I don’t think Tribe fans realize how crucial this offseason is for the Indians. The team surprised a lot of people with its quick start and they finished 80-82, obviously not a winning record, but their record was an 11-game improvement on 2010.
Theoretically, the Indians could try to hang in contention again without major upgrades. After all, injuries killed the Tribe’s chances this year – Travis Hafner, Carlos Carrasco, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo all battled injuries at critical times in 2011, and then losing Michael Brantley and Josh Tomlin each for the final month of the season was the dagger. Detroit won the division with 95 wins this year, and I’d have to guess that’s around what the division winner would need next year as well.
Honestly, I don’t think having those players, along with full seasons of Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall and Ubaldo Jimenez would mean 15 wins to this club. It would mean a winning record for sure, but I’m not sure it pushes the Tribe into serious postseason contender. Rather, I think standing pat and hoping for health is foolish and follows the timid line of thinking that got the Indians into this rebuilding effort.
Therefore, the offseason of 2011 must be one of action, as there are a few Indians players that got a little lucky in 2011 and probably won’t repeat their stats (Tomlin and Chris Perez are hiding their heads in shame right now).
The Indians don’t need to get rid of Grady Sizemore, but they can’t bring him back at $9 million a year.
Even healthy Sizemore playing at a diminished level is valuable to the club – just not $9 million-valuable. Maybe the Indians can work out a performance-based contract for Grady that earns him close to that, but I’m not willing to hand Grady nine million off the rip and hope he’s able to play. Yes, he could command more on the free agent market from another team willing to roll the dice. But that team shouldn’t be the Indians, even with a payroll that will most likely increase in 2012.
Bullpens are fickle in nature – they can’t stand pat on the 2011 pen.
The Indians’ bullpen in 2011 was good, but not dominant. As many as four members of the “Bullpen Mafia” could be eligible for arbitration. Joe Smith, Raffy Perez and Chris Perez are all eligible, and Tony Sipp could qualify as a “Super Two” player. All four of those players put together solid seasons, and they are all due for raises in arbitration (if they actually get that far, but knowing the Indians, they won’t). I’d say Smitty and Raffy Perez are prime candidates to be traded, and unlike the Luis Valbuenas and Trevor Crowes of the organization, they actually have value. Really, I’d say the pen has only two “untouchables,” and they are Vinny Pestano and Nick Hagadone. Other than them, I’d listen to offers on anyone, including All-Star closer Chris Perez (because as much as I love “Pure Rage,” he was pretty lucky last season, with a 4.27 FIP, and you have Pestano to replace him). Offense should be the primary target in any deal, particularly for a corner outfielder or first baseman, because …
Matt LaPorta is not the answer.
I hate being wrong. But I know when to jump off a player’s bandwagon (unless said player is Andy Marte, of course, sorry for the shameless self-promotion). When the Indians acquired LaPorta in the CC Sabathia deal, I was excited, because I thought they were getting a right-handed Adam Dunn lite. I was right, I just didn’t think they would be getting the 2011 version of Adam Dunn (OK, so LaPorta wasn’t that bad, as Dunn posted a -2.9 WAR and LaPorta was “only” -0.8). LaPorta has been handed a starting job for two straight seasons, and for two straight seasons he’s failed to produce. There’s no need for the Indians to outright cut LaPorta, as he has options and isn’t eligible for arbitration, but to believe he’ll finally “get it” is foolhardy.
It’s too early to start throwing out possible trade targets, as we don’t have a very clear picture of who the Indians plan to try to sign long-term, nor do we know how Sizemore’s surgery on Monday will affect the Indians’ plans to sign him, but one thing is crystal clear to me: standing pat is asking for a letdown.