On the nights that Mrs. MLBastian wants to go on an “American Idol” or “Biggest Loser” marathon, I’m typically left to retreat upstairs to my office. Since I already breezed through four seasons of “Breaking Bad,” last night I got out the ol’ notepad and tried to come up with a decent projection process for the Indians’ 2013 lineup.
What, you don’t turn your notepad into a Matrix-esque string of baseball numbers when you get bored? I thought everyone did.
No formula for projecting a player’s performance is without its flaws. After all, we can’t see into the future to predict injuries or other scenarios that would influence on-field production. What we can do is look at trends and do our best to create a certain level of expectation.
Along those lines, I decided I’d take a player’s last three seasons of production and, whether their average games per season fell below or surpassed this figure, I’d project their numbers over an 145-game sample. If a player didn’t have three big league seasons, then I’d go by their career numbers.
Once those numbers were in hand, I’d average them against that player’s most recent season. If the player appeared in fewer than 100 games — Lonnie Chisenhall played 43 games in 2012, for example — I’d again project the most recent season over an 145-game sample.
Why 145 games? That seemed like a good number in terms of expected games for a relatively healthy player over a full season. That equates to 1,305 games played for the nine “regulars” in a lineup. Sure enough, when I looked at last year’s Indians team, the “regulars: (1B: Casey Kotchman, 2B: Jason Kipnis, SS: Asdrubal Cabrera, 3B: Jack Hannahan/Lonnie Chisenhall, C: Carlos Santana, LF: Shelley Duncan/Johnny Damon, CF: Michael Brantley, RF: Shin-Soo Choo, DH: Travis Hafner/Jose Lopez) appeared in 1,309 combined games.
Still with me? Thanks to those who are hanging in there. I will get to the point — eventually.
I tested this projection approach against a few actual seasons to see if my figures fell within the ballpark range of a player’s real-world output. Two players I tested the formula against were Asdrubal Cabrera, whose 2011 showing was far above his career level, and Nick Swisher, who has maintained a pretty solid level of consistency over his career.
Here are my projections versus what Cabrera and Swisher actually did in 2012:
Cabrera proj. 2012: .280/.336/.442, 19 HR, 34 2B, 83 RBI, 83 R, 16 SB, 44 BB, 111 K
Cabrera actual 2012: .270/.338/.423, 16 HR, 35 2B, 68 RBI, 70 R, 9 SB, 52 BB, 99 K
Swisher proj. 2012: ..264/.371/.468, 25 HR, 31 2B, 84 RBI, 82 R, 2 SB, 88 BB, 126 K
Swisher actual 2012: .272/.364/.473, 24 HR, 36 2B, 93 RBI, 75 R, 2 SB, 77 BB, 141 K
Hardly an exact science, but I definitely landed in the ballpark of realistic expectations.
Satisfied with my method, I plowed ahead last night and did my best to project expected statistical showings for each of Cleveland’s nine “regulars” for 2013. There is still no clear-cut DH, so I used super sub Mike Aviles as the ninth member of the lineup. Even if the Indians add a DH before the season, Aviles will see plenty of action bouncing between second, short, third, DH and possibly limited outfield.
Enough explanation. Let’s move on to the projections. I will also include Bill James’ 2013 projections (found on fangraphs.com) for each player as a comparison to what I came up on my own.
2013 Offensive Projections
FIRST BASE: Mark Reynolds
Bastian: .217/.331/.440, 27 HR, 25 2B, 1 3B, 75 RBI, 71 R, 3 SB, 75 BB, 174 K
James: .231/.336/.463, 32 HR, 28 2B, 1 3B, 90 RBI, 85 R, 5 SB, 80 BB, 201 K
SECOND BASE: Jason Kipnis
Bastian: .259/.335/.391, 15 HR, 24 2B, 4 3B, 77 RBI, 86 R, 30 SB, 64 BB, 110 K
James: .274/.351/.429, 18 HR, 28 2B, 5 3B, 83 RBI, 100 R, 28 SB, 67 BB, 107 K
SHORTSTOP: Asdrubal Cabrera
Bastian: .272/.336/.421, 17 HR, 33 2B, 2 3B, 69 RBI, 72 R, 11 SB, 49 BB, 102 K
James: .277/.341/.430, 16 HR, 37 2B, 2 3B, 73 RBI, 82 R, 12 SB, 52 BB, 106 K
THIRD BASE: Lonnie Chisenhall
Bastian: .264/.303/.426, 17 HR, 24 2B, 2 3B, 53 RBI, 57 R, 6 SB, 24 BB, 97 K
James: .262/.310/.433, 18 HR, 31 2B, 2 3B, 74 RBI, 75 R, 3 SB, 35 BB, 94 K
CATCHER: Carlos Santana
Bastian: .250/.364/.432, 20 HR, 30 2B, 2 3B, 75 RBI, 74 R, 4 SB, 93 BB, 106 K
James: .261/.383/.476, 25 HR, 35 2B, 2 3B, 91 RBI, 86 R, 4 SB, 103 BB, 103 K
OUTFIELD: Michael Brantley
Bastian: .280/.337/.390, 6 HR, 34 2B, 5 3B, 58 RBI, 67 R, 14 SB, 50 BB, 67 K
James: .279/.344/.379, 7 HR, 29 2B, 3 3B, 55 RBI, 78 R, 19 SB, 54 BB, 60 K
OUTFIELD: Drew Stubbs
Bastian: .226/.294/.357, 16 HR, 16 2B, 3 3B, 47 RBI, 80 R, 31 SB, 47 BB, 171 K
James: .246/.319/.386, 16 HR, 21 2B, 3 3B, 53 RBI, 85 R, 33 SB, 54 BB, 161 K
OUTFIELD: Nick Swisher
Bastian: .273/.365/.476, 24 HR, 34 2B, 1 3B, 90 RBI, 78 R, 2 SB, 76 BB, 136 K
James: .256/.362/.458, 25 HR, 33 2B, 1 3B, 86 RBI, 82 R, 2 SB, 86 BB, 143 K
DESIGNATED HITTER: Mike Aviles
Bastian: .260/.292/.390, 13 HR, 27 2B, 2 3B, 59 RBI, 61 R, 16 SB, 24 BB, 76 K
James: .267/.300/.409, 13 HR, 27 2B, 2 3B, 56 RBI, 60 R, 13 SB, 22 BB, 64 K
What does it all mean? Or, more to the point, how does this group of potential “regulars” stack up against the ”regulars” featured by the Indians last season? For that 2012 group, I used the names listed earlier in this post. Let’s take a look:
2013 “regulars” projection:
.256/.329/.414, 155 HR, 247 2B, 22 3B, 603 RBI, 646 R, 117 SB, 502 BB, 1,039 K
2012 “regulars” production:
.259/.331/.395, 122 HR, 233 2B, 18 3B, 559 RBI, 557 R, 86 SB, 482 BB, 822 K
What the Indians should expect is more power, more ability to take extra bases and better run production, even with an increase in strikeouts.
The “regulars” do not make up the entire offense, though. There were 959 at-bats for players not among the “regulars” last season for the Indians. For the sake of this experiment, I added in last season’s bench production to the projections for Cleveland’s nine “regulars” for a glance at what the team’s overall offense might look like in 2013.
I’ve included where each figure would’ve ranked in the American League in 2012.
2013 offense projection
.251 average (8)
.325 on-base (5)
.404 slugging (10)
169 homers (10)
280 doubles (4)
28 triples (8)
679 RBI (8)
756 runs (4)
141 stolen bases (1)
575 walks (1)
1,304 strikeouts (11)
For comparison, the 2012 offense hit .251/.324/.381 overall with 136 homers, 266 doubles, 24 triples, 635 RBIs, 667 runs scored, 110 stolen bases, 555 walks and 1,087 strikeouts.
The gap between runs and RBIs in the projection seems like a stretch, but much of that has to do with Stubbs’ career track record (285 runs/178 RBI). What this shows at the very least is that this Indians team should offer an entertaining brand of offense. They might not outslug teams, but they have the potential to draw walks, swipe bases, go first-to-third and create runs. If the team can do that successfully, the strikeouts will be a moot point.
It will be the starting pitching that needs to hold up its end of the bargain for the Indians to surprise people this year.
There is a scene in the classic baseball movie, “The Natural,” in which slugger Roy Hobbs meets Glenn Close’s character, Iris, in a diner in Chicago. It’s a short scene, but there is an element to it that bothers me immensely.
The opening dialogue to the scene is as follows:
Waiter: “Hi, folks. What can I get ya?”
Iris: “Al, I’d like you to meet Roy Hobbs.”
Waiter: “Are you kidding? What do you think I ran over here for? We got jiffy service? The pleasure is mine.”
Iris: “He’s a big fan of yours.”
Waiter: “What can I get ya?”
Hobbs: “Do you have any lemonade?”
Waiter: “Sure have.”
Iris: “I’d like the same, too, please.”
Waiter: “Two lemonades.”
Al heads behind the counter, retrieves two lemonades as instructed, brings them to the table, and then leaves so Roy and Iris can catch up. They chat for a few minutes before Iris announces that she has to get going. It’s a rather insignificant portion of the film.
So, what is it that bothers me? Well, at NO point during this diner scene do Roy or Iris take even one sip of the lemonades brought to their table. They asked for them, they received them, but they did not drink them and, as far as I can tell, no one pays the bill.
Maybe it’s the former server in me, but their refusal to drink the lemonade gets under my skin. ONE SIP! That’s all I wanted to see. Is that too much to ask?
Why bring this up? The point is that every movie has its flaws. Did this ruin “The Natural” for me? No. Neither did the physics-defying home run ball that shattered the lights, sending sparks falling over the diamond in the film’s memorable conclusion. It remains a classic baseball movie, despite its issues with consistency or accuracy.
When you go to the movies, you suspend reality. You allow yourself to forget how the real world works, helping spark your imagination and appreciation for ideas and concepts that simply would not happen in real life.
I’m bringing all of this up in light of recent column by my friend and colleague, Anthony Castrovince. The subject of the column is a good one: the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa, has been purchased by a group wanting to develop the land and farm into a super baseball complex for both tourists and traveling teams to enjoy. Hall of Famer Wade Boggs is one of the people helping organize this project.
Castrovince opens his column with a rip job of the movie, “Field of Dreams,” that did not sit well with me — a big “Field of Dreams” fan. Castrovince writes:
Every now and then, I’ll come across some list of the greatest baseball movies of all-time, and almost invariably, “Field of Dreams” makes the cut.
The preoccupation with this frustrating film confounds me. I usually appreciate a paean toward the great game, and I understand the connective qualities the movie seeks to celebrate and the emotional strings it attempts to strum. I also get that sometimes, when you step into the theater, you must suspend your sense of reality.
But the reduction of rationality this movie requires goes beyond what I’m willing to offer. God, ignoring all the other troubles of the world, bends the laws of time and space just so some Iowa farmer can “have a catch” with his dead dad? (Who actually says “have a catch” anyway? Isn’t it “play catch”?) People willingly plunk down $20 to see a ballgame played by ghosts? (Shouldn’t they be putting that money toward psychiatrists?) “Shoeless” Joe Jackson bats from the right-hand side of the plate?
No, no. It’s all too much for me to stomach. I’m sorry, list-makers and Kevin Costner apologists, but “Field of Dreams” is terrible.
No, Anthony, “Field of Dreams” is not terrible. And there are plenty of people in certain segments of the country who ask their dad to “have a catch.” And, believe me, if there were a baseball diamond nearby where ghosts of Hall of Famers gathered for regular pickup games, you’d better believe I’d fork over $20. I might even pay more! Give me Old Hoss vs. Cobb. Ruth vs. Paige. I want to see Cool Papa try to steal off Josh Gibson.
Yes, “Field of Dreams” was filled with flaws and a concept that begged you to ignore the laws and rules of our world. I never have a problem with the latter when it comes to movies. Plain ol’ mistakes are different. Much like the lemonade scene in “The Natural,” I was also bothered by the fact that Shoeless Joe hit from the right side in “Field of Dreams.” Couldn’t they have reversed the film or something?
It might shock Mr. Castrovince, but when people ask me for my favorite baseball movie I always reply with “Field of Dreams.” It was a story of a man doing something he believed in, no matter what people thought of him along the way. He risked everything in order to do something he felt was right. He had a dream, and wanted to have a catch with his dad, and the baseball gods made it possible. That’s my kind of story.
Could it happen? Of course not. But it was a romanticized look at how the game of baseball connects generations, and builds bonds between fathers and sons.
Another reason I love “Field of Dreams” is pure sentiment. For many summers growing up, my family would make the drive from South Holland, Ill., where I spent most of my childhood, to Dyersville to play baseball on that field in the middle of nowhere for a summer afternoon. When the sun started to set, it was time to head home.
We’d sit on the bleachers from the movie, take pictures by the old farm house and walk into the cornfield. And we’d play baseball for as long as we wanted. Kids formed a line and waited their turn to hit. Dads took turn tossing pitches. You could play any position you wanted, or have a catch with your dad in the outfield. No score. No innings. No highly-paid superstars. Just boys and fathers together on a field in Iowa, playing the great game of baseball.
For me, that was a little slice of heaven.
That’s me with my dad on the far left. I’m wearing a “Field of Dreams” t-shirt and proudly showing off my “Field of Dreams” baseball. That’s me hitting in the middle photo with my dad standing behind. And the third photo is me emerging from the corn field.
What a great movie. And what a great place. I am excited to see how the project to restore and expand the farm comes along.
In a recent conversation with a voting member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, this year’s Hall of Fame ballot naturally came up. I was curious who this person voted for, and even more curious to hear the thought process.
After all, this year’s ballot contains an incredibly star-heavy, yet complicated, list of eligible candidates. I am not going to get too detailed about my own thoughts on the issue of the so-called Steroid Era, suffice to say that my stance falls in the neighborhood of these excellent articles from Joe Posnanski and Richard Justice.
If you ever run into me at a local watering hole, feel free to bring it up and we can debate the subject at length. Right now, I want to take a moment to dive into the case of former Cleveland star Kenny Lofton. In this recent chat, I learned that this voter checked the box next to Lofton’s name, doing his part to try to get the center fielder to Cooperstown.
My initial gut reaction was that Lofton is a fringe Hall of Fame candidate, and I wanted to take some time to consider this voter’s choice, and see if I agreed that Kenny belonged among the game’s all-time greats. When I take my son to Cooperstown someday, should he read a plaque honoring Lofton’s career?
After some research done this morning over coffee — Santa brought me a Keurig machine for Christmas! — I’ve decided that, sure, Lofton indeed has a case for the Hall. Do I think he will get in? Well, if I had a vote (which I don’t), he wouldn’t crack my list of 10 possible votes on the 2013 ballot. So, no, I don’t think Lofton will get in this year.
The more appropriate question is, “Should Lofton get in?” Eventually, yes, I think so. First, though, I personally think the BBWAA needs to put Tim Raines in the Hall to further cement Lofton’s case. On this year’s ballot, I believe Raines is deserving of a vote, and I’d have him clearly ranked above Lofton for enshrinement.
Let’s take a look at Raines compared to Lofton…
Lofton: 17 years (2,103 games)
Raines: 23 years (2,502 games)
Lofton: .299/.372/.423/.794, 622 SB (160 CS), 107 OPS+
Raines: .294/.385/.425/.810, 808 SB (146 CS), 123 OPS+
Lofton: 130 HR, 383 2B, 116 3B, 781 RBI, 1,528 R, 2,428 H
Raines: 170 HR, 430 2B, 113 3B, 980 RBI, 1,571 R, 2,605 H
Lofton: 64.9 WAR (14.7 dWAR) – per baseball-reference
Raines: 66.2 WAR (-9.5 dWAR) – per baseball-reference
Raines clearly has an edge over Lofton in virtually every category, though Lofton scored more runs on average each season and was clearly a superior defender. In Posnanski’s piece, he does a great comparison between Raines and Tony Gwynn, who is in the Hall. I tend to agree that, if Gwynn is in, Raines is also a deserving candidate.
Along those same lines, it could be argued that if Lou Brock is in the Hall of Fame, Lofton deserves to have his own plaque, too. Here is a look at Lofton’s numbers again, but this time let’s compare him to Brock, who made it into the Hall on his first try in 1985:
Lofton: 17 years (2,103 games)
Brock: 19 years (2,616 games)
Lofton: .299/.372/.423/.794, 622 SB (160 CS), 107 OPS+
Brock: .293/.343/.410/.753, 938 SB (307 CS), 109 OPS+
Lofton: 130 HR, 383 2B, 116 3B, 781 RBI, 1,528 R, 2,428 H
Brock: 149 HR, 486 2B, 141 3B, 900 RBI, 1,610 R, 3,023 H
Lofton: 64.9 WAR (14.7 dWAR) – per baseball-reference
Brock: 42.8 WAR (-17.2 dWAR) – per baseball-reference
Brock hit the magical 3,000-hit plateau, and made the most of those 513 games he has on Lofton in terms of extra-base hits and stolen bases. Lofton was the better defender in the outfield. And, it could be argued, based on on-base ability, run production and WAR, Lofton was the better offensive player as well.
As for Lofton’s defense, I’m not going to pay his four Gold Gloves much mind — there are too many flaws in the voting for those awards each year. His defensive WAR (noted above) obviously stands out, though. And, upon looking into it further, it could easily said that Lofton was a top-five (or top-10, depending on how you slice it) all-time center fielder.
If you use the “runs from fielding” metric found on baseball-reference.com, Lofton ranks tied for second all-time (with Willie Davis) among players with at least 2,000 games played and 80-percent of their action in center field. First on the list: Willie Mays. If you drop it to 1,800 or more games, only Mays, Devon White and Paul Blair rank ahead of Lofton.
Defense can’t be overlooked in evaluating a player and Lofton is statistically among some of the game’s all-time greats in that regard. His offensive production also stacks up against Brock, who was enshrined as soon as he became eligible. If Raines is eventually enshrined, as I believe he should be, then Lofton’s case will become even stronger.
I didn’t view Lofton as being worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame when I started this. In fact, I dug into the numbers with the hope of showing my BBWAA-voter friend that Lofton did not belong among the game’s greats. What I found is that Lofton does have a case, and maybe more voters will agree as time provides more perspective.
It seems like a good time to end my blog-cation. I took a week off to spend time with family after the Winter Meetings, and had happy holidays as I hope you all did as well, but none of that stopped the Indians from making moves in my absence.
Since my last post, Cleveland…
- Acquired outfielder Drew Stubbs (from Cincinnati), along with starter Trevor Bauer and relievers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw (from Arizona) in a nine-player swap with the Reds and D-backs. As part of the deal, the Tribe sent Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald to the Reds and Tony Sipp and Lars Anderson to the D-backs.
- Signed right-handed-hitting first baseman Mark Reynolds to a one-year contract worth $6 million, with another $1.5 million in incentives. The Tribe designated 1B/OF Russ Canzler for assignment to open a roster spot and subsequently lost him on waivers to the Blue Jays.
- But, wait! Cleveland claimed Canzler back on waivers a few days later… only to lose him on waivers again (on Friday) to the Yankees. In between, the Indians DFA’d pitcher Jeanmar Gomez in order to re-acquire Canzler. Gomez’s status remains in limbo.
- Cleveland parted with Canzler again to pave way for the signing of right-handed starter Brett Myers (one-year, $7 million, with an $8 million club option for 2014).
- The Indians also signed outfielder Nick Swisher to a four-year, $56 million contract that includes a $14 million vesting option for 2017. The Tribe designated outfielder Thomas Neal for assignment in order to add Swisher to the roster.
It has been a busy few weeks that have drastically altered the look of the Indians active roster. Cleveland has also flexed its creative muscles by dishing out some serious dough, but still keeping the payroll in the same range as a year ago. When it is all said and done, the payroll will likely be in the neighborhood of $75 million, which is slight increase from a year ago.
GM Chris Antonetti has said that the club is likely done making any significant money moves, meaning the Tribe is virtually done on the free-agent market (at least with substantial big league contracts). The main area of need left unsettled is the DH role. Might Travis Hafner be coming back on a reduced deal? Antonetti has not ruled it out.
For now, it appears that the Indians’ plan is to use a rotation of players through the DH slot. There is utility man Mike Aviles, an everyday player a year ago with the Red Sox. Swisher, Reynolds, Carlos Santana and others could rotate through that spot for some occasional rest, too. Rule 5 pick Chris McGuiness and Yan Gomes could get a look as well.
In order to glance at the possible Opening Day lineup, I’m going to just slide Aviles into the DH spot for now. In that scenario, here is one version of how the Opening Day lineup might look:
1. Michael Brantley, LF (left)
2. Jason Kipnis, 2B (left)
3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (switch)
4. Nick Swisher, RF (switch)
5. Carlos Santana, C (switch)
6. Mark Reynolds, 1B (right)
7. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (left)
8. Drew Stubbs, CF (right)
9. Mike Aviles, DH (right)
If you take the three-year slash lines for that group, or the career big league slash lines for the players (Kipnis and Chisenhall) without three years in the Majors, the combined slash line of that potential starting nine is .256/.329/.419/.747.
Last season, the Indians’ starting nine posted a combined slash line of .250/.332/.396/.728. The group I used for that consisted of the nine players who appeared at each position most often (Santana, C; Casey Kotchman, 1B; Kipnis, 2B; Cabrera, SS; Jack Hannahan, 3B; Shelley Duncan, LF; Brantley, CF; Choo, RF; Hafner, DH).
With the additions of Reynolds and Stubbs, the Indians were surely see an increase in strikeouts, but there is no denying that the current projected lineup should offer a higher average and a solid spike in power. On top of that, there could now be as many as six right-handed hitters in the lineup against left-handed starters. The failed all-lefty experiment against right-handed pitching is also, thankfully, a thing of the past.
I like the retooled look of the Tribe’s lineup. There is more pop, especially from the right side, more consistency against lefty pitching, more balance and plenty of potential for stolen bases and taking extra bags. The only question is whether the rotation can perform well enough for it all to hold up through six months of a season.
I’ll take a look at the potential rotation in a future post.
It just wouldn’t be right to have a Winter Meetings without some wild talk of multi-team trade possibilities. This year, it’s the Indians who are reportedly in the mix for a blockbuster.
Cleveland and Arizona have reportedly been trying to work on a four-team deal that would include sending shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to the D-backs. MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince reported that the Tribe and D-backs have also discussed framework of a traditional trade centered around Cabrera and pitcher Trevor Bauer.
Will this complicated deal come to fruition? They rarely do, due to the many moving parts. I do think Cleveland will trade Cabrera, though not necessarily before these Meetings conclude. There is simply too much smoke not to believe there is a fire burning behind the scenes.
Keep checking back here throughout the day for rumors and reports from Nashville:
- After missing out on Shane Victorino, the Indians remains very much in the mix for free-agent outfielder Jason Bay. The club has extended him a one-year offer, and Bay is nearing his decision. The Mariners and others remain in play, too.
- Free-agent infielder Jack Hannahan has garnered interest from seven teams in Nashville, with five showing “genuine” interest. A reunion in Cleveland seems unlikely given that he has an opportunity to start or platoon elsewhere. The White Sox, Reds, Yankees and Twins have all checked in.
- The Indians handed Cody Allen the Bob Feller Award for Minor League pitcher of the year and outfielder Tim Fedroff the Lou Boudreau Award for Minor League Player of the Year. Well deserved on both fronts.
- Kevin Youkilis’ camp met with the Indians on Tuesday, and is reportedly mulling multiple offers. With the Tribe, he’d be an everyday first baseman. He has opportunities to play third base (White Sox, Yankees) elsewhere.
- 11:30 a.m. CT — The four-team trade talks are reportedly ongoing, and involve the Indians, D-backs, Rays and Rangers. ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Royals have been involved, too. Sooo… stay tuned.
- Olney also noted that the Indians are interested in free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher after swinging and missing on Victorino.
- Reporters have a luncheon with baseball’s managers today, and we also have a scheduled sit-down with Terry Francona this afternoon. Later on, we will have our daily discussion with GM Chris Antonetti. Stay tuned for highlights of both sessions.
- 3:10 p.m. CT — Indians are out on Bay, who is finalizing a Major League deal with Seattle. Bay’s is a native of Trail, B.C., which is northeast of his new home city.
- Various reports about the proposed multi-team deal describe it as being dormant for the time being. Nothing seems imminent.
- Indians have continued to show interest in Kevin Youkilis and Nick Swisher, and Mark Reynolds is also on their radar for first base.
- 7:45 p.m. CT — Been busy writing a few stories for Indians.com, but here are a few updates from the past few hours: Indians have inquired about the availability of Dodgers SS Dee Gordon, likely in case they trade Cabrera. … Along those lines, Cleveland has also reportedly shown interest in free-agent SS Stephen Drew. … Indians have met with Mark Reynolds’ reps, and continue to have a high level of interest in Kevin Youkilis and Nick Swisher. … Mike Pelfrey is reportedly on Cleveland’s radar.
- Highlights of our sit-downs with Francona and Antonetti will be on Indians.com tonight, along with a story on former player/coach/manager and long-time Indians employee Johnny Goryl, who will receive the Minor League Mike Coolbaugh Award on Thursday night. The 79-year-old Goryl is currently an advisor to the team’s player development department.
It is Day 2 of these Winter Meetings and the Indians are, well, right where they were on Day 1. There has been plenty of talk, lots of meetings, but we’ll see if anything develops into anything of substance before we depart Nashville.
It has been well documented that Cleveland is opening to hearing out trade offers for its top players, including Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Chris Perez and Justin Masterson. Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reported last night that the Tribe actually came close to dealing Cabrera.
The potential acquiring club remains a mystery, but Hoynes wrote that the Indians had the framework in place for a deal that could have netted one Major League pitcher and two “high-level” prospects. The Indians insisted on a third prospect added to the mix, and that’s when things fell apart.
What this shows is that the Indians are not going to trade a player just to trade a player. The club wants a lot in return, and is not going to budge this early in the offseason game.
The way I see it, Cabrera’s value can only go down once the season starts. This is the time to deal him: 27 years old, two All-Star games, controllable at an affordable rate for two full seasons. Cleveland should try to get as much as they can, and that is what the team is trying to do.
As for someone like Choo, I think his value could actually go up as the July 31 Trade Deadline approaches. If the right fielder — a Scott Boras client, and likely free agent next winter — gets off to a good start, he could be a highly-sought rental player for a contender in the second half.
With a rotation filled with question marks, depth is needed, and so is a strong bullpen. That is why I don’t sense as much urgency to deal the likes of Masterson or Perez. Right now, it makes the most sense for the Indians to find a taker, and the right deal, for Cabrera.
Stay tuned for more rumors and updates throughout the day…
- A reminder that the Stand Up To Cancer auction ends on Thursday. It’s a cause that hits close to home for many people, including myself. I wrote about that HERE.
- According to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com, the Mets have targeted Indians setup man Vinnie Pestano. Why not? He’s young, controllable, cheap and good. And those are all reasons why Cleveland should (and likely will) hang on to him.
- 1:20 p.m. CT — Negotiations with free-agent outfielder Shane Victorino are heating up, according to multiple reports, and the Indians continue to be in the mix. It could take a four-year contract to sign the Flyin’ Hawaiian, who also has suitors in the Reds Sox, Cubs and Yankees. The Phillies have also been mentioned, with Reds and Braves to a lesser degree.
- 1:48 p.m. CT — Rubin also checks in with a report that free-agent outfielder Jason Bay is nearing a deal with the Mariners. Bay, a native of British Columbia, would be closer to home in Seattle. The Indians have expressed interest in Bay all winter.
- 4:39 p.m. CT — Indians are out on Victorino, who has agreed to a three-year deal, per numerous reports. Boston gave him $39 million, according to FOXSports’ Ken Rosenthal. No word yet what Cleveland was offering. The Tribe is, however, still in on Bay. The earlier report was deemed “premature” by a source.
- 5:32 p.m. CT — ESPN’s Buster Olney says the D-backs have laid the groundwork for a four-team trade — currently dormant — that would net them Asdrubal Cabrera. Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com also notes that Indians have checked in with Arizona about outfielder Justin Upton. Reports have indicated that Cleveland has asked for pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs from Arizona in any deal. D-backs also have highly-touted pitcher Trevor Bauer, who would presumably be of interest as well.
- Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer hears that free-agent third baseman Jack Hannahan has a big league offer from an AL Central club. White Sox might be a fit, but so might Hannahan’s hometown Twins. Hoynes also hears that the Tribe met with Kevin Youkilis’ agent on Tuesday.
- The Indians offered Victorino a four-year contract worth more than $40 million. Ken Rosenthal pegged down the specific total at $44 million, or $11 million per season. Victorino will earn $13 million annually in Boston.
Highlights of our sit-down with Antonetti:
- Our daily chat with Antonetti took place shortly before Victorino reached his agreement with the Red Sox, so much of the session included questions related to possibly adding him to the Indians’ outfield. Other topics were addressed as well.
- On Monday, Antonetti said free agents will often ask for his vision for the team in 2013, and beyond in the case of possible multi-year signings. Asked what he tells them, Antonetti said, “Same thing that we shared with you guys at the end of the season. We have a very talented nucleus of young players around which to build. I think we feel that, if we can complement that group with the right players moving forward, we have a chance to be a very good team.”
- Asked if Indians could benefit from having another player with leadoff experience, Antonetti said, “It could. The thing we concern ourselves with is adding the best players. With some of the players we have, they have some versatility with where they can hit in the lineup. So I think we could add guys that can hit towards the top of the lineup or add guys that hit in the middle of the lineup, and adjust with our other personnel around the player that we acquire.”
- Similar to Monday, Antonetti was asked if the team’s preference would still be to keep Michael Brantley in center field if the club signed another outfielder with exeperience as both a center and left fielder. The GM said, “As we’ve said, we’re very comfortable with Michael as our center fielder. If we were to acquire a player that we felt improved our team by playing center field, then we have the ability to shift Michael over to left. But we have all the confidence in Michael playing center field and look at him as our center fielder.”
- Antonetti praised Terry Francona’s work behind the scenes in recruiting free agents: “With the information we have so far, it’s made a huge impact. As we talked yesterday, every agent who we’ve talked to, where Terry has talked to their client, has come back and said how impressed their clients were not only with the conversation, and how fired up they’d be to play for Terry, but his reputation in the game and the reputation about the environment he creates for players to play. That is certainly been a very positive dynamic in our conversations with agents.”
- Antonetti said offering three- or four-year deals was in no way related to a perceived window for contention: “I wouldn’t want to put any timeframes on it and say how many years. We have a very talented group of players. Now, again, we need to build around that and complement them and then go to Spring Training and get our work done and play games. Ultimately, that will determine how competitive we are.”
Greetings from the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville. Above is the view from our perch outside the MLB.com workroom. Below, that’s only a fraction of this hotel’s floorplan. It’s a maze. I’ve already found myself lost a couple of times, and I’ve been here before.
Over the next four days, all kinds of baseball types will be on hand for scheduled meetings in ballrooms and behind closed doors. The MLB meetings are not what make this event interesting, though. It’s the fact that this annual fest becomes a hive for offseason roster activity.
The Indians are in the market for help for the rotation, first base, left field and designated hitter. Certainly, other areas could stand to be upgraded, too. This week, Cleveland media on hand will have daily sit-downs with GM Chris Antonetti to discuss the current plan, and some of the possible moves coming.
Indians president Mark Shapiro will be here as well, along with new manager Terry Francona. On Wednesday, Francona will have a sit-down in the afternoon with reporters to field questions and give his thoughts on hat lies ahead for this Indians club.
Keep checking back here and on Indians.com/MLB.com for all the latest rumors and reports from these Winter Meetings. Make sure you are following me on Twitter (@MLBastian) as well. I will keep updating the blog as often as I can to keep you informed of the daily rumors or interviews:
- 7:45 a.m. CT — Discovered a Starbucks self-serve machine outside the main media work room. You just grab a cup, swipe a credit card and pick your blend. Boom, coffee! Welcome to the future. The machines are slowly taking over.
- 8:30 a.m. CT — MLB.com has confirmed the Plain Dealer’s report that the Indians are in the process of selling the SportsTime Ohio TV Network to Fox. The P-D estimated that the deal could be worth between $200-250 million. I was unable to confirm how accuracy of that suggested price tag.
- Word is that the Indians are asking a lot for shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo. It goes wthout saying that acquiring young pitching is a priority in any deal. There are mixed opinions on whether Cleveland is set on “blowing it up” (i.e. trading the likes of Cabrera, Choo and/or Chris Perez) or if the team plans on standing pat.
- I feel that recently non-tendered lefty John Lannan would be a great fit for the Indians. That said, I think this winter’s pitching market will play in his favor. If teams get into an over-paying range for Lannan, I don’t think Cleveland will be in the mix.
- 11:30 a.m. CT — According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the Indians had serious interest in James Loney before he signed with the Rays.
- Asdrubal Cabrera reportedly has a limited no-trade clause in his contract — can block trades to Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Nationals, Giants and Mets.
- 6 p.m. CT — We met with Antonetti in his suite a little while ago. I will follow with some highlights in a bit.
- MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince has learned that free-agent OF Grady Sizemore underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in September. He will be sidelined until at least mid-season. The guy just can’t catch a break.
- Indians have been linked to free-agent outfielder Scott Hairston.
Highlights from sit-down with Antonetti:
- The GM said the recent knee surgery for righty Corey Kluber did make starting pitching more of a priority than it already was this winter. Kluber should be ready to compete for a job in the spring. Antonetti said, “It remains a goal of ours to add alternatives to our starting rotation.”
- Asked if the team absolutely needs to add a new first baseman, Antonetti replied: “We feel we have some internal options with the guys currently on our roster and in the organization, but we’re not going to limit ourselves in the way we can potentially improve. So if there’s the right first baseman that makes sense, that we think can improve the team, we’ll look to do it.”
- Matt LaPorta isn’t on the 40-man roster, but he will be in spring trying to earn a job. Antonetti said, “It’s an important offseason for Matt to make sure he first accomplishes his [hip] rehabilitation goals and comes into Spring Training ready to earn a spot. And we’ll continue to commit the resources necessary to help him along the way.”
- Antonetti said Russ Canzler’s “most comfortable” position is first base. As for Canzler’s up-and-down showing in September, Antonetti said, “It was his first opportunity at the Major League level to get more extensive playing time. He showed some promise in the at-bats that he did get, but it’s hard for any player in their first Major League exposure to have a lot of consistency.”
- It sounds as though Antonetti is leaning toward keeping Michael Brantley in center field: “Right now, I’d expect Michael to be our center fielder. Michael has versatility to go to left if we decide that’s the best thing for our team, but we’re confident with Michael being our center fielder. We will not limit ourselves. We’ve been pretty exhaustive in our search with both trades and free agents with outfielders.”
- The Indians have allowed lefties Chris Seddon and Raffy Perez to hit free agency this winter, but Antonetti is not making acquiring left-handed relief a top priority: “[Scott] Barnes, [Nick] Hagadone, [Tony]Sipp give us three pretty good options. But, again, if there’s that right guy out there that makes sense, we’ll pursue it.”
- Antonetti also noted that he has made it clear to the agents for Raffy Perez, Jack Hannahan and Seddon that the Indians have interest in re-signing them for 2013.
- Antonetti isn’t cornering himself in terms of filling the DH role. He likes flexibility in the role, but is open to a full-time DH if it makes sense. He also would not rule out re-signing DH Travis Hafner: “
Potentially. We haven’t lost sight of that.”
- As for Sizemore, who has such familiarity with Cleveland’s training staff, Antonetti also wouldn’t rule out bringing the outfielder back. “We wouldn’t close any doors,” said the GM. “We’ve talked about it with Grady. If there’s the right fit that made sense, we’d be open-minded to it.” Of course, if Sizemore isn’t an option until at least mid-season, it seems unlikely that any club would sign him before the season.
This goes without saying at this point, but Shin-Soo Choo seems destined to don another team’s uniform in the near future. It might be later this winter. It might be during next season. It surely will be the case for Opening Day 2014.
Agent Scott Boras continues to add more writing to the wall.
Last offseason, when the idea of a contract extension seemed remotely possible, Boras called Cleveland a “developmental team” and had Choo sign a one-year deal through arbitration. This winter, Boras fired a shot at Indians ownership during the GM Meetings. The latest development is that Choo (so proud of being a Korean big leaguer) will not take part in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
It has become crystal clear that Choo’s focus is on the season ahead, which will be a contract year before he can head into free agency. Unless Choo pulls a Carlos Gonzalez and negotiates an extension with Cleveland on his own — an extremely unlikely scenario — it’s a safe bet he will hit the open market next winter.
So what should the Indians do here?
To me, it depends on how the team view’s its level of competitiveness in 2013. If the front office feels the 94-loss showing in 2012 was a fluke, and a quick turnaround with a young core is possible in the American League Central, then by all means the team should keep Choo and go for it.
If the club fizzles in the first half, well, the Tribe can try to trade Choo before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. If the team competes into the second half, and then fades (like in 2011 and 2013), then the Indians can at least try to get some Draft compensation.
Can anyone really expect a quick turnaround, though? It’s certainly not impossible, but it’s highly unlikely. This is a situation that could take several years to reverse and that is why I think Cleveland should try to get as much as they can for Choo right now. The Indians explored the market for him this past July, and they should do the same this winter.
In July, Cleveland was rumored to be in talks with the Pirates about a trade for Choo that would’ve included outfield prospect (and right-handed hitter!) Starling Marte. The deal fell through, probably because the Indians wanted one of Pittsburgh’s impact pitching prospects, too.
That was when the acquiring club would’ve had a season and a half of Choo, though. Right now, Cleveland can only offer one guaranteed year of performance from Choo, and the acquiring club would need to take on whatever salary the right fielder nets through his final arbitration year. That could be around $7-8 million.
If Pittsburgh would’ve been willing to offer Marte and a top pitching prospect, the trade would seem like a no-brainer. That is the type of deal I think the Indians should try to pursue. Will they get it? Twelve combined years of control vs. one? That’s tough to say right now.
For those curious what Choo could earn on the open market, paying close attention to Michael Bourn’s (a Boras client, too) deal through free agency this winter could be a good gauge of the direction Boras goes. Another player to monitor is outfielder Hunter Pence, who is in his final arb year right now and will be a free agent next winter.
Why am I selecting those two for comparisons? Check out their respective showings from 2008-12 — they each fall in the 25-30 age range for that stretch – combined with their respective output from 2012.
Depending on what your personal preference, you could make a case for either Choo, Bourn or Pence as being the most valuable of the three players. Choo earned $4.9 million in 2012 in his second arb year, while Bourn made $6.845 million in his final arb year and Pence made $10.4 in his second arb year.
If Choo lasts until the end of 2013 with the Indians, the club could make a one-year qualifying offer to him in order to potentially net Draft compensation. This winter, such an offer was worth $13.3 million. That number will surely go up a touch next winter based on 2012 salaries.
It seems fair to say that Choo will easily command $10+ million annually as a free agent on a multi-year deal. We’ll know that for sure once we see what Bourn signs for this offseason under Boras’ watch. But, Choo’s free-agent contract will almost surely be someone else’s issue, not Cleveland’s.
These types of comparisons are not only important for free-agent contract talks, but also for trade discussions. Like an agent trying to sell his free agent to a purchasing team, a team needs to sell a player’s abilities to possible acquiring clubs in order to get the most out of a trade.
The Indians have plenty of data they could throw a team’s way. For example, there is this: since 2008, only nine players have achieved a slash line of at least .290/.380/.470 with at least 600 games played. That list includes Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Joey Votto, Joe Mauer, Chipper Jones and Choo. Not too shabby.
If you add in plateaus of 80 home runs 150 doubles, 340 RBIs and 350 runs scored, then Mauer and Jones are dropped from the list. Add in at least 80 stolen bases, and that exclusive list is trimmed down to just one player: Choo.
Cleveland has plenty of reasons to argue Choo is a special player, and that is why the team needs to explore getting as much in return for him as possible over the next few months.
The Indians are willing to listen to trade offers for a number of their players, but right fielder Shin-Soo Choo seems the likeliest candidate to be moved. He is in his final year of arbitration eligibility and is represented by uber agent Scott Boras.
Boras is famous for taking his players to free agency rather than exploring contract extensions. That is a large part of the reason Cleveland has not been able to sign Choo to a multi-year deal, despite the club’s efforts. During the recent GM Meetings, Boras continued to lay the groundwork for Choo’s likely exit out of Cleveland by firing a shot at Indians ownership.
“Choo’s let it be known that he has a desire to win,” Boras told a group of reporters. “I think the ownership in Cleveland, foundationally, they’re going to have to illustrate some dynamics with new revenues and where they stand about what they do to show their fan base and their players who they are in competing.
“That’s a new calling that they are going to have to bring forth to give players, and everybody involved, [an idea] about what their intentions are in their ownership.”
Indians GM Chris Antonetti chose not to get into a war of words with Boras.
“I don’t think we really need to react to that,” Antonetti said. “We obviously have to conduct business the way we think it makes sense for the franchise.”
As for Choo?
“We have, on numerous occasions, looked to try to extend Choo’s stay in Cleveland,” Antonetti said. “We’ve looked to extend his contract. We just haven’t been able to reach an agreement.”
Under the circumstances, it makes sense for the Indians to be open minded about trading Choo this offseason, or prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Otherwise, Cleveland will likely be in line for Draft compensation if/when Choo hits free agency next winter.
Other items of note:
- Kevin Youkilis fits a need for the Indians. He provides some pop from the right side and can fill the hole at first base. Plus, he can add some veteran leadership to a young clubhouse. All the signs point to Cleveland having interest in the free agent, and the club does. Other teams reported to be interested: Mariners, Marlins, Phillies, Dodgers and White Sox.
- The Indians have been rumored to have some level of interest in outfielder Jason Bay. Free-agent outfielder Melky Cabrera might also be a player Cleveland targets in its search for outfield help this winter. The list of targets is undoubtedly long, and the Tribe is likely in the early stages of talks at this point.
- According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the Indians are one of several teams who have shown interest in outfielder Shane Victorino. Texas and Boston have also been mentioned as potential suitors.
- The Indians lack impact pitching prospects at the upper level of their farm system, so that is something the club will look to acquire as part of any trade (for Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Masterson or Chris Perez, among others). So, it was not surprising that ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the Tribe has sought young arms as part of trade discussions for Cabrera.
The Indians are in the market for help at first base, left field, designated hitter and in the rotation this winter. Coming off a 94-loss season, the club has potential trading chips in Shin-Soo Choo, Chris Perez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Masterson, among others.
Here are some recent rumors and reports on the Tribe:
- The Indians are reportedly one of several teams with interest in South Korean lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu. Teams needed to turn in posting bids for the 25-year-old lefty on Thursday. Other clubs reportedly with interest are the Cubs, Rangers, Phillies and Angels.
- The Red Sox and Indians have had talks about the potential avaiability of Choo and Masterson, per Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. Choo is coming off a solid year, but is a Scott Boras client and will be eligible for free agency next winter. Masterson is coming off a down year, but is under control for two more years, and had a strong 2011 showing.
- The Indians have reported interest in free-agent 1B/3B Kevin Youkilis. Other teams mentioned in rumors have been the Red Sox and Phillies. In Cleveland, Youkilies could be reunited with manager Terry Francona, and fill the Tribe’s need for a first baseman with some pop.
- According to reports coming out of St. Louis, the Cardinals have interst in Cabrera. Cleveland traded for infielder Mike Aviles last week, fueling speculation that Cabrera could be on the block. GM Chris Antonetti has said a few times that the Indians are not shopping Cabrera and expect him to be the club’s Opening Day shortstop.
- Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reported that free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher has garnered interest from Texas, Seattle and three other teams so far. The Indians might have interest, especially if Choo is on the block.
- Outfielder Grady Sizemore, coming off a variety of health woes and with zero games logged in 2012, hopes to play in 2013. According to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, the Red Sox have checked in on Sizemore. The Indians have not ruled out bringing Sizemore back, but it would likely need to be on a Minor League contract.