Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Random Thoughts – January edition

IT'S JANUARY 19th.........

...and the Jordan Brown DFA (we were fortunate he was not lost for the waiver price which was more a function of people having full or nearly full 40-man rosters) and the potential loss of Josh Rodriguez by not protecting him on the 40-man, still look as stupid as they did when they happened, at least for a rebuilding team. 

Some bloggers and forum fanatics are saying that it is vindication of the FO of how bad Jordan Brown sucks because he cleared waivers.  What those people fail to realize or the they realize but fail to tell you is that, if you look at the 40 man rosters of all 30 teams in baseball there are exactly ELEVEN 40-man rosters spots available in all of baseball.  ELEVEN spread among EIGHT teams, no team with a 40-man roster under 38 players.  And most likely most, if not all, of those remaining spots are going to major league free agents who have not yet signed with a team.  At last glance there appear to be about 60 free agents left who have significant major league experience and could likely sign a major league deal.  I am pretty sure almost every roster spot left is tagged for one of those free agents who just hasn't signed yet.  Validating that, only one(Baltimore who is at 39 players) of those 8 teams (St. Louis, Cubs, Tampa Bay, White Sox, Milwaukee, San Diego and San Francisco) is clearly not in contention for a playoff spot this year meaning the rest of those teams are likely to fill their spot(s) with veteran free agents. To try to equate Brown passing through waivers as him being worthless is absolutely ridiculous.  It is clearly that these rosters are essentially full and teams just don't want to dump their own prospects for a guy, Brown, who they don't know that much about.  So, kudos to the Indians' FO for being able to count to 40 (29 times).  Shame on them for putting this kid through this when he has and continues to deserve so much more.  Ditto for Rodriguez who appears destined to be an asset wasted in favor of a AAAA guy (Nix) and some questionable returnees (Valbuena and even Crowe and Duncan, as Rodriguez can also play the OF).

Rebuilding teams need to look at their internal assets and VALIDATE whether they can be major leaguers before going outside of their organization and, ESPECIALLY, before giving repetitions to AAAA players.


I noticed that Gil Meche retired, leaving $12 million on the table because he can't pitch anymore due to a sore shoulder.  Well, truth be told, Travis Hafner can't hit anymore due to a sore shoulder.  The only difference is that Hafner actually can still physically get to the plate and swing a bat.  Still, this contract is an albatross around the neck of the Indians' FO and Hafner has earned very little of the money he has made since this contract went into effect.  I don't think there is a fan in Cleveland that wouldn't like to see us work out a settlement with Hafner if we could save, say, 60% of the money left on his contract.    So, Travis, please step up to the plate one last time...and retire.  Take enough money to be comfortable, but retire.  Meche did it.  McGwire did it and I am sure there are many others. 

We are now approaching the end of January and it would appear that the Indians are done with free agent signings and trades.  I am not quite sure of that, however.  I still think we will bottom feed as second options if our first options fail.  Let’s look at what’s out there based on our needs:

Third base: 

Available players: Jorge Cantu, Ronnie Belliard, Andy LaRoche, Eric Chavez, Alex Cora, Pedro Feliz, Christian Guzman, Nick Punto, Joe Inglett.

Analysis: I would love Cantu but that isn’t reasonable.  I think we will settle on Punto although my heart is on Inglett.  Every team needs a Joe Inglett.

Starting pitcher:

Available players: David Bush, Justin Duchscherer, Shawn Hill, Rodrigo Lopez, Nate Robertson, Ben Sheets, Todd Wellemeyer, John Maine.

Analysis: I predict the Indians will sign three guys, despite what has been said.  One will be signed to a major league deal (Bush? Maine?) and two to minor league/rehab deals (Hill?  Wellemeyer? Robertson?)

Relief Pitcher:

Available players: They are legion  

Analysis:  The Indians need to look at internal options ONLY this year.  They should ONLY be looking only for minor league help, help that can give them a lot of innings as the shuttle between Cleveland and Columbus should be busy this year.  Hopefully they go with younger guys (Micah Owings? James Houser?) and not the grizzled veterans (Tim Byrdak, Coffey).  I mean, we already signed Doug Mathis.  No Mas! NOTE: you may see them sign Bobby Howry or Brendan Donnelly to prepare to have them become coaches/managers in the minors next year.

Other Positions:

Analysis:  I don’t see the Indians signing anyone else except for the perennial Latin minor league middle infield guy and maybe a journeyman minor league catcher.  Aside from that, they actually have too many players for their current AAA and AA rosters.


I wrote about Archer in my teaser to this column earlier this month.  My thoughts haven’t changed.  I like the guy but I doubt he is really this good.


Some times teams do things that make the fans scratch their heads.  This is a head scratcher.  Ryan, who usually batted AFTER the pitcher in Tony LaRussa’s lineup, had gotten in LaRussa’s dog house.  Like Hotel California, you can check into this dog house whenever you want but you can never  leave…except by being traded or released.   He would have been nice to have here as he can field but Adam Everett makes more sense since we got him on a minor league deal.  Still, as someone who follows the Cardinals, I think they got robbed in the deal that traded him away.


Who is this guy and why would I mention him here?  Lucas Duda is a middling prospect firstbaseman/outfielder/DH for the New York Mets.   He had a great year last year in the minors and was named the Mets minor league player of the year by Baseball America.  So why mention him?  Well, he started out last year not even in the Mets top 30 prospects.  He is a big, slow guy but put up good numbers first at AA and next at AAA.  The Mets, who were one game out of first place in June, trashed the second half of the season and were out of it by Sept. 1st.  So, what did they do?  They called up this middling prospect and gave him some ABs in September of a lost season, even though they had young or star players at positions he played.    

My question is, why don’t the Indians do that.  Why didn’t they do it with Jordan Brown in 2009, why didn’t they do it with Matt McBride, Josh Rodriguez and Jared Goedert in 2010?  This is a tune I have sung repeatedly over the years.  GIVE YOUR GUYS A CHANCE, ESPECIALLY IN A LOSING YEAR.   Now you can make the argument that the situations are different, but let’s face it, we were looking at really bad players, AAAA players in most cases, at 3B and, somewhat, in the outfield last year and did have some ABs at 1B and DH, truth be told. 

So, Lucas Duda is my current poster child for how it should be done.  His experience SHOULD have been the experience of Josh Rodriguez, Jordan Brown, Matt McBride and Jared Goedert last year.  It wasn’t and instead Rodriguez has probably been lost, Brown has been dissed and Goedert and McBride are still awaiting their first chance, performance and capabilities be damned.  All while AAAA players dot our roster.  For a rebuilding organization I think this is inexcusable.  But that’s just me.


 The 2011 draft order is taking shape.  The Indians will draft somewhere in the space between 66th and 70th in the second round, 96th-100th in the 3rd round, 127th to 131st in the 4th round.  After that just add 30 slots to where they drafted in the previous round to get their total draft order, assuming teams don’t stop drafting early.  

The most interesting thing about this year’s draft is that Tampa Bay is likely to have 11 picks in the top 75 picks of the draft.  Using last year’s slot values this means that the Rays will have to have a draft budget of over $9 million JUST to cover their picks through the 3rd round of the draft.   That’s if all their guys sign for slot.  Why I am mentioning this is that teams that have this many picks have, historically, gone cheap, looking for guys whose talent doesn’t represent the draft slot but who will be willing to sign for a cheaper bonus.  Even though every time a Type A or Type B free agent signs with another team it drives the Indians’ draft slot down a notch or two, the Tampa Bay situation is absolutely the best possible scenario under these conditions for the Indians.  It becomes more likely that players below the talent of the 70th pick (around where the Indians will draft in the 2nd round) will be elevated above those slots because teams like the Rays will be trying to go cheap to stay within their overall draft budget, which could be blown out of the water by these extra picks.

So, while the Indians may have one of if not THE lowest slot in EVERY round in the history of the draft for a team with the 7th overall worst record, the Tampa Bay situation lessens that blow somewhat. 

And, as I have been saying for years and the Indians FINALLY took advantage of last year, there is value all the way down to the 50th round of the draft IF a team is willing to pay for the talent that is available.  Let’s hope they keep that approach this year and are not scared away by all the extra compensation picks.  

With baseball being the way it is, the ONLY hope for the future of the Cleveland Indians is the draft and good minor league development.  We need to make the most of the draft EACH year if we want a perennially strong team.

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