Tag Archives: Arbitration

Cleveland Indians News & Notes: 28 Days Until Pitchers & Catchers Report

With less than a month until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, this tribe fan is skeptical of the 2015 Cleveland Indians due a lack of moves made over the off-season

Color me skeptical

Unfortunately, the 23 years of disappointment that I’ve endured as a Cleveland sports fans tells me not much more than the same as last year from the 2015 Cleveland Indians. I don’t say that as a debbie-downer. If the Tribe plays above potential (see: 2013) in 2015, I will be more than happy to write about how wrong I was at the end of the season. Like I said: if my experience as  a Cleveland fan tells me anything, it’s this: The Cleveland Indians Front Office did not make enough moves to compete in 2015.

The Washington Nationals made moves to get better.

The Detroit Tigers made moves to get better.

The Seattle Mariners made moves to get better.

The Chicago White Sox made moves to get better.

And those are just a few of the teams that significantly improved their rosters in the off-season.

The Indians’  biggest signing has been acquiring 1B/RF Brandon Moss from the Oakland A’s for minor league 2B Joey Wendle. I wrote back when the move was made about how it will benefit the Tribe in the long-run due to Nick Swisher’s diminishing returns and the smoldering dumpster fire that is RF for the Tribe. As much as I like David Murphy, he is not the long-term solution in right field. Moss will at least allow for Tito to squeeze a few more hits/runs/etc out of his everyday lineup.

Then there is the idea that Gavin Floyd is just going to magically step into the #4 starter role

Again: Really? That’s the best we could do (I wrote recently how Antonetti’s signing of Floyd was an attempt to reincarnate Scotty Kazmir from the ’13 campaign). I’d take ’09 Floyd over ’14 Floyd any day of the week (just look at the numbers). To say that he is the #4 starter is ballsy, particularly on the part of Chris Antonetti. What about T.J. House? He had a solid 2014 campaign and he isn’t even in the rotation. Sure, Salazar, Bauer and Carrasco have much higher upsides than T.J. House, but all three of them have proven inconsistent at times. House was no Kluber, but at least he provided some consistency in the back-end of the rotation.

Floyd is going to have to really prove it to me in spring training that he belongs as the #4 man in our rotation.

There is an upside to all of this though

As ESPN and FanGraphs noted in their ESPN Insider story (full text available here), the Indians’ starting rotation (on the surface) can be described in two words: young and inexperienced (save Kluber of course).

But then people began to dig a little deeper and discovered that the Indians don’t have just 1 very descent starter — they have 4. Bauer, Carrasco, and Salazar all took positive steps forward in their development as top-tier starters while Corey Kluber just went out and won the AL Cy Young. IF the Indians can get 150+ consistent, quality innings from Bauer, Carrasco, and Salazar, not only will the Indians win the AL Central, they will cruise into the ALDS with the best, if not one of the best rotations in baseball.

So: If Floyd doesn’t work out, at least we’ll have a plethora of able starters ready to jump up into his place.

Signings, arbitration, etc.

Over the course of the last week, the Indians avoided arbitration with several players including: Carlos Carrasco, Lonnie Chisenhall, Mark Rzepczynski, Brandon Moss, and a few others.

I’m really happy we got that mess out of the way in a timely fashion this year. I’m all for players fighting for their worth, but last year’s arbitration “issues” leaked in spring training and it just left a bad taste in my mouth going into opening day.

In addition to avoiding arbitration with the latter players, the Indians signed former Twins pitcher Anthony Swarzak. Swarzak’s best year was in 2013 where he went 3-2 in 48 appearances with a 2.91 ERA over 96 innings. Looking at next level stats: Swarzak had a 3.28 FIP and 1.156 WHIP. He regressed somewhat in 2014 posting an identical record over 50 games with an ERA of 4.60 over 10 less innings.

Swarzak provides a solid relief arm in the bullpen which Terry Francona so eagerly goes to in the middle innings. If Swarzak makes the big league club out of spring training, he’ll make a cool $900k with an opportunity for an additional $350k in incentives.

Finally, 1st round draft pick Justus Sheffield was arrested in Tullahoma, TN on charges of aggravated burgalary and underage drinking after allegedly braking into a residence in Tullahoma around 4:30 AM on Monday, January 12th. The Indians released a statement that stated they were “aware of the report” involving Sheffield and “will not comment further until the legal process is completed”. Sheffield was released after posting bail ($5,500). He is scheduled to appear in Coffee County Court on February 5th.

In Memory of Hank Peters

Sadly, on January 4th, Former Indians GM and President (’87-’91) died from complications with a recent stroke in Boca Raton, FL. He was 90.

I feel that it’s fair to credit Hank with the foundation of what was the most amazing decade of Indians baseball ever. Before his 2nd tenure with the Tribe, Peters served as GM of the Baltimore Orioles for 12 years where he won a world series (’83) in the midst of ten consecutive winning seasons.

Next week: A preview of the 2015 depth chart

Tune in next week for a detailed preview of the 2015 Indians depth chart in addition to guesses at the final starting rotation, record at the All-Star Break, Post-season birth %, etc.

Should be fun; Go Tribe!

 

The Ervin Santana Rumor Machine Fires Up Once Again

It appears that the Indians may have renewed interest in free agent pitcher Ervin Santana

 

According to this article in The Latino Post,  the Indians may be keeping an Ervin Santana signing on the back burner. While signing Santana would cost them a first round pick, the Indians would now be hard-pressed to find a quality pitcher to add to their rotation. Santana doesn’t have any plans of lowering his asking price which could spell problems for the Indians. In an article I wrote last week, I indicated that the Indians have a terrible history of signing pitchers to long-term deals, especially long-term deals worth a lot of money. If Ubaldo Jimenez received a 4 year/ $50 million with his past inconsistencies, Santana is going to be looking for a deal of similar length and value; A deal that the Indians won’t offer.

 

I’ve never really read anything on The Latino Post and the article only has two “shares” on Twitter, so as to it’s reliability: we’ll leave it at variable. I’ve mentioned before that I think the Santana signing is the right move if the Indians are in “win-now” mode. Unfortunately, the Indians always seem to be in a  “plan-for-the-future-now” mode. Obviously, they want to win, but they (The Dolans) are not willing to spend the money to do so. Add that to a conservative front office and you get teams that are very close to winning a championship, but just don’t have that “something” to put them over the edge.

 

Let’s look at how the rotations would change if Santana was added:

1. Masterson

2. Santana

3. McAllister

4. Kluber

5. Salazar

 

Versus:

 

1. Masterson

2. McAllister

3. Kluber

4. Salazar

5. Marcum/Carrasco/Bauer

 

Adding Santana makes the Indians rotation formidable and potentially one of the top 5 rotations in the American League next to the likes of Tampa and Texas.

 

The Catch-22 of Adding Santana

 

If the Indians do add Santana (due to injury during spring training), it’s going to cost them a pretty penny. Unfortunately, the Indians are not going to do that. However, if they do, the handcuff themselves into signing Justin Masterson to a long-term, high dollar deal. With the 6 year/$105 million that Homer Bailey received from the Reds, the Indians are  handcuffed at the ankles as well. Masterson should welcome a Santana signing because it forces the Indians hand.

 

After the Indians’ spring training game on Thursday, Masterson was quoted as saying “I figure that somehow, some way, I’ll end up still being here for a few more years.” Obviously, Masterson is planning on being here and is open to negotiations for a long-term deal. By publicly stating his intention to stay in Cleveland as long as the Indians will have him, Masterson pushes them into a corner they can’t easily get out of. With the extension of Michael Brantley’s contract and rumors of a Jason Kipnis extension in the works, leaving Masterson out in the cold is going to be hard to make up to Indians fans.

 

The beloved Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer indicated that the most recent offer from the Indians was in the three to four year range. I was stunned that they even offered three years, let alone four. Considering the Indians and Masterson came to a deal before his arbitration hearing on February 20th, I would like to believe that they can do the same on a deal before the end of spring training.

 

I hope they didn’t offend Masterson by low-balling him on the salary side, but I guess I wouldn’t be surprised — Our front office isn’t known for investing in the “winning-now” attitude.

 

Just be happy the Tribe is back and won’t go away until (hopefully) late October.

 

Stay classy Cleveland.

 

 

Well Masty, It Was Nice Knowing You…

After avoiding arbitration with 1 year deal, Masterson could be gone before year’s end

 

Cleveland, we need to have an intervention:

 

As Cleveland Indians’ fans, we’ve been known to be a bit delusional. Not unlike the 7th grader who hasn’t given up hope on Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, etc. To think that Justin Masterson signs a long-term extension is, well, delusional. Like many before him, he’s going to go where his talent is appreciated. No, not in terms of applause and adoration – we’ve given him plenty of that.

 

I’m talking cash. Dinero. Fat stacks of Benjamins.

 

On Tuesday afternoon, it was reported and confirmed that members of the Indians’ front office and Justin Masterson met and sealed a 1 year deal worth approximately $9.8 million. By reaching a deal, the camps avoided an arbitration hearing scheduled for February 20th. That $9.8 number is a little below the $9.925 million median between Masterson’s ask of $11 million and the Indians’ offer of approximately $8 million. There had been concern among the local Cleveland media and fans that a deal would not be reached in time for the February 20th arbitration hearing thus souring any chance of a long-term extension for Masterson down the line.

 

Several individuals were quick to point out that, while fans were looking for a long-term extension, the Indians do not have a track record of doing so. In fact, according to Tony Lastoria (@TonyIBI), the Indians have only handed out 3 or 4 year deals a handful of times over the last 10-13 years:

 

Tony Lastoria tweets

 

Additionally, He provided some fantastic charts in his article (found here) that takes the reader down the rabbit hole a little further regarding the Indians’ reluctance to hand out long-term deals.

 

In some ways, I tend to agree with the mindset of the Indians. As a small-market city, we see the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers of the league signing players to obscenely large deals in terms of length and money. Off the top of my head, I think of Clayton Kershaw in LA (7 year/$215 million) and Masahiro Tanaka (7 years/$155 million). One things for certain of the former: Kershaw has proven that he deserves the $215 million. He is the best pitcher in the national league right now. Tanaka went 24-0 in Japan so I have little doubt that he deserves the money. It must be nice to have the capitol to go out and make signings like that every year. Back on Kershaw: There were only two pitchers last year that I can honestly say will challenge him this upcoming year:

 

1. Adam Wainwright (STL)
2. Jose Fernandez (MIA)

 

Fernandez in particular was ridiculous. Phenom might be an understatement in terms of description. That kid is going to have a long and lucrative career and it would be in Miami’s best interest to either:

 

A. Lock him up long-term for a price above market price or;
B. Shop him at the deadline either this year or next

 

When you start making big deals like L.A. or New York have a tendency to do, you start wrapping up more and more guaranteed money with one player. If that player gets hurt or begins to underperform, not only are you stuck with that player, but you are also paying top dollar for a lower tier of performance. Maybe that’s the genius of how the Indians front office operates. Signing players to short-term deals with incentives being the key to organization and fiduciary success? To back that up, I would argue Cleveland was the Cy Young factory between 2005 – 2008 (Bartolo Colón won it in ’05, Sabathia in ’07, and Lee in ’08) and they did it for next to nothing. Look up the contract numbers for the latter pitchers while they were in Cleveland. They got jack shit while they were in Cleveland compared to the deals they signed elsewhere. Sabathia in particular is someone who made a huge jump in pay when he landed with the Yankees after his rental half-season in Milwaukee. While Colon was with the Angels during his award-winning year, his success began and grew in Cleveland. All three of those pitchers are now elsewhere and not performing nearly to the level of dominance they had while in Cleveland.

 

On a side note:

 

Remember the Expos – Indians deal in 2002? No? Let me run you through how amazing that deal was for the Indians (and Reds!). The Indians received (for Bartolo Colón and a player to be named):

 

– Grady Sizemore
– Cliff Lee
– Brandon Phillips
– Lee Stevens

 

Colón was primed for money the Indians didn’t have and the 2002 season was a bust. He was near the end of a 4 year/$9.25 million contract (according to @TonyIBI) and the Indians were moving in a different direction (rebuilding). In a brilliant move, the Tribe got rid of the heavy weight (literally and in terms of future salary responsibility) and got a bunch of prospects in return. Look at that list? We received a future Cy Young winner, arguably one of the best center fielders between 2005 – 2008, and one of the better second base prospects over the course of the first decade of the new millennia. Of course, the Indians traded Philips to the Reds, but (creatively looking at the situation), they got Chris Perez for him. Chris Perez had his ups and downs over the course of his career in Cleveland, but for every blown save, he shut the door just as much, if not more.

 

Obviously, the Indians don’t have a track record of signing pitchers to long-term deals and we shouldn’t expect them to change that pattern for Justin Masterson. I hope to God they do, but I guess I won’t be surprised if they don’t. Maybe the signings of Swisher and Bourne last year (4 year/$56 million & 4 years/$48 million respectively) are a sign of a changing of the guard. Maybe Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti are realizing that to win, spending has to occur. We can hope that’s the case, but if it were, Ervin Santana would have been signed a long time ago for the $50+ million he’s going to get for a four year deal with another team.

 

As an engaged fan base, we need to come to terms with the fact that we are a small-market team with low attendance figures and low season ticket numbers. We need to come to terms with those facts so we don’t continue to build up a false reality where we sign big free agents every offseason. Free agents (believe it or not) don’t see Cleveland as a “prime” destination. Additionally, free agents know that they’re not going to get a long-term deal here, especially if they’re a pitcher. Finally, free agents know that the stage in Cleveland is much smaller than stages on the East and West coasts. They know that even if they hit for the cycle, ESPN will give them a two minute highlight before going back to talking about Derek Jeter’s farewell tour for a half an hour.

 

As we move forward, the front office is going to continue the tried and true method of finding and developing talent on the farm rather than augmenting our reality with free agents.

 

We need to accept that and move on.

 

The only way Justin Masterson gets a long-term extension from the Indians that is worthy of the pitcher that he is would be if (going into the all-star break), he tossed 12+ wins, had a sub-2.00 ERA, and 100+ strikeouts. Probable? Sure. Will it happen? Probably not (This is Cleveland, remember?)

 

In closing, I look for Justin Masterson to have a standout year for us. In fact, if it starts off right, and carries it into the all-star break, it could be Cy Young worthy. Regardless, the Indians will probably not make him a long-term offer and he will probably go elsewhere. If things are going badly heading toward the trade deadline, it wouldn’t surprise me if the front office sends him packing for prospects.

 

Our players are assets. We must always remember that. Enjoy the time your favorites are here because you can always count on contracts staying short in Cleveland.