Friday, November 10, 2017

What to do with Carlos Santana

We have already made Carlos a qualifying offer.   In addition to that I would make him a $56 million 4 year deal offer with a $15 million 5th year club option with a $1 million buyout.

This is probably a fair offer and it sets the bar so that any team to beat it would likely have to outbid the Indians, meaning that his contract would probably be around $60 million or more it would cross the threshold for getting us a draft pick if he signs elsewhere.

So, make him a fair offer that crosses the $50 million threshold and make it for a number of years such that the yearly value and overall value are reasonable for his abilities.   I think this offer does that.  He might accept less overall but more per year that would cause the Indians not to get a draft pick if he left but the length and value of the offer above and the fact he gets to stay in Cleveland would outweigh any amount per year he could get elsewhere.

Of course, if we don't do that it means either we are sure he will get over $50 from someone or the Indians don't think, because of things you and I don't know about Santana, that making him a long-term offer might not be the best business decision.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

It's go time. How do we protect our assets - Rule 5 draft

This will be the first in a series of articles on how we approach this off-season. 

Here are some thoughts about what we need to do relative to finalizing the 40 man roster in anticipation for the Rule 5 draft:

Wow, for the first time in my memory as I look through the list of players eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year I don't really see anyone who needs to be added to the major league roster.  Guys like Francisco Mejia, Greg Allen and Bradley Zimmer are already solidly on the roster and borderline guys like Adam Plutko, Ryan Merritt and Shawn Morimando have upside and options left.   In the entire minor league system the only guys I see who I might think to add to the roster are Julian Merryweather, Nellie Rodriguez and Mike Papi.   The former is questionable and, at this point, Papi hasn't shown that he is (and maybe ever will be) major league ready.   This is a scout's call on Merryweather.   That is, can he help us in the bullpen at some point this year or in the rotation next year AND is he attractive to other teams as a Rule 5 pick?  Papi doesn't seem to be the kind of guy who gets drafted.  Rodriguez has a chance to be drafted after the way Jesus Aguilar performed in Milwaukee this year.   However, when you can't hit .200 in AAA in a hitters park like Columbus, you don't generally get drafted in the Rule 5.  There are a slew of minor league relievers who could get drafted but I don't see them adding any of them to the major league roster at this point as each appears right now to be replaceable.  When you consider Shawn Armstrong's minor league stats and seeing how he is a fringe ML player right now, I hope you can see where I am coming from.  

Papi and some of the minor league relievers could still have some level of ML career.   Right now I don't see that as being significant and so I don't see anyone being drafted.   Remember, this is coming from the guy who told you that Hector Rondon was going to be drafted and that, in less than a year, he was going to be the Cubs closer, both of which turned out to be true.

Also, I see the upper levels of our farm system being weak so the reserved list at Columbus (guys not on the 40 man roster but only eligible for the ML Rule 5, not either of the minor league phases) would seem to have a lot of space on it for any guy who is Rule 5 eligible and has even a ghost of chance to develop into a fringe ML player.  So, if we protect our guys appropriately I don't even see anyone of significance being lost in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft.

As far as adding players from the Rule 5, we will have to wait and see who is available.   At this point our only needs would be a RH relief pitcher and an outfielder with power.   I think we are covered at other positions.   Given how poor our track record is on picking the right guys to draft in the ML Rule 5, you might see us pass, especially since we would be drafting at the end of the round after all the intriguing prospects have been picked over. 

So I think this should be a quiet draft for the Indians, both in terms of drafting and losing prospects and, for the first time in a while, we may ADD more guys than we lose, although I don't know how significant any of the additions would be on the immediate or long-term future of the Indians.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Our Free Agents - What do we do

OK, the World Series starts tomorrow which means I go into high gear to start thinking about the 2018 Indians.  So let's first talk about our free agents and which ones we want to bring back.

Obviously, we want to bring back all of them.  But that is highly unlikely.   So let's prioritize.

Josh Tomlin - We pick up his $3 million option.  No questions.

Carlos Santana - He is single player I target out of our free agent class.   If we can sign him I think it makes this team immensely better.  Most of my off-season resources go into signing him.   I don't know why I like him this much but I think that year 2 with him and Encarnacion could be magical and year 3 could be almost as good.  

Joe Smith - I would like to re-sign him by giving him years instead of a single big payday.  I would go for a 3-year deal for him but not for his one year market value per year.  

Bryan Shaw - I think we can and should re-sign him.   However, he has a lot of miles on him so I would overpay him for a 1-year deal to reward him for his contributions so far.   I would not go beyond one year, however. 

Jay Bruce - In an unpopular move, I am sure, I don't bring him back.  He is too expensive.  I don't believe he actually adds to the clubhouse that much and I think his production on the field may be declining.   Just my opinion but I don't think he is worth the money he will receive.  I might offer him the qualifying offer rate for one year not to get the draft pick, because we can't.   Just to show him we want him to stay.   Beyond that, I let him walk. 

Austin Jackson - I would bring him back at the same rate of pay he had this year plus a 30% raise.  Anything more than that will be overpaying for a piece to the puzzle that probably can be easily replaced in free agency.   I don't see him as an impact player in the post-season so I wouldn't overpay him.

Craig Breslow - I work to re-sign him to a minimum deal.  He is good insurance for us in case Miller or Olson goes down.

Boone Logan - I pick up his option.   I know that sounds stupid but he is a viable commodity.  I doubt we find anything better in free agency at the price of his option minus the buyout.

Friday, October 13, 2017

I don't care - an open letter to Tribe fans everywhere

The AL Championship Series started tonight but I just don't care.  

But that is not what this post is about.   This post is to Tribe fans everywhere.  

I am 64 years old and have been a diehard fan of the Indians since 1960.   They are my team.   I have seen the Cavs play in person a couple of times and been to some Browns games in the dead of winter at old Muncipal Stadium.  These were my teams because they were Cleveland teams, my hometown teams.

But the Indians were always my team.

In reflecting on the loss on Wednesday and the entire season, here is what I have come to believe.

The glory in your season comes from the season itself, not the outcome.   Chasing the dream of winning the World Series, of breaking the string of years that stretch from 1949 to, well, whenever we win the World Series, is foolhardy.

Getting upset over not winning the World Series is foolhardy.   There is a greater than 95% chance every year that we won't win the World Series.

So why should the success or failure of our team be tied to it?

My epiphany came when I saw the Nationals lose at home to the Cubs last night.   You know how many times in the past 6 years the Nationals have lost in the NLDS?   Four times in the four years they were in the playoffs.   They are worse than the Buffalo Bills in futility because the Nationals don't even make it out of the first round of the playoffs. 

You see, if the Nationals and their fans felt that their season came down to the WS then their fans should not come to any games but WS games in the future.  The Nationals should, by all rights, play to a nearly empty house (except for families and friends of the players and people who got freebee tickets) every night.   Their fans KNOW they are going to win the NL East so why bother coming?

The thing is that a lot of people come to watch baseball for baseball sake.   They love the game.  

It is when the fans and players and management have the attitude that "I will only consider this a successful season IF..." that the fun is taken out of the game for the fans. 

Last year Francona had the players thinking one game at a time.   This year during the streak Francona had his players thinking about one game at a time.   But somehow, because of the near miss last year and the fact that the pundits and odds makers were all saying the Indians were a lock to win the WS, people started to get the idea that THIS was the season.  THIS time we were going to win the WS championship.

And look what happened.  Everybody lost sight of the ultimate baseball truths: 

(1) the best team on paper doesn't always win.  You could go on and say hardly ever wins. 

(2) you can never count on your players to play as well as you want them to.

(3) S--- happens, meaning that injuries happen, bad luck happens, fate happens and, of course, a blind squirrel sometimes does find an acorn.   All of these conspire to make sure that the best team doesn't always win.   Imagine how Yankees fans were feeling when Yan Gomes said that on his game winning hit in game 2 he was just trying to hit the ball to the right side to advance the runner to 3rd base and wound up hitting the ball down the left field line.  Isn't that the definition of the blind squirrel finding an acorn?

So many things can keep your team, our team, from winning the series.  Yeah, we can blame Francona and, to some extent, he is to blame.  He is to blame because he couldn't pull ANY rabbits out of his hat to win this series.  He couldn't, this year, overcome (1) through (3) above.   You just can't do that every year.

So, my advice to Cleveland fans is to remember that they can't control destiny.  They can only enjoy the ride. I am mad as hell that the Indians didn't advance but, truth be told, playing like they were playing against the Yankees sealed that they weren't going to GET to the World Series, let alone win it.  It just wasn't in the cards for them this year.

Maybe next year the stars will align and the Indians will win.  Maybe I will die before the Indians win the WS. But I can tell you this:  On my deathbed...if I am talking about baseball on my deathbed...I won't be saying "Man, why couldn't the Indians just win the WS once in my lifetime?"  If I am thinking about baseball at all, if I am talking about baseball at all, I will be talking about Giambi's pinchhit HR in 2014 when we were streaking to get to the wildcard game, Davis' HR of Chapman in 2016 and the streak and all the other records from 2017.

If I die talking about those things I will likely die with a smile on my face because that is baseball.  You can't predict it.  You can't count on the result in a short series to go your way.  What you can count on is that if the body of work for a team in a season or over several seasons looks good, you SHOULD be happy as a fan.

Let's ask your average diehard Browns fan if they would take the Buffalo Bills' frustration over not winning a Super Bowl in so many tries over what they have to deal with now.   I hope they would all say "Hell Yes" now and after 4 seasons of that 'frustration'.

If the Indians go to the playoffs for the next two years and then have an exciting team for the next 5 after that and NEVER win the WS during my lifetime, that is a GREAT victory for the franchise, much greater than the one-and-done of the Marlins in 2007. 

So, Indians' fans.  Rejoice about the ride and never worry about the sudden stop at the end. Just like last year when many Indians' fans I talked to were not that upset after the WS because they knew they had gotten their money's worth out of their team, so it is true this year.   We got MORE than our money's worth out of this team.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Thanks for the memories

First, for the 84 hits on my blog site from Russia in the past 4 hours, WTF!?!?!  I should probably get the Attorney General on the phone and have him investigate that. 

About the Indians, nothing else really to say at this point.   Great season, great results but, in the end, you gotta hit, you gotta pitch and you gotta play defense.  And, if you can't do all of those things AT LEAST you gotta step up at crunch time and deliver.  We had almost NONE of that hero stuff that makes up for uneven play.   Too bad.  We needed it.

Here are some other thoughts:

Kluber - The guy is hurt.  I think it is unlikely he will pitch next year if he is hurt as seriously as I think he is.  I was thinking what John Smoltz said, you just can't put that many relievers in without the chance of one of them (in this case Allen) having a hiccup.

Miller - I think Miller has some miles on him, too.  I think he will come back strong if his knee gets healthy.

Jose Ramirez - What can you say?  Did the Yankees have a good scouting report on him or a good pitching plan?  I guess we will find out next year after baseball takes note of this series.   Otherwise, I guess all you can say is that he didn't perform on the biggest stages there is.   His AB in game 2 against Sabathia with the bases loaded was probably the worst AB I have seen from an Indians' batter in the past two years (even worse than Gomes AB in the WS last year).  And Ramirez never came back from that AB.   You have to be able to pick up your team if you are the hitter we thought he was.  But he didn't.

Lindor - Take away the grand slam and he had nothing this series.   A young guy put in a pressure situation and he didn't perform.  Given the shape we were in, we needed more from him.   His double play ball in the 5th when we had already scored two runs was really a killer, topping off a really bad series for him...other than that incredibly important grand slam. 

Encarnacion - Mercifully (or unfortunately) he got hurt.   On the glass half empty front he could have had a series like Ramirez if he wasn't hurt, based on Game 1 and Game 5.  On the glass half full side he might have run into a couple of HRs if he wasn't hurt, like in Game 3. 

Brantley - His injury is really concerning to me.  Not the injury, which will likely heal by next year.   But the TYPE of injury, almost a non-contact, scratch your head kind of injury and the time it took to recover from that after the time it took him to recover from his shoulder surgery last year.   I am afraid his body is falling apart.  He needs another big intervention to make his body solid.  Otherwise, it will be one thing after another every year and with a guy like Brantley, that might take him out of the league in another 2 years.

Bruce - He was a leader for two games and then disappeared.   Still, had everyone played as they should his performance would have been considered solid.  Right now it just looks like he had a couple of games of magic and then not much else.   But, in truth, he played pretty well.  He's gone anyway as I would not be willing to pay him what he wanted which is likely Encarnacion money.

The loss of Zimmer - I don't think it hurt us at all.   If we thought Brantley was flailing Zimmer would have been much worse.  Think Aaron Judge bad.

Rest of the team - Olson was good.  Gomes and Perez played good defense (mostly) and had their offensive moments.  Olson and Shaw were good.  Carrasco was great.   Joe Smith was OK until the end of the last game.  The other guys did only a little or, in some cases, nothing to distinguish themselves.   We needed more out of the rest of the team but maybe with more experience next year we will get what we need.   I mean last year it was Perez and Chisenhall (especially against David Price).  This year, except for the Perez HR in a way losing effort, there wasn't much.   Last year we got some Bruce-like performances out of guys.  

Guys who are in the minors or in the majors but left off the roster - Right now, I don't see any Lindors, Ramirezs or even Clevingers on the horizon.   Just spare parts like the major leaguers who didn't make the post-season roster.  Too bad because we could use a hitting 3B guy or could use Mejia to jump in and do a Sanchez impersonation next year.   Don't think we will get than so what you saw this year is likely to be what you will get next year from all these guys.

Francona - He is a very good manager, but he is not a wizard.  Unfortunately, this team needed some wizardry in the post-season and he couldn't provide that this year. 

This team was a lot like the Cavs last year.   Lots of talent but not able to finish the job.   I don't know any way around that other than to get guys hungry for next year.   If a pathetic post-season like this doesn't make guys hungry, then they are not breathing.  Certainly now they have the post season experience of what it is like to fall on your faces and embarrass yourselves on national TV.

Hopefully they will use that to fire their preparation for next year.

Good season, guys.   Finish the job next year.  And, on the glass half full side, thanks for giving me three weeks of my time back for the rest of October.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hit or go home

Well, that didn't go so well!   So now we are on to game 5.

We will be at home.   We will have the AL Cy Young award winner on the mound.    Miller and Allen will be rested.  While nothing is ever a lock, this gives us a great chance to win, right?

The only problem is in baseball there are no style points.   The one with the most runs wins and no matter how well your team pitches, if it doesn't score runs you don't win.

Just look at the Nationals yesterday.  Scherzer has a no-hitter through 6 innings.   The only problem is that his team could only muster 3 hits and 1 run for the entire game.   It left his great pitching performance vulnerable to any hiccup and the bullpen with the same vulnerability.  The end result is that the Cubs got a run in the 7th and one in the 8th to win 2-1.

If the Yankees needed a blueprint of how to beat a Cy Young award winner at his best, there you have it.   Just make sure the other team's offense sucks.  Just like in Game 3.

The post-season is about performance and, usually, performance above what is seen in the regular season, even if only for short spurts (insert Jay Bruce in games 1 and 2).

We have a bunch of holes in our lineup.   DH, C, 3B.   That is the given.   The issue is that Lindor isn't hitting and Ramirez isn't hitting.   Without those two there is a chance we won't be able to score any runs.  Another 5 feet on Lindor's drive in the second game and we might not be having this conversation...but the problem would still exist as that would have given Lindor only two hits in 3 games at that point.   We need to hit better.   We need to find a way.  People need to get it done.  Heck, Kyle Schwarber hadn't played almost the whole season and he came back to help the Cubs win last year.  We need some of that plus our main guys need to hit.  

No matter how well we pitch we need to score some runs.  I mean, if I am Francona I am even considering putting my backup catcher as my DH.  That's how bad the hitting situation is.  I mean Encarnacion on one leg is better than Brantley whose only hit  this series was on a meatball over the middle of the plate with the Indians behind by 4 and could give the illusion he has found his stroke.  Hmmmm?!?

So, the formula for winning is obviously to have Kluber be Kluber and the bullpen to be in shutdown mode.   But we need to hit.  Lindor and Ramirez need big games.   We need to get about 6 hits and some runs/RBIs out of Jackson, Bruce, Santana and Kipnis and we need to get game 2-like production out of our DH, C, 3B (probably 4 times on base, good small ball and no double plays in 12 plate appearances).

I have never been as at ease about a crucial game as I am about this one.  Not because I think we have it in the bag, because that is not what I think.   The reason I am at ease is that the formula for winning this game is simple: just hit....or go home for the winter.  No matter how the Indians pitch, if they don't hit, it doesn't matter.  Just ask Max Scherzer. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Thoughts from Game 3 and thinking about Game 4

Look, this is baseball.   Francona talks about being able to survive the ups and downs of the playoffs. 

I was reading Tom Verduzzo's (sp?) column about how Indians fans should be aware of what chokers the Indians are as they have lost 16 of 20 elimination games in the playoffs over the years.   Well, I have been drinking the Francona koolaid and I am not fazed by that attempt at baiting Indians fans or giving Yankees fans hope...or trying to get people to watch to up the ratings. 

Last night's game does give us some things to talk about.   Here are a few:

1. Michael Brantley is lost.   Mark McGwire, late in his career, was having lower extremity problems and said something like: 'I have no base.  You can't hit without a base.'  By that he meant if you are having leg/foot problems you can't generate any power.   What's left is rolling over a lot of balls and being late of pitches that you would normally hit.  Brantley is put in an unusual situation.   He wants to play and the Indians need him to be productive.  This isn't working.   Time to hope Encarnacion comes back...but with a bum ankle he has no base either.

2. Regarding Encarnacion, I said that in the playoffs you can survive two holes in your lineup and, with the Indians' pitching, maybe even three nearly automatic outs.   But 4 or more guys who can't hit in the playoff environment leads to what you saw last night.  In the 9-8 game our lower hitters actually helped out and they were productive in the 4-0 game, in terms of getting on base.    Right now we have Urshela, our catcher and our DH as unproductive.  We could survive that IF Ramirez was being Ramirez.  But he isn't.   He currently looks like the current version of Michael Brantley.  If there has been a goat so far in this series it is Ramirez.  He really needs to pick it up for the rest of the playoffs or the rest of the playoffs won't be that long.

3. Jay Bruce has been effective but what you see is what you get.   Don't expect him to hit more than .250 in the playoffs with some power.   I would like to see him walk some and be more selective.  The way he and Ramirez were flailing at Tanaka's dirtballs was more like I would have expected out of Yandy Diaz, that is, out of a rookie.  

Regarding tonight's game, it will be interesting.  Severino has had a great year.  I don't expect his night tonight to end like his playoff game against Minnesota so Bauer needs to be on.  As far as Bauer, I don't think he is blowing smoke about the short rest.   I think he really does have the ability, maybe more than any other pitcher on the Indians' roster, of being effective on short rest.   Still, he has never done it so there is some fear that he might not be as in control as he was in Game 1.  And,no, Mr. Verduzzo, that isn't because of any predisposition to the Indians losing elimination games.  It's just because he hasn't done it before.   But, as usual, I trust in Tito.  I would rather have Bauer starting than Tomlin, especially against the Yankees.  And I don't know what happened to Salazar, although I expect to see him eat innings tonight if the game gets ugly for the Indians early.

This is playoff baseball.   As Livingston said in the Plain Dealer today, there will be angst.   As Francona said, he tries to set his team up to handle that angst and think towards the next game. 

What the Indians have accomplished this season gives me peace.  It really does, just like last year's 7 game loss in the WS left me peaceful on what the Indians accomplished.  After this series, after this season, I will still have that peace and still be a diehard Indians' fan.  Nothing will change.  Go Tribe!