It’s been a busy offseason for the Cleveland Indians. They’ve plugged the hole at first base with Casey Kotchman and Russ Canzler. They’ve shored up the rotation with Derek Lowe and Kevin Slowey. And they’ve added depth with almost a whole roster’s worth of veterans on minor-league deals.
In other words, the Tribe’s offseason roster moves are probably complete. But is there any as-yet-unsigned player who should still be on Chris Antonetti’s shopping list? In this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists: Is there anyone else the Indians should sign before Opening Day?
Joining us this week are SABRTribe‘s David McGarry as well as former Wahoo’s on First contributor Jon Presser. Here’s what we all had to say:
David McGarry (SABRTribe): The Indians no longer have glaring holes in their roster and thus should not be looking to guarantee a major-league contract to any other free-agents this offseason. However, this isn’t to say that the rest of the Indians’ off-season should be uneventful.
Yoenis Cespedes is still available and would be a wonderful player to sign as a potential long-term solution in center field. Unfortunately his high price-tag and inability to contribute to the majors immediately makes him an unlikely acquisition. There is also the potential to trade for a substantial upgrade; it’s difficult to speculate what offers are on the table, but as the Ubaldo Jimenez trade illustrated—unexpected deals are always possible.
More importantly, the Indians should also be looking to extend our young stars—namely Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis—to team friendly deals before they become expensive and unwilling to add team options for their first few seasons of free agency.
Jon Rudder: This offseason’s free agency has been busier than in years past, and the Indians will enter Spring Training with a slew of new players. The Indians have addressed their needs as best as they could, particularly at first base, with the signing of Casey Kotchman. The Tribe has a lot of bodies to fill the first base spot, and he’s the best candidate to do so. His numbers, both offensively and defensively appear to instantly make the Indians a better team.
He has an above-average glove, and while it would be a lot to ask for the same production as last year, if he can provide numbers that are just in the same ballpark, he will be welcome to the lineup. He’s not the power threat that fans may have wanted, but realistically the Tribe didn’t have a lot of alternatives.
Lewie Pollis: With first base now basically solved, there aren’t any real holes in the depth chart. There’s at least one respectable player at every position and a decent arm for every spot on the pitching staff, with quite a bit of depth in case the injury bug strikes again. So there’s no one left who the Indians really need. But I still have a name on my wish list: Manny Ramirez.
I’ve already made my opinions on Ramirez known on multiple occasions. He’d be the powerful right-handed bat the Indians have been craving all winter. He’d be dirt-cheap, and if he’s anything close to the hitter he once was—even in 2010, when he was allegedly washed up, he raked to the tune of an .870 OPS—he’d be well worth the minimal investment it would take to sign him.
Travis Hafner is undoubtedly going to miss at least 50 games, probably more like 60 or 70. In all likelihood Ramirez would be a better hitter than whoever else the Indians would throw into the DH slot while Pronk is out. Not to mention he’d be a solid platoon partner for Hafner, whose career OPS against southpaws is 125 points lower than what he’s hit against right-handed pitchers.
Given all that, the reasons GM Chris Antonetti has given for ignoring Ramirez don’t seem convincing at all. Signing Manny would be the perfect capstone for a solid offseason.
Steve Kinsella: If the Indians are looking for a right-handed part-time outfielder who could possibly provide an offensive punch to the lineup, then the Indians should add Magglio Ordonez.
Ordonez broke his ankle during the playoffs last season but should be medically cleared for baseball activity right about now. His defense is poor but he can still put a glove on and give an occasional start in left field. He is a right-handed bat has a slash line of .327/.386/.553 in his career against left-handed pitchers, and even in his poor 2011 season he still had a slightly below-average .292/.331/.385 line. He could make an occasional start against southpaws and in the event of injury can assume a larger role in the outfield or at DH.
There is an old saying that a light bulb is always brightest before it burns out. The question with Ordonez is, has he had that one final flash? If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘maybe not’ then the question shifts to what kind of contract should the Indians offer? Andruw Jones, who will fill a similar role for the New York Yankees in 2012, signed a one-year deal with a base of $2 million but he can earn an additional $1.45 million based on plate appearances. A similarly structured contract with a lower base (around $1.5 million) would be an acceptable risk based on the possible reward.
Brian Heise: The Indians have had a very distinct strategy over the past few seasons when it comes to signing free agents late in the game: signing older veteran players who are affordable, but still have enough left in the tank that they might be attractive to other teams around the trade deadline or could simply be released if things fall apart. Past examples of this strategy are Orlando Cabrera, Adam Everett, and Russell Branyan (twice).
Ordonez and Guerrero are both power-hitting right-handed bats, who come with risks because of their age and the awful years they had in 2011. If I had to choose between the two, I’m taking Ordonez. If the Indians are going head to head with the Tigers, wouldn’t you want someone who wants to prove to his old team he still has something left in the tank? And uou can never underestimate the impact playing with a chip on your shoulder can have, even at age 38.
Katie Hendershot: Given the Indians’ current financial situation and the remaining free agents on the market, I don’t see any particular players they can reasonably hope to attain that would make a significant impact on the roster. Roy Oswalt is an attractive option, but he has already said that he has no interest in joining Cleveland. Resigning Kosuke Fukudome might help bolster the lineup somewhat, but the Indians don’t seem to be heading in that direction.
Instead of signing an average player for a year or two—or in some cases, renting one for a few months—developing the core group of players should be the team’s main focus. Starting pitching, first and third base are looking a little iffy right now, but it’s not that there aren’t options within the organization; they’re all just young. I think Cleveland needs to look at developing them and giving them time to adjust to the big leagues with consistent at-bats and exposure. The young players they have now are the future of the team going forward, so their development is important to the success of the team down the road.
Signing a new player may help satisfy anxious fans, but at this point in the offseason, the options that would really change a fan’s perspective on the outlook of the season are gone. Most of the players that are still available are aging or don’t really fit what the Indians need.