After a successful 2013 season, the Cleveland Indians will hope to build on their unanticipated playoff appearance by rebuilding the roster and maintaining consistent production on their roster. By taking a look at who will be coming back in 2014, we can get a tremendous look at where the club should go in trades and free agency this coming winter, while having a little fun in developing a pretend front office plan. For your enjoyment and mocking pleasure, you’ll see mine below:
What Next Year Looks Like…Right Now
- Trevor Bauer, RHP: $1.18 million
- Chris Perez, RHP: arbitration-eligible
- Justin Masterson, RHP: arbitration-eligible
- Marc Rzepczynski, LHP: arbitration-eligible
- Danny Salazar, RHP: pre-arbitration
- Blake Wood, RHP: arbitration-eligible
- Vinnie Pestano, RHP: arbitration-eligible
- Bryan Shaw, RHP: pre-arbitration
- Josh Tomlin, RHP: arbitration-eligible
- Zach McAllister, RHP: pre-arbitration
- Frank Herrmann, RHP: arbitration-eligible
- Cody Allen, RHP: pre-arbitration
- Nick Hagadone, LHP: pre-arbitration
- Corey Kluber, RHP: pre-arbitration
- Carlos Carrasco, RHP: pre-arbitration
- Scott Barnes, LHP: pre-arbitration
- C.C. Lee, RHP: pre-arbitration
- Preston Guilmet, RHP: pre-arbitration
- Asdrubal Cabrera, SS: $10 million
- Mike Aviles, UTIL: $3.5 million
- Jason Kipnis, 2B: pre-arbitration
- Nick Swisher, 1B: $15 million
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B: pre-arbitration
- Cord Phelps, UTIL: pre-arbitration
- Jose Ramirez, UTIL: pre-arbitration
Michael Bourn: $13.5 million
- Ryan Raburn: $2.25 million
- Drew Stubbs: arbitration-eligible
- Michael Brantley: arbitration-eligible
- Matt Carson: pre-arbitration
- Jason Giambi, 1B/DH
- Rich Hill, LHP
- Joe Smith, RHP
- Matt Albers, RHP
- Kelly Shoppach, C
- Scott Kazmir, LHP
Players With Options
Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP: 2014’s $8 million team option voided and became a player option when he was traded to Cleveland. He will likely go to free agency and the Indians will likely tender a qualifying offer to receive draft pick compensation if he were to sign elsewhere.
Jason Kubel, OF: He has a 2014 team option for $7.5 million with a $1 million buyout. After his poor season, the Indians would be wise to buy him out and try to re-sign him at a lesser deal.
Here is the plan
With the current roster, the club really needs to find a solid starting pitcher. Masterson and Kluber provide a solid foundation to the rotation, but the duo is certainly not a one-two punch like Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, or even David Price and Alex Cobb. The Indians are unlikely to be in on the potential bidding for Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, and it may not be wise to go long-term on any of the top pitching free agents available, which includes: Matt Garza, Josh Johnson, Tim Lincecum, Ervin Santana, and Ricky Nolasco. Given the club’s willingness to stick with him in his times of turmoil, making a one-year, roughly $13 million qualifying offer to Jimenez seems logical, as it provides draft-pick compensation if he were to sign elsewhere and solidifies the rotation if he were to re-sign and be as dominant as he was in 2013. An alternative would be to see if Scott Kazmir feels any loyalty to the Cleveland organization after the club gave him a shot last winter, and they were handsomely rewarded with solid innings from the left-hander whose career seemed dead just two years ago. Personally, I’d lean strongly towards Jimenez while letting Kazmir walk without a qualifying offer, just in case the shoulder doesn’t hold up another season.
The bullpen needs a back-end overhaul. Gone should be closer Chris Perez, who will either be non-tendered or traded. The Indians would be wise to just non-tender the roller coaster ride of a closer because they could be held responsible for a portion of his contract if the team was to go to arbitration with him prior to dealing him. The club has tremendous options internally with Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw, and for those of you who feel like a veteran of the closer role is needed due to the demands and intense situations that come along with the job, look around the league. Some of the top closers in baseball are Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, and Greg Holland. Young guys with amazing stuff. Clear the payroll of the pricey closer and use it elsewhere.
With a five-man rotation and a seven or eight-man bullpen, this is your in-house, no improvements necessary pitching staff:
1. Justin Masterson
2. Corey Kluber
3. Ubaldo Jimenez
4. Zach McAllister
5. Danny Salazar
Closer: Cody Allen
8th-inning: Bryan Shaw
7th-inning: Carlos Carrasco
Left-handed specialist: Marc Rzepczynski
Mop-up: Vinnie Pestano, Nick Hagadone, and Josh Tomlin or Trevor Bauer
Moving on to the offense, the team, once again, got very little out of third base, cycling Lonnie Chisenhall, Mark Reynolds, and Mike Aviles through the position during the 2013 season; however, there truly aren’t many great options out there to sign as an everyday option at the hot corner. Michael Young and Eric Chavez could be nice additions, however, should the club give up on the 25-year-old Chisenhall after just 203 games and 682 plate appearances? I don’t think so, but I do think that Young would be a nice addition to the Tribe. While Young only posted a .730 OPS against left-handed pitching in 2013, Chisenhall’s OPS was .408, proving that a platoon is necessary, but Chisenhall should definitely be in the lineup against all right-handed pitching as his final shot at the full-time job. Young, at 37, could fill the Jason Giambi role in 2014, adding veteran leadership and a little more versatility than Giambi could at first, third, and DH; although, he is NOT, I repeat, is NOT, the starting third baseman!
Young’s signing would be wise because it is time to deal Asdrubal Cabrera, who will be earning $10 million in the final year of his contract in 2014. Mike Aviles can handle the shortstop duties until Francisco Lindor proves that he is ready, likely midway through the 2014 campaign, and Cabrera could net the Indians a nice return of prospects for the farm system, an area that still needs some improvement despite some recent success in the lower ranks. Striking a deal with St. Louis seems reasonable, as their shortstops have hit .222/.280/.303 in 2013, and with the depth of the Cardinals system, Cleveland could acquire players like Stephen Piscotty, an outfielder, and Tim Cooney, a left-handed pitcher, for the Tribe shortstop. Both Piscotty and Cooney reached Double-A in 2013, so they could provide depth once rosters expand or alternatives to a struggling Drew Stubbs or back-end starting pitcher. For depth, the club could sign Brendan Ryan or roll with Jose Ramirez in a utility role in 2014. Given the players available who could handle short, Ramirez would deserve a look.
The Indians outfield is strong. Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, and Ryan Raburn can all be spelled by Drew Stubbs as the fourth outfielder, while the club can plug Nick Swisher into right field whenever a need arises. Matt Carson isn’t really a tremendous option as a 25th man, but he is still much better than Aaron Cunningham and other former options. It is very unlikely that the Indians would search for depth here in free agency. If the club was to acquire Piscotty, he would only become an option with continued success at the upper levels in 2014.
How Would the Club Look…
Starting Pitchers (5): Masterson, Kluber, Jimenez, McAllister, and Salazar
Relief Pitchers (7): Allen, Shaw, Carrasco, Rzepczynski, Hagadone, Tomlin, and Pestano
Catchers (2): Santana and Gomes
Infielders (6): Swisher, Kipnis, Aviles, Chisenhall, Young, and Ramirez
Outfielders (5): Brantley, Bourn, Raburn, Stubbs, and Carson
That’s 25 men and it looks like the Indians could be better by the old philosophy of addition by subtraction. With very little available to drastically improve the club via free agency, Cleveland should focus on re-signing Ubaldo Jimenez and moving the contracts of Chris Perez and Asdrubal Cabrera this winter. Certainly, the club would need to see further improvements from Corey Kluber, Lonnie Chisenhall, Zach McAllister, Danny Salazar, and several others to maintain the success from the 2013 season, but the roster remains mostly intact and those improvements seem likely for the new, young core of the squad.
Do you agree with these moves? What would you like to see the club do?