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Indians Winter Meetings Preview: Pitching is key

A look at free agent pitchers and trade options for the Tribe

Indians Winter Meetings Preview: Pitching is key
December 9, 2013
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ORLANDO — Get out your Christmas wish lists Tribe fans.

The 2014 Baseball Winter Meetings officially kickoff today, marking the beginning of a four day week fueled with a flurry of rumors and activity, both in free agency and on the trade front. There has been a slew of action already this offseason. as millions of dollars continue to get thrown around at presents in the form of big leaguers, where teams hope to strike big as they build their teams for the new year.

Cleveland and general manager Chris Antonetti come to the meetings hoping to improve a club that won 92 ballgames in 2013, looking for ways to get back into the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 1999.

Two months into the winter and the Indians have already lost a few key components to the pitching side of their roster, while adding a new veteran hitter to help shore up the outfield.

Additions:

David Murphy
Jason Giambi (resigned)

Losses:

Scott Kazmir (Oakland)
Joe Smith (L.A. Angels)
Chris Perez (Released)
Ubaldo Jimenez (Free agent)

At the top of the wish list for the Indians is pitching, hoping to build on an already solid bullpen and rotation. It was pitching that got Cleveland to October this past season, posting a team ERA of 3.82 while also striking out the second most batters in the American League.

Also on that list is an impact power bat, something the team has lacked for awhile. Where that bat would fit in right now is a question in itself, but the Tribe will look at any way to bolster their lineup in the coming weeks. Even if it means trading an integral part of the team or top prospect in the farm system.

Here are 13 pitchers and other key notables Indians fans should keep an eye on not only this week, but thoughout the rest of the offseason.

Starting Pitchers

It's hard to believe the Tribe hasn't had a starter win at least 15 games since Cliff Lee won 22 games back in 2008. After losing both Kazmir and Jimenez to free agency, Cleveland has one vacant spot in the 2014 rotation. They could choose to fill that void internally with Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer or Carlos Carrasco, or look outside the organziation instead.

Here are some options:

Trade targets

Jeff Samardzija (8-13, 4.34 ERA) 33 starts 78 BB / 214 SO

The hard-throwing Samardzija may not be the first pitcher that comes to mind when thinking of a front of the rotation starter, but he has shown why he quickly should be. Coming off a season where he recorded over 200 innings for the first time in his career, the soon to be 29 year old has the stuff to be an All-Star.

Punching out 394 batters in 388 1/3 innings over the past two years, Samardzija has more strikeouts over that same stretch than Stephen Strasburg, Tim Lincecum and CC Sabathia. His only problem is being on a sub .500 team in Chicago, but that may all change soon as he has already become the talk of potential trade rumors. Due for an arbitration raise this winter, Samardzija won't be a free agent until 2016.

If I'm Cleveland, I have Francona on the phone with his old buddy and Cubs GM Theo Epstein already.

David Price (10-8, 3.33 ERA) 186.2 inn. (27 starts) 27 BB / 151 SO

If your Christmas offseason wish list includes adding a proven ace, then 2012 A.L. Cy Young Award winner David Price is the starter for you. The three-time All-Star has been a hot commodity already this winter, subject to be the hottest pitcher on the open trade market.

But will the Price be right? That price will almost certainly be a couple of the Indians top prospects along with one or two major league ready players, something I don't see Cleveland wanting to do in this season of giving. Price would no question look great ahead of Justin Masterson and Danny Salazar, so look for the club to still inquire.

Brett Anderson (1-4, 6.04 ERA) 44.2 inn. (5 starts) 21 BB / 46 SO

With Kazmir signing with Oakland, Anderson has quickly found himself on the Athletics trading block. A right ankle sprain kept the soon to be 26 year old lefty out for most of 2013, marking the fourth time in the last five years he has landed on the disabled list. He went 18-17 in his first two big league seasons between 2009-2010, recording a 3.57 ERA over his first 49 starts covering 287 2/3 innings.

He could come at a bargain price for the Tribe and is worth a look.

Free Agents

Bartolo Colon (18-6, 2.65 ERA) 190.1 inn. (30 starts) 29 BB / 117 SO

The last time Colon pitched for the Indians, gas prices were under $1.50, nobody knew what an iPhone was and I was 11 years old. Believe it or not he’s still pitching great, if not better right now.

Cleveland would like to get the 40 year old on a one year deal, but he could realistically be destined for a two year deal elsewhere. If a multi-year deal is what kept the Tribe away from bidding on Kazmir, you bet they will do the same for someone well on the back nine of his career.

Colon would be a welcomed addition to the staff, being a perfect one year stopgap. His veteran presence combined with his 28 wins over the last two seasons are reasons in favor of a potential homecoming. Not to mention allowing fans to dust out their old No. 40 jerseys from the back of their closets.

Bronson Arroyo (14-12, 3.79 ERA) 202.0 inn. (32 starts) 34 BB / 124 SO

Like a few players to come, Arroyo has had the luxury to play under Tribe manager Terry Francona before in his career. As a member of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox, the right-handed starter has surprisingly been one of the most durable pitchers in all of baseball. In fact, no National League pitcher has won or started more games than Arroyo since 2006.

Seeking a multi-year deal, the soon to be 37 year old right-hander has never been hurt or on the disabled list in his 14 year career. He would look good wearing Chief Wahoo, but like many of the free agent starters this winter already, his price tag may come too steep for Antonetti and company.

Jake Westbrook (7-8, 4.63 ERA) 116.2 inn. (19 starts) 50 BB / 44 SO

With the market shelling out cash to any ballplayer it seems the Indians could save money by bringing former Tribe starter Jake Westbrook back into the fold. Unlike Colon, his numbers though have slowly inflated for the worse. The 36 year old did battle a back injury which forced him to miss some time this past season, and was simply lost among great Cardinal pitching.

He would still give the Tribe yet another veteran and mentor to its young staff, but his health could all but put an end to a potential Cleveland union. It was Westbrook who was the team's Opening Day starter back in 2010, while also notching a victory in Game 3 of the 2007 ALCS against Boston.

Johan Santana (6-9, 4.85 ERA) 117.0 inn. (21 starts) 39 BB / 111 SO (2012)

Arguably the best southpaw in baseball over the last decade, two shoulder surgeries over the past three seasons was the primary reason Santana didn't throw a single pitch in 2013. No pitcher in baseball racked up more strikeouts than the left-hander over an eight year period (2003-2010), and there's reason to believe he still has upside.

Cleveland took a gamble on Kazmir last offseason and it paid off greatly. Without a lefty in the upper levels of the minor leagues, Santana would fill that void and simply need to stay healthy if given the chance.

Shaun Marcum (1-10, 5.29 ERA) 78.1 inn. (12 starts) 21 BB / 60 SO

Marcum has always been a guy that’s intrigued me, going back to his days with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Much like Santana, Marcum has battled injuries of late which ultimately ended this past July with season-ending shoulder surgery. Scheduled to make a full recovery by the start of spring training, the right-hander is worth persuing for the Indians. He put up back-to-back 13 win seasons from 2010-2011 and posted a solid 3.70 ERA in 21 starts in 2012. When he's on, he has proven to have ace-like stuff.

Striking lighting in a bottle with starters Kevin Millwood and Carl Pavano in recent years, the Tribe may have a similar interest in trying to strike it once more with Marcum.

Other notables: Jason Hammel, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Daniel Hudson, and Clayton Richard.

Bullpen help

With Smith now making L.A. his new home and Perez destined for a fresh start, the team could also lose more of their bullpen in Matt Albers and Rich Hill to free agency.

Currently without a closer and in need of more arms, here are some relievers and closers that could help:

Free Agents

Grant Balfour (1-3, 2.59 ERA) 62.2 inn. (38 SV) 27 BB / 72 SO

Saving a career-high 38 games in 2013, Balfour is seeking a multi year deal even with the closer turning 36 years old by Opening Day. Helping Oakland win consecutive A.L West titles, the right-hander has become one of the best closers in the game. Balfour brings with him a fiery emotion and presence on the mound, something that is almost sure to intrigue many teams.

Notching 62 saves over the last two seasons, he would fit in nicely with Cleveland. But with Detroit signing a veteran closer similar to him in Joe Nathan to a 2 year, $20 million deal, Balfour may be too pricey.

Andrew Bailey (3-1, 3.77 ERA) 28.2 inn. (8 SV) 12 BB / 39 SO

Injuries once again plaqued Bailey for the second time the last two years, as his season ended with shoulder surgery back in late July. The two-time All-Star at just 29 years old hopes for another shot at big league success after being non-tendered by the Red Sox last week.

With Balfour and other closers looking to cash in, Bailey wouldn't be a bad place to turn for the cost saving Indians. The right-hander recorded 75 saves in his first three seasons with Oakland, striking out 174 in 174 innings over that same time span. Someone could cash in on a potential 2014 comeback player of the year.

Joaquin Benoit (4-1, 2.01 ERA) 67.0 inn (24 SV) 22 BB / 73 SO

Spending the last three seasons in Detroit, Benoit has posted good numbers both as a closer and setup man. The hard-throwing righty has struck out 220 batters in 199 innings over the last three years, setting himself up for a nice pay raise.

If the last couple remaining closers are holding out for bigger dollars, look for a team to steal Benoit away from the pack. Let's hope he stays out of the A.L. Central, unless he is in an Indians uniform of course.

Joba Chamberlain (2-1, 4.93 ERA) 42.0 inn. (1 SV) 26 BB / 38 SO

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

After tossing 257 2/3 innings between 2008 and 2009, Chamberlain has only managed to throw 91 1/3 innings over the last three seasons due to injuries. Still, he's found himself on the radar of a few teams with his experience as a shutdown reliever.

There’s just one thing that could snag a potential deal with the Tribe.

Midges.

Daniel Bard (5-6, 6.22 ERA) 59.1 inn. (0 SV) 43 BB / 38 SO (2012)

Non-tendered by the Cubs just last week, Bard has plenty of upside for any team looking for help in the bullpen. 

At just 28 years old, he would be a guy Francona would like to snach up due to both his performance and history in Boston. The right-hander has electric stuff, recording 66 holds with the Red Sox from 2010-2011. Health is once again the main concern, but boy if he can stay healthy, he would look great in the back-end of the Tribe pen for next year and beyond.

Other notables: Jon Axford, Carlos Marmol, Francisco Rodriguez, Mitchell Boggs and Jesse Crain.

The 2014 MLB General Manager Winter Meetings will run from December 9-12, with the Rule 5 draft set to take place the final day on Thursday.

Look for the preview on potential free agent hitters and trade targets for the Tribe tomorrow.

Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at jberdysz27@gmail.com.

User Comments

Alton
December 9, 2013 - 6:19 PM EST
I'd love to get Daniel Hudson if that is at all possible. Arroyo is a solid vet that could provide solid value, in the mold of Paul Byrd '07 edition.
Walter
December 9, 2013 - 3:25 PM EST
I would be interested in any these pitchers for the bullpen Crain, Bard, and A. Bailey.
I would like to take a shot at Santana on Minor deal. Possible comeback similar to Kazmir and Liriano in 13. Indians have had decent luck resurrecting careers on injured players.
Willie
December 9, 2013 - 2:46 PM EST
Also, meant to tag this with that last post.

Rumors the Mets met with former Indians ace, Bartolo Colon's reps. Hmm. Mets reportedly tight on cash considering adding a vet SP. I hope it's because they plan on moving a SP (Gee / Niese) to the Tribe. But that's unlikely.
Willie
December 9, 2013 - 2:42 PM EST
An interesting aside, Chris Perez is shopping himself in person at the Winter Mtgs per Buster Olney. Good idea, IMHO.

Agreed, pass on Hammel, nothing wrong with checking in on the guy, but save the money for elsewhere. I'd rather see them spend that money on a BP arm.
Tony
December 9, 2013 - 2:38 PM EST
I should add that if Hammel wants to sign a minor league deal I am game, but that does not appear to be an option.
Tony
December 9, 2013 - 2:37 PM EST
I have zero interest in Hammel. Why bother? It would be a waste of the few million it would take to sign him. He's fifth starter and the Indians have plenty of those. They need a middle of the rotation arm that can be relied upon to compete and give lots of innings. Hammel is not close to being that kind of guy. Move along.
Willie
December 9, 2013 - 2:35 PM EST
Yeah, Cooper is like McDade and McGuiness last yr. Kind of don't see the point of tying up 40 man roster space with him, but the same thing they did last yr. There are still several arms on the 40 that are susceptible to cuts, no big deal.

As for going after Jason Hammel, if he's looking at $5 M or less. Seems an awful much like signing Brett Myers again. He's a palatable 5th SP but that's it. I'd much prefer a younger arm with upside, like Hanson or even trying to acq. Brett Anderson.

As for Gavin Floyd, I heard he should be back around May. Should be safe to say mid-summer. He'd be an interesting add. I think a few injury recovery targets could be a creative way to add talent at a controlled cost, of course there is risk but it's a good way to land qlty talent in some cases.
Hiram
December 9, 2013 - 2:18 PM EST
If you could guarantee he was healthy, I would love to get Gavin Floyd but don't know how healthy he is and if anyone has an Idea can they let me know?? I hear conflicting things
Tony
December 9, 2013 - 2:15 PM EST
Cooper signing would be a longshot attempt at a potentially serviceable player. Was good before the back issue....if he is healthy he could be a solid part-timer. No problem with him even on a major league deal - which I would assume would be 1 year $600-800K. From a talent and potental standpoint, he's a little more than McDade to me as he has proven success at the ML level and has a higher prospect pedigree....but I agree it is a similar move where they are just loading up on first base/DH options.
Jim
December 9, 2013 - 2:03 PM EST
He's fodder. Indians had him for a bit at the tail end of last year and he opted out of his contract in August because he wasn't going to get called up. I'd equate this to McCade a year ago.
Willie
December 9, 2013 - 1:56 PM EST
Jerry Crasnick reporting Indians are closing in on a deal with David Cooper -1b/DH on a major league deal.?
Willie
December 9, 2013 - 1:08 PM EST
Agreed, I could see 2 yrs of Bobby Parnell for ACab, but I seriously doubt the Tribe could land Niese. Maybe Gee straight up for ACab, but I have my doubts.

I believe Saturday, I responded to a Mets fan who asked what it would cost to land ACab. I said...
Josh Edgin - a serviceable LHRP
Jesus Flores - a RH 3b / 2b prospect big league ready
Domingo Tapia - a RHSP whose future maybe in the BP.
I really don't think that's a great return, good maybe, it would fill a few needs and free some salary. The poster proposed Rafael Montero as an option, I'd suggest he would be a nice center piece.
Tony
December 9, 2013 - 12:04 PM EST
If the Indians could land Niese or Gee for Asdrubal, I do it yesterday. Long term control proven ML starters for a guy in Asdrubal who is gone in one year? Where do I sign up?
Clay
December 9, 2013 - 11:02 AM EST
Roy Halladay retired today. Signed a 1 day contract with Toronto.
Dennis
December 9, 2013 - 10:48 AM EST
Is Diske going back to Japan? Can not believe the Mets did not resign him after the way he finished up.
Devin
December 9, 2013 - 10:40 AM EST
I would do Cabrera for Gee in a heartbeat.
Willie
December 9, 2013 - 10:35 AM EST
Here's an interesting article... (Re: Trading ACab to NYMets).

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/york-mets-time-acquire-asdrubal-cabrera-winter-meetings-163500332--mlb.html
Willie
December 9, 2013 - 10:10 AM EST
Some interesting damaged goods pitchers...

Scott Baker
Chris Capuano
Joel Hanrahan
Gavin Floyd
Suk-Min Yoon

While I'd love to see Matt Garza or either of Samardzija or Price in a Tribe uniform next season I set my expectations on more realistic targets. Tommy Hanson should be controllable for 2 yrs, so 2 yrs $10 M (or less) might get a deal with Hanson. Another guy I find intriguing is Clayton Richard, IF he rebounds from shldr surgery, but he might be had on a sizable minor league deal with heavy incentives. There are still plenty if options on the mkt, but the Indians need to add a innings and volume to their SP.

As for the BP, they have a slew of arms, but need to add at least a qlty set man and or another lefty. Again there are options, but the price might be unreasonably high.

Overall, I expect the Tribe to make a few moves. IF they haven't added arm by the rule 5 draft, I'd suggest they will make a pick of another arm for the BP. This could be a creative way to add a long man or even a lefty, but it only seems likely IF they don't like the prices on some FA / trades.

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