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November 29, 2004  

CIR UPDATE: Otis for Cooperstown?  
Otis Nixon, along with fellow former Indians Tom Candiotti, Jack McDowell, and Mark Langston, are among twelve first-timers on the 2005 Hall of Fame ballot.


November 24, 2004  

CIR UPDATE: Tribe re-signs Wickman  
The Indians announced today that they have re-signed Bob Wickman to a one-year contract to serve as the anchor in the back of Tribe's 'pen in 2005. Terms were not announced but the AP is reporting that the deal is worth a base of $2.75 million with an additional $750k possible in incentives. Up to 10 teams were reportedly interested in Wickman with the Denver Post noting this morning that the Rockies were in on the bidding until last night when the Indians came in with an offer in the $3 million range. With Wickman in the fold, it's going to be interesting to see how much Armando Benetiz signs for, as well as Dustin Hermanson who the Indians were both reportedly in on. With the closer role settled, the Tribe can now turn their attention to landing a starting pitcher. Matt Clement is reportedly the Mets top target to replace Al Leiter, according to NewsDay, while the Twins have made a 3-year $27 million offer to Brad Radke, according to the St.Paul Pioneer Press. Jaret Wright, meanwhile, is now reportedly a long-shot to re-sign with the Braves. More in the next CIR.


November 22, 2004  

Baseball America released their Top 10 Indians Prospects today and they are as follows...

1) Adam Miller
2) Michael Aubrey
3) Franklin Gutierrez
4) Brad Snyder
5) Jeremy Sowers
6) Fausto Carmona
7) Fernando Cabrera
8) Ryan Garko
9) Nick Pesco
10) Andrew Brown

Noticeably absent from the list are last years number two prospect Jeremy Guthrie as well last years number four prospect Jake Dittler. Dittler, bothered by injuries this past season, is a bigger surprise in mind than Guthrie. Also removed from last years list was number seven Jason Cooper. Note that Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, and Jhonny Peralta are ineligible for the BA Top 10 as they have exhausted their MLB rookie eligibility. All in all, the list is pretty straight forward, especially for a BA list. Personally, I would Ryan Garko higher, especially over Jeremy Sowers who has yet to throw an inning in a professional game, but BA has him lower on the list due to his lack of position in the field. I'm not so worried about that at this point. If he keeps hitting like he has, the Indians (or someone else) will find a position for him. More in the next CIR.


November 19, 2004  

CIR UPDATE: Indians finalize 40  
As expected, the Indians added Fausto Carmona, Jake Dittler, and Franklin Gutierrez to the 40-man roster. The move leaves prospects such as Jason Cooper and Dan Denham (among others) exposed to the Rule 5 draft in December. More in the next CIR.


November 16, 2004  

CIR UPDATE: Victor and Pronk get some love  
Victor Martinez received one 7th place in the voting for AL MVP while Travis Hafner received a 9th place vote. Vladimir Guerrero took the honors as the AL's best player with former Indian Manny Ramirez finishing third.

CIR UPDATE: Managers Movin' On Up  
The Indians announced the managers for their six minor league clubs today and they are as follows...

BUFFALO: Marty Brown (3rd year)
AKRON: Torey Lovullo (promoted from Kinston)
KINSTON: Luis Rivera (promoted from Lake County)
LAKE COUNTY: Mike Sarbaugh (promoted from Mahoning Valley)
MAHONING VALLEY: Rouglas Odor (promoted from Burlington)
BURLINGTON: Sean McNally (managerial debut)

Note that Brown, Lovullo, and Sarbaugh all led their 2004 clubs to championships with Brown and Lovullo being named Managers of the Year for their respective circuits.

Former Akron manager Brad Komminsk moves to the big league club where he'll serve as the Indians Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator, a position formerly held by Rick Manning, who will stick to broadcasting this summer. More in the next CIR.


November 15, 2004  

CIR UPDATE: 60 to 40  
The Indians activated Jason Stanford, Aaron Boone, Kaz Tadano, and Jody Gerut from the 60-day disabled list and added them to the 40-man roster. The 40 now stands at 37 with minor leaguers still to be added by the November 19 deadline. More in the next CIR.


November 14, 2004  

CIR UPDATE: Golden Glove heads for the Golden Gate is reporting that Omar Vizquel has agreed to terms with the San Francisco Giants on a three-year, $12.25 million contract. No official word has been issued from the Giants but I would suspect a press conference will be held tomorrow. Perhaps Tuesday or Wednesday if Omar has yet to take a physical, which I assume the Giants would require. Smart move by Omar in moving quickly in a shortstop-laden market, smart move by the Tribe in not matching those years, not necessarily the dollars. Note that no breakdown is yet available on the exact contract terms. The Tribe plays a weekend series in San Francisco next June 10-12, should make for a good time for the West Coast Tribe Backers. More in the next CIR.


November 13, 2004  

CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Saturday, November 13  

Sorry for the recent absence, I've just been exhausted from promoting my new rap album that's coming out next month. Hard-core Canterbury style, straight out of the N.O. The first single, 1-4 (Jez mizd da goodiez), should be hitting the radio next week.


Let the frenzy begin. The free-agency frenzy, that is. With the 15-day filing deadline passed, players are now free to sign with other teams. The Indians are expected to be active with Paul Hoynes noting today in the Plain Dealer that Armando Benitez and Matt Clement are atop the Indians lists. Sounds good to me. More on that in the next report. Regardless of whom the Indians do end up signing, they're going to have to have a spot waiting for him on the 40-man roster. Currently, the 40 sits at 33 players which seems like there would be plenty of room but keep in mind that the Indians still have a bunch of players they need to add to the 40 within the next two weeks.

Who are those players? Well, hold on there a minute Bucky. Let's backtrack for a moment and review how the roster has evolved over the past six weeks.

When the Indians 2004 campaign ended in Minnesota on October 3, the 40-man roster contained a full compliment of 40 players with an additional six rehabbing on the 60-day disabled list (where they do not count as members of the 40-man roster). Ivan Ochoa, Jake Robbins, and Ernie Young were the first to be removed with all three outrighted off the 40-man roster. Ochoa remains in the Indians farm system while both Robbins and Young became minor league free-agents on October 14. Note that Robbins later re-signed a minor league deal with the Tribe. These moves left the 40 at 37 players.

Omar Vizquel followed next when the Indians bought out his 2005 option. As we all know, he later filed for free-agency and is rumored to be close to a deal with the White Sox. This move lowered the 40 to 36 players. On the same day, however, the Indians purchased the contract of LOOGY Scott Sauerbeck from Buffalo and added him to the 40, thus raising the count to 37.

Bob Wickman came next when the Indians bought his 2005 option. Like Vizquel, Wickman filed for free-agency although it's still uncertain whether he plans to pitch next year or retire. Subtracting Wick reduces the 40 to 36.

The Tribe further reduced the roster when they outrighted Lou Merloni and Tim Laker to triple-A Buffalo. Both players refused the assignment and elected to become free-agents. The 40 now stood at 34.

Finally, Rick White filed for free-agency to reduce the 40 to the 33 players that now comprise the Indians 40-man roster.

So, now that we've done the math, let's get back to the original question of who else needs to be added to the 40? The first group of players comes from the walking wounded as the Tribe ended the season with six players on the 60-day disabled list. Remember that players on the 60-day DL, as opposed to those on the 15-day DL, are removed from the 40-man roster. Two of those six are already gone as Joe Dawley elected to become a free-agent by refusing assignment to Buffalo after the Indians outrighted him to triple-A and Billy Traber was claimed off waivers by the Red Sox earlier this week when the Tribe tried to sneak him through to open up a roster spot. The remaining four, Aaron Boone (knee), Jody Gerut (knee), Kaz Tadano (back), and Jason Stanford (elbow) all will need to be "activated" from the 60-day DL and returned to the 40-man roster. That brings the count to 37.

On a side note, anyone else find it interesting that the Indians have apparently decided to keep both Jason Stanford and Brian Tallet over Billy Traber? Makes me wonder just how messed up Traber's elbow really is. More on that in a report next week.

Now that we've got the big leaguers back in the fold, it's time for Mark Shapiro and company to turn their attention to the minor leagues. More specifically, to those minor leaguers who are eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December. We'll discuss this much more in depth as the Rule 5 approaches but, typically, players signed out of high school become Rule 5 eligible after their fourth season while players signed out of college become Rule 5 eligible after their third year of pro ball. Only players not on a 40-man roster who meet the above criteria are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft. Thus, the annual November addition of prospects to the 40-man roster.

For the Indians this year, the potential group of prospect additions includes Fausto Carmona, Franklin Gutierrez, Jake Dittler, Jason Cooper, Dan Denham, Pat Osborn, Nathan Panther, Shea Douglas, Ben Francisco, Brian Slocum, JD Martin, Shaun Larkin, Eider Torres, Landon Stockman, and Lee Gronkiewicz, among others. It's no coincidence that I listed Carmona, Gutierrez, and Dittler at the top of the list as those three should be definite for addition. The only problem is that adding those three puts the Indians at the legal limit of 40 while leaving a slew of attractive draftees (Cooper, Denham, Osborn, etc.) exposed for the Rule 5. Not to mention that a full 40 doesn't leave any room for addition via free-agency unless someone is subtracted.

And subtraction there will be. We know the Indians are going to sign a closer and a starting pitcher so two players will need to be removed. If they want to protect any more than three prospects from the Rule 5 draft, a corresponding number of players will then also need to be removed. Trades are always a possibility, especially a 2-for-1 deal involving players already on the 40 or those potentially to be added to the 40 but this doesn't seem like a likely scenario. More likely is that the Indians will try and pass additional players through waivers, perhaps Kyle Denney, Cliff Bartosh, Corey Smith, or Mariano Gomez. I know what you're thinking, if they haven't already, why would they now?

Well, that might depend on what the Indians do with the following trio of arbitration-eligible players. Ronnie Belliard is the player most discussed amongst this group and his status remains very much up in the air. Mark Shapiro was quoted in the local papers as saying it's 50/50 on whether or not Belliard returns this season but as we discussed awhile back regarding the possibility of Omar Vizquel returning, where would he play? With Aaron Boone at third, Casey Blake is headed to second-base unless Belliard signs. In that case, Blake will likely join Coco Crisp, Matt Lawton, Grady Sizemore, Jody Gerut, and Ryan Ludwick in a very crowded outfield. Could it happen? Sure, but I think the Indians would be best served using the Belliard money towards Matt Clement. I also think that's what they'll end up doing and Shapiro's recent comments, while not entirely false, are more GM speak designed to maintain any trade value that Belliard may have. And that might be the type of deal we see, Belliard for a lower-level prospect.

Also in this group are John McDonald and David Riske. The Indians have already made it known that Johnny Mac faces an uphill battle to remain with the Indians If that's the case, what's the point of carrying McDonald through the offseason at the expense of a prospect? I would not be surprised to see the Indians either deal McDonald in a very minor deal, perhaps to Boston where he can serve in the Pokey Reese role should Reese not re-sign with the Sox and where he could once again serve as Omar's backup, should Vizquel sign with the Sox. How ironic would that be? Anyway, a trade would not surprise me, neither would the Indians giving McDonald his outright release. As for Riske, he could stand to be awarded somewhere in the $2 million range after arbitration this winter which may be more than the Indians are willing to pay for a setup man. Especially if they sign Armando Benitez (or another proven closer) and have Bob Howry, Matt Miller, Raffy Betancourt, and Jason Davis to setup from the right side. I wouldn't discount the addition of a veteran setup guy via free-agency either. So that said, if you're going to sign a closer and you have all those guys available for setup and you could use those Riske dollars towards landing said closer, why carry Riske into the offseason instead of a prospect? Just a thought (and I am a Riske fan). So, I would not be surprised to see the Indians do something with Riske, either through trade, non-tender, or release.

Note that while non-tender and release are essentially the same thing, the timing of each move could result in a different term applied. The Indians need to have their 40-man roster finalized by November 19 in preparation for the Rule 5 draft while the last day to tender 2005 contracts to unsigned players on your roster is December 20. So while the Indians could very well decide to non-tender one or all of Belliard, McDonald, and Riske (thus granting them their release and making them free-agents) before December 20, they'll have to do it by November 19 if they want to free up a spot on the 40-man roster to protect a prospect from the Rule 5 draft.

Confused? Yeah, me too. The arcane world of baseball roster management can do that to you. Just recognize that the Indians are far from done with their roster moves and while the signing of a free agent closer and starting pitcher will garner the headlines, there will be plenty of moves made in the background to allow the higher profile moves to take place. With so many options before them, as noted above, it's going to be interesting to see what route the Indians take in shaping their 40-man roster this offseason.


November 10, 2004  

CIR UPDATE: Traber joins World Champs  
The Boston Red Sox claimed Billy Traber off waivers from the Indians today. It's likely the Tribe was trying to sneak Traber through in order to clear space on the 40-man roster with the hopes that teams would be less inclined to claim him given that he had missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery. Before the 40 is frozen on November 20, the Tribe needs to clear enough room to add Aaron Boone, Jody Gerut, Kaz Tadano, and Jason Stanford from the 60-day DL, add Rule-5 eligible prospects such as Fausto Carmona, Jake Dittler, and Franklin Gutierrez (among others), all while maintaining a roster spot (or two) for free-agent signings. I wonder who else they tried to sneak through, if anyone? More in the next CIR (which should be posted in the next day or two).


November 04, 2004  

CIR UPDATE: Think Spring  
The Indians announced their home exhibition schedule today. Following are the 15 home games in the Haven.

March 3: Houston
March 6: Detroit
March 7: Toronto
March 9: NY Yankees
March 10: Washington (ss)
March 11: Pittsburgh
March 12: Houston
March 14: NY Mets
March 16: Houston
March 20: Philadelphia
March 24: Los Angeles
March 25: Cincinnati (7:05)
March 27: Tampa Bay
March 28: Atlanta
March 31: Detroit

Also of note are two games in Atlanta on April 1 and 2 before the Tribe opens the season in Chicago on April 4. My guess is the 3/25 game against Cincinnati will be televised on FSN.


November 03, 2004  

CIR UPDATE: Awards  
Ryan Garko was named the Indians minor league Player of the Year while Adam Miller was named the Indians minor league Pitcher of the Year. Victor Martinez earned his first Silver Slugger award as he and Ivan Rodriguez shared honors on the AL squad. More in the next CIR.


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