External Options for the Cleveland Indians Bullpen: Part Three


If You’re Gonna Ball, Might as Well Ball on a Budget

With the departure of Chris Perez there will be a lot of discussion on who will be the Indians “closer” in 2014. Will it be someone in-house like Cody Allen or Bryan Shaw or will the Indians go out on the open market and sign a closer?

Steve Kinsella and I see the investment in bullpen arms differently and have hashed it out over the last few winters. Rather than have a back and forth on philosophy, Steve and I are going to present a few bullpen options for the Indians and explain why they fit.

On Monday, Steve explained what he desired in a back-of-the-pen arm (using the term “reliever extraordinaire,” which we both will often shorten to ‘RE’) and I wrote a manifesto on why I don’t believe in paying relievers, which can be found here. Yesterday, we each had a list of five guys we’d like the Indians to target for the RE role. The names may not have been “sexy,” but we each explained why we felt these picks were good choices. Today, I’m posting my “blind” response to Steve’s list – the first time he will see my comments is when this article is posted. Tomorrow, he will post his responses to my list, also blind. I will respond to Steve’s list in the order he presented.

1) Francisco Rodriguez – Steve quoted Tampa Bay Rays front office member Eric Neander in his list, and I feel the quote is quite accurate. Neander was referring to Fernando Rodney, calling him “a live arm who was in a bad situation.” By all indications, Rodriguez ended the season in a bad situation, and though he’s no longer the electrifying “closer” he was with the Los Angeles Angels a decade ago, he’s certainly a live arm still. I’m skeptical he would join the Indians for the $3 million salary Steve specified, but if he did … can’t say I’d hate it. But I would likely have trouble spelling his first name without looking it up. Occasionally wears eye protection, which looks like glasses.

Sep 9, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher

Kevin Gregg

(63) pitches during the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. The Cubs defeated the Reds 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

2) Kevin Gregg – Well, he likely would be cheap. His season was somewhat marred by Cubs President Theo Epstein threatening to release Gregg after he was moved from the closer role. But he did have an ERA+ of 133, and was much better away from Wrigley Field (#smallsamplesizewarning but 5.16 ERA in Chicago vs 1.95 ERA away from home). He also had an ugly July (9 ER, 13 BB in 14 IP). It wouldn’t be popular, but this could be a sneaky cheap-good acquisition. Wears glasses like a boss.

3) Jose Veras – Veras was actually on my own initial list, but I removed him to be difficult because I thought he would cost too much money. He will be unfairly vilified for the home run he allowed in the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, but he’s a solid reliever, for whatever that’s worth. I was surprised when the Tigers declined his $3.25 million option for 2014, but reports have surfaced, stating escalator clauses increased the option to $4 million. I’m not scared off by his “journeyman” reputation, but I don’t want the Indians offering him a two-year deal of any kind. If he fell to the $3 million (or less) price range on a one-year deal I’d be interested.

Sep 22, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Fernando Rodney (56) in the dugout against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

4) Fernando Rodney – I actually like Rodney a lot. He’s got a nasty change-up and would be a nice addition to the Indians bullpen. He certainly seems to have the intangibles some people seem to love, and could perhaps be a steady veteran with presents for the younger relievers on the team. He also cocks his hat to the side, which is baller. That said, I feel he will sign out of the Indians price range (or more likely, what the team’s price range should be). ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden suggests the Indians should sign Rodney for 2-years at $18 million (Insider subscription required but here is a link if you want to see) and I would riot in the streets and flip cars I would be quite upset if this turned out to happen. I think Steve’s estimate of $5 million (plus an option year) might be too low as well, but I suppose I’d consider going out of my comfort zone and in the $4-5 million range if Rodney was a possibility. I’m not betting on this, though.

5) Jessie Crain – Stop me if this sounds familiar, but I really don’t hate this idea. I’m inclined to throw last year out the window – as he was hurt and his first half seems like an insanely good outlier (586 ERA+ in 36.2 IP). That said, he’s always struck batters out, and he does seem like the kind of move I’d love to gamble on, healthy in spring training or not. Tacking on an option for 2015 would be a must for me, but even if he’s not the team’s RE, he could be a nice high-leverage bullpen arm for the later innings.

Conclusion: I really thought I was going to hate Steve’s list, but these are some fairly sensible options. I do doubt some of these players land in the price range I’d want to play around in, but if they do, the Indians could do far worse. As I’ve said before, money is usually the deciding factor for me, hence why Crain and Gregg rate so favourably with me. Assuming Steve’s estimates ended up being correct, I’d rank them in order of preference like this:

1) Crain
2) Gregg
3) Rodney
4) Rodriguez
5) Veras

Check back tomorrow for Steve’s response to my list of five. If you disagree with my assessments, or would like to leave a comment describing how sensible I am, feel free to do so below (but please read the original post with my thought process first!)