Playoff baseball is on the verge of making a rare appearance in Cleveland this season, but that doesn't mean that the front office shouldn't be assessing their options for next season.
The free-agent class for the 2013-14 MLB offseason is one of the weakest in recent memory. This offseason's crop of free agents is polluted with aging players with decaying skill sets and lacks a true No. 1 starter. That doesn't mean, though, that there aren't a few possible gems to be found here.
The Indians have a few names coming off their books this offseason, including Joe Smith, Matt Albers, Kelly Shoppach, Rich Hill, Scott Kazmir and several others.
On top of these names though, other players—most notably Ubaldo Jimenez—have club options for the 2014 season, and decisions will need to be made on those as well.
The free-agent market can be a confusing mess, and that will be the case this year in Cleveland. The team has salary commitments in 2014 totaling $49.28 million—per Baseballprospectus.com—but with pay raises, arbitration eligible players and Ubaldo Jimenez's $8 million option—that will surely be picked up—money could be tight.
In addition to Jimenez's option, fans can expect Smith, Albers and Kazmir to all return in 2014. These additional salary commitments, combined with pay raises for returning players, could cause money to be tight in Cleveland.
With that said, though, there are certainly some areas of the roster where the Indians could look to improve. The Indians left-handed relief situation has been horrendous this season, and their lack of a substantial power threat is concerning.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's look at the four players the Indians should be chasing this offseason.
All stats come courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com—unless otherwise noted—and are current through play on Sept. 24, 2013.
For a look at prospective free agents for the 2014 MLB season, visit MLBtraderumors.com.
The Cleveland Indians could use a new closer. Although Chris Perez has posted some decent numbers in 2013, fans have grown tired of the roller coaster-like experience of a Perez save.
Enter, Edward Mujica.
Although Mujica has recently been removed from his role as the St. Louis Cardinals closer, he's had an outstanding season fulfilling that role. Over 63 appearances—49 games finished—Mujica owns a 2.53 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP while averaging 6.5 K/9, 0.7 BB/9, 9.20 K/BB and 8.0 H/9.
Mujica doesn't strike out many batters—just 6.5 per nine innings—however, he does an incredible job of minimizing his walks allowed—less than one per nine innings—and that's where Chris Perez has struggled this year and over the course of his career.
Doing this would allow the Tribe to slide Perez into a role where he'd experience slightly less pressure in any given game. As mentioned above, Mujica has fallen out of favor within the organization, and it could lead to his changing teams this offseason.
Because of his recent struggles—7.11 ERA, 2.05 WHIP and 2/4 on save opportunities—the Indians may be able to get Mujica cheaper than they would have otherwise, making him an attractive option for a money-savvy team like Cleveland.
The Indians need a left-handed reliever in the worst way possible. Over the team's 156 games played, left-handed relievers Rich Hill, Nick Hagadone, Marc Rzepczynski, Scott Barnes, David Huff and Clay Rapada have combined for 100.1 innings pitched with a 5.38 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP while averaging 10.0 K/9, 5.5 BB/9, 1.84 K/BB and 7.8 H/9.
Outside of Marc Rzepczynski, the left-handed relief situation borders on disgraceful. This is why the Indians should take a chance on Eric O'Flaherty.
O'Flaherty presents the team with a bit of a reclamation project. The 28-year-old is working his way back from early-season Tommy John surgery after tearing his UCL back in May, per SBNation.com.
Prior to his surgery, O'Flaherty was a terrific reliever for the Atlanta Braves and one of the best left-handed relief options in baseball. O'Flaherty has never been much of a hard thrower, but his fastball-slider combo has produced enough strikeouts (6.9 per nine) and ground balls (1.21 GB/FB) over the course of his career to be a highly effective reliever.
Over his eight-year career, the lefty boasts a strong stat line including a 2.85 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP and per-nine averages of 6.9 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 8.1 H/9 and 0.5 HR/9. In addition to some solid metrics, as a big leaguer, O'Flaherty has allowed just 23 percent of his inherited runners to score while recording 103 holds.
The team will have to be careful in monitoring the condition of his arm, however, O'Flaherty could be viewed as damaged goods, enough so to allow the Indians to bring him in at a very modest salary.
As mentioned in the previous slide, the Indians need to shore up their left-handed relief situation. One of the better options out on the free-agent market this offseason—providing the Cincinnati Reds don't re-sign him—is Manny Parra.
Parra has been outstanding with the Reds this season, allowing a 3.45 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP while averaging 11.2 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 3.67 K/BB, 8.1 H/9 and 1.0 HR/9 over 44.1 IP.
Even more impressive than what Parra has done over the course of the entire season, is what he's done since returning from a DL stint at the end of May. In 49 appearances since then, the 30-year-old boasts a 2.63 ERA, with a 0.98 WHIP and ratios of 11.5 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 4.00 K/BB, 6.0 H/9 and 0.7 HR/9 over 37.2 IP.
Parra, in his current form, would be a great asset to the Indians, who have just one viable left-handed reliever under club control past 2013—Marc Rzepczynski.
The Cleveland Indians have gone through the 2013 season without a legitimate power threat. The team features just one player above the 20-home run mark, with a total of 10 above double digits.
Because of this, the Indians find themselves right in the middle of the American League ranks in team home runs with just 164 long balls. Beyond that, they've struggled in generating extra-base hits as a whole, totaling just 2140 total bases, good for ninth in the AL.
In Seattle, Kendrys Morales is participating in what might amount to his final games as a Mariner. Morales is slated to become a free agent at the end of the 2013 season, making him the perfect candidate to fill the team's DH role.
Morales, a switch hitter, has appeared in 152 games with the Mariners this season, working to a .279/.337/.449 slash line with 22 home runs, 34 doubles, 79 RBI and 63 runs scored.
By signing a permanent DH, the team could slide Nick Swisher into right field, thereby allowing Carlos Santana to take over full-time duties at first base. The move would also facilitates the move of Yan Gomes to a full-time catching role as he represents the team's best all-around option behind the plate.
Morales would give the team numerous options as far as lineup configurations goes, while also providing a solid source of extra-base hit and home run power.