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- Braves, Cardinals Trade Jason Heyward For Shelby Miller
- Tigers Exercise Alex Avila's Option
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- Pirates Sign A.J. Burnett
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Cleveland Indians Rumors
The rumor train has a majority of free agents linked to the Cubs in some way, but the club may take a restrained approach, reports Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. GM Jed Hoyer hedged against the idea of a “supercharged offseason,” saying “that’s probably overstated.” Hoyer notes that it behooves agents to connect their clients with deep pocketed teams. However, Chicago won’t pass on an opportunity that makes sense, which means a deal with Russell Martin, a front line starting pitcher, or virtually any other free agent could still in the cards. My own perspective: in sales there is a saying – “undersell and over-deliver.” It’s possible Hoyer is preparing fans in case the bidding for Martin or their other top targets exceeds reason.
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (via Twitter) that seven teams are interested in Torii Hunter including the Twins and Royals. Hunter has also been strongly linked to the Tigers in recent weeks. The 39-year-old outfielder has been remarkably consistent throughout his 17 year career. Teams presumably view Hunter as a corner outfielder or designated hitter. One team that isn’t in on Hunter is the Mets, tweets Marc Carig of Newsday.
- In an interview airing Monday for MLB Network, Ichiro Suzuki will announce his intention to play in 2015, writes Chad Jennings of LoHud.com. Ichiro admits he’s unsure where he’ll suit up, since it depends on a team having a need for a 41-year-old outfielder. Given the relatively thin outfield market, there should be plenty of opportunities for a player who hit .284/.324/.340 in 385 plate appearances.
- The Indians shouldn’t trade Francisco Lindor just because he might fail to reach his ceiling, writes Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group in his latest Hey, Hoynsie. The 21-year-old acquitted himself well in Triple-A, even if the performance wasn’t phenomenal. Lindor is generally viewed as a top 10 prospect by scouts, so his trade value is significant. My own take: while the Indians have Jose Ramirez at the major league level, there’s no reason to force a deal based on that modicum of depth. Either player could be moved to another position when the time comes. Moreover, as a budget conscious franchise, the Indians can’t simply deal Lindor for just any established star. They would need to identify another relatively inexpensive target like Josh Donaldson.
The Indians announced that they have agreed to a two-year contract extension with manager Terry Francona that runs through the 2018 season. Francona’s new contract also contains club options for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Francona’s previous four-year contract with the Indians ran through the 2016 season, but the Indians will now have as many as four additional years of control should they choose. Francona just wrapped up his second year as Cleveland’s skipper, and in his two years on the job he’d led the team to 92 wins and a Wild Card playoff berth in 2013 as well as a solid 85-win campaign in 2014.
Best known for his role as Boston’s manager during their curse-ending World Series run in 2004 and their follow-up World Series victory in 2007, Francona has spent a total of 14 years as a big league manager. In that time, he’s posted a 1206-1062 record and taken home AL Manager of the Year honors. Somewhat surprisingly, his first Manager of the Year Award didn’t come until 2013 — his first with Cleveland.
Francona is regarded by executives, coaching peers and players as one of the most respected managers in the game. He’s the type of established and admired skipper that is an asset in luring free agents to come to a team. “You don’t bring a guy like this over here if you don’t plan on winning,” Nick Swisher said to reporters at the press conference to announce his signing.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Indians announced today that they have outrighted catcher Chris Gimenez off the 40-man roster and re-signed right-hander Tyler Cloyd to a minor league deal with an invite to big league Spring Training.
Gimenez, 32 in December, batted .241/.313/.328 in 116 plate appearances for the Rangers and Indians this season. The journeyman backstop has seen Major League action with Texas, Cleveland, Tampa and Seattle in parts of six seasons at the big league level, totaling a .210/.297/.302 batting line. He’ll have the option to hit the open market and should draw interest from teams in need of catching depth, especially given this year’s thin crop of free agent catchers.
Cloyd, 27, spent the year in the rotation at Triple-A Columbus after being claimed off waivers from the Phillies around this time last year. He pitched to a 3.89 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 166 2/3 innings in his first year with the Cleveland organization.
The Indians announced that outfielder J.B. Shuck has been claimed off waivers by the White Sox.
Shuck, 27, posted a solid season with the bat in 2013 with the Angels but struggled to repeat those numbers in 2014. After hitting .293/.331/.366 last year, he mustered just a .145/.168/.209 batting line between the Angels and Indians this year. Defensive metrics were very high on Shuck this season, though they saw his work in the outfield corners as average to below average overall in 2013.
In parts of four seasons at the Triple-A level, Shuck is a .302/.381/.384 hitter. He’ll provide the White Sox with some lefty-hitting depth in the outfield — an area in which the team is currently thin.
The Indians should be poised to contend for the AL Central title next year because the Tigers and Royals are going to take a hit in free agency, opines Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group in the latest edition of his “Hey, Hoynsie” column. Free agency won’t damage the White Sox, Hoynes adds, but they are in need of pitching to complement their power while the Twins are still putting together the pieces after four consecutive seasons of at least 92 losses.
Here’s more on the Indians from Hoynes:
- Manager Terry Francona had clauses inserted into his contract when he was hired by the Indians allowing him to leave if President Mark Shapiro or GM Chris Antonetti are fired. Would Francona ever follow Joe Maddon’s lead? Hoynes notes Andrew Friedman left the Rays voluntarily and isn’t sure whether such a departure by either Shapiro or Antonetti would trigger Francona’s opt-out.
- The Indians will not be bidding on the premier bats available in free agency (e.g. Pablo Sandoval (#5 on MLBTR’s 2014-2015 Top 50 Free Agents list), Victor Martinez (#6), Russell Martin (#8), and Nelson Cruz (#9), according to Hoynes, who sees the club setting their sights on the likes of Michael Morse (#28) and Ryan Ludwick (unranked) once other moves are made.
- Jose Ramirez will be the Indians’ 2015 Opening Day shortstop, Francisco Lindor is probably ticketed for Triple-A, and Zach Walters, acquired in the Asdrubal Cabrera trade, will have to make the team as a bench player.
- The Indians are not in the position of needing to trade their core players, so Hoynes would be surprised if Corey Kluber, Yan Gomes, or Michael Brantley are dealt this winter.
Scouting director Ray Montgomery has left the Diamondbacks to becomes special assistant to the general manager and vice president in charge of scouting for the Brewers, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. It’s a significant hire for the Brewers — Piecoro notes that Montgomery is widely considered to be very promising, and that he interviewed for the Padres’ open GM job months ago. Montgomery worked with the Brewers before the Diamondbacks hired him in 2010. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- The Indians exercised Mike Aviles‘ option in part because they would like top shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor to get more time at Triple-A Columbus, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. Lindor earned a promotion to Columbus last season but only collected 180 regular season plate appearances there. With Lindor in the minors, Jose Ramirez will start at shortstop, with Aviles backing up Ramirez and second baseman Jason Kipnis. Pluto feels Aviles would have trade value if Lindor earned a promotion more quickly than the Indians anticipate.
- Tigers ace Max Scherzer could receive a seven-year, $175MM contract to top this offseason’s free agent market, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post, projecting salaries for ten top free agents. Sherman notes that his guess on Scherzer might be low, but that Masahiro Tanaka‘s 2014 season with the Yankees demonstrates the kinds of uncertainties that often accompany big-money investments in pitchers.
The Cubs‘ decision to replace Rick Renteria with Joe Maddon seems “a little dirty,” but the baseball world will go on, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. The Rays believe the Cubs tampered with Maddon while they had him under contract, and others in the game aren’t happy that Maddon’s situation led to Renteria’s firing. Rosenthal notes that if MLB can prove the Cubs tampered, the Rays could demand a promising young player in compensation, maybe even a player as talented as Javier Baez or Addison Russell. Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers would have retained outfielder Andy Dirks in 2015 if they knew he would be healthy, Tom Gage of the Detroit News tweets. Dirks platooned with Matt Tuiasosopo in left field for the Tigers in 2013, but he missed the entire 2014 season with back and hamstring issues, and the Tigers lost him on waivers to the Blue Jays today.
- Indians GM Chris Antonetti doesn’t believe Jason Giambi will be a good fit for the team’s roster next season, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer tweets. Giambi will be 44 in January, and he hit .133/.257/.267 in limited duty in 2014, so it’s no surprise that the Indians might move on. Terry Francona has called Giambi a “manager-in-waiting,” so Giambi’s next move could involve coaching.
- The Indians have made a variety of front office moves, Hoynes tweets. Ross Atkins will be Cleveland’s new vice president in charge of player personnel, with Carter Hawkins becoming director of player development and Paul Gillispie the director of pro scouting.
The Indians announced that they have exercised their one-year, $3.5MM club option on Mike Aviles. Cleveland essentially faced a $3.25MM decision, as Aviles’ option contained a $250K buyout.
Aviles, 34 in March, has served as a versatile bench piece for manager Terry Francona over the past two seasons, appearing at shortstop, second base, third base and in all three outfield positions. Since coming over in a trade from the Blue Jays, he’s posted a combined .250/.277/.356 batting line. He will return to a bench role in Cleveland where he’ll presumably be joined by Ryan Raburn and catcher Roberto Perez, among others. He should provide the organization with some depth at third base and shortstop, neither of which is 100 percent settled at this point due to question marks surrounding Lonnie Chisenhall and the inexperience of shortstop Jose Ramirez.
In the wake of yesterday’s report Rays ownership has discussed relocating the franchise to Montreal, Commissioner Bud Selig paused and then declined to answer whether Tampa Bay is a viable major league market, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Selig did say, however, the team needs a replacement for Tropicana Field. “The team has to have a ballpark that makes them competitive,” the commissioner said before Game Four of the World Series. “It doesn’t produce the kind of revenue they need.”
In other news involving the Rays and the American League:
- Change is coming to the Rays and the front office and players alike don’t see it as a negative, writes the Tampa Tribune’s Roger Mooney. “Whoever we bring in here, they’re going to set the scheme and how they want to win games and be a successful organization,” said pitcher Alex Cobb. “When that trickles down to the players, all that is is us playing up to our capabilities, and that doesn’t matter who is in the dugout or the front office.” Mooney notes all coaches are under contract for 2015; but, if the new manager is from outside the organization, there may be changes to the staff.
- In today’s mailbag, a reader proposed his Indians offseason plan to Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer: trade Jason Kipnis and David Murphy for prospects to free up money, then use that money on Victor Martinez. Hoynes doesn’t see the Tribe trading Kipnis so soon after giving him a $50MM+ extension, despite his bad year. The reader’s ambitious plan also calls for Cleveland to have one of their young outfielders form a platoon with Nick Swisher and, given his $15MM salary, Hoynes believes the team wants to see him in the lineup every day.
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe identified Mark Buehrle as a trade candidate earlier today and Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets the Twins have long been admirers of the Blue Jays hurler. Still, his $19MM salary is too high.
- If the Jon Daniels-Jeff Banister partnership works in Texas, it will continue a trend in the game of a college educated GM with no professional playing experience working with a baseball lifer as manager, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
The Pirates have announced that they’ve acquired shortstop Justin Sellers from the Indians for cash considerations. They’ve also designated relievers John Axford and Jeanmar Gomez for assignment and reinstated starter Charlie Morton from the 60-day disabled list.
Sellers spent most of the 2014 season with Triple-A Columbus, hitting .254/.307/.355. The 28-year-old has hit sparingly in parts of four seasons with the Dodgers and Indians, but he can play second and third as well as shortstop and he has a strong defensive reputation. He will be on the Pirates’ 40-man roster.
Axford and Gomez were both non-tender candidates, so it’s no surprise that the Bucs would designate them for assignment. Axford, a former closer, would have received a small raise on this year’s $4.5MM salary, even though he had a walk-heavy 2014 season in which the Indians let him head to the Pirates via waivers. Gomez served as a long reliever for the Pirates in 2014 and posted a 3.19 ERA, but with an underwhelming 5.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9.