The Indians have been busy the last couple of weeks. Let's go over their moves and see how the logic of them stacks up:
Adam Everett: He was signed to a minor league FA deal. The only negative with minor league FA deals is if the guy you bring in blocks a true prospect from either playing time at a level or advancing from a lower level. Everett does neither. He also provides needed SS insurance in case Cabrera goes down and is utility infield depth. Now, if he ends up on the ML roster cosing Donald or even the much-maligned Luis Valbuena playing time, or, in being on the roster, stops Jason Kipnis or Cord Phelps from being promoted, then I have an issue with bringing in a veteran in another predictably losing season and the difference between his ML salary and the ML minimum a rookie would get to give us a few more meaningless wins on our chase to avoid finishing behind Kansas City and ending up in last place in the AL Central.
I will say this, however. If you could have found a way to roster Josh Rodriguez this signing would have been unnecessary. More about that later.
Austin Kearns: Bringing Kearns back makes some sense to me if the Indians think he can be a good example for younger players. We don't know who the player will be who is DFA'd, released or traded but if it is Shelley Duncan, then no great loss there nor is the substitution of Kearns for roster on next year's 25 man roster that disturbing as there are currently no OFers in the minors ready to play in the majors. Again, however, we are in a losing season and the difference between Kearn's base salary of $1.3 million (there are a number of fat incentives in it) and what we would pay a rookie could be used to sign draft picks. Who really cares if we have mercenary veterans on the field next year. We need to look at prospects. So I am neutral on this signing...but only since we replaced one unneeded and worthless (to the Indians) veteran with another.
12-23-10: The Indians removed Justin Germano from the roster. This is an odd move and it means, for now, the Indians continue their love affair with Shelley Duncan, a typical AAAA player who had his chance to remove that tag last year but, instead solidified it with a similar performance at an older age for another team besides the Yankees. Hopefully Duncan will be the next DFA. The DFA of Germano now further points out that there was room for Josh Rodriguez to be protected as Ger,ano could have been DFA'd earlier. The Indians may say that they have a greater chance of keeping Germano by making this move now but my response would be 'How do you really know" and "Even if that is the case, who cares if you lose a AAAA reliever whose career took him to Japan because he couldn't make the majors in the US."
Toru Murata: Again, cannon fodder for the minors and you can never have too much pitching. Still, our Far East signing is a guy released from a Japanese team? That's the equivalent of a guy released from a AA or AAA team. Maybe we find a bargain here but that would be great scouting and coaching the guy up because, on paper, this guy doesn't appear to be very good.
Travis Buck: An interesting signing. He has significant ML experience and I don't know, depending on how the ML roster shakes out, if he would be taking ABs away from a prospect at AAA. That being said we already have five outfielders: Sizemore, Crowe, Brantley, Choo and Kearns plus we have rookies like Carrera, Weglarz, Drennen and others in AAA and we have to find ABs for Jordan Brown, as well.
Summary: While I see the logic in some of these signings I harken back to how we set up our 40-man roster. We are bringing in OFers but had Duncan and Ezequiel Carrera on our 40-manML roster at the time the rosters were frozen. We have Jordan Henry one step behind Carrera at AA and not needing to be protected until after 2012 which, from his current trajectory, will put him in the majors at the time, anyway, and we let Jose Constanza walk in free agency. We had enough OFers already to stock a AAA and ML roster yet we signed two more. That doesn't make any sense to me, in light of exposing Rodriguez to the Rule 5..
Good roster management would have been to add Josh Rodriguez to the ML roster in November and remove Carrera. We are signing OFers around him that, with the returning OFers, make Carrera worthless. While losing Duncan for Kearns is no change, losing Rodriguez in the Rule 5 draft makes less sense now than it did at the time (it made no sense at the time) as Carrera appears to be filler in this organization's thinking and you don't lose guys in the Rule 5 draft with AAAA types (Nix, Duncan, Germano, among others), on you ML roster. You just don't.
So, while I applaud actually bringing in minor league FA's who might help in a pinch at positions we are not stacked at in the minors (although we ARE questionably stacked at OFer in AAA), these moves, in total, make me wonder why we exposed Rodriguez to the Rule 5 draft. My only guess is that we valued Rodriguez as little as we value Carrera. Time will tell if that is a mistake on the order of Brandon Phillips or an insignificant Rule 5 loss like Matt Whitney. Let's hope it's the latter A rebuilding organization can't afford to give up real prospects.
One final thought on this issue: Does the signing of OFers with ML experience point out that the Indians are pretty unsure if Grady Sizemore will be ready for the ML opener or if they question if he will ever be ready again? Don't know, just sayin' it is a disturbing possibility.