At 64-91 (.413), the Cleveland Indians are the worst team in the American League, sharing the exciting title with in-division rival Minnesota after Cleveland beat the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. With just seven games remaining, the Tribe are set to finish a season with fewer than 70 wins in a season for the fourth time since 2000.
There are and have been a lot of issues for the Indians throughout the 2012 season. Some of these included: the bullpen, the left-handed lineup, the inability to find a powerful right-handed bat, the unwillingness of ownership and management to make a move to help the team contend, the inability to find leadership to get out of their excessive losing streaks, and the inconsistency from players the team was counting on for big things in 2012.
Now, heading into another rebuilding session, the Cleveland Indians have to do some things to shake up the roster. The 40-man roster has a lot of useful names and many more useless names. Highlighted by players set for tremendous pay increases, the Indians have a lot of decisions to make before Opening Day of 2013.
Depending on the direction that management and ownership takes, you could argue with many, many names. I'm taking the path of a complete rebuild, developing talent by acquiring near-ready prospects and making a drastic change to the every-day roster.
While some names could shock you, so has the 20-50 record in the second half. If that hasn't done the trick, how about the 27-58 record since losing control of first place in the AL Central on June 23 for the final time of the 2012 season.
The fall from grace demands change.
Quite possibly one of the easiest decisions in the world to make, the Indians owe Travis Hafner $13 million in 2013 or a $2.75 million buyout. If he is back next season, it won't be on a guaranteed contract, especially after the Grady Sizemore debacle that guaranteed a guy $5 million who never even stepped on the field.
Hafner is beloved in Cleveland as "Pronk," a huge man with huge power who lost everything when he lost his shoulder and his health. It's unfortunate because he was such an offensive force, finishing in the top 10 in AL MVP voting in 2005 and 2006 to earn a six-year, $66.1 million deal that began in 2007.
Since the start of the 2007 season, Hafner has missed 281 games. Shoulder, back, knee, foot, ankle and oblique injuries are all a part of that disaster.
Maybe Hafner will come back on the cheap. Considering he has collected millions for very little production over the last six seasons, you could say he owes it to the club. In an era of entitlement and financial hearts, it is very unlikely that Hafner would say the same thing.
Tony Sipp will turn 30 years old in the middle of the 2013 season. He earned $505,000 in 2012 and is arbitration eligible for the first time in 2013. He could earn over $1 million, and he has a 4.76 ERA in 2012.
While he does have a solid 3.74 career ERA, the Indians have other breathing, functioning, cheaper left-handed pitchers in the system including Chris Seddon, Scott Barnes, Scott Maine, Nick Hagadone, David Huff and Rafael Perez.
For a team that will be cutting costs or starting over, you can't pay mediocrity that type of money. Sipp can eat innings but he has a career 4.80 ERA away from Progressive Field, a career first-half ERA of 4.29 and a 5.51 ERA in the seventh inning (when he should be at his most reliable as a middle reliever/setup man).
If Sipp wants or thinks that he deserves a raise, he deserves the door.
Aggressive swing considering the .629 OPS
Casey Kotchman's eventual disappearance is aided by the fact that he is a free agent after the 2012 season; however, it is always possible that poor decisions continue and they offer the slap-hitting corner infielder with a slick glove another year to provide...not much.
Kotchman, who turns 30 in February, will have earned $3 million for his 2012 season. He, surprisingly, had a worse season in 2010 with the Seattle Mariners, but he got paid and received a full-time job after a solid season in 2011 with the Tampa Bay Rays.
When players receive hype in the field, like Torii Hunter for his "spiderman-like" catches and Derek Jeter for his "rangy, backhand-and-jump" plays in the hole, it allows for some wonderful owner to think that those players have talent that can't be matched.
It's first base, people, and while Kotchman has saved his surrounding infielders with some impressive scoops this season, other clubs have hidden some of their incapable defensive types at the position for years.
Kotchman can take his slap-hitting bat, miserable OPS and useful glove to a backup role for another team.
Ta-ta for now!
The only decision that is comparable to turning down the option on Travis Hafner is turning down the option on starter Roberto Hernandez.
Hernandez is owed $9 million in 2013 and $12 million in 2014. Those options have a buyout of $0, meaning the Indians can walk away from this terrible contract without owing the quickly aging, document-falsifying right-hander another dime after the 2012 season.
After going 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA in 2007, Hernandez has gone just 33-51 with a 5.06 ERA over 659.1 innings since the start of the 2008 season.
Hernandez would be a nice addition for depth alone in an atrocious rotation going forward, but he certainly is not worth $9 million in 2013. An incentive-laden contract would make sense, but unless Hernandez is willing to sign at a discount, he will also be kicked to the curb.
Shin-Soo Choo will turn 31 in July of 2013, and he is entering his final year of arbitration. After earning $4.9 million in 2012, Choo is owed a significant raise, especially after his fantastic rebound (.280/.372/.437, 15 home runs, 39 doubles) in 2012.
Choo's name came up at the trade deadline, but as the Indians stood pat, so too did the slugging Korean outfielder. Choo's agent, Scott Boras, won't help negotiations for an extension, nor will he help make an easy settlement in arbitration.
Shin-Soo Choo needs to go because he has value. A full season of Shin-Soo Choo is more valuable to a team making a deal than acquiring him at the trade deadline in July of 2013. If Cleveland was to deal Choo for prospects this winter, it would gain a much better haul of prospects at that time than in July, aiding the team in the rebuilding process.
While you can question what ownership and management would be willing to pony up to a free agent to handle right field if the club was to deal Choo, it doesn't change the fact that the 2012 breakdown eliminated whatever window the club was operating under. Choo should be gone because he is a tradeable asset for the Cleveland Indians.
It makes sense to deal Choo even if you're not totally sold on a total overhaul due to his expected raise alone. Choo will be taking the next train out of town because of that sometime this winter.
Jack Hannahan made $1.14 million in 2012, and he is arbitration-eligible in 2013 and 2014. Hannahan turns 33 years old in March and should not be a part of any rebuilding team, especially a team with a young, left-handed hitting third baseman in Lonnie Chisenhall.
Hannahan has hit .227/.295/.319 in 216 at-bats since the start of May. There is no amount of defensive skills that makes that batting line acceptable.
Hannahan's .650 OPS is better than Casey Kotchman's to this point, but when you're comparing rotten tomatoes to rotten apples, it is all rotten.
Hannahan deserves to have no role with the Indians, whether he is under team control or not. His terrible hitting and .949 fielding percentage shows that labels are, like with Kotchman, not working here. Hannahan needs to hand over the keys to the clubhouse and find a new career.
Kevin Slowey made $2.75 million in 2012, of which the Indians were responsible for $1.25 million. Slowey has not appeared in a game at the major league level in 2012 and has not pitched in Triple-A since May 18, having posted a 3-3 record and a 5.14 ERA over eight starts before a right lat strain landed the right-hander on the disabled list in Columbus.
Slowey turns 29 next May and is arbitration-eligible for the final time. He was 35-20 with a 4.36 ERA over 406.2 innings from 2008 to 2010, but the wheels have fallen off due to injuries.
While you're not talking about a lot of money, the fact that Slowey's service time could allow him to get a bump in pay without a single appearance is absolutely frightening. A simple non-tender will be the right way to handle this, as the Indians can slowly back away from Slowey before running away from any potential harm.
Chris Perez is arbitration eligible in 2013 and 2014 and earned $4.5 million in 2012. He is going to be one very, very rich closer after compiling a career 3.17 ERA and 104 saves at the age of 27.
Perez is solid, but he is not Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel, both top, automatic, shutdown closers. At times, Perez seems very hittable, as evidenced by his career 1.17 WHIP (Chapman's is 1.01 and Kimbrel's is 0.92), meaning he allows a little over a base runner per appearance.
Perez's mouth seems to be getting him in trouble with the Cleveland Indians' ownership, and that is enough for him to leave town.
While he has valid points in most of his rants, which include ripping the non-supportive fanbase and the lack of help that management provided at the trade deadline, it doesn't change the fact that the negativity reflects poorly on fans, youth in Cleveland and the young players in the locker room.
I agree with everything that he has said, and he has a right to freedom of speech. However, you can't blast your employer publicly and not expect some kind of fallout. Chris Perez is digging his own grave, or at least his own trail out of town.
Ownership has no choice but to look into dealing the unhappy closer, as his eventual price tag and his potential to become a cancer in the clubhouse would be unsettling for any organization in need of a leadership shift.
After the collapse of 2012, no one should be safe, and if teams come calling, Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and others can't be off limits.
While it is debatable as to whether Shin-Soo Choo should be traded, as he could be an integral part of a quick rebuild (if the club is actually aggressive in free agency), the what-ifs of those debates aren't very realistic.
The money that is guaranteed or could be guaranteed in options for 2013 are absurd.
Travis Hafner and Roberto Hernandez are excellent candidates to come back on much, much lesser deals, while the team needs to run away as quickly as possible from the Kotchmans and Hannahans of the world.
Add Brent Lillibridge to that list as well: a career .213/.276/.354 hitter who, at the age of 29, should not be anywhere near a rebuilding Indians roster.
Is there any player who needs to go who was not listed here? Who needs to go first? Can the club just dump an entire 40-man roster and start over, because that sounds amazing to me!