Tribe Offseason Free Agent Targets
Who's at first? What's at second? I don't know's at third.
Coming into 2011, this baseball rhetoric was all too true. Matt LaPorta was an annual unsure thing, Orlando Cabrera was signed on his way to spring training and fans weren't sure if Jack Hannahan was a player or coach.
Fast forward one year and we think we know who's on second and third. Ideally, the Indians infield has Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall at second and third base, respectively. Though sophomore slumps seem to be a trend for young players.
The season has come and gone. More questions were answered in 2011. However, we're left with many major questions going into 2012 as the Tribe has officially planted the contention flag after this summer.
What's LaPorta's future? Who will play centerfeld? Where's the addition of right handed bat? Who will be added to the bullpen? Will the Indians add starting rotation depth?
Not even GM Chris Antonetti would be able to answer all these question directly. Truth is, they really have no idea. They're testing the waters, seeing who's available, evaluating the talent in the system and trying to puzzle the pieces together for 2012.
I cannot honestly put Jose Reyes or Albert Pujols on such a list, as Clevelanders are realists--you'd have a better chance of signing a prince in Cleveland than one of the top ten free agents that will command upwards of a $100 million.
...and not that Prince.
Here are a few simple ideas and options the Indians may indeed pursue this offseason.
Who's at first? What's on second? I don't know's on third. Michael Cuddyer is all of the above. He can also fill the void in the corner outfield spots.
If you listened to Tom Hamilton and Mike Hegan on the Indians' radio network, you'd know how high they were on Cuddyer coming to Cleveland.
He fits the mold of an Indians player: hard working, probably undervalued, versatile and solid in all facets of the game. Cuddyer makes too much sense for this club. He can fit wherever need be.
The question, of course, comes down to money. Cuddyer will consider returning to Minnesota, so it may be tough seeing him cross over a few hundred miles to come play for a fellow Central Division rival.
You have to have Omar Vizquel on your Christmas wish list if you're an Indians fan.
Problem is, unless Jason Donald is dealt in the offseason, there looks to be a roster constraint in terms of signing Vizquel. Jason Donald had a great final month of the season after he healed from injuries all over.
He looks to be a great filler-in right handed bat, so it's unlikely they'd need another backup infielder. However, Vizquel has a little left in him. He'll be a Julio Franco award worthy 45 years young in 2012 and has put 23 Hall of Fame worthy seasons together.
The big asset the "Little O" brings to Cleveland would be his versatility. He's consistently playing second and third base, as well as shortstop. He even logged extra innings at first base in 2011 in a crazy White Sox game.
Vizquel would also bring similar leadership and a mood that Jim Thome brought. Players would look up to him and he'd serve as much as a player as he would a coach, assisting the young infield in all their web gem endeavors.
And how cool would it be to see Vizquel and Asdrubal Cabrera playing side by side?
He'd complete the trifecta in bringing home ex-Indians greats, as seen in 2007 with Kenny Lofton and, of course, with Jim Thome this past season.
This is more wishful thinking than anything else but if Donald is dealt, the opening is there.
Conor Jackson would be a good addition. Once again, he's far from the top tier free agents, but for Cleveland he can play first base and the corner outfield positions.
Early in his career, he was known for getting on base at a "Moneyball" rate and for spraying extra base hits in the gaps. Since his departure from Arizona, following a plagued season with valley fever, he's been a part-time player.
He'd have the option to do play everyday, or be a useful bench bat in Cleveland. If you give LaPorta one last crack at first base and it doesn't work out in spring training or out of the gates, plop Jackson at first.
His outfield defense leaves some to be desired, but he plays an adequate first base, certainly better than LaPorta and Santana in 2011.
Jackson definitely seems like the type of player the Indians would target if Cuddyer doesn't work out.
Another Conor Jackson-esque great pickup would be James Loney, if the Dodgers do tender him a contract this offseason.
Are you mad? Yeah. You're mad.
But don't be, Casey Blake has something left in the tank. Primarily for the Indians' needs, he is versatile, a potential leader and brings that ever-empowering veteran presence.
Not to mention, it was Blake that brought you Carlos Santana, so don't hold anything against him. He can hit for some power and play every corner on the field. On a low salary, one year deal, Blake does make some sense to return to Cleveland where he once hit 28 home runs.
I'm not a big Lee fan, but if LaPorta is Andy Marte 2.0, then it's better to move on sooner than later.
D-Lee has been around the league and hit quite well with the Pirates. He still has remnants of a gold glove at first, which will go a long way with two rookies in the infield that don't grade out as great fielders.
He's not in the same breath, inhale or exhale of Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, but he comes at a great discount compared to them and is still a solid major league ball player.
My last pro-Lee bullet point: he's right handed and finished the season with a .337/.398/.574 line in the stretch run for Pitt.
He's a right handed outfield bat with some power, so he fits the bill. He'll come cheap, hit 28 HRs and drove in 98 RBIs in a tough hitter's ball park with a rough lineup.
Willingham, once an uber-prospect for the Marlins, has some talent. Bring him to Cleveland and he could be very productive in the five or six spot for the Tribe.
Signing a corner outfielder really depends on Grady Sizemore's future, though. If Sizemore is out of Cleveland, Brantley shifts to center (which wouldn't be bulletproof defense there) and Willingham comes to play left field and hit 25 HRs.
That's what the script has written up, but it is unlikely he'd come to Cleveland. Certainly an intriguing option, though.
This is not an express train down the last 10 years of Indians. DeRosa brought you Chris Perez, but not much of a bat. He'd be dirt cheap and has the ability to play all over the infield.
He, like Blake, would be cheap enough that if one of your minor league bats like Beau Mills ends up fitting in with the big league club, DeRosa would be expendable—as in tradeable or releasable.
You never sign a player with that plan, but DeRosa's future is in great uncertainty. Who knows, maybe he hits .280 and plays some third base, first base and outfield.
Nate McLouth hit a Grady Sizemore-esque Numbers (.276/.356/.497) with 26 homers in 2007. He was playing a solid center field in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, his career took the same route Sizemore's and he battled through injury and a simple inability to hit.
McLouth would be a nice reclamation project, or at least a low risk, high reward type signing if Sizemore does in fact sign elsewhere. Sizemore leaving if/when the Indians decline his $9 million option seems more and more likely, considering the Phillies' and Red Sox have already established their interest if Sizemore and the Indians cannot work out a deal.
McLouth can play center field and has some upside, though his last few seasons would suggest otherwise. He is a left handed hitter, but like Manny Acta said, as long as you can hit, it doesn't matter which side you bat from.
Another former Twins great, Kubel to the Indians stirred rumors back in August. He's always had the ability to hit and he's only 29 years old.
Kubel can play the outfield, though he has DH'd much of the last few years. At his peak, he can hit 30 homers, drive in 100 and hit .300 (see: 2009).
That's high hopes for Kubel but he could be a potential fit for Cleveland. Cleveland would like him... but is it mutual?
There we go. Finally, a highly touted free agent with a great resume. Buehrle would be a dream for the Indians. He's a left handed pitcher with over 160 wins.
Buehrle is the posterboy for consistency. Minimally, he'll get his annual 13 wins and well over 200 innings. He's also an upper tier starter, so he'd look real good right in between Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson in the starting rotation.
He'd bring a great professional approach to the Tribe and a sure-fire left hander, which the Indians are lacking, David Huff aside.
Other clubs will definitely keep close tabs on the White Sox/Buehrle romance or break up. The St. Louis Cardinals appear to be a good suitor for his services, too, being that he is a Missouri native.
He'd definitely look great with a Wahoo on, though.
Four years ago, Kazmir would've been a California dream to consider adding to the club. A lot has gone wrong for Kazmir since then. An LA nightmare would be about accurate in describing that.
However, for the Indians, he'd be the No. 5 starter after Masterson, Jimenez, Carmona (?) and Tomlin. He's a lefty, and amazingly he'll only be 28 years old (considering he's been around the bigs since 2004).
His power stuff surely seems to have flamed out somewhere between Tampa Bay and Anaheim, but Kazmir still has some potential. At the very least, he'd be another low risk, high reward type that the Indians could both use and afford.
C.J. Wilson is going to be a hot commodity this offseason.
Problem is, he'll be way overvalued because of the lack of star pitchers on the market. He's another lefty with great stuff, but he's on the wrong side of 30. I'd be lying if I said it'd be a great move for the Indians.
He is worth a look, but not much more.
Saito joins Omar Vizquel on the 2011-2012 offseason 40 and up club for the Tribe.
He'd come cheap and is still reliable enough to pitch in the later innings as he is doing now for the playoff battling Brewers.
Realistically, there's no chance Cleveland goes out and gives a Rafael Soriano type contract ($10 MIL) to a middle reliever. So scooping up some guys with upside that come at a discounted price seems their way to go.
In 30 games this year for the Brewers, Saito had a 1.02 WHIP and a Bullpen Mafia caliber 2.03 ERA. He was a big time closer for the Dodgers years ago and he could easily replace Chad Durbin.
Most on the free agent list could.
Mike Gonzo has a great arm. He has no control whatsoever, but he has the stuff. If the Tribe could lure him to Cleveland and clean up his mechanics, he'd be a valuable asset to the bullpen.
Then again, the coaches may have more focus on current left-hander Nick Hagadone and his control than a 34-year-old journeyman reliever.
Matt Capps was abysmal for the Twins in 2011.
The pattern for relievers, however, is that...well, there is no pattern. He may be the highly prized closer available at the trade deadline as he was in 2010.
Capps has good stuff and if the Indians promise him the opportunity to tryout for closer if Chris Perez hits a rough stretch early, Capps would consider Cleveland.