Cleveland Indians Rumors

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

AL West Notes: Moss/Donaldson Trades, Joba, Johnson, Angels, Castro

Looking to get some more insight into the trade that sent Brandon Moss from Oakland to Cleveland, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer spoke with Athletics assistant GM David Forst and manager Bob Melvin about the swap (Oakland received second base prospect Joe Wendle in exchange). Though Wendle has never ranked as a Top 100 prospect according to outlets such as Baseball America, ESPN, etc., Forst said that the A’s don’t concern themselves with prospect rankings. Rather, the A’s have been enamored with Wendle for more than a year and tried to trade for him in the past. “He is a high-contact hitter. He plays good defense. He has an outstanding makeup. We like him,” Forst explained. Melvin explained that the A’s very much like Moss, but were hoping to get a bit younger. Candidly, the Forst told Pluto that the A’s feel Ike Davis can replace Moss’ bat at a cheaper price.

A bit more from Pluto’s interview and the rest of the AL West…

  • Forst told Pluto that the Athletics never discussed Josh Donaldson with the Indians. Oakland targeted a few select teams, and the Blue Jays were at the top of their list of potential trade candidates, he added. Meanwhile, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star chimed in on that same trade (via Twitter), noting that Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said that his initial hope was to acquire Donaldson and move Brett Lawrie to second base, but it eventually became clear that Lawrie had to be included in the return to obtain Donaldson.
  • The Rangers offered Joba Chamberlain more than the $1MM base salary he received on his new deal with the Tigers, but Chamberlain elected to return to Detroit, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Earlier this morning, GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters that Chamberlain had received more lucrative offers elsewhere but “really wanted” to be a Tiger again.
  • Also from Heyman (on Twitter), infielder Elliot Johnson will receive a $900K base salary if he makes the Rangers‘ big league roster. Johnson signed a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite yesterday, the team announced.
  • Drew Butera‘s Major League experience and the fact that he’s out of options make him the favorite to win the Angels‘ backup catcher job, writes Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. However, Fletcher does quote manager Mike Scioscia, who says he’s also been impressed by candidates Carlos Perez and Jett Bandy“All of these guys have shown on the defensive side they are ready for the challenge,” said Scioscia.
  • Astros catcher Jason Castro recently spoke to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle about the feeling of seeing his name floated in trade rumors for much of the offseason. “I think if you focus too much on it, you kind of drive yourself crazy,” said Castro, who called trade rumors “part of the offseason.” The White Sox and Rangers were among the teams with interest in Castro, per Drellich. Castro’s spot with the Astros became secure again once the team dealt Carlos Corporan to the Rangers. Castro and Hank Conger will see the bulk of the time behind the plate for Houston.

AL Central Notes: Indians, Tigers, Cabrera

For the third installment of a four-part series comparing the Indians and the division-rival Tigers, Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel spoke to both Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski and Indians GM Chris Antonetti about the way in which their payroll allows them to operate. Dombrowski discussed how the financial muscle provided to him by owner Mike Ilitch allows for an aggressive approach that he didn’t necessarily have when serving as GM of the Expos and Marlins, or even earlier in his Tigers tenure. While a larger pool of resources hasn’t changed his philosophical approach to the game, per se, it has changed his approach to accomplishing his goals.

Antonetti, meanwhile, discussed the importance of acquiring and building around players in the “sweet spot” of their careers, as the Tribe GM termed it — players who are entering, or in the midst, of their peak years (and subsequently are in the early stages of arbitration). The young nature of Cleveland’s core made the team comfortable with adding only Brandon Moss and Gavin Floyd to the roster this winter, Antonetti added. “It’s a group that played its best baseball in the second half, and so as we looked at things, we felt very good about the group of guys we headed into the offseason with,” Antonetti said.

Some more AL Central notes…

  • The Tigers announced yesterday that two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera has been cleared to begin non-impact baseball activities, which include hitting and throwing. Cabrera “will begin a running progression until full weight-bearing is achieved,” per the press release. While the Tigers neglected to give a specific timetable for his return, the release indicated that the club is “optimistic” that Cabrera will be ready come Opening Day. Cabrera underwent surgery in October to remove bone spurs from his right ankle and repair a stress fracture in his right foot.
  • A report earlier this week indicated that the Royals watched Phil Coke throw recently, and Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals have not only watched Coke, but also Alfredo Aceves throw. Kansas City is still on the hunt for relief depth, McCullough notes. While Coke makes some sense as a lefty option in the K.C. bullpen, he’s reportedly seeking a Major League contract, whereas Aceves could certainly be had on a minor league deal.
  • When the Braves and Royals engaged in Justin Upton trade talks earlier this winter, Atlanta wanted left-handed prospect Sean Manaea included in the deal, according to Peter Gammons in his most recent post at GammonsDaily.com. The 34th overall pick of the 2013 draft, Manaea was projected by many as a top 10-15 pick before questions about hip and shoulder injuries caused his stock to drop. The southpaw performed well in his first pro season, posting a 3.11 ERA, 10.8 K/9 and 2.7 K/BB rate over 121 2/3 IP in high-A ball. Gammons believes Manaea has a shot at being a late-season call-up this year, and compares him to another heralded left-handed prospect in Carlos Rodon.

Indians To Sign Bruce Chen To Minors Deal

WEDNESDAY: Chen has an opt-out in his deal that can be triggered at the end of the spring, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Twitter link).

It is worth noting that, because he did not finish the 2014 season on a 40-man roster, Chen does not qualify as an Article XX(B) free agent. The negotiated opt-out clause, then, replaces the protections he would otherwise have received.

MONDAY: The Indians have agreed to a minor league pact with veteran southpaw Bruce Chen, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. Chen can earn a $1MM salary if he makes the club, and can also achieve up to $1MM in incentives.

Chen, 37, has worked to a 4.58 lifetime ERA over parts of sixteen MLB seasons. The swingman earned a $3.25MM free agent guarantee with the Royals after putting up good results in 2013, but was released in September after posting a rough 7.45 ERA in his 48 1/3 frames last year.

Cleveland marks the 11th MLB club that Chen has suited up for. The Indians rotation looks to be a tough nut to crack, and the team does have a variety of left-handed pen options in tow already, but Chen’s salary possibilities suggest that he likely drew interest elsewhere and picked Cleveland for a reason.

As with fellow veteran lefty Barry Zito, who also struck a deal tonight, Chen has experienced a significant decrease in fastball velocity in recent years despite an already-low starting point. In 2014, his average heater dipped under 86 mph for the first time in his career, though Chen still managed to set down 6.7 batters per nine by strikeout.



Central Links: Alvarez, Kang, Hanrahan, Chen

The Pirates and third baseman turned first baseman Pedro Alvarez have their arbitration hearing set for tomorrow, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter). That means that by Thursday of this week, we should know whether Alvarez will earn the $5.75MM for which he filed or the $5.25MM figure submitted by the team (as shown in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker). Alvarez, who turned 28 earlier this month, saw his homer total cut in half from 2013 (36) to 2014 (18) in a season in which he hit .231/.312/.405 overall. The Pirates have already won an arbitration hearing this offseason, beating Neil Walker. He’d filed at $9MM against the team’s $8MM. They also lost a hearing against Vance Worley, who will earn $2.45MM rather than $2MM as a result.

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

  • Pirates infielder Jung-ho Kang isn’t making the jump the Major Leagues just for himself, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Rather, Kang hopes to be a trailblazer whose success allows other position players to jump from the Korea Baseball Organization to the Major Leagues. “…I know that if I do well, more Korean players will come here,” said Kang through an interpreter. “So while I feel pressure, I’m also very excited about opening the market here for Korean players.” Kang knows the language barrier he faces will be an obstacle, though he’s already met teammates Andrew Lambo and Tony Sanchez and has positive interactions down in Florida. “He seems like a great dude,” Lambo told Biertempfel. “He’ll fit in right. He’s real quiet, obviously, coming from a different country. But he’s also given a (vibe) that he is genuinely friendly and wants to get to know every player, which is really cool.”
  • Joel Hanrahan‘s 2015 contract with the Tigers contains opt-out clauses on April 30 and June 5, reports Chris Iott of MLive.com. As Iott points out, Hanrahan will also be an Article XX(B) free agent this year. As a player who finished the 2014 season on a Major League contract but signed a minor league deal this offseason, he’ll have to be released or paid a $100K retention bonus before sending him to the minors at the end of Spring Training. MLBTR will again cover all of the Article XX(B) free agents in a more in-depth fashion as Spring Training wears on.
  • Left-hander Bruce Chen will have a shot to crack the Indians‘ rotation after signing a minor league deal with an invite to big league Spring Training, but he faces an uphill battle in making the roster, writes MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Cleveland’s top four rotation slots are occupied by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Gavin Floyd. The fifth spot will be competed for by Danny Salazar, T.J. House, Zach McAllister and Chen. Though he could land in the bullpen as well, he’s seemingly behind fellow lefties Marc Rzepczynski, Nick Hagadone and Kyle Crockett on the depth chart.

Cafardo On Hamels, Papelbon, Twins

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe ranked every manager in baseball.  Giants skipper Bruce Bochy took the top spot for his ability to get great production of of good, but not great, talent.  After that, Bochy, Buck Showalter, Joe Maddon, Terry Francona, and Bob Melvin round out Cafardo’s top five.  The bottom of the list doesn’t necessarily feature baseball’s “worst” managers as the first-timers are automatically the lowest ranked.  More from today’s column..

  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said last week that four teams made real offers for Cole Hamels and Cafardo hears from a major league source that one of those clubs was the Red Sox.  From talking with various sources, Cafardo senses that the package Boston offered was heavy on the major league side, trying to avoid giving up any of their top prospects.  Of course, the Phillies are insistent on prospects, and if they don’t get them now they’ll wait until the deadline when teams are a little more desperate.
  • There may be a mystery team out there kicking the tires on Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon.  The Phillies are still optimistic that they make a deal happen somewhere, even though the Brewers talks haven’t unfolded as expected.
  • The Twins and Indians are looking for a right-handed bat and Cafardo wonders if Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig could be a fit.  With Shane Victorino in the fold and Bryce Brentz in the minors, Cafardo wonders when Boston will try and clear up the logjam.
  • Chad Billingsley could also be trade bait for the Phillies if he gets off to a good start.  A couple of scouts tell Cafardo that they see Billingsley as an effective 150-160-inning guy at the back end of a rotation.

Indians Interested In Viciedo

The Indians are interested in signing former White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Cleveland has been searching for a right-handed platoon bat to complement their outfielders. Viciedo, who was released by the White Sox on February 4th, offers plenty of power with 60 home runs over the last three seasons. His best numbers come against left-handed pitchers.

The Indians face an uphill battle to woo Viciedo according to Hoynes. The roster is already crowded in the outfield with Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, David Murphy, Brandon Moss, Nick Swisher, and Ryan Raburn in the mix. Murphy has already stated he would be open to a trade if playing time was scarce. Viciedo may want to sign with a team that offers a better opportunity to start.

Hoynes figures it will take a major league contract to acquire Viciedo. Jordan Bastian of MLB.com tweets “unless it’s a minor league deal, [it] doesn’t seem like a fit.” Last weekend, I asked which team was the most likely to acquire Viciedo. The Tigers were the favorite destination at nearly 19 percent, while the Phillies and Giants each checked in around 15 percent.


Quick Hits: Yankees, Hamels, Arb Cases

The Yankees finalized last summer’s trades for Martin Prado, Josh Outman and Jeff Francis with cash rather than minor leaguers, a team official tells Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees blog.  All three deals (with the Diamondbacks, Indians and Athletics, respectively) were made with either cash or a player to be named later going back to the other team in return.  Here’s some more from around the baseball world…

  • In an entry from Buster Olney’s latest Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, he notes that talent is a rarer commodity than money in today’s game, which is why he feels the Phillies should consider eating some of Cole Hamels‘ contract to bring back better prospects in a deal.  Looking at the Hamels-to-Boston trade rumors, Olney wonders why the Red Sox would deal top prospects for Hamels now when a number of ace-level pitchers will be available for only cash in free agency next offseason.
  • This offseason has already seen eight arbitration hearings and seven more outstanding cases could go to a hearing, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi notes.  It’s an unusually high number given that there were only 13 arb hearings in total over the previous four offseasons, though Morosi doesn’t yet think this could be an omen about the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
  • Former big leaguer-turned-FOX Sports analyst C.J. Nitkowski is no stranger to minor league contracts, and he details some of the many factors that a player must consider before signing such a deal.
  • Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron lists his ten least-favorite moves of the offseason, with the Padres‘ trade for Matt Kemp topping the list.  Cameron believes the Padres paid far too heavy a price in both talent and salary to acquire Kemp, whose best days are possibly behind him due to a checkered injury history.

Central Links: McCutchen, Zito, Albers, Herndon

The expensive costs of youth travel leagues are an obstacle to attracting young talent to baseball, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen writes in a piece for The Players Tribune.  The full scholarships provided by college basketball or football make them more appealing sports than the long, usually financially-unrewarding path to the majors that the vast majority of prospects face — McCutchen himself admits that, were it not for an ACL tear when he was 15, he would’ve likely pursued NCAA football and not been a big league star today.  He argues that kids from low-income families need more entry points into the game, with one possible solution being a new system similar to the academy program for international prospects.

Here’s the latest from around the NL and AL Central divisions…


Pitching Notes: Pen Market, Beimel, Mets, Coke, Stroman

The Blue Jays and Indians appear not to be involved with any of the three best remaining relievers — righties Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Joba Chamberlain — according to ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider link). Other theoretically plausible landing spots seem fairly dried up as well, he notes in assessing the most likely remaining suitors.

Here are a few more pitching notes:

  • Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik says that the club spoke with lefty reliever Joe Beimel but that a deal could not be reached, Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN tweets. Beimel had a nice rebound campaign last year in Seattle, and is one of the few southpaws left on the market.
  • The Mets will not be dealing away any pitchers unless circumstances change, Marc Carig of Newsday reports (Twitter links). Dillon Gee generated the most discussion, but New York never found an offer it liked and its prospective trade partners went with other options.
  • We checked in earlier this evening on K-Rod and lefty Phil Coke, each of whom has received some interest from the Marlins. Within that post, we noted a report from Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter) indicating that Coke still has hope of landing a big league pact.
  • Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays is likely not going anywhere any time soon, but I can’t help but link to this interesting piece from Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs, who explains that Stroman’s arsenal of pitches looks like it was assembled from amongst the best offerings of some of the very best arms in the game.

Quick Hits: Luhnow, Coke, Reed, Bridich, Phillies

MLBTR sends our condolences to the family and colleagues of Alison Gordon, who passed away today at age 72.  Gordon covered the Blue Jays for the Toronto Star from 1979 to 1983, becoming the first woman to work as a full-time beat writer covering an MLB club, as well as the first female member of the Baseball Writers Association Of America.  The Star’s Brendan Kennedy has a fuller examination of Gordon’s career and her influence on countless female sportswriters.

Some news items from around the game…

  • GM Jeff Luhnow said the Astros could add “perhaps another reliever but not another starter at this point,” Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter).  The Astros added to their rotation depth earlier today by signing Roberto Hernandez, and the team could be closing in on a deal with left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher.
  • The Rangers are another team with a “strong interest” in Thatcher, as well as another lefty bullpen arm in Phil Coke, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link).  Coke recently threw for Texas.
  • The arbitration hearing between Addison Reed and the Diamondbacks is scheduled for Friday unless the two sides can reach an agreement before then, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports.
  • Rockies GM Jeff Bridich discusses the team’s offseason and his own hiring in an interview with Woody Paige and Les Shapiro of the Denver Post’s Sports Show (video link).
  • Critics may claim the Phillies haven’t done enough to move their high-priced veterans this offseason, though Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News feels the Phils have a right to be cautious given the scope of their rebuild.
  • Patience,” is how a Phillies executive responded when asked by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal if the club was frustrated by the lack of quality offers for Cole Hamels.  Both Rosenthal and the executive feel more trade opportunities could open up as teams’ needs change due to Spring Training injuries.
  • The Blue Jays and Indians don’t appear to be in on any of Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden writes.  The Tribe has less of a pressing need at the back of their bullpen given Cody Allen‘s emergence last season, while the Jays may also not specifically be looking for closing help, though they are looking at bullpen upgrades.
  • The Dodgers‘ hiring of Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi to run the front office is the top transaction of the 2014-15 offseason, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron opines.  Three other Dodgers moves appear in Cameron’s list of the winter’s top 10 moves, and he calls them “probably the scariest organization in baseball” now that their financial resources have been augmented by Friedman/Zaidi’s creative maneuvers.