Buyer's Guide: Names the Indians could target at meetings
By Jim Piascik
December 3, 2012
The Winter Meetings are typically when the offseason really begins to heat up, so with them scheduled to start today in Nashville, let us take a little time to get acquainted with some names Cleveland has been attached to this offseason. Any number of things could go down in Tennessee, but these are the players that Chris Antonetti has the best chance at acquiring.
Names to Know
Trevor Bauer, SP
Bauer, 22, was the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, a consensus top-10 prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America before last season, and was the first member of the 2011 draft class to reach the major leagues. He struggled mightily after his promotion to the Diamondbacks, though, allowing 13 runs and 13 walks in 16.1 innings. The popular rumor right now is that Bauer has fallen out of favor with the Diamondbacks' front office and could be available in a trade. With Arizona still looking for a shortstop and Asdrubal Cabrera on the trading block, Bauer's name has been floated as a possible return. This is likely a best-case scenario for Cleveland, but it is not out of the realm of possibility.
Jason Bay, OF
Bay, 34, was recently cut by the New York Mets due to his declining performance, no surprise given his past three seasons. Over that timeframe, Bay only managed to play in 288 games, posting a .234/.318/.369 line with 26 home runs and 26 steals. Yet Bay will interest Cleveland because he is a right-handed bat capable of playing left field. Bay also played in Boston under Terry Francona, having one of his best seasons in 2009, posting a .267/.384/.537 line and finishing seventh in MVP voting. The most appealing part for Cleveland may be Bay's price, which will likely be something in the $1 million range for one year, leaving flexibility to fill other positions of need.
Scott Kazmir, SP
It has been a while since Kazmir mattered at the major league level. Kazmir has only pitched 299.0 innings since 2009, posting an ugly 5.54 ERA in that time. However, Kazmir is still only 28 (he turns 29 in January) and, at one point, was an elite pitcher. He has been working his way back in the Puerto Rican Winter League this offseason, striking out 17 in 15.0 innings with a 4.20 ERA. Kazmir is by no means a sure-thing, but Cleveland has scouted his starts and has interest. On a minor league deal, Kazmir could make a lot of sense for a team that desperately needs rotation help. If there is a 5% chance that Kazmir could be a major league pitcher again, Cleveland should bring him in and see what he can do.
Lance Lynn, SP
Lynn, 25, is not a big-time name like Bauer, but he is someone that the St. Louis Cardinals could realistically be offering for Cabrera. While it is easy to want Antonetti to hold out for one of the Cardinals' elite arms, when push comes to shove, Lynn might be the best Cleveland can get. Not that there is anything wrong with Lynn. Lynn enjoyed a very successful first full major league season last year, striking out more than a batter per inning and posting a 3.78 ERA and 3.49 FIP in 176.0 innings. He has the look of a middle-of-the-rotation starter, something Cleveland desperately needs. Add in that he is under team control through 2017 and you have a decent return for Cabrera.
Mike Morse, 1B
When the Washington Nationals traded for Denard Span, it forced Morse, who will be 31 on Opening Day, out of a position. He could still be the Nationals' first baseman in 2013, but if Adam LaRoche is re-signed, there will be no room for Morse. He is already reportedly on the trading block and Cleveland would be a potential fit. Morse will not cost much in terms of prospects and he is a right-handed bat with some power. For his career, Morse owns a .295/.347/.492 line with 70 home runs in 485 games. He gives a lot of that value back on defense, but if he is cheap, Morse could fill a few needs at once for Cleveland.
Trevor Rosenthal, SP
I am hesitant to put Rosenthal, 22, on this list because I do not think that the Cardinals will trade him for Cabrera. I have heard his name mentioned enough, though, so here he is. Rosenthal left his mark on the league in the postseason, when he struck out 15 batters in 8.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. He might still need some polish at AAA, as he only threw 15.0 innings at the level before being called up for the stretch run, but Rosenthal has the look of a frontline starter. Some may see him as a bullpen arm considering how well he succeeded in 2012, but his ceiling is higher than that. As a result, he likely will remain in St. Louis, but with Rafael Furcal's future unknown and the Cardinals in position to win now, they could move Rosenthal for an All-Star shortstop in Cabrera.
Cody Ross, OF
Ross, who will turn 32 later this month, enjoyed a career resurgence in Boston last season (.267/.326/.481 line, 22 home runs). Though there is a chance his success was driven by playing half of his games in Fenway Park (.921 OPS at home, .684 on the road), the right-handed hitting outfielder now has a strong market. At the very least he can mash left-handed pitching (he has a career .928 OPS against them), something Cleveland desperately needs. It appears Ross will require a three year investment, a fairly risky proposition considering the ups and downs of his career, but if Antonetti is looking to truly contend in 2013, Ross may be worth the risk.
Shane Victorino, OF
Victorino, 32, would not give Cleveland a power boost, but what he would do is give Francona an outfielder capable of playing center field who can hit left-handed pitching. Victorino is a switch-hitter that has historically done very well against lefties, though he hits righties decently as well (.881 OPS against lefties, .727 OPS against righties). He had a down year last season, posting a .255/.321/.383 line, but Victorino adds value on defense and on the basepaths (39 steals in 2012). Like Ross, Victorino will not come cheap, likely requiring something around three years and $30 million. This is the price Antonetti will have to pay if he really wants to contend in 2013 and fill holes in free agency, however.
Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B
Youkilis, who will be 34 on Opening Day, is another player that has interest in Cleveland due to the Francona connection. Last season was not the best for Youkilis, as his .235/.336/.409 line was the worst of his career. Injuries and age seem to be bringing Youkilis down, but a move to first base could save his body for a little bit longer. Once again, he will likely be overpriced on the free agent market (two years, $18 million is within the realm of possibility), but answers at first base are not cheap this offseason. Youkilis would give Cleveland some right-handed power and could be rejuvenated by a reunion with Francona.
With the non-tender deadline passing Friday, a few intriguing names were added to the free agent pool. These players could begin signing as soon as the Winter Meetings and will definitely be getting calls
By definition, most of these potential targets will not be sexy names, but they are players who could help out in 2013. Most of the best options for Cleveland are starting pitchers with rebound potential, as that is a common type of player not worth high arbitration salaries.
Tom Gorzelanny, LHP
Gorzelanny, 30, spent last year working out of the Washington Nationals' bullpen, but with 111 career starts, he could be shifted back into the starting rotation. There have been many bumps in the road for Gorzelanny, but with a career 4.41 ERA, 4.43 FIP, and 6.5 fWAR in 735.0 innings, the left-hander would fit well at the back of the rotation. I would only give him a minor league contract, though, as he is far from a sure thing.
Jair Jurrjens, RHP
Jurrjens, who will turn 27 in January, has gone from a borderline top-flight pitcher (2.96 ERA in 2011, 2.60 ERA in 2009) to non-tender. It could be injuries, it could be velocity (which dropped from 91 MPH to 89 MPH between 2010 and 2011), but Jurrjens would be a great pitcher for Cleveland to take a chance on. Pitchers with a career 3.62 ERA, 3.99 FIP, and 10.4 fWAR in 750.2 inning rarely are available as non-tenders and if the medicals and such check out, a deal for around $3-4 million could make sense.
Jeff Karstens, RHP
Karstens, 30, is not an overpowering pitcher, but he could be a solid $1-2 million option. The career numbers for Karstens are middling (4.44 ERA, 4.55 FIP, 3.0 fWAR in 592.1 inning), but he was a different pitcher last year. Karstens upped his strikeouts and lowered his walks (66:15 SO:BB in 90.2 innings), posting a strong 3.97 ERA, 3.32 FIP, and 1.7 fWAR. The front office should not make Karstens the highlight of the offseason, but if he was a candidate for the last spot in the rotation, that would not be so bad.
John Lannan, LHP
Lannan, 28, is about as close to the definition of back-of-the-rotation starter as you can get. For his career, Lannan owns a 4.71 SO/9, 3.40 BB/9, 4.01 ERA, 4.57 FIP, and 5.7 fWAR in 783.2 innings; those numbers are just good enough to let you stick around but not nearly good enough to justify a $5 million arbitration salary. I actually do not like Lannan that much (especially if he gets a guaranteed major league contract), but as a left-hander, he could make sense for Cleveland as someone who has a history of successful major league pitching.
Manny Parra, LHP
Parra, 30, is another left-handed starter Cleveland could take a flier on. He has started and relieved in his career, showing an ability to get strikeouts (8.40 SO/9). Of course, when taken with his control issues (4.60 BB/9), Parra's light is significantly dimmed (5.12 ERA). Still, with a 4.34 FIP and 4.3 fWAR in 513.0 innings, Parra could be a decent guy to bring in on a minor league contract on the off-chance Terry Francona and company can fix him.
Mike Pelfrey, RHP
Pelfrey, who will turn 29 in January, missed most of the season after having Tommy John surgery in May. This one would have to be a minor league contract, but there are worse pitchers out there at that price. For his career, Pelfrey owns a 4.36 ERA, 4.20 FIP, and 9.2 fWAR in 896.1 innings, otherwise known as perfectly-average pitching. On a small two-year deal that would allow Pelfrey to finish his rehab, pitch late in the year, and then be ready to go in 2014, Pelfrey could make some sense for Cleveland.
Mark Reynolds, 1B
The negatives with Reynolds, 29, are clear: he is a butcher at third base and might be decent at first, he strikes out a third of the time he goes to the plate, and it is next-to-impossible for him to hit for a high average. Yet, for a team like Cleveland, he may be the proper option. For a team with no right-handed power or first baseman, Reynolds fits both of those descriptions. Reynolds will not be dirt-cheap, but for around $6-7 million, Cleveland can take a chance at a player with 30-home run potential that will balance its lineup. Like I said, these are not the best names, but they could be decent answers in the end.
Andres Torres, OF
Best known right now for being on the wrong end of the Angel Pagan trade last offseason, Torres, 35, is not exactly what Cleveland needs. Torres struggled offensively last year (.230/.327/.337 line) and has little-to-no power (30 home runs in 547 career games). However, the switch-hitter has hit left-handers slightly better in his career (.743 OPS vs. .693), can run very well, is a great defender in center field, and has averaged 3.5 fWAR per 155 games. As a cheap $1-2 million pickup, however, Cleveland could do worse than Torres in left field.
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If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at email@example.com