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Indians Winter Meetings Rumors: Looking for an impact bat

A look at free agent hitters and trade targets for the Tribe

Indians Winter Meetings Rumors: Looking for an impact bat
December 10, 2013
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ORLANDO — Dodging rumors from every corner of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, it was a busy first day for the Indians at the week long Baseball Winter Meetings. The Tribe signed free agent first baseman David Cooper to a major league deal, and it was also reported the team had talks with the agent of closer Grant Balfour.

Even with Cooper and outfielder David Murphy added to the 2014 fold, neither move will stop general manager Chris Antonetti from looking at ways to keep improving the offensive side of things.

Barring any trades, just about every position player from Cleveland's postseason roster is set to return next season. The team however has been missing an impact power bat in the middle of the order for several years now, and there are reasons to believe they still may acquire one before Opening Day.

Think about this, the last time a Tribe player hit at least 30 home runs was over five years ago back in 2008. Grady Sizemore that year hit 33 long balls to lead the club.

How about the last Indian to drive in 100 or more RBI?

You would have to go back a year earlier to that magical 2007 season, when Victor Martinez (114) and Travis Hafner (100) each accomplished the feat.

The bottom line is Cleveland has been starving for a power hitter for too long, and fans would agree it's time for a change.

But where would an impact bat in the middle of the lineup fit in?

Third base seems the most logical fit at the moment and the outfield as well, depending if the Tribe decides to part ways with an outfielder like Drew Stubbs.

Monday I looked at free agent pitchers and trade options for the Indians, today here are eight hitters that could help:

Trade targets

Chase Headley .250 / 13 HR / 50 RBI  .747 OPS

Coming off a monster 2012 season where he finished fifth for N.L. MVP, Headley's numbers took a dive last year due to a nagging knee injury. At just 29 years old, the switch-hitter would look great at third base in Cleveland for many years to come. The only question is, what kind of a trade package it would take to pry him out of San Diego?

Headley made $8.5 million in 2013 and is due to hit arbitration this winter before becoming a free agent in 2015. Slugging 31 homers and reaching 115 RBI just two seasons ago, he would still command a nice haul in return. It would be tough to give up on a guy like Lonnie Chisenhall, but for a proven young stud in Headley that could thrive in the middle of the Indians order, it's worth the move. Not to mention he would be going to a better hitter friendly ballpark in Progressive Field.

Aramis Ramirez .283 / 12 HR / 49 RBI  .831 OPS

Heading into a contract year, the right handed hitting Ramirez could be had from the Brewers in a trade this offseason.

Battling a knee injury that kept him out of half of 2013, the two-time All-Star put up a decent stat line by season's endas he looks to rebound in 2014. Only two National League hitters in Ryan Braun and Hunter Pence drove in more runs than Ramirez between 2011 and 2012.

The Tribe would have to make a solid trade offer, but the only problem is the 35 year old set to make $16 million next year. Milwaukee would have to eat the majority of his remaining salary, but there's no question the presence Ramirez still brings in the batters box, finally giving Cleveland a legitimate feared hitter in their lineup.

Mark Trumbo .234 / 34 HR / 100 RBI  .747 OPS

Arguably the biggest bat on the trade market, the soon to be 28 year old Trumbo is right at the top of a few team's wish lists this winter. In fact, there was a report already that the Angels outfielder is likely to be dealt in the coming days at the Winter Meetings.

Trumbo would give the Indians that big right-handed stick they've been missing for over a decade. Over the past three seasons, the right-handed stud has never hit fewer than 29 home runs or collected less than 87 RBI. Talk about adding a huge threat to the Tribe lineup. His 95 homers and 282 RBI the last three years rank fifth best in the American League.

If L.A. is willing to deal him, you bet they will want a nice haul in return. My only question is if Antonetti would pull a trigger on a trade that includes top prospect Francisco Lindor. For a franchise player in Trumbo, you just may have to take that deal.

Michael Cuddyer .331 / 20 HR / 84 RBI  .919 OPS

A trade for Cuddyer realistically could happen more at the trade deadline in July instead of this winter. Regardless, the Indians should still check-in on the availability of the two-time All-Star and 2013 N.L. Batting Champion.

At the age of 34, the veteran Cuddyer is coming off the best offensive season of his big league career. He is a proven veteran and one of the more likable guys in all of baseball. The slugger would be a great welcomed addition to not only the Cleveland lineup, but once again to the A.L. Central where he spent 11 years in Minnesota.

Could it be the high altitude in the Mile High City? Maybe. But if the Tribe play their cards right and don't add an impact bat, they may strike it big instead when it matters most during the season, if they can bolster their lineup with Cuddyer.

Free Agents

Michael Young .279 / 8 HR / 46 RBI  .730 OPS

Not your prototypical power threat, but like Cuddyer, he is one of the game's best veteran hitters you can find.

Cleveland has always liked Young, especially the versatility and leadership he brings on and off the field. While his numbers have slowly regressed the past two years, there's no question even at 37 year old the seven-time All-Star has stuff left in the tank to impact a major league club in 2014.

A career .300 hitter in 13 big league seasons, Tribe skipper Terry Francona watched him first hand as the bench coach with the Texas Rangers back in 2002. Young would be a great asset to not only the organization, but would be a great mentor to younger players like Chisenhall or Jose Ramirez

Corey Hart .270 / 30 HR / 83 RBI  .841 OPS (2012)

Could be the steal of the free agent hitting class in my mind. 

Knee surgery kept Hart from playing a single game in 2013, but that doesn't mean the Tribe should pass up on potentially inking a deal with the 31 year old two-time All-Star. One thing the former Brewers outfielder has done best in his career has been his ability to hit the long ball.

Only five National League players hit more home runs than Hart between 2010-2012. The right-handed slugger posted more homers (87) in that same span than All-Stars David Ortiz, Joey Votto and Ryan Howard. Sign me up!

Kevin Youkilis .219 / 2 HR / 8 RBI  .648 OPS

Before you say no, just hear me out on this one. Cleveland was in on Youkilis last offseason before the Yankees stole him on a one year, $12 million contract. Thankfully the Indians didn't net him, as the right-handed hitter dealt with a back injury that kept him out for almost all of 2013.

One year later he's a free agent again, and the Tribe should make another run at signing him again. Francona knows Youkilis well, winning two World Series titles together in Boston. He's slugged 19 homers and drove in 60 runs for the White Sox less than two years ago and could end up paying off for the Indians if he stays healthy.

Like the team's platoon in right field, Youkilis and Chisenhall would be a nice platoon at third base with Youlk playing against left-handed pitching.

Michael Morse .215 / 13 HR / 27 RBI  .651 OPS

The former Seattle outfielder started 2013 on a tear, hitting .254 with 11 home runs and 21 RBI by the end of May.

Then, the injury bug struck Morse which would cause him to play in just 88 games by season's end. Viewed as one of the best sluggers in the game when healthy, the right-handed hitter slugged 49 homers and 157 RBI between 2011 and 2012 with the Nationals. That’s more home runs and RBI than Carlos Gonzalez has put up the last two seasons in Colorado.

On a relatively thin power hitting market, Morse would be a nice solid addition to any ballclub this winter.

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

User Comments

Hermie13
December 11, 2013 - 4:50 PM EST
@Willie

I don't get how the Nationals could add an OFer as they have Harper, Span, and Werth and signed McLouth last week.

I do think Asdrubal would be an interesting add for them as a 2B...but they need to try and move LaRoche first. He'd fit in Cleveland...if you moved Bourn/Brantley in another deal...
Geoffrey Klein
December 11, 2013 - 9:53 AM EST
Sorry, you lost any cred when you even dared to mention that the Tribe would even think about trading a franchise SS, one of the top prospects they have had in two decades for Mark Trumbo.
yourtribe
December 10, 2013 - 10:24 PM EST
Tough to give up Lonnie? Why?
Willie
December 10, 2013 - 8:32 PM EST
Meant to include this with the last post...

http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/12/10/ryan-zimmerman-will-begin-transition-to-first-base/

Ryan Zimmerman is moving to 1b. Which opens 3b or 2b.
Willie
December 10, 2013 - 8:26 PM EST
BrianM,
There has been talk the Nationals would add a vet 2b, with the possibility to move Rendon to 3rd. I hear they could be in the mkt for an OF.
Jimmy
December 10, 2013 - 6:05 PM EST
I think Cory Hart and Chase Headley would be great additions to the club. We would have to trade Michael maybe to San Diego for Chase, which would free up center field to be managed by Drew Stubbs, who has the speed we need. Then sign Cory to three or four year contract and put him in right field. You would have Michael in left.....Pretty solid outfield with David Murphy as extra outfielder and DH. Swish and Carlos handling 1B, Jason at second, Caberra at ss and Headley at 3rd base with Lonnie being the extra. Pretty strong hitting with speed as starting line up. I cannot see signing Grant Balfour for 2yrs/ $10-12 M, since it would have been better to keep Smithy.
We have a good core and don't sell parts that are very good to reduce payroll, the fans need a winner.
BrianM
December 10, 2013 - 5:53 PM EST
Willie,

Id love Storen, but the Nats have no need for ACab with Desmond, Rondon, and Espinoza. They are more likely to trade a MI than they are to acquire one.
Willie
December 10, 2013 - 5:07 PM EST
I will be surprised if he's still here in 2 weeks. Rumor is the Dbax will trade one of their young SS for a SP. Now that's a novel idea...

I'd trade ACab to the Nats for Drew Storen and a minor leaguer IF they'd have interest. We could see the Tribe flip ACab and a few million in cash for a better return, they did with Choo last yr.

Fwiw, Brett Anderson has been traded for Drew Pomeranz and another arm.
Jim
December 10, 2013 - 3:49 PM EST
Was hoping the Mets were in on Asdrubal...maybe they still are...I don't know...
Willie
December 10, 2013 - 3:29 PM EST
Trumbo and two prospects go the Dbax, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs to the Angels and Adam Eaton goes to the White Sox.
Walter
December 10, 2013 - 2:46 PM EST
It might not matter about Trumbo. Looks like the D'backs might end up with Trumbo in 3 team trade.
Jim
December 10, 2013 - 2:25 PM EST
I'm with you Seth. I'm fine with Trumbo, but as a supplemental guy and for the appropriate trade piece.

A top prospect wouldn't be that piece.

He's over-valued by many...IMO...but if the Indians stole him, I'd be fine with that.
Seth
December 10, 2013 - 2:08 PM EST
I wouldn't mind having Trumbo, for a lot less than the Angels would want for him. Certainly would not trade Lindor for him. Looking at his HRs and RBIs, his strengths, ignores every other aspect of his offensive game, which are weaknesses. Like, he gets on base slightly more often than Lonnie Chisenhall. His wRC+ last year, 106, was the same as Chisenhall's wRC+ in 2012.
matt underwood
December 10, 2013 - 1:43 PM EST
im growing less optimistic as the winter goes by this team is going to try and improve a 92 win team to get them to the point of "going for it". It reminds me of 2007 team that was so close, the 2008 season was that last year they were going to have CC so instead of going all in the sit on their hands and the team sucks. Now whether or not anything would have changed had they made some risky moves, we'll never know, but at least get some balls. Masterson is going to walk after this year - there is no one to replace him, the minors suck b/c we still cannot draft anyone of impact.
Robert
December 10, 2013 - 12:28 PM EST
I have a hard time imagining that this is a list of players that Antonetti is talking to other GM's about. Almost none of these players makes sense for the tribe, for instance, "...the switch-hitter would look great at third base in Cleveland for many years to come." Huh?? If someone trades for Headley, it's for one year only. And Trumbo has HUGE OBP issues, while being a high-priced arb-eligible for just three years, both of which are probably giving most teams reason to not get involved, not to mention the fact that for us it doesn't make sense, we already have plenty of people at 1B. Oh, and the small matter of Aramis Ramirez' $16m contract...?
shy
December 10, 2013 - 11:14 AM EST
Stay away from Balfour. He's running on empty. Bean had no intention of having him close again this year irrespective of his contract situation. I don't think his arm is sound enough to throw 95 every night. The last thing you want to do is bring somebody in and have a repeat of the Pestano/Perez dead arm situation. The Indians need to find someone special if they want to do something special.
Flappy
December 10, 2013 - 11:13 AM EST
Headley is washed up. The Padres made a big mistake by not trading him 2 years ago when his value was high. He's not close to the player he was 3 years ago and my guess is the Padres keep him simply because they can't get anything of value for him now. .... Trumbo would be the answer but it would cost Masterson.
Willie
December 10, 2013 - 10:35 AM EST
Sounds like Grant Balfour will sign with the Orioles, although there are reports he does not have an offer. He was linked to the Tribe yesterday, FWIW.

Also, reports the Indians are in on John Axford, who has closing experience. Probably takes 2 yrs / $10-12M to get him IF rumor is true. Axford is also linked with a number of other clubs.

Side note, the mkt should know IF Tanaka is posted today. IF he is not, it seems likely there will some movement coming with the bigger name FA SP.
Walter
December 10, 2013 - 10:17 AM EST
Headley would be great addition, but the price is high. Plus he also in his final season before he becomes eligible for free agency.

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