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. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

HOF ballot this year

There is always enough Indians stuff to talk about that it is hard to fit in a post about baseball (or other things) not involving the current Cleveland Indians organization.  But it is HOF ballot time and time to weigh in on that ballot.  Here is the list and my comments on each:

General: First, I love the big Red machine.   I was in Cincinnati during that time and, while being an Indians' fan, loved watching winning, history-making baseball.   That being said, the inclusion of Tony Perez into the HOF has created problems for me ever since.   Hey, Perez was a very, very solid player, maybe even great at times but, in my opinion, there are hundreds of guys like him who aren't in the HOF and, frankly, shouldn't be...just like Perez.  

I think this year's HOF ballot gives us a chance to separate great players from HOF players, the way it should be.  I think this ballot also has guys on it who will eventually make it through the veteran committee process, like Perez probably should have.

I think Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel will get in, although I worry about Thome being thrown out with the dirty PED bathwater.   There are probably more non-PED guys worthy of getting in but I think they will split the vote between them with a few more guys than normal just falling short.

Here are my individual comments:

Barry Bonds - Unfortunately, like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson, there are a lot of reasons other than performance that will keep statistically-deserving players out. So, no on Bonds.  
Chris Carpenter -  Good when he was good but not even long enough to earn a second year on the ballot.
Roger Clemens - See Bonds.
Johnny Damon - not even at Perez's level.   This should be his first and last year on the ballot. 
Vladimir Guerrero - Here is a guy, like Kirby Puckett, who was so good so long he should be in the HOF.   Yeah, injuries made it so he didn't have eye-popping, no-doubt career numbers but he should be there.
Livan Hernandez - TCahe Cuban guys are tough but I think he falls short as it is too hard to predict a full career for him that would make him HOF-worthy. 
Trevor Hoffman, - The voters love him but will that love go away this year with the ballot being as stuffed as it is?  I hope he makes it this year but I doubt he will.
Orlando Hudson - No
Jason Isinghausen - Part of the reason that Hoffman may not make it is that some voters may be split between him and Isringhausen.  Got to meet the man this past year because his daughter played volleyball at the same school my daughter did.  He is a good guy who I saw pitch for years in St. Louis.  I think he is borderline HOF material and I hope he eventually makes it. 
Andruw Jones - I love this Jones but, using my Tony Perez yardstick, I think Jones falls short of Perez and so doesn't get in. 
Chipper Jones - Normally I would say first ballot HOFer and he may do that.   In this year, however, he may fall just short making him an easy second ballot HOFer.
Jeff Kent - Just like Tony Perez, Kent dominated a relatively weak offensive group at second base, especially power-wise, during his career.   That being said, he falls short of Perez and so definitely short of the HOF.
 Carlos Lee - To me, just a really good player, but not a HOFer
Brad Lidge - Good but not a HOFer and certainly not while Hoffman and Isringhausen are on the ballet.
Edgar Martinez - The best DH of all time but, on this ballot, and in this era where everyone hits, and the fact that he wasn't really a rounded player being a DH, I don't see him getting in, maybe ever, when you use the Tony Perez as the bottom rung argument.  Plus, there is Thome if you want a mostly-DH guy, at least later in his career.
Hidecki Matsui - One of the first big Japenese imports, you have to question whether he should have his Japanese stats factored in.   I say no and to all those who say 'yes', then Julio Franco should already be in the HOF as his foreign stats put him well over 3000 hits, among other normal HOF indicators. 
Fred McGriff - See Tony Perez.   McGriff was a great player but not HOF material.
Kevin Millwood - Very solid ML player.  No HOFer, though.
Jamie Moyer - Like Julio Franco, this guy played so long that he might be on the HOF ballot AND be considered by the Veterans' committee in the same year (JK).  When Franco gets in, so should Moyer. 
Mike Mussina - I don't get it.  He should get in but I guess his numbers are not so overwhelming that people just ignore him.    He will get in one day but it may be at the Veterans' Committee level.
Manny Ramirez - PEDs will keep him out but it might be a blessing in disguise.   He might have embarrassed himself by getting lost and missing his own induction.
Scott Rolen - I wish he could get in.   By the Perez yardstick maybe he makes it.  However, I think the list will be so good for so many years now that Rolen won't get in.  And, frankly, he was just a really, really, solid player but falls just short of HOF numbers.
Johan Santana - Not good enough for long enough. 
Curt Schilling, - See Mussina
Gary Sheffield, - No
Sammy Sosa - No 
Jim Thome - Look, he is in if I have a ballot.  As has been said by others, he is a certified slugger but without the PED stigma.  He would have been Ruthian if he played when Ruth played. 
Omar Vizquel - I have had the pleasure of watching two of the greatest, if not the two greatest, defensive shortstops of all time, repeatedly and in person: Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel.   Omar is a first ballot HOFer as his offense, like that of Smith, improved over the course of his career while maintaining HOF defense.   Vizquel should be in.
Billy Wagner - See Brad Lidge 
Larry Walker - Solid but no HOFer.
Kerry Wood - If you got into the HOF for pre-career hype and your first couple of years of performance Wood is in.  Unfortunately the HOF path is a marathon and Wood ran a world class 100 meter dash in that path. 
Carlos Zambrano - On weak ballot years a guy like Zambrano might hang around a couple of years before being taken off the ballot for low vote totals.  With this list, however, Zambrano is likely not to be on next year's ballot.

40 man roster decisions and other related things

First, as I previously posted, the 40 man roster decisions were pretty easy for the Indians.   Adding Chang, Castro and Merryweather were no brainers.   Leaving off Papi, Nellie Rodriguez and  Rob Kaminsky were no brainers, either.   Papi has been mediocre his who career, Rodriguez regressed dramatically last year and is a tough fit as a RH first baseman.  Kaminsky was hurt all year. 

Adding Eric Stamets to the roster is a bit of a surprise.  His surprising power surge this year may have accounted for his addition.  Adding Rob Refsnyder on waivers is also a bit of a surprise.

Regarding the Rule 5 draft that is built off the prospects teams don't put on their 40 man rosters at this time of year, look for the Indians not to lose anyone with the exception of maybe Kaminsky in the ML portion of the draft, although it is a pretty good shot that Kaminsky will get drafted by some team.  They may or may not draft a guy in ML portion and are likely not to, given their very low slot in the Rule 5 draft.  That being said, Anthony Santander, a good Indians prospect, made it until the second round of the ML portion last year so the Indians could still find a hidden gem near the end of the first round.   Looking at the lack of even fringe Indians prospects who are Rule 5 eligible and the size of the Columbus reserve list, I don't see the Indians losing guys in the minor league portion, either.   Since the Indians have not been major players in selecting guys in the minor league portion of the Rule 5, I see the entire Rule 5 draft to be very quiet vis-à-vis the Indians, with the exception of maybe losing Kaminsky.

DFAing Kyle Crockett is no surprise as he has lost favor within the organization since his uber-successful ML debut in 2015.  Ditto for DFAing Dylan Baker as he has pitched great but has almost always been hurt since he was drafted.   I think Crockett will find work elsewhere but I hope the Indians re-sign Baker.   If they sign either of these guys to minor league deals in the next few weeks they would be eligible for the Rule 5 draft with a high likelihood, I think, of them being selected by another club.   So, if we re-sign them, look for it to be after January 1st. 

Regarding 6 year minor league free agents who were in the Indians organization last year, Ronny Rodriguez and Tim Cooney are the most intriguing for the Indians.   Cooney was actually in the Indians' top 30 prospects last winter but barely got on the mound for the AZL Indians at the end of this season after being out with an arm injury most of the year.   Rodriguez has shown his versatility and a little pop at AAA but the Indians letting him go, adding Stamets to the roster and protecting catcher Eric Haase from 6 year minor league free agency by adding him to the 40 man says the Indians don't think Rodriguez has a future with this club.   Other notables who became minor league free agents were Joe Colon, Michael Martinez, Adam Moore and Chris Narveson (all with previous ML experience) and minor league fringe prospects Luis Lugo, Luigi Rodriguez and Jeff Johnson.   All of these guys might end up in the big leagues at some point but there are many more like these guys from other clubs who just became minor league free agents.  The Indians will re-sign a few of these guys and sign some other guys.  Frankly, the Indians have not really done well finding hidden gems or guys they can develop in these career minor leaguers so let's hope they have someone really good (like the guy(s) who suggested signing Dan Otero) analyzing these lists and they come up with some help for the big league club in 2018 from other teams' discards. 

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.