Cleveland tendered contracts to Justin Masterson, Michael Brantley, Drew Stubbs, Marc Rzepczynski, Vinnie Pestano and Josh Tomlin. They also avoided arbitration with Frank Herrmann and Blake Wood, who both agreed to one year contracts worth $560,000. The team’s roster now stands at 38 players.
Sep 20, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians catcher Lou Marson (6) throws to first base during a game against the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field. Cleveland won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Marson appeared in only three games for the Indians last season. A home plate collision with Desmond Jennings during Marson’s first start of the year resulted in a trip to the disabled list, and although he returned at the end of April, his stay on the roster was short-lived. He immediately went back on the disabled list, this time with an injured right shoulder that had apparently hindered his ability to throw out base-stealers since the 2012 season.
During his tenure as the Indians’ backup catcher, Marson appeared in 253 games and hit .217/.308/.295, with just four home runs over the course of five seasons. His value was entirely based in his defense, where he excelled at throwing out runners. He caught 38 percent of would-be base stealers in 2010 and 2011, but the shoulder injury that sidelined him last season plagued him throughout 2012 as well – dropping his career caught-stealing rate to 31 percent.
The 27-year-old was one of the four prospects acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in the Cliff Lee deal. With Marson’s departure from the Indians, Carlos Carrasco is now the sole remaining player from that trade.
Carson, who only played 20 games with the Indians, appeared in 11 memorable at-bats last season. The 32-year-old hit .636/.692/.909 in his brief time with the team, and he gained fame among Cleveland fans after hitting a walk-off RBI single to defeat the Astros in a crucial September game at Progressive Field. He spent the majority of the season in Columbus, where his .717 OPS was a more accurate depiction of his skills. Carson has 12 seasons of professional baseball under his belt, but only 92 major league games. In addition to the Indians, he has spent time with the Yankees, Athletics, Rays and Twins, and will likely latch on to a new organization on another minor league deal.
Cloyd, who was designated for assignment last week to make room for outfielder David Murphy, had a 6.56 ERA in 60 innings for the Phillies last year. He was claimed off waivers by the Indians after the season ended, so he has never made an appearance for the Tribe.
The players who were tendered contracts must file for arbitration by January 14. MLB TradeRumors projected the 2013 salaries of the Indians’ arbitration-eligible players earlier this month:
August 20, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Cleveland Indians right fielder Drew Stubbs (11) runs the bases after hitting a two run home run in the fourteenth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Masterson — $9.7 million
Drew Stubbs — $3.8 million
Michael Brantley — $3.7 million
Marc Rzepczynski — $1.4 million
Vinnie Pestano — $1.3 million
Josh Tomlin — $1.1 million
The player whose contract status was most questionable was Stubbs, whose job may be in jeopardy this spring. He hit just .233/.305/.360 last year, with a strikeout rate of almost 30 percent. Chris Antonetti said earlier this week that Stubbs will compete with Murphy and Ryan Raburn during spring training, but that the team may elect to keep all three outfielders, in addition to Brantley and Michael Bourn. Tendering a contract to Stubbs was probably a good decision — despite his poor performance and growing salary, he could be a viable trade option for a team that needs a center fielder.
The Indians have a collection of arbitration-eligible pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery, and perhaps the most notable of these is Tomlin. The starter underwent the surgery in 2012 after posting dismal numbers for the first half of the season, and returned just over a year later for an appearance out of the bullpen to end the season. When healthy in 2011, he started 26 games for the Tribe and posted a 4.03 xFIP, striking out 13.4 percent of batters and walking 3.2 percent. He could be a valuable member of the team as well.
July 27, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Josh Tomlin (43) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Herrmann and Wood are both returning from Tommy John surgery, as well. After missing all of last season, the two right-handers signed 2014 contracts below their projected salaries to avoid arbitration. Herrmann has pitched parts of three seasons for the Indians, with a career xFIP of 4.52, but there is reason to believe he may improve. Before his injury, he had recently adapted a second pitch to accompany his fastball — an effective curveball that could make him a much more impactful reliever.
Wood, who also missed all of 2012, was picked up last winter after the Royals placed him on waivers. He pitched 69.2 innings in 2011, with a 3.80 xFIP and a strikeout rate of 20.5 percent. His biggest flaw is a high walk rate, but if he can learn to control his pitches, he could be a vital part of the bullpen.
Overall, these were good moves for the team. The Indians will now need to find a reliable third-string catcher, especially given Carlos Santana‘s injury history, but it would have been a poor use of resources to pay Marson $1 million to play in Columbus. They could still offer him or Kelly Shoppach — or any other free agent catcher — a minor league deal with a non-roster invite to spring training.