So I’ve been thinking about the moves I’d like to see the Tribe make this off-season. In my mind, there are two different categories: things that happen in my wildest dreams, and more attainable, realistic moves. As fun as it is to say “okay, sign Albert Pujols” it’s not going to happen and it seems kind of pointless to pretend that it might. There are a number of reasonable things that could/should happen though.
Options on Fausto Carmona and Grady Sizemore. Within three days of the World Series ending, the Indians will need to decide if they’re going to pick up the options on Carmona and Sizemore. Sizemore’s option is for $8.5 million with a $500,000 buyout. It also increases to $10.5 million if Sizemore wins a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger award, makes the All Star team, or ranks high in MVP voting. If Sizemore returns healthy and to form, it’s realistic to think that he may be able to reach at least one of these incentives. However, I’m just not sure I’d like to see the Indians roll the dice on this one for $8.5 million. I’d decline the option, and try to re-sign Sizemore for less money. If he walks, perhaps it’s time to cut ties and hope he gets a fresh start elsewhere. Carmona’s option is for $7 million, which would’ve increased by a million if he placed in the top 5 in Cy Young voting the prior two years. The Indians actually hold options for Carmona for the 2013 season ($9 million) and the 2014 season ($12 million). I’d go ahead and pick this option up. Even though Carmona is maddeningly inconsistent, he is pretty physically durable (knock on wood). I’d like to see him get one more chance to keep his head on straight, because he still is brilliant at times. The fact that he’s pitching in winter ball this season may benefit him as well.
Sign a first baseman. I haven’t completely given up on Matt LaPorta, but I think my patience is growing a bit thin. There are obviously a couple of marquis first basemen on the market this season (Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder), but there’s no way the Indians sign either one of these players. They’re not going to spend the money, and to be honest, I’m not sure I’d want them to spend the money. Actually to be fair, what I hate about those large contracts isn’t the money involved; it’s the amount of years you have to give to a player. You’re almost guaranteed to be stuck with someone who is quite obviously declining, for about $20-$25 million in the last years of that contract. A likely cheaper solid alternative may be someone like Michael Cuddyer (someone the Indians supposedly have interest in) or Derek Lee. The bonus of Cuddyer is that he can probably play a number of different positions. Plus Travis Hafner is bound to go on the DL at some point during the season as well; you could always let the extra first baseman fill in for the DH position.
Sign an outfield bat. I know that the Indians seem to have about 3,000 outfielders, but it also seemed like they needed about 3,000 outfielders this season with injuries and various slumps. If they don’t pick up Grady Sizemore’s option, they Tribe could definitely use an additional outfielder. This article in the San Francisco Chronicle actually seems to think the Indians may be in on Carlos Beltran this offseason. (And that Grady Sizemore could end up in San Francisco if he leaves Cleveland). The Indians may have interest, but I really don’t see Beltran coming to Cleveland. I got the impression he wasn’t willing to accept a trade to Cleveland this past summer, and he’s also a Scott Boras client (which means he may be priced beyond the Indians means). Plus Beltran, while extremely talented, also has had problems with injuries. I’ve always thought David DeJesus was underrated, although he did struggle some in 2011. He may be a low priced option for the Tribe in the outfield.
Omar Vizquel. He said he doesn’t plan to retire yet, and is looking for a utility infielder position. In the past few seasons, the Indians brought back 1990s stalwarts Kenny Lofton and Jim Thome; why not bring back Vizquel? I know that the Indians have an overabundance of infielders – with a healthy Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis they still have Jason Donald and possibly Jack Hannahan – but it would still be great to see Vizquel back in an Indians uniform. Even north of 40 he still has skills, and could provide great leadership to the young players on the club.
Add a starting pitcher. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a free agent signing, but the Tribe will need to find some additional starting help. So far Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Tomlin are set for the rotation; the last two spots are up for grabs. If they pick up Carmona’s option, then it just leaves one spot in question. The last position could be filled by a number of people already in the Tribe’s system – Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff and Hector Rondon are a few of the names that come to mind. I personally don’t have a lot of faith in David Huff, but he was solid throughout much of the 2011 season. Gomez looked much better in the second half, but was inconsistent for much of the season; nobody really knows how Rondon will bounce back from Tommy John surgery (but his performance in winter ball could also provide a clue). Another option is converting Rafael Perez into a starter, although I don’t think that will happen. While there aren’t a lot of superstar free agents out there, there are veterans that may be an inexpensive, good fit – Freddy Garcia, Mark Buehrle, and Aaron Harang are a few names that come to mind.
I might as well throw in my predictions for where some of the big free agents will land. I agree with many of the points made in the San Francisco Chronicle – I think Albert Pujols stays in St. Louis, Prince Fielder goes to the Washington Nationals, and C.J. Wilson ends up in Yankee pinstripes. Jose Reyes will either stay with the Mets or end up with the Boston Red Sox.
So what are your thoughts? What would you like to see from the Tribe this offseason?