Results tagged ‘ Shin-Soo Choo ’

Where were you…

gavel%203.jpg… the last time the Indians went to an arbitration hearing?

I was 8 years old, growing up in Chicago and rooting on the Bulls as they pushed their way to their first NBA title. Hey, um, sorry about “The Shot,” by the way.

(True story tangent: My mom bought me a shirt that said “Air Jordan” when I was a little kid. She seriously thought it was an airline. Had no idea there was some basketball superstar with my name. God Bless her.)

Moving on…

The last time the Indians went to an arbitration hearing was 1991. Second baseman Jerry Browne wanted $1.1 million and pitcher Greg Swindell wanted $2.025 million. The sides did not budge. Arbitration hearings were required. Browne lost. Swindell won.

I’m bringing this up because tomorrow (Jan. 5) is the first day players can officially file for arbitration. Cleveland has four players — Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and the Pitchers Perez — who fall into that category. Players file between Wednesday and Jan. 15, salary figures are due to be exchanged on Jan. 18 and the hearings, if necessary, run from Feb. 1-21.

When I covered the Blue Jays last winter, GM Alex Anthopoulos had a policy of setting an internal deadline for negotiations. In short, if he did not avoid arbitration by settling on a contract prior to the exchange date, then he would go to a hearing with the player in question. Anthopoulos believed it was an effective tool for getting talks done fast, wasting no one’s time. Either agree to a deal or we’re done talking and it’ll be settled at a hearing.

I asked Indians GM Chris Antonetti if he might use a similar policy and he said it was not something the Tribe did — not as a blanket policy anyway. Antonetti said each contract would be considered on a case-to-base basis and if an internal deadline was required, they’d implement one. Behind-the-scenes tactics aside, expect the Indians to settle with all four of their eligible players.

I’d expect Choo to reach a deal somewhere between $3 million or $4 million in his first year of eligibility. I find it hard to believe that the Tribe will sign him to a long-term contract this winter. I could be wrong, but Choo’s agent, Scott Boras, did not seem too optimistic about the possibility of agreeing to an extension this winter when he addressed the issue at the Winter Meetings.

Chris Perez is eligible for the first time due to reaching Super 2 status and Cabrera is also a first-time arbitration candidate. Rafael Perez is in his second go-round after settling on a $795K contract for last season. The Indians already avoided arbitration with Jensen Lewis ($650K for 2011) and Joe Smith ($870K plus incentives for ’11).

And, in case you missed it, here’s the latest edition of the Indians Inbox on Indians.com. Keep sending those questions to IndiansInbox@gmail.com.

Last, Go Buckeyes! That actually was painful to type for me, but after the New Years Day showing by the Big 10, I’m willing to put our differences aside and root for THE Ohio State University. Just this once.

–JB 

 

There and Back Again


Kearns.jpgIt was a productive week around the new Bastian home.

We got all the strawberry-and-jam wallpaper removed from the kitchen, cleaned out the junk the previous owners left in our basement (not the housewarming gift we wanted), redid a bathroom and installed a new light fixture without getting electrocuted. And, I got all my Christmas shopping done.

Alas, my vacation — with snow shoveling and sick baby included — has expired. It was good to take a break, but I’m also glad to be back. Today, first day back on the clock has been a busy one, too. The Indians announced that they signed free-agent outfielder Austin Kearns to a one-year contract.

The Kearns signing — worth a base of $1.3 million, plus incentives — marks the first Major League signing by Chris Antonetti since he assumed the role of Indians general manager. Not exactly an earth-shattering move or one fans aren’t familiar with. Shoot, Kearns was brought in by the Tribe last offseason, too.

What Kearns does is checks one item off Cleveland’s Christmas list. The Tribe has their right-handed-hitting outfielder to offset the all-lefty combo of Michael Brantley, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo. Kearns can man all three spots and could potentially see limited action as a designated hitter.

Other items of note:

  • Was saddened by the news of Indians great Bob Feller’s passing while I was away last week. Anthony Castrovince wrote a lovely piece as part of MLB.com’s tribute to Feller. I never had the chance to chat with Feller, but have read so much about him over the years. His story sounds like the stuff of tall tales. Most amazing is the fact that it’s all true. RIP, Mr. Feller. Cleveland and the United States as a whole lost a legendary man.
  • Also while I was gone, the Indians inked shortstop Adam Everett to a Minor League contract. He will come to camp to compete for the utility infielder’s role. Everett provides depth at shortstop, but the Tribe feels he can also man second base or third base if necessary. And, just because Everett is in the fold, this doesn’t mean the Indians are no longer looking for infield help.
  • Two notes related to Class A Kinston: 1.) The club has been sold and is set to move to Zebulon, N.C., following the 2011 season; 2.) The Indians signed Japanese righty Toru Murata to a Minor League deal over the weekend and he might open the year with Kinston. Murata’s deal is strictly of the Minor League variety and he is not being invited to Spring Training with the big league club.
  • While the Indians have not officially announced the signing of free-agent outfielder Travis Buck, the sides have reached an agreement on a Minor League deal with a spring invite. Buck’s deal would be worth $625,000 if he makes the Major League roster. A source indicated that there were still steps to complete in the signing process. See: reviewing medical records provided by Oakland.
  • In order to place Kearns on the 40-man roster, the Indians will need to make a move to vacate a spot. Antonetti said Monday that he anticipates designating a player for assignment. Could Shelley Duncan be a possibility? Well, he’s in the mix for the extra outfielder’s job as well as a part-time role as a right-handed DH “provided he’s on the roster,” as Antonetti worded it. We’ll know the move in the next day or two.
  • When discussing that “extra” outfield role off the bench, Antonetti rattled off the names of Duncan, Trevor Crowe and Chad Huffman (claimed off waivers from the Yankees in September). Obviously, Buck would figure into that mix as well. Something to ponder, might be good to have someone around who can backup Matt LaPorta at first base besides catcher Carlos Santana. Duncan fits that description, as does Jordan Brown.
  • As for the reports out there that the Indians have scouted veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon, here’s all Antonetti would say: “We’ve scouted him in the Dominican and we’ll continue to watch him pitch. We’ve had some pretty good reports on him. His last outing wasn’t exceptionally good, but the others prior to that he pitched pretty well.” Indians are in the market for a veteran starter. Just saying.
  • Asked if the search for third base help could last into the spring, Antonetti said “it potentially could.” He said the Indians are “content” with going into Spring Training with the current internal options. The front-runners would seem to be Jayson Nix, Jason Donald and Jack Hannahan. Donald is also in the mix at second. This is where additional help from a guy like Everett comes into play as well.
  • Speaking of Nix, he ran into a bit of a hiccup recently during winter ball in Puerto Rico. After being hit in the head by a pitch, Nix missed nine games. He is feeling better and has returned to action. Nix headed to Puerto Rico in order to work on his defense at third base, one way to hopefully be ready to compete for the job there this spring.

In case you missed it, the latest edition of the Inbox is also up on indians.com.

–JB

Winter Meetings: Day 3

IMG_20101208_105621.jpgGreetings again from lovely Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Day III of these Winter Meetings are here…

…and the Indians are still quiet.

For those of you thinking I’m out working on my tan and soaking up the Florida sun, you can rest assure that is not the case. Life at the Meetings is a constant mix of lobby circling and workroom working.

And it’s cold here. OK, “cold” is a bit much. It’s chilly. There’s no snow, so I’m not going to start complaining about the weather in Florida. Well, I won’t complain much anyway.

As for your Tribe, they continue to explore trades and entertain the idea of signing a handful of inexpensive free agents. It’s about building depth right now, finding a way to guard against injuries and also putting the team in a good position to keep young players on their development plans.

That is where a player like Nick Punto fits into the equation. The Indians have unanswered questions at third base, second base and in the backup role at short. Punto can assist at all three positions, taking some heat off the youngsters and allowing Cleveland to avoid rushing players into prominent roles before they’re deemed ready for such a task.

The Indians met with the agent for Punto on Tuesday and might meet again before the Meetings conclude. There appears to be mutual interest, but I’m not expecting a signing to come to fruition before we hop on our planes and fly back to C-town. Then again, one never knows. Things have a way of coming together fast sometimes.

One meeting on tap today for the Tribe involves preparation for Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. The Indians’ 40-man roster is currently at capacity, so Cleveland will meet this afternoon to determine whether it makes sense to vacate a spot in order to try to select someone in the Draft. A couple of third basemen eligible for selection are Brad Emaus (Toronto) and Taylor Green (Milwaukee).

Make sure you keep checking back here on the blog, reading indians.com and following along on Twitter for updates throughout the day. We’re scheduled to have lunch with manager Manny Acta this afternoon and we’ll meet with GM Chris Antonetti a bit later.

Stay tuned for more…

UPDATE: 2:11 p.m. ET — Following lunch with Acta and Indians pitching coach Tim Belcher, among others (including members of the Reds media corps and manager Dusty Baker), chatted with uberagent Scott Boras. Boras said that he has not met with Antonetti yet about a possible contract extension for Tribe outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Boras added that he does not anticipate meeting with the Indians GM about the matter at the Winter Meetings.

UPDATE: 2:29 p.m. ET — Indians make C Paul Phillips signing official. Minor League contract with an invite to attend Spring Training with the big league club.

UPDATE: 3:27 p.m. ET — CHOO EXTENSION TALKS

Scott Boras, the agent for Shin-Soo Choo, said on Wednesday that he has not met with Indians general manager Chris Antonetti about a contract extension for the star outfielder. Boras added that he did not expect to discuss the matter at the Winter Meetings.

“I don’t think I’ll be doing a lot of discussing on those fronts right now,” Boras said.

Thumbnail image for Boras.jpgAntonetti said earlier this week that such talks would likely come “naturally” due to the fact that he would need to negotiate an arbitration deal with Choo later this winter. Boras did not necessarily see it the same way.

“Most arbitration discussions don’t end in multi-year contracts, that’s for sure,” Boras said. “But, again, I’ve not had that discussion with Chris yet.”

Boras noted that a long-term deal with Cleveland could be more difficult than with other teams. The Indians finished last in the league in attendance in 2010, is scaling back its payroll and plans on fielding a young roster this coming season.

“That’s going to be Shin-Soo’s decision about what he may want to do or not do,” Boras said. “I do think it’s tougher, it’s always tougher, in situations where you’re a club that’s a developmental team, to know where the club’s going to be two or three years from now. So, those situations are always a little more difficult.

“But, again, we listen to every team and pass it on to the player and see what he says.”

UPDATE: 3:58 p.m. ET — Two items. 1) Mariners are reportedly interested in Indians second baseman Luis Valbuena. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Tribe had not discussed him with Seattle. 2) Among other things Boras talked about, he said the A’s still have interest in free-agent 3B Adrian Beltre. If that’s true, it is possible that the Indians would approach Oakland about potentially trading for 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff.

UPDATE: 6:51 p.m. ET — In a sit-down with Antonetti, the Indians GM said he is hopeful that he will be able to chat with Boras about Choo’s contract situation “shortly after the Winter Meeetings.” Antonetti noted that Choo has expressed optimism about the club’s future in conversations they’ve had. The GM has every intention of talking about an extension.

ETCETERA: The Indians are still in the process of determining whether they want to clear a spot on the 40-man roster in order to make a selection in the Rule 5 Draft. Cleveland’s roster is  at capacity and the club has the seventh pick (technically eighth due to a compensation pick earlier in the Draft for Arizona). Antonetti said there are some “intriguing” pitchers available, and the Tribe is probably also considering some of the third base/infield options out there. … Talked some with pitching coach Tim Belcher today about the rotation. He had high praise for Carlos Carrasco, who is the front-runner for the fourth spot on the staff. The fifth is likely down to Jeanmar Gomez, Josh Tomlin and David Huff. Belcher is hopeful that Huff will be able to bounce back from his 2-11 showing last year. Cleveland’s rotation could certainly benefit from having a lefty in the mix for a job. Belcher also said, in a perfect world, he believes the rotation could benefit from having a more experienced arm added to the mix this winter. … There was a rumor floating out there that the Indians had some interest in bringing Bartolo Colon back. I wouldn’t put too much stock into that one.

More tomorrow…

~JB

Winter Meetings: Day 2

WMpic.jpgWelcome to Day 2 of the Winter Meetings here in the land of walking, talking mice.

After two Meetings here at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin resort, I am now a pro at navigating my way around the lobby. Not sure how this skill will help me later in life.

As an aside, a big plus to being here this week if the fact that MLBastian Jr. is really into Mickey right now. One stop in a gift shop and my Christmas shopping will be done for the little man this week. Shhh, don’t tell him!

Things are still quiet on the Tribe front. There’s the rumors of having interest in outfielder Fred Lewis (a source told me the Indians did indeed inquire about him, but so have more than half a dozen other teams), and maybe Jeff Francoeur (not seeing it happening) or Nick Punto (as a utility man).

If those seem like minor discussions, well that’s because they are, and don’t expect the Tribe to be in on any big names this week or later this winter. The biggest name they’ll be talking about is Shin-Soo Choo, and that’ll be floating the idea of an extension with agent Scott Boras.

So, it’s more of the same right now here on Day 2. Make sure you keep checking back here on the blog, reading indians.com and following along on Twitter for updates throughout the day. We’ll be meeting again with GM Chris Antonetti this afternoon.

Stay tuned…

UPDATE: 5:51 p.m. ET — One online rumor indicated that the Indians had interest in free-agent shortstop Adam Everett. Probably the same type of infield utility role that the Tribe reportedly is interested in having free-agent infielder Nick Punto fill. Without going into specifics, Antonetti said today that the club could benefit from adding an extra infielder. More on our chat with Antonetti in a bit.

UPDATE: 8:13 p.m. ET — Indians are close to signing free-agent catcher Paul Phillips, formerly of the Rockies. Deal is not done, but would be a Minor League contract with a Spring Training invite. Another rumor swirling is that Mariners have interest in trading for Indians infielder Luis Valbuena.

UPDATE: 8:38 p.m. ET — The Indians met with the representative for free-agent infielder Nick Punto on Tuesday. Cleveland also met with a handful of other free agents as well.

Notes and quotes from Day 2:

  • The Indians are out of the mix for 3B Edwin Encarnacion. His performance in the field is simply too much of a risk to put behind a cast of young rotation arms, especially when the group relies so much on grounders. EE’s bat is intriguing, but not to the point that his fielding issues can be ignored.
  • Even though CF Grady Sizemore is making positive strides in his comeback from microfracture surgery on his left knee, the Indians have to be prepared in the event he isn’t ready for Opening Day. OF Michael Brantley is the favorite to move to center/leadoff if Sizemore is not fully recovered. The Indians have also inquired about free-agent Fred Lewis, though he only seems like a fit if the Indians do not currently believe Sizemore will return in time for Opening Day.
  • The more immediate concern in the outfield is obtaining a right-handed hitter. The addition would simply be a player who could provide a day off for the regulars on days when a lefty was on the mound. Don’t expect Jeff Francouer in an Indians’ jersey, though. His price is rising with multiple teams interested.
  • Antonetti noted that Jason Donald will see time at multiple infield spots in the spring. Donald remains in the mix for the starting role at second base. The Tribe could also benefit from more stability behind shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Punto would help in that regard, providing more depth around the infield.
  • Catcher Carlos Santana (left knee) is back in Arizona rehabbing. Antonetti said his rehab has gone well and he will likely be slightly ahead of Sizemore when Spring Training begins. That said, Sizemore remains on his initial progression and should resume running activities some time in January.
  • Asked of Jason Kipnis could be in the mix for the starting job at second base, Antonetti said you can’t rule anything out. Maybe so, but Kipnis has yet to play one inning at Triple-A. It seems more realistic that Cord Phelps makes a push for a roster job out of camp than Kipnis, who could benefit from more time on the farm.
  • I don’t expect the Indians to leave these Meetings with a new rotation member. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tribe does not add an arm to its staff. If they do, it will probably be a late-offseason add. Manager Manny Acta and Antonetti are on the same page in terms of the belief that there is no reason to add a veteran simply to add a veteran. Leadership and mentoring are great attributes, but the Indians are more interested in quality innings. If the veteran options out there are not clear upgrades, the Tribe will likely stick with its developing in-house alternatives. 

More tomorrow…

~JB

Winter Meetings: Day 1

Swan-and-Dolphin-Hotel-Birthday-Orlando-794146.jpgSitting here in the media work room at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort, soaking up all that is Day 1 of the Winter Meetings.

Teams have been busy leading up to this year’s annual offseason gathering, with Adam Dunn signing with the White Sox, Jayson Werth inking a seven-year pact with the Nationals, the Blue Jays trading away Shaun Marcum and the Red Sox pulling off a swap with San Diego to reel in Adrian Gonzalez.

As for your Indians? Well, don’t expect any huge, headline-hogging news this week in Lake Buena Vista. Tribe GM Chris Antonetti will surely be kicking the tires on some third base options, as well as looking into finding a starting pitcher, a backup catcher and a right-handed-hitting outfielder. Antonetti might also be hunting down uberagent Scott Boras for a chat about an extension for Shin-Soo Choo.

Us Cleveland scribes will meet with Antonetti this afternoon and Indians manager Manny Acta is scheduled to hold his sit-down today at 4 p.m. ET. While the Indians might not be the most active team at these Winter Meetings, I’ll do my best to keep up up to date on all that’s going on with the club.

Keep checking back here on the blog, reading indians.com and following along on Twitter.

Stay tuned for more…

UPDATE — 3:51 p.m. ET: One rumor making the rounds is that the Indians have some level of interest in free-agent outfielder Jeff Francoeur. The Royals, Phillies and Rockies have also been tabbed as suitors for the outfielder. The Tribe is in the market for a right-handed-hitting outfielder to help break-up the all-lefty combo of Michael Brantley, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo.

UPDATE — 5:49 p.m. ET:
The Indians, along with more than half a dozen teams, have reportedly inquired about outfielder Fred Lewis. On the surface, this doesn’t seem to be a fit. The Tribe already has three lefty outfielders and Lewis became increasingly unhappy as his playing time decreased down the stretch last season with the Blue Jays.

Notes & quotes from Day 1:

  • Antonetti would not spill the beans when asked if he has met or plans to meet with Boras this week to continue talks about an extension for Choo. He did say that they will have to talk because Choo is eligible for arbitration, so talks of an extension will “naturally” be a part of the process. The GM noted that he is reluctant to discuss long-term deals once the regular season has started.
  • In discussing the situation at third base, Acta said that Jason Donald, Jayson Nix and Cord Phelps could all be in the mix for the job, barring an offseason addition. “There is a chance of everything in the world,” Acta said. “There is a chance. We’re very deep and our depth is great up the middle.”
  • Antonetti and Acta both emphasized the importance of having a strong defender at third base, especially due to having a young all-righty rotation that is so reliant on ground balls. That would seemingly rule out Encarnacion. But, Antonetti left the door open by saying, “If there’s an exceptional offensive player available at that position that may not be as strong defensively, we’ll be open-minded to that as well.” So, yeah…
  • Antonetti is not one to dive into specifics, but I asked him if there were any surprise decisions at the non-tender deadline. Maybe the Tribe had its eyes on someone who they thought would become a free-agent. Antonetti replied, “Up to that point you have dialogue with teams to get some sense. There may have been a couple of surprises on either side, here or there, but for the most part a lot of the guys we expected to be non-tendered were non-tendered.” More to the point, the Indians probably would’ve preferred the A’s non-tender Kevin Kouzmanoff — not Encarnacion.
  • If the Indians are going to find rotation help through free agency, a signing is not likely to happen this week at the Meetings. The Tribe needs more time to see how the market develops. “We’re not in a position to preempt the market,” said the GM. Obviously, if the Tribe is looking at trades, it could come sooner rather than later. It’s been pretty quiet on that front.
  •  Antonetti offered some unsolicited praise for former GM Pat Gillick, who was voted into baseball’s Hall of Fame on Monday. Said the Indians GM: “I’m elated at the fact that Gillick got elected to the Hall of Fame. That is great. There’s not a classier, more respected person in all of baseball than Pat. He’s so deserving of that.”
  • Acta noted that center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) passed a checkup on Sunday and remains on target for Opening Day. So far, the same can be said for catcher Carlos Santana, who is also making his way back from a left knee operation.
  • While you can never have enough pitching, Acta likes the way his bullpen is set up for the time being. As things currently stand, it’s closer Chris Perez, with Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, Jensen Lewis and Joe Smith under contract. Then, there will be a bevy of arms in the mix for the other jobs. Names that quickly rolled off Acta’s tongue were Josh Judy, Zach Putnam, Bryce Stowell and Vinnie Pestano.
  • Asked about Luis Valbueno’s play in winter ball in Venezuela (.271 average, .341 on-base in 48 games), Acta had this to say: “The main thing is Luis’ playing. He needs to get
    his confidence back. Hopefully before the year’s over, he gets up there in the .270s, .280s, .300s, and comes to camp re-energized.”

More tomorrow…

~JB

Please be tender

lebron-james-yankees-hat.jpgIf anyone reading this is planning on taking their talents to The Q tonight to, ahem, welcome You Know Who back to Cleveland, just don’t do anything dumb. Booing loudly is good. Clever heckling is always acceptable. Burning jerseys and throwing things? Not cool.
 
No one wants to see a repeat of The Malice at the Palace.
 
And, hey, after you’ve strained your vocal chords at the Cavs game, you can continue to release your frustration with some good old-fashioned snow tubing at Progressive Field. Fans with ticket stubs from tonight’s Cavs-Heat game will be offered discounted $10 tickets to all Snow Days activites over at the Tribe’s home ballpark.
 
While fans inside The Q will be airing their thoughts about “The Decision”, members of the Indians front office will be making some decisions of their own across the street. Yes, pun completely intended. You’ll get used to my corny sense of humor, or you’ll be forced to put up with it at least.
 
Tonight at midnight ET marks the deadline to tender 2011 contracts to all players on a 40-man roster. The players most affected by the deadline are typically those who are eligible for arbitration. For Cleveland, that includes relievers Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, Jensen Lewis and Joe Smith, as well as outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.
 
The Tribe will almost certainly offer contracts to The Pitchers Perez, along with Big League Choo and Cabrera (anyone got a nickname for him?). Lewis and Smith are the two non-tender candidates, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Indians opt to tender contracts to all of their rostered players.
 
We’ll know more later tonight. Stay tuned…

UPDATE: The Indians have tendered contracts to all of their rostered players affected by Thursday’s deadline. Within that, the Tribe avoided arbitration with right-handers Jensen Lewis and Joe Smith with one-year contracts. Lewis signed for $650,000 and Smith for $870,000 plus incentives.
 
~JB

Manny being Manny

ActaBatterhorn.jpgIt’s been an interesting few days for Indians manager Manny Acta. Fresh off a mini-vacation with his family to a remote beach area in his native Dominican Republic, Acta was in Cleveland, hands gripped tightly to an inflatable tube as he flew down the Batterhorn at Snow Days at Progressive Field.
 
That was just Saturday.
 
On Sunday, Acta attended his first NFL game, watching the Browns edge out the Panthers, 24-23. Acta was sporting an Indians winter hat at the game, but he said he was proudly wearing and waving a bright orange foam finger as he cheered on Cleveland’s team.
 
“It was a good experience,” Acta said with a smile. “And we won. Regardless of how, and who we beat, we won.”

Acta is soaking up all things Cleveland — evidenced by his usage of the word “we” when talking about the Browns.
 
He raved about watching Browns running back Peyton Hillis plow through defenders, even referencing the hard-nosed back when asked if Grady Sizemore might need to adjust his all-out style in light of his recent knee injury.
 
“That’s just the way he’s wired,” Acta said. “That’s like asking Hillis to stop running people over.”
 
Acta took the time to gather with reporters on Monday afternoon for a casual lunch, followed by a question-and-answer session. Monday evening Acta was scheduled to hold a chat with Indians’ season-ticket holders as well. Here are a few highlights of Acta’s discussion with us local scribes today
 

  • On more than one occastion, Acta noted that the non-tender date is coming up. Considering Cleveland is limited in what it can do financially, looking to this second wave of free agents — typically less-expensive options — might be a way for the club to solve the holes at third base and in the rotation. Thursday is baseball’s non-tender deadline.
  • Asked about third base, Acta said, “We’ll see what’s out there. if not, we’re prepared to go with our in-house candidates.” He took a slightly different route when answering about the club’s search for rotation help. “We should be able to add a guy or two and have him compete. There are some guys that are going to go to Spring Training to compete for us who probably still need some more seasoning in the Minor Leagues.”
  • One internal option for third base is Jayson Nix, who is working on his defense at the position at winter ball in Puerto Rico. That said, Acta noted that Nix’s performance in P.R. will not dictate whether the Tribe seeks an addition at the hot corner. “If that would be the case, then I would be tomorrow sitting in Puerto Rico watching him play,” Acta said with a chuckle. “You have to give it to him. Not too many guys will take the challenge and go to winter ball and get better. He’s just trying to make himself more versatile.”
  • There was no real update on Sizemore, but Acta said he did see the center fielder when the manager was in Arizona to see some Fall League action. Understandably, Acta said the club will take a very conservative approach with Sizemore in the spring, but the manager added that, “Until I hear anything different, he’s our center fielder. But, we have to get to Spring Training and see how he is and how things develop.”
  • Acta maintained his sense of humor when asked about the Tribe’s poor luck with injuries: “My seventh, eighth or ninth hitter never went down,” he quipped. The manager is excited about the possibility of having both Sizemore and catcher Carlos Santana back at full strength and knows that a pile of injuries present a big problem for teams like the Indians. “It’s something that is tough to absorb when you’re a team rebuilding and you don’t have the depth or the flexibility to just go grab somebody else.”
  • Acta noted that there are definitely some spots in the Indians’ bullpen that are “up for grabs.” Said the manager: “We have Chris Perez and we have the two lefties [Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez]. Then we have [Joe] Smith and the rest of the guys. Nothing is set in stone when it comes to that, so guys like [Josh] Judy, he could come into Spring Training and who knows? He could win a spot. We’re not dead set on the rest of those guys.”
  • When it comes to leadership within the clubhouse, Acta said he expected guys like Chris Perez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo to play a larger role come 2011. Acta has no problem with younger guys stepping up, either: “I just don’t know who told people you have to be a 10-year veteran to be a leader.” Then again… “I’ll take pitching and defense over leadership,” Acta quipped.
  • Acta was asked for his thoughts about Indians CEO Paul Dolan’s recent comments about this not being the right time to spend on free agents. Replied Acta: “It doesn’t upset me, because … he also said that when he feels it’s the right time, he will spend.” After referencing the Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa signings of nto so long ago, Acta added: “My job is actually to make these guys better and to make Paul spend. … I feel very confident about what we have here. He was pretty clear about that, that when he thinks it’s the right time, he’ll do it, and he has done it.”

Makes you wonder…

… can Hillis play third base?

~JB

     

Notes and quotes

BallinNet.jpgYikes, that blog title isn’t clever at all. As a Seinfeld fan, I’d love to use “Excruciating minutiae” but I can’t step on Castroturf’s, um, well, turf. So I’m opening it up to the floor for suggestions. What should I call these posts when I dive headfirst into a bunch of Tribe-related topics covered today? Let’s here what you’ve got. Otherwise, I’ll have to let my utilitze my corny sense of humor.

  • First off, before I delve into anything else, my 14-month old son learned how to say “baseball” today. Well, OK, it sounds more like “bah-bawl”, but we’ve got to start somewhere. I just finished piecing together my new office in my new Ohio home and on the walls are framed black and white photos I’ve taken over the years. There is one that he really likes, a photo I took in Spring Training of a home run ball hanging in the netting of a fence (above). He points at it and starts saying “Bah-bawl!” I’m one proud papa.
  • Us Tribe scribes spoke with GM Chris Antonetti tonight about Shin-Soo Choo’s path to gold (and military exemption), among other topics. The Indians have yet to hear from the Korean Baseball Office concerning the status of Choo’s military requirement, but have no fear, the Indians fully expect the outfielder to be exempted from the 30-month obligation. Antonetti said he hopes to know officially in the next 12-24 hours.
  • As for Choo’s performance (.571, 3 HR, 11 RBIs in 5 games), Antonetti was more than impressed. “It’s hard to imagine a more presure-filled environment than playing under the circumstances Choo was playing in,” Antonetti said. “It’s certainly a great accomplishment for him and Team Korea to win the gold medal at a very competitive tournament and to perform exceptionally well in helping lead Team Korea to the gold.”
  • Now, about that contract extension. Well, predictably, Antonetti did not go into much detail about any possible ongoing talks with agent Scott Boras about a long-term deal with Choo. Antonetti was quick to remind that Choo (arbitration eligible this winter) is controllable for the next three years. That said, the GM said he plans on continuing dialogue with Boras at some point this winter.
  • Friday marked the final day for clubs to add players to their 40-man roster in preparation for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. The Indians had five vacant spots and they used every last one of them. Added to the roster were infielder Jared Goedert, left-hander Nick Hagadone, right-hander Josh Judy, righty Corey Kluber and righty Zach McAllister.
  • One notable player left unprotected is right-hander Adam Miller. The former first-round pick has logged an inning in the past two years and is coming back from multiple finger operations. Miller is trying to make a comeback as a reliever and Antonetti said the pitcher hit around 90-91 in a game appearance in Instructional League. In that outing, Miller threw both fastballs and sliders. Until we get to spring, and the Indians can closely monitor Miller’s progress, his status for 2011 remains an unknown.
  • Others of note who are eligible for the Rule 5 from Cleveland’s system? Minor Leaguer Josh Rodriguez, who has the ability to man multiple infield and outfield positions. Other notables include Beau Mills, Matt McBride, Jerad Head, Carlton Smith and Juan Diaz. I have my doubts about any of the players listed being taken in the Draft by another club.
  • Antonetti said he has some productive talks at the GM Meetings earlier this week with rival GMs, “laying the groundwork” to see if there might be potential fits for trades. Given Cleveland’s financial situation, trades seem like a more likely route for making additions. That, or some late-offseason signings that won’t break the bank. Third base and starting pitching remain the top two priorities.
  • As for that possible addition to the rotation, Antonetti said reliability is the main trait the Tribe is seeking. Said the GM: “We have depth. We have options. There are any number of guys, we can probably go eight or nine or 10 deep, that could pitch at the Major League level for us next year. I think the one thing we lack in our rotation is some reliability. It’s a very young rotation. I think our oldest starter next year is 27 and we have two guys in Carmona and Masterson who have thrown over 180 innings in a season. So while it’s a very talented group, there’s not a lot of certainty with it and I think that’s one of the things we would look to potentially address this offseason if we could.”
  • Beyond that and potentially bringing in a new third baseman? Antonetti said adding another catcher and a right-handed-hitting outfielder are other areas possibly in need of addressing. Said the GM: “There are a couple of other areas where we could add depth. Obviously, we have two very good catchers in Carlos Santana and Lou Marson, but we could look certainly complement that area as well. And, an extra outfielder, preferably a right-handed bat.”

With that, I’m signing off and will be heading to Philly in the morning. I’m taking part in the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday. It’ll be my fifth full marathon (Chicago 2008-09, Disney ’09 and Tampa ’10). The move to Ohio fell right in the thick of my training, so the program became a bit sporadic for a while. Not sure I’ll beat the 3:43 I put up in Tampa in February, but I’ll make it over that finish line one way or another.

–JB

Its gold, Jerry! Gold!

Choo_Korea2.jpgShin-Soo Choo probably would’ve found a way out of his military service one way or another. But there was one sure-fire way to earn exemption: gold.

Well, consider that done.

On Friday, South Korea rode the S.S. Choo to a gold medal at the 16th annual Asian Games being held in China. The Koreans defeated the defending champs from Taiwan 9-3 and earned military exemption in the process.

According to Korean military regulations, athletes who capture gold at the Asian Games are exempt from 30 months of military conscription. The requirement is for all able-bodied men under 30 years of age.

Choo is 28 and entering his prime and he can now do so without the threat of military hanging over him. Had South Korea fallen short, Choo might’ve stayed in the U.S., applied for citizenship, but it would’ve made going home a big issue.

Choo used his bat to swing his way out of the obligation legitimately. All he did in the five wins for the South Koreans was hit .571 (8-14) with three homers, six walks, eight runs scored and 11 RBIs. In the gold medal game, he went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a stolen base.

Now maybe the focus can shift to trying to sign Choo — a Scott Boras client — to a long-term extension. The Indians obviously have their financial limitations, but wrapping Choo up is certainly a priority for the club. With those 30 months of military service off the table, however, the Tribe can proceed with more clarity.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

Baseball America revealed its Top 10 Indians prospects earlier this week. The list is as follows: 1. 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, 2. RHP Alex White, 3. 2B Jason Kipnis, 4. LHP Drew Pomeranz, 5. OF Nick Weglarz, 6. RHP Jason Knapp, 7. OF Levon Washington, 8. SS Tony Wolters, 9. RHP Joe Gardner, 10. LHP Nick Hagadone

GET ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE HOT…

Opening Day tickets (April 1 vs. White Sox) go on sale Monday at 2 pm ET. You can purchase them at indians.com, Indians Team Shops, 1-866-48-TRIBE and at Ticket Master Ticket Center locations. Single-game tickets for the entire 81-game home slate will go on sale at 10 am ET on Feb. 28.

–JB

No pressure…

Choo_Korea.jpgThere’s suiting up for your home country for national pride. And then there’s suiting up for national pride combined with required military service on the line.

Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is currently experiencing the latter.

On Thursday, at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, Choo launched his third homer of the tournament to help South Korea to a 7-1 win over China. That puts the South Koreans in Friday’s gold medal game against the defending champs from Taiwan.

According to Korean military regulations, athletes will receive an exemption from 30 months of military conscription if they capture the gold. All able-bodied South Korean men are required to serve two years in the military by the end of their 30th year. Choo, who turned 28 in July, is using his bat to escape that obligation.

Through four games, all Choo has done is go 6-for-10 at the plate with three home runs, five walks, eight runs scored and nine RBIs. In Thursday’s win, he went 1-for-1 with a homer. China walked him in his other three plate appearances, but that didn’t stop him from crossing home plate twice.

The question is, however, if South Korea slips to the silver, what does that mean for Choo? The Indians would like to explore a long-term extension with the outfielder as he is entering his prime on the big league stage. Rest assured, Choo plans on doing all he can to sidestep the possible military obligation.

One option that exists is for Choo to potentially apply to become a United States citizen. He does have a home in Buckeye, Ariz., so such a move is certainly a possibility. One way or another, it appears as though Choo will remain in a Tribe uniform and not one issued by the South Korean military.

–JB

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