IBI Power Poll: What would YOU do if you were the GM?
Here's your chance to be the GM....
What is going on with the Cleveland Indians?
They clearly aren’t going to be doing anything this offseason since they haven’t made a major move since the David Murphy signing on November 25th.
Look, it’s December 15th, and the while “the rest” of Major League baseball are busy spending ludicrous amounts of money on the rather adequate 2013-2014 free agent pool, the Tribe has been busy sitting on their hands over the past several weeks.
Okay, so they really haven’t been sitting on their hands. They’ve been working the phones of several agents and GMs searching for the right mix of player and money. That’s clearly a finicky job for a team like the Erie Warriors, who are already at or near their soft pay ceiling as they try to fill out their 2014 roster.
Last season, Chris Antonetti had a similar difficult path in front of him, but had more dollars to work with. Last year, even with Terry Francona in tow, Antonetti had to convince a free agent or two to actually come to Cleveland.
He had some advantages last year with most of the rest of the big league front offices trying to figure out the ramifications of the group of players that had turned down their qualifying offers, costing a team signing them their first round pick.
The Tribe didn’t have to worry about that pick because theirs was protected, so when you combine that with some financial flexibility, Terry Francona and a Free Agent who’s more or less from Ohio and attended Ohio State, you had a perfect storm of sorts.
Past that though, Francona and Antonetti were able to do some other things prior to their January 3rd Nick Swishersigning.
The Indians’ front office was really working under a honeymoon that they perhaps had never had before. In early October, they had signed Francona to be their manager, which was the coup of all coups. By the end of October, he had his complete coaching staff in place, and was able to keep Sandy Alomar Jr. on his staff, which was a ratings win in and of itself.
On November 3rd, before anyone could catch their breath, Antonetti dealt reliever Esmil Rogers to the Toronto Blue Jays for Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes, sparking a fanbase that started looking at Asdrubal Cabrera as expendable.
A week later, Jerry Crasnick began reporting that the Indians were extremely interesting in Philadelphia Phillies free agent outfielder Shane Victorino. That business steamrolled right into the Winter Meeting during the first week of December, and then the Indians made a serious offer of four years and $44 million.
They were outbid by Boston, who signed him to a three-year, $39 million contract.
The fans on the North Coast weren’t happy to have been out of the running, but were content that the Indians were massively aggressive for the first time in years.
As if taking on the Red Sox weren’t enough, the Indians then tackled the Yankees, who had offered Kevin Youkilis a one-year, $12 million deal, by making a serious run at Francona’s former 1B/3B/DH. The Indians weren’t willing to match the Yankees one year deal, but did make him a substantial two-year deal for $18 million dollars.
When Youkilis dragged his feet for a couple of days while he pondered, the Indians got sick of waiting and made a one-year, $6 million offer to Mark Reynolds on December 9th that he accepted. While it didn’t become official until over a week later, it was already pretty much in the books.
Youkilis eventually signed with the Yankees.
Now in the mix of all of this came the infamous shot of Chris Antonetti and Terry Francona meeting with the Arizona Diamondbacks in their hotel suite/war room on December 4th, that kept fanning the flames of that Asdrubal rumor.
That thing had more legs than a centipede, and it ultimately came to fruition with the Shin-Soo Choo to Cincy forTrevor Bauer, Drew Stubbs, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw (along with a lot of other parts that I don’t really need to retell here).
Yeah, Asdrubal was still with the team.
There was a ruthless aggression to this offseason from the Tribe’s front office that was absolutely needed, because the team had so many holes. They needed outfielders and corner infielders and starting pitchers and just a whole bunch of parts, and they actually were given the okay to spend the money to get them.
The Indians were able to make their splash in early January with Swisher, and then again with Bourn in mid-January, and had a few other moves in between.
A lot is made of moves made outside of the Indians this year as well, but last year had some major bluster too, and from teams within the division in the mix.
The Rangers signed Aaron Cunningham on November 12th (sorry, had to do it).
The Tigers signed Torii Hunter on November 16th.
The Marlins traded their entire roster to Toronto on November 19th, and announced the signing of Melky Cabreraon the same day.
The Royals signed Jeremy Guthrie on November 20th.
Denard Span was traded from Minnesota to Washington.
The Pirates signed Russell Martin on November 30th.
I could go on-and-on, but you get what I’m saying. My point here though isn’t to map out last year so much as it’s to contrast it to this year, but to say that there weren’t major deals last year to put fans on edge would be a misnomer.
The difference, of course, is the money that’s being thrown around. As of December 6th, MLB had spent $1.238 billion total on 55 players (there have been signings since that figure was put out by MLBTraderumors, but I believe it includes Cano and Ellsbury) who signed either one-year, or multiple year, guaranteed deals. To put it in perspective, last season, the guaranteed deals came in at $1.463 billion for 112 players.
According to MLBTraderumors, there are still 20-25 top free agents…still free.
If you get a chance, click that link above. It really is an interesting read, as it looks at the market this year, and compares it to the six previous season with all guaranteed contracts, as well as looking at the specific multi-year deals. It turns out that there has been a spending spree like this before with multi-year deals, and what’s scary is that it came the year after the Indians nearly beat Francona’s Red Sox to get into the playoffs.
That’s not for here though, as I’ll be getting into that in my Sunday Drive piece over at Clevelandsportsinsiders.com.
But as to the big picture this year, you can do the math with regards to free agent spending this year, and what the Indians have to spend.
So the differences in perception between last year and this year are astronomical.
Last year there was a lot of Indians buzz and that honeymoon I was talking about. Last year there was that horrible team that couldn’t seem to do much of anything after August 1st.
Last year, you could close your eyes, reach your hand into a bucket of free agents, and pull out a need without really trying.
I’m not saying there weren’t challenges, but I am saying that there was certainly more leeway coming off a season in which there were no playoffs and no real hope, buoyed by the signing of Francona and many buzzworthy moments.
This year’s different, as the Indians have far less holes.
You can make a serious case that their offense, while not perfect, is solidified, and doesn’t need any tweaking at this point. Actually, the offensive side of things is done. The Indian have their team, minus maybe the last offensive spot.
The buzz from this year’s team is of “almost,” as the Indians made the playoffs, if only for a game.
Up came the expectations.
Up came the comparisons.
Up came…well…everything, including those salaries I talked about earlier.
They made their move with Murphy in the outfield, and have now turned to the rotation and the bullpen, after losingScott Kazmir and Joe Smith to free agency, Chris Perez who was non-tendered, and face the real possibility that Matt Albers and Ubaldo Jimenez won’t return either.
The Indians entered the Winter Meetings this year looking for a reliever, likely a trade or two, and perhaps a starter, if they could find the right deal.
They couldn’t, but not for a lack of trying.
This brings me to today’s Power Poll question.
What should the Cleveland Indians do over the coming weeks to enhance their team?
Should they offer these $7-$9 million deals for Fernando Rodney or Joaquin Benoit or Grant Balfour, as they have reportedly done, sinking an eighth or more of their salary to one player who only pitches in 60-70 innings a year?
Should they offer John Axford a $3-5 million deal as they’ve been rumored to have done, understanding that he’s not going to be lights out?
Should they wait and hope that Ubaldo doesn’t get the long-term deal he’s looking for, and hope they can sign him to something either more cost effective or shorter in duration (or with Garza or Santana, which is doubtful, since I don’t think the Indians want to lose that first round pick as compensation)?
Should they scrape the barrel and hunt for more Scott Kazmirs?
Should they scrap making a free agent deal for any of these high priced guys, and start pushing for trades with the commodities they do have?
Should they continue to preach patience and wait for the deals to come to them as salaries begin to drop, if they begin to drop?
It’s a murky market out there for the Indians, but what should they do to avoid what happened to them in 2008, and to some extent, in 2006?
Now obviously, the names I have given are just barometers, and they may prove to move from one level to another. You may choose to consider "high price" free agents to be multi-year guys, as one-year contracts, even at $10+ may be more doable for the Tribe.
I may have also missed a scenario, and that's fine.
You have up to five clicks, because honestly, if you are pulling five more major-ish deals in the next two months as the GM, then you are likely doing too much...but that's up to you to decide. If all your options are here, take them. You don't have to use five either.
If you need to clarify specific players or specific things, POST A COMMENT!
Good luck, and happy voting...
Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think they could get him with a deal similar to Mujica's, might have to pay a bit more bc he's controllable for three yrs. I'd like to see them land him, and keep a little fiscal flexibility. I think he's got some mechanical issues (tipping his pitches) figured out, and I expect him to return to dominate form.
And its quite possible that the compensation pick for Ubaldo will have a big impact, and that by Jan/Feb he will fall into a range that could work for us. I don't mind us spending decent mid-range $'s to lock up a closer (a la Benoit) for a year or two. I don't see how the tribe will extend Masterson, it just doesn't really make sense. So maybe there is a good deal out there for him? I do like Bourn in CF, but the fact is that Brantley could easily slide over and maybe there's a more productive player for LF? If not, and truth is, we haven't exactly been good at finding productive LF'ers (think Michaels/DeLucci to Kearns to Duncan...), imo its best to keep Bourn for now. At least he's a professional, with a good chance for a rebound season. Trading Asdrubal makes sense, depending on the return, however, no need to give him away. Hard to gauge his value though.
So many question marks! And of course, there's always the surprising and unexpected, which I certainly do hope happens!
(BTW Jim, this is a great topic and the question and survey are both good ways to engage us all, so thanks! I've also noticed that you seem to be working to perfect a stream of consciousness, disconnected one-line writing style. Here's my feedback: after a short while it is extremely difficult to read and follow. I usually stop reading the long list one-line thoughts about a third of the way through, as it quickly becomes quite tedious and irritating ...)
I would trade Michael Bourn and Ronny Rodriguez to the Red Sox for Matt Barnes - RHSP, Drake Britton - LHSP and Christian Vazquez - C.
I would trade Asdrubal Cabrera to the Yankees for Brett Gardner - OF and Mark Montgomery- RHRP.
I would offer Matt Garza 4 yrs / $60 M with a vesting 5th yr $15 M option w/ $2 M buyout guaranteeing Garza $62 M over 4 yrs.
I would sign John Axford 2 yrs / $11 M and and with a team 3rd yr option $7 M.
I would sign Tommy Hanson for 1 yr / $4.5 M with $500 K in incentives and a team option for $6.5 M with $500 K in incentives and a $500 K buyout. Guaranteeing Hanson at least 1 yr / $5 M.
I would also sign Jesse Crain for 1 yr / $2.5 M and $750 K in incentives.
I'm also open to trading ACab and Stubbs.
1a. Fire John mirabelli and bud grant
1b. Fire matt underwood and send him back to "souvenir city"
It would likely be tough to move Bourn, since he had a down year and just had the hamstring surgery. Also not sure what Ubaldo will cost. Still think he ultimately does no better than 3/45, but he probably doesn't take that if it's offered now. Wouldn't necessarily have to trade Bourn to sign Ubaldo, if the contract's back-loaded, you could hope Bourn bounces back, has a good year and you can move him next year.
Once you have one of them, you open up discussions with Masterson about a long-term extension, possibly going 5 years at around 60-70 million. You keep these talks open throughout the arbitration process.
I then try to trade Stubbs for relief help. A good 7th inning guy, and a low-tier possible major league ready middle reliever.
I'm also in the market for a couple lotto-ticket guys with possible bounce back years in them. I see Shaun Marcum, Jerome Williams, Barry Zito, John Lannon, Eric Bedard, and Tommy Hanson as guys that fit the bill. I also look into Johan Santana to establish a price, but doubt that we would be able to actually land him. Sign one for the rotation, possibly another for depth.
After, I try to land a few more relievers like Matt Guerrier, David Aardsma, Mitchell Boggs, and Jose Mijares.
I chose the following:
-Sign a high-priced, free-agent starter
-Minor league deal, relievers
-Minor league deal, starters
-Trade Michael Bourn
-Trade Drew Stubbs
Here is my reasoning:
I'm starting out trying to be realistic about payroll but also demand some flexibility from Ownership. Kind of like last offseason. We stand today with payroll at approximately $80M. It appears and sounds like the front office has been told $85M is the budget.
I would like to see the Tribe go out and get Ubaldo or Garza. I don't believe you can expect to hand the ball to Carlos Carrasco every 5th day and expect to contend. The Tribe needs one more mid-rotation guy to lock in a pretty solid rotation. Before the offseason began, I did not expect to have to pay as much as we would have to pay to get either of those guys, but the realities of the market have become apparent. I understand the stress that adding a guy at 4-5 years and $15-17M puts on the payroll but in a time when we are seeing many of our mid-market brethren significantly increase payroll, you must keep up with the Joneses. Let's assume for our purposes that you could get Ubaldo to sign at 4 years for $64M. Maybe that's way off, but who knows.
I chose both Trade Bourn and Trade Stubbs, but really it's an either/or. I think the more realistic option is to trade Stubbs for a bullpen arm, and get rid of at least $2M of his salary. In the long term, Bourn's contract is going to be a real problem for the club so I would prefer to trade him and get that salary relief, but that would be a much more difficult move to make.
I chose both of the minor league deal options to fill out my ballot and because you never complain about getting a player on a minor league deal. There's no risk at all and sometimes you end up with Scott Kazmir or Ryan Raburn.
A brief explanation on some of the options I *didn't* choose.
Extend Justin Masterson: No thanks. He's a nice pitcher, but he's not worth the money it would take to lock him up. In fact, if you could get a decent return for him, I like the idea of trading him, and using the $10M in savings to help sign Ubaldo or Garza. I'm just not a believer in Justin being a front of the rotation guy long-term. That probably puts me in the minority here, but that's where I am.
Trade Asdrubal: Last offseason i was all for it. Now, his value has diminished so much that you would be selling low. As has been said here many times, you simply have to hope he rebounds in his walk year and helps the team contend in 2014 while Lindor is polishing at AAA.
Sign a high-priced closer or mid-level closer: I don't believe in big contracts for relievers. A small- to mid-market team like Cleveland is much better off building a bullpen with young, cost-controlled arms, and trading them when they start to become expensive.
My suggestions leave the Tribe with an opening day payroll of approx. $90-92M, which I realize is above the budget. However, as I mentioned, the Royals and others are going above their historical thresholds, and if the Dolans want to claim to us that they simply can not turn a profit with a payroll at $90M, they can release their financials and prove it. I'm not buying it for a second. The fan support is embarrassing, and for that reason I can understand their hesitation to spend, but it will take a couple of years of sustained commitment to building a winner to bring fans back.
2014-2017 looks like a really solid, sustainable window for contending for the Indians. I really believe one more starter would give them a core group for the next 4 years that can compete with anyone.
Extend Masterson, hoping his price/years isn't/aren't too outrageous.
Trade Bourn, although I like him he's rather expensive & redundant. Add salary relief to get back pieces you need.
Minor league deal, relievers. Hey, that's what we're good at.
Sign a low level free agent starter. This is for depth, plus we're also good at rehabbing/rejuvenationg these guys.
Wait for a high priced starter to drop in $ or years, specifically Ubaldo, specifically in years. Don't want to lose the draft pick/pool money & like him better than the other guys. Saved money by trading Bourn.
If this last doesn't happen, i.e. price drop/contract length lessen, trade Asdrubal for as good a pitching spec, reliever or starter, that can be had.
Also, extending Kipnis wasn't listed but i'd gladly forego signing Ubie to extend Kip.
I would trade Bourn for SP. If not available in order to get payroll flexibility I would trade him for prospect that are major league for this year or next.
I would do the same with Cabrera SP or major league ready prospects.
I would wait out the market for it to fall in price and years in SP and closer.
I'd like to extend Masterson this year and avoid the stress/drama/chaos of next off season.
I'd like to trade Drubs for a young and somewhat controllable SP. Let Aviles start the first month or so and then bring up Lindor after to save that year on him.
I'd like to not spend in this crazy market, see if any SP's are held over and willing to accept a reasonable deal and if not then wait a couple months into the season, see who is tanking (see Blue Jays last year) after big spending and poach some players off of them.