Possible free agent options that can help the Indians lineup
By Andy Nichols
October 24, 2013
The 2013 Indians season brought with it several memorable moments.
The pitching far exceeded preseason expectations, but the offense left something to be desired. There were many circumstances throughout 2013 where it became clear that Cleveland lacked a true middle of the order bat. Nick Swisher and Asdrubal Cabrera struggled, and while Santana proved capable he maybe fits more in the fifth or sixth spot in the order.
In this two part series, I will explore possible offensive targets the Indians may have their eyes on this winter. Part one focuses on this offseason’s free agent class.
2013: 413 AB, .266 AVG, .327 OBP, .833 OPS, 27 HR 76 RBI
Cruz is one of the big ticket offensive free agents this winter. He is a right fielder with good raw power to all fields and is a legitimate middle of the order bat. He is exactly what the Indians need. His 50-game suspension for PEDs should not hurt his free agent stock too much as we saw with Melky Cabrera last year. If Texas gives Cruz a qualifying offer Cleveland will probably lose interest, but with the Indians possibly having as many as three first round picks, they may be willing to part with one in order to get the power bat in the middle of their lineup that they so desperately need.
2013: 498 AB, .259 AVG, .360 OBP, .842 OPS, 23 HR, 92 RBI
Napoli agreed to a one-year deal with Boston late in the offseason last winter due to injury concerns from a failed physical after originally agreeing to a multi-year deal with the Red Sox during the Winter Meetings. With the 2013 season that Napoli put together, he should have no problem finding a multi-year deal this winter. He is another legitimate middle of the order bat that would give Cleveland the run producer they need. He is now strictly a first baseman, and played fairly well at that position this year. His presence would send Nick Swisher back to right field, a move I'm sure he has no problem with. Napoli is a name the Indians may be tied to this offseason, though like with Cruz, they would have to fork up some serious money to acquire his services.
2013: 214 AB, .229 AVG, .317 OBP, .723 OPS, 7 HR, 15 RBI
Granderson didn't see the field very often in 2013 (he played in just 61 games) due to two fluke injuries that occurred on hit by pitches. He's no longer the Curtis Granderson of old, which could put him in the Indians price range. Though he would offer Cleveland some left handed power, he also comes with several question marks. With left field and center field locked up for the time being, can Granderson play right field on a daily basis? He's appeared in just 14 games in right field in his career, all of which came this season. How significantly will his power numbers decrease outside of homer friendly Yankee Stadium? In his four seasons in New York, Granderson had two 40+ homer seasons. His career high before joining the Yankees was 30 in 2009. He's not a middle of the order hitter anymore and he strikes out a ton. For Cleveland, the negatives may outweigh the positives.
2013: 554 AB, .296 AVG, .339 OBP, .380 OPS, 24 HR, 84 RBI
Cleveland fans will instantly look towards Carlos Beltran on free agent lists this winter due to his reported interest in the Indians when he was a free agent two winters ago. Multiple reports had stated that Beltran had narrowed his choices down to St. Louis and Cleveland in 2011, before choosing to join the Cardinals. Whether that was really the case, or just Beltran's agent trying to drive up the price for his client will remain a mystery. But Beltran seemed interested in Cleveland and the Indians should once again be interested in him this offseason. He is a veteran proven run producer that has been able to hush critics who have questioned his durability with back-to-back 145+ game seasons. He is also one of the best clutch/postseason hitters we've seen this decade. A trait that is sorely needed in the Cleveland lineup.
2013: 532 AB, .291 AVG, .336 OBP, .847 OPS, 24 HR, 88 RBI
Byrd is interesting because of his breakout 2013 season at the age of 35 (turned 36 on August 30th) after receiving only a minor league deal from the outfielder-desperate New York Mets last winter. He's a guy that would certainly fill a need for Cleveland, but his cost is what will determine the Indians' level of interest. There will surely be several teams after Byrd as he will be a somewhat cheap power option; however, he still may cost more than Cleveland is willing to spend on a possible big time regression candidate. If he can duplicate his 2013 numbers, whatever team he signs with this offseason will have gotten a bargain. If he can't, then he will very likely turn, once again, into a role player. A highly overpaid one.
2012: 562 AB, .270 AVG, .334 OBP, .841 OPS, 30 HR, 83 RBI
Hart missed all of 2013 after surgeries to both knees. When healthy, Hart is a capable middle of the order bat with proven power and run producing numbers. Separate knee surgeries in the same offseason will bring with it several red flags, but these are the types of guys Cleveland has targeted in the past. After 2012, it looked like Hart was in line for a big contract following the 2013 season, but his injuries have made a one-year, incentive laden contract for 2014 more likely. I imagine several teams will be calling Hart's agent as every team could use a proven power bat on a relatively inexpensive deal. This is where the Francona factor may come into play. Not only is Cleveland an up-and-coming team that reached the playoffs in 2013, but they also now have a manager who seemingly every player would love to play for. This is a name I will be paying close attention to this winter, and I think Cleveland has as good a chance as any team to land Hart.
2013: 602 AB, .277 AVG, .336 OBP, .785 OPS, 23 HR, 80 RBI
Morales was a name that was linked to Cleveland at the trade deadline this season, and he will be linked to them once again this offseason. He proved that he is all the way back from his freak leg injury after celebrating a walk-off home run that cost him two seasons. He is a liability at first base and works mainly as a DH. A Morales signing would probably force Cleveland to have to play Santana at first base more often than they may like, while also moving Swisher back to right field. Another possible negative regarding Morales is that there has been talk that Seattle may extend him a qualifying offer. If that is the case, I find it unlikely that Cleveland would give up a first round pick for him, even if they end up with three first round selections.
2013: 572 AB, .259 AVG, .323 OBP, .734 OPS, 17 HR, 77 RBI
In 101 at bats with Pittsburgh (including the postseason), Morneau did not hit a single long ball and drove in only three runs. That power outage may have actually helped the Indians chances of signing the first baseman. When traded to Pittsburgh, Morneau looked to be well on his way to another 20+ homer, 85-90 RBI season. His struggles down the stretch may have cost him a few million dollars and possibly put him right in Cleveland's price range. Despite his decline in power, he is still an imposing force in the middle of a lineup. He is still very capable of driving in runs and is a good defender at first base. I think the Indians will be linked to Morneau this offseason until the moment he signs a contract.
2013: 409 AB, .303 AVG, .358 OBP, .815 OPS, 11 HR, 55 RBI
You never really now what you’re going to get with Peralta. Defensively, he has hardly any range, but he consistently makes plays on balls hit right to him. Offensively, he’s a guy that when you watch his swing mechanics, you wonder how he’s been in the big leagues this long. Yet you look at his stats at the end of the year and they are consistently average to above average. He’s had some 20+ homer seasons, but he’s probably more of a 15 or so homer guy. He’s underappreciated and is coming off of a 50-game suspension for PED use, so he could be relatively inexpensive unless the teams in need of a shortstop this winter drive his price up. If the Indians trade Asdrubal Cabrera, Peralta could be a decent fill in until Francisco Lindor takes over the shortstop postion. At that point, Peralta could move back to third base. Or, if the Indians hold on to Cabrera, but want more production from the third base position, Peralta could be a fit there.
2013: 549 AB, .299 AVG, .348 OBP, .778 OPS, 13 HR, 75 RBI
If the Indians miss out on impact bats this offseason, going the route of great defense may not hurt. Defense is far too often overlooked in baseball. Year in and year out the Rays find a way to win by playing the game with a focus on pitching and defense. When watching game 163 this September, waiting to see who the Indians would face in the Wildcard game, I was rooting as hard for the Rangers as I would be for Cleveland. That’s because Tampa Bay just does not beat themselves. They’re not loaded with stars, yet it takes a perfectly played game to beat them. Modeling their franchise after the Rays may not be a bad idea for Cleveland. Loney seems like the definition of a “Ray”. He plays spectacular defense, puts the ball in play, and keeps the line moving for the Tampa Bay offense. His cost is another plus that may attract the Indians. My only concern with Loney is that he seems to me like a younger Casey Kotchman; Gold Glove-caliber defense at first, few strikeouts at the plate, little power. Look at what Kotchman did in his one year in Tampa (.306/.378/.422) compared to what Loney did this season with the Rays, and the similarities grow. If I’m in charge, I probably stay away from Loney based on his offensive deficiencies in the past; however, if he could duplicate his 2013 season, there’s no doubt that he would help the Indians in several ways.
Role Players and Lottery Tickets
2013: 467 AB, .244 AVG, .313 OBP, .669 OPS, 12 HR, 54 RBI
If you only watch Indians games and don’t pay attention to the rest of the league, you may wonder why Konerko’s name isn’t in my “Big Names” group. Anytime this guy sees Chief Wahoo on an opposing pitcher’s jersey, he turns into a perennial MVP candidate. Due to his enormous success against the Indians in his career, it’s hard to believe that his stat line has fallen off so dramatically. He is still only a year removed from a season that saw him hit .298, with a .371 OBP, 26 homers and 75 RBI in 144 games. His age (he’ll be 38 at the start of next season), and his recent battles with nagging injuries have turned Konerko into strictly a DH, likely only able to handle a part time role. His glory days are behind him, but maybe Cleveland take a look at him this offseason.
2013: 454 AB, .242 AVG, .306 OBP, .793 OPS, 29 HR, 65 RBI
Ibanez's numbers make it look like he belongs in the “Middle Tier” group. He is in this section because I can't possibly fathom him putting up equal numbers in what will be his age 42 season in 2014. If Jason Giambi begins to feel like he can't physically return for the 2014 season, Ibanez would be an excellent fit as a part time DH and pinch hitter -although he may cost way more than the Indians are willing to spend on a part time player. Other than that scenario, it's hard to see Cleveland bringing in the veteran to fill basically the same role Giambi already fills.
2013: 436 AB, .220 AVG, .282 OBP, .656 OPS, 13 HR, 45 RBI
Murphy is a guy that really intrigues me. Prior to last season, Murphy had never had a year in which he hit lower than .269 (other than 2006 when he hit .227 in only 22 at bats). Since his debut in 2006, Murphy has had three seasons in which he has hit over .290. He has also hit double-digit homeruns in six straight seasons. Even after his horrendous 2013 that saw him hit only .220, Murphy still owns a career batting average of .275. He reminds me an awful lot of Ryan Raburn, who the Indians snatched up after his career worst 2012 season in Detroit. Murphy could serve as a very admirable platoon mate with Raburn, and add to the depth of the Goon Squad. The only question I have with Murphy is if his arm is capable of handling right field (he has played 184 career big league games in right). Other than that, I'm all for a David Murphy signing.
2013: 391 AB, .251 AVG, .327 OBP, .729 OPS, 8 HR, 38 RBI
DeJesus isn't technically a free agent – yet. Tampa Bay holds a $6.5 million team option on the outfielder. With the way Tampa Bay spends their money, I don't see them giving $6.5 million to a role player. I could be wrong though. Anyway, I am a big DeJesus fan. He seems to always perform well against Cleveland and I love his scrappiness, his ability to play every outfield position, and his flexibility in the lineup. He isn't going to offer much power, but for a low salary, he's another guy that could fit as a nice platoon mate with Raburn.
2013: 335 AB, .200 AVG, .280 OBP, .659 OPS, 12 HR, 40 RBI
Like DeJesus, Young is also not technically a free agent yet. However, there is no way Oakland picks up his $11 million option. I only see one scenario where Young could be seen wearing a Cleveland uniform: if the Indians decide to non-tender Drew Stubbs. Stubbs is scheduled for a pay raise through arbitration that could see him make around $4 million next season. If I'm the Indians, I non-tender Stubbs and go try to sign Young to a deal for half of that $4 million, if not less. Young and Stubbs are very close to the same player. Like Stubbs, Young is capable of giving you good defense at all three outfield positions. While he may hit for a lower average than Stubbs (scary, I know), he also offers more power potential. Young also offers good speed on the basepaths. He’s not as fast as Stubbs, but few players are. Either way, for a fraction of the cost, I think Young could realistically duplicate Stubbs' 2013 season.
2013: 145 AB, .248 AVG, .273 OBP, .777 OPS, 10 HR, 24 RBI
Sticking with the “not technically a free agent” theme, I give you Franklin Gutierrez. Seattle owns a $7.5 million team option on Gutierrez, and they are almost assuredly not going to exercise it. This is another scenario that I only seeing playing out if Stubbs is non-tendered. Gutierrez is another player capable of handling every outfield position. Although he has had a couple of solid years as an everyday player in the past, his bat and his constant health issues make him a better fit as a role player.
2013: 312 AB, .215 AVG, .270 OBP, .651 OPS, 13 HR, 27 RBI
Morse has played himself into the “buy low” category. After a huge 2011 season with Washington, Morse returned from injury in 2012 to show that he was potentially turning into a feared middle of the order hitter. Then 2013 happened. The power is still there and he's only one year removed from that very productive 2012 season. He may be worth a shot as a lottery ticket, but if Morse is Cleveland's big offensive acquisition this winter, fans will have every right to be upset.
2013: 105 AB, .219 AVG, .305 OBP, .648 OPS, 2 HR, 8 RBI
I'm sure most people forgot that Youkilis would once again be a free agent. Or that he even still played. After all the injury issues the last few seasons, along with an alarming dip in production, it's obvious that Youkilis is no longer an everyday player. At this point, he only makes sense as a part time third base/first base/designated hitter option. His veteran leadership and ability to make a pitcher work will get Youkilis a job this winter, but who knows how long he can fight off the injury bug.
2013: 388 AB, .278 AVG, .331 OBP, .769 OPS, 12 HR, 50 RBI
These last two potential free agent targets depend entirely on what the Indians decide to do with Lonnie Chisenhall. If Cleveland decides to stick with Chisenhall, they may look for a right handed platoon partner. Uribe has proven himself valuable once again in 2013. Maybe too valuable for Cleveland's tastes. After severely disappointing in his first two seasons in Los Angeles, Uribe bounced back to have a rather effective 2013 season. Like he did after a big 2010 season with San Francisco, Uribe may use his 2013 season to get him a multi-year contract with a chance at a starting gig. Cleveland may not be willing to give Uribe what he will initially be looking for, but if he can be talked down, he may make some sense as valuable contributor off the bench or in a platoon situation.
2013: 228 AB, .281 AVG, .332 OBP, .810 OPS, 9 HR, 44 RBI
Chavez is an option if the Indians decide to either use Chisenhall as a trade chip, or have him start the season in the minors. I like Chisenhall, but a large part of me is ready for the Indians to move on. If they do, I would be intrigued by Chavez as a one year fix and as part of a platoon with Mike Aviles. Chavez is still a capable defender at both third and first base. He still has some pop in his bat and can hit for a respectable average. Perhaps most importantly, he will come cheap. Injuries have always been a concern with him, which is why he is nothing more than a role player at this point in his career.
Be on the lookout in the coming days for part two of this series as I look at Cleveland’s potential trade targets.
Will be looking for that article. Personally had Freese as a trade target for this winter for a couple months now. My reasoning on Freese hits on what you said Andy...plus the Cards have Kolten Wong to play 2B (filling Carp's role if he moves to 3B).
My reasoning with using Cabrera is that he obviously slots in at SS and upgrades (offensively) from Kozma. He also could slide over to 2B if Wong struggles and they can still use Kozma. For the Tribe it hurts them at SS short-term but gives them someone to push Chiz at 3B. And even if Chiz breaks out, Freese can slot in at 1B or DH. Not the big bat I'd want but think he'd fall into that middle-tier.
Freese, like Cabrera, had a down year so think that's the type of "value" you can get for Cabrera. As you said, seems to have fallen a bit out of favor there. Adams seems capable of handling 1B if Craig has to move to the OF too so Freese may end up a bench guy if Wong does claim the 2B job in spring training.
In my trade targets piece that will be posted in the coming days, I mention David Freese. He seems to have fallen out of favor somewhat in St. Louis. And Matt Carpenter's original position is 3rd base. I don't say that Cleveland and St. Louis could swap Cabrera for Freese, but I do mention Freese as a target this winter.
Napoli is similar, would fill 1B leaving swisher to handle RF full-time and Santana DH. Played a fine 1B this year and just keeps on hitting. Bat him 3rd or 4th with Santana and a solid punch in the middle of the lineup.
Obviously price is an issue with both...but each should be doable IMO. Giving Beltran a similar deal/salary to what he has fits in (barely) if you non-tender Perez and Stubbs (or deal Stubbs). Puts them at around $90-91M....probably too high, but that still includes Cabrera who could be dealt saving potentially $10M. That $90-91M also includes $9M to Kazmir.
Napoli is likely looking at a similar salary ($12-14M per year) assuming his hip checks out. Years may be longer with him (or maybe not if teams are that worried about the hip).
More than likely though a big add would need to come via trade...but a free agent bat is technically feasible salary wise.
I can understand leaving Choo off but not sure he'll truely be out of the price range....I have a hard time imagining he'll get close to what Boras is asking now. I think he's in for a Bourn-like drop when teams start factoring in defense, his platoon splits, and the draft pick clost.
'they have several youngsters under 25 who are quite good for their age. History allways repeats itself and here we are over 50 yrs down the road and it has repeated itself once again ironically with another bird named team.
I left Choo off of the list because I don't see the Indians pursuing him. He's sure to be way out of their price range. He would certainly be in the Big Names category though.
No way they do that without Salazar added to the mix...
I'd pull off that deal (sans Salazar), but the cards front office is far to astute to deal three of the top arms in all of baseball with regards to prospects, and controllable, for $30 million in players, two of which need to rebound...
Would love even one of them...
Masterson/Asdrubal/Perez and a couple prospects to the Cards for Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez and Shelby Miller.
I think we have a very good chance to land at least one of those guys. Beltran or Hart would be great but someone like David Murphy might make more sense. Someone who could platoon with Stubbs. Allowing Raburn and Chiz to platoon at 3B. Aviles stays in the super utility role.
I think Stubbs is a worth while player especially if you could get someone like Murphy here. Stubbs is a gamer who can give you suberb defense at all 3 outfield positions, fantastic speed and even some power.
I believe that the pitching was much better last year in part due to the greatly improved defense from Bourn and Stubbs (Brantley moving to LF).
Free agent pickings are kind of slim this year. Last year Victorino and Swisher were pretty clear targets. This year? I guess I'd like to see them land Napoli, but I don't think the interest is there. Cruz is overrated and would be very wary of a no-defense power hitter who just got busted for PEDs. Either he continues using and risks a suspension, or he hits with less power going forward. Same with Peralta. Peralta being a PED user really makes his up-and-down career make a lot more sense, and I would bet on 2014 being of the down variety.
To get a hitter they might need to get creative and move Masterson, like the Rays with the Wil Myers trade. I would be down with re-signing Kazmir, Ubaldo, adding someone like Feldman, trading Masterson.
That would be ideal. You could then have Stubbs as a role player. He could be a defensive replacement, a pinch runner, fill in for Hart or Beltran as well as provide protection for two lefties in Bourn and Brantley.
Its too bad Gomes can't play 3B more. That way you could have Stubbs just take over if Chiz is not doing it. Santana moves back to catcher, Swisher stays at first Hart moves to DH.
If those guys don't work out David Murphey is the next best bet. He won't cost much and provides a perfect platoon partner for either Rayburn or Stubbs.
Other then that they need to find a way to bring back Jiminez and Kazmir.
With perhaps either Salazar or Kluber moving into the bullpen
Also could really use a lights out lefty in the pen. .