Cleveland Indians Rumors

Cleveland Indians trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

AL Central Notes: Graham, Pelfrey, Salazar, Finnegan

Word in the scouting community is that the Twins made a great Rule 5 pick-up in righty J.R. Graham, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com tweets. Graham was once a top-100 prospect with the Braves, who would receive him if he cannot stick with Minnesota or another club for the duration of the year. He scuffled in his second attempt at Double-A last year, throwing 71 innings (including 19 starts) of 5.58 ERA ball, striking out 6.3 and walking 3.3 batters per nine.

Here’s more from Minnesota and the rest of the AL Central:

  • The Twins might benefit from shipping Mike Pelfrey to a team that needs starting depth in exchange for a lefty pen piece, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Pelfrey is, however, owed $5.5MM this year, which as Berardino notes would stand to complicate any trade efforts. The 31-year-old righty recently spoke with MLBTR’s Zach Links about his situation, saying that he feels good and is preparing to embrace whatever role he is given.
  • The Indians optioned righty Danny Salazar to Triple-A today, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. The 25-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance — in thirty career big league starts, he has struck out more than ten and walked less than three per nine — but has yet to put it all together and struggled badly this spring. With 162 days of service to his name, Salazar will pick up a year of service so long as he spends any real amount of time in the bigs, though a prolonged stint in the minors could jeopardize his ability to qualify as a Super Two down the line. Zach McAllister, T.J. House, and Josh Tomlin are now the three arms in the mix for the club’s final two rotation spots.
  • Also headed back to the minors is Royals lefty Brandon Finnegan, as Barry Bloom of MLB.com reports. A draft pick turned late-season star in 2014, Finnegan had a rough go in his first big league camp and will also benefit from the chance to develop as a starter. “We just thought it was better for him to go down,” said manager Ned Yost. “He had a huge workload last year. He hasn’t been real sharp in Spring Training. Just get him back down, get him going again. And have him ready for whenever we need him.” Of course, the club intends to be careful with limiting Finnegan’s workload, so it remains to be seen how much impact he can have at the major league level. Then again, the loss of Tim Collins leaves the club relying on Franklin Morales and Brian Flynn as pen lefties, so it is not hard to imagine a need arising. Finnegan has 28 days of service thus far, so a few months in the minors would likely keep him shy of a full year of credit.

AL Central Notes: Rodon, Nathan, Indians, Robinson

While Kris Bryant‘s situation is grabbing all of the headlines in Chicago (and nationally, for that matter), Jon Morosi of FOX Sports believes that another Chicago phenom — White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon — is making a strong case for the Opening Day roster as well. Morosi argues that the ChiSox are running out of reasons not to bring last year’s No. 3 overall pick north with the team, as the lefty has whiffed 19 hitters in 12 1/3 innings thus far and recently struck out nine of 16 Royals hitters in a four-inning effort. The Sox will need a pitching boost early in the season, he adds, with Chris Sale unavailable for Opening Day and veterans such as John Danks and Brad Penny struggling. Starting Rodon’s service clock early isn’t as problematic as it would be in the case of Bryant (or any position player), Morosi writes, because the Sox could use the All-Star break as a means of limiting his innings and also regaining enough service time to delay his free agency by a year. Rodon could strategically be optioned to Triple-A in advance of his final first-half start, then have his second-half debut delayed as late as possible.

  • Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told reporters, including MLive.com’s James Schmehl, that there’s no competition for the closer job, which firmly belongs to Joe Nathan. The 40-year-old Nathan is coming off perhaps his worst season since becoming a closer and has struggled further this spring, while setup man Joakim Soria has been excellent, but no change is imminent. Soria spoke to Schmehl about pitching in a setup capacity and admitted that he’s “not excited” about not being a closer, though he added that pitching the eighth inning isn’t much different, and he’ll be happy pitching in any role. MLBTR will again be tracking all closer-related situations with our @Closernews Twitter account this season, for those who play fantasy baseball and want to stay current.
  • Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that while most believed Danny Salazar was capable of breaking camp in the Indians’ rotation, the right-hander has done nothing to deserve that spot and should be passed over for Zach McAllister, at least in the short term. McAllister is out of Minor League options and was believed to be ticketed for bullpen duty, but using him in the rotation early on would give Salazar some much-needed time to regroup at Triple-A. Manager Terry Francona voiced disappointment in Salazar’s spring thus far, Pluto writes, noting that his stuff is still electric, but the results and control haven’t been there.
  • Non-roster invitee Shane Robinson has made a good impression on the Twins in camp thus far, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The 30-year-old Robinson is battling for an outfield job with the Twins and has batted .257/.333/.371 in 39 plate appearances. He’d likely only make the team in the event that both Aaron Hicks and Eddie Rosario were optioned to Triple-A, however, Berardino notes. Robinson tells Berardino that a number of teams called him once he became a Minor League free agent this winter, but a very candid 25-minute phone conversation with GM Terry Ryan and the Twins’ strong early interest led him to select Minnesota. The former Cardinal has an April 2 opt-out date and would earn $550K in the Majors, Berardino reports.

Quick Hits: Forbes, Yankees, Alvarez, Kluber

“Overall, baseball has never been as big or as profitable” as it is now, Forbes’ Mike Ozanian writes in the magazine’s annual valuation of MLB franchises.  The average value of a Major League team is $1.2 billion, a massive increase from Forbes’ last calculation (of $811MM) just a year ago.  Fifteen teams were valued at least a billion dollars, with the Yankees leading the way at $3.2 billion.  Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • Despite the Yankees‘ incredible value, Hal Steinbrenner said the team is not for sale in an ESPN radio interview with Michael Kay and Don LaGreca (hat tip to Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News).  Selling the club is “not enticing in any way shape or form,” Steinbrenner said.  “It’s a family business. Many of us are involved from the family and we know this is what our dad would want, to carry on the tradition.”
  • Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez is drawing “serious interest” from the Nationals, The Washington Post’s James Wagner writes.  “The Nationals like Alvarez’s frame and stuff,” Wagner notes about the 18-year-old Alvarez, who is listed at 6’3″ and 175 pounds.  The Nats and Diamondbacks were cited as the top contenders for Alvarez by MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez last month, and if Alvarez will indeed be ineligible to sign until July 2, that will eliminate the D’Backs from contention due to penalties for going over slot in this signing period to land Yoan Lopez.  Even if Arizona is out of the running, however, the Nats will still have to bid against several other interested teams for Alvarez’s services.
  • The MLBPA has been encouraging players to look for other means of achieving guaranteed financial security rather than accept below-market extensions, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports.  One of those means is taking out a “loss-of-value” insurance policy to protect against injury (Max Scherzer took out such a policy last season) and Rosenthal suggests that Corey Kluber could explore doing the same this year to gain some leverage in contract talks with the Indians.  Kluber could cash in by signing an extension now, but waiting even one season to get into his arbitration-eligible years would greatly increase the value of a multi-year deal, Rosenthal argues.  With the loss-of-value policy backing him up, Kluber would have fewer worries about getting hurt this season and missing out on a chance at a big contract.
  • Brady Aiken‘s Tommy John surgery will lower his draft stock and potentially make him a risk for teams picking near the top of the first round, though Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal thinks the Red Sox could take a chance on Aiken with the seventh overall pick.  The addition of a first-round caliber talent in Yoan Moncada and an overall deep minor league system gives Boston the luxury to take a risk on Aiken and hopes that, if he recovers, they’ll have fallen into a future ace.
  • Jake Fox is trying to land a regular minor league job with the Blue Jays, and the veteran talks to Sportsnet.com’s Arden Zwelling about some of the ups and downs of being a baseball journeyman.


Indians Notes: Kluber, Chen, Marcum, Downs, Sands

Let’s have a look at some notes out of Indians camp:

  • While extension negotiations between the Indians and Corey Kluber have been friendly, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that it is a high-risk situation for both sides. For the team, the appeal of cost certainty (and, potentially, extended team control) is obvious, but guaranteeing money for the soon-to-be 29-year-old does have downside. And for Kluber, as agent B.B. Abbott notes, there is a balance to be struck between achieving fair value and locking up some security as an older pre-arb player. “If he considers this, he is doing it with his eyes wide open,” said Abbott. He knows this will be the only time to sign this kind of multi-year deal.”
  • The Indians have informed veteran pitchers Bruce Chen, Shaun Marcum, and Scott Downs that all three will not be on the Opening Day roster out of camp, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. All three are in camp on minor league deals. Of that group, only Downs is an Article XX(B) free agent, meaning that he will need to be offered a $100K retention bonus if the club wishes to retain his rights in the minors. Both Chen and Marcum have out clauses in their deals permitting them to return to the open market rather than going to Triple-A, Hoynes reports.
  • Another player still battling for a roster spot, outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sands, helped his cause with a mammoth home run yesterday, as Hoynes reports. While the quality production out of his right-handed bat this spring has increased his appeal to Cleveland, Sands is still not far removed from surgery on his tendon sheath and can be controlled through an assignment in the minors to start the year. “I don’t know if Sands fits yet,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “But you have to believe that a guy that can do what he does at some point is going to help us. Is it opening day, we don’t know yet. But we’re glad he’s here.”

Indians, Corey Kluber “Not Close” On Extension

The Indians and right-hander Corey Kluber are “not close” to an agreement on an extension, sources tell CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.  The two sides have been discussing a multi-year deal over the last several weeks, including a recent face-to-face meeting between Cleveland owner Paul Dolan, president Mark Shapiro, GM Chris Antonetti and Kluber’s agent B.B. Abbott.  Neither party commented on the talks except for Abbott, who only said that “The lines of communication between myself and the Indians are and will continue to be open.”

It perhaps isn’t surprising that the extension is taking some time to work out given Kluber’s unique situation, which Heyman describes (MLBTR’s Jeff Todd also examined Kluber as an Extension Candidate last August.  Kluber turns 29 in April and is still under team control for four more seasons, so there could be a bit of urgency on his part to score a big-money deal now rather than wait for free agency going into his age-33 season.  From the Tribe’s perspective, gaining cost certainty at least through Kluber’s arbitration years would be of interest to the low-payroll club, though having found a Cy Young Award-winning ace at a bargain price, Cleveland might not want to pay too much more than necessary.

Kluber’s 2015 salary is already technically set, as the two sides settled on a $610K contract for the coming season.  This represents a decent-sized bump over the league minimum salary, and given how most teams deal with pre-arbitration contracts, the raise could be a good faith move from the Indians as a harbinger of a richer extension.  If an extension is reached, I’d imagine that Kluber’s $610K salary would be replaced by a new figure or he’d at least receive a signing bonus to get more money in his pocket immediately.


Quick Hits: Kluber, Aiken, Clark

Most elbow issues that lead to Tommy John surgery appear to crop up in March, according to a review conducted by Ben Lindbergh of Grantland. That is the time that pitchers ramp up each spring, of course, and Lindbergh finds that other pitching injuries also trend northwards toward the end of the year’s third month. You’ll want to read the entire piece for details and thoughts on why this seems to be the case.

Here are some more stray notes from around the game:

  • Ace righty Corey Kluber and the Indians will continue talking about a new contract after recent in-person negotiations failed to result in a deal, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. Those talks ended Thursday, says Hoynes, but it appears that there is enough mutual interest to keep a dialogue open.
  • The first outing for former Astros number one overall draft pick Brady Aiken at IMG Academy ended with concern, as John Manuel and Josh Norris of Baseball America report. Aiken had worked in the low-90s with his fastball, but left in the middle of the first inning after throwing a curveball. That pitch was clocked at about 7 mph lower than a prior hook thrown by the young lefty. One of the umpires tells BA that he overheard mention that the well-regarded amateur felt “a little bit of tightness.” Needless to say, it is still far too early to speculate on Aiken’s status, though it is worth noting that there has been chatter that he has not been fully healthy this winter. Per BA, scouts from every team but Houston were on hand to see watch Aiken, who figures to be one of the best prospects available again in this year’s draft.
  • MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said today that the subject of player rights being dealt for executives could be an issue to be addressed in the next CBA, as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. It is not clear what kinds of issues might be contemplated, but Clark said that the seemingly increasing prevalence of that sort of transaction — highlighted, most recently, by the apparent negotiations between the Orioles and Blue Jays regarding Dan Duquette — make it something that the league and union will “talk through … and see what may make some sense here going forward.”

Rosenthal’s Latest: Matusz, Indians, Penny

Here’s the latest from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:

  • The Orioles are open to trading Brian Matusz, but the Mets, who just lost fellow lefty Josh Edgin to injury, might not be interested. Rosenthal writes that Matusz’s $3.2MM salary and additional year of arbitration eligibility might be an issue to potential trade partners. That might say more about those teams’ situations than it says about Matusz, however — the Orioles are only on the hook for that money because they chose to tender Matusz this winter, then settled with him. And, of course, the team that controls Matusz would be able to non-tender him next offseason if it wanted. $3.2MM isn’t a bargain for Matusz, but it’s reasonable. Nonetheless, Rosenthal indicates that the Orioles are willing to include cash in a Matusz trade. Matusz has been a reliable member of the Orioles’ bullpen the last two seasons, posting a 3.48 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 51 2/3 innings in 2014.
  • With Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez in the big leagues and Francisco Lindor and fellow shortstop Erik Gonzalez on the way, the Indians could soon have a wealth of middle-infield talent from which to trade, Rosenthal writes. They could, at some point, trade a young middle infielder (more likely Ramirez or Gonzalez than Kipnis or Lindor, presumably) for a young pitcher.
  • White Sox pitcher Brad Penny nearly signed with the team last year, but chose the Marlins instead. This offseason, he picked Chicago because of a connection to White Sox assistant GM Buddy Bell that dates back to 1999, when Bell managed Penny in the Pan Am Games.

Out Of Options Players: AL Central

The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options.  That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so.  I’ve included players on multiyear deals.  This list was compiled through MLBTR’s sources.  Today, we’ll take a look at the AL Central.

White Sox: Maikel Cleto, Conor Gillaspie, Javy Guerra, Dan Jennings, Hector Noesi

The White Sox claimed Cleto off waivers from the Royals in February 2014, removing him from their 40-man roster in May and re-adding him in August.  He and Guerra are among those vying for a couple of spots in the team’s revamped bullpen, which features new additions David Robertson, Zach Duke, and Jennings.  Opening the season with an eight-man pen is possible.  In a Saturday post, Jim Margalus of South Side Sox ranked Cleto ahead of Guerra.

Indians: Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Nick Hagadone, Zach McAllister, Brandon Moss

Carrasco and Bauer have rotation spots locked down for the Indians.  McAllister is competing with a pool of others for two open spots, with Gavin Floyd‘s injury creating an opening.  About a month ago, Indians manager Terry Francona implied McAllister will make the club, either as a starter or reliever.  Also about a month ago, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian described Hagadone as a “virtual lock” for the Tribe’s pen.

Tigers: Jose Iglesias, Hernan Perez, Andrew Romine

Perez and Romine were thought to be in competition for one bench spot, writes James Schmehl of Mlive.com, but Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said recently the team could break camp with both on the roster.  If healthy, Iglesias will be the everyday shortstop.

Royals: Louis Coleman, Jarrod Dyson, Erik Kratz

Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star broke down the Royals’ bullpen situation yesterday.  Relievers Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Jason Frasor, and Chris Young are locked into a pen that could break camp with eight.  At present, it seems likely they’ll be able to find a spot for Coleman.

As McCullough noted in an earlier article, Kratz is competing with Francisco Pena for the backup catcher job.  He feels that the 34-year-old Kratz is a better fit for the gig than Pena, who is 25.  Dyson will be the team’s fourth outfielder.

Twins: Eduardo Escobar, Eduardo Nunez, Trevor Plouffe, Jordan Schafer

Escobar seems assured a utility infield job on the team, but Nunez’s status is uncertain.  A trade seems possible.  Schafer’s all but certain to be Minnesota’s fourth outfielder.


Central Notes: Floyd, Cingrani, Morales, Harris

Indians right-hander Gavin Floyd, who re-fractured his right olecranon last week, is set to have surgery on Tuesday, tweets Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Floyd, who has pitched sparingly over the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery and the original olecranon fracture in his right elbow, was expected to serve as a veteran presence in a largely inexperienced Indians rotation after signing a one-year, $4MM deal. Now, however, Cleveland is unlikely to receive any contribution from Floyd this year.

Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Reds left-hander Tony Cingrani is being shifted from the rotation to the bullpen, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The move comes as somewhat of a surprise, as most figured the left-hander would step into the rotation following the trades of Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon. Cingrani has worked as a starter in the past and racked up excellent strikeout numbers, but he’s had shoulder issues as well, so perhaps the team feels this will keep him healthier. Cuban right-hander Raisel Igesias, meanwhile, will be stretched out to work as a starting pitcher.
  • Franklin Morales is building a strong case to take the injured Tim Collins‘ spot as a left-hander in the Royals‘ bullpen, writes Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Morales has fired six scoreless innings and impressed Kansas City decision-makers. Brandon Finnegan is a well-regarded prospect and could have a shot at making the team, but the team still would like to develop him as a starter and he also hasn’t pitched as well this spring. No final decisions have been made on the situation, writes McCullough.
  • The Tigers added another player to camp yesterday when they reportedly signed Jiwan James, and another addition may on the horizon as well. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets that the team may add veteran infielder Brendan Harris, presumably on a minor league deal. The 34-year-old Harris is a career .256/.314/.381 hitter in the Majors, with his best seasons coming between the Twins and Rays in 2007-08. Harris hasn’t played in the Majors much since 2010, however, receiving just 117 plate appearances with the Angels and hitting .206/.252/.355.

AL Notes: Indians, Price, White Sox, Baldoquin

In today’s mailbag, a reader asked Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer if Gavin Floyd suffering an injury so soon after his signing indicates a broader issue with the Indians‘ ability to evaluate a pitcher’s health risk. There have been hits and misses for the Tribe, Hoynes explains, pointing to successes like their cheap gamble on Scott Kazmir. Over the last 20 years or so, Cleveland has established a good reputation for rehabbing injured hurlers from other organizations, so one bad break doesn’t mean that they’ve lost their feel for it. For more on the Indians’ offseason, check out MLBTR’s Steve Adams in-depth review.

Elsewhere in the American League:

  • The bounty of starting pitchers in the upcoming free agent class will provide enough of a safety net for the Tigers if they fail to extend David Price, opines MLive.com’s Chris Iott. Owner Mike Ilitch is the wild card whether the Tigers make a strong bid to retain Price, who, Iott notes, will match, if not exceed, Max Scherzer‘s deal and without the deferments.
  • Utilityman Don Kelly wanted to return to the Tigers, but signed with the Marlins because they represented a clearer path to the Majors, reports James Schmehl of MLive.com. “Detroit was like a second home for us, so to make that change was tough,” said Kelly. “To be able to bounce around and everything that goes on in a National League game, that was one of the reasons why it was such a good fit. The way the roster was set up at the time, and the way Miami’s was, it just seemed like a better fit to be in the NL and to be here.
  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn focuses on two factors when deciding whether to extend an arbitration-eligible player like Adam Eaton or Avisail Garcia, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “It’s a combination of feeling, one, that the player is a key part to what we have going here and want to make sure we are able to have him longer than the normal six-year control period,” Hahn said. “And second, probably almost as important if not more important, is the belief that the guaranteed money wouldn’t change the player’s approach to their preparation for the game.
  • Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register chronicles the Angels’ recruitment of Roberto Baldoquin and how the franchise believes their $15MM investment ($8MM signing bonus plus the tax for exceeding their international bonus pool) is justified based on the numerous interactions between the organization and the 19-year-old Cuban prior to his signing.