The Tribe in Free Agency

 

Don't expect our Indians to be very active this off-season

 

What a concept. Not that the Indians really have much that they are going to be putting toward the Free Agency period this year, but some things are well worth considering. With the new coaching regime in place, all but a hitting coach, they can start to look and see what kind of talent is available for the team with the very limited budget that they have. We all know what this team needs, some serious help in the pitching department, a utility infielder, maybe another outfielder and a better catcher (assuming Acta isn’t planning on starting the year with Carlos Santana behind the plate) and maybe, just maybe if money allows, some form of veteran leadership eslwhere on the diamond. Looking at all the available lists of the top 50 free agents and the total list of players available, I will look at possibilities and not-possibilities for the Indians this off-season. There is a link here to a list on fanhouse.com that I think is rather good as to who the top 50 this year are.

Looking at the top tier of free agents, the Matt Hollidays, John Lackeys and Jason Bays of the world, there is definetly no chance the Indians make a run at those types of availabe players. Guys looking for big money and long contracts are not what the Indians are looking for right now and definetly have no where near enough money to even consider going after them. Although it would be nice to see John Lackey or Jason Bay put on an Indians jersey for a few years and give us a big time star to lead the team and help Grady and the boys get back to the top of the division.

Looking towards the Tribe’s wants NEEDS we first have to look at pitching. From what we saw down the stretch last year we do have a few bright spots to look forward too in the rotation with David Huff, maybe Fausto Carmona and his on and off self will be more on this year, Scott Lewis should be ready to go and that leaves us with 2 spots to fill. At least one of these will be filled internally with the likes of Carlos Carrasco, Jeremy “5-Inning Master” Sowers or someone else, with Acta saying that he is looking to add a veteran arm to the mix through free agency. Looking at the list of available players, there are several pitchers out there that could come fairly cheap and could help the Tribe as they look to move forward after a rough year of pitching in 2009. The names on this list that are intriguing to me are, both at starter and reliever: Erik Bedard, Jarrod Washburn, Ben Sheets, Doug Davis, Rafael Betancourt, Darren Oliver, Kiko Calero, Todd Wellemeyer and Mark Mulder. The majority of these guys are starters, since both Acta and the rest of the staff seems to think that our current set of guys in the bullpen can be effective enough, and with the nature of bullpens, you never really know.

As for that list of guys, I know some of those names are not ones you would expect given their pasts and the money they might ask for. But if you think about it, how can Bedard and Sheets demand humongous contracts if they can’t stay healthy? I know they will because when they have been healthy they have both been borderline amazing, but they might still be worth a look. Getting into each individually lets look at it this way.

Bedard- A disaster in Seattle after being amazing for years in Baltimore. Signed a huge contract a few years ago and was traded for current Stud Adam Jones and others but then washed out and was constantly injured in Seattle. I look for him to demand a contract similiar to his old one, but once no one is willing to pay the lefty he might come down on his asking price enough so that the Tribe, other small and mid-market teams could afford to take him on a 1 or 2 year deal which would allow him to try and bounce back and prove himself as an effective starter once again.

Sheets – My personal favorite on this list, he was the heart and soul of the Brewers franchise prior to the arrival of CC Sabathia, and even after that was huge for them. But he’s so injury prone that he never really has been as good as he can be. Similiar to the Bedard situation, I expect him to seek out a huge contract at about 5 or 6 years, probably around 8 million per. Like most pitchers he will be looking to get the most for what he’s got, but no one knows if his arm will hold up for a season. Worth a look at a one year deal, he is used to small market obscurity and seems like the kind of guy Cleveland could get used too.

Time to stop dreaming. More realisticially the Indians should look at these guys.

Jarrod Washburn – He has always been a pretty effective lefty, except for his time in Detroit, and has usually had a pretty high price tag. But due to his age and dropping abilities he might be the perfect match for a team looking for a one year veteran stop gap to let the young arms develop and provide some much needed leadership and stability to the rotation.

Doug Davis – Like Washburn, he is a pretty effective lefty, who has been up and down. He’s on the older end of the spectrum and is the kind of guy the Indians youngsters could learn alot from. He knows how to pitch, he is not gifted with amazing stuff and is crafty with his breaking pitches. He is quite a realistic player for the Indians to target.

Rafael Betancourt – Since he is out on the market it would be nice to see a friendly face return to Cleveland. He enjoyed his time here and we enjoyed having him, except for that one really bad year, but I can look past that. He would ideally shore up the back end of the bullpen once again, but his price tag will probably be way way too high for the Tribe coming off his resurgence with the Rockies last season after we dumped him. I’d love to get the fiery righty back in the bullpen though.

Darren Oliver – One of the most consistent lefty relievers in the game today. Even given his age, he does what he does well, comes in and shuts the door on rallies and is a great lefty-lefty matchup guy. He has always been pretty well priced, but I really don’t think he will leave LA, he’s been there for a long time and will likely return, but it would give us a steady, and consistent guy in the ‘pen and maybe help Rafael Perez and others develop. I’d really like this signing if we could make it happen.

Kiko Calero – Another possible option, although he will probably be asking for a lot of money. Like Betancourt he had a great season last year after past struggles, and is a shut down guy in the pen like we need. Not very likely however that he will join the Tribe.

Todd Wellemeyer – Here’s the guy that the Indians really should go after. He has been average to above average for the Cardinals the past few years, and shouldn’t be too pricey. He has proved his capabilities as both a starter and a reliever, like Justin Masterson, and could go either way depending on what the Tribe needed from him. This guy would be a pretty solid pickup.

Mark Mulder – I know what you are thinking, that I am either dumb or crazy and probably both. This would be a Mark Shapiro type signing that I can see happening ala Carl Pavano last year. Sign Mulder to a 1 year incentive laden deal with little risk and possible high reward. Lets not forget Mulder used to be a front line starter for the A’s and could be an effective starter again if he could stay healthy. It would definetly be worth a look for Shapiro and Acta to bring in a guy like him, like last year, especially after the success that was the Carl Pavano signing. Who knows, Mulder could get healthy, go 10-10 with a 5.00 ERA and land us a prospect or player to be named later in a trade deadline deal.

The other focus of the Tribe in free agency is a utility infield role. There is not nearly as many candidates to consider here, and for old times sake I would obviously like to see Omar Vizquel brought back to Cleveland to mentor Luis Valbuena and Asdrubal Cabrera so that he could retire in an Indians jersey. Apart from the probable future hall of famer there really are not many guys who would suit the Tribe’s needs.

Chris Woodward – He can play both spots up the middle and probably some 3rd base if he needed to. He has had several stints in the big leagues, a few as an everyday player, but is more of a career AAA guy, but will come cheap.

John McDonald – Could find his way back to Cleveland to fill the role he has had in Toronto for the past several years since we traded him there. At times he has been a very soft hitting and strong fielding regular up the middle, and could add a good defensive back up to the youngsters on days they need off.

Mark DeRosa is available haha.

Craig Counsell – The ageless middle infielder who has been around since the early 90’s just keeps going. Never a star but always a professional, good defender who can give you some good at bats in the utility role.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Jamey Carroll back in Cleveland.

Ronnie Belliard – He could come cheap, he was one of the guys that really did not want to leave Cleveland and we hated to see him go, his abilities limit him to 2B, 1B and 3B, which kind of defeats the purpose of the roll we need filled, but it would allow Valbuena and Peralta to play some SS on days Cabrera gets off.

Looking at the Catching position, we have several young guys back there ready to go, but if the club signs someone it should be either Paul Bako or Greg Zaun, since his role the past few years has been as a place holder until the prospect (ala Matt Wieters in Baltimore) was ready to go. Henry Blanco, Josh Bard, the Older Molina brothers and several other veteran catchers are available.

Oh, and somebody should call Carlos Baerga. Just for funsies. Imagine having him back here, with Vizquel, Lofton could come back, Alomar coaching and Manny and Thome if they want to play for free :). Family Reunion. Not gonna happen, but a guy can dream.

As far as the Tribe’s venture in to Free Agency this year there is not much to look forward too, but do expect them to make a run at at least 1 quality veteran arm to slide into the #3 or #4 spot in the rotation, another bullpen arm, preferably a lefty, and a backup infielder. The outfield situation is pretty solid as I discussed in my post about the position players the other day, but don’t be too surprised if they bring in another veteran to fill in at DH somedays an in the OF others.

 

Check back soon to see my rundown of the current Indians pitching staff.

 

Zach

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