- Phillies Extend Grady Sizemore For 2015
- Braves Name John Hart President Of Baseball Operations
- Phillies Extend Jerome Williams For 2015
- Brian Roberts To Retire
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- Phillies Avoid Arbitration With Cesar Jimenez
- Phillies Extend Grady Sizemore For 2015
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- Braves Name John Hart President Of Baseball Ops
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- Blue Jays Receiving Calls On Adam Lind
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The Phillies have agreed to a one-year, $2MM extension with Grady Sizemore that will keep the outfielder in Philadelphia for 2015, the club announced. Sizemore’s contract includes performance incentives that could boost its value to $5MM, per MLBDailyDish.com’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter).
Sizemore, 32, was one of the game’s most interesting stories last year, when he returned from a long layoff and had a big spring with the Red Sox. The fairytale took a turn when Sizemore struggled to keep pace in Boston, however, and he ultimately was designated for assignment as his OPS dipped to .612.
Philadelphia gave Sizemore a late run, however, and he had better overall success there. With the Phillies, Sizemore put up a .253/.313/.389 slash with three home runs over 176 plate appearances.
Spending most of his time in the corner outfield with the Phillies, Sizemore ultimately landed with approximately average defensive ratings there. His time in center, mostly with Boston, was less promising, as both UZR and Defensive Runs Saved viewed him as a below-average performer.
For the Phillies, the move does offer some cost certainty, and opens renewed questions about the team’s intentions as the offseason nears. All three of the team’s Opening Day starters — Domonic Brown, Marlon Byrd, and Ben Revere — have been mentioned as trade candidates (the former two in particular). Brown and Revere both swing from the left side of the plate, as does Sizemore.
The Blue Jays are hopeful to retain Melky Cabrera and have opened preliminary discussions with his representatives at the Legacy Agency, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Toronto is said to be willing to offer “at least” a three-year contract, according to Heyman, though he’s spoken with some in the industry who expect Cabrera to pursue a five-year pact.
Two-thirds of the Blue Jays’ outfield is hitting the open market this winter, as center fielder Colby Rasmus is also eligible for free agency. However, Heyman says that there’s been no thought to bringing Rasmus back, and the team is instead focused on retaining the switch-hitting Cabrera at this time.
Cabrera struggled through the worst season of his career in 2013 before a benign tumor was found on his spine. Surgery to remove the tumor ended his season, and he bounced back in a big way this year, slashing .301/. 351/.458 with 16 homers in 139 games. Cabrera’s season did end early once again when he broke a pinkie finger on a headfirst slide.
Nonetheless, Cabrera has set himself up for what will easily be the largest payday of his career. However, a three-year pact seems highly unlikely get the job done, in my estimation. In my free agent profile for Cabrera two weeks ago, I pegged him for a five-year deal given his relative youth and status as one of the best bats on this year’s thin free agent market.
Cabrera has said that he wants to return to Toronto, so it’s possible that the Jays have some hope of getting a deal done before he hits the open market. If a deal is not reached by the time qualifying offers are due, the Blue Jays will make the $15.3MM QO, which Cabrera will almost certainly decline in search of that big payday.
12:25pm: The Braves will not change Coppolella’s title and have no plans to hire a new GM, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links). Coppolella will have some of the duties of a normal GM, however. Atlanta is essentially grooming Coppolella to take over as the next GM in 2017 without directly saying as much, he adds.
9:58am: The Braves have officially announced the move, adding that Hart signed a three-year contract which will run through the 2017 season — the first in their new stadium, SunTrust Park.
“I’m delighted that John Hart has agreed to accept the position of President, Baseball Operations,” team president John Schuerholz said in a press release. “Our organization is now poised to move forward in the best possible manner to do the important work that lies ahead. John’s credentials speak for themselves. He has had great success as a baseball executive and demonstrated remarkable ability to construct championship teams. We are excited by John’s dynamic and positive leadership style and look forward to him leading our baseball operations.”
9:44am: Rosenthal tweets that the Braves are indeed likely to hire a GM to work with Hart.
9:32am: Interim Braves GM John Hart has now accepted an offer to take a permanent role with the club and will be soon be named as the new president of baseball operations, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link).
The Braves have been on the hunt for a new leader of their baseball ops department since firing longtime GM Frank Wren a month ago. Hart, who joined the team as a senior adviser last offseason, will now be tasked with that role. The former Indians GM had an immediate impact on the Braves, as he was said to have played a key role in working out long-term extensions for Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Craig Kimbrel and Julio Teheran last winter. The 66-year-old Hart was one of the pioneers of pre-arbitration extensions in his days with Cleveland. Hart has also served as GM of the Rangers and an analyst for the MLB Network.
It remains to be seen whether or not Atlanta will name a GM to work underneath Hart, but there has been wide speculation that assistant GM John Coppolella is being groomed to take over as the next GM. It seems possible that he could rise to the GM role underneath Hart, with Hart serving as a veteran mentor to Coppolella as he acclimates himself to a larger role. Another widely speculated candidate for the GM position has been Royals GM Dayton Moore — a former AGM with the Braves. Of course, Moore has larger things on his mind with his current club just three games away from a World Series championship.
Blue Jays first baseman/DH Adam Lind has drawn interest from a number of teams, including National League clubs, reports Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun. One executive tells Elliott that he hears at least three or four teams have called to check in on the 31-year-old Lind.
The Blue Jays hold a $7.5MM club option on Lind, whose contract also contains an $8MM club option for the 2016 campaign. Lind batted .321/.381/.479 with six homers, 24 doubles and a pair of triples in 318 plate appearances this season, though he missed some time with a fractured right foot that was initially misdiagnosed. While his slash line looks appealing, it should be noted that the Blue Jays have shielded him almost entirely from left-handed pitching in recent years. Many players have platoon deficiencies, but Lind is an extreme example, as evidenced by his lifetime .212/.257/.331 batting line against southpaws.
Nevertheless, Lind’s price tag makes him an appealing option for a team like Pittsburgh, in my opinion, as a club that has a potential need at first base but lacks the financial muscle to bring in a more traditionally expensive slugger. The Padres and Marlins could also make some sense as a trade partner for the Blue Jays, and within the American League it wouldn’t surprise me if the Indians, White Sox or Mariners (to name a few clubs) had some interest in Lind as well. Of course, all of these teams are solely my speculation, although the Pirates did show interest in Lind on multiple occasions last winter.
Obviously, the Blue Jays will first have to make a decision on whether or not to exercise Lind’s option or pay a $1MM buyout, but it seems like a fairly easy call given the relatively modest price and his production against opposite-handed pitching.
The Twins have sold left-handed starter Kris Johnson to the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. At least six clubs from Japan’s top league showed interest in Johnson, but the Carp submitted the highest bid, according to Wolfson.
The move appears to work out for both the Twins and Johnson, as Wolfson reports in a followup tweet that the Twins will receive a six-figure sum for selling Johnson’s rights, while Johnson himself will have a seven-figure salary in Japan. (Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets the Twins will receive something in the “mid six figures.”)
Johnson, 30, was acquired from Pittsburgh following the 2013 season in exchange for Duke Welker. Johnson and Welker had both been available for the Twins to select as a PTBNL in the Justin Morneau trade. The Twins initially selected Welker, then flipped him back to the Pirates for Johnson in the offseason. (The other player in the trade, Alex Presley, was claimed off waivers by the Astros earlier this year.)
Johnson made three spot starts for the Twins this season, surrendering seven runs in 13 1/3 innings of work with a 12-to-9 K/BB ratio. Though he has very little big league experience, Johnson has six seasons of experience at the Triple-A level and posted a 3.48 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 132 innings at that level in 2014.
Johnson offered the following take on his situation to Wolfson via text message: “I’m very excited about playing for Hiroshima and appreciate the Twins making it happen. I talked to different players about how great the fans and team treat foreign players. I was really impressed with the respect they showed me during the negotiations.”
This transaction marks the second time that the Twins have sold a player to a foreign league, as last offseason the team sent lefty Andrew Albers to the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization.
The Nationals gave Rafael Soriano $28MM (half of it deferred) over two years and sacrificed a draft choice to install him at the back of the pen of one of the league’s most talented rosters. Though he was a reasonably productive pitcher, however, Soriano was not the force that Washington had hoped and he ultimately ceded his closer’s role late in 2014. Now entering his age-35 season, the Scott Boras client will presumably look to score another multi-year deal, but faces market competition in maximizing his dollars.
Soriano actually had a stronger overall campaign in his second year in D.C. In particular, he restored his strikeout rate to the mid-8 K/9 level that he had generally maintained over his previous several seasons, after ending 2013 with 6.9 K/9 – his lowest mark by far since his rookie year. While Soriano posted near-identical earned run marks in each of his two seasons with the Nationals (3.11 and 3.19, respectively), he seems to have re-learned to induce whiffs in spite of his reduced fastball velocity. In particular, Soriano seems to have restored some confidence in his slider after it went missing in 2013, increasing its usage and effectiveness. All of those factors would, it seems, bode well moving forward.
Buttressing his good-but-not-great recent production level is its place in the overall context of his career. Since 2006, the veteran has recorded at least 60 innings in seven of nine campaigns. And he has only concluded a season with an ERA higher than last year’s 3.19 mark once: his injury-shortened 2011. While he probably no longer offers the hope of double-digit strikeouts per nine innings, Soriano seems a good bet to deliver a full load of solid innings.
And whatever one thinks of the merit of valuing pitchers based on saves and the like, Soriano’s broad experience is a feather in his cap. He now owns 207 career saves, meaning that he has been exposed to a ton of high-leverage situations. And without suggesting anything about its predictive value, it is worth noting that Soriano has a long record of positive “clutch” scores (per Fangraphs). That experience has its value, particularly for a team that expects to contend and wants a veteran presence in the pen.
Teams intrigued by that consistency will surely also notice that Soriano has been fairly good against lefties: for his career, he has held them to a .234/.309/.395 line. Even better, though he was not as dominant against righties as he had been at times in the past, Soriano showed in 2014 that he can be deployed confidently against hitters of both sides. In fact, facing a nearly even number of left-handed and right-handed bats, Soriano held the former to a .273 wOBA (against a .297 mark from righties).
It is not terribly surprising that Soriano has seen some decline in his fastball velocity, but it nevertheless must be accounted for. He has maintained his heater in the 91+ mph range over the last two seasons, after sitting between 92 and 93 earlier in his career. He has seemingly compensated for that fact by increasingly utilizing a mix of four-seam, two-seam, and cut fastballs, though pitch-recognition mechanisms Baseball Info Solutions and Pitch F/X disagree as to his actual mix amongst those three offerings. But the bottom line is that that Soriano’s days of rearing back and throwing it by hitters are probably over. Meanwhile, he has increased his slider velocity to over 84 mph, the highest level of his career, decreasing further the separation for his primary offspeed offering.
One additional factor to consider is Soriano’s tendency to induce a significant number of fly balls, which has spiked back toward the well-above-average rates he maintained earlier in his career. In 2014, Soriano generated only a 31.6% groundball rate while permitting flies at a 49.1% clip. Though a meager 4.8% HR/FB kept the damage to a minimum, Soriano’s career mark sits at nearly twice that level. A few more balls leaving the yard could put a big dent in Soriano’s bottom-line productivity.
It bears mentioning that Soriano’s late-season struggles led to a demotion from the closer’s role — in part due to his inability to keep the ball down — which certainly does not help with perception as he enters the market. And that move was not without statistical basis: Soriano posted a 6.48 second-half ERA after marking his first 37 innings with an impressive 0.97 mark. And those numbers, in turn, had their source in Soriano’s declining peripherals: his strikeout percentage dropped significantly (26.7% to 19.7%) while his rate of line drives allowed went up (14.8% to 24.1%).
Finally, while Soriano has been healthy of late, he does have a deeper injury history that could come into play in a multi-year scenario. Soriano underwent Tommy John surgery early in 2004, returning late in 2005 after a long recovery. Since, he has seen flareups from time to time and even underwent an ulnar nerve transposition and bone spur procedure on his right elbow back in 2008. Most recently, he missed 66 games in 2011 for inflammation. Though his overall recent health has been good, there has to be at least some consideration for the fact that Soriano has a decade or so of mileage on his replacement UCL.
Soriano is married and has two children. The Dominican native also enjoys a special relationship with his mother, with whom he speaks by phone twice a day, per an interesting profile from James Wagner of the Washington Post.
Soriano persevered through a poor economic upbringing and early difficulties in his career. His quiet disposition belies a warm personality, according to Wagner. But there is no question that a new club will not be getting a boisterous, rah-rah presence. By the same token, Soriano is generally stoic on the hill and does not (visibly, anyway) seem to be overly affected by pressure situations. Though at times he has had a less-than-stellar clubhouse reputation, Soriano seems not to have left that impression in D.C. even after his demotion from the closer role, according to a recent report from the Post’s Adam Kilgore.
As I explained back in early September, Soriano is one of many similarly situated veteran relievers. Though I said at the time that he was one of the few to have maintained his value coming into the year, that assessment was based in part on his poor 2013 and came before his late-year struggles were fully manifested.
At this point, Soriano looks to face a tough market, with plenty of competition on the supply side. His precise placement is subject to debate, but he probably falls in the same general tier as other veteran arms such as Sergio Romo, Francisco Rodriguez, and Casey Janssen.
It is difficult to assign possible landing spots for a sub-elite reliever. But in Soriano’s case, one major factor is his pronounced flyball tendency, which could make him more appealing to a club that plays in a more spacious park while reducing the level of interest from teams with more home run-friendly environments.
Soriano faces a wide range of plausible outcomes, given his warts, the healthy supply of veteran late-inning arms, and the ever-present volatility of a market with so few actors. But he does have a rather extensive track record of finishing off wins, and that can still boost a player’s earning capacity. Though Soriano may have slightly more upside, and perhaps even more downside, I see him landing a two-year, $12MM deal that falls near the bottom of the range of last year’s closer market.
The Angels announced (Twitter link) that they have claimed catcher Jackson Williams off waivers from the Rockies. As MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez explains (also on Twitter), the Angels’ 40-man roster is full, but Williams will head directly to the 60-day disabled list, as he’s coming off knee surgery, so he therefore does not require a 40-man roster spot at this time.
The 28-year-old Williams made his big league debut with the Rox this season, appearing in seven games and collecting 16 plate appearances. He picked up three hits in 14 official at-bats, including his first Major League homer.
Williams was selected 43rd overall by the Giants in the 2007 draft but left that organization as a minor league free agent last offseason and signed a minor league pact with Colorado. In five seasons at the Triple-A level, the University of Oklahoma product has a .235/.307/.361 batting line. Angels director of communications points out that Williams was Garrett Richards’ catcher in college (Twitter link).
Williams twice ranked among the Giants’ top 30 prospects, according to Baseball America, placing 18th and 16th, respectively, following the 2007 and 2008 campaigns. BA listed him as the best defensive catcher in San Francisco’s system on three separate occasions, most recently before the 2011 season.
The Twins have declined their $3.6MM club option on right-hander Jared Burton, director of communications Dustin Morse announced (on Twitter). Burton will receive a $200K buyout and hit the open market this winter.
Burton, 33, came to the Twins prior to the 2012 season on a minor league deal after shoulder surgery had temporarily derailed his career with Cincinnati. (The return of former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky to the Minnesota front office may have had something to do with the team’s interest.) Burton proved to be an excellent find for the Twins in 2012, as he pitched to a 2.18 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 over 62 innings in in his first year with the team. That performance netted him a two-year, $5.45MM extension, which included this option.
Burton’s performance has tailed off over the past two seasons, though he was still solid in 2013, compiling a 3.82 ERA (3.61 FIP) with 8.3 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 66 innings. This season, he got off to a dreadful start to his 2014 campaign, but he did recover to post a 3.41 ERA over his final four months, with the end result being a 4.36 mark.
Overall, Burton spent three seasons with the Twins, totaling a 3.47 ERA with 7.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and 10 saves in 203 appearances (192 innings).
As the Twins continue to seek a replacement for longtime skipper Ron Gardenhire, here are the latest news and rumors:
- Molitor’s one-on-one meeting with GM Terry Ryan went “fine” but did not result in a job offer, per a tweet from Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- Internal candidate Gene Glynn is out of the running, according to Jim Mandelaro of the Democrat and Chronicle. It is unclear if he will return to his current post as manager of the Rochester Red Wings.
- Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN would hire Lovullo, he writes in his latest piece. Lovullo offers substantial experience and outside ideas from a first rate organization. Mackey notes that the Twins like to hire from within, which favors Molitor and Mientkiewicz. It does appear as though Minnesota has narrowed down to these three candidates.
- Speaking of Lovullo, the Red Sox have granted the Twins an extension to continuing speaking with him, tweets Nick Cafardo.
- Molitor has a one-on-one meeting with GM Terry Ryan today, tweets Wolfson, which could mean a number of things.
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets that Lovullo is “very much” still in the mix, and Mackey echoes that sentiment.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that Orioles bench coach John Russell, once a rumored candidate, never heard from the Twins.
- Still in the running for the post, according to Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter), are Paul Molitor, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Torey Lovullo.
- The Twins have told Alomar that he is no longer under consideration, tweets Wolfson. Hale has also been advised that he will not get the position, according to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun (h/t Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press).
- Wolfson tweets that McEwing has been ruled out for the position, meaning that the team could be inching closer to making a decision.
While the Indians fell shy of the playoffs, the team still managed to win 85 games despite a pair of key rotation losses in the form of Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir. As GM of a budget-conscious club, Chris Antonetti will have a limited amount of flexibility as he looks to close the five-game gap that separated his team from the AL Central crown.
- Jason Kipnis, 2B: $49.5MM through 2019 (including buyout on 2020 option)
- Nick Swisher, 1B/OF: $30MM through 2016, plus vesting option
- Michael Bourn, OF: $27.5MM through 2016, plus vesting option
- Yan Gomes, C: $21.95MM through 2019 (including buyout on 2020 option)
- Michael Brantley, OF: $20MM through 2017 (including buyout on 2018 option)
- Carlos Santana, 1B/C: $15.45MM through 2016 (including buyout on 2017 option)
- David Murphy, OF: $6.5MM through 2015 (including buyout on 2016 option)
- Ryan Raburn, 2B/OF: $2.6MM through 2015 (including buyout on 2016 option)
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via Matt Swartz)
- Marc Rzepczynski, LHP (4.132): $1.9MM projected salary
- Josh Tomlin, RHP (4.033): $1.7MM
- Carlos Carrasco, RHP (3.147): $1.4MM
- Chris Gimenez, C (3.097): $700K
- Bryan Shaw, RHP (3.081): $1.5MM
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (3.027): $2.2MM
- Non-tender candidate: Gimenez
- Mike Aviles, 2B/SS/3B: $3.5MM club option with a $250K buyout
From a non-player standpoint, there figures to be little change within the Indians organization. Former GM Mark Shapiro, now the team president, will again entrust GM Chris Antonetti with structuring a contending club despite limited payroll flexibility. Manager Terry Francona and the coaching staff all seem likely to return as well.
The payroll figures to again be Cleveland’s biggest obstacle, as long-term commitments to Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn went south this season. Each player battled injuries and struggled at the plate, making their respective $15MM and $13.5MM salaries look questionable on a team otherwise loaded with many bargains. Also worth noting were the sub-par contributions of David Murphy in his first year with the Indians; his $6.5MM salary in 2015 a year after hitting just .262/.319/.385 and checking in below replacement level further clouds the outfield picture.
With $55MM already committed to the next year’s payroll and possibly another $10MM or so in arb salaries (plus the league-minimum players to fill out the roster), the Tribe could be looking at about $70MM in commitments before making a single decision.
Cleveland finished last in all of Major League Baseball with about 1.437MM fans drawn this season, so it seems unlikely that the team’s payroll will rise significantly from the $80-84MM range that has been set in 2013-14. That will leave Antonetti with somewhere between $10-15MM to augment a roster of affordable contracts.
The Indians can trot out a rotation fronted by Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber and followed by breakout 27-year-old Carlos Carrasco. Beyond that pairing, the team can look for another step forward from former top prospect Trevor Bauer and a better overall effort from the hard-throwing Danny Salazar. Josh Tomlin, Zach McAllister and T.J. House represent options in the fifth slot, and House was particularly impressive in 2014, posting a 3.35 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 102 innings. Starting pitching, therefore, doesn’t need to be a major focus for Cleveland this winter, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see some veteran arms added on minor league deals just for depth purposes.
Cleveland’s affordable talent isn’t confined to the pitching staff, however. Standout catcher Yan Gomes will earn just $1MM next season in the first year of a six-year, $23MM contract extension. Carlos Santana and his relatively modest $6MM salary will man first base, with Jason Kipnis and his $4MM salary handling the keystone. Jose Ramirez‘s excellent glove will likely open the season at shortstop, with top prospect Francisco Lindor perhaps pushing for a call-up midseason. And of course, MVP candidate Michael Brantley will be looking to replicate his breakout in left field while earning $5MM.
Meanwhile, in the bullpen, Cody Allen looks like a formidable ninth-inning weapon, and he’s yet to reach arbitration. He can be joined in the late innings by Bryan Shaw, Scott Atchison, Marc Rzepczynski and Kyle Crockett — each of whom posted a sub-3.00 ERA in at least 30 innings of work. Nick Hagadone joins Crockett and Rzepczynski as a left-handed option. Perhaps best of all, none from this group projects to earn more than $1MM, save for Rzepczynski.
Those cost-controlled players are critical for the Indians. While the Swisher and Bourn commitments don’t prevent them from adding another sizable salary or multiple lower to mid-range salaries in 2015, those large contracts do throw a wrench into their offseason approach. Cleveland already has $51MM committed to the 2016 roster — a season in which Kluber and Allen will become arbitration eligible for the first time. Each figures to see a significant hike in salary should his current success continue. Carrasco will be eligible for the second time that year, and if he can come close to replicating this season’s second-half breakout — something Cleveland desperately needs in order to contend — his arbitration raise will also be very steep. Shaw, Rzepcznski, Chisenhall and others will be due further raises heading into 2016.
Essentially, the Indians are looking at the same guaranteed contract structure they face in 2015, but with an arb class that is potentially twice as costly. So, while they may have $10-15MM to comfortably add to the 2015 payroll, they can’t afford to make long-term commitments beyond the upcoming season without either increasing that payroll significantly or moving some salary. For example, a name like Chase Headley looks appealing as an alternative to Lonnie Chisenhall, who hit just .225/.295/.318 after June 30 and is a very poor defender, but Headley would likely send the 2016 payroll well beyond $85MM (assuming Tim Dierkes’ four-year, $48MM contract projection is correct or close to it).
The team’s financial situation makes one-year commitments the most likely for a significant addition, but the free agent market lacks an obvious one-year candidate at third, which is a position of need. The other logical place to upgrade would be in right field or possibly at DH. In those areas, Colby Rasmus could prove an upgrade over Murphy, with Swisher sliding into a primary DH role. The Indians could also buy low on a name like Corey Hart of Kendrys Morales on a one-year deal to serve as the DH, with the hope that Swisher and/or Murphy rebounds enough to handle right field full-time. It wouldn’t take much, after all, to upgrade on the .188/.254/.311 batting line posted by Cleveland DHs in 2014.
Another option for the Indians would be to pursue an upgrade on the trade market. Juan Uribe and Casey McGehee are two short-term options that could make some sense if their respective teams are interested in making a long-term upgrade at the hot corner. There are a number of right fielders that would fit the bill as well, including Jason Heyward, Justin Upton (though the Indians were on his initial no-trade list), Shane Victorino and Gerardo Parra. Cleveland showed interest in Victorino as a free agent two years ago and could have interest again, particularly if Boston is willing to eat some of his salary.
Of course, pursuit of a name like Heyward would present the question of whether or not Cleveland wants to compromise some of its long-term outlook for an improved chance at immediate contention. The Indians do have a strong group of minor league outfielders headlined by Clint Frazier and also including Tyler Naquin, James Ramsey and Bradley Zimmer — each a first-round pick within the past three years. Some fans would likely make the case that a team with long-term payroll constraints should be resistant to trading controllable/league-minimum talent for a one-year upgrade, but being within striking distance of a postseason berth is an oft-fleeting position. The team could consider this its best shot at a division title with the Royals potentially losing James Shields and the Tigers potentially losing Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez, so the argument in favor of a win-now move could certainly be made.
Perhaps the most appealing approach for the front office will simply to be to add a bullpen piece and search for minor upgrades and platoon partners for some of the 2014 regulars that struggled. While they won’t play for top-of-the-market names like David Robertson and Andrew Miller, a number of second-tier options such as Pat Neshek, Jason Grilli, Sergio Romo or Joba Chamberlain would add a veteran presence and deepen the relief corps.
Going that route and experiencing success would also likely require at least one of their faded stars to rebound, which isn’t out of the question. Swisher is just one season removed from totaling 2.3 fWAR and 3.8 rWAR, so a rebound isn’t out of the question. Bourn, too, was somewhat productive in 2013, though to a lesser extent.
The Indians could try to dump one or both players, though that’s no easy feat to accomplish. Still, should the Indians eat the majority of one of their 2015 salaries in order to save $8-10MM in 2016, a long-term commitment for a new addition would certainly be easier to structure.
In the end, barring an unexpected payroll boost for the 2016 season, the team’s 2015 maneuverability is limited. The team will have to determine whether it’s worth compromising its enviable reservoir of outfield prospects in order to make a short-term upgrade, or if the better option is to make minor upgrades where possible and bank on a resurgence among a group of underperforming veterans. For all the ink I’ve dedicated to Bourn and Swisher, the most sorely needed rebound may be one from Kipnis, who slumped to a .240/.310/.330 line after posting elite numbers in 2013.