Tribe Happenings: Final battles for 25-man roster
...from the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario
By Jim Pete
March 24, 2013
Some news, notes and thoughts from my Indians notebook…while sitting here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
Tony is on location in the way-to-warm-and-sunny Goodyear, Arizona, where he’s busy writing three pieces a day. Two of those pieces show up here at Indians Baseball Insider in the form of the Minor League Spring Game Recap, while his third piece has been a regular and exclusive piece for Fox Sports Ohio. If you haven’t been checking out his work over there, never fear, your resident Senior Editor is here.
There is a lot to talk about with regards to the Indians. I know I’m not the only one here at IBI with a massive ailment known as ‘March Madness.’ The problem with March Madness here at the Corner is that it gets even more complicated when you throw spring training into the occasion. My office looks a bit like the stock market, with two laptops open to http://www.marchmadness.com, while my desktop is focused in on MLB.TV, and my regular TV covering the other basketball game.
The only cure to this disease is April, and opening day, but there’s a lot to talk about before we get there. Here are my notes and thoughts:
The 25-Man Roster
The 25-Man Roster is nearly complete. Here is a list of the players that have either been announced as making the team, or are already a lock:
|First Base||Nick Swisher|
|Second Base||Jason Kipnis|
|Third Base||Lonnie Chisenhall|
|Left Field||Michael Brantley|
|Right Field||Drew Stubbs|
|Center Field||Michael Bourn|
|Designated Hitter||Mark Reynolds|
|Main Set-UP||Vinnie Pestano|
For those counting at home, that’s 18 ballplayers, with seven positions left “undecided.” The Opening Day, 25-man roster is left a bit murky because of a strange start to the season. The Indians open the 2013 season off by playing in 13-straight games.
Weather could be in play at some point, but not during the Tribe’s first two series, in Toronto and Tampa (both domes). They return to Cleveland on April 8th where anything could happen weather-wise, but nothing that Terry Francona can plan ahead for.
It’s possible that Francona may decide to carry thirteen pitchers for the first two weeks of the season to help with the burden of no offdays.
There’s also the semi-burden of having to work out the Carlos Carrasco six-game suspension from 2011. The Indians may choose to break camp with both Scott Kazmir and Carlos Carrasco on the roster for the first six-games of the year to burn off that suspension. It buys them some more time before having to make a decision on the fifth starter, and regardless of what they do with Carrasco, he’ll be ready to start in April or later in the year.
While taking a look at the position battles, we’ll take a look at all of the options. Here are the battles that are still taking place:
The Fifth Starter:
The Indians recently sent down both Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber, who are now considered the eighth and ninth starting options for the Indians heading into the 2013 season. The focus for the #5 spot in the rotation is firmly on two pitchers that I’ve already mentioned, Scott Kazmir and Carlos Carrasco:
This rotational battle seems to be a done deal. Tony Lastoria mentioned this to me in a brief conversation I had with him from Arizona when he said that this “battle” is the worst-kept secret in camp, in his opinion. Kazmir’s numbers are superior right now, and when you combine that with the fact that the Indians will lose him if they don’t put him on the 25-man roster makes this the most clear-cut battle “yet to be decided.”
Carrasco and Kazmir will likely both start the season on the roster, with Carrasco serving his six-game suspension and then being sent down to Columbus with his final remaining option. Kazmir will have to be placed on the 40-man roster, and would make the 19th player on the roster.
The Back-Up Catcher:
Alright, I said that that the most “clear-cut” battle to be decided was the fifth starter, and that is technically true, although who is getting the role as back-up catcher is just as easy a decision, if not easier. The only thing that has complicated matters here is the fact that the player not expected to win the job has had such a tremendous spring. The battle is between incumbent back-up Lou Marson, and the versatile newcomer, Yan Gomes:
Marson has had a nice spring with the bat, hitting over .300, but without any pop. Gomes has just exploded offensively, coming in with a slash of .385/.448/.692, and giving Indians’ fans a taste of the offense that’s been missing when Carlos Santana has been out of the line-up.
Gomes main failing up to this point is the simple fact that he’s not major league ready with the glove behind the plate, which is the general key to any catching back-up. The plus for Gomes is that he is far more versatile a player, with the ability to play first, third and the outfield. While he’s not going to be a gold glover anywhere, he does provide the type of value that Terry Francona seems to love.
He’s just not ready to catch.
Lou Marson makes this club as the back-up catcher, while Gomes heads to Columbus to fine tune his catching skills. I firmly believe that Lou Marson will either be dealt before the end of the year, or will find his way to another team after 2013, with Gomes stepping in as the back-up. For now, Lou Marson becomes the 20th man on the roster.
This is the most tightly contested battle with regards to a position player, as the Indians could go in several different directions here, and one that is moderately complicated by the fact that there are already guys that have made the lineup that will provide Stubbs, Bourn and Brantley time off. Nick Swisher (right) and Mike Aviles (both corners) will provide the Indians with their likely first line of defense in the outfield. That makes naming a strict outfield back-up less of a priority that it normally would be, and makes Terry Francona’s job that much easier.
The infield is the same way, with Aviles leading the charge there as well. Mike Aviles may be the most versatile player on this team and has the ability to play really any position that you need him to. He can play third, short and second without hesitation, and while he’s not going to be your first or second option at first base, he could fill in there if he needed to. It’s not ideal, but they shouldn’t need him to.
Third base will be filled with Aviles and Mark Reynolds when Lonnie Chisenhall needs a rest. First base can be filled by DH Mark Reynolds and catcher Carlos Santana when Nick Swisher is resting or playing in right field.
If the Indians take thirteen pitchers to Toronto when they break camp, there will be only one utility position here for the first week.
All of the players have their complications.
Chris McGuiness hasn’t hit a thing this spring training, but it’s clear why the Indians liked him enough to claim him from the Rangers in the Rule V draft. His swing is absolutely beautiful, and he will likely develop into a really good hitter. He isn’t there yet, which does hurt his value today, but that wouldn’t be enough to not choose him. Remember, the Indians lose McGuiness if they don’t keep him on the roster this season unless they can work out a deal with the Rangers. The real issue with McGuiness is the fact that he’s still learning the outfield position, which does make him less valuable going forward. I just don’t see him making the team. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Indians try and swing a deal for him, or see if another team claims him.
Jason Giambi is the least versatile player of the bunch, as he really would logistically be the 25th guy on the team. He wouldn’t play a lot of first base either, and would be relegated to playing only DH. In other words, Giambi would be a much more grizzled version of Travis Hafner, who likely wouldn’t get hurt, but likely wouldn’t get any more at bats than Hafner did while missing months at a time. So why would Giambi make this club? Giambi simply has more intangibles than any player, and maybe any coach on this team. Giambi was nearly named the Colorado Rockies manager this year and is highly thought of in baseball circles. Francona loves him, and if he can hit a lick, he’ll make this team. While his numbers say no, I think Giambi is a lock for the 25-man roster, which puts some guys in jeopardy of staying with the Indians.
Yeah, I’m talking about Ezequiel Carrera, who is no doubt a lock to be playing major league baseball this year. He’s a fourth outfielder, and the fact that the Indians may not need him lets you know just how far this roster has come. Over the past two seasons, Zeke was looked upon as a regular when he was called up. That’s not what his deal is, although he can start in a pinch. He’s going to hit for you a bit. He’s going to bring you speed. He’s going to bring you great defense, with lapses on occasion. I just don’t think that he’s going to make this roster. What he has going for him is that Francona likes him, he’s young and he’s out of options. What he doesn’t have going for him is that he isn’t as versatile as another guy, and yeah, he’s out of options. He’ll get picked up the second the Indians release him.
Cord Phelps deserves to make this club. There was a time in this organization that they felt that Phelps and Jason Kipnis were similar players. While Kipnis has driven far past Phelps on the totem pole, Phelps remains on the radar because of work ethic and ability. It doesn’t hurt that he continues to rake in the preseason as well. Phelps brings a lot to the table, as he can play many of the same positions as a guy like Ryan Raburn, just not as well. He has a better bat though. Think Yan Gomes here. He also has remaining options, which really hurt his case to start the season, especially with Raburn playing so well. In a perfect world, Phelps would make this team. I just don’t see it to start the season, although that could change as the year progresses, especially if Raburn falters.
Ryan Raburn exploded this spring training, and he can play the infield and the outfield, which is the versatility that I think the Indians are looking for. HE can play second and third, as well as both corner outfield spots. Raburn was given the starting second base job for the Detroit Tigers last year, and bombed, and has seen a steady decline in his numbers over the past three seasons. Still, different surrounding and different opportunities could provide Raburn the boost he needs to be a factor on a team that wouldn’t be looking at him to play in any more than 90 games or so. I think Raburn is a lock for this team as well.
Raburn and Giambi make up the 21st and 22nd position on the roster, unless the Indians break camp with 13 pitchers. In this scenario, they’ll keep one or the other. They’ll likely keep Raburn and have an agreement with Giambi to add him after the week. I’ve also seen reports that Raburn will accept a role with Columbus for a week if they keep Giambi. I’m not sure of the intricacies of Raburn’s deal, as to whether or not his minor league deal has any out clauses or not, but I don’t think that keeping 13 pitchers will effect either of these guys going forward. If there is a snafu with regards to Giambi and/or Raburn, perhaps Zeke sticks around, or Phelps if Zeke is already released. The point here is that we really are talking about the 25th spot.
The Indians need a couple of lefties in the bullpen, and there are three guys fighting for the spot. They really don’t need two lefties, but I do think you’ll see at least two of these guys on the roster. Again, it gets complicated when you look at the intangibles. The candidates for the two lefty slots are Nick Hagadone, Rich Hill and David Huff.
Nick Hagadone has made this team. I know they haven’t said a word about it, but I have to believe that the Indians are going to keep him up, simply because he’s the best left-handed reliever in the entire system. His stuff is electric, and when his head is right, he’s nearly untouchable. The head can be a question mark, as last season proved, but he’s been on his A-game this spring, and he’ll be the first left that’s a lock.
Rich Hill was placed on the 40-man roster a ways back, which leads me to believe that he’s the second lefty kept. He’s been outstanding this spring, and he’s a Francona guy from Boston during his tenure there. He’s got good stuff, and if healthy, should be a nice addition to the bullpen. I don’t think he’s a lock just because of that roster slot, but I do feel like Francona was trying to send a sign, either to Hill in that he can focus on the season, or the others that they had better step up to take his roster spot.
David Huff isn’t as bad as some say he is. He’s really not a very good starter, and at 28-years old, he’s not young any more in baseball years. He’s officially out of options, which means the Indians will take a really good look at him in the bullpen role before the end of the year, but I just don’t see him making this team ahead of Hill and Hagadone. He could pass Hill, but I just don’t expect it.
Hill and Hagadone make up the 23rd and the 24th slot on this roster.
Final bullpen slot:
The Indians already have their top four righties in the pen in Perez, Pestano, Allen and Smith. That leaves one slot open (maybe two to start the year) for a bunch of guys that certainly deserve a look. Who will get the final slot is the one question mark that’s really left. The options for that final slot are David Huff, Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers.
I’ve already mentioned Huff, and just want to say that he would likely get the 13th slot, if I didn’t think that it were already going to Carlos Carrasco for the first week. If that’s the case, look for Huff to depart, which leaves Bryan Shawn and Matt Albers.
I’d say that Albers is a lock, but he’s been pounded a bit this spring training. Albers spent his first year in Boston during Francona’s last year there, and Francona does think highly of the righty reliever. He’s never really been all that great, although his 2012 season represents his best. He can eat up innings, but his career ERA sits right near 4.70.
Shaw has the stuff to be dazzling, and he’s really been one of the better relievers of the bunch this spring training. He’s struck out 12 against only one walk, and only given up one earned run in eight innings. In a perfect world, he makes the team. As it stands, he’s got two options left. My belief here is that they keep Albers in a sort of Giambi-esque role, send Shaw down, burn off Carrasco’s six-game suspension, then bring Shaw back up.
There’s a small part of me that remains curious about Huff though in that last spot in the bullpen. He could provide the Indians with a “softer arm” than many of their other relievers, and also provide them with a needed long reliever/spot-starter should they need one early in the year.
I still believe the 25th spot goes to Albers, with Shaw grabbing the “new” 25th slot when the Carrasco situation takes care of itself.
There’d be two guys in Albers and Giambi that I would feel like haven’t quite earned their stripes to get their positions, but they do provide the Indians with value none-the-less. Both are “Francona guys,” and would provide consistent leadership either on the field or in the dugout. Both would be the last pitcher and hitter on the roster. No, you never waste a roster spot, but you also can utilize those last spots to “leaders,” if you will.
Last week, Tony compared Giambi to Dave Winfield from back in 1995. Winfield was 43 in 1995, and it would be his last season in the bigs. He was primarily a back-up DH to the also-grizzled veteran Eddie Murray. He didn’ t get any postseason at bats in the Indians run to the series, but he was a valuable resource for guys like Albert Belle andManny Ramirez.
That team also had several consistent veteran relievers in Paul Assenmacher, Eric Plunk, Jim Poole and Jose Mesa, to go along with youngsters like Julian Tavarez, Alan Embree and Paul Shuey. Albers may not be as good as some of those guys, but that’s the type of leadership the Indians would be looking for.
Parting Shots…in the rearviewmirror…
The Indians got a real nice glimpse of their future during Saturday’s game against the Seattle Mariners, that they won 10-5. The Indians’ loaded their line-up with their stud prospects and really watched them fly. Francisco Lindor started at shortstop and went 3-for-5, with a triple, a run scored and an RBI. If you think this kid isn’t going to hit based on one season, you have another thing coming. Yes, this is a one game sample (as opposed to the one season..ha!), but you meet this kid once and you’ll understand what I’m saying. He has a high baseball IQ, and is just years beyond his age. He’s going to hit, and he’s going to field. He’s not the #1 prospect for nothing. Jose Ramirez, whom Tony correctly placed in the top five of the prospects rankings, went 2-for-5, with a double and a run. Tyler Naquin, who many have shuffled under the bed after half a season went 1-for-4 with a double and two RBI. Tony Wolters had a hit, and Ronny Rodriguez got into the game as well. Even the infamous and fastest man in baseball, Delvi CID, showed up in this game.
Keep an eye on Matt Capps. The Indians are keeping him around, I’m sure, to showcase him to other teams while he holds off making a decision on a minor league assignment. I’m not 100% convinced that the Indians haven’t officially closed the door on him yet.
If Scott Kazmir stays healthy and keeps his velocity, is it possible that our rotation could look like this at the end of the season? 1. Carlos Carrasco, 2. Scott Kazmir, 3. Justin Masterson, 4. Trevor Bauer and 5. Zach McAllister?
I’m officially on board the Cord Phelps to the big leagues train. This kid is going to rake in the big leagues, and he will get his chance this year.
Keep watching the website for our brand new IBI Game Chats. We’re in the testing phase, but Friday night’s game was a success. Stay tuned for the next live Game Cast in the next couple of days.
Tony will be back next week, at the same bat time, and the same bat channel….for the Easter edition of Tribe Happenings, which just happens to be the day before the season starts for MLB, and two days before the season starts for the Tribe.
LET'S GO BUCKS!!!!!
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 email@example.com.
"My belief here is that they keep Albers in a sort of Giambi-esque role, send Shaw down, burn off Carrasco’s six-game suspension, then bring Shaw back up."
"I still believe the 25th spot goes to Albers, with Shaw grabbing the “new” 25th slot when the Carrasco situation takes care of itself."
"Raburn and Giambi make up the 21st and 22nd position on the roster, unless the Indians break camp with 13 pitchers. In this scenario, they’ll keep one or the other. They’ll likely keep Raburn and have an agreement with Giambi to add him after the week. I’ve also seen reports that Raburn will accept a role with Columbus for a week if they keep Giambi. I’m not sure of the intricacies of Raburn’s deal, as to whether or not his minor league deal has any out clauses or not, but I don’t think that keeping 13 pitchers will effect either of these guys going forward. If there is a snafu with regards to Giambi and/or Raburn, perhaps Zeke sticks around, or Phelps if Zeke is already released. The point here is that we really are talking about the 25th spot."
The more I think about it the more sense it would make to send CC down and bring up Shaw. I figured they would just stick with CC until it was time to bring up Giambi but yea it could make more sense to bring Shaw up to pitch out of the pen instead of CC. I guess I just missed that it would only be until the 12 game streach is over. But now I do understand.
Very sorry. Somehow I missed your comment. I think were going to have to disagree about this one but hey haha I mean thats baseball right? I honestly think your right that Marson will not be able to become much more then he already is. Although I think it is possible based on his high standing as a prospect.
But, what I took away from the article was very different from you. I didn't see someone trying to argue that Marson would all of a sudden become a much better player. I saw someone who was saying Marson already has good defense skills at catcher and his ability to walk means that he makes outs much less then other back up catchers around the league. I think he made outs at the same rate as Ascab last year or something. Which of course isn't fair since Ascab played many more games but it was the comparison to the other catchers that mattered to me.
In my opinion a young back up catcher who is pretty good on defense, calls a good game and due to his walk abiltity gets on base at a steady clip, makes for a pretty decent back up catcher. My home for improvment stems from his defensive numbers in 2011 and the fact his plate discipline seemed to finnally show itself in the majors last season. I was am hoping he can continue to improve on those two facets of his game. Thats all.
@ Tony. I won't be offended. I am just honestly curious what part of the article you found "far fetched" and made up of "hope" and projections. As I only see comparison between his numbers vs other back up catchers. I wrote you two comments down below and I am wondering what I am missing? If perhaps his numbers were off?
I am sorry if I seem to have offended you guys. I just like to talk baseball and like to ask questions about things I don't understand. Its something that I have done regularly on other blogs and websites. I didn't see where Jim mentioned after bring Shaw up they would send him down for Giambi a few days later. In fact I still don't but perhaps it was implied somewhere and I missed it.
Carrasco burns of the six games...then you send him down and swap him with Shaw for the remainder of the stretch of games until they have an off day...you know...13 pitchers to offset no days off over the first two weeks of the season.
Then you send Shaw down, or someone else...and bring Giambi or Rayburn or whomever else you plan on slotting depending on who the Indians keep on their 25-man roster...and you do it on their first day off.
It's in the piece...and not all that complicated. So the "new" 25th roster spot that would open would be Carrasco's slot.
Of course, they could choose to leave Carrasco in Columbus to start the year, and have him burn off the suspension later...
Their pen generally has seven guys in it, like it did in 2012 when they broke camp: Perez, Pestano, RPerez, Sipp, Joe Smith, Dan wheeler and Pedro Ascencio...
so the eighth guy would be extra to get them through the stretch. Francona has mentioned this as a possibility several times, along with Carrasco burning off the suspension. No decisions have been made, but we should know by tomorrow or Tuesday.
Several options there...but pretty clear choices...
Yeah, just read it again and the short article seems to only mention stats in comparison to other back up catchers. I don't think I see one point where the author talks about what "he hopes" Marson could be become. Just basically how his numbers compare to other back up catchers.
Not a fan of "Didthetribewin" huh?
I am having some trouble understanding where you are coming from. How is the article just "hope"? He compares Marsons numbers to other back up catchers in the league. He then goes on to explain through stats how Marson is pretty good at avoiding making an out due to his ability to walk. Which I thought to be intersting.
It seemed to me like most of the article was using his stats vs other back up catchers in the game. So, what part of the article was far fetched and was just "hope"?
Marson had good numbers in the minors and was always seen as a talented catcher. Sure, his numbers have not been good during his time in the majors but when has he ever really gotten a full season to really dig in? I know the fact he is a back up means he can't expect to get many AB's but still hes young and has not had that much time. If he can just play defense like in 2011 I think he is a solid back up. He has the ability to walk and if he could just improve his bat a little bit he could make for a decent catcher.
I am sure the people you talked to are much more in tune with the org than I am but I think a few good months of back up catching and praise from Tito could very well change that. At some point people were saying he was a top prospect in baseball. At one point we called Jason Giambi a pointless signing and the only move all off season that made no sense. Now, Giambi looks to be on the Tribes 25 man when Carrasco goes down. Things change.
Not saying hes going to ever be a starting catcher. But I think he could be a decent back up. I mean thats just my opinion though. We all develop weird attachments to players and see them for perhaps more then they actually are. What I am curious though is what part of he article you found far fetched and just "hope"? I will read it again but it seemed to me like he compared Marsons numbers vs other back up catchers and said Marson could be a solid back up if he can improve on throwing out runners. Have his numbers in that department more like 2011.
How does Shaw grab "the new 25th roster spot" when Carrasco goes down to AAA. I thought thats when they would bring Giambi up?
With Perez, Pestano, Smith, Hagadone, Hill, Allen, Albers thats already a 7 man bullpen. So, unless they go with a 3 man bench of Raburn-Marson-Aviles there will not be any room for Shaw until someone goes down. Even with the utility of Raburn and Aviles you would think you would want at least one more bat to round out the roster and bench. So, could you explain what I am missing?
I think this is a really good article about Lou Marson and how he has more value then people give him credit for. If he can throw runners out like 2011, improve his hit tool a bit and add just a bit of pop I think he could be on the best back up catchers in the game. Key word there is backup.
What? Seriously. I am not under 20 but what does my age have anything to do with this? What does you ability to sell peanuts have to do with this? No offense but we have these things called paragraphs.
Then its like you turned into a different person half way through your speech. Showing that you can be optimistic.You go from trying to insult me to "go tribe". I just don't understand where your coming from some of the time. I agree Carrasco should spend time in AAA to get himself ready but I also think he has a bunch of talent. In fact I think he has perhaps the most potential of any other starter on the team outside of Bauer.
The best thing is with Carrasco hes basically the "6th" man right now. I am positive he will be in the rotation at some point if healthy though. Like you Shy I am excited for the season. Go Tribe!
He refused a physical, and the contract was voided.
I don't know if he's better this year or not. Kazmir is throwing low to mid-90's though, so I doubt he's better as we speak.
I just don't think the Indians want anything to do with Garland, and that Garland doesn't want anything to do with the Indians...
I agree with Shaw over Albers in theory but not in practice. Gives Albers the job see what hes got and then bring up Shaw when needed. Maybe someone gets injured and they need both. If they go with Shaw to start then Albers will be picked up by another team.
Is there something I am not understanding about the Rondon situation? I thought he was ours to keep if we put him on the roster? Sure, its not that big of a deal, sure they made 20 other great moves. But I mean I call it as I see it. It was a blunder to let Rondon go for nothing. I would rather have control over him then some other people on the 40 man. I think he has a valid chance to be a solid young bullpen arm able to go multiple innings. If he can refine his offspeed stuff perhaps even more.
Love Cord Phelps, I think he can bring a lot to the table.
It was fun to glimpse our future the last few days, Lindor, Ramirez, Rodriguez - who missed a late homer by a foot or two yesterday. Moncrief hit that blast to tie up the Reds recently. He's a guy to dream on - has 4 tools big time, just needs more walks and fewer K's
You don't have to tell me about the pitching scenario, as I know it all too well. What I can tell you is this...I spoke with a Dodgers' scout via e-mail this past week about both Kazmir and Carrasco after he watched them (and others), and he said he likes what he sees from both. Kazmir didn't look so good yesterday, but he's looked good all spring. I could take the normal Cleveland route and focus on the bad, or I can focus on the body of work so far. Does it mean he's going to be an ace? Hell no, but a solid starter? He absolutely could be that. I don't expect ANYTHING from Kazmir, so anything is fine by me. It's like folks slamming Derek Lowe last year. If you had told me he was going to have the month of April he had and then suck, I'd have been fine with a solid month. Of course, some folks expect all starters to be aces????
I like Allen, but I do agree with you. I'd probably have let it play out a bit. I get Francona wanting him to settle down, but not sure it was the right move in hind sight...