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October 29, 2004
CIR UPDATE: IBWA Awards Announced
The first annual Internet Baseball Writers Association awards were announced this evening.
In the AL, Vlad Guerrero won Player of the Year, Johan Santana won Pitcher of the Year, Bobby Crosby won Debut of the Year, Buck Showalter won Manager of the Year, and Theo Epstein won Executive of the Year. Notice the support for both Travis Hafner and Jake Westbrook in the Player and Pitcher of the Year awards. Also, E-Wedge and Mark Shapiro garnering some support in the Manager and Suit categories.
In the NL, Barry Bonds won Player of the Year, Randy Johnson was named Pitcher of the Year, Khalil Greene won Debut of the Year, Bobby Cox was dubbed the Best Skipper, and Walt Jocketty won the Executive of the Year.
It's going to be interesting to see how the IBWA voting compares to the BBWAA voting in the upcoming weeks.
CIR UPDATE: Vizquel and Wickman file
Nothing unexpected, but Omar Vizquel and Bob Wickman both officially filed for free agency today. More in the next CIR.
October 28, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Elarton joins 2005 rotation
The Indians announced today that they have signed free-agent-to-be Scott Elarton to a one-year contract. Terms were not disclosed. Interesting move, if only for its occurence on day one of the free-agent filing period. Looks like we can pencil in Elarton for the number five spot in the rotation following CC, Matt Clement (errr, I mean a free-agent), Jake Westbrook, and Cliff Lee. More in the next CIR, but here's more from the official release...
"Elarton spent most of the 2004 season in the Indians starting rotation where he compiled a record of 3-5 with a 4.53 ERA in 21 starts (117.1IP, 107H, 59ER, 42BB, 80K) and limited hitters to a .240 (107-446) average against during his tenure with Cleveland. Scott made 8 starts with Colorado in April and May before signing a contract with the Tribe on May 25. Scott improved as the season progressed, going 3-3 with a 3.93 ERA (87.0IP, 81H, 38ER, 57K) over his last 14 starts with Cleveland. Scott tossed his first career Major League shutout on August 29 vs. Chicago-AL (9.0IP, 2H, 0R, 1BB, 6K) and over his last 7 starts from August 29th on his ERA was 3.27 (44.0IP, 34H, 16ER). His 4.12 second half ERA was the 2nd best mark among Indians starters next to Jake Westbrook's 3.55.
Elarton, 28, owns a career Major League record of 39-38 with a 5.22 ERA in 164 games/110 starts (716.2IP, 732H, 416ER, 518K) since breaking into the big leagues in 1998 with the Houston Astros. Was one of Houston's best pitchers from 1998-2000, going 17-7 with a 4.81 ERA in a career high 30 starts for the Astros in 2000 as his 17 wins were tied for 6th in the National League. Elarton, who was eligible for free agency, was a first round selection (25th overall) by Houston in the 1994 draft out of Lamar, CO."
Late Note: Justice B. Hill is reporting on mlb.com that Elarton signed for $850,000 with an additional $150,000 to be earned in incentives. The right-hander earned $480,000 last season.
October 26, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Tuesday, October 26
Hey, this Fox Diamond Cam on mlb.com is pretty cool.
St.Louis and Boston are not the only cities where baseball is being played this October. While the media hype may be slightly less (just a little), hardball is also being played in Arizona this fall by a cast of future major leaguers. Winter leagues in Mexico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic have also started play with Puerto Rico set to begin in mid-November. Following is our first off-season look at how Tribe players are faring in winter ball.
While the record may not be pretty at 6-11, the Indians contingent on the Peoria Javelins in the Arizona Fall League have generally impressed, especially at the plate. Leading the way is Ryan Garko who continues to mash after a stellar .332/.417/.565/.982, 33 double, 22 homerun, and 102 RBI campaign combined at Kinston, Akron, and Buffalo this past season. In 55 fall at-bats, Garko has ripped nine extra-base hits (five doubles and four dingers), plating 17 runs in the process, and is raking at a .364/.400/.673/1.073 clip. He's 8th in the league in BA (.364), tied for second in dingers (4), third in ribbies (17), fifth in slugging (.673), and fourth in hits (20). Garko is splitting time between catching (seven games), first base (six games) and DH (one game).
Compared to Tigers prospect Chris Shelton, who is also tearing up the AFL with a .479 average (23-for-48), by Carolina League managers this season and Twins role-bat Matt LeCroy by Indians brass late this season for his good-hit, no-position in the field resume, I prefer to aim higher and compare Garko to Royals all-star first-basemen, and former catcher, Mike Sweeney.
Think I'm crazy? Well, perhaps I am. But take at look at Sweeney's 1995 season as a 22-year old in Wilmington (.310/.548, 23 2B, 18 HR) as compared to Garko's 2004 season at Kinston as a 23-year old (.329/.609, 17 2B, 16 HR). Note also that Garko had 100 fewer at-bats than Sweeney. Now, it's true that Sweeney showed incredible plate discipline (60 BB / 39 K) as opposed to Garko (26 BB / 34 K) but it's not like Ryan was up there hacking away. In fact, he was far from it. It's also true that the one-year age difference between the two needs to be taken into account as does the fact that Garko was generally considered old for the Carolina League at age 23. But you could counter that by saying that Sweeney's '95 season was his fifth season in pro ball whereas last year was Garko's first full year as a professional. Given that he continued to rake at Akron as well as during a late season promotion to Buffalo and continues to do so in the Arizona Fall League, I think the potential bar for Garko needs to be raised. Hey, it's the off-season, it's ok to be optimistic.
Note: Garko is not Rule 5 eligible and does not need to be added to the 40-man roster this off-season.
Kevin Kouzmanoff is also off to a hot start for the Javelins, hitting .353/.382/.569/.951 with five doubles and a pair of homeruns. Like Garko, his fellow 2003 draft alum, Kouz continues to press for more recognition as a top prospect. Also like Garko, because he was drafted as a college senior and was considered old for his league last season, Kouzmanoff is going to have prove his bat at higher levels. So far, though, all signs are positive.
Jason Cooper (13-for-46) has six doubles and is hitting .283, although he also has struck out 11 times with no walks. For that matter, Kouz also has 11 whiffs to three walks while Garko has two free passes with seven punchouts. Just something to keep an eye on. Dave Wallace, playing twice a week as a member of the taxi squad, is 3-for-11 with a pair of two-baggers.
On the mound, Jake Dittler has a 1.50 ERA through four starts, striking out nine while allowing 15 hits and five walks in 12 innings. Landon Stockman has made nine appearances covering 12.1 innings with a 2.92 ERA. Dan Denham and Keith Ramsey have both struggled with Denham having a 14.04 ERA in five appearances and Ramsey a 15.00 ERA also in five appearances. Both have been plauged by the longball with each serving up three big flys.
In Venezuela, Franklin Gutierrez has eight extra-base hits in 39 at-bats and is hitting .385/.442/.744/1.186 with three homeruns. Nice to see the power stroke return but, more importantly, it's just nice to see Franklin healthy and playing again after he missed the last two months of the season with an elbow injury.
Yawnnnnn, it's getting late. More on the winter leagues in the next report.
October 22, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Indians sign Howry
Bob Howry and the Indians agreed to a one-year contract for 2005 today. Howry would have been eligible for arbitration this off-season. No terms were announced. I wonder if there are incentives included in the deal should Howry assume the closers role next season? More in the next CIR.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Friday, October 22
Recently I was asked to participate in the inaugural post-season awards voting by the Internet Baseball Writers Association (IBWA). The IBWA honors will be released in November when MLB and BBWAA announce their winners but I thought I would share my ballot with you. Here we go...
AMERICAN LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Johan Santana (20-6, 2.61, 0.921 WHIP, 265K)
-- The most dominating player in the American League.
2. Manny Ramirez (.308/.397/.613/1.009, 43 HR, 130 RBI)
-- Hard to believe he's been in Boston for four years. Sacrificed some average and plate discipline this year for more power. Still ended up with basically the same OPS.
3. Vladimir Guerrero (.337/.391/.598/.989, 39 HR, 126 RBI)
-- Just wait until he gets used to AL pitching.
4. David Ortiz (.301/.380/.603/.983, 41 HR, 139 RBI)
-- A freaking monster.
5. Melvin Mora (.340/.419/.562/.981, 27 HR, 104 RBI)
-- Does anyone realize just how good Mora was this season?
6. Gary Sheffield (.290/.393/.534/.927, 36 HR, 121 RBI)
-- He'll probably fare much better in the MVP voting than I'm showing here. Great numbers, but they're actually down from years past
7. Curt Schilling (21-6, 3.26, 1.066 WHIP, 203 K)
--Did exactly what the Red Sox wanted. A 203:35 K/BB ratio? Nice.
8. Joe Nathan (44/47 Sv, 1.62 ERA, 0.982 WHIP, 89K, 72.1 IP)
-- The best closer in the AL. Mariano Rivera had more saves (53 of 57) but Nathan was just a little more dominant in my mind (Rivera's numbers: 53 of 57, 1.94 ERA, 1.080 WHIP, 66K, 78.2 IP).
9. Ichiro Suzuki (.372/.414/.455/.869, 262 hits, 36 SB)
-- With all those hits, still only ranked 22nd in OPS. Still, his combination of average, speed, defense, and historic season gets him in the top ten.
10. Travis Hafner (.311/.410/.583/.993, 28 HR, 109 RBI)
-- Did you know that Hafner had the second best OPS in the American League last year at .993? Some observers would say that means he was the second best hitter in the circuit last year. Pretty impressive. Lack of speed and defense drop him down the overall list but there's no doubt that Hafner enjoyed a monster year.
NATIONAL LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Barry Bonds (.362/.609/.812/1.422, 45 HR, 232 BB)
-- As great as Beltre, Pujols, and Edmonds were this season how can Bonds not be a unamimous choice? I shudder to think what his strato card will look like next year.
2. Adrian Beltre (.334/.388/.629/1.017, 48 HR, 121 RBI)
-- Carried the Dodgers with little help in the lineup. That earns the second place nod over the Cardinals gang.
3. Albert Pujols (.331/.415/.657/1.072, 46 HR, 123 RBI)
4. Jim Edmonds (.301/.418/.643/1.061, 42 HR, 111 RBI)
-- How did Brandon Backe hold these guys to one-hit?
5. Randy Johnson (16-14, 2.60, 0.902 WHIP, 290K)
-- The best pitcher in the National League this season. If he was on the Astros or Cardinals, he'd be pushing 25 wins. A 290:44 K/BB ratio? A WHIP under 1.000? The Unit was the best this year and it's not all that close in my opinion.
6. Scott Rolen (.314/.409/.598/1.007, 34 HR, 124 RBI)
-- The third member of the Cards killer lineup.
7. Carlos Beltran (.267/.367/.548/.925, 38 HR, 42 SB)
Those are combined numbers with KC and Houston. Power, speed, and defense. I had to get him in top 10 in one of the leagues.
8. JD Drew (.305/.436/.569/1.006)
-- Picked a great time (free-agency) for a career year. Staying healthy helps.
9. Roger Clemens (18-4, 2.98, 1.158 WHIP, 218K)
-- Another tremendous year for the Rocket. Pitching more than half his games in the Maid gives him the nod over Schmidt. Both were unbelieveable this year.
10. Jason Schmidt (18-7, 3.20, 1.076 WHIP, 251K)
AMERICAN LEAGUE PITCHER OF THE YEAR
1. Johan Santana
2. Curt Schilling
3. Joe Nathan
NATIONAL LEAGUE PITCHER OF THE YEAR
1. Randy Johnson
2. Roger Clemens
3. Jason Schmidt
AMERICAN LEAGUE DEBUT OF THE YEAR
1. Bobby Crosby (.239/.319/.426/.744, 22 HR)
-- Not the best overall numbers but clutch hitting, solid defense, up the middle, in a pennant race, while replacing Miguel Tejada gets the nod.
2. Justin Morneau (.271/.340/.536/.875, 19 HR, 280 AB)
-- I came thisclose to voting Morneau number one but I just couldn't do it with him having only 280 at-bats. I am not looking forward to having Tribe hurlers face him for the next five years.
3. Lew Ford (.299/.381/.446/.827, 15 HR, 20 SB)
-- Solid debut with nice overall numbers.
Note (10/22 PM): Just received word from the IBWA that Lew Ford is not eligible for the Debut of the Year award. So let's remove Lew from third and replace him with Royals starter Zack Greinke (8-11, 3.97)
NATIONAL LEAGUE DEBUT OF THE YEAR
1. Khalil Greene (.278/.349/.446/.795, 15 HR, 484 AB)
-- Tremendous defense, up the middle, in a pennant race. And he wasn't a pushover at the plate either.
2. Jason Bay (.282/.358/.550/.907, 26 HR, 411 AB)
-- The Pirates have a keeper here. He just has to stay healthy.
3. David Wright (.293/.332/.525/.857, 14 HR, 263 AB)
-- The likely winner if he had played a full season. How can I trade up to get him in the NASA draft?
AMERICAN LEAGUE MANAGER OF THE YEAR
1. Buck Showalter (89-73, 3rd)
-- No one expected the Rangers to be near .500 this season, let alone contend until the final week. Not with the aftermath of the A-Rod trade and no starting pitching. Somehow, Showalter had them do it. Great job.
2. Joe Torre (101-61, 1st)
-- With all the success Torre has had in New York, I think we all may underestimate what it's like to manage in the Big Apple and, more specifically, for the Boss. Like LaRussa, wrote down an unbelievable lineup 162 times but also worked in major egos A-Rod and Sheffield into the mix while dealing with a roller coaster pitching staff.
3. Terry Francona (98-64, W/C)
-- Another manager with a ton of talent who delivered amid the pressure and high expectations.
NATIONAL LEAGUE MANAGER OF THE YEAR
1. Jim Tracy (93-69, 1st)
-- Did the most with the least while also dealing with the loss of the Dodgers most popular player in Paul LoDuca.
2. Phil Garner (92-70, W/C)
-- Like Jack McKeon last year, took over at mid-season and led the Astros to the wildcard. Houston was 48-26 under Scrap Iron.
3. Tony LaRussa (105-57, 1st)
-- Managed a questionable rotation and injured bullpen while successfully managing to write down that lineup correctly 162 times.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR
1. Terry Ryan (92-70, 1st)
-- Replaced his bullpen, found a closer and a starter in trade, and continued to work the kids into the lineup while working on a shoestring.
2. Theo Epstein (98-64, W/C)
-- Adding Schilling in the off-season was obviously huge but the Garciaparra deal for defense (Cabrera and Mientkiewica) set the stage for the Sox second half surge.
3. Bill Stoneman (92-70, 1st)
-- Spent his money wisely in the off-season with Vlad, Bartolo, and Kelvim.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR
1. Walt Jocketty (105-57, 1st)
-- Added Jason Marquis while replacing JD Drew with Reggie Sanders. Signed Chris Carpenter who became the ace of the staff. Fortified lineup with Larry Walker mid-season. Other guys may get the press but Jocketty (Edmonds, Rolen, Renteria trades from years past) always makes the right moves and keeps the Cards in the hunt. This year was the coming together of all those moves.
2. John Schuerholz (96-66, 1st)
-- Lost Javy Lopez, Greg Maddux, and Gary Sheffield but still had the Braves raising another NL East pennant in September. Johnny Estrada made the Kevin Millwood look one-sided (in the Braves favor), JD Drew bolstered the offense, John Thomson and Jaret Wright were solid in the rotation, and again demonstrated that he's not afraid to work a youngster (or two) into the lineup.
3. Paul DePodesta (93-69, 1st)
-- Best move may have been to not put "his guy" in as manager and replace Jim Tracy. The Bradley deal set the tone the Dodgers were serious about contending this year. Added Steve Finley at the break, keeping him away from the Padres and/or Giants. Made the unpopular move of trading Paul LoDuca (among others) but he was right and it didn't hurt the club. Too bad Brad Penny went down with arm problems.
So it's Boston and St.Louie in the World Series. Just like I predicted. Ok, I wasn't going too far out on the prognostication limb with those selections but I'm still pretty pleased (and amazed) that I've only missed on the Yanks-Twins series. If only I could transfer that run over to my weekly football pool where I am seriously comtemplating going the reverse route. You know, that's when you make your picks and then submit the reserve entry. Yes, it's been that bad this year.
Thanks to everyone who wrote in with their well wishes and support after my bout with vertigo last week. I'm still not 100% but it's improving every day. This past Wednesday was the first day that I really felt back to normal (shaddup!), especially after I found myself walking straight down the white lines at work for the first time in two weeks. Of course, I'm still off (shaddup!) a little in the mornings (I'd make Sheldon Kornpett proud with the way I serpentine down the driveway to get the newspaper) but, like I said, it's getting better every day.
Back to the Tribe news next week. Enjoy the Series everyone!
October 21, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Thursday, October 21
The Indians announced their 2005 schedule today. Among the highlights are:
Opening Day: Monday, April 4 at Chicago (3:05 PM)
Home Opener: Monday, April 11 vs Chicago (3:05 PM)
Home Interleague: Colorado, Arizona, Cincinnati
Road Interleague: Cincinnati, San Diego, San Francisco
Yanks Visit: August 2-4
Red Sox Visit: June 20-22
Longest Road Trip: 12 games from May 31-June 12 through Minnesota, Chicago, San Diego, and San Francisco
Longest Home Stand: 12 games from June 14 through June 26 (Colorado, Arizona, Boston, and Cincinnati)
Note: There's also an 11-game homestand right after the All-Star Break against Chicago, Kansas City, and Seattle.
Season Ends: Sunday, October 2 at home against Chicago. The last six games of the season are at the Jake (Tampa Bay and Chicago).
-- The first 14 games of the season are against the AL Central. 23 of the first 28 games are against the AL Central.
-- 25 of the final 31 games are against the AL Central.
-- The Tribe plays Minnesota three times in April, eight times in May, two times in June, and seven times in September.
-- The Tribe plays the White Sox six times in April, three times in June, four times in July, and six times in September.
-- August (on paper) looks promising with 23 games against the Tigers, Royals, Devil Rays, Orioles, and Blue Jays.
-- May 23-June 12 (on paper) looks tough with 19 games against the Twins, A's, White Sox, Padres, and Giants.
-- The Indians play two two-game series in Anaheim (April 20-21, May 10-11). Hey, that's double the fun for the West Coast backers.
Not a bad schedule at first glance. Nice opportunity to start strong and finish strong. Tickets for the home opener go on sale the day after Thanksgiving while tickets for the remaining 80 games go on sale March 4.
You have to read The Sports Guy. Make sure you start with Game 1.
October 20, 2004
CIR UPDATE: MLB on XM
Here's some good news for you out-of-town fans. MLB is expected to announce a programming deal with XM Satellite Radio today that will allow XM to broadcast every game for every major league team beginning next season. No word yet on the cost of the package or what affect (if any) this would have on MLB's internet broadcasts. At the cost of $470 million over eight years, each team should net an additional $1.5-2.0 million in revenue per year which will buy a decent set-up man for the 'pen. MLB also has the option to extend the deal for an additional three years at $60 million/year. Yet another option for you out-of-towners to tune into the Tribe.
CIR UPDATE: Hargrove to skipper Mariners
The Seattle Times is reporting today that the Seattle Mariners have chosen former Tribe skipper and current Indians Assistant to the General Manager Mike Hargrove as their new manager. Another former Indian, Grady Little, was reportedly the other finalist. When the hiring becomes official remains to be seen as major league baseball typically does not allow major announcements during the postseason without Bud's permission. Like the Orioles job he took after being fired by the Indians after the 1999 season, Grover faces another rebuilding project with the Mariners in an extremely competitive division.
October 14, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Vertigo
If you've never had it, let me just say that it's a very strange experience that I can only describe as a cross between extreme motion sickness and the worst hangover of your life. And I don't wish it on anyone. I've been dealing with Vertigo since Sunday afternoon but I'm slowly improving and hope to resume posting this weekend. Hey, it's kind of hard to type when the keyboard and monitor are swirling around in a circle ;-). In that sense, I suppose that I've been upgraded from doubtful to questionable to borrow from the NFL injury report. Fortunately, there hasn't been much going on in regards to the Tribe. They did officially decline to pick up Omar's option (which was expected) and they also added Scott Sauerbeck to the 40-man roster. That move will be covered in the next report. Now that I think about, the next CIR will likely be posted on Monday. Talk to you then!
October 07, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Hafner under the Knife
Travis Hafner underwent successful surgery on Wednesday to remove bone spurs from his right elbow. Pronk is expected to be on an eight-to-ten rehab program and report to spring training 100%. More in the next CIR.
CIR UPDATE: Roster Moves
The Indians outrighted Ernie Young, Jake Robbins, and Ivan Ochoa off the 40-man roster. The move leaves 37 players on the 40 which does not yet include the players currently on the 60-day disabled list (Aaron Boone, Jason Stanford, etc.). They'll be added to the 40 later in the off-season when the roster count is reduced further as players file for free agency. More in the next CIR.
October 06, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Wednesday, October 6
Omar Vizquel will be the Cleveland Indians starting shortstop on opening day 2005 provided that Mark Shapiro can move Matt Lawton this off-season. That's my inference/speculation based on comments made by the Indians General Manager in his end of the season press conference yesterday at the Jake.
1) Aaron Boone is the third baseman. While he's played some second in the past, his knees limit him to the hot corner. That means Casey Blake needs to find a new home.
2) Ben Broussard is the first baseman. Aside from third, this is the only other position that Blake has played in the big leagues. With Travis Hafner and Josh Phelps, a fellow righty, also potentially available to play first, Blake's not likely to see much time at the bag next year.
3) Over the past few weeks, the Indians have let it be known that they feel Blake is versatile enough to play either second base or the outfield which hints at his likely destinations for 2005.
4) One of Jhonny Peralta and/or Brandon Phillips will likely be in the starting lineup next April but not both. That's been the speculation for most of this season and has been confirmed, although they did leave some wiggle room, by both Eric Wedge and Mark Shapiro within the last week. Peralta split time at short and third this season at Buffalo while Phillips spent time at both second and short.
5) The projected starting outfield next year is Coco Crisp, Grady Sizemore, and Matt Lawton. Mark Shapiro confirmed Coco Crisp while Eric Wedge pretty much made it seem in his end of the season comments that Sizemore will have to play himself out of a position next spring. That leaves Lawton and if he's on the roster, he's starting.
Adding it all up, if the outfield is Crisp, Sizemore, and Lawton that leaves second base as the only option in the field for Casey Blake. Which means, if one of the kids is going to start up the middle, that either Jhonny Peralta or Brandon Phillips will be the starting shortstop in 2005. If, however, the Indians can move Matt Lawton this off-season, Casey Blake could shift to the outfield, allowing Brandon Phillips to start at second, and a re-signed Omar to start at short with Jhonny Peralta (or Phillips) assuming a utility role.
One caveat here and that's that the Indians could very well simply play Casey Blake at second, re-sign Omar for short, and let Peralta and Phillips battle for a utility role. But here's why I don't think that will happen.
Big surprise, huh?
Aside from the field logistics noted above, I suspect the only way the Indians can free up enough money to re-sign Omar is by moving Matt Lawton. Let's not forget that the Indians already traded Omar once (to Seattle this past off-season where the deal was voided after Omar failed his physical) and I think it's safe to say that the Indians (and us) were pleasantly surprised by the performance turned in by Omar at the plate and in the field this season. Based on that, I don't think a re-signing of Omar was ever in the Indians plans and, therefore, money with which to do so was not forecasted into the off-season budget. To his credit, Vizquel has forced the Indians to at least consider the possibility of bringing him back but it appears they're going to need to free up some money in order to do so.
Matt Lawton is due to make $7.5 million next year. In today's market (or any market for that matter), that's a lot of jack for a poor defender with a sub .800 OPS who only hit .250/.721 with five homeruns in the second half. That's not to say that Lawton is not productive, he can run (23 steals), has some power (45 extra-bases), and can get on base when he's not swinging the bat well (74 walks). He's just not worth $7.5 million. Fortunately, he's in the last year of his contract which makes moving him slightly easier. If the Indians were to absorb a large percentage of his contract ($4-5 million), I could see Lawton drawing interest on the trade market as a one-year player. Keep in mind that the actual cost to the acquiring team would only be $2.5-3.5 million depending on how much of Lawton's contract the Indians would absorb plus a couple of fringe prospects which isn't that bad of a deal, but then I do speak with a slight bias.
At any rate, if the Indians are able to move Lawton, not only could they slide Casey Blake into the outfield, but they could also use the money saved ($2.5-$3.5 million based on the example above) to re-sign Omar Vizquel. How much Omar would actually accept in salary and what the Indians would max out with in terms of an offer remains to be seen but those dollars just mentioned should be pretty close.
Trading Lawton will not be easy, especially when you realize that the above will need to happen quickly this off-season. The Indians have already made it public that they will buy out Omar's existing $5 million 2004 option and allow him to become a free-agent. After the World Series, Omar's agent will make it official and file for free-agency. Fifteen days after the end of the Series, Vizquel will be free to negotiate with all 30 teams. By December 7, the Indians will need to decide whether or not to offer Vizquel arbitration. The pro to this is that if Omar signs elsewhere, the Indians would likely receive a first-round draft pick as compensation. The con is that if Omar accepts arbitration, the Indians would likely end up paying him close to or more than his current year salary of $6.25 million. In short, they won't take that risk. It's possible the Indians and Omar could reach an agreement by which Omar agrees to reject arbitration if offered by the Indians but then he would likely be limiting his market value if teams are not interested in parting with a first-round pick for a 38-year old (as of April 2005) shortstop.
(Note: I am speculating Omar would be a Type A free-agent which returns a first-round pick as compensation.)
So, assuming the Indians won't offer arbitration, they would then have until December 20 to sign Vizquel. If they don't, they would not be able to sign him until May 1 which means that he's headed elsewhere.
CORRECTION: If the Indians do not offer arbitration by December 7, I believe that Vizquel could not re-sign with the Indians until May 1. Yup, that's right.
Of course, the wildcard in all the above is that once Vizquel files for free-agency, he'll be free to negotiate with the other 29 teams and not just the Indians. As much as Omar says he wants to stay in Cleveland, if a team like the Cubs or White Sox or (insert team in need of shortstop here) offers him a two-year deal for $8 million plus incentives, that might be too tempting for Omar to turn down, especially if said team has a realistic chance of making some noise in the playoffs and the series.
How much of a market awaits Vizquel remains to be seen. How much of a market there will be for Matt Lawton remains to be seen. So when Mark Shapiro says "it's a long shot" for Omar to return to Cleveland, you can now see what likely needs to transpire for that to happen. First of all, the market for Omar needs to be light both in terms of dollars and longevity which would make it more attractive for him to stay in Cleveland for (probably) less dollars than he could get elsewhere. Secondly, the Indians need to free up the money, even if it is for "less dollars", in order to sign him. To do that, Matt Lawton will likely need to be moved and that's not going to be easy. More than likely, this will all shake down at the Winter Meetings in Anaheim, December 10-13 when the big free-agents start to move and cause a ripple effect in the trade and free-agent market. Only then will the Indians and the Vizquel camp know what the prospective markets are for both Vizquel and Lawton and only then will they be prepared to move.
CORRECTION: With December 7 being the key date, then, obviously, this shortens the time frame to before the Winter Meetings.
Couple of other quick thoughts...
Everything I've said above assumes that Casey Blake can make the switch to either second or the outfield. Without ever having seen him play there, I'll give him and the Indians coaching staff the benefit of the doubt, but either move is a bit of a gamble don't you think? At second, can he turn the double-play? How much range will he have? How much of an impact will this have on Jake Westbrook and the groundballs induced by his sinker? In the outfield, how quickly can Blake make the transition? Especially to right, where the ball will be coming at him from a completely different angle to which he's been accustomed. The Indians seem ready to put a lot of faith in him being able to make the switch.
Ronnie Belliard appears to be out of the picture. Depending on his asking price, and potential market in trade and free-agency (I'm sure his agents will be well aware in anticipation of him being non-tendered), it's possible he could return to the Indians at a club friendly price (meaning close to 2004 dollars). Of course, if that were to happen, where does Blake play if Lawton is not traded?
What does this flirtation with possibly bringing Omar back say about the Indians confidence in Jhonny Peralta? I mean, if Peralta is the long-term solution at short, why would they even bother considering re-signing Omar? Aside from the notion that it's all a PR move to pacify the fans (I hope (and think) they realize we're smarter than that), if Peralta is your long-term solution and he's ready why would you not plug a minimum salary player into that slot and allocate the saved money elsewhere? Does this hint that the Indians have real concerns about Peralta? Perhaps his ability (or difficultly of) making the back-hand play in the hole as has surfaced in recent weeks? Again, if he's the long-term solution at short and he's ready (certainly he has nothing left to prove at the plate in triple-A) what purpose does it serve in delaying his arrival for a year? Because that's all a re-signing of Omar will do. Next off-season we'll all be asking the same question again. Will they re-sign Omar or not? By re-signing Omar this year, are you trying to tell me that he's the difference in this club making the World Series in 2005? Maybe winning the division (or a few more games), I can grant you that as a possibility, not a guarantee. But if the Indians are going to contend in 2005, what are they going to do in 2006-2010? Contend, that's what they're going to do (I say that with such conviction). But if they re-sign Omar this year and go with Peralta in 2006, they're right back in that same quandary of starting a rookie up the middle. And as much as "contention in 2005" has been bandied about, they're more likely to be serious contenders in 2006 through the rest of the decade. It would seem to me that if Peralta is ready, breaking him in now would be the best move for the long-term sustained contention run without hurting the short-term contention of 2005. It would also free up money for other needs which is just as important. That's assuming, of course, that you don't believe that re-signing Omar Vizquel makes the Indians division and/or World Series favorites in 2005. Getting back to my central point in this long-winded paragraph, if Peralta is the long-term solution at short and he's ready, why delay the switch? Why consider delaying the switch? That's the part that doesn't make sense to me.
Finally, if it were me, I would explore every avenue in moving Lawton. Once accomplished (because I'm a good trader in this fantasy), I would still go with Peralta at short and use the Lawton savings (plus some extra from the kitty as needed) to find myself a nice right-handed power bat for the middle of the lineup who can play right-field. But that's another discussion for another time and I'm sleepy.
October 05, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Tuesday, October 5
Just to prove that I can be as horribly inaccurate as everybody else, here's one guy's "guaranteed to be wrong" predictions for the playoffs and World Series.
Minnesota over New York, 3-1
Johan Santana gets the Twins a split in the Bronx tonight and they finish it off in the Dome over the weekend. The kids get to the middle of the Yanks bullpen late in games three and four while the kids in the 'pen close the door.
Boston over Anaheim, 3-2
Troy Percival plays Donnie Moore in this remake of the classic 1986 ALCS. anny Ramirez and Vlad Guerrero demonstrate why they are the two best hitters in the American League.
St.Louis over Los Angeles, 3-1
The Dodgers may take a game in LA but the Cardinals will roll.
Houston over Atlanta, 3-1
Fourth time's the charm for the Astros as they avenge NLDS losses to the Braves in 1997, 1999, and 2001. This time, the Braves don't have the pitching to shutdown the Killer B's with newbees Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman leading the way.
Boston over Minnesota, 4-2
Bill Mueller takes Joe Nathan deep late in Game Six to send the Sox to the Series.
St.Louis over Houston, 4-3
This has all the makings of a classic. Albert Pujols is finally recognized as the best player in the game whose last name doesn't start with a B, end with an S, with an OND in the middle.
St.Louis over Boston, 4-3
The best team in baseball wins it in seven in Fenway. Red Sox nation threatens to throw themselves off the Green Monster until they realize that they made it farther in the playoffs than the Yankees. Then they party like had just swiped the great Wade Boggs pants.
So, the Cardinals are my pick to click and win it all. Back in early April, I had the Cubs knocking off the Yankees in seven games in my preseason predictions. Overall, I didn't fare too badly as I had three of the four AL playoffs teams pegged correctly (CWS instead of Minnesota) and two of the four NL playoffs teams (Chicago and Philly instead of St.Louis and Atlanta). I also finished tied for 9th in Lee Sinins' preseason standings prediction contest which isn't too shabby either. Hey, I am the 1 2 turn 2.
Ok, enough of that nonsense. I'll be back with Indians news on Thursday. See you then.
October 03, 2004
Cleveland Indians Report: Sunday, October 3
I can't believe today is the last day of the regular season.
I can't believe the Tribe is playing "two" on the last day.
I am going to miss Tom Hamilton.
I will be doing my annual double-take at the TV on some random Saturday in January when I hear Hammy broadcasting a Big 10 game for ESPN plus.
I hope Omar goes out on a high-note.
I wonder if John McDonald will be in the starting lineup?
I thought Jason Davis would have been called upon in the 8th inning on Friday.
I saw what the Indians see in Cliff Bartosh during his three-pitch strikeout of Justin Morneau on Friday.
I saw what everyone else sees on the next pitch to Corey Koskie.
I like Bartosh's chances, however, to develop into a solid LOOGY someday.
I told you Lost was one of the top things to watch in September.
I hope David Riske is back next year but...
I have my doubts.
I think Scott Elarton has secured a major league rotation spot somewhere next season
I wonder what Jose Jimenez is doing right now.
I suspect not many people appreciate how good Matt Miller was this season.
I can't wait for the Arizona Fall League to begin (starts Tuesday).
I am glad the "transition" phase ends with the final pitch this afternoon.
I am looking forward to the off-season.