Rumors begin swirling at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario
Hudson, Ubaldo, Kazmir, JRam and Giovanni Soto?
This is when everything gets all kinds of hectic here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
This is the time of year when the names start flying around at a fever pitch as possibilities for the Indians to sign or trade for or re-sign or send down or give a chance to or find a platoon for or, well, you get the point. It’s actually kind of funny when you really think about it, because at the end of the day, nobody has a flipping clue what’s going to happen.
Sure, there are the obvious moves that have to and will be made.
The Indians sent Chris Perez on his merry old way about a half-day after the World Series ended. Some folks acted fairly incredulous that the Indians were quick on the trigger for the send-off. Some were waiting here in the Plaza with party hats and champagne.
It’s the nature of the hot stove season…especially here at 2401 Ontario St.
Nobody wants to talk about Perez anymore, or even Jason Giambi, who re-signed the same day that Perez was let go. Sure, Giambi is a great story, but at best it’s 50-50 that he’ll even be player for the Indians next year, with equal odds on Giambi moving his talents into the coaching profession or the front office.
The both truly are curious cases, and for very similar reasons. I’ve said a lot about both here in past corners, but I can honestly say that the more I write about the two mercurial starters, the less I seem to truly know about them.
They both were spectacular at times in 2013, and they both were 100% at the center of this team’s success.
They both are giant mysteries heading into the 2014 season because their recent body of work is so sketchy.
Of course, their most recent work was scintillating, as they both resembled their ace-like status from the heyday.
So many questions.
With Ubaldo, it gets even trickier for the fans that support this team. Like most thought, the Indians offered Jimenez a chance to take the $8 million dollar option, and Ubaldo declined the mutual option. Like most thought, the Indians offered Jimenez the $14.1 million dollar option, and while Jimenez has until Friday to decide whether or not to take it, most believe that he’ll ultimately decline.
Many current GM’s have tentatively placed Ubie at the top of their free agent starters’ list.
Try rolling that around in your brain a couple of times.
Jimenez was involved in one of the most talked-about, controversial trades in recent Cleveland Indians’ memory, when he came over from the Colorado Rockies for Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Joe Gardner and Matt McBride. That, in and of itself, is an enigma wrapped around a pretzel.
Who won the deal?
Who lost the deal?
What’s the real gauge?
Is it performance?
Is it the value of the players at the time?
Is it a combination of both?
Who cares at this point. Ubaldo did what he was brought in for. He led the Indians to the playoffs.
That’s right. Ubaldo Jimenez was the single biggest cog during the stretch run in September. The real question is what is he worth?
Some question whether or not Ubaldo is worth the $14.1 million in the qualifying offer. Those that question that move would be 100% right. He was really bad for 1 ½ years. At the start of 2012, through the beginning of August, he wasn’t an ace, but he was okay. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal.
But he was so good. His last two months were dominating in a pure baseball sense.
But I digress.
The Indians likely won’t sign him, or they will. Nobody really knows.
And then there is Scott Kazmir.
Does it ever get old to mention that he was pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters?
No, it certainly does not.
There were many that thought Kazmir would get a qualifying offer, and many that thought it was insane to do it. Yeah, they are both right, for a variety of reasons that many have already talked about.
Like Ubaldo, he used to be an ace.
Like Ubaldo, he disappeared…except…he really disappeared…and there was the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Kazmir didn’t get the offer, and is now a free agent, rumored to be heading back to Cleveland, or Oakland, or to the Mets, or to Chicago or Sugar Land even the Yankees.
Is he worth $16 million over two years? Is he worth $20 million? Is he worth more?
I mean, he is a lefty.
Who knows what the market will pay Kazmir, and who knows if the Indians are a legitimate player for him, or for Ubaldo.
Let’s face the facts here, the Indians have a limited pay threshold, and if they sign both, or even one of these key components, they will be financially strapped to address the other areas of need.
I haven’t even mentioned the other key free agents. The Indians arguable bullpen anchor in 2013, Joe Smith, is also heading off to free agency, and he could be up to some serious years and money, which is unheard of for a reliever, especially one that isn’t a closer.
Could he really sign a multi-year, $5 million deal?
The sad part of all of this is that he could get a contract upwards of $7 million or so, or even more?
Who knows, but the Indians sure won’t be heading down that path. You can pretty much kiss him goodbye.
Then there’s Matt Albers, the guy that nobody is talking about.
He was pretty good for the Tribe in 2013, finishing the year off with a 3.14 ERA in 56 games.
It didn’t start as that kind of season for Albers, but he certainly ended the year strong.
Of course, what are we really talking about here. Albers is a reliever that serves up his best stuff prior to the eighth inning. At the end of the day, the Cleveland Indians have five or six guys in their system that can be Matt Albers for much less than the $2 million that he’ll likely command.
The Indians won’t be bringing him back.
Or will they?
It’s a beautiful thing here in the crazy land of Hot Stove.
Nobody really knows anything.
It gets really crazy when you start pondering other teams’ free agents.
Everyone likes a good list to talk about, and I could have rolled one out here, but there are so many unknowns out there.
I mentioned last week that the Indians couldn’t really do a thing until the Ubaldo/Kazmir/Smith/Albers situation was clarified.
Of course, the offices may have already made their decision.
I mean, Terry Francona had a lengthy discussion with Atlanta free agent, Tim Hudson. I could get all up into this rumor, but Michael Hattery already hit this at length in a nice piece on Monday night.
I could dive into the fact that Hudson is 38, and that he’s coming off a fairly gruesome ankle injury, and that he’s 38, and that he’s Brett Myers, and that he’s 38, and that he could make nine or ten million, and that…well…you get the point.
Did I mention he’s 38 (and I’m by no means saying that he should be put out to pasture…I mean…we all know 38 is the new 35).
It’s blurry with Hudson, but whether or not the Indians sign him in nearly inconsequential at this point.
The fact that the rumor is out there isn’t so inconsequential.
Is it a sign that the Indians are moving on from Ubaldo and Kazmir, or one or the other, or are the Indians trying to send both a message that they aren’t going to wait to make a move of their own?
Either way, it’s a proactive move by Francona and Antonetti to move on.
Now is Hudson the right guy?
I can say this. My initial argument mentioned Brett Myers, and the threat of a massive regression from Hudson at the age of 38 is certainly possible, especially after injury. You can also look at an ERA that has risen for four straight seasons, and a WAR that has done the same, although he didn’t finish 2013, so his 1.0 WAR may have improved. Of course, it could have declined as well.
As far as the Myers comparison goes, I think it’s legit, as it would be with any pitcher in the decline stage of their careers. All pitchers aren’t equal though. Hudson has never been a dominating hurler with regards to velocity. He’s always been a “pitcher.” Sure, velocity is still important, but he has the wherewithal to pitch around that.
He’s also in demand. Several teams, such as Atlanta, Boston, Texas, Kansas City, Chicago and San Francisco have already reached out to Hudson. Myers can to Cleveland because they were one of few, if any, candidates to put him in the rotation.
The wildcard in the discussion with Tim Hudson was the wildcard with a guy like Jason Giambi, whose talents have certainly regressed more than Hudson, but who has many of the same similar “off-field” intangibles.
If you ask any of the media in Atlanta, or even the clubhouse, they’ll tell you that the “face of the Atlanta Braves” and the unquestioned leader in the clubhouse is…you guessed it…Tim Hudson.
This is a guy that never turns down an interview, that never walks away from another player that needs some advice, and truly spends time helping younger players get better.
We all know how Tito feels about clubhouse leaders.
He’s also one of the most competitive pitchers in the league.
How competitive you ask?
In a 2007 spring training game, Jason Giambi launched a second inning home run, after having a two-homer game against Hudson in a regular season game in 2006.
Hudson, who was scheduled to only work three innings that day, talked manager Bobby Cox into letting him stay out another inning so he could face Giambi again.
Cox conceded, and Hudson came back to strike Giambi out.
Did I mention that Giambi and Hudson are good friends from their time playing together in Oakland from 1999 through 2001?
Yeah, things are just warming up, and we are just about a week into things.
Then there is Asdrubal Cabrera, who has been at the center of trade talks for over a year.
There are a whole bunch of people up in arms that the Indians didn’t pull the trigger on that deal with the St. Louis Cardinals last year during the offseason. Seriously, you remember that deal right?
The Indians were going to trade Cabrera for [insert potential stud starting pitcher prospect here].
It’s all speculation of course, the way it tends to be. Of course, anyone that knows the St. Louis front office at all knows that they certainly aren’t, or weren’t going to deal away their stud prospects for Cabrera. They certainly aren’t going to be doing it this year, after one of his worst season.
Sure, the Cardinals need a shortstop.
So, I ask you this question?
If the Cardinals have so much of a valuable resource with their starting pitching, and we know that they tend to use this starting pitching in the bullpen (Adam Wainwright at one time, Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez…to name a few) before they call them up, and we know that they have an overabundance of starters (does any team really?), why wouldn’t they maximize those future starters by, oh, I don’t know, trading some of them for a really good shortstop?
I don’t know who is available, but you can bet that if the Cardinals came calling to several teams, there may be some interest there.
Now, we all know that Antonetti can weave some magic, as he did after the winter meetings last year when he was able to spin Shin Soo Choo, Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp into Matt Albers, Trevor Bauer, Bryan Shaw and Drew Stubbs, so you just never know.
The funny thing about that deal is that the Indians initiated the talks by pushing Asdrubal Cabrera in the deal, and not Choo. Many folks, including myself, lauded that move, as it would give the Indians another commodity to deal in Cabrera, who had two years left on his contract.
How do you feel about that now?
With all of that said, the two players at shortstop that jump out as more likely candidates for the Cards are Troy Tulowitzki and Alexei Ramirez. Tulo seems to have been born to play for the Cardinals, as he’s a fantastic defender, who can hit a ton, and is a bit of a leader in the clubhouse. He’s also saddled with a mammoth contract that doesn’t end until 2020, which is the only downside to a player that gets hurt a bit. Ramirez may be higher on the Cards list as well.
Of course, they could see something in Cabrera that, well, we don’t.
I’d be fine with that.
Personally, why hang on to Cabrera for any reason at this point? Are we really expecting him to rebound enough to provide value at any point next season? If he plays well for three months, will someone give the Indians the farm for him for a half-year?
Will he hit .300, with 25 homers and return to form defensively, causing the Indians to give him a qualifying offer at the end of the year?
He’s provided a ton of value no value at all since he’s come to the Indians in the Peralta deal. He did pitch a no-hitter once, and on my birthday, but he spends most of his time on the mend. He pitched in nine games last season, 22 games in 2012, and 18 games in 2011.
But at least we got something?
Alright, I guess I’m not selling my ‘deal Cabrera for a low A prospect,’ but perhaps they can use Cabrera to pick up a decent bullpen arm, or perhaps the Indians will just keep him. As far as value-based decisions go, that’s not the move I’d make.
As I have said many, many times, Jose Ramirez could play there every day, and regardless of what’s been stated by the purported insiders, he’s highly thought of by the Indians’ organization as a starter. His defense would be superior immediately, and you could argue that his offense, while not providing any power, could provide more value. Let’s not forget that Asdrubal was a hole in the offense for much of the season last year (yes, including September). Ramirez can hit, and his rise through Akron as the year progressed proved that.
…but I’m an admitted fanboy.
I just don’t buy the people that say he has no experience, so he should platoon first. He’s a better prospect than that, or the Indians wouldn’t have had him jump over Carolina, or have brought him up in September from Double A, in the middle of a stretch run. This wasn’t a Thomas Neal move either.
But I digress.
Asdrubal will provide a lot of intrigue this offseason, and already is. Will he be here or won’t he? If he is here for how long?
Who knows at this point.
That’s the best part of the hot stove season here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
That’s the worst part of the hot stove season here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
Nobody has a clue of what’s going to happen over the next two months.
We just know that the Indians are going to be players in all this in one way or another.
At least that’s the plan as this holiday season steamrolls towards the 2013 Winter Meetings on December 9th.
Let the rumors fly, the debates commence, and hopefully at the end of all of this shroud of mystery…
the Cleveland Indians can have their second straight big offseason on the way to the World Series.
There’s always next year…right?
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.
Play the odds here, Tribe.
Presumably the Indians would ideally want to hold Ramirez back until late June or July (whenever it is), so that the clock doesn't start clicking on their years of contract control!?
I don't the Indians will be able to trade Acab and if they want to keep Ramirez at AAA then Freese, Uribe, Betemit would be excellent players to platoon with Lonnie at 3B vs tough lefties
If the Indians can't sign Kazmir then the guy I would like the most is Dan Haren. I think he would outstanding with this team. Sign a closer like Veras, Balfour, Wilson, Hanrahan, etc.
Does the forum believe that some hot stove moment would start happening at or after the GM meetings next week?
Dan...I get that line if thinking, and think that there is sense in that. I actually think that's the popular opinion....but think it's part of this crazy offseason where the moves the Indians make are like Political parties. There's good and bad in all of it.
I firmly believe the Indians hold JRam in higher regard than many people realize, and could see a scenario where they want to give him time early, so they aren't in the mix at the same time.