2007 Cleveland Indians

The Tribe is next up in our 2007 team outlooks.

Mark Shapiro’s contract obligations:

C – Victor Martinez – $3MM
C – Kelly Shoppach – $0.327MM
1B – Ryan Garko – $0.33MM
2B –
SS – Jhonny Peralta – $0.75MM
3B – Andy Marte – $0.33MM
3B – Kevin Kouzmanoff – $0.33MM
IF – Hector Luna – $0.34MM
IF – Joe Inglett – $0.33MM
LF – Jason Michaels – $1.75MM
CF – Grady Sizemore – $0.75MM
RF – Casey Blake – $3.75MM
OF – Shin-Soo Choo – $0.33MM
OF – Franklin Gutierrez – $0.33MM
DH – Travis Hafner – $3.75MM

SP – C.C. Sabathia – $8.75MM
SP – Paul Byrd – $7MM
SP – Jake Westbrook – $5.6MM
SP – Cliff Lee – $2.75MM
SP – Jeremy Sowers – $0.33MM
SP – Jeremy Guthrie – $0.625MM

RP – Rafael Betancourt – $0.3653MM
RP – Matt Miller – $0.3374MM
RP – Fernando Cabrera – $0.3308MM
RP – Fausto Carmona – $0.33MM
RP – Jason Davis – $0.33MM
RP – Tom Mastny – $0.33MM
RP – Brian Slocum – $0.33MM

I have the payroll at less than $50MM at this point, including raises.  The Indians entered 2006 at $56MM.  All we know about ’07 is to expect a significant payroll increase.  That’s gotta mean at least 10%, so they should go past $60MM.  $70MM would not be surprising at all, and that buys more than just a closer.

The Indians will go with Garko and Marte at the corners, at least unless some obviously better option presents itself.  The average AL 1B hit .280/.352/.467 and the average AL 3B hit .269/.338/.442.  Garko and Marte can approach this level next year.  Given how far above average Hafner, Sizemore, and Martinez are for their positions, it still makes for a dangerous offense.

Shapiro will definitely acquire a second baseman, with Ron Belliard, Adam Kennedy, Mark DeRosa, Ray Durham, and Mark Loretta the top free agent options.  Shapiro hopes to improve the infield defense as well as find a player to push Peralta a bit. The perfect solution: Craig Counsell.  Counsell is one of the best defensive 2Bs in the game and plays a decent shortstop.

To continue with Jason Michaels as the everyday LF would be a certain concession of below average offense.  Choo and Gutierrez could push him.  Given all the purported free cash, I’m surprised the Indians haven’t made noise about acquiring a decent-hitting veteran LF.  The coolest answer would be Barry Bonds, but Frank Catalanotto, David Dellucci, and Moises Alou would all represent improvement.  If Pronk could play 1B for 30 games in 2007, that’d go a long way toward resting other fragile players.

The rotation is set, with Carmona probably acting as the sixth man.  Carmona finished strong in three starts, and there’s been speculation of trading Byrd.  Byrd isn’t exactly coveted, so hopefully that’d be a situation where the money saved goes toward a marquee signing.

The Indians won’t look internally for a closer.  Free agent options are slim though: Joe Borowski, Danys Baez, Dustin Hermanson, Octavio Dotel, Keith Foulke, Miguel Batista, David Weathers, and Eric Gagne have experience.  It might make sense to try to pry Brad Lidge away from the Astros.  Mike Gonzalez would be another fine trade option.  What’s Ugueth Urbina up to these days?  Oh, right.  When are they going to hold that trial, anyway?

The Indians are a team with $10-20MM to spend and no good way to spend it.  Given that he’s got a fine squad already, perhaps Shapiro will just add his second baseman and closer and save some money for a midseason deal.

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