It’s a bright, sunny, cold fall day here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, and oh, what a difference a year makes here at the North Coast.
Has it already been a year?
The Cleveland Indians announced Terry Francona as their manager on October 6, 2012, and presented him at a press conference on October 8, 2012. It’s hard to believe that that a year has gone by.
Yet here we are on October 10, 2013, with a new culture in place, and a run to the playoffs under our belts.
I still can hardly believe it.
So what’s the story this year?
The Cleveland Indians are building off of a playoff run, and are heading into the offseason potentially being able to build a better lineup.
The Indians will be players in the market for several players, including our own free agents, and you can bet they will be making a play.
Have the Indians really made a culture change here in Cleveland?
Will free agents sign in Cleveland, or was it just a quirk in the rules that allowed the Indians to go after players without giving up their first round pick?
Will the Indians spend more than they have budgeted if they think it will make them better?
Can the Indians become a factor in the playoffs in 2014?
There are certainly tons of questions to be answered as we start to say goodbye to 2013 and focus our attention on 2014, and we’ll have plenty of time to talk about it all.
Until then, there are things that I would like to see for the 2014 for the Indians as things stand today. Of course, that could change based on the moving and the shaking between now and March 31, 2014, when the Indians play the Athletics in Oakland
I’ll revisit these and more throughout the hot stove season here at the Corner, but here are some things that I’d like to see happen for the Indians in 2014.
Yan Gomes catches at least 130 games.
I suppose this isn’t rocket science for anyone that follows the Cleveland Indians, but I know there’s a contingent that believes the Indians should split time at catcher between Gomes and Carlos Santana. I’m not one of them. Yan Gomes should be behind the plate as the primary catcher from this point on. I would even argue that Santana should move out of the catcher’s role altogether (and will get to that in a minute).
Without even touching upon Gomes’ offense, he’s the best defensive catcher the Indians have at this point. Might he regress in 2014? He might, but defense generally isn’t something that is a “flash-in-the-pan” statistic, especially for a youngster like Gomes.
It’s the offense that I’m intrigued with. If he continues along the path that he’s on, Gomes should continue to be the primary catcher, and perhaps find a spot in the meat of the batting order. I know some will say that he needs to be given time to prove it, but watching a hole in the offense like Asdrubal Cabrera bat in front of him down the stretch at times should be a good indicator that Gomes needs to begin to be highlighted as a run producer, not protected.
2014 will be his year to shine.
Francisco Lindor becomes the regular shortstop by the all-star break.
I’ve followed minor league baseball for a long time, and I get a unique perspective, watching games in the Carolina League. It’s an interesting league, to say the least, and it’s often extremely telling with regards to how good prospects can be.
With all of that said, Francisco Lindor is far and away the best High A prospect I’ve seen in Kinston or Carolina over the past 13 years.
He’s that good.
Now I don’t know much about his “back injury” that ended his season, but my best guess is that there was a lot of protecting involved in the decision to shut him down. If that’s the case, then Lindor will be a Major League player by the end of 2014.
If it were up to me, I’d give him every chance to claim the spot out of spring training.
Regardless, Lindor should be this team’s primary shortstop by the All-Star break. I’m being a bit safe in that statement, and if you read my columns at all, you’ll know that I’m a firm believer that he’ll be up by May or June. But, Lindor should be with this club by July at the latest.
Let’s keep it simple: HE’S REALLY GOOD.
How good? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Francisco Lindor’s pre-game fielding is something akin to the defensive version of the ‘90s Indians putting on a power display during pre-game batting practice. He’s that good.
If you watched Lindor playing short during spring training last year with the Indians, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Some will point to his errors as an indicator of poor defense, but that’s just garbage.
Some worry about his offense, and I’m on board with that as well, but it’s better than many think, and getting better every day.
He has a high baseball IQ, and is mature beyond his years. Remember, he’s still a teenager. I promise you. He doesn’t act like one.
Francisco Lindor will be a star, and it should start in 2014.
That is all.
Michael Bourn plays like an all-star, and if the front office doesn’t think that he can be effective, then trade him.
I know that there is a call for the Indians to deal Bourn because of his hefty bounce in salary over the next three years. If they did trade him, I would be totally okay with that. There are plenty of scenarios in which players could replace their lead-off hitter. They wouldn’t be ideal, but there are those scenarios.
Here’s the thing though: when Michael Bourn played well, and it did happen on occasion in 2013, he was absolutely scintillating.
If Michael Bourn has ANYTHING left in the tank, and I think that he does, than he could become a massive difference maker in this offense.
There were those moments, and they were brief, but there were those moments when he brought memories of theKenny Lofton era. He can generate infield hits when he’s on. He can generate havoc on the base paths when he’s on. He can lengthen that lineup.
That’s an ideal situation, and there really isn’t anyone (who plays center right now) on the roster that can do it as well as Bourn can. I love Drew Stubbs, but at the peak of their game, he can’t touch Bourn as a lead-off hitter. The fact that they can be compared says more about Bourn’s regression, than Stubbs being a solid player.
If the regression was a change in leagues, then he needs to stay.
If the regression was his age, then he needs to be traded…and now, while he still has value.
Jose Ramirez needs to become the permanent second baseman, but if they won’t move Kipnis, make him a centerfielder.
Let me just say this now: Jose Ramirez becoming a utility player is a mistake. He’s just too good.
Could he handle it?
Could he be effective at it?
Should he do it?
First and foremost, Jose Ramirez should be the Indians’ primary second baseman. The only problem with that is that Jason Kipnis is there. Kipnis is arguably the best player on the team, and it’s rare that a player of that caliber moves positions. Could Kipnis move? He sure could, but I’m sure the Indians don’t think that’s an optimal move, and would surely devalue his offense a bit. That said, it’s possible, and I’ll get to that later in this piece.
But you have to understand that he is an incredible middle infielder. According to our very own Senior Editor and Akron aficionado Jim Piascik, Ramirez has extremely quick hands, and is ideally suited to the role. I can’t tell a lie…visions of Lindor and Ramirez are dancing in my head.
They could be special
If the Indians decide that Jose Ramirez isn’t going to be their full-time second baseman, then he should move to centerfield.
Please understand this: He can do it.
I’m not as sure on that statement as I am with other players because I haven’t seen him play nearly as much as others, but know that like Lindor, has a high IQ. I know that like Lindor, is extremely mature. I know that like Lindor, he’s an extremely hard worker. The ONLY question is his arm, and Piascik noted that it’s not very strong.
Everything else in his game suits to a jump, it would just take a bit for him to learn the intricacies of the positions. Is it a sure thing. No, but it may be a way to start putting together the strongest lineup the Indians can with the talent they have.
Jose Ramirez is a major league starter, should have a position, and will make the offense better.
Put him at second…but if they don’t think about him at centerfield.
What about Jason Kipnis?
Move him back to the outfield. I don’t care if it’s left or right field, but get him out there. JRam is a superior defender, and his bat is just special. No, he doesn’t, nor will he ever have the power that Kipnis has, but he is a guy that can cause massive difficulties for a pitcher and a defense. He gets on base at a high rate, and can steal bases.
Kipnis has good enough power to be an outstanding outfielder. Think about it…Drew Stubbs was our primary guy out there this year, and he was supplemented by Ryan Raburn. Kipnis is superior to both…and that was his initial position.
Get him out there, and put JRam at second. It fills your right field spot, and it puts a kid that is going to be special at second.
Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn continue to be bench players, and not starters.
These guys shouldn’t start…period.
I’m not diving too much into this, but both of these guys should have limited at bats, and not be depended on. Their games change when that happens. These two our outstanding utility players, and that’s what they need to be.
Oh, and while we’re at it, Raburn DOESN’T NEED TO PLAY THE INFIELD. That was a mistake from the start for the Tigers. Raburn is golden as the fourth outfielder. Leave him there, where he can be successful.
Danny Salazar plays a full season with the Indians, showcasing why he’s an ace by anyone’s standards.
There are many folks that will disagree with the term ace, and whether or not Danny Salazar is one.
No, he doesn’t have the body of work that I usually point to.
No, he hasn’t played an entire season with the Indians, and I usually point to that as well.
Let’s just say this: his stuff is the best in the entire organization. He’s dominated major league hitters.
He’s an ace…period.
Yes, I suppose you can say that he needs to prove himself in 2014. I get that.
But he’s still an ace.
His K-Rate is ridiculous (11.3).
His Walk Rate is ridiculous (2.6).
His FIP is near ridiculous (3.16).
His xFIP is ludicrous (2.75).
He’s an ace.
He’s the best starter the Indians have RIGHT NOW.
Can’t wait for him to prove me right again, in 2014, when he absolutely dominates from day 1.
Corey Kluber proves to be something more than a one-season wonder.
I’m not going to get into numbers with Corey Kluber. We all know what they were this year, and they were good.
What I worry about with regards to Kluber is that he may be the guy that has a great season out of nowhere, then disappears.
He was never really all that good in the minors.
I mean…he was okay.
He had special stuff.
But he could never really put it all together.
Now he has.
Sure, in 2012 he has a 3.99 xFIP, which perhaps makes his 5+ ERA seem better, but not much better.
So where did this come from?
Is it because of Mickey Callaway?
Is it because of new pitches?
Is it just his natural progression?
If he’s more than a one-hit wonder, this staff will be really…really good, even potentially without Ubaldo and Kazmir.
Let’s hope for the best.
His FIP and xFIP were tremendous, at 3.3 and 3.10, and he became a 2.7 WAR pitcher.
If he’s back, the Indians are in business.
Trevor Bauer becomes the main piece to the Shin-Soo Choo trade.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this one, but a lot of people have written off Trevor Bauer.
I’m not there yet.
I think 2014 could be his big year.
My hope is that Mickey Callaway spends some time with Bauer during the offseason. He seems to have a bit of Ubaldo Jimenez in him. Imagine if Callaway can point Bauer in the right direction. Imagine if Bauer becomes an ace again. Imagine if Bauer and Carrasco anchor this staff, for a long, long time.
Yeah, it’s too early to give up on him.
Cody Allen doesn’t become the Indians’ closer, because Carlos Carrasco says so.
Let me just get this out there. I want Cody Allen to be the closer.
Here’s what I want. I want the Cleveland Indians to have a dominant closer. I want the Cleveland Indians to have a guy that just slams the door in the ninth inning. I just want teams to walk into Progressive Field knowing that if it’s a close game in the ninth, it’s over.
I want Allen in that role.
But…I wouldn’t mind Allen having a bit more freedom to maneuver through the late innings.
Enter Carlos Carrasco. I still feel that Carrasco can be an incredible starter, but I’m intrigued with the idea that he could become a closer.
It could explode in our face. We all know that he’s a headcase. We all know that he can’t seem to put it together.
In some weird way, I think that actually could help him in the closer role? No, I’m not saying I want a headhunter as a closer, am I?
But, imagine if a special Carrasco is the closer, with their best reliever in that set up role in the eighth.
I could live with that.
Ubaldo Jimenez signs an Indians-friendly, three-year, $33 million deal, with a fourth-year option that kicks in when he meets an innings threshold.
I know there are a lot of numbers being thrown around with regards to Jimenez, but I also don’t think anyone knows the real number. IBI’s senior editor Steve Orbanek pointed to a piece at MLB Trade Rumors that suggested that Jimenez is currently similar to a guy like Jorge De La Rosa, who signed a three-year, $30 million deal in 2010.
I would love that deal.
I think Jimenez is better than De La Rosa, so their number of three-years and $33 million as the floor, and three-years and $39 million as the ceiling seems to be a nice floor and ceiling. Let’s see if the Indians can get the lower end done, and add some incentive.
Does he love Cleveland?
We shall see.
Scott Kazmir signs a two-year, $18 million deal.
Like Jimenez, Kazmir is getting a lot of comments on a potential deal. His worth according to sabrmetrics is right at the $13 million dollar range, so there are a few that think he could command a HUGE deal for the 2014 season.
I agree, but not that huge.
Kazmir’s velocity was back this year, and his location was better than ever. His 2.68 walks per nine was the best in his career by a half-run, and that was one season. Look at his numbers. He hovered around four for much of his career.
His 3.51 FIP was his best since 2007, and his xFIP of 3.36 was his best ever.
Does this mean the trend is up for Kazmir?
Does it at least mean he could be a nice lefty with a potential TOR ability on occasion?
So offer him two years and $16-18 million.
If he says no, or gets a better offer?
I really don’t want to spend $20 million for a pitcher not named Ubaldo Jimenez or Justin Masterson, but Kazmir may be the exception.
I think they can get it done for less though.
Michael Hattery will have more on Kazmir in tomorrow’s Trendspotting, always a worthwhile read. Hattery’s the best Indians-centric sabrmetrician goin’ today.
The Indians trade Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera.
I’m not against signing Justin Masterson over Ubaldo Jimenez, and that’s the likely scenario.
Why then, trade Masterson?
You can get something of value for him, and major league ready.
Package Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera, and go and get yourself a middle-of-the-lineup bat, or another starter.
It takes away the anchor of the staff though, and I am concerned about that, but if everything else falls into place, you could get some incredible value.
Put everyone on the table for a trade if you can improve the team.
This could be a fun offseason.
My perfect lineup at some point in 2014:
- Jose Ramirez, 2B
- Jason Kipnis, RF
- Yan Gomes, C
- Carlos Santana, DH
- Michael Brantley, LF
- Nick Swisher, 1B
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
- Francisco Lindor, SS
- Michael Bourn, CF
There will be trades in there somewhere, but you could insert a bigger bat in there, perhaps at third base? Of course, I’m not AS done on Chisenhall as some, but I would take an improvement there if the Indians could go out and get someone big.
My perfect rotation at some point in 2014:
- Danny Salazar
- Ubaldo Jimenez
- Corey Kluber
- Scott Kazmir
- Trevor Bauer/Zach McAllister/Carlos Carrasco
SUBJECT TO CHANGE!!!!
(c’mon, it’s October…;)