The first big Indians rumor to come out of the Winter Meetings this week was the Tribe’s reported “serious interest” in outfielder Shane Victorino. Though Victorino ultimately signed with the Red Sox, reports of Cleveland’s pursuit proved to be true—the Indians reportedly offered him a four-year deal worth $44 million before he decided to go to Boston.
In this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists: Would Shane Victorino have been a good fit for the Cleveland? Joining us this week are guest contributors Stephanie Liscio from It’s Pronounced “Lajaway” and Kevin Dean from Indians Prospect Insider.
Stephanie Liscio (It’s Pronounced “Lajaway”): I wasn’t completely opposed to Shane Victorino. Even though I wasn’t crazy about him, it was a weak free agent class and he’d still probably be an improvement over last year’s options (particularly against left-handed pitching). However, the money that Boston gave him, and the money the Indians supposedly offered (four years, $44 million) was just insane. There’s no way a contract like that makes sense for a budget-strapped team like the Indians, especially when they have so many holes.
A wealthy team like Boston can afford to absorb a mistake, but the Tribe has little room for error. Even with big market teams, how often do you see them saying “I’m so glad we did this!” on the back end of some of these exorbitant deals? Even though there were moments when his presence on the roster was pivotal, I highly doubt even the Yankees are looking forward to the amount of money/years remaining on Alex Rodriguez‘s deal. Even though the Victorino deal was obviously more reasonable than A-Rod’s, I’m just using it as an example of the fact that even big markets regret overpaid signings.
You don’t see Angels fans saying “boy, I’m really glad we signed Gary Matthews Jr. to that 5 year, $50 million deal back in 2006.” And there are some similarities on Matthews Jr. circa 2006, compared to Victorino circa 2012—they were even both 32 at the time of their respective deals.
Kevin Dean (Indians Prospect Insider): Luckily, this is a question that no longer requires an answer, thanks to the well-to-do Red Sox. Even though the Indians were saved from themselves, they still made an absurdly irresponsible offer for Shane Victorino’s services. They deserve some criticism for it, even if he did sign elsewhere. Taking a shot and spending money is what fans want the Indians to do, but it still has to be smart spending.
Never mind the fact that he isn’t going to be a game-changer anymore. To me, he would have been a philosophical outlier. Shopping Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Perez for controllable youth, all while throwing $44 million at a 32-year-old seems like combative plans of action.
He is a nice player, sure, but are the Indians a team who can afford to swing and miss on a player who would make up something like 15% of their annual payroll? We all know the answer to that.
Evan Vogel: Victorino would be an excellent fit for the Indians. He’d have given the team a very good leadoff hitter who is dangerous on the basepaths. They could have put Michael Brantley in left and bat him second, as his solid contact rates would have allowed for more frequent visits in scoring position for Victorino with Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, and Carlos Santana coming up behind the two outfielders. He plays excellent defense and would have provided a solid, veteran presence to a team that appears to be getting younger in several spots in the next three seasons.
Victorino struggled last season, but his track record shows that he is a very capable player at a premium position (center field and leadoff hitter), who would have been an excellent signing to start the Terry Francona Era in Cleveland. At the age of 32, Victorino should have plenty left to pay dividends on a three- or four-year contract.
Jeff Mount: At three years, $30 million he would have fit. That would have given the Indians $10 million or so to sign another bat or a starter. More than that and they wouldn’t have been able to afford another big move, and he’s not good enough to be the only move this winter. I would have been afraid to go four years, though—can’t see him being a regular at 36.
Lewie Pollis: I know I’m in the minority on this, but I’m actually disappointed that Victorino went to Boston. I thought Victorino would be a fantastic fit for the Tribe—he’s a switch-hitter who beats up on lefty pitchers, he’s got great wheels and a thrice-gilded glove, and FanGraphs has had him over three wins above replacement six years in a row. He might not have been a top-tier free agent, but he’s the closest thing to a real impact player that Cleveland fans can reasonably expect a small-market team to get after a 94-loss season.
Was the Indians’ four-year, $44 million offer an overpay? Perhaps. I admit that I didn’t expect the bidding to get that high when I advocated Cleveland’s signing him. But I don’t know that I would have opposed to the Tribe shelling out even that much cash for a player who could really help the Indians out for years to come.
Steve Kinsella: Shane Victorino would have been a good fit for the Indians but not at four years and $44 million. Although he is only one year removed from arguably his finest season he is at the point where he may not be able to rebound. If the Indians were to have signed him it would not have been the end of the world nor would it have put a clamp on the Indians ability to add more payroll in subsequent years.
He would have added solid defense in center field, a top of the order bat, and a bit of speed on the basepaths. He also would have added the leadership that the Indians are going to need in the clubhouse. Not through his words but through his actions. We can speculate whether he is a good teammate or what his work habits may or may not be but I’ll hedge on the side of “Francona knows” on this one.
Ed Carroll: Shane Victorino would have fit with the Indians, as they needed another outfielder even before you consider the team will probably trade Shin-Soo Choo, but the type of money the Indians reportedly threw at him (4 years, $44 million) and what he actually signed for with the Red Sox (3 years, $39 million) is absurd even if you dismiss 2012 as a down year for Victorinio.
He’s never been a great hitter vs. right handers, and though the Indians as a team struggled vs. lefties, that’s an extremely risky contract to be throwing at a 32-year-old who probably has one or two years left as a good defending center fielder and will almost assuredly will be a platoon player by the end of his shorter deal with the Red Sox, let alone the extra year the Indians offered.
I like the aggressiveness by an Indians team that has been criticized for passiveness in recent years, and on a one- or two-year deal I would have liked Victorino a lot on the Tribe. But even if Victorino turns in a stellar 2013, I won’t lose too much sleep as a four-year contract like the one reportedly offered to Victorino would have been insane for a team like Cleveland.
Brian Heise: This is a complicated subject and I’m not sure I can fit everything I want to say in the space our handsome editor [Editor's note: Nice sucking up.] allows us, but here goes nothing. I actually think Victorino would have been a good fit for the Tribe. He’s shown over his career that he can be both a quality bat at the top of the lineup and also play gold glove caliber defense in center field He’s also been through a lot of battles and may have provided the veteran leadership this team so desperately needs.
That being said, I wasn’t a fan of having Shane Victorino for four years at $44 million. That’s too many years and too much money tied up in a player on the wrong side of 30. Not to mention, he’s coming off of a subpar season. Yes, 32 is still relatively young in this modern age of advanced training techniques and diets etc. but I don’t think making that kind of commitment to an older player whose game is predicated on speed is a good thing. I would have been willing to pay a premium price tag for two years of Victorino. But four? I’m sorry but I think the Indians dodged a bullet on that one.