Probably one of the biggest Indians-related developments of the offseason took place yesterday when Scott Kazmir signed a 2-year, $22 million deal with the Oakland Athletics. While it seemed a long shot that he may return, I held out hope that the Indians may be able to come to an agreement with last year’s reclamation project. I figured that Kazmir would probably get a 2-year deal from someone, but expected the total dollar amount to be closer to $14 million. I actually have mixed feelings about Kazmir’s departure. While I liked him, and wanted to see him return, I think that dollar amount is just too much for a small market club to pay. When you’re a large market team, you can take a gamble and overpay on a risky player because you’re better able to absorb the loss. That’s what made it kind of peculiar that the team to take this risk was the notoriously frugal Oakland Athletics. After reading this piece at Fangraphs by Dave Cameron, it made a bit more sense to me, but it was still kind of a surprise, though. If Kazmir got that dollar amount, I kind of shudder at what Ubaldo Jimenez will get and which team will give it to him.
The Indians tendered contracts to all of the players on the 40-man, except for outfielder Matt Carson, RHP Tyler Cloyd, and catcher Lou Marson (Cloyd was already designated for assignment to make room on the roster for David Murphy). None of those names are extremely surprising to me, plus you have to consider that a non-tender doesn’t necessarily mean the player won’t be back. It could mean that the Indians want to cut ties, but it also could mean that they just think the player would make too much in arbitration. By non-tendering them and letting them become free agents, you run the risk of another team outbidding you for their services. However, if you’re able to negotiate a new deal with them, you could end up saving a considerable amount of money. The Indians already avoided arbitration with two relief pitchers – Frank Herrmann and Blake Wood will both earn $560,000 in 2014.
- According to Buster Olney, the Indians, Mariners, Blue Jays, and Twins are supposedly all interested in Oakland’s lefty pitcher Brett Anderson. Anderson is set to earn $8 million in 2014, and has an option for the 2015 season that’s worth $12 million. While this is a deal that could make a lot of sense for the Indians, depending on the player they would send to Oakland, I’m still a bit confused from Oakland’s perspective. If they already had Anderson under control for the next two years, why would they bother with Kazmir? Even though Anderson had a terrible 2013 (6.04 ERA, 1.61 WHIP) he’s only a year removed from a very solid 2012, where he had a 2.57 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP and he’ll be just 26-years-old in February. Either they felt he would be unable to reproduce his prior good seasons, or they felt that they could better fill other holes on the roster via trades, rather than through free agent signings. Kazmir comes with a certain degree of risk as well, although they obviously felt more secure with him. With so many teams interested in Anderson (supposedly the Blue Jays are “infatuated” with him) it may drive his price up, even though he looked to be a solid buy-low candidate.
- The Indians may desire a reunion with reliever Edward Mujica; they are supposedly one of four teams interested in the 29-year-old reliever. Mujica, who last pitched for the Indians in 2008, had a 2.08 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP with St. Louis last season.
Around the AL Central:
- The already busy Detroit Tigers made several more moves – trading Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals and signing free agent Joe Nathan to a two-year deal. In return for Fister, the Tigers received pitching prospect Robbie Ray, utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi, and reliever Ian Krol. It’s not too surprising that the Tigers moved one of their starting pitchers; there were already rumors that they may try to trade Cy Young winner Max Scherzer this winter. I am a little bit surprised by the return they received from the Nationals. Ray, while a promising 22-year-old prospect, has never pitched above Double A. Detroit has struck me as a “win now at all costs” kind of team, so it just seemed odd that they traded a veteran for a prospect. It may mean that the Tigers plan to make another big splash in the free agent market (outside of Nathan) since they’ve obviously freed up a great deal of salary by trading Prince Fielder and Doug Fister, and cutting ties with Jhonny Peralta. Nathan should be a huge help to the back end of their bullpen, something that has been their Achilles heel over the past couple of seasons. He’s coming off a fantastic season with the Rangers, where he had a 1.39 ERA and an 0.89 WHIP, and he’s always been tough on Indians hitters – lifetime the Tribe is batting just .200/.251/.395 off of Nathan, and he has a 3.97 ERA against them. The Indians only faced him for one inning last season, but Nathan pitched a perfect inning.
- The Twins have had a fairly busy week as well, trying to shore up a rotation that was one of the worst in baseball last season (even though their bullpen put together some decent numbers). They signed Ricky Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million deal, the largest free agent deal the Twins have ever given anyone (Joe Mauer’s mega-deal was technically an extension since he never hit free agency). They also signed former Yankee Phil Hughes to a three-year, $24 million deal. Let’s start with the Hughes signing – I figured that Hughes may get $7 or $8 million from someone this offseason, but I figured it would be on a one-year deal. That way it gave Hughes a chance to reestablish his value, and it minimized risk for the team signing him. I never thought someone would give him three years and I can’t help but think this was a bad idea. Unless they think they’ve figured out a way to help fix Hughes, they just spent a lot of money on a guy that has really struggled and has lost his spot in the rotation several times over the past couple of years. The Nolasco deal is a bit more reasonable, since he’s been a bit more consistent, but I would still be hesitant to give that kind of money to what I consider an “average” starter that will be 31 when the season starts.
- Minnesota was also supposedly considering a reunion with catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who departed from the Twins in one of the best baseball trades of the 2000s – Pierzynski to the Giants for Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, (and Boof Bonser, who gets some bonus points for having the name “Boof”). It turns out that Pierzynski just signed a deal with the Red Sox, and now the Twins are supposedly looking at former Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia instead. Since they plan to move Joe Mauer to first base pretty much full time, they need to find someone to take over the majority of the catching duties. It likely means that they won’t be interested in a reunion with Justin Morneau either.
The winter meetings start soon (December 9-12 in Orlando, Florida) so you can expect the hot stove to really heat up over the next week or two. Even today there has been a flurry of activity, and we’re likely to see an uptick in free agent signings and trades. Even if the Indians aren’t directly involved in something, the ripple effect of some of these deals is still likely to affect them in some way.