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The 2014 Cleveland Indians: A futures betting outlook

The 2014 Cleveland Indians: A futures betting outlook
January 9, 2014
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Baseball seems like the sport that never truly stops making headlines. As the flurry of offseason moves continue for many clubs after the winter meetings, the offshore sportsbooks as well as those in Las Vegas are adjusting their lines in response to the transactions that are taking place across baseball.

In this article, I will examine some of the Indians offseason moves so far and their place in 2014 MLB Futures markets, including their World Series and American League Pennant odds.

Under The Radar Signing: David Murphy

Murphy comes over from Texas after spending the better part of eight seasons in Arlington. The Indians inked the outfielder to a two-year $12 million dollar deal, and he is expected to platoon in right field with Ryan Raburn after the Drew Stubbs trade opened up the outfield.

Murphy is a .280 career hitter against righties and boasts a solid career OBP of .337 and has produced a .778 OPS over his eight year career. While a full-time job last year for Texas did not work out (.220 AVG, 13 HR, 45 RBI, .656 OPS) - the season was by far his worst - it appears likely that last year was merely an aberration mixed with some poor luck.

Murphy is a plus defender in the outfield and by many accounts an excellent clubhouse presence. He offers the Indians 10-15 home run pop and has some speed on the base paths as well. This lesser known signing may be one of the more impactful moves made this offseason when the Indians 2014 season is in the books, especially if he is limited against left-handed pitching and Ryan Raburn continues to play well against them.

Salazar and Axford to impact the rotation and bullpen

In my opinion, starting pitcher Danny Salazar could be this season’s Matt Harvey if things fall into place for the young right-hander. Still, Salazar has just 52 MLB innings, but in his short time in the league he has impressed.

In those innings, he produced a whopping 11.25 strikeout rate and an “I’m not just a flash in the pan” 2.75 xFIP. These numbers are tremendous, and while we should expect some regression, the peripherals are there for a potentially dominant 2014 season for Salazar. His fastball averaged 96.2 MPH last year, which would have been the best in all of baseball if he had met the inning requirements to quality.

We move from a home grown pitching prospect to a bullpen free agent signing. John Axford steps into the closer’s role for the departed Chris Perez after spending most of his career in Milwaukee and a half season with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013.

“Ax” got off to a rocky start for the Brewers which saw him lose his closer’s job just two months into the season. He started off the season terribly, blowing several saves and seeing a drop in velocity, but he bounced back in a big way in the second half.

Axford posted 2.92 ERA in his last 71 appearances with the Cardinals and Brewers and regained his hard throwing ways. He has been a proven closer during his career, boasting a career ERA of 3.29 and 106 saves. His signing will give the Indians some stability at the closer spot after the departure of Perez.

Future Betting Odds and Outlook

Vegas and offshore odds have the Indians at 30/1 to win the World Series and 15/1 to win the AL Pennant. These odds reflect the best chance Cleveland has had in a number of years of making noise of winning a championship.

They are fresh off their first playoff appearance since the 2007 season, after hosting the 2013 AL Wild Card Game at Progressive Field. Though they lost 4-0 and failed to advance to the Divisional Series – this team is competitive again.

2014 Outlook

The Indians offseason has been relatively quiet, other than the transactions mentioned above and the Drew Stubbs for Josh Outman trade. However, I think these moves are pointing them in the right direction and with an already strong core of young players to build on, the future looks bright.

Though, the starting rotation is a question mark as of right now. With Scott Kazmir heading to Oakland for two years and $22 million, his loss has left a void. Also, Ubaldo Jimenez has yet to find a home on the free agent market.

The Indians offered Jimenez a qualifying offer in November for just over $14 million for one season which he declined, but the Indians may still be in the hunt to re-sign the pitcher that powered them into the playoffs. He is asking for substantial money, reportedly in the $15-$20 million dollar range and a four-year deal at minimum. His signing is also tied to draft pick compensation, another factor that has kept other teams away and kept the Indians on the radar.

How Cleveland’s starting rotation shakes up will be a critical part of their success in 2014. Jimenez’s effectiveness as a starter at this point is not in doubt, but is it worth tying up between $50 and $70 million for the next few years? Also, Justin Masterson is an impending free agent after this season, and the Indians have already discussed an extension with the right-hander.

With so much up in the air currently with the rotation, I would probably wait until closer to Opening Day to see how things play out before wagering on the Indians to win the World Series or AL Pennant. As it stands right now, I am not sure Cleveland will find themselves in the postseason come October.

User Comments

Hermie13
January 10, 2014 - 11:18 AM EST
You could argue Santana behind the plate for 50 games if more valuable than any backup we could get (I'd agree/disagree depending on the catcher)....but I question whether it's more valuable to the Indians offense. Take a guy like Josh Donaldson. Finally switched full-time from being a catcher/part-time catcher to fully a 3B in 2012...by 2013 he was an MVP candidate (should have won). Maybe completely given up catching had nothing to do with Donaldson's breakout...or maybe not having to ever focus on catching and committing himself to an easier position helped his hitting. Santana is on the cusp of being an elite offensive player...I fully believe getting him 100% out from behind homeplate could be that last kick that gets him over the hump.

You're also expecting Santana to do something we almost never see in catching 50 games while playing in 150. How many part-time catchers but everyday players are out there? How many have we seen in the last few years that have had success at the plate? Maybe I'm way off but i think bouncing Santana between 1B, DH, 3B and catcher could have a more adverse effect on his offense than catching 120 games a year would, especially when he's only seeing some time at each fielding position.
Tony
January 10, 2014 - 10:42 AM EST
That's where I will agree to disagree. Santana may not be a very good catcher, but for 50 or so games a year, that is fine. And much more valuable than any backup option they plug in at the position. Santana and Gomes should be the backstop combo for at least the next 2-3 years until one gets traded, hurt or proves they can't play there at all.
Hermie13
January 10, 2014 - 10:34 AM EST
I get what you're saying Tony....but similar to why you don't use Gomes at 3B and want him to focus on Catching, I personally want Santana to give up catching. Move on, let him HIT and focus on another position. He's not a good catcher, make the FULL switch.

I'm fine with him being a part time catcher in 2014, but by 2015 I would hope he's completely done with catching. That bat is too valuable to be bouncing him around potentially 4 positions on the diamond.

So I would agree that a 3rd catcher for the whole year would be a bit of a wasted spot (though I think an 8th bullpen arm is more of one but that's another argument)...but I don't think brining in a real backup, or 2nd catcher, is a wasted spot. Make Santana a 1B/3B/DH only and have 2 catchers, Gomes and someone else. Another move I don't expect to happen (at least not in 2014), but one I feel the Tribe would be better off doing sooner rather than waiting. Santana isn't a catcher, he's a hitter.
Tony
January 10, 2014 - 9:57 AM EST
I've said this many times before, but when you have two starting caliber catchers, it is meaningless to have a third catcher on the roster. Whether or not one of those catchers is used as a DH. You would never use a third catcher to start for either of the other two, and you would never pinch hit and replace the other two for the third catcher. You would simply only have the third catcher around to fill a need if your catcher gets hurt so that the catcher that is DHing doesnt need to go there and you lose the DH.

But you know how often this happens? Next to never. It does happen.....but in the instance it does, what, you lose your DH for 2 at bats in ONE game? Not to mention you can pinch hit other guys there is need be so not a huge loss anyway. Then after the game you just activate a catcher from AAA and throw them on the roster as a backup. A third catcher in this case is a wasted roster spot. Shoppach was the Indians 3rd catcher in September and played in 1 game and had 2 at bats.
Herme13
January 10, 2014 - 9:34 AM EST
Gomes could DH on off days...but I still am skeptical that the Tribe will employ their only backup catcher as the DH as often as being suggested. Sure Santana DHed a ton in September...but the Tribe had the benefit of an expanded roster and had Kelly Shoppach around.

Maybe the Tribe adds a 3rd catcher to the big league roster, but if they don't, I'd expect to see Gomes or Santana at positions other than DH/Catcher a decent amount next year. I also don't think it'd be a huge burden on Gomes to play some 3B, or rather don't think it'd hurt him behind the plate. Plus we're only talking about maybe 20-25 games over the course of the whole year. That said, don't expect to see Gomes there when all is said and done save for maybe an emergency.
Mike
January 10, 2014 - 5:00 AM EST
How is it Jimenez was so horrible I'd turn the channel when he was pitching then he has a half (1/2) good year and all off a sudden he's a $14,000,000 pitcher again? "Axford posted 2.92 ERA in his last 71 appearances with the Cardinals and Brewers and regained his hard throwing ways," yet most pundants have nothing but doubts on this guy?
Tony
January 9, 2014 - 5:46 PM EST
If Gomes is going to start 100-110 games at catcher, then he shouldn't be in the field at third base. All of his efforts and concentration should be at catcher and giving him ample time off where he DHs at times. If the Indians need to play Gomes at third base out of necessity because of an extra inning game or someone getting hurt in a game, fine....otherwise, I wouldn't bother with messing around with him at third base. He has enough to worry about with handling this staff every day.
Hermie13
January 9, 2014 - 5:03 PM EST
Also for those that care...

Yan Gomes played 8 games at 3B (6 starts) for the Blue Jays in 2012. 54 innings, so sample way too small and stats aren't really relevant....but committed 0 errors and had a +1 DRS rating. Personally would like to see him get some looks at 3B this spring (though realize there's limited reps there to be had).

Gomes can't catch every single day...if he hits like he did last year, I don't see any reason not to at least consider Gomes at 3B on "off days". Hits lefties well so would make a good platoon with Chiz too.
Hermie13
January 9, 2014 - 4:59 PM EST
Raburn in fact started as a 3B in the Tigers system back in 2001. Played 169 games there in the minors (didn't move to 2B til 2004).

At the big league level he has played over 30 games at 3B (18 starts). Last time he appeared at 3B in a big league game was 2011 (started 4 games for the Tigers). Fielding percentage at 3B wasn't too bad but -6 DRS. Sample size way too small but guessing he doesn't look the greatest there (not a good 2B).

I mentioned trying Raburn at 3B in spring training but that was before we dealt Stubbs. Stubbs could have platooned in RF with Murphy and Raburn with Chiz at 3B. Haven't seen either Raburn or Santana at 3B in person, so can't say who's better...my guess is both are/would be pretty bad.
roger
January 9, 2014 - 4:30 PM EST
Staff, did ryan raburn have any substantial time as a 3b? it
would seem to me that having been a 2b which is considered
more of demanding infield position without needing 3b arm but ryan has the arm for 3b. just not sure why he hasnt played 3b
I know detroit loved the 3b they had for years that was a former catcher, but it seems to me that maybe using raburn at 3b in spring training may bea better approach than carlos. I am gonna be surprised if Yan is as effective in 14 as he was in 13. Call it the sophmore jinx. would not surprise me to see santana catch over 100 games this year, and not sure that he will not be better catcher too. Gomes may have spurred his competitve juices after he had the tme to reflect on in the DR after the season playing 3b is great but not sure that carlos wants to be parttime 3b if he can catch 100 games 25 at 1b and 25 as dh. he is a excellent offensive presence and we havent seen the potential of carlos santana i dont think yet. We have seen glimpses of him but i think he could add .25 to battig avg and 10 to 15 percent increase in power numbers
Jimmy
January 9, 2014 - 12:03 PM EST
I think that the signing of Jeff to minor league contract was a great move to get a 29 year veteran that has a great arm from outfield on throwing out base runners. This will now make for our strong outfield with a good core with Ryan, Dale, and Jeff, Michael and Michael. I have mention prior that the tribe might get some really good players just before spring. Go Tribe. Still need a third baseman but let's hope Lonnie is ready this year.

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