even make it through the end of the season as a 5-for-35 performance resulted in his release on September 18. A memorable player, mostly due to his prodigious girth as well as the prodigious longballs he smacked into the upper reaches of Tiger Stadium, Fielder finished his career with a .827 OPS and 319 homeruns. Twenty years from now, it will be interesting to see how his son, Brewers uber-prospect Prince Fielder, compares to the father.
KEITH HERNANDEZ (1990-1991)
"Nice game pretty boy." I couldn't have said it any better myself, Newman. Signed to a two-year, $3.5 million contract as a free-agent in December 1989, Hernandez accumulated only 130 at-bats (.200 with one homerun) with the Indians before choosing to spend the next year and a half rehabbing from various ailments on the dance floors of New York City discos. Pretty boy, indeed.
TOMMY JOHN (1963-1964)
Signed with the Tribe as a free-agent in 1961 (draft began in 1965) and went 2-11 with a 3.61 ERA in two seasons with the Indians before being dealt to the White Sox in 1965 in a three-team deal that brought Rocky Colavito back to the North Coast. Unfortunately for the Tribe, the Rock was pretty much washed up and John went on to pick up 286 more wins in a 26-year major league career. Known more for the ligament transplant surgery that bears his name, John posted a 3.34 career ERA along with all those wins. I did find it interesting, however, that a pitcher that close to 300 wins would have allowed more than a hit an inning for his career.
DENNIS MARTINEZ (1994-1996)
One of the best free-agent signings of the John Hart era, El Presidente made 72 starts and went 32-17 with a 3.58 ERA in his three seasons with the Indians. He also made several memorable starts in the 1995 postseason and finished his career with a 245-193 record and a 3.70 ERA. Those numbers would be even better if not for a rough four-year period from 1983-1986 when Martinez went 29-42 with a 5.14 ERA. It's not unreasonable that he could have finished with 280 wins and a 3.50 ERA with four good/normal seasons and we'd probably be looking at a near-lock hall of famer.
KEVIN MITCHELL (1997)
Hit .153 with four homeruns in 59 at-bats to start the 97 season before being released in June. Perhaps best known during his days with the Indians for failing to complete the dreaded Warrior run in spring training.
JACK MORRIS (1994)
Spent more time tending to his farm in Montana between starts then he did pitching for the Indians and that ultimately led to his release on August 9 before he could complete one season with the Tribe. He did make 23 starts, however, and went 10-6 with a 5.60 ERA. Morris is a strange player for me to evaluate as a hall of fame candidate because growing up in the 80s there was no doubt that Morris was one of the best pitchers in the game and a surefire hall of famer. Now, however, when you look back at his numbers, while they are impressive, a 254-186 record and a 3.90 ERA (compared to the league average of 4.06) pales next to Bert Blyleven and they're certainly not anymore (or less) impressive than Dennis Martinez in my opinion. He pitched some big games and pitched extremely well against the Indians (which may explain my 80s bias) but I don't see him worthy of selection to the hall. Another candidate for the Hall of the Very Good.
As for my ballot, I think I would have voted for Ryne Sandberg and left it at that. Baseball Prospectus conducted the STAT-LG Internet Hall of Fame Voting again this year and the results are now posted for your review.
Kenny Lofton signed a two-year, $6.2 million contract with the Yankees and his signing will likely move Bernie Williams to the DH spot (with Matsui and Sheffield manning the corners). After bottoming out with a .721 OPS during his final season with the Indians in 2001, Lofton has actually raised both his OBP and SLG (.763 and .800 OPS respectively) the last two seasons which is unusual for a 36-year old. He's not a bad sign but did the Yankees really have to give him two years?
Julio Franco re-signed with the Braves on a minor league deal that will pay him a reported $750k if he makes the big league roster.
Damian Jackson is close to signing with the Rockies.
Troy Cameron signed a minor league deal with the White Sox, Jacob Cruz hooked up with the Reds, Joe Roa with the Twins, and Jon Hamilton with the Cardinals.
Pokey Reese signed with the Red Sox for one year and one million dollars. Chris Stynes signed a one year, $975k deal with the Pirates. Eric Young is close to signing with the Rangers.
On the starting pitcher front, Shane Reynolds and Steve Sparks signed with the Diamondbacks for $1 million and $500k respectively. Jason Johnson got a two-year, $7 million deal from the Tigers while Cory Lidle signed for a year and $2.75 million with the Reds.
January 05, 2004
CIR UPDATE: LUTHER!
The Indians also announced the signing of Luther Hackman, Matt Miller, and Kevin Orie to minor league deals. Luther in Cleveland, how sweet it is.
CIR UPDATE: Indians sign Jeff D'Amico
The Indians signed veteran right-hander Jeff D'Amico to a minor league contract yesterday that includes an invite to spring training. D'Amico will compete with Jake Westbrook, Jason Stanford, and Jason Bere (among others) for one of the two open rotation spots. He went 9-16 with a 4.77 ERA for the Pirates last season in 175 innings. He has a history of injuries but has been healthy the last two seasons (didn't we say that about Jason Bere last year?). Still, he pitched extremely well in 2000 (2.66 ERA) and as a minor league signing, this one isn't so bad.
CIR UPDATE: Indians acquire Scott Stewart
The Indians acquired left-handed reliever Scott Stewart from the Montreal Expos today in exchange for Ryan Church and Maicer Izturis. Stewart went 3-1 with a 3.98 ERA in 43 innings for the Expos last season and missed 1-1/2 months with appendicitis. Church was on the 40-man roster but was blocked by all the outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart while Izturis went unclaimed in the recent Rule 5 draft. When healthy, Stewart can be a tough lefty but that's what they said about Ricardo Rincon too. More tomorrow.
CIR UPDATE: Baez to sign with Tampa Bay
According to the Plain Dealer and the Tampa Tribune, Danys Baez is close to signing a two-year contract with Tampa Bay where he will supplant Lance Carter as the D-Rays closer. The Tampa Tribune reports that he'll earn $6 million over two years with a third year option while Paul Hoynes reports in the PD that the total value of the contract, including the option, could be worth $10.5 million. Baez also took a parting shot at current Indians management in the PD when he was quoted as saying "The loyal fans of Cleveland deserve better. Hopefully some day, management will recognize this." More in the next CIR (which should be tomorrow).