Cleveland Indians: 10 Shrewd Offseason Free-Agent Moves They Should Make
To understand how Cleveland Indians fans need to look at the upcoming offseason, there are two words that they need to become familiar with in this piece.
The first word is shrewd, which is defined as astute or sharp in practical matters.
The Indians would be shrewd by making smart, quick decisions to help create a product that is valuable to Cleveland fans and the surrounding community. Making practical decisions will help lead to a quick return on an investment, potentially allowing the Indians to compete quickly.
The other word is realistic, which is defined as interested in, concerned with, or based on what is real or practical.
While every team has a realistic shot at signing impending free agent Josh Hamilton five days after the World Series, how realistic is that opportunity for the Cleveland Indians? So many fans would offer trades like Jack Hannahan and Casey Kotchman for Albert Pujols, but that isn't going to happen.
While there are shrewd ways that the Indians can upgrade their roster this offseason, how many of those are realistic?
Here you'll find 10 realistic and shrewd moves that the Indians could or should make during the upcoming free agency period.
Mark Reynolds, First Baseman/Third Baseman
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Mark Reynolds will be a free agent if the Baltimore Orioles would rather give him $500,000 to walk away than the $11 million team option that they hold for 2013. If Reynolds becomes available, he would be an excellent fit for the Indians.
As I wrote last week:
Reynolds is a right-handed bat, a need for the Indians. Reynolds can provide a lot of power for the Indians, another need. Reynolds can play first base and third base, he is a perfect fit for the Indians.
Reynolds can play first base most days, slide over to third to spell Lonnie Chisenhall against tough left-handed starters to allow Carlos Santana to play first base and he can DH if the Indians want to get a bench player a few at-bats.
Signing Mark Reynolds is the first step in rebuilding the Cleveland Indians lineup. He not only provides power, he will provide flexibility to the lineup, something any new manager would love to have at their disposal.
Elsewhere, I added:
Reynolds won't turn 30 years old until August 3 of next season. In his six seasons, he has 179 home runs and an .808 OPS in 2,912 at-bats. Over a 162-game season, Reynolds has averaged 28 doubles, 35 home runs, and 96 RBI; however, one thing plagues Reynolds that makes him a dangerous signing.
Reynolds has struck out 1,105 times in his career, leading the majors in strikeouts from 2008 through 2010 with Arizona, then leading the American League in 2011 in his first season in Baltimore. In fact, Reynolds has struck out in 32.7 percent of his career at-bats.
Luckily, Reynolds has also walked in 12 percent of his career at-bats, saving his on-base percentage. With his atrociously low career batting average (.237), his career on-base percentage of .334 is not too bad considering his severely high strikeout rate.
Overall, the potential for Reynolds to have a positive impact upon the Cleveland Indians far outweighs the negative. While he does strike out too often, the powerful presence is a necessity for the Tribe, especially from the right side of the plate.
Mike Napoli, First Baseman/Catcher
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Mike Napoli was supposed to be a huge talent available this coming offseason. The 2012 season has not really gone his way, however. After posting a 1.046 OPS in 2011, Napoli is hitting just .229/.349/.448 with 19 home runs and 44 RBI in 310 at-bats this year for the Texas Rangers.
Napoli's breakout came after several years of being held down by Mike Scioscia with the Angels, but he still possesses incredible power and is capable of handling first base and catching duties.
Napoli would be an excellent signing for the Indians to be their everyday designated hitter, however. Napoli is a career .288/.398/.561 hitter as a DH, with 162-game averages of 41 doubles, 34 home runs and 94 RBI.
Napoli would be excellent insurance for a Carlos Santana injury, a powerful addition to the middle of the order, and a right-handed bat. At the age of 31, he still has some productive years ahead of him. After making $9.4 million in 2012, he could be had for a three-year, $24-30 million deal. While that seems like a lot for a DH, Travis Hafner earned more annually and has been injured for the last several seasons.
Melky Cabrera, Outfielder
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The thing about performance-enhancing drugs is that people don't like them. For players who are caught cheating, it seems like no one is willing to give them a chance. For Melky Cabrera, his timing could not have been any worse.
While his fake website was creative, Cabrera ruined his financial future. With the numbers that he had put up in 2011 and 2012, Cabrera could have earned a four-year, $60 million deal as a 28-year-old reaching free agency. Then...it happened.
Cabrera hit .322/.364/.489 over 1,117 at-bats with 69 doubles, 15 triples, 29 home runs, 147 RBI and 33 stolen bases the last two seasons. Prior to that, Cabrera just .267/.333/.378 in 2,382 at-bats with the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves.
So, who is Melky Cabrera?
Is he the player who can't stay in shape and who can't play, is he an All-Star like the numbers say, or is he the guy who could only stay in shape and post those numbers thanks to some enhancement?
Cabrera could be had for a lucrative, incentive laden one-year contract. He can play any outfield position, having played center for Kansas City throughout 2011, but he could fit in nicely for the Indians in left field. He is a switch hitter, so he would not be a liability to the lineup...unless he goes back to his pre-2011 production.
Still, aggressively and shrewdly attacking the availability of Melky Cabrera could be one of the better ideas for the Cleveland Indians.
Delmon Young, Outfielder
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I wrote on Bleacher Report last week:
Delmon Young is going to only be 27 years old when he hits free agency this offseason. He is a 6'3", 240 pound outfielder with a very good arm. He could take over in right field if the Indians were to trade Shin-Soo Choo.
Young is a career .285/.318/.427 hitter. He does not take many walks, 4.1 percent for his career, but he doesn't strike out too much, either, just 17.4 percent in his career. His right-handed bat would be useful in the order for the Indians, as the team needs to figure out a way to even-out the lineup after hitting .224 against left-handed pitchers as a team in 2012.
Delmon Young could be highly sought after due to his age and potential. The Indians could grab the young free agent and hope that his potential and his off-the-field turmoils turn him into the second coming of Albert Belle in Cleveland.
Nothing has changed in my feelings about Young. He is still young, still a big kid with a lot of untapped potential, and his off-the-field issues could allow him to be affordable, much like Melky Cabrera.
Young would make the most sense if the Indians were to trade Shin-Soo Choo this offseason. Delmon Young is a big man with a powerful arm. You have to wonder, though, if his size could catch up to him like it did for his brother, Dmitri. The Indians could be carefully shrewd by offering him a three to four year deal, allowing him one more solid contract when he reaches the age of 30 or 31.
Torii Hunter, Outfielder
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When the Indians were seeking a veteran prior to the 2012 season, they reached out to Johnny Damon. In 2011, Damon posted the second lowest average and on-base percentage of his career (his 2001 season was not good) as he posted a .743 OPS for the Tampa Bay Rays. He went on to continue his aging regression with the Indians, posting a .222/.281/.329 triple slash in 224 plate appearances for the Tribe.
When seeking veteran leadership, guaranteeing playing time to a player coming off a disastrous season is not really shrewd, positive or proactive in helping your organization. That is why the Indians should be in on Torii Hunter.
Hunter will turn 38 next July but he is still very productive. His .308/.362/.449 line is very solid, as is his .811 OPS, 21 doubles, 15 home runs and 80 RBI for the Los Angeles Angels. One thing to worry about is his high strikeout rate, which is at 22.7 percent, a career high. His walk rate is down to 6.4 percent, as well, lower than his career average of 7.3 percent, which was not great to begin with.
Hunter's range is questionable at this point in anything but an outfield corner. He could be useful to the Tribe in left or right field in 2013 if he is willing to accept a one-year contract to be a fantastic leader for a team that needs one.
Jorge De La Rosa, Starting Pitcher
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Coming off of Tommy John surgery, the Colorado Rockies owe Jorge De La Rosa a $1 million buyout or a 2013 salary of $11 million. The magic eight ball says "fat chance" on that one.
De La Rosa will turn 32 in April of next season. He is left-handed and breathing, so he deserves a long career, right? His career numbers are not great, but he has pitched well for Colorado, which is something that many are not able to say.
At 39-26 with a 4.38 ERA with the Rockies over 495.2 innings with a 486:222 K:BB in 91 games (85 starts), De La Rosa seemed to learn to pitch in Colorado. The only thing is, he has not stayed healthy. He has yet to pitch in 2012 after having surgery on June 3 of last season and he has never pitched 200 innings, reaching a career high 185 innings in 2009.
Being a contending team, you need depth. You especially need starting pitching that you can rely on. While De La Rosa may not be the definition of reliability, he has had success, he is left-handed, he has a career ground ball rate of 44.9 percent, which gives the team a different look from the ground ball heavy staff with which they have not had much success.
De La Rosa could be had on a one-year contract with some incentives, giving the Indians a potential steal off of the free agent heap.
Kevin Correia, Starting Pitcher
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Kevin Correia is not an ace. He is exactly what the Pittsburgh Pirates have used him for - a mid-rotation starter who can be replaced by better, upcoming talent if the team needs to move in another direction. Considering the season that the Indians have had in 2012, Correia would be an excellent signing for the Indians. He can fill a void in their rotation and, if they fade out of contention, he can be moved out of the rotation or traded to another club.
Correia is 56-55 with a 4.59 ERA in his career as a starter in 156 games and 3-8 with a 4.23 ERA in 131 relief appearances. He has five pitches and he does a good job of keeping the ball on the ground and in the park.
While Correia does not solve the issues at the top of the Indians rotation, he certainly is capable of providing some stability to the middle and back end of the rotation.
At the age of 32, Correia may have to settle for a one-year deal, as well, due to his inability to maintain a rotation spot for an entire season in his 10-year career.
Brandon McCarthy, Starting Pitcher
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I am a huge fan of Brandon McCarthy's, mentioning elsewhere how the Cleveland Indians should sign McCarthy before his injury. I still think that they should reach out to the right-hander to see if he'd be willing to take an incentive-laden contract. No one knows if he will be ready to pitch next year, or if he'll ever pitch again after his devastating injury.
The injury that McCarthy sustained makes you appreciate life and the skills that you have. It is entirely possible that McCarthy could have long-lasting mobility issues that would make it impossible for him to come back. That should be his only concern moving forward, but teams should assume that he is going to be able to come back at full strength at some point.
While McCarthy is just 17-15 in 43 starts with the Oakland A's, he has also managed a magnificent 3.29 ERA over 281.2 innings. He has used a two-seam fastball to reinvent himself as a pitcher later in his career, having missed a lot of time due to a stress fracture in his throwing shoulder.
Regardless, McCarthy is a fit with the Cleveland Indians for many reasons. First and foremost, McCarthy could be cheap due to the injuries to his throwing arm and the 294 days he has been on the disabled list for his shoulder since 2009. Even though he has been successful, he hasn’t proven himself capable of lasting a whole season. He made $4.28 million in 2012, so the Indians could offer him some guaranteed money with incentives and gamble on his health, something the team seems to be fond of with their own players, like Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner.
Regardless, baseball fans should continue to pray and hope for a healthy Brandon McCarthy return. One team will be very happy that they signed him if he does move away from Oakland, as their support for him and his wife Amanda has been tremendous through this terrible time.
Joel Peralta, Relief Pitcher
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Since the start of the 2010 season, Peralta has appeared in 180 games, pitched 178 innings, posted a 187:43 K:BB, and an impressive 2.93 ERA. Heading into his age-37 season, Peralta will reach arbitration for the first time.
Peralta does not have a lot of career innings, just 451.1, but the Tampa Bay Rays have been a little heavy on his workload, as Peralta is over 70 appearances for the second straight season. As a solid, late-inning shutdown reliever, shrewdly signing Peralta would strengthen a weak area on the Cleveland roster, allowing for lighter loads for Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez in 2013.
Peralta made just $2.18 million in 2012, his third and final year of arbitration, so he may be very affordable. He will probably have a hard time gaining a multi-year deal due to his age, but he is worth a two or three-year offer from the Indians to get something done quickly to improve their bullpen.
Jeremy Affeldt, Relief Pitcher
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Jeremy Affeldt has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball since signing with the Cincinnati Reds in 2008. He is now a San Francisco Giant and will, once again, reach free agency this winter. At the age of 34, Affeldt still has some miles on his arm.
Since the start of the 2008 season, Affeldt is 11-10 in 329 appearances, tossing 311 innings and compiling a 2.92 ERA and a 285:127 K:BB.
He is a solid clubhouse guy and an asset to the communities in which he has played. His foundation, The Jeremy Affeldt Foundation, reaches out to inner-city youth to teach them about Christianity, plus he was a major part of the Cincinnati Reds Faith Day in 2008.
On top of his apparent goodness on and off the field, Affeldt is a great left-handed reliever. In 2012, Cleveland Indians left-handed relief pitchers have been absolutely awful. Tony Sipp, Nick Hagadone, Scott Barnes, Scott Maine, Chris Seddon and Rafael Pérez have a combined line of:
3-8, 4.86 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 116.2 innings and a 100:54 K:BB
It has not been pretty, with only Seddon and Pérez posting an ERA under 4.00, and both of them are working with limited samples.
The Indians really need to shore up their bullpen, especially from the left side, and Jeremy Affeldt would be a very nice addition.
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The Cleveland Indians have very little chance to make a gigantic splash when the 2013 offseason kicks off. There are a few players not listed here who could be potential fits, so you will be blessed with:
J.P. Howell, Relief Pitcher; Kevin Gregg, Relief Pitcher; Brandon Lyon, Relief Pitcher; Carlos Villanueva, Starting Pitcher; Joe Saunders, Starting Pitcher; Jeremy Guthrie, Starting Pitcher; Anibal Sánchez, Starting Pitcher; Jonathan Sánchez, Starting Pitcher; Erik Bédard, Starting Pitcher; Scott Hairston, Outfielder; Jonny Gomes, Outfielder; Scott Rolen, Third Base; Jason Bartlett, Shortstop; Jeff Keppinger, Utility; Jeff Baker, Utility; Carlos Peña, First Base; James Loney, First Base; Adam LaRoche, First Base;
There are a lot of players who are not "impact" players who will be capable of helping a team, and the Cleveland Indians need a lot of help.
Out of the honorable mention list, Adam LaRoche would be a nice fit, though he is another left-handed hitter, due to his power and solid defense at first. Anibal Sánchez was dominant at times for the Marlins, but his transition to the American League has not gone well. He is young and could be a nice, long-term investment, though. J.P. Howell would be a great fall-back if the Tribe is unable to sign Affeldt, as his numbers for the Tampa Bay Rays have been excellent over the years.
There will be a lot of talented players switching teams again this offseason. While you can basically consider the Indians out of the Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke sweepstakes, there are still plenty of players to look out for and make a bold, shrewd move this offseason.
Who would you like to see the Indians go after?