Tribe Happenings: Indians should take advantage of market
January 13, 2013
Some news, notes, and thoughts from my Indians notebook…
Go for broke
What a fun offseason this has been so far for the Indians.
They have made two noteworthy trades, first dealing Esmil Rogers to acquire Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes. Then they made a blockbuster trade sending away Shin-Soo Choo, Tony Sipp, Jason Donald, and Lars Anderson and picked up Trevor Bauer, Drew Stubbs, Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers.
They made a big free agent signing by inking Nick Swisher to a four-year $56 million deal, and also made two customary one year deals signing Mark Reynolds and Brett Myers.
They were also in on several other players like Shane Victorino, Kevin Youkilis, Edwin Jackson, and others that they either fell short of signing or pulled out of to pursue other options.
It has been a very busy, productive, and – for once – a fun offseason indeed.
Indians GM Chris Antonetti hinted a week ago that they were probably done with their heavy lifting this offseason, and while that is likely to be true, they are certainly keeping an open mind about adding players that still remain unsigned. There are several free agents still available that could be signed at a bargain that would bolster the lineup or pitching staff.
The Indians are not going to fix every hole in one offseason as there is only so much money in the budget to go around, but with what is transpiring late this offseason with some still unsigned higher level free agents that are not getting the deals they want, the Indians may end up in a position to strike and get one. If that is indeed the case, they would be foolish not to take advantage of such an opportunity, one which may not come their way again.
Because the Indians have a protected first round pick and already lost their second round pick for signing Swisher, they would only lose a third round pick if they signed one of the three remaining compensation linked free agents Kyle Lohse, Michael Bourn, and Rafael Soriano. If they signed two of them they would lose their third and fourth rounder.
Most other teams at the moment are balking at signing Lohse, Bourn and Soriano mostly because of the draft pick compensation attached to them where they would lose their first round pick. The fact that the much hated Scott Boras represents all three of these players might also have something to do with it, but the double whammy of losing not only a first round pick but also a significant chunk of a team’s draft bonus pool is creating a market we have never seen before in Major League Baseball.
At this point it is anyone’s guess what kind of contract Lohse, Bourn, and Soriano end up signing. In past offseasons when the market did not turn out well for a player they would simply sign a one year deal with a team to re-establish their market and go into free agency the next offseason. This is often called a “pillow” deal. But pillow deals for any of these three players seems unlikely because it would be a steep price to pay for a team to sign a player to a one year deal and end up losing a first round pick and a good amount of draft bonus pool money.
Enter the Indians. If there was one team where a pillow deal may make sense, it could be the Indians. A first round pick is a lot to pay for a one year deal, but what about a third round pick? Of course, while it may make sense to take a stab at one of the big free agents still available on the open market, the money has to be right.
The Indians are up against it with their budget as they currently have a projected $75 million payroll for next season. I’ve heard they could go as high as $80 million with the payroll this year, which means depending on the projections of the current payroll numbers they have anywhere from $2 to $5 million available to spend.
They may decide to use that money on a cheaper bat like Jim Thome, Travis Hafner, or Delmon Young, or they may even decide to pocket it and save it for later this summer where they can go out and add some salary in a trade to fill a need.
But if the right player fell into their lap because of this crazy market dictated by draft pick compensation, they might use that leftover money plus go a little over their budget to get a player that can impact the roster. At the moment it still appears to be a long shot for the Indians to sign Lohse or Bourn, but every day those two remain unsigned the chances become slightly better that they could end up in the mix for either one of them.
The Indians could certainly use both Lohse and Bourn as another proven veteran middle of the rotation pitcher for their rotation would help immensely and they could use another bat in the lineup. The Indians have had interest in both players before as they talked to the Astros about trading for Bourn in July of 2011 and they reportedly were recently in talks with Lohse. While Bourn would really round out a very good outfield and lineup, the Indians would probably only consider one of them, which is why Lohse would be the more likely fit for the Indians.
This is a unique situation the Indians could use to their advantage and is a situation they may never find themselves in again. Be it that they are not one of the ten worst teams in the league to earn a protected first round pick, or if a market correction is made in future offseasons.
I mean, who knows how long this market will stay like this? These things have a way of correcting themselves as you know a lot of free agents-to-be next offseason have taken notes and seen what happened to all the free agents this offseason with draft pick compensation attached to them. It has proven to be a death sentence for free agents, which means players may be inclined to more willingly accept the qualifying offer from their former team or even consider working out an extension and staying with that team.
But somehow, someway, the agents will learn from the happenings this offseason and find a loophole or adjust to it. The unfortunate reality is Lohse, Bourn and Soriano were the guinea pigs in this brave new world of a CBA with some revamped rules for free agents.
The Indians have a chance - for once - to twist the rules in their favor. It is not very often when they can take advantage of the system in Major League Baseball as so often it is the big revenue teams that take advantage of them by out spending them and taking all their big name players.
Well, for once, the Indians can turn the tables this offseason. It may take a leap of faith from ownership, and some of the proceeds from the recent sale of SportsTime Ohio could help absorb some of that burden. But in the end it may be worth it and the right time to get a steal in free agency they might otherwise not have been able to get. It happened once already with Swisher; why not see if it can happen again?
Hall of Fame aftermath
The results of this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame vote was announced this week and for the eighth time in the history of the voting and the first time since 1996 the Baseball Writers Association of America (BWAA) did not elect anyone into the hall of fame. Former Astros great Craig Biggio came close with 68.2% of the vote, but he did not get the required 75% of the vote needed for election into the hall.
Naturally, after all the hype about the vote because of the class that included alleged PED users like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and others, there was a fierce reaction in the baseball world as to how no one could be elected. A lot of that is from a misunderstanding as to how election into the hall works. Most players don’t make it into the hall on the first ballot as close to 80% of the players in the hall got in on the second time or later.
This is a process. As long as a player gets at least 5% of the vote, they are eligible for up to 15 times. So for all the first timers that did not get in like Biggio, Mike Piazza, and others, their time will probably come in a few years, maybe even next year. I have no problem with this as this is the way it has always been. Plus, remember the last time there was a shutout in the voting in 1996 that six of the top eight vote getters that year eventually got into the hall down the road anyway. The same should be the case for several of the players in the voting this year.
But the problem is that the process seems a bit misguided and old-fashioned. I am not sure it makes sense to have a bunch of writers vote because personal bias is going to come into play. When Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer casts his vote, who do you think he is going to vote for? For the guys he liked that he covered of course. I don’t know if he voted for Sandy Alomar Jr. or not, but somebody did, and I am willing to bet those votes he got all came from writers who covered the Indians in the 90s.
Obviously there will be consensus on the greats, which is the whole point of the 75% rule, and why it is so hard to get into the hall of fame. The hall of fame has been around since 1936, but in 77 years only 208 Major League players have been elected. So to get in you have to not just be good, you have to be great and great for a long time.
Part of the problem is they have way too many candidates on the ballot. When you have 37 candidates from which writers can vote for none or up to ten of them, it makes it very difficult to find consensus. They either have to allow writers to vote for more players (up to 12-15) or they need to limit the names on the ballot.
I mean, really, this year the following players were on the ballot: Woody Williams, Shawn Green, Todd Walker, Rondell White, Mike Stanton, Aaron Sele, Reggie Sanders, Ryan Klesko, Steve Finley, David Wells, Roberto Hernandez, Jeff Conine, Royce Clayton, and Jeff Cirillo. I know they met the eligibility requirements, but did they really have to be on it? Why not have a preimliminary ballot that condensed the candidates down from 37 to say 15 or 20? I may be mistaken, but I believe the NFL does this. And sorry Indians fans, but Sandy Alomar Jr. and Jose Mesa also should not have been on it. In the grand scheme of things these players matter little as they only totaled 23 votes, although those 23 votes could be enough to swing a player close to the 75% election threshold into the hall.
Maybe whoever oversees the BWAA Hall of Fame voting process should consider coming up with a uniform voting policy because right now of the 569 voters, every which one of them votes their own way, under their own rules, biases, and sometimes total misunderstanding of stats and value.
Most importantly, they need to come to a consensus on how to handle all of this PED stuff. Obviously the PED issue is here to stay and will continue to be talked about and a part of the election process for probably the next 15-20 years, so in order to keep from bringing up this sore wound every single year maybe they should establish some uniform policy on how to handle alleged PED users. Otherwise, we will continue to have some writers refuse to vote for alleged PED users, others willing to vote for them, and the rest simply abstaining because they have no idea what they should do with them.
My opinion does not matter, but to me, players like Clemens, Bonds and even Pete Rose belong in the hall of fame. When I go to the hall of fame, I go to see the history. All of it. Good or bad. I go to see the greatest players this game has ever had, and all three of Bonds, Clemens, and Rose – even through all their faults – are without a doubt some of the few greats we have been lucky to watch play over the years. For me it is a museum full of great character guys, but also lots of cheaters, wife beaters, alcoholics, gamblers, and drug users, so I don’t see the problem with it. I have no idea who did and did not take PEDs, so I hate to cast blame on a whole genre of players.
But in any case, Major League Baseball and the BWAA must figure out what to do with this PED Era of players. Otherwise, a year from now all of the PED talk will come to the surface again, which makes it hard for baseball to get out from under that dark cloud they have so desperately been trying to move on from.
Lofton got hosed
Speaking of the Hall of Fame voting, shame on the voters! I’m still trying to figure out the travesty of how Kenny Lofton ended up being a one and done candidate as he finished with just 3.2% of the vote and is no longer eligible for voting.
Lofton was a borderline hall of famer and probably should not be in the hall, but he deserved a much better fate than what he got this week. Talk about a complete lack of disrespect for his career from the very writers who covered all 17 of his seasons.
Look at his career compared to Biggio’s, a player many thought should have been elected this year. Biggio reached the 3,000 hit milestone which is big and he hit double the homers as Lofton, but Lofton still had a better career batting average (.299 to .281), on-base percentage (.372 to .363), more stolen bases (622 to 414), a near identical OPS (.794 to .796), near identical OPS+ (107 to 112), and the same amount of Gold Gloves (4). Yet Biggio got 68.2% of the vote and Lofton just 3.2%.
You deserved better Kenny!
Gomez moves on
The Indians said goodbye to right-hander Jeanmar Gomez on Wednesday when they traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for minor league outfielder Quincy Latimore. Gomez had been designated for assignment a week earlier to make room on the roster for newly acquired free agent pitcher Brett Myers (via Russ Canzler). He never went on waivers as the Indians instead were able to find a taker in a trade and pick up a player rather than lose him for nothing on waivers.
Gomez had an up and down year for the Indians last season. He got off to a good start in April making four starts and went 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA (15.1 IP, 10 H, 1 HR, 3 BB, 13 K), but then things quickly unraveled from there as in his remaining 16 appearances he went 4-7 with a 6.69 ERA (75.1 IP, 85 H, 14 HR, 31 BB, 34 K). Overall he went 5-8 with a 5.96 ERA in 20 appearances, and in 42 career Major League appearances he is 14-16 with a 5.18 ERA (206.2 IP, 241 H, 28 HR, 71 BB, 112 K).
Gomez could still end up being a solid back of the rotation starter, but as evidenced by his numbers last season he lacks consistency. He does not have put away stuff so his command has to be on and his pitches have to be sharp. He could probably use another season in the minors to continue to refine his stuff or he might just be what he is, but either way, the Indians simply ran out of time with him since he is out of options and there was no way he was going to make the Indians opening day pitching staff.
Pirates GM Neil Huntington knows Gomez well as he was in the Indians front office back when Gomez was pitching at Low-A Lake County. Perhaps he is just looking to add some depth to their pitching staff and maybe Gomez will pitch in relief for them. He has poor peripheral numbers for his career (1.51 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, 76 ERA+), so it will be interesting how he shakes out with the Pirates and how they use him.
The Indians were able to get some value in return for Gomez, something that is hard to do when a player is designated for assignment. Latimore is 23-years old and hit .252 with 15 homers, 71 RBI, 10 stolen bases, and .754 OPS in 126 games for the Pirates Double-A Altoona affiliate last season. He was drafted out of high school in the fourth round of the 2007 Draft, so he has been around awhile. In six minor league seasons he has hit .252 with 66 homers, 337 RBI, 50 stolen bases, and .730 OPS.
Latimore has some interesting numbers, though his value is limited and he is probably only a depth option for the Indians. He was recently passed over by teams in the Rule 5 Draft - which shows limited value - and he will be a minor league free agent after the season.
Even so, while Latimore may be a marginal prospect, this is a good depth pickup for the Indians and you never know what may happen when a player gets a change of scenery. The Pirates at one time really liked his power potential because he packs some good pop into a small frame, but his plate discipline has been something that has held him back as a prospect as he strikes out way too much and does not make enough consistent contact (four straight seasons of 105+ strikeouts). He is an average runner with a solid arm and fringy defense, so he looks to be an option in left field at Double-A Akron or Triple-A Columbus this season.
Earlier in the week the Indians officially announced the signing of left-hander Scott Kazmir to a minor league deal with an invite to Major League spring training. He had agreed to terms on December 21st. … The Indians also announced the signings of right-handed pitcher Jerry Gil and left-handed pitcher Edward Paredes to minor league deals and with invites to Major League spring training. Both are not expected to be in consideration for a big league job this spring and are simply options the Indians may use at Triple-A Columbus this season (there is no guarantee they will make the roster). … Outfielder Thomas Neal - who was designated for assignment last Friday – cleared waivers and declined an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus, so the Indians released him and he became a free agent. As a second time outright, he had the option to refuse or accept the assignment to the minors. Had he accepted he would have been under the Indians control for the 2013 season, but now he is free to sign with any team. … Closer Chris Perez announced on Saturday that he will pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic this spring.
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Regarding the proposal to make another FA signing, I'm not sure Indians' mgmt has the same opinion as yours. Nor do I. IMO, the team that the Indians will field in '13 does not have a reasonable chance to make the playoffs, and making another FA signing likely will not change that. So, all such a signing will do, at least IMO, will be to add to the Indians' payroll.
Now, the same could be said about the Swisher signing, but I believe the motivation for his signing is different. The addiiton of Swisher will not help the Indians make the playoffs this year, but it will help keep the Indians' fans interested in the product on the field and help keep the attendance from dropping. Having signed Swisher, though, I'm not sure that signing Lohse or Bourn will provide any incremental benefit, either at the turnstiles or in the standings - at least improvement sufficient to make the playoffs. Given that, I question whether it would be worth the loss of an additional draft pick. Those picks are the life blood of the organization, and I don't think additional picks should be sacrificed this year unless the FA signing gives the team the opportunity to make the playoffs. I don't think either Lohse or Bourn will do that.
Roto, I may have poorly worded it, but while I mention the Indians could offer a pillow deal for Lohse/Bourn, the intent was to only bring that up as an option (a long shot) and the overall point was that if they continue to fall in price that they take a stab at a 3 year deal for an unknown amount (which is what they should end up with).
Brandon, yes, if the Indians were to sign one of them to a one year deal (again, a long shot), and the Indians made the qualifying offer to them next offseason (probably $14M next year), then yes, they would get a 1st round comp pick.
Rocky, no, they already declined their qualifying offers. They had to make those decisions prior to the start of free agency. So they can no longer change their mind and take those qualifying offers now.
I suspect we're not really seeing a shift in free agent signings due to the draft pick changes, but rather normal Boras-related delays, because he's asking for more than what the market wants to give. If anything, Boras may simply be overestimating the market, because the usual players aren't shopping, and he hasn't adjusted down yet. The Yankees are cutting salary, the Dodgers don't need starting pitching or outfielders, and the Angels and Phillies already have a ton of cash tied up and don't have much more appetite for risk. He usually gets someone to swoop in and overpay last minute, as with Detroit and Prince Fielder last year.
Seth- The value teams are attaching to their first round pick is not just about the player they can sign in the 1st round, but about losing the money from their bonus pool associated with that pick. The first round bonus money is such a significant portion of the overall bonus pool that losing the $ really hampers a team's ability to sign other players in the draft.
I wonder how much the draft pick issue is really suppressing the market for these guys. If it is, then teams are really overvaluing draft picks. The success rates on first round picks is not good. A large majority of guys in picks 11+ don't even make it to the majors or end up not producing any value. It doesn't make a lot of sense to not sign Bourn or Lohse because you're worried about losing the chance to draft someone who will probably never make an impact. It's just one more thing to consider,and secondary to the primary consideration of $ and years. If Boras brings the $ and years demand more in line with the rest of the contracts signed this off season, I imagine someone will scoop these guys up.
The comp pick and the potential to trade either Bourne or Lohse has been overlooked. It has been talked about in the forums, but really should not be getting overlooked in these articles. With the new CBA, an extra pick at the end of the first round could shoot someones draft cap just enough to sign a player who has fallen due to signability issues, like Mark Appel in this years draft. This would be a huge benefit to a team like the Indians.
Our ability to trade either player at the deadline is also huge. We can keep them if we think they're essential in helping us contend the rest of the year, or we can trade them to a team for prospects that are likely more valuable than draft picks. IF we payed either one of them 13-15 million a year and looked to trade them mid season, we would have essentially paid 8-10 mil for half a year of production and the best prospect or prospects we would find. That seems like a pretty straight forward way of building for now and the future at the same time.
It is still probably unlikely this happens, but the more you think about it, the more you realize were in kind of a win-win-win-win-win-lose situation. I can think of way more positive outcomes to negative ones, and it is probably worth the risk for our small market club.
Personally, I think the Tribe should go all in on both Bourn and Lohse. Ideally, they'd back load both deals but also look to offset such a move by trading one of ACab or CPerez or both. Trading Perez for instance for 3 prospects, at least 2 B level would offset the loss of 3rd and 4th round draft picks and free some cash, potentially as much as $7.5 M according to mlbtraderumors.com arb. projections.
It would be insane, it's highly unlikely, but it would also make the Tribe real contenders this yr. in essence looking at getting the most for their investment right away.
Anyone know what Lohse is even asking for? If he could be had for 3/45 the Indians could still potentially make a play for that. Trade Chris Perez to the Dodgers for a decent lower-level prospect, sign Lohse to a contract that pays 13/16/16 and payroll's still in the 80-85 million range this year, and they still have at least $15-20 million in payroll flexibility in 2014 and 2015 since the TV money will have kicked in.
Would need to find the wiggle room, but Lohse could help, Marcum still stands out as well.
Bourn on the other hand is a great fit. Slotting him into CF would push Stubbs into the 4th OF role, a role he probably much better suited for given his struggles against right-handed pitching. Bourn gives you a leadoff hitter, a true burner on the bases, and a gold glove CF. Speed players with good plate discipline like Bourn tend to age well, so I'd have no problem giving him 3-4 years.
And it's still not out of the question that Cabrera or Perez could be dealt. Both will make in the neighborhood of 16 million million over the next two years, so dealing one or both of them would help ease the payroll burden of adding Bourn.
Clay, it was Rosenthal and Morosi of Fox Sports a few weeks back that said that about Lohse. And, well, I know too from a source.
Your points on the Hall of Fame are spot on. Having a preliminary vote as well as a criteria to follow in regards to PED's makes so much sense that I wouldn't expect baseball to implement because it is reasonable. Baseball always seems to find a complicated solution to a simple problem