Cleveland Indians Rumors


Minor Moves: Kameron Loe, Jeff Francoeur

Here are today's minor moves from around the league.

  • Pitcher Kameron Loe has opted out of his minor-league deal with the Giants, and he's now a free agent, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets. Loe pitched for the Mariners, Cubs and Braves in 2013, accumulating 20 innings with a 5.85 ERA, 5.4 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9.
  • The Indians have released outfielder Jeff Francoeur, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets. They had signed him to a minor-league deal in January. Francoeur, 30, collected 256 plate appearances with the Royals and Giants in 2013, hitting .204/.238/.298. Francoeur has also played with the Braves, Mets and Rangers in his nine-year big-league career.



Dolan On Swisher, Bourn, Francona, Attendance

Here's the latest from Indians CEO Paul Dolan, courtesy of Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer.

  • After a disastrous 2012 season, the Indians signed Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, but Dolan was still impressed how quickly the team turned itself around. "We were on the verge of a complete collapse at the end (of 2012)," Dolan says. "Twelve months later, the entire trajectory of the franchise has been changed. It's a 180-degree turn."
  • Dolan says has has been very impressed with manager Terry Francona, who led the Indians in their rebound season. "I used to think that a good manager would make a difference, but a marginal difference," says Dolan. "A bad manager could mess things up. But Terry makes so much more than a marginal difference."
  • Swisher and Bourn may not have played up to expectations last season, but Dolan says they still played a key role in turning the organization around by "changing the culture" in the Indians' clubhouse. Dolan expects Swisher and Bourn to play better in 2014.
  • Dolan did not complain about the Indians' disappointing 2013 attendance, and instead focused on their television ratings, which rose 40 percent.
  • Dolan did not comment on potential extensions for Justin Masterson and Jason Kipnis, except to say that the Indians want to retain them both.



Extension Talks Between Masterson, Indians Fall Through

TODAY, 7:33pm: For his part, GM Chris Antonetti says that he met with Masterson and all are in agreement "to table discussions on a multi-year contract and potentially revisit it down the road," reports MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. Antonetti says that he prefers not to hold discussions during the season, while Masterson says (via a tweet from Bastian) that he would be open to doing so.

Addressing the team's assessment of Masterson's market value, Antonetti said that the Bailey contract was just one data point. "We were very cognizant of that contract," he explained, "but there are others. I feel like we made an earnest attempt to get something done and offered Justin a contract that was fair relative to the market." Weighing heavily for Cleveland, though, was its future commitments and expected increases in arbitration payouts. "That's a consideration," said Antonetti. "I think the thing that we want, and I know Justin wants, is to be a part of a championship-caliber team. So what we need to do is look at how we fairly compensate players, but fit them within the constructs of what we expect our payrolls will be moving forward."

6:07pm: While acknowledging that talks had broken down, Masterson did not rule out the possibility of another attempt, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports on Twitter"Although the doors are technically closed," said Masterson, "they all have doorknobs so you can open them again."

YESTERDAY, 9:41pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Indians countered with a two-year deal and a club option at a considerably lower annual salary -- roughly $14MM (Twitter link).

9:30pm: Hoynes reports that Masterson and agent Randy Rowley offered a two-year and a three-year proposal, with the two-year offer coming in at roughly $35MM and the three-year offer coming in at roughly $51MM.

8:49pm: A long-term deal between the Indians and No. 1 starter Justin Masterson seemed highly likely to materialize when reports surfaced that Masterson had proposed a three-year extension to Cleveland. However, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that talks between the two sides have fallen through after Cleveland did not accept the three-year offer, which had an annual value under Homer Bailey's $17.5MM mark. Free agency now seems likely for Masterson, says Rosenthal (Twitter links). Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer hears the same, tweeting that talks between the two sides "are over."

Masterson is already under contract for the 2014 season after agreeing to a one-year, $9.7625MM contract to avoid arbitration this offseason. A three-year extension would have bought out the 2015-17 seasons -- Masterson's age-30 through age-32 seasons. The three-year term is almost certainly lower than what Masterson can expect in free agency next offseason, even if he rejects a qualifying offer.

A three-year deal worth $51-53MM seems like a reasonable price to pay for Masterson, who has turned in an ERA south of 3.50 in two of the past three seasons and established himself as one of the best ground-ball pitchers in the game. Cleveland isn't a deep-pocketed club though, and they spent at an uncharacteristic level last offseason to sign Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher to four-year commitments. It's unclear if that spending spree is related to the Masterson situation, though.

If Masterson does reach the open market next offseason, that's bad news for the likes of James Shields, Max Scherzer and Jon Lester (if Lester does not reach an extension of his own), as it would add another quality arm to the top of the free agent crop.



Indians Release David Aardsma

The Indians have granted right-hander David Aardsma his release, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. Aardsma asked for his release after being informed that he would not make the big league bullpen, according to Bastian.

The 32-year-old Aardsma returned from a lengthy Major League disappearance to fire 39 2/3 innings of 4.31 ERA ball for the Mets last season. Prior to that stint, Aardsma had thrown just one inning from 2011-12 as he battled back from Tommy John surgery. In New York, he averaged 8.2 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 but posted a low (even by his standards) 32.8 percent ground-ball rate.

Aardsma doesn't have the zip he had prior to Tommy John, when he averaged better than 94 mph on his fastball with regularity. He checked in at an average of 91.2 mph last season but still posted a strong 11.7 swinging-strike rate. Aardsma stranded 80.5 percent of his baserunners last season -- a mark he is unlikely to repeat -- but also was plagued by a 14.6 percent homer-to-flyball ratio, which figures to come down (his career mark is 9.5 percent). For what it's worth, Aardsma has had a strong Spring Training, yielding two earned runs on five hits with five strikeouts and no walks in six innings of work.



AL Central Notes: Tigers, Marcum, Tabata, Twins

The Tigers' best way to address their shortstop issue is to try an internal option, like Danny Worth, then reevaluate the matter if Worth struggles, MLive.com's James Schmehl writes. At that point, if Stephen Drew is still a free agent, the Tigers could call agent Scott Boras. Schmehl also doesn't think the Tigers should pay a high price for the Diamondbacks' Chris Owings when the injured Jose Iglesias remains their shortstop of the future.  Drew was the top option in an MLBTR readers poll earlier today, as over 37% of voters felt that the Tigers will ultimately just sign the veteran shortstop to replace Iglesias.

Here are more notes from around the AL Central...

  • The Phillies and Cubs were among the many teams who had scouts watching the Tigers' minor leaguers in action on Wednesday, MLB.com's Jason Beck reports.  Earlier today, we heard that the Tigers were scouting Darwin Barney and Nate Schierholtz of the Cubs to address their holes at short and left field, respectively.
  • Shaun Marcum would like to stay in the Indians organization even if he doesn't make their rotation, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets.  Marcum can opt out of his deal if he does not make the team out of spring training.  Marcum was supposed to compete for the Indians' fifth starter job, but he has fallen behind as he has continued to recover from thoracic outlet syndrome and is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season.
  • The Pirates have reportedly been shopping outfielder Jose Tabata, but the Twins are probably not among the interested teams, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets.
  • The Twins' final roster decisions are being complicated by both a number of out-of-options players and the fact that several players competing for jobs simply haven't performed well at Spring Training, MLB.com's Andrew Simon reports.  "Nobody's really stepped up to try to earn the spots, and that's a bad feeling when you're looking at giving spots away," Twins assistant GM Mark Antony told reporters, including Simon.

MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth also contributed to this post



Indians Have Yet To Act On Masterson Extension Offer

It has now been a full two weeks since Justin Masterson reportedly offered the Indians a three- or four-year, $40MM to $60MM extension. The club has yet to act on the offer, however, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

In fact, says Heyman, Masterson has made two separate proposals, both of which are still on the table and one of which is for only three years. Both offers include less guaranteed years at a slightly lower average annual value than the recent Homer Bailey extension. Bailey got six years and $105MM, earning approximately a $19MM AAV for the five free agent years covered. Masterson and the Indians have already agreed upon a $9.7625MM deal for 2014, so the new contract would cover 2015 and beyond.



Minor Moves: Adam Miller

Here are the day's minor moves:

  • The Indians brought back a familiar name today by signing former top prospect Adam Miller to a minor league deal, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports (via Twitter). Miller seemed destined for a career at the front of the Cleveland rotation until a curious finger injury -- and multiple resulting surgeries -- derailed his progress. Now 29, Miller spent last year with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters, throwing 62 innings of 4.79 ERA ball.
  • Though MLBTR's DFA Tracker shows only one player, he is an intriguing one: Javy Guerra, the Dodgers reliever.



Offseason In Review: Cleveland Indians

After making the playoffs in 2013 following the additions of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, the Indians had a quiet offseason.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

Extensions

Needs Addressed

The Indians made an upside play to address their bullpen by signing John Axford to a one-year deal. Axford was often erratic as the Brewers' closer, but has great stuff and pitched well down the stretch for the Cardinals. If he performs with the Indians, they have the ability to take him to arbitration for two more seasons. The addition of Axford will help compensate for the losses of Chris Perez (who the Indians released after he lost his closer job down the stretch and wound up in trouble for receiving a package of marijuana at his home) and Joe Smith. Josh Outman, acquired in a deal with the Rockies, will also likely play a role in the Indians' revamped bullpen, perhaps along with Axford, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Marc Rzepczynski and Vinnie Pestano. (Also this offseason, the Indians defeated Pestano and Josh Tomlin in their first arbitration cases since 1991.)

Taking Stubbs' place in right field will be David Murphy, who the Indians signed to a two-year deal. Murphy hit just .220/.282/.374 with the Rangers last season, but that was with a BABIP 75 points below his career rate, so he's a good bet to bounce back and provide a bit of offense, along with above-average defense, this season. If he does, Murphy, Bourn, Michael Brantley and Ryan Raburn could provide the Indians with an above-average outfield.

Questions Remaining

The Indians have taken a hit with the departures of Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir this offseason, and will depend on a trio of younger arms in Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister and Danny Salazar. They'll also have Justin Masterson in his last season remaining before free agency. Those four players are all clearly worthy of rotation spots and should be fine, and Salazar, in particular, should help soften the blow of losing Jimenez and Kazmir. But the Indians are still without a fifth starter -- Josh Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Aaron Harang are competing for the job. Shaun Marcum may eventually be a factor, but he's still recovering from issues related to thoracic outlet syndrome.

There's also the matter of what they'll do with Masterson. Masterson should be able to command a hefty multiyear deal next offseason, but he has reportedly told the Indians he would be willing to take a three-year contract to stay in Cleveland. That seems extremely generous of him, but the two sides have not yet stuck a deal. (The Indians have also reportedly discussed an extension with star second baseman Jason Kipnis.)

Finally, the Indians are trying to figure out where they'll play Carlos Santana, who spent the offseason working out at third base. Yan Gomes figures to take most of the playing time at catcher, Santana's usual position. One possibility might be to have him platoon with Lonnie Chisenhall, a left-handed hitter, at third. Santana, a switch-hitter, could then spot Gomes at catcher or DH on days when Chisenhall is at the hot corner. Chisenhall struggled in the big leagues in 2013 but is still just 25 and has hit well at the Triple-A level. Much hinges, however, on how well Santana takes to the position.

Deal of Note

USATSI_7336812Brantley's four-year, $25MM extension, which contains an $11MM club option or a $1MM buyout for 2018, buys out one and perhaps two years of free agent eligibility. Brantley had filed for $3.8MM in his first season of arbitration, with the Indians offering $2.7MM. That's a fairly large difference, but the midpoint of $3.25MM would have positioned Brantley to make perhaps $13MM-$16MM in his three arbitration seasons. That means the Indians are effectively paying about $10MM for 2017, which is Brantley's age-30 season, plus the possibility of retaining him in 2018. Brantley is approximately an average player -- he's never had a star-caliber season and doesn't have much power, but he hits for good averages and is competent in center or in a corner. The deal will be fine if he maintains his current level of performance, and very good if he takes a step forward as he heads into his late twenties.

Overview

The Indians' surprising 2012-13 shopping spree lingered this winter. A year ago, the Indians spent heavily on Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, improved by 24 games, and received ... what? Attendance was actually lower in 2013 (1.57MM) than it had been in 2012 (1.60MM), and tiny home crowds, frequently in the 10K-13K range, watched the Indians down the stretch as they battled for, and won, a playoff spot. Then their season ended unceremoniously as they lost to the Rays in the AL Wild Card game.

The Indians responded with an offseason in which they didn't seem to make much of an effort to re-sign Jimenez, perhaps content to collect a compensation pick and move forward. They also lost Kazmir, who emerged from baseball oblivion to play a key role on the 2013 team.

This isn't to say the Indians will be helpless in 2014. Bourn and Swisher are still on the payroll, and they actually weren't crucial to the Indians' playoff run last year -- Kipnis, Gomes, Santana and Raburn were the Indians' four best position players by fWAR. If Bourn and Swisher can contribute more in 2014, they can offset potential regression by Gomes and Raburn and help the Indians compensate for the losses of Jimenez and Kazmir. A full season from the very promising Salazar could also help the Indians significantly. It wouldn't be at all surprising to see them make another playoff run.

After their splashy 2012-13 offseason, though, the Indians haven't followed up, despite the lucrative TV deal to which they agreed prior to the 2013 season. The Indians could have shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (who will make $10MM in 2014) and perhaps Masterson ($9.76MM) come off the books after the season. If they do, and the Indians' attendance woes continue, it will be interesting to see how the team responds. If Masterson is in fact willing to take a three-year deal rather than a contract more along the lines of the $105MM extension Homer Bailey recently signed with the Reds, then signing him would seem to be a fairly easy decision, and a potential signal that the Indians are still willing to bid on top talent.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Central Notes: Garza, Royals, Beltran, Sellers

Sticking with the Cubs didn't work out for Matt Garza, and now the Brewers starter wants to "kick their teeth in every time I get the chance," Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Garza isn't as angry as that makes it sound, though -- he's just an energetic player looking for motivation. Wittenmyer notes that the Cubs had previously offered Garza a five-year extension that might have been worth around $65MM, but the two sides couldn't settle on a deal, and the Cubs ended up shipping him to the Rangers in the middle of last season. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.



Quick Hits: Choo, Turner, Mets, Lambo, Santana

The seven-year, $140MM offer that the Yankees offered Shin-Soo Choo was only on the table for less than a day.  As MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince notes, New York offered Choo the contract and then pulled it back almost as quickly in order to instead sign Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45MM deal.  "In my opinion, it takes some time to make a decision, maybe at least a couple days," Choo said. "You want to learn a city and a team. They gave me 21 hours."  The Yankees' withdrawal could've been due to Beltran simply accepting his offer first, or perhaps because Scott Boras (Choo's agent), reportedly asked the Yankees to match the $153MM the Bombers gave to Jacoby Ellsbury.  Choo didn't end up doing too badly for himself at any rate, signing a seven-year, $130MM deal with the Rangers.

Here's some news from around the baseball world...

  • CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman lists 14 players who could traded during Spring Training.  Most of these names have popped up on the pages of MLBTR over the last few weeks, though one new name is Marlins right-hander Jacob Turner.  Heyman says there's "not a great chance" Miami would deal Turner but since the Marlins have a lot of good young pitchers, "folks on other teams speculate this could be the one arm the Marlins might move in that right deal" for offensive help.
  • Ike Davis' calf injury has not only set back the Mets' first base competition, but it has also ruined any possible chance of a trade showcase for Davis during Spring Training, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes.  The Brewers, Pirates and Orioles have all been connected to Davis in trade rumors during the offseason but obviously no move will be made any time soon, as Davis is currently in a walking boot and recently had an MRI on his right calf.
  • Speaking of the Pirates' first base search, the team could end up finding its left-handed platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez already on the roster in the form of Andrew Lambo, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes.  While maturity issues and a 50-game suspension reportedly relating to marijuana use have set back Lambo's career, he is still only 25 and has posted some strong power numbers in the minors.
  • "I just don't see what we have to lose," Indians manager Terry Francona says about Carlos Santana's attempted conversion to third base.  FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal recaps the reasons behind Santana's surprising decision to try the hot corner and how it could be a boon for the Tribe if Santana could handle the position.
  • Nate Schierholtz wants to remain with the Cubs but is cognizant of the fact that could be traded, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports.  The veteran outfielder said he hasn't spoken to Cubs management about staying beyond his current one-year contract.  Recent rumors put Schierholtz on the trading block thanks to Ryan Kalish's progress, not to mention the fact that Kalish is playing on a minor league deal while Schierholtz is owed $5MM this season.









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