Saturday, October 29, 2011

Offseason Rosterbation: The Indians 40-Man Roster Edition

There are several key dates for the offseason in major league baseball. Free Agency begins on October 30th and all contract options must be picked up or declined by October 31st. The Indians have two decisions to make on Grady Sizemore and Fausto Carmona and it is expected that the Indians will decline Sizemore's 8.5 million dollar option and pickup Carmona's 7 million dollar option.

The Indians have until November 18th to solidify who they are going to protect from the Rule 5 draft. The Rule 5 draft is a draft for players with 4 or 5 years of service in an organization. Players drafted out of high school or college must be protected after 4 years of service and international free agents after 5 years of service.

Currently, the Indians 40-man roster sits at 38 but there are four players, Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, Micheal Brantley, and Shin-Soo Choo on the 60 day disabled list. There is no disabled list in the offseason; therefore, these players will have to be added to the 40 man roster bringing the total number of players on the roster to 42.

The Indians have eight players eligible for arbitration (Justin Masterson, Jack Hannahan, Shin-Soo Choo, Chris Perez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Joe Smith, Fausto Carmona, and Rafael Perez) and none of the arbitration eligible players are non-tender candidates. There are three free agents, Chad Durbin, Jim Thome, and Kosuke Fukudome and none of the three are expected to be offered contracts and Grady Sizemore's option is not expected to be picked up which will bring the roster down to 38.

Before we examine who stays and who goes, we need a list of Rule 5 eligible players (if not protected) that the Indians may want to consider protecting. This list was retrieved at and I will be making three subtractions and one addition to the list. I do  not believe Elvis Araujo, Argenis Martinez, or  Oswel Munoz need to be added as they were both signed by the Indians in 2008 as undrafted free agents and have 5 years before they require inclusion on the 40-man and I will be adding Jason Knapp to the list as he was drafted in 2008.

Who Needs to Be Added?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Matt Murton a Good Fit for the Indians

If the Cleveland Indians, as expected, decline the 2012 option on center fielder Grady Sizemore they will be looking for either a replacement center fielder or will move Micheal Brantley to that spot and look for a left fielder. An intriguing name that the Indians should have interest in signing is 30 year old left fielder Matt Murton.

Murton has spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons playing in Japan for the Hanshin Tigers. On October 5, 2010 he collected his 211th hit of the season breaking Ichiro Suzuki's single season hit record set in 1994 (Murton played in 141 games compared to Ichiro's 130).  In 2010, he finished the year by posting a slash line of .349/.395/.499 an OPS of .894 with 17 HR and 91 RBI and he finished 2011 with a slash line of .311/.339/.423 an OPS of .762 with 13 HR and 60 RBI. 

Murton is a rare player who became a journeyman but never failed at the big league level.  In 1058 major league plate appearances he put up a slash line of .286/.352/.436. Was he a victim of a veteran loving GM and Manager in Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella in Chicago? Was he overlooked in Oakland and a victim of a numbers game in Colorado? Murton is an interesting player in that he has remained healthy throughout his career and has performed well both as a starter and a role player at the major league level. The Indians could offer Murton one thing that has seldom been given to him and that is the opportunity to play everyday at the major league level.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Grady Sizemore Contract and/or Free Agency

The Indians have until 3 days after the World Series to pick up the 2012 option on centerfielder Grady Sizemore. Sizemore's troubles staying healthy have been well documented over the past three seasons as he has only played in 210 games while posting a slash line of .234/.314/.413 with 28 HR and 109 RBI in 938 PA.

I do not believe many fans would blame the Indians brass for not wanting to commit 9 million dollars to a player that has had 5 surgeries (two groin, one elbow, and two knee) in the last three years. Hard to believe that the Indians are the side looking to lessen the strain on a contract once believed to be exhibit A on why young players shouldn't give up so much and sign a long term deal.

Many fans are hoping that the Indians are working a deal with Sizemore that would keep him in an Indians uniform for the 2012 season. This would require working a new deal at a lower base salary with incentives (most likely based on PAs) that could eventually be worth more than his current 9 million.   If the Indians don't exercise the 2012 option there will be plenty of teams lining up to take a gamble on him as he is still only 29 years old and packs quite a bit of power in his swing.

When working a contract for 2012, I would take the same course of negotiations with Grady Sizemore that the Boston Red Sox took when signing Adrian Beltre following the 2009 season. Beltre was coming off a very sub-par 2009 season where he hit  .265/.304/.379 with 8 HR and 44 RBI and had only played in 111 games.  He was a free agent who was turning 31 years old and there were a lot of whispers that he may be older than he stated, that he may not be able to stay healthy, and that he may be on the downside of his career.

The Red Sox signed Beltre to a contract that included a 2010 salary of 9 million. The contract included a second year player option of 5 million dollars. If he had 575 PA the Red Sox could buy the 2011 option out for 1 million dollars. If he had 640 PAs or more than the 2011 option increased from 5 million to 10 million and the Red Sox 1 million buyout went into his pocket (if he chose to opt out). Essentially, at a minimum he was going to earn 10 million for 1 year or 14 million for 2 years. From the Red Sox point of view, 2 years at an average salary of 7 million is not much of a risk and with Beltre's history it was certainly a gamble worth taking.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Carmona's Back?

Should the Indians exercise the 2012 option of Fausto Carmona?
Fausto Carmona made 6.1 million in 2011 while posting an ugly 7-15 record with a 5.20 ERA in 188.2 innings pitched. The Indians hold three options on Carmona which would pay him 7 million in 2012, 9 million in 2013, and 12 million in 2014 (Cot's Baseball Contracts).  The Indians will decide shortly on whether to pick up the 2012 option which would also void out the 2013 and 2014 options. If the Indians decline the 2012 option they still have Carmona for the 2012 season as he only has 5 years and 125 days of service time, 47 days short of becoming an unrestricted free agent. (A player needs 6 years of service time to become an unrestricted free agent and a year is considered to be 172 days.)

The missing service time came in 2009 when on June 5th after starting the season 2-6 with a 7.42 ERA over his first 12 starts the Indians brass felt he needed to rebuild his body, his mind, and his mechanics so they sent him to the Player Development Complex in Goodyear, Arizona. He worked his way from Goodyear, to Lake County, Akron, and Columbus and finally made his return to the Indians on July 30th. The 54 days spent away from the major league club is why Carmona is only arbitration eligible heading into the 2012 season.

The Indians could decline the 2012 option and offer Carmona arbitration for the 2012 season. By current collective bargaining rules the Indians may not offer less than 80% of the player's salary and performance bonuses the previous year; therefore, the Indians could decline the option and enter an arbitration figure of 4.9 million. Carmona's agent most likely would ask for between 5.5 and 7 million. The Indians, who haven't been to an arbitration hearing in over 20 years (1991 Jerry Brown lost and Greg Swindell won), most likely would settle on some kind of middle ground contract in the neighborhood of 5-6 million.

The question the Indians need to answer is whether or not its worth it to void out the 2013 and 2014 options to save around a million dollars? Does Carmona have more trade value this winter with 3 years of team control versus only 1 year? If Carmona pitches effectively in 2012 could he be the difference between another year of .500 baseball or more? If he pitches well and the Indians aren't in contention for the AL Central title or the Wild Card is he more valuable with 1/2 a year of service or 2.5 years of service? 

The next question is based on performance to date is it possible for Carmona to turn things around and pitch well enough to be worthy of his 2012 option and beyond? In my opinion, the best move for the Indians is to pick up the 2012 option and see what the market holds for Carmona this winter. After all, if Carmona was to perform poorly in 2012 it would only cost the Indians an extra million or so.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Inured Indians: What Impact Did Injuries Have on the 2011 Season?

The overall effect that injuries have on a baseball team is hard to measure because some injuries lead to addition by subtraction, some injuries lead to the door being opened for a young player to finally get an opportunity to get constant playing time, but often times injuries take their toll on a clubs ability to consistently compete. The club may not be able to find that comfort zone that comes from knowing who's pitching, who's catching, and who's hitting where in the lineup.

What impact did injuries have on the 2011 team? In the case of the 2011 Indians, it is much more than probable that the injuries played a big role on the teams in ability to gain traction over the final 115 games or so. Every time that the Tribe seemed to be getting a key player back from injury another injury struck the team.

The Indians visited Anaheim and won their eight straight game after a beautiful outing by Mitch Talbot. Talbot pitches 8 shutout innings on 5 hits while striking out 4 and walking two. The energy and hope created by Talbot's great start were quickly dashed when it was revealed that Talbot was to be placed on the disabled list on April 17th (returned May 25th). Jeanmar Gomez took his spot in the rotation.