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11.14.2011

2011 Offseason Preview

Nino Colla | Monday, November 14, 2011 | | | | | | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips
Hey, hey, HEY! HEY! I saw what happened yesterday. So you mean to tell me that you are ready to be a baseball fan again? Awesome, great, sounds good. What perfect timing too because the General Manager meetings are starting today. Seems fitting to kick things off with the official unveiling of the offseason chart.

Every year I like to establish an offseason guide of possible targets. We don't normally usually see many of the targets actually acquired, but it is a good way to organize the comings and goings of this team during the offseason.

If you visit to the right and see the Offseason Outlook link, you'll be taken to this year's Offseason chart, which as always, is a work in progress throughout the entire winter months. We've got the targets, the new names coming in, the old names going out, even coaching moves. Not only that, but keep an eye on the 40-man roster to see who is on the bubble, who needs to get added (before the Rule V Draft in less than a month). Not to mention the Indians are going to be dishing out some money to arbitration eligible players such as Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Masterson, so you'll need to keep an eye on that this offseason as well.

Let's break it down, step by step. I don't nearly have the time to go through each position like in year's past as in-depth as I tend to do and on top of that, the Indians already made probably their biggest move. So let's take a look at what we're dealing with

TARGETS BY POSITION
First Base

There's a few big names floating out there at the first base position. They go by Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols  and where on the chart it has OUT OF PRICE RANGE, if I were to list both of those guys, they wouldn't even fit in that category. Heck Michael Cuddyer is a reach, that's for sure, but he would be the ideal fit due to his versatility.

Photo - Getty Images via Zimbio
So we're left with some real ehhhh candidates. The one that stands out to me more than anyone is Carlos Pena. Does he hit for average? No. Does he strike out a lot? Yes. Perfect, he fits in with the rest of this team. He's hit at least 28 home runs though the past five years. He hit .255 against right-handers with 21 home runs in 2011. He'd be the right-handed bat this team could use and he would bring you some power (and not mention, a decent glove) at first base. Matt LaPorta does not seem to be cutting it for me, so I'm ready to see someone brought in. Pena is a bit of a pipe-dream, but it would be one pipe-dream that I'd love to see come true. He'd fit perfectly as someone that plays every day against the right-handers, while Santana plays first against the left-handers, enabling Lou Marson to slide in and play.

Pena would come at a cost, that's no doubt, he made $10 million last year, but it was a one year deal. So it's conceivable to think that Pena would be a one-year stopgap option and looking at the fact that you saved some money in not bringing back Sizemore, there could be wiggle room.

Other options from there are more of the cheap ones. Guys like Xavier Nady, Jorge Cantu, Dan Johnson, and Brad Hawpe all seem like they'd be guys you'd take a chance on. Nady and Hawpe are even a little more intriguing because of the versatility in playing the outfield as well, which is also one of the Indians other alternative needs. It could potentially save them the roster spot to have someone who can play the outfield as well.

One veteran name that would probably get some love (and would fit the Indians MO given his price) is Derrek Lee. He's simply a veteran that would come on the cheap, but his play in Baltimore did nothing to inspire any confidence that he can be even a stop-gap. 

Getting Creative: As always, the Indians need to explore the creative options and if they were to go that route, there are some options out there. Mark Reynolds could probably play first and he is sort of in the Carlos Pena mold that he will strike out a lot, nor hit for a high average, but he'll bring some big pop and a high on-base percentage. There could be other options out there, but it really isn't for many people to know, especially at this stage of the game.

Outfield

This may be more of a sleeping giant of a position that the Indians go after than you would think. With no Grady Sizemore, an oft-injured Nick Weglarz in the minors, Choo's disappointing year, Shelley Duncan being your next in-kine in most cases, and Zeke Carrera... Well, this team may need another bat out there.

Some good fits would be again, one year type players. A reuniting with Mark DeRosa? Someone like Fred Lewis would be a different fit. We of course cannot rule out a return by Grady Sizemore, but it looks more and more unlikely by the day with other teams pursuing him. The Indians may be looking to just cut ties all together and go for someone more durable. Which also makes it unlikely that they get a Mark DeRosa, or even someone like Connor Jackson, who again is someone who can play first base.

That may even mean Kosuke Fukudome is the best candidate out there. Fukudome was not only durable and much of a work horse after coming over, he was pretty good. And with a spot realistically open in the outfield, he might be enticed into coming back. We know what a fit he would be for the Indians, we know what he brings. So obviously it would work. It just becomes a matter of money and positioning.

I'd say though, perhaps the favorite if you would ask the Indians of a dream situation, if they had the money, is Josh Willingham, free agent from the Athletics. There were ideas of bringing him in at the deadline, but the Indians went for a cheaper option in Fukudome and it turned out pretty good. But with Willingham, not only do you run into issues with his fee, you run into the fact the's very well going to be a Type A Free Agent, which means it costs you a draft pick.

Getting Creative: There are no shortage of options when it comes to outfielders who you could trade for. You could even go in several different routes. You could try and pry guys like Seth Smith or Chris Heisey away from their respective teams (Colorado and Cincinnati), but they might be looking for a swap that involves more major league talent. Both are younger options that would be more than a one-year type of an acquisition.

Photo - Getty Images via Zimbio
Florida has a few players who've seemingly fallen out of favor in Chris Coghlan and Logan Morrison (also someone who could play first base). Coghlan is a former Rookie of the Year just two years ago who likely would not cost as much as someone like Morrison, but comes with some risk as to what he really is.

The Indians could go the route they did with Derek Lowe and try and get someone like Alfonso Soriano who has a huge contract and hope a team like Chicago is just looking for salary relief. Especially with someone like Theo Epstein now there and probably looking to spend, if he can save money by just getting rid of someone (even if he still has to pay) he may do it. Soriano can hit the long ball still (hasn't gone below 20 home runs since 2001).

And of course then there is a name like B.J. Upton, which came up a lot both during the time leading up to the deadline and shortly after the official declining of Grady Sizemore's option. He seems to be a favorite of Indians fans and could be a nice fit as someone who just needs a change of scenery. His numbers and potential present some interesting ideas in terms of what his value would be on the market in the offseason from a team like Tampa.

Pitching

I'm not even going to bother bringing up and diving into names like Aaron Harang and Rich Harden, which I have listed. If any of those guys (or guys like them) are out there on minor league deals, I could see the Indians have some interest. At this point, the rotation is set and the only thing the Indians are looking for is depth. You can never have too many depth options at that position.

You can ditto that for the relief pool. I'd specifically bring up two names though. Pat Neshek would be a reclamation project I'd look into if I were the Indians. And also local boy Adam Russell could be on the radar if he can't find a spot elsewhere.

ARBITRATION

Photo - Getty Images via Yahoo! Sports
SS, Asdrubal Cabrera: I think if there is one deal to be given out this offseason, it would be to Asdrubal Cabrera and no one else. That being said, the Indians will most definitely try and look into it and I think it would benefit them if they could look into getting something done. All in all, Cabrera will probably still not get the most money from the arbitration process.

3B, Jack Hannahan: It would behoove the Indians to get Jack Hannahan back and given that his offensive numbers are not out of this world, he'll come very cheap.

OF, Shin-Soo Choo: The down year will effect the price tag he gets and it gives Scott Boras a little less leverage if they were to discuss a long term deal. Not that they would at this juncture. It seems very likely that Choo is headed to Free Agency in a few years.

SP, Justin Masterson: Some are calling for Masterson to get a deal. I need another year before I can say that. Still Masterson will get a much deserved raised.

RP, Chris Perez: A Super Two guy actually entering his second of four years of arbitration. There is an idea that you could trade Chris Perez and bring a nice bat, but I'm sticking with Pure Rage. Extension? Nah, I don't like giving relievers extensions, it makes no sense. Chris will still get paid.

RP, Rafael Perez: You almost have to at this point. What reason could you say against it? He's not going to get overpaid by anyone and he turned in perhaps one of his best years.

RP, Joe Smith: He'll get a nice raise in the process after his incredible year. That's about it.

RULE V ELIGIBLE

We always cover this in-depth more into the winter when the roster deadline approaches, so expect more very soon. But to give you a quick preview via the eye-ball test. Bryce Stowell, Rob Bryson, Scott Barnes, and Bryan Price are the four names that stick out. The fortunate thing is that the Indians rostered a good portion of guys already and are not left with many tough decisions. Because of their depth in relievers, they could probably leave a guy unprotected and not be real sad if he got taken, especially since it would still take a whole lot to lose that guy.

I think out of them all, Rob Bryson is the one that needs protected that will get protected. He was in the CC Sabathia deal and the Indians probably are desperate for a return on that investment. A guy like Scott Barnes could always get taken and stuck in the bullpen, although coming off an injury, teams would shy away from that idea.

TRIMMING THE FAT

In order to add some guys, if that does indeed become the case. The Indians will still have to make some roster cuts with their current 40-man sitting at 38. The names that really stick out are pitchers Kelvin De La Cruz and Corey Kluber. De La Cruz is still in Akron and has been on the 40-man for a few years now. It will likely not take much to sneak him through waivers the way he's been performing the past few years.

Kluber is another name that could probably slide through. Nick Weglarz is an interesting name, but ultimately someone the Indians probably wait for as long as possible. Thomas Neal would probably be sent through before Weglarz. 

And of course, I would trade Luis Valbuena for a pile of rocks. David Huff and Jeanmar Gomez are also candidates to get traded, so of course, their spots are naturally up in the air.

MINOR LEAGUE FREE AGENTS

The Indians already re-signed Michel Hernandez and Ben Copeland and Hernandez got an invite to spring training. He's another one of those guys like Damaso Espino who plays very well in the minors and is a great guy to have around to eat up innings in spring. Nick Johnson never made the roster, so he'll be a free agent that the Indians could probably bring back again. Joe Martinez and Adam Miller are probably names you want to bring back and perhaps the most well-known. 

One name that has already said good bye is Travis Buck, who signed with Houston. But more importantly, this may be the year we finally say good riddance to Jeremy Sowers.

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