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Positive resolutions at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Positive resolutions at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario
January 2, 2014
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It's New Year's Resolution time here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, as the Cleveland Indians' enter the 2014 season coming off of a massive rebound during the 2013 season. They made the playoffs thanks in large part to a ten-game win streak to close out the season last September. Their stay in the playoffs was short, but the taste of October was sweet.
 
I'm ready for more.
 
I was browsing through my New Year's piece last year, and it's always interesting to take a look at what I was talking about. In my piece last year, I was actually focusing on...Shaun Marcum?
 
Here's what I said:
 
"There’s also scuttlebutt that the Indians were talking to Shaun Marcum over the past weeks. I’ll be interested to see how this all plays out, because there are several thoughts in my head with regards to Marcum.
  1. Could the Indians have been using their talks with Marcum to shield their talks with Myers?
  2. Are the Indians planning on signing Marcum too? While I doubt that, and it’s hard to speculate since I don’t know the numbers for the Myers contract, could Myers have been the #2 guy all along? Imagine a rotation that looks like this: Masterson, Marcum, Jimenez, Myers, McAllister/Bauer/Carrasco? Seriously, isn’t that what a rotation SHOULD look like?
  3. The most likely scenario to me is that the Indians were focused on Marcum, in the same way they were focused on  Kevin Youkilis. When Marcum wouldn’t come to any sort of decision, the Indians moved to their plan B, and signed Brett Myers. Not sure, but that seems likely, especially after the Youkilis/ Mark Reynoldsdecision."
It's funny how quickly things change in a year. Brett Myers was long gone before the end of April. Shawn Marcum signed a one-year, $4 million deal, with $4 million in incentives. He didn't pitch after July 15th.
 
The Indians rotation was fine without either.
 
A year later, Shawn Marcum signed with the Indians for a minor league deal and will be fighting for a #5 spot in the rotation.
 
Let's get on with this year's resolutions, with one of my CSI brethren, Michael Hattery, for your added reading pleasure...
 
Jim: Gentlemen, I'm not going to beat around the bush here, or waste any of your time. Before I get into specific player resolutions for the year, I have to tell you one of my Indians' resolutions.
 
For my first resolution, I'm going to create the first ever Jose Ramirez fan club. He gets too much hate out there for being a "utility player" in the majors. I'm okay with the Chone Figgins comparisons, but c'mon, Figgins wasn't a utility guy. He was a superior player who got regular time at a bunch of different position. The guy got MVP votes his first two seasons as a regular major leaguer. So, if he's that kinda "utility player," fine, but there are a bunch of folks out there that think he's a poor man's Jamey Carroll. NO MORE!!!! It's time for me to educate the masses and let everyone know that JRam is a future superstar!!!!
 
Perhaps I've had too much coffee this morning...
 
Mike: Too much coffee is some sort of fallacy.
 
Indeed, I second this resolution. Well perhaps not the hyperbole surrounding J-Ram and superstar but as a major-league starter absolutely. I will ride shotgun on an bandwagon that is centered around J-Ram because he has become oft-under appreciated. 
 
I love that you tossed out the Figgins comp because it is particularly erroneous. While Figgins plate discipline in totality was fairly good, a good walk rate. His strikeout rate was a bit too high and eventually became his tragic flaw. I doubt that at the big league level, Jose's K% will ever touch 10% for a full season, which is outstanding.
 
Couple this with a nearly 1:1 BB/K, as well as a guy who could easily hit .275-.285 at the big league level and it starts to get interesting.
 
I don't want to get too nerdy because this is not what is supposed to happen in a dialogue but just consider these relatively reasonable projections for a moment.
 
.275/.335/.355.
 
Alright, not altogether gaudy. Then throw in 20 steals plus some additional base running value on 1st to 3rd, 1st to home situations. We all saw what his speed could force in his short stint at the big league level.
   
Then, add the value of above-average defense at second or average defense at short and if projected out we have a 2-3 WAR player. This kid can play, he is fun to watch and he can get a lot of playing time on a good team.
 
Unfortunately, for Ramirez his skill-set is one that is not particularly sexy, he handles the bat well but without power. Has good speed, plays good defense at a few positions and has versatility. 
 
To me Ramirez could morph into an ideal #9 hitter for the Tribe this season if given the opportunity, gets on base, knows how to run when he is there. So sign me up, also if anyone pays attention to Francona's signaling, he is on the bandwagon too.
 
I resolve to irrationally believe that Trevor Bauer will have figured it out mechanically in 2014. This is not because I have any confidence that he will but rather because the Indians need him to in the long term so I will optimistically expect improvement.
 
Jim: As the official president of the "Jose Ramirez" fan club, I am offending...OFFENDED by your projections of JRam's average at .275-.285!!!!!
 
Alright, I realize that you are being sensible, and that I am rarely, if ever, sensible.
 
In all honesty though Michael, if you look at JRam's history at every level he's been at, he's showcased a superior OBP until last year when he skipped the Carolina League. Now I realize how tough that Aeros park is for hitters, but you can't just ignore Ramirez and his struggles. Still, he had months in which he was at that .400+ level OBP, and he was the second youngest player in the entire league. I think with his speed and contact, he's a .300 average, .375 OBP waiting to happen. The bonus though, is that even if his ceiling is 100% what you mentioned, it still make him a really solid major league player.
 
It's going to be sooner rather than later.
 
On to your resolution about Bauer. He feels to me to be a lot like 'Finding Sasquatch" right now. You keep hearing things about how Bauer is fixing his delivery, and that it seems to be a bit more simple, and he appears to be finding his old delivery.
 
The mystery of Bauer is why teams continue to allow a 22-year-old to be in charge of his own mechanics changes. I get how smart he is, and I get that he may be a bit mercurial, but I'd hate to see a team held hostage by a talented kid who can't find that talent because he isn't knowledgeable enough to understand the intricacies of how to find something easy and repetitive. We'll see. He could be the Kazmir-plus of the rotation if he makes a 180-degree turn.
 
His upside is amazing.
 
Look, he's a 22-year old, which immediately makes him more important than Carlos Carrasco. Bauer may be a product of having options, so he'll really have to impress to get a spot in the rotation out of camp. If he makes the rotation though, look out.
 
My next resolution should be resolved in a quick manner. I refuse to listen to any garbage about Masahiro Tanakaand the Indians posting for him. I DO think the Indians will spend more money than what's being announced by people who aren't in the organization. It's tiring listening to everyone "who knows," but really is just assuming.
 
Look, we all know that the Indians are at $80-$85 million. We all know that they are a small market team, and that they don't want to spend any more money than that. Here's what I also know. If the Indians bump into something that can improve their team in a cost-effective manner, they'll spend the money. I'm not saying they'll blow the bank here, but I think it could happen.
 
Now, with that said, the Indians sure as heck aren't going to spend $20 million to talk to Tanaka, then spend $100 million on this kid. They just don't have that kind of money in the hopper. They are gonna post the $20 million knowing that it will make a statement with regards to other players that may come at a more affordable price down the road from Japan.
 
I'd be surprised if a team didn't post the $20 million.
 
Mike: Akin to a justice in one of the early Marshall courts I concur with your thoughts surrounding all this Tanaka business. Tanaka is an incredibly interesting commodity and one which the Indians are not within firing distance of. I am of the volition that he has become overvalued, while he can be a plus starter, he is not comparable to Darvish and serves mainly to spend the resources of a team that could influence the Garza, Santana, and Jimenez markets.
The costs of these Asian import pitchers have always been interesting to me in comparison to the Cuban position player market.
 
Once again the A's in the Cespedes addition, found a hole in the marketplace. 4 years and $36 million for a 2+ WAR player who will take a step or two forward. The same with Puig, 7 years and $42 million. Puig's contract will have been paid off early next season practically.
 
Yet Tanaka who will be a three starter or two at best, will easily cost a team over $100 million. The Indians make the bid purely for future relations with foreign franchises only, being a player on this type of player won't happen, and wisely so.
 
 I do think the Indians eventually push this payroll to $90 million, there are other pieces available and I believe that Antonetti is immensely active on the trade front as usual. The beauty of the hot stove season is that the biggest deals, are rarely up for public knowledge or rumor. 
 
They are just dropped on fan bases, a la the Fister deal or the Fielder-Kinsler swap.Thus while twitter rumors are cold, I do believe that Antonetti remains immensely busy.
 
My resolution comes with the following proviso, no I do not want to pay Ubaldo Jimenez the $17 million per which he hopes to receive.
 
However, he will not receive such a sum and could be had for a price close to $12 per. At this price or on a pillow deal, Ubaldo would be valuable asset for a staff that needs fifth arm.
 
Thus, I resolve to sit right next to Steve Orbanek on the bandwagon to bring Ubaldo back in 2014.
 
Jim: Ahhhh, Ubaldo. I knew his name will come up. I will throw another starter's name in your direction in a minute, but I have to talk about Ubaldo. I know Steve will read this and think I'm a hater, but I'm not. While I can't profess to love Ubaldo in the same fashion, I would love to have him back with the Indians, and would gladly spend whatever money that the Indians are willing to give him.
I just don't know that the Indians are willing to take the risk on any starter for a long term deal at this stage of their career, let alone for Ubaldo Jimenez.
 
Now look, I'm not saying Ubaldo isn't going to maintain his ace-like status, but I do believe that the Indians consider him a risk, to some extent. Understand, though, that I think the Indians still have the mentality that any starter at this stage of the game is a risk.
 
I want him back, I just don't see the Indians going that route, even if they could get him in the $11 or $12 million range...unless is a manageable set of years. I've gotten into it with a few people on this Indians strategy over the years. I' not really trying to argue why the Indians don't sign older pitchers to long-term, high priced contracts...they just don't.
 
So, it would have to be a perfect deal, and it would have to fit into their money and time-frame. I really believe the Indians have a three-year deal on the table for Ubaldo, and either at a lower figure than that $12 million, or with incentives, or with a fourth-year option. I also think they have their eyes on other possibilities.
 
I just think that the market for Ubaldo is a lot like the trade market you described Michael. I think there is more interest than is making the air-waves, and that ultimately a team will bid some serious money for his services. I hear things like the Yankees getting both Tanaka and Ubaldo, and it makes me think they are trying to scare teams away. The sad think about it is that the Yankees have the money to actually beat up teams.
 
I hope Ubaldo comes back, but I just don't see it happening. I hope that I'm wrong, unlike some others, that don't want anything to do with him.
 
Alright Mike, you threw a fantastic Q&A with Jeff Sullivan in which he declared his love for one Danny Salazar. We have been saying this for...well...years, to be honest. So here's my resolution. I resolve to consider Danny Salazarspecial, regardless of what conventional wisdom is. He has two questions in my mind. One is health, and I still say that the Indians answered this question with how they handled him this year. The other is that home run rate, and my guess here is that he'll improve more than the hitters will against his plus stuff.
 
His year was special, moreso than people realize. I think standards in people's heads have gotten ridiculously high. He has ace-like stuff, and while I'm not going to get caught up with that word, I will expect big things from him. Folks can temper their expectations. I'm not one of them.
 
Mike: Preach, my brother, preach. I must confess, I cannot divine at what moment it became hipster to question Danny Salazar's pitching capacity. Actually, I am being deceitful, attempting to create a straw man. I know exactly when these doubts began to become popular.
 
It was game 163, a sudden death playoff, Salazar while not terrible, struggled giving up three earned in four frames. Including a gopher ball to Delmon Young. Thus the narrative began "his fastball is too straight" "his slider isn't good enough". 
 
While I enjoy overreacting to a one game sample, I fear that this game has left a bad enough taste in people's mouth to devalue his talent.
 
I seemed to have missed this straight fastball talk, when he blew it by the best hitter of the past decade three straight at bats. Perhaps, his K/9 of 11.25, which is ungodly, diluted me. Perhaps this straight fastball is a dire threat to his upside. 
 
I think not. There are a few reasons why this kid is special. The first is that the fastball velocity is tied to impeccable control. Salazar locates brilliantly, uses plus control to get ahead in counts at an elite level.
 
So plus velocity, plus control and average pitch movement. Sounds like a plus pitch to me, the pitch movement criticism by men merely grasping at straws to protect the fact that he never cracked a top 100 prospect list.
 
That's right a guy with the talent to be a top ten pitcher in baseball in the next five years never cracked one of those lists.
 
I would move on but for right now, I just can't. Salazar's second pitch, the changeup well yeah it is a plus pitch. Two plus pitches which makes lefties fearful, and righties just a bit more comfortable.
 
Of course, the slider isn't there yet. It is a league average pitch, maybe a tick better.
 
Just with the offerings as they exist right now he is a #2 starter on a good team. If that slider moves up another grade, then we are dealing with a legitimate ace. An absolutely dominant type.
 
So voice concerns about his health, talk about what could happen if his slider improves but don't ignore his current dominance.
 
Salazar is a special talent, even more special because only the most loyal of Indians fans saw it coming. Next time you watch him pitch ask yourself, can he be an ace?
 
I think it is hard to say no (Sorry Nancy Reagan, I am just hooked on D-Sizzle). 
 
Yes, I do have an absolutely huge man crush on Danny Salazar but that is entirely normal. As Mary Lambert says in Same Love, he keeps me warm.
 
Well maybe not, but other than Cliff Lee he is my favorite guy to watch pitch of the last 13 years.
 
I resolve to stop watching Aaron Sorkin written productions in 2014. That is just absurd, I rescind that idiocy. If you haven't watched The West Wing or A Few Good Men with great frequency you are missing out.
 
Digressing, I resolve to revel in the beauty that is Michael Brantley. His beauty is not one of flash but one of substance. His bat control is unbelievable and his differentiation in situational approaches is something I have not seen before.
 
If you look at a WAR total you will people saying things like "league average" but that is because it has its imperfections which I will discuss at a later date. Michael Brantley is a good player, a complementary piece on a team that contends for a championship.
 
Jim: I have to tell you Michael that I keep trying to convince myself that I’m being irrational with the Salazar thoughts, but the only irrational piece to his puzzle is his lack of a major league experience. I get he’s been injured and I get that he throws a flat “fastball.”
 
The beauty of Michael Brantley is that he’s everything that makes baseball good. There’s nothing about baseball that isn’t about numbers, and there’s everything about baseball that isn’t about numbers.
 
Michael Brantley is the epitome of that.
 
He has numbers that make you love him, and numbers that can make you hate him. For me, you have to look at Brantley’s entire picture, and in particular, how he attacks things that he can control. He locates pitch counts that percentagely, he can dominate, then that’s exactly what he does.
 
He utilizes pitch-counts better than any other player on this team. It’s funny, because he’s critiqued for his struggles without anyone on base, which situationally, is very difficult to control as a batter. As his homework improves against particular pitchers, I think you’ll see those numbers improve over time.
 
What’s increasingly interesting to me is that I think we could have a situation where Brantley “prices himself out of Cleveland,” but finds that there isn’t a team that will pay what he expects.
 
That’s for another day. Perhaps we do a big Brantley write-up…and declare a Brantley weekend!
 
I have to be honest Mike, I could go on and on with these, but it’s time to wrap up with my final “resolution.” I resolve to understand that when I say the Cleveland Indians will win 85 games with their current lineup, that it guarantees five more wins than my prediction…at least.
 
So what am I saying? I’m resolved to be okay with a team that’s going to be a legitimate contender for much more this year in the playoffs, regardless of what happens with regards to the roster from its current status. This team is going to be a contender, and regardless of the path they take…
 
I resolve to be on board that bandwagon from the start.
 
Mike: Really like that lineup, I completely agree surrounding their talent and I believe that they are once again a top-six offense in 2014. If they optimize at bats at third base, as well as right field, I believe that provides another step 2-4% uptick in offensive production.
 
For myself I believe that the Indians floor right now is 82 wins. This is because the fifth spot in the rotation really scares me. Could Marcum, Carrasco, Bauer or Tomlin seize it and produce? Absolutely.
 
Yet, each has such huge question marks, it makes the fifth spot incredibly unstable if you ask me.
 
However, if that piece of the rotation is merely decent I believe the Indians will have a top ten rotation in MLB. Which when combined with a top ten offense could win them 93 games.
 
Here's why: a full healthy season from Danny Salazar will be better than U last year, so the two spot is better. Masterson's success continues due to his elevated k-rate and plus slider. For a good front end.
 
McAllister bores in the four slot but continues to be competent which keeps a good offense in ballgames. And finally my last resolution.
 
I think Corey Kluber takes another step forward, and when healthy for a full season posts one which Indians fans will be really surprised by.
 
I resolve to drive the Corey Kluber bandwagon right next to Jake Dungan because next season he will post a 3.30-3.50 ERA, with 14 wins(irrelevant yes, but denotes my expectation for team success) which will be a key piece of the Indians winning 90 games and threatening the Tigers for the A.L. Central down to the last week.

Have a Happy New Year's Everybody.

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 jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

User Comments

Jimmy
January 3, 2014 - 8:29 PM EST
Jim, I agree with you and feel that our starting line-up is better than last year. I still feel that Lonnie, who I feel maybe will have a breakout season and a year under his belt, is the key to being solid. Lonnie has all the tools and is close friends with Jason and Lonnie needs just to be patient at the plate more. As for our pitching, I feel that we have all the pitchers that we need and no need getting a senior citizen pitcher, who will not make it thru the season and get cut like Brett. Stay with our young players and we do have enough young player to be very good.
If a gift comes a knocking at our door, then we must decide if we need that gift (Michael) GO TRIBE AND HAPPY NEW YEAR. THE TRIBE IS COMING!!!!!!!!
Stayle Butler
January 3, 2014 - 2:02 AM EST
Jim You have me all hyped up now.....GO TRIBE!

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