As the Winter Meetings get underway this week, there will be a flurry of activity throughout Major League Baseball. The Miami Marlins have already gotten the ball rolling with the signings of closer Heath Bell and shortstop Jose Reyes. The Indians expect to be involved on several fronts this week, but it’s anyone’s guess whether or not they end up doing anything of significance.
I figured I’d share some of the Indians gossip/news and discuss some potential options.
According to Jon Morosi, the Indians are looking for an additional outfielder and help at first base. This is obviously no surprise; the Indians could use some outfield depth in case of injuries to regulars again this season, while Matt LaPorta isn’t necessarily guaranteed the first base job. The Indians would also like to find a right-handed power bat.
There are several outfielders in which the Indians have rumored interest:
Jason Kubel – As Morosi pointed out in his Tweet, the Indians claimed Kubel off waivers in August but could not work out a deal with the Twins for both Jim Thome and Kubel. In 2011, Kubel hit .273/.332/.434 with 12 home runs, but only played in 99 games and spent a good chunk of the season on the DL.
Michael Cuddyer – He had a great season in 2011 as he hit .284/.346/.459 with 20 home runs. This would seem to solve two of the Indians’ problems; it would give them an extra outfielder and a right-handed power bat. Unfortunately for the Indians, Cuddyer is drawing quite a bit of interest and may end up being way out of their price range. The Twins are supposedly trying to resign both Kubel and Cuddyer. In the past, I would’ve considered at least Cuddyer as priced beyond their means, but that was before they forked over big money to Joe Mauer.
Josh Willingham – He spent 2011 with the Oakland Athletics, where he went .246/.332/.477 with 29 home runs. Another right-handed power bat, Willingham is supposedly drawing interest from about 9 different teams. His asking price may be more reasonable than Cuddyer’s, but still likely more than the Indians are willing/able to spend.
B.J. Upton – The Indians have been connected to Upton in rumors for a year or two now. Tampa Bay seems willing to listen; they’d probably be looking for offense in return (they have an overabundance of young pitching). Upton, a right-handed batter, hit .243/.331/.429 with 23 home runs in 2011.
First base/infield help rumors:
Casey Kotchman – Even though he’s another left-handed hitter, he had a strong 2011 campaign: .306/.378/.422 with 10 home runs for Tampa Bay.
Casey Blake – Well, at least we pretty much know what we’d be getting with Blake. Since he’s drawing a fair level of interest, I don’t want to see the Indians overpay, especially since Blake had some injury issues in the past year or two (he only played in 63 games in 2011). Last season in limited action, he was .252./.342/.371 with 4 home runs.
Mark DeRosa – I think the best part about the Mark DeRosa signing a few years ago was the fact that the Indians were able to flip him for closer Chris Perez before DeRosa suffered a serious season-ending injury. That’s the main problem with DeRosa now – is his wrist fully healed? Will it ever be fully healed? The good news is that DeRosa realizes he may not get offered a starting a position and seems open to a minor league deal. If you can sign him on a minor league deal with a spring training invite, or next to nothing, it’s always worth a shot. DeRosa is versatile, and a decent player when healthy (plus he’s a right-handed bat). He only played in 47 games in 2011, and went .279/.351/.302 with no home runs.
Carlos Pena – Signing Pena would give the Indians some power at first base, although he’s another left-handed batter. Plus there are rumors that his agent, Scott Boras, is seeking a 2-year deal; I’d rather see the Indians sign a player like Pena to a one-year contract. In 2011 he hit .225/.357/.462 with 28 home runs.
Yonder Alonso – This is one of the people the Indians have some interest in via trade. In 88 at-bats with the Reds at the Major League level in 2011, Alonso hit .330/.398/.943 with 5 home runs. I shudder to think how much the Reds may ask for in order to part with Alonso, but it’s likely they’ll want pitching in return. Since Drew Pomeranz and Alex White are gone, I’m not sure what the Indians could offer that would make the Reds want to listen. (Unless the Indians can convince the Reds to do them a favor, since they basically just gave Brandon Phillips to them).
Moves that could come out of left field (bad pun intended, sorry):
Trading Chris Perez – I’ve mentioned before that I think this would be a dumb idea because it could destabilize a successful bullpen. The other reason I think this isn’t a great move – the closer market is fairly saturated at the moment. There are a number of top-of-the-line closers that are free agents this off-season, and several who have yet to sign; plus the A’s are supposedly shopping Andrew Bailey as well. I don’t think the Indians could get a great return for Perez at this point in time. To be fair, I’m sure they wouldn’t consider trading him unless they get blown away by something.
Taking an expensive risk from the scrap heap – The Indians often turn to what I think of as the “scrap heap” – signing players that are either past their prime, or coming off bad seasons, and hoping that they can capture lightning in a bottle. This isn’t a bad idea if the deals are low-cost, low-risk. There is another type of scrap-heap that may be forming this off-seasons – there have been rumors that the Houston Astros are looking to offload Carlos Lee, while the Cubs are looking to dump Alfonso Soriano off of their roster. Both the Astros and the Cubs have new general managers that are attempting to rebuild their organizations and are looking to get rid of bad deals. There are rumors that both teams are willing to eat considerable salary on both Lee and Soriano. Is it worth it for the Indians to consider one of these players? Normally I wouldn’t want to touch either of these guys with a 10-foot pole, but if the Indians can get them for minimal cost and or/prospects, it may be worth considering.