Every day there are more rumors around the “available free agents not named Prince Fielder” (i.e. the ones in which the Indians may have interest). It’s sounding less and less like the Tribe may land one of them. The Indians, Rockies, Twins and Mariners supposedly have some level of interest in Michael Cuddyer, Josh Willingham and Carlos Beltran. As that’s three players for four teams, one of those teams probably won’t have a chair once the music stops. I’m going to go ahead and bet that team will be the Indians.
MLB Trade Rumors has a story on Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham; both seem like they will settle in other locations. If Carlos Beltran wasn’t interested in the Indians at the trade deadline, I doubt he’ll be interested now. If the rumors about Cuddyer’s price are true, than I doubt the Indians ever got serious about making him an offer. Supposedly the Indians never officially offered Willingham a contract.
The Indians do supposedly have interest in another player off the scrap heap – right-handed free agent infielder Jose Lopez. He had a good year with Seattle in 2009, as he hit .272/.303/.463 with 25 home runs. Unfortunately that was his last really solid season; last year, split between the Rockies and Marlins, he hit .216/.245/.372 with 8 home runs. As a comparison with other possible right-handed infield options, Matt LaPorta hit .247/.299/.412 with 11 home runs at the Major League level, and Shelley Duncan (who could play some first) hit .260/.324/.484 with 11 home runs. I know it doesn’t hurt to take a chance on some of these low-cost, low-risk players, but Lopez doesn’t appear to be an improvement over internal options.
It seems like Mark Shapiro is taking quite a virtual beating on Twitter tonight as he attempts to defend the Indians’ inactivity this far this season. One of the reasons he said the Tribe isn’t going all out for Willingham is that they question his defense, even though they like his bat. I hate sloppy defense, but at this point I’m willing to sacrifice for some additional offense.
While I do find this lack of activity frustrating, I always hate to see inflated prices for mediocre/decent players. While I think Willingham would be a nice fit, I don’t want to see the Indians overpay and be stuck with him for several seasons. I guess I’m torn; they need to improve the lineup, but there may be decent bats available through trade or within the organization. I’d hate to see them spend a ton of money on little or no improvement.
On a slightly related note, the Indians tendered contracts to all arbitration eligible players yesterday. They will now try to work out contracts with these players before the deadline in early 2012. If they do not reach an agreement by the deadline, then the Indians would go to arbitration with the players. I should add that the Indians have not gone to arbitration with anyone since 1991 – they’ve always managed to negotiate a deal on their own.