It is only November 1st and, in just two moves yesterday, Indians GM Chris Antonetti has already set the 2012 starting Indians rotation and set the tone for the rest of the offseason. In yesterday’s moves, the Indians exercised the $7 million team option on Fausto Carmona and acquired RHP Derek Lowe from the Atlanta Braves. The Indians also declined to exercise the $9 million option on Grady Sizemore, making the outfielder eligible for free agency. Antonetti, in his press conference yesterday, indicated that the Indians were not done yet, stating that they were looking to upgrade both the outfield and first base during the offseason.
I, of course, can’t go without mentioning the statement Antonetti made about first base. It seems that the front office has realized that the Matt LaPorta Experiment is not going to shake out as planned. In defense of Mark Shapiro, the Indians General Manger at the time that LaPorta became an Indian, LaPorta’s numbers in the minor leagues indicated that LaPorta was a guy on the fast track to the big leagues. Unfortunately, LaPorta has never been able to make the transition to Cleveland even after multiple successful showings in Triple A Columbus. I said at the beginning of the season that 2011 was a make it or break it year with LaPorta and it seems that the front office agrees, although no plans for LaPorta’s future with the Indians have been discussed publicly. Some players just never make the jump from the minors to the majors and that seems to be the case with LaPorta. It is unfortunate that he has flashes of the same bat that excels in the minors but can’t sustain it for any kind of consistency when he gets to Cleveland. And his play at first base is nothing short of a train wreck on most days. LaPorta is scary at first base and, now with the addition of Derek Lowe to the starting rotation – a ground ball pitcher – an upgrade defensively has to be a priority. Add in the immediate need for a guy that can swing a hot bat and it’s safe to say that LaPorta’s days in Cleveland are numbered.
Side note: After release of Antonetti’s statement concerning first base, I can’t tell you how many Tweets I saw about certain first base free agents. Please don’t let your Cleveland imagination run away with your baseball brains. Prince Fielder isn’t coming to Cleveland. There are plenty of others that will.
Fan favorite, Grady Sizemore’s $9 million option was declined officially yesterday. This should not come as a surprise to anyone after Sizemore has been plagued with injuries and five surgeries in three years. When he has been healthy enough to return, Sizemore certainly does not look like the guy that we’ve all come to love as the lead off hitter for the Tribe. In 2011, Sizemore played in just 71 games, hitting .224 with 10 homers and 32 RBI’s and his play in centerfield was not anywhere near the SportsCenter worthy play that Tribe fans have come to expect. Sizemore is simply not the player that he once was and the split – as hard as it will be for his Ladies to let go – is a good decision. The Indians do own the exclusive rights to negotiate with Sizemore until Thursday when he becomes fair game for any other team that wants to talk to him about a job. Expect Sizemore to test the free agent waters – and he should. While there is still a chance that the Indians can negotiate a deal with Sizemore, Antonetti indicated that the team is going in a different direction.
Going against what is customary in Cleveland in hoping that players that leave to join other teams fail, I hope that Sizemore finds another team and kicks ass for the next few years. He’s a good guy that’s been met with a lot of bad luck with injuries. His time may be done in Cleveland but he’ll find a home in another stadium.
When the word came down that the Indians had picked up Carmona’s $7 million option, I don’t think it was much of a surprise to anyone. The choice here was simple: Pick up the $7 million option or risk arbitration where Carmona could walk away with more money, chewing up a tight Indians budget. No brainer – take the safe route and exercise the option. Look at it this way: if he doesn’t work out, they can release him at the end of 2012 when he will be eligible for free agency and we can all stand on Interstate 71 and wave goodbye. If he does perform well and the Indians aren’t in contention at the deadline, the Indians can find a suitable team willing to take him off of our hands.
And, if the Indians are in contention and he’s doing well? We go to the postseason that much stronger.
From the Washington Post:
Derek Lowe’s durability — and price tag — were too much for the Cleveland Indians to resist. The club acquired the 15-year veteran pitcher from the Atlanta Braves on Monday for a minor leaguer, a low-risk move designed to bolster Cleveland’s starting rotation.
And there are the words associated with this trade that I have a problem with: L-O-W R-I-S-K. Let’s get this out of the way. Atlanta was willing to absorb $10 million of the guaranteed $15 million that Lowe will receive in 2012 which makes him an affordable option for the young Cleveland team with a tight budget. Lowe is a workhorse having pitched 180 innings or more every year since 2002 and has not been on the disabled list since 1995. In 2008, Lowe posted a 3.24 ERA with a 14-11 win loss record but the 38 year old pitcher is not the guy he was in 2008. Last year, Lowe had an atrocious year, posting an ERA of 5.05 and leading the National League in losses at 17. Sure, the 17 losses are not all on Lowe and some of that blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the Braves hitters but it’s a loss record that can’t be ignored. That doesn’t mean that he won’t still have some good days left in him but that’s where the problem with Lowe lies. You just never know which Derek Lowe is going to show up.
From Joe Lucia of The Outside Corner
Let me tell you this about Lowe….some nights, he’ll come out there and pitch AWESOME. He’ll look like the Derek Lowe of five years ago. Then some nights, he’ll get absolutely smashed and walk the house. But I’m sure you’re used to that by now…
That last line would be a cheap shot if a.) Joe wasn’t a friend of mine and b.) Joe wasn’t right. If Derek Lowe was the only risk that the Indians had in the starting rotation, I’d be ok with this trade but the fact of the matter is, he’s not. Just like Lowe, Carmona is unpredictable every time that he takes the mound which leaves two starters that make us worry everytime they get the ball. And, with the jury still out on Ubaldo Jimenez, it sure opens the doors for one great big collossal mess on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. Like Jimenez, Lowe will be making the transition from National League to American League pitching which is going to require a period of adjustment. It’s an adjustment that I am not at all certain that Jimenez has made yet. Can Lowe make the transition from National League disaster to American League hero and find the guy of 2008? We’ll have to wait and see but that’s sure a lot to expect from a 38 year old pitcher that is most definitely on the downward swing of his career.What’s more concerning is that Chris Antonetti guaranteed Lowe a starting position next year – a guy that is unpredictable on the mound, had a 5.05 ERA and led the National League in losses at 17 has a guaranteed job.
Really? That’s our guy?
Since 2008, when this fire sale began, the Indians have said that their eye was on 2012 and the post season. The team ran into a little (good) hiccup last year in that plan when the team came shooting out of the gate to contend a year earlier than anyone expected. Good for them and us, the weary fans. But, let’s be honest here, how can Chris Antonetti and company look the fans who have taken hit after hit after hit after HIT with this team square in the face and tell us that the best he could do is Derek Lowe? The last time I checked, no team that made the postseason did so with three question marks looking back at them from the starting rotation.
My buddy Joe told me in a later email that he he’d hand deliver his stash of liquor that is reserved for Derek Lowe start days. Normally, I’d take that line in an entirely different light seeing as I have suddenly found myself single again BUT, in this case, I think Joe’s just worried about me.