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Cleveland Indians Rumors
MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian and Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group cleared out their inbox this weekend answering readers’ questions about possible moves for the Indians this offseason. Here are the highlights:
- Bastian downplays a Nick Swisher-Ubaldo Jimenez swap of bad contracts. Cleveland could afford the move (Jimenez is due $38.75MM through 2017 while Swisher is owed $30MM through 2016 with a 2017 vesting option worth $14MM), but Bastian feels the odds of Swisher rebounding in 2015 is a better bet than three years of Jimenez.
- If the Indians are looking to shed a bad contract, Hoynes thinks Michael Bourn would be easier to trade, but adds that doesn’t mean Cleveland wants to deal him.
- Bastian and Hoynes both agree the Indians have interest in Justin Masterson on a one-year pillow contract, but feel the right-hander will find a multi-year pact elsewhere.
- Trading for Cole Hamels is an interesting thought, according to Bastian, because the left-hander is cheaper ($90MM through 2018) than the top free agent rotation arms on the market and the Indians have the type of prospects the Phillies covet. Ultimately, though, Bastian sees Hamels’ annual salary and the potential prospects lost will be too steep of a price for the franchise to pay.
- While noting manager Terry Francona’s penchant for strong bullpens, Hoynes doesn’t see the Indians investing in any of the high profile free agent relievers, especially with Zach McAllister waiting in the wings.
- Does Francona’s new contract extension contain the same opt-out clause allowing him to leave if President Mark Shapiro or GM Chris Antonetti are fired? Antonetti did not provide details when asked that question, but Hoynes imagines the opt-out provision is included in the extension.
- Bastian expects right-handers Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer to have break out seasons for the Indians in 2015.
The Indians have designated left-hander Scott Barnes for assignment, according to Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer (on Twitter). The move will help the Tribe create room for right-hander Charles Brewer, who was acquired from Arizona last night.
Barnes, 27, has made 22 big league appearances for the Indians over the last two seasons, though he has spent more time pitching for their Triple-A affiliate. This past season, Barnes pitched to a 3.69 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 24 relief appearances and one start.
As the MLBTR DFA Tracker shows, there are now 16 players in DFA limbo.
The Indians have acquired right-handed pitcher Charles Brewer from the Diamondbacks in exchange for cash considerations, tweets Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Brewer was designated for assignment on Thursday. It’s the second trade of the evening for Arizona – they also dealt Mike Bolsinger to the Dodgers for cash considerations.
Brewer, 27 next season, had a brief cup of coffee with the Diamondbacks in 2013. Over a six season minor league career, he’s posted a 4.09 ERA, 7.8 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9. The righty has a 90 mph fastball. Prospect maven John Sickels of SB Nation wrote in 2012: “he has a short window of opportunity to establish himself but has a shot at becoming a back-end rotation member or a reliever.”
The Indians likely view Brewer as a useful depth piece who can help to provide stability at the Triple-A level. Their rotation is currently full, with viable major league starters Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin penciled in as sixth and seventh on the depth chart. Brewer has worked almost exclusively as a starter, but his best chance at reaching the majors may be as a reliever.
Nick Swisher‘s contract with the Indians now fits on a long list of contracts teams would love to unload, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. Swisher hasn’t been productive in his contract so far and he has two years and $30MM left, plus a vesting option for 2017. Pluto guesses that Swisher will end up back in Cleveland in 2015 despite recent trade rumors. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- GM Walt Jocketty says the Reds “aren’t really close” on any significant moves, the Enquirer’s John Fay reports. Jocketty also would not confirm whether the club has interest in free agent outfielder Torii Hunter, the way he did with Nori Aoki and Michael Morse. “I don’t want to got into that,” says Jocketty. “When I talked about Aoki, I got hounded by the media. Let’s put this way: We’re talking to a lot of agents, and (Hunter) is a pretty good player.” The Blue Jays, Royals, Twins and other teams have recently been connected to Hunter.
- The Cubs have hired Henry Blanco away from the Diamondbacks, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets. Blanco will serve as the quality assurance coach under new manager Joe Maddon. Blanco, of course, was a catcher for the Cubs from 2005 through 2008. He joined with the Diamondbacks after retiring as a player prior to the 2014 season.
Midnight EST is the deadline for teams to add players to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from being selected in next month’s Rule 5 Draft. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com lists the notable prospects who are newly Rule 5 eligible. Of course, the decision whether or not to protect a player has as much to do with roster flexibility and his expected ability to stick on a big league roster for a full season as it does the player’s overall prospect value.
We’ll keep tabs on the day’s 40-man additions here, and you can also check Baseball America’s running updates, which includes breakdowns of the players added.
- The Rays have yet to announce their full list of roster moves, but Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper tweets that second baseman Ryan Brett will be added to the 40-man.
- Following their trade with the Dodgers, the Rays announced that they have added Brett (as Cooper tweeted), right-hander Matt Andriese, left-hander Grayson Garvin, outfielder Mikie Mahtook and catcher Justin O’Conner to the 40-man roster.
- The Dodgers announced that lefty Adam Liberatore, acquired in the trade with the Rays, has been added to the 40-man roster.
- The Astros have made one final 40-man roster move, announcing the addition of right-hander Michael Feliz. Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper was among those to express surprise that Feliz had not previously been added to the roster, with some executives telling him they’d be shocked if Feliz wasn’t the No. 1 pick in the Rule 5 Draft (Twitter link).
- The Rangers announced that they’ve added righties Luke Jackson and Jerad Eickhoff, infielder Hanser Alberto and catcher Jorge Alfaro to the 40-man roster.
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Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Cardinals have outrighted right-hander Keith Butler off the team’s 40-man roster, according to the MLB.com transactions page. St. Louis has also released center fielder Shane Robinson. The 25-year-old Butler has yet to establish himself in the bigs, but has been quite good in the upper minors. Robinson, 30, has seen his role reduced and was no longer a valuable piece for a Cardinals club that just picked up Jason Heyward.
- The Nationals have released catcher Jhonatan Solano, also per MLB.com. Solano, the older brother of Marlins second baseman Donovan Solano, has seen minimal big league time over the past two years and did not have a clear role in the organization moving forward.
- The Indians announced that they’ve re-signed right-handers Shaun Marcum and Dustin Molleken to minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training. Marcum, 33 next month, was of course a fixture in the Blue Jays and Brewers rotations from 2007-12, though he dealt with his share of injuries in that time. Still, he posted a 3.67 ERA in 830 1/3 innings in that span before thoracic outlet syndrome in 2013 required surgery and has kept him on the shelf since. He did make it back to a minor league mound with Cleveland last season, posting a 2.35 ERA in 15 1/3 Triple-A innings in August.
- Molleken, 30, made 54 relief appearances for Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate last season and posted big strikeout numbers but also struggled with his command, to an extent. In 74 1/3 innings, he pitched to a 4.84 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9.
- The Pirates have signed a familiar name to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training in the form of Brad Lincoln, per the club’s transactions page. Lincoln was selected fourth overall by the Bucs in 2006. He struggled through the early portion of his career but got off to a good start as a reliever in 2012 and was flipped to the Blue Jays for the man who was drafted 10 picks after him in ’06 — Travis Snider. Toronto would eventually deal Lincoln to the Phillies for Erik Kratz and Rob Rasmussen. Lincoln struggled with Philly but had success in Pittsburgh and Toronto, posting a 3.76 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 119 2/3 innings from 2012-13.
- The Pirates also announced a host of other signings, including righties Collin Balester, Blake Wood, and Deolis Guerra, lefty Jeremy Bleich, and shortstop Gustavo Nunez.
- The Twins have re-signed infielder/outfielder Eric Farris to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training, reports 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson (on Twitter). The 28-year-old hit .280/.316/.356 with Minnesota’s Triple-A affiliate last season, playing primarily center field.
The heavily backloaded nature of the Blue Jays‘ deal with Russell Martin leaves the club with additional potential payroll capacity for 2015, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. It is worth noting that Toronto likely feels comfortable pushing cash into the 2016-19 segments of the contract because, as is apparent from my recent post regarding future obligations, the team had very little on the books after this year.
Here’s the latest from the American League:
- The Astros have checked in with Brett Anderson‘s representatives, tweets Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The oft-injured, but generally excellent lefty makes his home in Houston and could represent an interesting upside play for the rising Astros.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn has an extensive history with Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, notes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. As Hayes explains, the two even managed to pull of a trade for the injured Jesse Crain at the 2013 trade deadline. While it remains to be seen whether a deal will be worked out involving shortstop Alexei Ramirez, it seems fair to believe that all reasonable possibilities will be explored between those two clubs.
- Of course, the White Sox already made an interesting move earlier today by locking up southpaw Zach Duke to a three-year, $15MM pact. Hahn says he is pleased but already “on to the next [deal] now,” as Hayes reports. “It’s an important get, one we’re all very happy about,” said Hahn. “But we’re not deluding ourselves that we’re by any means finished addressing our needs both in the bullpen or elsewhere.”
- A move by the Indians to push for an extension with Cy Young winner Corey Kluber would not be surprising; indeed, I profiled Kluber as an extension candidate back in August. But the club has yet to initiate talks, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).
- With the Twins still lacking a clear solution in center field for 2015, Peter Bourjos of the Cardinals is a name to keep an eye on, according to a tweet from Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. MLBTR’s Steve Adams has been one notable advocate of such a move for Minnesota.
The Indians are exploring a number of trade possibilities, including scenarios in which they could move Nick Swisher and his remaining $30MM for another player with an inflated contract, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (All Twitter links).
Rosenthal lists names like B.J. Upton ($46.35MM through 2017), Ubaldo Jimenez ($38.75MM through 2017) and Ryan Howard ($60MM through 2016) as examples of other inflated contracts while being careful to note that the Indians aren’t necessarily interested in anyone from that grouping. Other players on bloated contracts include Edwin Jackson ($22MM through 2016), John Danks ($28.5MM through 2016), Cody Ross ($10.5MM through 2015) and Ricky Nolasco ($37MM through 2017), to say nothing of Dodgers outfielders Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier (though that duo is a particularly difficult fit in Cleveland).
Swisher, signed to a four-year, $56MM contract heading into the 2013 season, played well in his inaugural campaign in his home state of Ohio, hitting .246/.321/.423 with 22 homers. However, his offense fell off a cliff in 2014, as he batted just .208/.278/.331 while his strikeout rate soared to a career-worst 27.7 percent and his walk rate dropped to a career-worst nine percent.
As I explained in my Indians Offseason Outlook, Cleveland has a bit of financial flexibility heading into 2015, but that flexibility will be gone by 2016 due to arbitration raises to Corey Kluber, Cody Allen and Carlos Carrasco as well as contractual salary increases to the likes of Jason Kipnis, Yan Gomes, Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley. Moving Swisher or Michael Bourn, who is owed $27.5MM over the next two seasons and has also declined, would alleviate that pressure and give the Indians a much more favorable long-term outlook. One option could be to pay a large chunk of Swisher’s 2015 salary, when the team has more payroll flexibility, while only absorbing a small chunk of his 2016 salary (or do the same with Bourn). By doing so, they could still eat around half of his remaining salary but create more 2016 flexibility to accommodate an increasingly expensive core.
The latest from the AL Central..
- Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter) hears that the Twins have inquired about free agent starter Justin Masterson. Minnesota is also checking in on free agent outfielders, but finding a starter or two is at the top of their wish list. In my October profile of the 29-year-old (30 by Opening Day), I speculated that the Twins could be a possible match for Masterson.
- The White Sox are scouring the market for left-handed relief pitching, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The White Sox currently only have two lefty relievers on their roster in Eric Surkamp and Scott Snodgress.
- Indians GM Chris Antonetti told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter) that while the club has made a lot of progress on the trade front, it’s tough to say if they are close to a deal.
A.J. Burnett will prove to be a bargain for the Pirates, Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. The Pirates have a great record with recent free agents like Russell Martin and Edinson Volquez, and Burnett is still a strikeout pitcher. He’ll also be recovered from a hernia issue that dogged him in 2014, and he’ll have a more favorable ballpark and defense than he had in Philadelphia. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- Potential offseason extension candidates include NL Central and AL Central players like Josh Harrison of the Pirates, Corey Kluber of the Indians, and Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas of the Royals, Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com writes. It will be awhile before Kluber can really cash in on his AL Cy Young award win, Castrovince notes — he isn’t eligible for free agency until after 2018, by which point he’ll be heading into his age-33 season. Extending him now would give the Indians cost certainty through his arbitration seasons. As Castrovince points out, extensions for Harrison, Hosmer and Moustakas don’t appear that likely — the Pirates would probably like to see how Harrison performs in 2015, and Hosmer and Moustakas are represented by Scott Boras, who may prefer to see what his players might get in free agency in a few years. Also, neither Hosmer nor Moustakas were nearly as impressive in the regular season as they were in the playoffs.
- GM John Mozeliak says the Cardinals aren’t heavily involved in the market for Asian players right now, Fangraphs’ David Laurila tweets. Mozeliak does add that the Cardinals can’t totally ignore that market, however. The GM’s answer came in response to a question about Japanese phenom Shohei Otani, who struck out 179 batters in 155 1/3 innings and threw 101 MPH as a pitcher, as well as hitting .274/.338/.505 as an outfielder for the Nippon Ham Fighters last season. Otani is probably many years away from playing in the US, if he ever does, but MLB scouts are keeping an eye on him, for obvious reasons.