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12.06.2011

Offseason Rundown: Waltzing in a Winter Wonder-land

Nino Colla | Tuesday, December 06, 2011 | | | | | | | | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips
Reyes is a Marlin, Manny is coming back, and "Winter" meetings are going on in a place that likely doesn't know what a real winter feels like. Yup, MLB offseason.

[WINTER WONDERMENT]

Photo - Chuck Crow via Cleveland Plain Dealer
The Winter Meetings do begin this week, so you can expect a whole lot of rumors and probably very few actual moves to get done. This is the time that rumors fly and sometimes they get to uncontrollable and sometimes puzzling heights.

So just tread with caution. Don't believe everything you read or take major stock into something unless the reports get really deep and more than just one or two people say it. Even then, tread lightly.

Jordan Bastian has a little bit of a Meetings preview up at Indians.com, highlighting a few of the Indians needs/target positions.

As we've been discussing, the need is still there for an outfield/first base type bat. Ideally this desired player would play both positions, hit right handed and also come very very cheap. Someone tell the Indians if that player is out there.

Bastian also highlights that depth for the pitching staff is needed, which is always needed for any team at any point in the year. You won't see many of those deals made though. Those are late in the offseason, veteran minor league contracts if anything.

Fausto and Hafner are brought up as possible trade chips, but you probably won't see either dealt. And of course at the conclusion of the meetings, the Rule V Draft will be held, but the Indians do not figure to be players nor are they expected to lose anyone major.

The most important note is at the end, which indicates how much the Indians may have to spend. If you do out the estimates, they are expected to pay anywhere from $20-25 million in arbitration deals, which would bring them right around $60ish in total payroll as of now. Bastian seems to think they'll be around the $70 million mark in terms of a budget, so anyone that can do math knows they'll have around $10 million to possibly spend.

If that's the budget, I'm sure they definitely can find the bat they need with that money. The next step is finding the fit. Like I said, if anyone knows of that ideal player, they better let the Indians know, ASAP.

There are two players the Indians have at least poked their head on and one of them is on our Offseason Chart and both of them are former Indians. One is Casey Blake, who was made a free agent after the Dodgers bought him out of his $6 million contract. Blake would definitely fit the role of someone who can play first base (even third) and the corner outfield spots. He's a right-handed hitter, a nice veteran and we know what he can bring to the table.

But he's also 38-years-old, and coming off a season in which he played just 63 games, after eight seasons playing at least 100. So we'll see there. Speaking of injuries, Ken Rosenthal has the Indians as one of four teams that have inquired in with Mark DeRosa and his surgeon. DeRosa was semi-decent when he came over from Chicago a few years ago before he got dealt to St. Louis. But he's been a walking medical report since he signed in San Francisco.

MLBTR says he may have to sign a minor league deal, which at that point is something you probably do just for the hell of it. The Indians need a more stable option though, so again, that would be a cheap, veteran type move you make later.

In other rumor news stemming from the first day of Winter Meetings, the Indians are reported to have interest in Casey Kotchman and Josh Willingham. Kotchman would be a good fit at first as someone who provides an above average defensive glove, but his year in Tampa was a bit of a surprise offensively. If he can do what he did last year, .300 type average, high .300's in OBP, decent pop (10 HR/24 2B) then he would be a nice fit.

Willingham on the other hand would be a outfield option and Bastian says that the interest has been "mild."

Another name that came up? Kevin Kouzmanoff, who could probably make a switch over to first base. Bastian says its nothing serious. Is anything every serious?

Look, it's names. They're going to come up, even with the Indians. As Jordan also said, names are going to come up and the Indians are going to be poking their head in on any and every first base options (aside from Prince Fielder, unless his price tag drastically drops down, which won't the way the Marlins are spending).

Of course when you talk to Chris Antonetti, Matt LaPorta is still in the fold, although on less comfortable terms. If anything, the Indians finding a first baseman is for flexibility, but we all know it is for certainty to start most of the time than it is to be a "flexible" option.

The idea keeps coming up and now with Bastian is that Gabby Sanchez is a fit if the Marlins sign Albert Pujols. Paulie C. was the first to originate the idea in his offseason map, so if it ever comes to fruition, credit him with the vision to see that one. But the Marlins still have to nab that first baseman before we can think of Sanchez being available.

Bastian says it would probably take a starting pitcher.

So that brings up another idea. What if the Indians were to trade a starter for a first baseman and then sign a starting pitcher instead? It all depends on what is out there for what price and it just continues to go along the lines of "getting creative."

It would be tough to say no to trading Josh Tomlin for Sanchez, for the simple fact that Tomlin is one of those guys you have a hard time parting with out of pure joy of watching him. But if you can upgrade your team, it's hard to say no.

[STAFF ALIGNMENT]

The Indians announced their coaching staff alignment for the upcoming season. There has been some shake-ups, but not much after Edwin Rodriguez was announced to be taking over for the departed Aaron Holbert and all the Major League coaching staff shake-up.

Mike Sarbaugh will return to Columbus and be flanked by Phil Clark and Ruben Niebla. Chris Tremie is also returning to Akron with Tony Arnold and Rouglas Odor.

As mentioned Edwin Rodriguez will be in Carolina and he'll be joined by Scott Erickson as his pitching coach. The name might look familiar if you are a baseball fan and remember Erickson from his run in the 90's when he was a legit starter for Minnesota and Baltimore. He's a 20-game winner for Minnesota (and he holds a World Series ring) and had a solid run with Baltimore in the mid-to-late 90's. Erickson was a starter and bounced around the last few years of his career, last pitching nine games as a reliever for the Yankees in 2006.

Lake County will have a shake-up with Dave Wallace, who coached the Scrappers last year, moving up to full-time duty as the Captains manager. He's joined by Jeff Harris and Jim Rickon. Ted Kubiak is moving down to the short-season Mahoning Valley squad, with Greg Hibbard and Tony Mansolino assisting. Anthony Medrano is staying on as the Rookie League manager in Arizona.

The interesting addition to that rookie league squad is Steve Karsay as pitching coach. Indians fans should definitely remember Karsay from his stint in the Indians bullpen. Karsay has an incredible 1999 season with the Tribe, winning 10 games out of the pen and carrying a 2.97 ERA in 78 innings. He never really had a better year prior or after that, but he bounced around spending time in Oakland and the Yankees as well with Cleveland.. He's one of the people to undergo elbow and Tommy John surgeries in his career than then bounce back to have a good season.

the Indians also added Rob Leary as their field coordinator, a position he held with Boston for several years before working the past two seasons on their major league staff.

All in all the Indians were probably hurt by Tim Belcher stepping down, but they seem to be in good shape. I really like the Erickson hire as he could probably be a Tim Belcher like addition if he sticks with it and gets experience. A former major leaguer with success that can transition to the coaching world.

[RANDOM RUNDOWN]

The Indians are stocking up on minor league catchers with relatively little if any major league experience. In addition to bringing back Michel Hernandez and Luke Carlin, the Tribe signed Matt Pagnozzi. He's no Sal Fasano caliber of Italian, but he'll have to do.

Pagnozzi is not even 30 yet, but he's another depth option for the team as they try and fill out their Triple-A and Double-A catching roster. Given the number of catchers that went down last year, I'm sure the Indians want to be as prepared as possible. He's played for Colorado and Pittsburgh and was drafted by St. Louis in 2003.

He's also certainly not Tom Pagnozzi (his uncle who won several Gold Gloves as a catcher).

Shin-Soo Choo is fulfilling his abbreviated military commitment, which he did not just avoid by winning the gold medal but rather got it adjusted to something way shorter and way easier than he would have had to face had he not won the gold medal. He'll be back in the states and beginning his hitting program by the first of the year.

There is also some idea that the Indians are interested in an extension, but as always it takes two to tango. I'm interested to see if the way the Indians treated Choo during his DUI arrest has changed his opinion on Cleveland and if all of a sudden he's a little more warmer to staying here. If he's now thinking that Cleveland isn't that bad of a place because the team he is playing for really does have his best interests at hand.

We'll see.
Photo - Getty Images via Yahoo! Sports

After he's done taking in Jets games and golfing, Ubaldo Jimenez will make 4-7 starts in Winter Ball to kind of ramp up his start to 2012. He's always said that last year he didn't get a chance to pitch in Winter Ball effected his performance last year, so the Indians thankfully worked with him to get him out there for a sense of regularity.


Asdrubal Cabrera will also play Winter Ball, but in Venezuela. As good of a year as he had, the Indians felt he tapered off a little bit and they want to get him to a point where he can be prepared to play into September and October. Cabrera is a great player, but he's still not the complete player he can be. It's taken a lot of work, so it's good to see the Indians looking for another way to get him in top shape.

And then there is the case of Carlos Santana, who played so much last year that the Indians would prefer he not play in Winter Ball. A catcher who played as much as he did last year certainly does not need it.

[TWITTER RUNDOWN]

In case you are wondering, I am keeping a log of all the players offseason happenings via Twitter. Vinnie Pestano is certainly filling up the log with his exploits and interesting sandwich creations.

Aside from the apparent "Beat Reporter Vs Indians Management" Olympics that seems to be brewing between the duo of Jordan Bastian and Chris Assenheimer with Manny Acta and Mark Shapiro, LeVon Washington is stealing the offseason.

I was asked by Twitter friend Michael Ondo if I was keeping a log of all of the "WashTime" tweets by LeVon Washington. Quite frankly, I am keeping a running log in my head of all of LeVon Washington's tweets. The man is pure entertainment. Cole Cook and Will Krasne are still the best at Twitter, but if I want pure late night entertainment, I'm pulling up the LeVon Washington feed.

WASH TIME!

What the hell is Wash Time you ask?

You are not worthy of asking if you do not know.

In other words, only LeVon Washington really knows. And we can only assume it includes him "going ham" because he is not only "WashGod" but "WashWindian".

Crank up!

On a serious note.. This WashTime stuff is really filling up my timeline to a point of overkill. Apparently Washington is going to be giving out "WashTime" shirts to his followers. He has over 600, so. I hope for his wallet's sake he isn't on planning on giving one to everyone.

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