November 2011

Indians, Sizemore close to deal?

The Indians are in “serious discussions” with free-agent center fielder Grady Sizemore, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. A one-year pact between the familiar parties could come to fruition as soon as this weekend.

It was been reported that at least eight teams have shown interest in Sizemore this offseason, during which he had a $9 million club option declined by Cleveland. Other teams rumored to have interest include the Cubs, Rangers, Giants, Yankees, Phillies, Rockies and Red Sox.

One stumbling block for interested teams is the fact that Sizemore is currently rehabbing from surgery on his right knee and is not currently able to run through a full baseball workout. The Indians, on the other hand, are more familiar with the center fielder and his recent medical history.

If Sizemore does indeed re-sign with the Tribe, that would open the door for outfielder Michael Brantley to remain in left field, with Shin-Soo Choo in right. Brantley can also man center. The Indians might still look to add outfield depth, but the focus for additional power might center around an upgrade at first base.

The Indians have considered acquiring a left fielder and playing Brantley in center. The thin free-agent crop in the outfield might make some of the current options too costly for Cleveland’s liking. Some names floated as possibilities for the Tribe have been Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham, among other.

–Jordan Bastian

“I choose not to run!”

Like Seinfeld, maybe that’s the strategy I need to take from now on.

A couple winters ago, I finished second to MLB.com’s Jason Beck in the Las Vegas half marathon. A couple springs ago, I lost to MLB.com’s Anthony Dicomo in a half-mile race on a high school track. A couple Sundays ago, I finished a few minutes behind MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch in the NYC marathon.

I’m officially 0-3 against coworkers in races. This has led to a running gag about “Things that @MLBastian might beat in a footrace” on Twitter (led by fellow ball scribe Marc Carig. Thanks, buddy). It’s true. Google it. There’s some funny stuff.

Thing is, I’m a pretty decent runner. I knew Beck would beat me in 2009. He’s a legit marathoner. I’m not worthy. I thought I might have a chance at beating Dicomo in 2010. He was a track guy and better prepared for a short distance, though. Kudos. I still wish we would’ve raced one mile.

Hoch (no offense, buddy), but I didn’t think there was any chance I’d finish behind him. He didn’t think so, either. Simply put, I fell apart, nearly quit and ran the worst race of my life. I’ll spare you all the details of the crazy blisters that developed seven miles into the 26.2-mile run. I finished an hour slower than my expected time. But, Hochy beat me fair and square and I’m proud of him. Way to go, man.

In a way, I am choosing not to run from now on. No more fall marathons for the forseeable future. Spring marathons are fine, but as a baseball writer it’s just too hard to train right during September and October. Right now, I’m planning on running the Cleveland full in May (marathon No. 7 for me).

Why am I rambling on about marathons on this Indians blog? Well, partly because it’s a big part of who I am. Secondly, it’s a roundabout way to explain my long hiatus. I am back this week after a two-week vacation that took the family and I through Hershey, Pa. (chocolate factory for the kiddo), New York (marathon) and Western Mass. (sister’s new house). It was a fun trip, but I’m back now playing catchup on what has been an intriguing offseason so far.

For all you Seinfeld fans, the photo is obviously of “Monk’s” diner from the show. It’s actually called “Tom’s” and it’s on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. The inside is nothing like on the show, but man, they make a killer milkshake. Moving on.

Some thoughts and notes on the Indians offseason so far:

  • The decision to decline Grady Sizemore’s $9 million option was a no-brainer. Think of it this way… if he were a free agent, with that history of injury and performance over the past few years, would he  be worth a one-year, $9 million contract? No way. Now, if he’s willing to return on a one-year deal with a lower base salary and incentives, that’d be the right scenario. Reports have as many as eight teams showing interest in Sizemore right now, and that includes Cleveland. That said, I don’t see him in a Tribe uniform in 2012.
  • What do I make of the trade to acquire Derek Lowe? I wrote some about it in this week’s Inbox (Warning: there’s more marathon talk in there). Basically, I don’t mind it. It’s a one-year deal worth $5 million for a veteran sinkerballer who stays off the DL and can pile up 200 innings. That’s worth $5 million, even if he is coming off a bad year. It’s also not like the Indians are asking him to be a No. 1-2, or even a No. 3 starter. This is a fourth or fifth arm to shore up the staff. And three sinkerballers between Justin Masterson, Fausto Carmona and Lowe? That’s never a bad thing.
  • I point this out in the Inbox, but I know not everyone will be clicking on that. Another reason to like the Lowe trade is that teams typically need at least 8-10 starters throughout a season. The Tribe has used at least 10 in each of the last 4 seasons and has not had more than 1 arm log at least 200 innings in any of those years. The last time the Indians used fewer than 10 was 2007, when they nearly went to the World Series. In the last seven years, the lowest usage was six starters in 2005, when the Tribe won 93 games. This is why Lowe helps. It lengthens the staff with experience and puts less pressure on the likes of Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff and Zach McAllister.
  • In an interview on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland today, manager Manny Acta said it was a “no brainer” for the Indians when decision time came to pick up Carmona’s option. Acta said, “It’s not easy to find guys that can stay healthy and give you 200 innings.” Remember, Carmona would’ve still been under team control if his option was declined, so it’s not like he would’ve automatically hit the open market. I don’t know if I’d say it was a “no brainer,” but I get it, especially with Carlos Carrasco out of the picture for 2012.
  • Here’s why I think Carmona could have a decent bounceback year in 2012… he’s not the No. 1 guy. When 2011 opened, all eyes were on Fausto to lead the staff and I’m not sure he was ready to be The Guy. With Masterson emerging as a leader, Ubaldo in the fold taking some of the spotlight, Lowe in the mix to offer some good quotes and  plenty of innings, and Tomlin’s presence, too, no one is expecting Carmona to lead the Indians. He can somewhat step into the background and just work. I think this could be a good thing for the pitcher. The feeling is that some of his issues are between the ears. Less pressure can potentially help on that front.
  • The Indians needs: offensive pop in the heart of the order. The spots on the roster in most need of an upgrade are first base or the outfielder. Michael Brantley can man left or center, so the Indians can evaluate additions for both of those spots. One way or another, there’s got to be more power in the mix when Opening Day arrives.
  • Who do I like? All you right-handed-bat cravers take a deep breath, because I think Carlos Pena would be a good fit for first base. Doesn’t hit for average, but what the Indians need is power and he’s got it. He could man first base and offer some ABs at DH to spell Hafner on occasion, also allowing Santana the occasional start at first like the Indians want. Problem is, Pena will be pricey and I’m not sure the Indians would be keen on a multi-year deal.
  • In the outfield? I like Josh Willingham’s potential for adding power in left field. Ultimately, I think the Indians will add a left fielder and allow Brantley to play center. The issue with Willingham is the thin outfield free-agent market. That might force a team to overpay for him and that’s something that might keep Cleveland from landing him.
  • Acta made it clear on 92.3 FM today that the Indians will be adding someone to the outfield mix. “We’re not going in the way we are right now,” said the skipper. “We’re working very hard on bringing in an outfielder.” He added that the Indians want to add “another decent bat” as well.
  • Jack Hannahan is up for arbitration this winter. It seems likely that Indians will offer him a contract, but there hasn’t been much in the way of discussions yet. If he were a free agent, he could benefit from the early-offseason contracts already handed out to the likes of Jamey Carroll, Willie Bloomquist and Mark Ellis.
  • During the radio interview, Acta was asked about first baseman Matt LaPorta. Said the manager: “He’s the right-handed bat we’ve been dreaming of.” Meaning, Cleveland thought he would’ve emerged as a legitimate power threat by now. He hasn’t, though, and that has left the Indians with a need for offense. Whether the Tribe adds a first baseman this winter or not, Acta made it clear once again that LaPorta has to earn a role with the Major League club during Spring Training.
  • Stating the obvious: Sandy Alomar Jr. will manage in the big leagues. After the White Sox hired Robin Ventura as manager in October, one Major League source said the Indians had Alomar as their bench coach “for now.” In recent weeks, he’s interviewed for the managerial openings with the Cubs and Red Sox. He might not get a manager gig this winter, but it seems like only a matter of time before another team hires him away from the Tribe.
  • On Wednesday, Acta (three second-place votes and seven third-place votes) finished fourth in balloting for the BBWAA’s American League Manager of the Year Award. The honor went to Tampa Bay’s Joe Maddon, with Detroit’s Jim Leyland and Texas’ Ron Washington placing second and third, respectively. In an e-mail, Acta said “Joe clearly deserved it.” He cited the losses of Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Matt Garza, Joaquin Benoit, Rafael Soriano, Jason Bartlett, Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler before the season.

Some stories that ran on Indians.com recently:

Castrovince: Replacing Sizemore a tall order for Tribe

Indians place Lowe-risk bet on durable righty

Donald gained perspective in trying season

Hockey to make debut at Progressive Field

Duncan prepared to be more than a role player

Indians release 2012 spring schedule

Asdrubal picks up first Silver Slugger Award

Stay tuned for more…

~JB

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