MLB: The 2013 Cleveland Indians

Evan Vogel@EvanVogelTweetsContributor IIIAugust 1, 2012

MLB: The 2013 Cleveland Indians

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    Don't cry, Cleveland Indians fans. At least you're not cheering on the Chicago Cubs or the Houston Astros. Sure, the Indians did not do anything and the team has gone 23-30 since the start of June and 6-12 since the All-Star game, but what did you expect?

    For a team that is six games out, the Indians chose to do nothing. Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reported that Tribe GM Chris Antonetti said on Tuesday, "I think the most important thing the guys that are here can do is to perform to their potential. It they can do that, I think we'll be in a much better position at the end of the season than we are right now."

    After 103-games, the Indians are what they aremediocre. Actually, being three games under .500, they are less than mediocre. They still sit in baseball purgatory, where there is no winning and no losing. They just linger, waiting for something to happen, good or bad, while people around them hope for the best.

    This leads us to what the next step should be for Cleveland fans. It is something they are all used to by now: looking forward to next season. In this version, you will see who will be back, where the Indians can make some changes or upgrades and where money could or should be spent.

    If you are still buying this season, good for you. The Indians were not. You deserve a cookie, and this is the best treat for you right now. On to 2013!

Who Will Be Back with Guaranteed Contracts?

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    Signed for the 2013 MLB Season

    Asdrubal Cabrera, shortstop - $6.5 million

    Carlos Santana, catcher - $550,000

    Analysis

    That is right everyone, the Indians only have two players with guaranteed contracts for next season, the rest of the roster is arbitration-eligible or have player options. Technically, ownership and management could non-tender all of the arbitration-eligible players and decline options and start from scratch.

    They will not do that, but considering how hands-off the club was at the deadline in efforts to improve the roster, anything is possible.

    Cabrera is a total bargain. It is a shame that the club only extended him through 2014, as he has become the best all-around player on the team and would be worth the investment as the face of the franchise.

    Santana has had a rough 2012 season, but he still possesses the skills to make this a steal as well. He is signed through 2017 (counting his option), so he will be around for a while. He should rebound, as his .291/.458/.618 slash in 55 at-bats in the second half showcases the talent that was hiding earlier in the season.

    This is $7 million well spent.

Who Has Options?

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    Players with Options for the 2013 MLB Season

    Travis Hafner, designated hitter - $13 million team option or a $2.75 million buyout

    Ubaldo Jimenez, right-handed starting pitcher - $5.75 million team option or a $1 million buyout

    Roberto Hernandez (aka Fausto Carmona), right-handed starting pitcher - $9 million team option with no buyout

    Analysis

    Hafner has had a very interesting season. While he is not producing great numbers, he is still getting on base at a solid rate (.350 OBP). He has battled injuries and he will be 36 years old in 2013.

    These are both reasons why his option will, or should, be declined. The Indians could re-sign him to an incentive laden deal with a lot less guaranteed money, similar to Grady Sizemore.

    Jimenez has had a very up and down 2012 season. He is tied with Derek Lowe for the team lead in wins (8), and he has shown glimpses of the pitcher that he was in 2010 when he won 19 games for the Colorado Rockies.

    His option will be picked up, as he is still a bargain due to his potential and ability to throw a lot of innings, even if he does walk too many batters and posts a hideous ERA.

    Hernandez will not be paid $9 million after missing the whole season to this point due to using a false identity. Restructuring his contract did not stop MLB from suspending him, as hoped, and he owes it to the Indians to sign at a bargain price considering what he did.

    However, this is a business and he could get some guaranteed years or incentives from another club. The Indians do not have to pay him a buyout, but Hernandez and his agent should give the Indians a discount.

    I could see all three of these players back, with Jimenez the only guarantee to have his option picked up. Hafner and Hernandez would be nice discount buys for the Tribe, while Hafner should probably be a part-time DH in 2013 so that he stays healthy and productive.

Who Is Arbitration-Eligible?

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    Players Eligible for a Raise through Arbitration for 2013 (2012 Salaries Provided)

    Shin-Soo Choo, right field - $4.9 million

    Chris Perez, closer - $4.5 million

    Justin Masterson, right-handed starting pitcher - $3.83 million

    Kevin Slowey, right-handed starting pitcher - $2.75 million

    Rafael Perez, left-handed relief pitcher - $2 million

    Joe Smith, right-handed relief pitcher - $1.75 million

    Jack Hannahan, third baseman - $1.14 million

    Tony Sipp, left-handed relief pitcher - $504,900

    Shelley Duncan, outfielder- $500,000

    Lou Marson, catcher - $491,700

    Analysis

    Choo could get a significant raise or force his way out via trade, as Scott Boras is his agent. He will be a free agent after the 2013 season, and he will probably price his way out of Cleveland unless Mark Cuban buys the club from the Dolan family.

    Chris Perez still has two years of arbitration eligibility. He could get very, very expensive, very, very fast. His 29 saves and ERA under 3.00 will allow him to make a case for a substantial raise, which is why he could be traded.

    Masterson's name came up in trade rumors at the deadline; his up-coming raise probably had something to do with that. He is a solid innings-eater for the Indians, but he just has not found much consistency.

    Slowey has been hurt since late May and has started all of eight games, all at Triple-A Columbus. He will probably be non-tendered. He is 39-29 in his career in the majors, but his 4.69 career ERA is not worth what he could earn in arbitration.

    Rafael Perez and Smith have been very good bullpen arms, though Perez has missed significant time with an injury in 2012. Smith is the middle-inning arm that helps get the game to Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez, and he has watched along with Pestano and Perez, as several others have given away leads or made it worse all season.

    Hannahan is a bench bat who is a defensive replacement. He is not worthy of a platoon and certainly is not an everyday player. He has been miscast in that role for most of the season, and it shows. He is worth a slight raise, but his role could change or he could be gone if the Indians commit to Lonnie Chisenhall, which they should.

    Sipp is a solid left-handed arm who should only face left-handed batters. He has been left in against right-handers, and he is not good when that happens. He is a mop-up guy right now, which can be filled for what he made this year.

    It probably is not worth giving him a raise when they can fill his role with cheaper talent, but he is left-handed and breathing, so he will probably be back.

    Marson is a solid backup to Carlos Santana, and he can play a few times per week if the Tribe moves Santana to first base or DH to keep him fresh. He has not had much success gunning down runners this season, but he was once a highly-touted prospect; and he can get on base and hit (without much power).

    Shelley Duncan...I do not know what Duncan is worth. He can really hit, but he is not consistent; however, neither is his playing time.

    Duncan is a nice power bat to have as a fourth outfielder or a platoon partner, but you have to wonder if he deserves to keep getting the chances that he has when you have Matt LaPorta in Triple-A capable of providing the same thing in the majors.

    This group is all over the place. Choo, Masterson, Chris Perez, Smith, Rafael Perez and Marson are locks to get their raises and continue as pieces to the puzzle in 2013. The rest of them are replaceable, in my opinion, so they could be non-tendered.

Who Is Pre-Arbitration-Eligible?

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    Players with Major League Service Time Who Can Have Their Contracts Renewed for the 2013 Season without Arbitration (2012 Salary Included)

    Jason Kipnis, second Base - $482,100

    Michael Brantley, outfielder - $495,300

    Josh Tomlin, right-handed starting pitcher - $494,500

    Vinnie Pestano, right-handed relief pitcher - $491,200

    Carlos Carrasco, right-handed starting pitcher - $488,500

    David Huff, left-handed starting pitcher - $486,200

    Jason Donald, infielder - $484,000

    Jeanmar Gomez, right-handed starting pitcher - $482,700

    Aaron Cunningham, outfielder - $482,300

    Esmil Rogers, right-handed relief pitcher - $481,000

    Analysis

    All of these players can have their contracts renewed for what they earned in 2012, or the Indians can choose to give them a slight bump in pay as a reward for performance. Kipnis, Brantley and Pestano are certainly players who fall into that category.

    Rogers has performed very well since being acquired from the Rockies.

    Did anyone forget about Carlos Carrasco? He will be 26 years old in 2013 and will be over a year removed from Tommy John surgery. He could struggle with command, but he has a promising future.

    This group will help round out the roster, providing cheap alternatives to wholes that can't be filled through free agency.

Who Will Be Free Agents?

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    Players from the Indians Who Are Free Agents after the 2012 Season (2012 Salary Included)

    Grady Sizemore, outfielder - $5 million

    Derek Lowe, right-handed starting pitcher - $15 million (Atlanta Braves paid $10 million)

    Johnny Damon, outfielder - $1.25 million

    Casey Kotchman, first Base - $3 million

    Jose Lopez, infielder - $800,000

    Analysis

    Sizemore has not played in a single game all season due to back and knee injuries. Some of us wish that Lowe, Damon and Kotchman never did play this season.

    Damon and Kotchman have shown some glimpses of skills this season, but neither of them are everyday players, just like Jack Hannahan. Kotchman could be welcomed back as part of a platoon, continuing to earn chances due to his skills with the glove at first base.

    Lopez was an underrated signing. He can play multiple positions and is a right-handed bat. He has not received consistent playing time, but he is useful and he will only be 29 next season.

    Who else is out there that could interest the Cleveland Indians in free agency?

Free Agent First Basemen

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    With both Jose Lopez and Casey Kotchman heading towards free agency, the Indians could go with these two cheap options (a left-handed and right-handed hitter), or fill the void with one signing. Some options:

    Carlos Lee

    Lee will be 37 years old in 2013, but he still possesses some pop in his tubby frame, though his six home runs in 332 at-bats do not show it. Lee is a right-handed bat, and he won't come close to earning the $18.5 million he is earning in 2012.

    Xavier Nady

    Nady will be 34 in 2013 and he has had trouble staying healthy. He was just designated for assignment by the Washington Nationals, so the Indians could grab him now and see what he could offer.

    He is a powerful right-handed bat, having hit 75 home runs over a four year period earlier in his career, including an .867 OPS for the Mets in 2008. He will be cheap and could be very productive if he stays on the field.

    Mike Napoli

    Turning 31 in 2013, Napoli will probably be out of the Indians' reach financially, but he would be an interesting option for the club. He could share catching duties with Carlos Santana so that they both stay fresh, while becoming a premier right-handed power hitter on a team desperate for help in that area.

    It is not out of question, but if management would not guarantee Josh Willingham a third-year to allow him to go to a division rival, you have to think they will balk when it comes to a big name, right?

    James Loney

    Loney will only be 29 in 2013 and he has led a very frustrating career for the Los Angeles Dodgers to this point. He, like Casey Kotchman, is great with the glove but lacks power at the plate. He will average around 30 doubles and 10 to 12 home runs over a full season, and his career .288/.346/.432 slash is not awful.

    He made a little over $6 million in 2012, but will have a hard time getting that this offseason. He could be a nice addition with some risk and reward for the Indians.

Free Agent Third Basemen

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    Jack Hannahan is not an everyday player, and you have to wonder if the Indians are going to hand over third base to Lonnie Chisenhall with the injuries and ups and downs he has had to this point in his brief career. If they go after a veteran for the hot corner, here are a few that may be available:

    Kevin Youkilis

    "The Greek God of Walks" has posted an .809 OPS in 30 games with the Chicago White Sox with six home runs and 22 RBI. I still don't understand how the Indians, who needed a right-handed power bat, allowed the team chasing them to acquire what they needed for next to nothing, but they did.

    Youkilis has a $13 million option for next year with a $1 million buyout. It is doubtful that the White Sox pick up the option for the soon-to-be 34-year-old. Youk would be a huge name to add and has the skills needed for the middle of the Tribe order. We'll see if they sit back and watch him go elsewhere this winter.

    Mark Reynolds

    There is usually a nice breeze coming off of Lake Erie and the always hacking Reynolds could add to that and make the summer months cooler in Cleveland.

    Reynolds is due an $11 million option or a $500,000 buyout from the Baltimore Orioles next season, and it is doubtful they keep him around in 2013, especially after his .208/.324/.367 line in 259 at-bats in 2012.

    Reynolds averaged over 35 home runs per season from 2008 to 2011, and he will be 29 for most of the 2013 season. While his inability to make contact could be frustrating, he can be productive when he does connect.

    Jeff Baker

    Baker will be 32 years old in 2013 and has never received an every day job. He has some pop and can play second and first, as well, so he could be a nice addition as a bench bat. When he was drafted out of Clemson in 2002, he possessed some great raw power. Scott Boras is his agent, so he may not be worth the hassle, but he could surprise if he got a shot.

Free Agent Outfielders

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    Shin-Soo Choo is a lock in right. Michael Brantley has earned center field. Left field is a mess, a nightmare and a disaster.

    I am not going to even bother with big names, so you can ignore Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino, Melky Cabrera, Torii Hunter and Lance Berkman. However, there are still a few names that could be valuable and affordable for the Indians:

    Scott Hairston

    He is exactly what the Indians needa right-handed bat that absolutely destroys left-handed pitching. Hairston is hitting .305/.336/.602 with 11 doubles, nine home runs and 26 RBI in 128 at-bats against left-handers in 2012.

    He only makes $1.1 million this season, and he can play all three outfield positions. He is an intriguing name for a part-time role, and he will be 33 years old next year.

    Cody Ross

    A career-high .858 OPS in 2012 will help Ross get a nice multi-year deal this offseason. Ross will be 32 next season and he is a lefty masher, hitting nine home runs against left-handers with a 1.102 OPS in just 82 at-bats.

    Compare that to his .744 OPS against right-handers and seven home runs in 178 at-bats, and you can see why he has not had a full-time job to this point in his nine-year career.

    Delmon Young

    Young will only be 27 years old in 2013, and he could get a one-year deal to try to establish himself as the player that he was supposed to be when he was first overall in the 2003 MLB draft.

    Young has the talent to be an All-Star and the brain to be a grocery bagger.

    It is up to him as to how far he is willing to go in his career. Another change of scenery would lead to his fourth organization in his brief career. He is a huge risk/reward signing, but the type of signing that would be wise for the Indians.

    Grady Sizemore

    Sometimes guys do the right thing.

    Sizemore owes the Indians a cheap, incentive laden deal. The Indians would not be able to count on him, and they would be smart to sign another player to platoon with him to keep him healthy, but Sizemore on another one-year deal is fair for both sides.

    Sizemore probably would not get a major league contract from any other team at this point. He will only be 30 years old in 2013, so he is still worth a look based on his early successes.

    Conor Jackson

    Once a highly-touted prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks system with Carlos Quentin, Jackson will hit free agency after this season, while Quentin stays in San Diego. At 30, Jackson's career has been a little disappointing. He has not been productive since 2008, but he is right-handed and has a solid approach at the plate.

    He is currently playing for the Texas Rangers Triple-A affiliate. He would be an excellent minor league contract gamble, giving him an invitation to spring training to earn a job. Jackson can also play first, so he would be an interesting addition.

Free Agent Starting Pitchers

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    With Ubaldo Jimenez not returning to ace form, Justin Masterson being inconsistent and Derek Lowe heading to free agency, the Indians will need to reshape their rotation.

    There are several names, and I won't take the time to go over each of them in depth. However, one name that sticks out to me is Brandon McCarthy.

    McCarthy will be 30 years old next July. He is 6-3 in 12 starts with a 2.54 ERA, 42.9 percent ground-ball rate, a 2.19 BB/9 innings rate. He has battled shoulder issues over his career, but he has been very good since developing a sinker. He is 15-12 with a 3.08 ERA in 37 starts since joining Oakland.

    Others Who Should Interest the Indians as Veteran, Low-Cost Options

    Erik Bedard, LHP

    Kevin Correia, RHP

    Jorge De La Rosa, LHP - Coming off of Tommy John and there is no way the Rockies pick up his option.

    Kyle Lohse, RHP

    Shaun Marcum, RHP - Shoulder woes could lead to a discount

    Anibal Sanchez, RHP

    Chien-Ming Wang, RHP

    Carlos Zambrano, RHP - He is nuts but he needs a pitcher's park and solid results to tap future earning potential. Cleveland could be that landing spot.

Conclusion

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    2013...Will it be the Cleveland Indians' year? Who knows, but I am selling this season, as I was selling at the deadline when nothing happened. This team needed to make some serious deals to rebuild, and if they were not going to acquire talent, they needed to do something. Adding Lars Anderson was not the deal that needed to happen, though.

    To those of you who complained about trading Steven Wright:

    He is 27 years old (28 in September), and while his fastball can touch the low 90s, he is NOT R.A. Dickey. Reason number one is that he doesn't have a ridiculous name, and reason number two is that he has not toiled in the majors with three other clubs for eight years before having an ounce of success.

    Wright has a 2.49 ERA over 20 Double-A starts, walking 62 in 115.2 innings, which is far too many, even for a knuckleballer. Another thing, Wright was 27 years old in Double-A. He should have had a 2.49 ERA against a bunch of 19 to 23-year-olds.

    Lars Anderson is three years removed from being named as the Boston Red Sox's top prospect by Baseball America. Anderson will be 25 years old in September, and he has a nice eye and gap power. It was a great trade by Chris Antonetti. Shocking.

    With all of this being said, the Cleveland Indians have a lot of decisions to make, and the primary decision is whether the Dolan family actually wants to field a winning team. The players eligible for arbitration could make close to $40 million in their raises, which would lead to a payroll over $80 million for 2013.

    If the club is serious about 2013 being their window, they need to make their move this winter. They certainly did not do so at the trade deadline on Tuesday. Adding payroll is the only way to immediately improve the roster. It will be interesting to see just what the Indians have up their sleeves in the offseason.