It’s a pretty widespread opinion that one of the main pieces the Tribe should go after this offseason is a right-handed power bat. I thought I would take a few minutes to go through potential free agents this offseason that fit what the Tribe may be looking for. Let’s take a look.
Kendrys Morales, 1B/DH
There were rumors of the Tribe’s interest in Morales all the way until the waiver wire deadline. Morales definitely has some pop, but I’m not sure he’s the “impact bat” the Tribe is looking for. Morales was a stud for the Angels a few years back before breaking his leg on a walk-off homer celebration. Since then he’s posted mediocre to below average OBP (.320 in 2012, .336 in 2013) and SLG (.467 in 2012 and .449 in 2013) for a guy that’s supposed to be a middle of the order bat. He’s not a marquee free agent, so he should be roughly in the Tribe’s price range, but I’d take a look at other options before thinking about Morales.
Michael Morse, OF
I think Michael Morse is one of the more interesting free agents out there for the Tribe’s purposes. Prior to his rough, injury plagued 2013 season, Morse was exactly the type of player the Tribe will be looking for this offseason. From 2010-2012, he averaged a SLG of .517, and in 2011 he mashed 31 HR and drove in 95 runs for the Nationals. Since he’s coming off a bad year, he should certainly be in the Tribe’s price range, and if healthy I think he’s an intriguing option.
Mike Napoli, C/1B
Mike Napoli will probably be out of the Tribe’s price range, but that might be a blessing in disguise. Napoli has put up some great numbers over the past couple of years, but he has never really been “the guy” in the middle of a lineup. In Texas, he was surrounded by top tier offensive talent in Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Adrian Beltre to name a few. This year in Boston, he is the beneficiary of hitting behind Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. Players usually tend to see better pitches batting around other superstar hitters in the lineup. I’m not saying Napoli isn’t a good hitter because he is, but the Tribe would have to severely overpay for him in order to get him, and that’s not something that I want to see.
Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B
Haha, just kidding.
Carlos Beltran, OF
While Carlos Beltran would certainly fill a void for the Tribe, we do have to remember that Beltran nixed a potential trade to Cleveland in 2011 with his no-trade clause, and additionally rejected the Tribe’s offer to him in the same offseason and signed with the Cardinals instead. Would he have a different opinion of the Tribe this offseason with a much improved team and a well-respected skipper in Terry Francona? Only Beltran himself could answer that. Beltran would certainly provide the big bat the Tribe will be looking for though. He is coming off a contract worth $26 million over two years with the Cardinals, so he will be relatively expensive, but not untouchable for the Tribe’s purposes. At age 36, Beltran is not going to get a gigantic multi-year deals from any team, so this is something that may play into the Tribe’s favor. While Beltran to Cleveland is probably unlikely, I’m sure it’s something the front office will look into (maybe the third time’s the charm?).
Nelson Cruz, OF
On paper, Nelson Cruz is exactly the type of right-handed power hitter the Tribe is looking for. However, I place Nelson Cruz in the same category as I did with Mike Napoli when it comes to free agents, though for different reasons. They are good players that are going to have extremely high asking prices, and some team or the other is going to end up massively overpaying for them. Nelson Cruz is a good power hitter, but he’s extremely injury prone, a poor outfielder, and oh yeah, he brings all the lingering Biogenesis baggage with him. The Tribe might inquire about him, but he’ll be out of their price range, and that’s probably a blessing in disguise as well.
Corey Hart, OF
I think Corey Hart is an interesting name to throw around for the Indians. Hart missed all of 2013 with a knee injury, which is why he’s someone the Tribe could definitely afford. It’s always a big risk to sign a player like this, but there’s definitely a big potential reward. From 2010-2012, Hart slugged over .500 in each season, and averaged 29 HR and about 83 RBI per season over that span. There are a lot of question marks that surround Hart, but if he’s healthy, he could be a steal for the team like the Tribe.
Marlon Byrd, OF
Marlon Byrd was one of the feel good stories of 2013, as he enjoyed his finest Major League season at the age of 36. That’s exactly why the Tribe needs to stay away from him, as he’s another free agent to drop into the “some team is going to pay way too much for this guy, and let’s hope it’s not us” category. General regression theory tells us that Byrd’s number will fall back down closer to his career averages next season, and in addition he missed significant time due to injury in both 2011 and 2012. Byrd probably isn’t the best bet for the Tribe.
To wrap this up, I think it’s safe to say that the trade market might yield some more intriguing options for the Indians. This free-agent class of power-hitting righties (or switch hitters) consists of mostly players that are injury risks, players that are going to be asking for much more than they are worth, and players that are probably past their primes. I’m sure a couple of the names on this list will resurface for the Tribe through rumors in the offseason, but I’m also sure that the Tribe’s brass will be looking at all possible alternatives on the trade front as well.