Friday, January 12, 2018

Five Questions About The New Tax Law and Baseball Revenue

Let's begin by saying I am not a tax expert and don't have all the answers about the new tax law.   In fact, I have no answers but I do have a lot of questions about how baseball will be impacted by it.  Here are just some of them:

1. Will the cut in corporate tax rate help or hurt in terms of companies buying luxury boxes or blocks of seats this coming season?  I could see this going either way.  If the tax rate does give them more profit, why would they cut back on something like corporate seat purchases?  At the same time, maybe they gained some tax advantage by writing these seats off as a business expense that they don't really need anymore given the lower tax rate.

2. Will individual tax rate cuts give people more disposable income that they can use to go to Indians' games more than they do now?  I think this has to do with the product and the audience.   I feel that the people who will get the biggest tax cuts may already go to games but it is possible that even lower income families might go to a game.   Again, where people spend their disposable income is based mainly on what they like and can afford.   If they can afford more they will go to where they like more.  So, in Cleveland, I don't see this changing the Indians' attendance very much, if at all.

3.  Will the lower corporate tax rate help the Indians by giving them more money to operate their business?   Well, let's hope so and let's hope they put that money toward signing free agents and uber-talented foreign players, with heavy emphasis on the latter.

4. Will the cut in personal tax rate help salaries come down a bit?  I don't think so but you never know.   If your accountant says that $2 million will actually be worth $2.2 million in 2018 dollars maybe teams may get a small discount on free agents still unsigned around the start of spring training....but don't count on it...ever.

5.  Does this mean that beer will cost less at a game now since the beer companies are generally large corporations?  Yeah, big corporations always funnel their windfalls back to consumers (ROFLMAO).

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Dos and Dont's of this offseason

Don't trade Danny Salazar.  When discussions about a guy include the phrase "...if he can only reach his potential" it means that his trade value is not spectacular.   Plus, even if he never reaches his potential he provides a great 5th starter.   If you trade him you are in the same boat as with him underperforming, your 5th starter has to slide up to #4.  When you consider that Ryan Merritt would slot in as the 5th starter and compare him to Salazar knowing Josh Tomlin would be that new #4, you don't trade Salazar.

Do sign relievers.   Look, we are at January 4th.   Borderline guys like Dillon Gee are running for Japan for $1 or $2 million deals.   Looking at the list of free agent relievers, if all these guys are truly still available, you have the following:

Addison Reed, Chad Qualls, Glenn Perkins, Seung-hwan Oh, Dustin McGowen, Greg Holland, Sergio Romo, Matt Albers, Matt Belisle, Trevor Cahill, Tyler Clippard, Jason Grilli, Drew Storen, Huston Street, Tony Watson, Koji Uehara, Travis Wood, Neftali Feliz, Bruen Duensing, Kevin Siegrist, Bruce Rondon, Blaine Boyer, Craig Breslow, Eric O'Flaherty, Oliver Perez, Zach Putnam, Bud Norris, Jason Motte, Francisco Liriano, David Hernandez, Ian Krol, Al Alburquerque, Josh Collmentor, Jorge De La Rosa, Jeanmar Gomez, Francisco Rodriguez, Fernando Salas and a few others.

If Dillon Gee is going to another country we should be able to sign 3 of these guys, at least, without breaking the budget.  Instead we bring in guys I have never heard of including Robert Zarate, who hasn't even pitched in two years.    Guys, you have a great team, don't blow it by leaving the end of the bullpen to Louis Head, Josh Martin and Cameron Hill.   While I would LOVE for those guys to get a chance this year, I don't want them as our first option...with no one backing them up if they fail.  

The relievers are out there and at this point they should be attainable at bargain basement prices.   Time to go get some!

Don't sign or trade for hitters - We have enough hitting, enough guys who can play various positions, etc.  If you add more hitters through free agency you stand the chance to lose guys like Gonzalez and Urshela on waivers.   Plus, you trade for a hitter and you lose tradeable assets you may need in July.  

We have enough hitters.   Leave this area alone.

Don't panic -  There is enough that can be done cheaply that we should not panic.   I love the way this team is constructed.   You need to plan for next year and the year after that while winning this year.  If you do the three things above and don't panic you will be fine.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

We need relievers...and NOW

NOTE: I have edited this because it is so urgent I think the Indians need to act on this...and now

We lost Bryan Shaw.  We lost Joe Smith who, in theory, could have been Bryan Shaw's replacement if Smith had re-signed with us.  We even lost Shawn Armstrong.  

So, we not only lost bodies but a really good, reliable one in Shaw.  People may not like him but let's face it, folks.  The guy did a great job over his time here and I will go on record as saying he might have even been the best 7th inning guy EVER in Cleveland.  So he needs to be replaced.

So who replaces him (and Smith)?

We have in-house options: Nick Goody, Dan Otero, Zach McAllister and, in theory, would only need to replace the less important roles those guys played last year IF we move up that three to more prominent rolls.  If that is the Indians' thinking then it makes sense.  If they are thinking about moving Clevinger or Tomlin to a role more like Shaw's then I am not on board with that.  

However, next winter Miller, Allen and McAllister all become free agents.   The odds of signing ANY of them are poor, depending how effective McAllister is this year.   So we need to act NOW to be ready for NEXT year.  

We say we are done with significant free agent signings.   OK, I get it.  But there are, by my count, 42 free agent relievers out there of various sorts.  There is just not enough market out there for even the best remaining guys to get 2 year, $15 million or so deals.  Some will have to take a one year deal with an option, some a straight one year deal and a few will have to take minor league deals.  We should be able to get someone decent or good on a one year deal.  But is that what we want to do?

You already have long term investments in Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, Lindor, Ramirez, Encarnacion and others.  Maybe Lindor and Bauer will become even longer term investments this spring!   You have to plan to have enough of a bullpen to support these guys.  I don't believe you can just wave your hand and hope that some guy in the minors (or Clevinger in the majors) can magically become a lights out major league reliever.  With your other investments you can't take that risk.

So, if I am the Indians I would reconsider my position.   Yes, you sign a guy or two right now you may not desperately need this year but you will need him (them) more next year and VERY much more in two years.   Plus, it is not like you are signing guys to make your bullpen stronger.  You are really just signing guys to make up for the guys you lost this winter.

As I said above, the market is thinning out and I don't believe that big contracts await the remaining available relievers.   Some of the names available include Glenn Perkins, Addison Reed, Chad Qualls, Duston McGowan, Greg Holland, Sergio Romo, Matt Albers, Matt Belisle, Tyler Clippard, Koji Uehara, Jason Grilli and Travis Wood and there are many more Dan Otero-like relievers out there and even some Nick Goody-like guys to unearth.    The list is impressive and, if we strike now, we can put ourselves in both a good negotiating position with Allen and McAllister for next year AND keep ourselves out of a BAD negotiating position next year.   If we don't we will be the ones offering $27 million, 3 year deals to guys like Shaw or Brett Cecil or $17 million, 2 year deals to 6th/7th inning situational guys like Joe Smith next year.   I don't want to be in that situation and neither should the Indians.

Sign 2 or 3 good relievers now.  You will love yourself in the morning if you do!  

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Top 30 prospects

OK, we have had the winter meetings, the rule 5 draft and we are moving into the new year.   The Indians may still make some trades but let's look at the current state of the Indians' farm system.

Overall analysis:  Right now I would say the Indians rank roughly 22nd in baseball in terms of strength of farm system.   In football/basketball language they have one 5 star prospect, one 4 star prospect and a number of 3 star prospects.    They need to up the strength of their farm system as, in a few years, they may be looking at a complete rebuild unless some of their prospects can establish themselves between now and then.  This year and next year will be crucial for that to happen, both in terms of acquisition of prospects through the draft and amateur free agency and graduation of current prospects to the majors.  They have done a good job each year in managing their first year player draft budgets and have started to spend on marquis talents internationally but this needs to continue for them to be in 5 years where they are today.


Indians top 30 prospects

1. Francisco Mejia - C - If there is one prospect in the system that can be the face of the franchise in 5 years it is Mejia.   Yes, you need Lindor and Ramirez to still be here but Mejia has to reach his potential.  

2. Triston McKenzie -  RHP - The road to the majors for a HS pitching prospect is filled with a lot of uncertainty.   The Indians don't need McKenzie to pan out to be successful in 5 years.   However, if he is successful on a par to Carlos Carrasco, it will allow us to budget better to fill holes that always seem to exist on any team.  

3. Aaron Civale - RHP - This is where this list will start to differ from those you see elsewhere.  If we are to be competitive in 5 years you need bodies.   Civale is, to me, a better version of Josh Tomlin.   He should slot in as a quality #4 starter if he can just stay healthy and advance normally.   In 5 years he should be a solid, cost-effective, major league starter.   That is worth about $5-7 million a year we won't have to pay a free agent.   It will also save us from having to count on a question mark, similar to if we had to count on Ryan Merritt this year.   Yes, it may pan out but it is big risk.   Hey, I love Merritt, but in a winning organization he should be a long man/depth starter. 

4. Willi Castro - SS - For the Indians to succeed in the future Castro may have to play a big part.   He plays good defense and if he can hit he could be the next Jose Ramirez.   He is on this list at this point for his upside at a position that is hard to fill.  If he reaches his upside it will make it easier for us to make up for offensive deficits at other positions.  

5. Will Benson - OF - Benson would not even be as high as he is on my list if we had any other sure things.   However, as you will see below, most of our prospects who are close to the majors have some serious warts on them.   Benson needs to become a solid major leaguer in 5 years.   He needs to hit for more average and strike out less while keeping his other stats what they are now.   If he fails it will put a big strain on our budget in 5 years.  In an ideal farm system he would be #10 right now.  The fact that he is #5 shows you that we don't have a lot of depth in this system. 

6. Yu-Cheng Chang - SS - Prospect with warts Part I.  He plays a premium position but he needs to produce more offensively to be useful in the future.  Why?  Because my guess is that he will have to slide over to 3B.  If so, his current production, which is south of where Carlos Santana's is, will not be enough.   If he could stay at SS and be a plus defender he might get by with 20+ HRs and an OPS of .750.  However, if he has to play 3B that won't cut it.   We could get a $6 million, 2nd tier third baseman out of free agency for that...if we wanted to go bargain hunting.   Still, if Chang produces like that or if we go for that 2nd tier guy, it would be a deficit in our lineup in a spot where we need to be above average.

7. Shane Bieber - RHP - Look, no way is this guy supposed to be here.  However, looking at what we will need in 5 years we don't need to be looking for a 5th starter.  Bieber should be able to fill that roll if he stays healthy and on his current trajectory.  Just like Josh Tomlin, we need Bieber to be Mr. Reliable, the starter's version of Bryan Shaw, to save money.   We don't need to be paying $5 million for a 5th starter or rely on an untested rookie.  If Bieber can reach his potential, it is a hole we can cross off our need list.

8. Nolan Jones - 3B - I really like Jones.   He is likely to reach the majors.   The jury is still out if he will be an impact or even above average major leaguer, however.   If we are relying on Jones to suddenly have a bump in production for us to be in good shape in 5 years then we may have a problem.   Jones is the first of what I will call our gravy prospects.   If he pans out it has to be gravy on what would be a solid team without him.   If we COUNT on him improving his production to what we WANT it to be compared to what it is now, it is a recipe for disaster. 

9. Juan Hillman - LHP - This is where this list gets dicey.   Hillman has only modest results so far in the minors, showing no signs of dominance yet.   Although he will begin next season as a 20 year old, his body of work so far predicts a long development time with some uncertainty of how likely he is to reach anywhere close to his ceiling.   He is a true hit-or-miss prospect which, for someone who has been in the system as long as he has, is a little concerning.  Still, the potential is there.

10. Greg Allen - OF - Any farm system that would have Allen any higher than #10 is a farm system in trouble.   He has zero power and speed is his one plus tool.   He has a chance to be a good CFer and #9 hitter (his OB skills don't scream leadoff hitter) on a team that has 8 other guys who can hit the ball out of the park.  He projects well as a 4th outfielder if you have a manager who values defense and pinch-running over being able to come off the bench as a hitter to change a game.   

11. Bobby Bradley - 1B - Here is an interesting guy but one with warts.   His upside now looks like Carlos Santana.  Not bad but this is his upside.  The problem is that he isn't a switch hitter.   He is abysmal against lefties which makes him a platoon player.  As half of a cheap platoon he can be useful.  Think Jesus Aguilar last year with Milwaukee.  We have Yandy Diaz to go with Bradley so, down the road, they both should be in the majors together for a good period of time before free agency so maybe that would work.  Still, the signs are that Bradley will not be a well-rounded player, displaying only one plus tool, power.   

12. Quentin Holmes - OF - Holmes had a dismal start to his professional career.   Truth be told both of Thomas Pannone and Samad Taylor, the two guys traded for Joe Smith, are better prospects to reach the majors than Holmes currently is.  Holmes has speed on his side but the Indians have mixed results, mostly on the negative side, about being able to develop a major league player out of a speed guy.  Right now his upside looks like Greg Allen IF he reaches it.   His development path may be slow enough that he arrives just outside of the 5 year window which is also problematic.

13. Ryan Merritt - LHP - Merritt represents the bird-in-the-hand prospect.   You know what you get from him, which is #5 starter/long man upside but he is likely to reach that potential pretty easily, making him a useful piece in the next 5 years.

14. Julian Merryweather = RHP - A step or two behind Merritt in development is Merryweather.   His upside is as a closer.  His intermediate upside is as a #4 starter on a good team.   He should make the majors and be a useful piece in the next 5 years.   He may, however, turn out to be the second coming of Shawn Armstrong, which would only be useful to a second division team, which we hope the Indians aren't. 

15. Elijah Morgan - RHP - You won't see Morgan on any other prospect lists.  He is a short, right handed relief pitcher, neither of which are in his favor.   He is not likely to close in the majors.  He was a low draft pick meaning his stuff didn't stand out to scouts.   However, his performance at Mahoning Valley was eye-popping and, having seen him in person and on TV (internet feed) I think his stuff will play all the way up to the majors.   If he stays healthy and focused he should have a quick path to the majors and should impact the Indians sometime in the next 5 years both in terms of effectiveness as a 6th/7th inning guy and as a CHEAP option for those roles.

16.   Brady Aiken - LHP - Here is where we start to go totally on hope.   Aiken's numbers at Lake County scream "Wild Thing".   He should have dominated that level but couldn't find the plate.   Even in his games where he limited opponents in runs he still walked a bunch.   I saw him in person and it seemed like he had no clue where the ball was going to go.   One of the bravest things I saw in baseball this year was the home plate umpire standing behind the catcher when Aiken was warming up.   Brave yet not a very smart man!   Aiken has a great pedigree but, at the moment, screams bust after only a couple of years.  Here's hoping for a great turnaround but this clearly shows what we will get on the second half of this top 30 this year: question mark after question mark.  The only difference after Aiken is that the upside of the next 14 guys is not as high as Aiken's, not even close.

17. Connor Capel - OF -  For those of you new to the minors, never...and I mean NEVER...look at power numbers at low A.   They are generally just mirages.   This is why Capel is down this list.   His hit tool is still in question and the power he displayed in 2017 is in question as it was all at low A.   The one plus in his favor is that HS guys from his 2016 draft class, even guys drafted above him, rarely had success at this level at low A ball last year. He make great statistical improvements from his first year to last year so there is hope for him in the future.  He has a good arm and has played CF so he is likely to be an above average OFer at any of the 3 OF positions. 

18. Shawn Morimando - LHP - To me, Morimando is the sleeper in this prospect list.  His stats at AAA were mediocre but he is the kind of guy, I think, who the light can turn on for very quickly.   I think he has a chance to be really impactful for the Indians in the next 5 years.  The only reason he is down this far on this list is that he performance up to this point does not scream success in the majors.  While I disagree with that, the proof is in the pudding and, so far, he has not been as brilliant in the minors as I would have liked to have to seen to give ANY chance of being successful in the majors for a first division team.

19. Mark Mathias - 2B - 2017 was a lost year for this guy but I think he will hit and play defense at an acceptable level and will hit for enough power to be useful as a major leaguer.   I look at him as having Jason Kipnis upside with almost 100% certainty, if healthy, to reach the majors in some capacity in the next 5 years.

20. George Valera - OF - You know that you are rapidly running out of guys who will impact the Indians ML team in the next 5 years when you start listing 16 year olds coming out of Latin America who haven't started playing professional baseball yet.  But that is where we are on this list. 

21. Aaron Bracho - SS - See Valera above.

22. Marco Gonzalez - SS - Like Valera and Bracho but at least Gonzalez has played a year professionally on our DSL team.

23. Tyler Freeman - SS - A 2016 draftee who performed well this year, Freeman is on this list here because he, like the three Latin guys above, have long-term upside.

24. Sean Brady - LHP = Here is a guy who might sneak up on us.   I think, when healthy, he is on a steady yet unspectacular route to the majors.   In order to be impactful in the majors he will need to add something to his arsenal.   I don't know what that is.  Maybe a few mph on his fastball from a move to the bullpen, maybe developing a superior off-speed pitch.   But he knows how to pitch and was successful in the hitter-heavy Arizona Fall League so don't count him out.   If everything clicks for him he could impact the Indians as early as this year and certainly by next year.

25. Ernie Clement - 2B - Like Mathias, he could get to the majors very quickly.   It is too early to tell how impactful he would be once he gets there but he certainly would get there and be established, if he makes it, easily within the next 5 years.

26. James Karinchak - LHP - Scouts apparently like his upside.   2018 will be a year, hopefully if he stays healthy, what we have in Karinchak.  

27. Rob Kaminsky - LHP - You can't forget about this guy.  Yeah, he was injured last year but he still has upside and, in this system, an ETA in the next 5 years is a plus.   Kaminsky, if healthy, should impact this team for most of the next 5 years, making him a veteran at the end of that period.   IF is the big, important, keyword.   Time will tell if he even makes it out of spring training without being traded or released.  However, you can't knock his performance when healthy as an indicator that he likely could pitch in the majors.

28. Eric Haase - C - Normally he would not be on this list but given that the Indians added him to the 40-man roster means, to me, that they saw upside in him after his power surge this year.   They always thought he could hit but now it appears they think his power-defense combination is at least giving him a chance to be a solid backup in the majors.   I don't know if we need that in the next 5 years and I don't know what trade value a guy like Haase could have but he at least gets a mention on this list.

29. Luke Wakamatsu - SS - Sons of big leaguers, if they have any talent at all, seem to do well in pro ball.  Maybe it is because they are already trained in the ups and downs of professional baseball and the grind it takes to make it.   Wakamatsu was just plodding along until the second half of 2017 when he added power to his polished small ball game.  Again, low A ball is deceiving, especially in terms of hitters.  Still, for a classic defense-first SS to have this kind of power surge is intriguing.

30. Eric Stamets - SS - Talk about power coming out of nowhere!  This guy, like Haase a surprising add to the 40-man this winter, has come out of nowhere.  Still, power is the last tool to normally develop for a hitter and a defense-first middle infielder who develops power at AAA is intriguing.

Final note: Lots of guys got left off this list that I like.   Guys like Cameron Hill and a slew of other high minors relievers (and even 2017 college arms who played at Mahoning Valley) have a shot to impact our team in the near future.  Also, guys like Matt Esparza and Francisco Perez could have that same impact if switched to the bullpen.   A number of hitters like Tyler Krieger, Ka'ii Tom and others could have an impact in the next 5 years if they find one tool in their game they can make plus.   Also, low level hitters like Oscar Gonzalez, Ulysses Cantu, Jonathon Rodriguez and others are too far away to be very impactful in the next 5 years but may be useful add-ons if the core of the major league roster is set and solid in 5 years.  Guys will always pop up and drop off of prospect lists as that is the nature of player development.   Some guys fail and some overachieve beyond all expectations.  Let's hope we have more of the latter as, like all minor league systems, there are also a bunch of guys who look like they are currently going nowhere but, with one good year, could bolt into the Indians top 30 list next year.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Way down Yonder

Ever since Yonder Alonso came to the majors I wanted to use that line and now I have my chance.  

If you consider the prediction of the structure of the Indians April 25 man roster like an NCAA basketball bracket prediction, well, consider my bracket busted!

This is not to say that I don't like the Alonso contract.   I actually like it.  Not too long, not too short, 3rd year option, not too pricy this year.   Yeah, it looks about right.   Alonso cashes in on his beyond-all-expectations-career-year.  We get a guy who we hope matches last year when the rest of the league

So what's not to like?

Alonso is a lefty hitter who can't hit lefties.   Thus he is a platoon player.  We will need to add another hitter to platoon with him.   Maybe we have options in house (Diaz, Guyer, Mejia) or maybe we go out and get another veteran.   If we do the latter guys like Gio Urshela and Erik Gonzalez are at risk as they are out of options.  Plus, if we added a veteran right hand bat you would have liked him to be a full-time starter like maybe a thirdbaseman instead of just a platoon firstbaseman.

You see the issue.   By adding Alonso you likely will add another veteran, pushing back younger players.

For me, I would have rather just kept Mejia on the roster as the third catcher/DH.  Chisenhall can play some 1B and so can Brantley.  With the guys we have returning, I think that works better than signing Alonso.  Plus we have Yandy Diaz.   I know what they were doing in getting Alonso but I just don't like it.   Young guys get kicked to the curb or jettisoned because they are not Lindoresque and we get little or nothing for them.   A perfect example is Jesus Aguilar, who was out of options last year.   He ended up on waivers and picked up by Milwaukee.   Well, he hit 16 HR last year in Milwaukee.   His LH splits were .303 BA and .889 OPS and he wasn't terrible against RHP, either.   We jettisoned him for nothing because we didn't have room for him when, if we would have kept him, we could have used him to help, in a platoon situation, to replace Santana this year.  To me that would have made as much sense as signing Alonso as we wouldn't have to look for another FA signing to platoon with Alonso and it would have been MUCH cheaper.

Hey, I am OK with signing certain veterans when needed.    However, the last two years we have made moves that gave away young players for little return.   Signing Alonso might cause us to do the same again.   I just don't like that when we are in a weak division and all that our in-house options may need is just need a chance to be successful.  Filling your roster with veterans really doesn't give the young players that opportunity and, as I said, you wind up throwing away for nothing prospects just because they are not the next coming of Francisco Lindor.   Bad business for a small market team, in my opinion. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Comments about the winter meetings

You know, this type of post is usually called "Musings about the winter meetings"

Problem is, I am not a-MUSED.   It is more like I am a-PO'd.  When I am mad I write a lot.   So bear with me.

So far here is what we know:

1. Joe Smith signed with the Astros.  As I said at the time, getting Joe Smith was a bad trade.   In my opinion we gave away WAY too much for a rental of a middle reliever.   In the end, we win the division without Joe Smith and, at worst, we do as bad in the playoffs as we did, losing in the first round.   I know trade deadline acquisitions sometime don't make any difference.  However, this one will hurt for years to come if Thomas Pannone and Samad Taylor even just scratch the surface of their potential worth.  I saw no other team make this kind of one-sided trade at the deadline but more on that below.  Plus, Smith signing with the Astros hurts our chances of making the WS again.

2. Shawn Armstrong traded for 500 K of international signing money.  Yes, this gives us some money to use to sign some of the Braves signees who were thrown back into the mix by the commissioner.  However, since the commissioner already said that teams can borrow against next year's pool to sign guys now AND since the Indians don't often sign more than one high profile guy anyway AND since you can always trade someone next spring to get extra bonus money, what is the big deal with making this deal now?  Yes Armstrong is out of options but 500K is not that much considering that the Mariners had already given 1 MM for a fringe prospect minor leaguer.   Look, no one should think that I believe that Shawn Armstrong is the second coming of Cody Allen or anything and I know he was out of options but, bottom line, precedent tells me we didn't have to do this trade now and, if we DID make this trade we should have gotten more international bonus money out of it than we did.   Plus, with the loss of Joe Smith, it's not like we didn't need options for the bullpen.

3. Rumors of a trade of Danny Salazar to the Cubs are swirling.   No problem, as long as we rob the other team.   We are already down a couple of solid relievers from last year and, truth be told, we have only 6 solid starters counting Salazar.   It doesn't take a pessimist to predict that we might only have 5 starters available by next opening day...just a realist.   So, if you want to trade Salazar and leave Ryan Merritt as your next starter option if one of the remaining starters get hurt, you better damn well get Anthony Rizzo back.   Just on paper, this type of move looks like the Indians of the '80s, trading pitching for hitting and then finding that they don't have enough pitching, trading hitting for pitching.  Hey, dangle any of the starters for hitting.   That's fine.  Just let's get a king's ransom back because we don't have a lot of starting pitching depth to play with in Cleveland.

4. I am a little worried about the Indians' ability to pull off a trade that doesn't favor the other team more than us.  Yes, we have a limited window but if you look down our roster and prospect lists (see below) you can see that there is not much to help us once that window starts to close.   The Joe Smith trade talked about above is the perfect example of the kind of overpayment I see them making on a grander scale this winter or next July.  I see the Indians robbing Peter (our farm system) to pay Paul (our major league team) without much consideration of getting fair value back.  The issue with this is that it weakens the farm system for a team that is unlikely to jump into the US free agent pool feet first and has not been willing to sign high profile international amateur or international professional free agents.   Any time there is a bidding war we just sit back and wait to see if it evaporates with the attempt to sweep in and get a guy.  I understand that we are a small market team but now is the time we need to replenish our farm system or in 5 years we will be the worst team in baseball.  If we don't go all in with amateur guys right now we are in trouble.
     Along those lines we could have easily matched or exceeded what the Cardinals paid for Marcell Ozuna.  Ozuna will not be a free agent until 2020.   Chris Antonneti said that he is looking for assets good for more than one year.  Ozuna fit that bill but, for whatever reason (maybe they think 2017 was his career year, which is possible), we whiffed on that trade.

5. Going into the Rule 5 draft the Indians were one of only 6 clubs who did not have a single one of their top 30 prospects eligible for the Rule 5 draft.  This is the result of having a lot of their top prospects making the majors this year or being traded and the rest being recently drafted/signed who are not yet rule 5-eligible.  It also reflects some of their top draft picks like Mike Papi not panning out as expected.   Only 3 of their top 30 prospects even had to be protected from the Rule 5 draft and they all were protected by the deadline in November for setting rosters.   As I posted at the time the decisions weren't that hard and even the fringe prospects who weren't protected would not likely be lost as they were unlikely to stick on other major league rosters.  I thought we might lose Rob Kaminsky because he is a LHP and because he was injured which could give the drafting team extra time to develop him (as with Anthony Santander last year).  In the end, the Indians lost Jordan Milbrath (26 year old RH relief pitcher who has not made it past AA yet) in the major league phase.   They selected no on in the major league phase.  Milbrath will have to stick with the Pirates all year or be offered back to the Indians.   He is unlikely to stick with the Pirates even as a mop-up man so we should be getting him back.
    In the minor league portion where we don't get the players back, the Indians lost Junior Soto, an OFer who, while 20, has spent 4 years and not made it past low class A where he batted .172 last year and Ivan Castillo, a 22 year old SS who has been in the organization and finally made it to AA this year where he hit .203.  We selected R.C. Orlan, a 27 year old LHP who has not pitched above AA yet. 
    In summary, the 2017 Rule 5 draft was a yawner for the Indians as expected.   While it is a good thing not to lose players it also shows that the organizational depth of players who can help at the big league level is not there.  To me it signals that what is on our 40 man roster is what we will have to pick from to help the Indians early next year.   Not surprising but you would like to see one or two minor leaguers jump up to help your ML team every year.   I think the draft results support that this is not likely to happen in 2018.
     One other Rule 5 draft note.   Anthony Santander has 44 days left that he has to be on the Orioles major league roster next year for the Orioles not to have to return him.   Given that the Orioles were the only team in the majors who selected THREE players in this year's ML portion of the Rule 5 draft, I think they are looking to the future which, to me, completely eliminates any possibility of him returning to the Indians.  It is a shame because the organizational depth last year was just enough to keep Santander, probably a top 15 prospect on the Indians, from being protected.   They thought his injury would keep him from being selected but, instead, it was used against the Indians to get Santander more seasoning and allowing him to only be on the roster after the Orioles were essentially eliminated from the pennant race, picking up 46 days of active roster time, most of that in baseball's equivalent of basketball's garbage time...September. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

A little of this and a little of that

This is a baseball blog, I know.  But this is the winter and baseball news is slow to develop so let's branch out.

1. Indians/free agents/trades - The Indians need a RH hitting OFer, preferably a right fielder.   As I said before the guy who makes the most sense is Giancarlo Stanton.  Of course, Stanton won't even go to a baseball Meccha like St. Louis and so he ain't coming here.  We can afford to go bargain basement right now and a guy like Matt Adams makes some sense.  Ditto for the bullpen.  As far as trade bait, besides the minor leaguers I might consider this:

     a. Our most tradeable asset is Bradley Zimmer.  If the price is right I trade him in a heart beat.   But the price has to be right.

     b. I don't trade Erik Gonzalez under any circumstances.  Why?  Because his value to the Indians is much greater than his value in trade, which is very little.  

     c. By this time next year Gio Urshela might have been released.   But, right now, he is organizational depth without much trade value.   He stays.

    d. If Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis hadn't gotten hurt they would have been great trade bait.   I think if they have bouince back seasons they are more value to the Indians than as a throw-in to a trade.  I will be coming up with some potential trades before we get to the baseball meetings on Dec. 10th.  Right now, though, I don't see a lot we have to trade as we are solid all the way through the roster and need all those guys.   Now, I guy or two or three from the minors gets to the majors and shows their ability to replace current roster players and I will take back what I said.

2. Ohio State and the football playoffs.   Alabama didn't deserve it.  Wisconsin didn't deserve it after they lost to the Buckeyes.  But Ohio State didn't deserve it, either.  So no whining in football.  If they had gotten in it would have been a lot like last year.

3. The Cleveland Cavaliers - Is the whole freakin' league rebuilding?  It was an embarrassment to lose against teams early.  But now that the league is sorting itself out we get a look at how weak the rest of the Eastern Division is.  In fact, the bottom half of the Western Division is probably weaker than the bottom half of the Eastern Division.  There are no words!

4. The Cleveland Browns -  To quote Jodie Foster in the movie Contact, "no words.  There are no words".  She was talking about something mind blowing.   I am not. 

5. The Indians not making the semifinals of the Ohtani sweepstakes.  How many good Japanese restaurants per capita are there in Cleveland.