The Indians' best free agent pitchers — Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, Joe Smith, and Matt Albers — are all expected to be lured away by better offers to throw elsewhere in spite of the club's interest in retaining them, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Here is Hoynes' take on that group of arms, and other news out of Cleveland:
- Jimenez is expected, unsurprisingly, to reject the Indians' $14.1MM qualifying offer. MLBTR's Steve Adams predicted that Jimenez would be able to find three years and $39MM on the open market, and could possibly even score an Edwin Jackson-like four-and-$50MM+ deal.
- Kazmir and Smith are both seeking more years than the Indians want to give. Cleveland wants to do a one-year deal with the former and would go to two for the latter, but they are seeking at least one additional guaranteed season.
- GM Chris Antonetti feels the club is protected if these pitchers find greener pastures, however, noting that the organization has "seven quality major league alternatives in the starting rotation with Justin Masterson, Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer." Nevertheless, a veteran starter and pen pieces are definitely on Antonetti's wish list, says Hoynes. The club has already made contact with Tim Hudson, and Hoynes lists a series of other possible targets.
- As for the relief corps, Hoynes says to expect an internal candidate — most likely, Cody Allen or Bryan Shaw — to be tapped as the closer. As MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth has explained, Allen looks to profile as a worthy replacement for outgoing ninth inning man Chris Perez. Antonetti said that the team has "some talented pitchers in the back end of the bullpen." An opportunistic move on one of the closer types that are available in free agency is certainly possible, but seems not to rank atop the club's priorities.
- Indeed, a pricey spend on a closer may not make sense for a club that — according to Hoynes — projects to maintain a payroll in the $80MM range. With about $70MM already wrapped up after consider the team's arb-eligibles, Antonetti doesn't have a ton of room to work with. Though last year's free agent binge was made possible by ownership's TV network sale, Hoynes adds, the anticipated $25MM national broadcasting cash infusion will be enjoyed by every other club as well. It is worth noting, also, that the annual salaries of both of last year's big free agent signees — Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn — take big jumps this year ($4MM and $6.5MM, respectively), which accounts for a substantial part of the increased payroll pressure.
- Finally, look for the Indians to open discussions with Justin Masterson about an extension, says Hoynes. As he notes in the piece, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently opined that it would probably take a five year pact somewhere between the $65MM given John Danks and Jered Weaver's $85MM.