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Orbiting Cleveland: Could Cody Anderson be 2014’s Danny Salazar?

OrbitingIs Cody Anderson the next Danny Salazar?

Outlandish, right? But it got your attention.

There seems to be a lot of mixed feelings as to who is the top overall pitching prospect in the Indians’ system at this point. If you ask most, they’ll point to right-hander Trevor Bauer, and that’s a fair point.

When he was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, Bauer immediately became the talk of the Indians’ system. The former first round pick was described as a can’t-miss talent. Finally, for the first time in years, the Indians had their ace that they could build around.

Or so we thought…

Yet, there’s the beauty of it. The Indians did have their ace. It just so happened that his name was not Trevor Bauer.

Right-hander Danny Salazar was the story of the year last year as he posted a 2.71 ERA in 93 innings and 21 games between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. He eventually made a spot start for the Indians in July before joining the team for good in August.

The results were astonishing.

Salazar made 10 starts for the Indians and posted a 3.12 ERA. He also struck out 11.3 batters per nine innings.

Trevor Bauer who?

Bauer was incredibly inconsistent for the majority of the year as he posted a 4.15 ERA in 22 starts with Columbus. To make matters worse, his BB/9 was not even passable at 5.4, and his K/9 was a career low 7.9.

He was even worse in four Major League starts. He struggled with control in almost every outing and got torched to the tune of a 5.29 ERA. Also, while it was just four starts and 17 innings, take a look at this number: 8.5. Yep, that was his BB/9.

Some believe that Bauer could be in line for a nice rebound season in 2014. He reportedly has worked extensively on his delivery, and it’s been said that his command is coming around.

Not buying it.

Most experts have Bauer penciled in as the top starting pitching prospect in the Indians’ system, but you know what they say. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Let this be known. Cody Anderson is the real top starting pitching prospect in the Indians’ system, and he will have sustainable success at the Major League before the much more heralded Bauer.

Now, to be clear, Anderson is not Salazar, and that’s not the message that is being implied.

Salazar is a flamethrower who can reach back and hit triple digits. He’s a strikeout wizard, and he seems destined to be the Indians’ ace for years to come if he stays healthy.

Anderson is not that guy. But he doesn’t have to be either.

Anderson has a plus fastball that hovers around 95 miles per hour.

He is also able to generate some pretty decent swing-and-miss.

However, one of the most telling things in regard to Anderson is how his 2013 rise through the minors mirrored the one endured by Salazar in 2012.

Both players were outstanding at the High-A level, and they were both promoted to Double-A to end the season. In 2012, Salazar made six starts with the Aeros to close out the year, while Anderson made three in 2013.

However, the similarities go beyond that.

Take a look at the table below:

Year Tm W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP BB/9 SO/9 BABIP FIP LOB%
Danny Salazar 2012 Car 1 2 2.68 16 53.2 46 17 16 3 19 53 1.211 3.2 8.9 0.307 3.01 79.0%
Danny Salazar 2012 Ak 4 0 1.85 6 34 25 8 7 1 8 23 0.971 2.1 6.1 0.240 2.94 79.1%
Totals 2012 5 2 2.36 22 87.2 71 25 23 4 27 76 1.118 2.8 7.8
Year Tm W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP BB/9 SO/9 BABIP FIP LOB%
Cody Anderson 2013 Car 9 4 2.34 23 123.1 105 34 32 6 31 112 1.103 2.3 8.2 0.296 2.89 80.7%
Cody Anderson 2013 Ak 0 0 5.68 3 12.2 16 8 8 2 9 10 1.974 6.4 7.1 0.359 5.81 76.6%
Totals 2013 9 4 2.65 26 136 121 42 40 8 40 122 1.184 2.6 8.1

It’s hard to not see that there are some marked similarities.

For starters, both players had ERAs below the 3.00 mark for the season. Even more telling is the fact that their FIPs are so similar. Everyone knew that Salazar was no slouch when he was mowing down hitters in Carolina, but the same can be said for Anderson in 2013. His FIP of 2.89 proves that.

It’s not hard to see that there are clear parallels between the two players and the seasons that they enjoyed in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Even their BABIP and LOB% are nearly identical.

But here’s the clincher. We all know that Salazar is known for his ability to generate high strikeout totals, yet he only recorded 8.89 strikeouts per nine innings in 2012 with the Mudcats.

That is still a very good total, but it’s certainly not the K/9 rate of 11.3 that he recorded with the Indians in 2013.

Anderson’s K/9 rate in 2013 with the Mudcats was 8.2 and very similar to the one Salazar posted only a year earlier. This is not to suggest that Anderson will immediately become the strikeout machine that Salazar is, but this is some pretty good food for thought.

What if the rate does start to rise? Remember that Anderson has only been a pitcher for the past four years, so he’s still learning. As his game continues to develop, it’s inevitable that he will continue to learn how to attack hitters better.

It also appears as if the national pundits seem to hold Salazar and Anderson in the same regard as far as prospect rankings go.

Prior to the 2013 season, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus both ranked Salazar as the No. 6 prospect in the Indians’ system. This year, Anderson found himself ranked No. 5 by Baseball America and No. 4 by Baseball Prospectus.

Of course, as you might expect, Bauer was ranked above Salazar on both 2013 lists, and Bauer outranked Anderson on Baseball America’s 2014 list. He probably would have also outranked him on Baseball Prospectus’ list, but that publication no longer considers him a prospect.

The truth is that Anderson, who was originally selected in the 14th round of the 2011 Draft, should outrank Bauer. Outside of Salazar, he just may be the best homegrown arm that the Indians have developed in years.

That’s high praise, especially for a guy who has thrown only 12 2/3 innings at the Double-A level, but it’s also worthy praise. In what has really been just two seasons, Anderson has cemented himself as a legitimate starting pitching prospect.

As the numbers above indicate, he’s had a similar rise to the one enjoyed by Salazar, so here’s the next question. Can Anderson take the next step and arrive in Cleveland sometime in 2014?

Believe it or not, it’s not inconceivable.

We’ve already mentioned how Anderson does not have the raw ability that Salazar possesses, but he does have some other things going for him.

For starters, Anderson likely will have no inning limitations placed on him. Since undergoing Tommy John surgery, Salazar’s innings have been heavily monitored, but that won’t be the case with Anderson.

Upon drafting Anderson, the Indians were a tad concerned because he really only pitched about 50 innings between college and the pros in 2011, but his innings threshold continues to increase each season.

He threw 136 innings in 2013, so he should be able to throw around 175 in the coming season.

Be prepared, Anderson is a guy who could move very quickly through the system this season if he enjoys early success. Injuries are always going to crop up, so the Indians would clearly love to have a guy like Anderson as an insurance policy.

It’s hard to say exactly what Anderson’s ceiling is, but it is higher than many predict. Most believe that Anderson could become a solid No. 3 starter, but the truth is that he has the stuff and durability to be as high as a No. 2.

He’ll likely never have the upside of Salazar, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t be a competent second starter… and that time could come much sooner than you think.

The Indians always have to dip into their system for minor league pitching help, and they really do not have many options. Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco are both out of options and have to make the Opening Day roster this season. Also, there is no way of knowing if Shaun Marcum will accept a minor league assignment if he fails to make the team.

So, that basically leaves you with two people: Bauer and Anderson.

Conventional wisdom might suggest that the Indians would call up Bauer if they have to pull from the minors, but it’s not as simple as that. Bauer is going to have to show significant improvement if he is going to get another opportunity.

Bauer has a career BB/9 rate of 4.7. For the Majors, it’s 7.8.

Everyone seems to be enamored with the tantalizing skills that Bauer possesses. That may be true, but natural ability is only good if you know how to harness it. The fact is that he’s never shown good command at any point of his career, so it’s unreasonable to conclude that it will suddenly appear.

Anderson, on the other hand, is a different story. Command has never been an issue as he has a career BB/9 rate of 2.7. If the two trends noted above continue, then there’s a good chance that Anderson could find himself in Cleveland over Bauer.

No, Cody Anderson is not Danny Salazar, but he very well could enjoy a Salazar-like rise in 2014.

He will likely never be as dominant or talented as the flamethrowing Dominican, but the beauty of it is that he doesn’t have to be. What the Indians really need is a promising young starter with front-of-the-rotation upside and Anderson can be that guy.

It seems unlikely that the Indians will be able to re-sign Justin Masterson after this season, and that seems to be even more true after the latest Clayton Kershaw contract.

After the 2014 season, the Indians could find themselves in need of No. 2 starter, so why not Anderson?

It’s been a long time since have had one young, controllable front-of-the-rotation starter. If everything goes their way, they could have two by the end of 2014.

Steve can be reached via email at orbaneks@gmail.com.

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Brown needs to be held accountable for Bennett’s colossal failure

ABWhere do we go with Anthony Bennett at this point?

His performance so far has been historic — historically bad.

A recent piece circulating the web helps outline just how bad it’s been.

Trust me, there’s no sugarcoating this — it’s been awful.

In 31 games this season, Bennett is averaging 10.4 minutes, 2.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. Even worse is his PER of 1.1, which is the lowest ever recorded by the No. 1 overall pick in his rookie season. To make matters even more embarrassing, Kwame Brown is the next on the list, but it’s a sizeable gap; Brown’s PER as a rookie was 11.2.

Given his struggles, many have been clamoring for Bennett to join the Canton Charge for a stint in the NBA D-League. It would be embarrassing as Bennett would become the highest drafted player to ever play in the D-League. (Hasheem Thabeet, the No. 2 overall pick in 2009, currently holds that honor.)

Yet, could there be some positives to a Bennett D-League stint? Might he start to finally regain some of the confidence that has eluded him thus far as a rookie?

I’m still not ready to go that far. Here are three more numbers to look at: 20.3, 17.4, 17.4. These numbers are the minutes per game respectively for C.J. Miles, Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee. Continue reading


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Orbiting Cleveland: Analyzing 2014 Indians top prospect lists

francisco-lindor-2013-bwOn Wednesday, Baseball America released its long-awaited 2014 Cleveland Indians Top 10 Prospects list.

The list is always interesting to see simply because of Baseball America’s reputation as being the standard in the industry when it comes to prospect rankings. The rankings are, however, subjective to the opinions of Baseball America’s writers, and debate is inevitable once they’re released.

That has already been the case this season as there were some surprises and some notable omissions. Without further ado, take a look at Baseball America’s listing for yourself: Continue reading


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Orbiting Cleveland: The rotation has a huge hole

Josh Tomlin (AP PHOTO)

Josh Tomlin (AP PHOTO)

Where is help when you need it?

That has to be a popular question amongst the Cleveland Indians front office right now.

After going 92-70 in 2013, the Indians are winners. Now how will they find a way to stay winners in the year to come?

That’s not an easy task, and it becomes even more difficult when you realize what the team must replace. They’ve already lost left-hander Scott Kazmir to free agency, and it seems as if there’s a good chance that Ubaldo Jimenez will be gone too.

That’s not good.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Tribe cannot afford to lose Jimenez simply because of his contributions to the team last season. After all, who would want to lose a pitcher who went 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA?

That issue is compounded by the fact that the Indians already lost Kazmir, who signed a two-year, $22 million deal with the Oakland A’s this past offseason. Kazmir was no slouch himself in 2013 and went 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA.

It’s not easy to replace performances like that, but it can be done, especially if a team has capable replacements available. Yet, that’s where things get somewhat dreary when predicting a forecast for the Indians’ 2014 season —the Tribe has nothing of the sort.
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Orbiting Cleveland: Ubaldo Jimenez will be back in 2014

Ubaldo Jimenez (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Ubaldo Jimenez (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

It may have taken some time, but it appears as if the Indians’ offseason plans are finally becoming a bit clearer.

During the past week, we’ve seen the Indians sign John AxfordShaun Marcum and trade Drew Stubbs to acquire Josh Outman.

None of these moves could be described as big acquisitions, but it does at least signal that the Indians are trying to address their concerns and get… better.

Better — that’s an interesting word to consider.

The Indians won 92 games last season and also earned one of the American League’s Wild Card berths. Knowing that, it’s not going to be that easy for the team to get much better; it’s very difficult to win much more than 92 games in a season.

So let’s consider that word one more time. Has this team actually positioned itself to be better in 2014?

Offensively, it looks as if that may be the case.

A platoon of David Murphy and Ryan Raburn will now replace Stubbs in right field. Murphy is coming off a rough 2013 campaign, but he does seem like a solid candidate for a rebound season.

Also, we know the back of the bullpen was a problem area for the Indians in 2014. They did improve that a bit by acquiring the lefty Outman, and Axford will now be the closer. However, Axford has not been a closer since 2012, and he also has a career average of 4.0 walks per nine innings. Tribe fans can probably expect that Axford has a comparable performance to Chris Perez, and it’s no guarantee that he will offer much more than that.

Also, it appears as if the Indians are banking on offensive players like Michael BournNick Swisher and Asdrubal Cabrera having much better seasons at the plate. It does seem likely that all three of these players could rebound, but what if then Yan GomesCarlos Santana and Jason Kipnis also have down years at the plate?

In all honesty, it seems fair to conclude that the offense has made a slight improvement with the addition of Murphy over Stubbs, and the bullpen does seem a bit more stable. The team now has two viable left-handers in Outman and Marc Rzepczynski, and that was not the case last season.

But there is one area where the team is noticeably thinner — starting pitching.

As of now, the rotation appears to be Justin MastersonDanny SalazarCorey Kluber and Zach McAllister. The fifth spot in the rotation will likely be decided in a battle between Carlos CarrascoJosh TomlinTrevor Bauer and Marcum.

Sorry, that’s simply just not enough.

The Indians have already lost Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, who both played integral roles in leading the team to the postseason last year. Do the Indians win 92 games without either of these two guys last year?

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Winter Ball Notebook: Is the Santana third base experiment over?

The Dominican Winter League playoffs began this past week, and one of the biggest surprises was the participation of the Indians’ Carlos Santana.

Many were unsure as to how long Santana would remain with his Dominican team, but it does at least appear as if he will be remaining with Leones del Escogido for the time being.

In other news, the regular seasons in both the Puerto Rican Winter League and the Venezuelan Winter League come to an end after today. The playoffs will then begin shortly after, and it will be interesting to see what ultimately happens to the Tribe’s Jesus Aguilar, who has arguably been the MVP of the VWL this winter.

His season was initially supposed to end on December 28, and he also has not played since that date. We will probably soon have an update on the status of that issue.

Nonetheless, here are some notes, both deep and shallow from this last week’s action of winter ball…
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Winter Ball Notebook: Is Aguilar’s season in jeopardy?

Jesus Aguilar (photo: Lianna Holub)

Jesus Aguilar (photo: Lianna Holub)

It was a very eventful week over in the various winter leagues and for a variety of reasons.

However, perhaps the most notable happening of the week was the ongoing dispute between Jesus Aguilar‘s winter team Leones del Caracas and the Cleveland Indians. Here’s a little bit more background information.

As most of you likely know, Aguilar has been on an absolute tear this winter. He’s been arguably the most productive player in the entire Venezuelan Winter League, yet his season was supposed to end on December 28, so he could participate in a development program for the Indians.

Yet, those plans could now be changing.

“We are going to wait a little and if necessary we are going to fight. If necessary we will protest the case which does not mean that we’re going to win,” Leones president Luis Avila said in Leader of Sports this past week. “It is rude to communicate with the player and not with the team. For now we will wait and see how the situation develops with the team in the coming days before proceeding. There has been no communication from Cleveland with us. This is unusual. Customarily all the organizations of the big leagues consult; in this case to be consulted on the permanence of Aguilar in an eventual postseason.”

Apparently, Leones never received any official communication from the Indians that Aguilar’s season would be coming to an end. Instead, Aguilar informed Leones that his season would be ending on December 28 because the Indians wanted him to participate in a development program.

Yet, now we’re getting into the game of he said, she said.

Ross Atkins, Indians vice president of player development, late last week sent an email to the Caracas organization about this and noted that the team has NOT placed a deadline on the contract of Aguilar playing in the VWL. Under the new winter agreement, MLB organizations do not have the power to stop a player on the 40-man roster from playing winter ball, and we all know that Aguilar was protected by the Tribe about a month ago.

So, in reality, the decision is now up to Aguilar. The Indians may have expressed a desire to have him leave Venezuela after December 28, but the final call is going to be Aguilar’s. Needless to say, this will be an interesting storyline to follow in the weeks to come…

With that being said, here are some thoughts both deep and shallow in regard to this past week’s winter ball action…

Player of the Week

Jesus Aguilar — First baseman, Leones del Caracas
5 G, 9-for-19, 7 R, 1 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K

At this point, what more can be said about Aguilar? The guy has been on an absolute tear and that continued this past week as he launched his 15th, 16th and 17th home run of the winter season. Aguilar has been chasing the Venezuelan Winter League home run record (former Indians catcher Bo Diaz holds the record with 20) all season, and that number was actually tied Saturday by Alex Cabrera, a 41-year-old first baseman who briefly played for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2000. Unfortunately, Aguilar may not get the opportunity to catch up to Cabrera if he does not stay with Leones del Caracas past December 28. Who knows where this goes from here, but it would be nice to see Aguilar spend some more time in Venezuela as it does appear as if he has completely taken advantage of his opportunity. It will be interesting to see if Aguilar has turned any heads on the national level following his winter outburst. Could he now find himself on Baseball Prospectus or Baseball America’s top 100 prospect lists? That will be something to watch moving forward.

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Winter Ball Notebook: Surprise wins AFL title

Oh what a week it was.

There’s plenty of news coming out of this past week’s winter ball action, but perhaps no news is bigger than the Surprise Saguaros defeating Mesa 2-0 to win the Arizona Fall League title on Saturday.

This news is particularly important for the Indians, simply because the Tribe had eight players (Tyler NaquinJoe WendleTony WoltersShawn ArmstrongTrey HaleyJeff JohnsonWill RobertsTyler Sturdevant) on Surprise’s roster.

The actual importance of an AFL Championship may be debatable, but it’s still nice that a strong contingent of Indians were part of the winning team. At the very least, these players gained valuable experience by playing in games that were weighted in importance.

A handful of these players made some positive strides during their time in the AFL, and that’s really all that an MLB team can ask for.

With that being said, here are some thoughts on deep and shallow on a number of the Indians players currently competing in the various winter leagues…

Player of the Week

Carlos Moncrief — Outfielder, Gigantes de Carolina

5 G, 6-for-21, 2 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 9 K

Moncrief’s numbers weren’t too impressive for the most part, but the reality is that no one Indians player really stood out in terms of performance this past week. However, the one nice thing with Moncrief was that he finally started to display some power for the first time this winter season. His two doubles and one home run were his first extra-base hits of the winter season. While much of the hype this winter has centered around Jesus Aguilar, do not overlook Moncrief. Yes, Aguilar is coming off a strong 2013 campaign, but it could be argued that Moncrief’s season was even stronger. Also, while Aguilar could factor into the Indians’ plans in 2013, the very same thing can be said for Moncrief. Any team is always searching for an athletic player who has the ability to hit for some power, and that is a perfect description for Moncrief. He is only hitting .243 (9-for-37) in 10 games a so far, and his 12 strikeouts are alarming, but there is still plenty of time for him to turn it around and have an Aguilar-esque type winter season. This past week was definitely a step in the right direction.

News & Notes

— You have to be impressed with what Tyler Naquin accomplished this fall in the AFL. Because he was a first round pick (and selected before Michael Wacha), Naquin has found himself to be the subject of much criticism as of late. To an extent, that is fair as  Naquin did show that he has some noticeable flaws in 2013, especially in regard to plate discipline (134 strikeouts in 126 games). However, this fall Naquin really was outstanding in almost every facet as he compiled a .339/.400/.417 line with four doubles, one triple, one home run and 18 RBI. He also showed improved plate discipline as he draw 11 walks and struck out 18 times. Now, it’s obviously too early to predict that Naquin will have an impact at the Major League level, but he does seem to be making progress in his development. He played almost every game this fall for Surprise, and that’s a testament to just how hot he was. Coaches usually rotate players in and out in an effort to get every player some quality at-bats, but Naquin was never out of the lineup for much more than a day at a time. That’s a testament to his performance and just how much he meant to Surprise’s AFL title win.

— The IBI’s Jim Pete and Michael Hattery recently started a “campaign” to voice their support for infielder Jose Ramirez. While I fully support that campaign, I propose launching an additional campaign for another budding Indians prospect — Joe Wendle. Wendle completed a strong AFl campaign this past week as he posted .311/.371/.492 line with four doubles, two triples, one home run and 12 RBI. What makes this even more impressive is that all of this production came in a mere 16 games. Unfortunately, Wendle was a casualty of a manager trying to get his players as much time as possible, so he never really got the opportunity to play every day. Nonetheless, his impact was still significant, which is especially impressive when you consider that he likely was never able to get into a rhythm at the plate. There are varying opinions as to what the future holds for Wendle. Some say he’s perhaps a rich man’s Cord Phelps while others think he could have an impact as significant as Jason Kipnis, minus Kipnis’ defense. I’m not sure of where exactly he falls, but his numbers are impressive enough that the Indians may want to experiment with him at some other positions other than second base. Wherever he has gone, he has posted impressive OPS numbers, so it could be that there is more than meets they eye with Wendle.

— Speaking of Jose Ramirez, what exactly is going on with the switch-hitting infielder? In 21 games in the DWL, Ramirez currently has a .267/.308/.384 line. Those numbers are really not all that concerning, but the one other area that could be somewhat worrisome is the fact that he has drawn just three walks while striking out 15 times. Keep in mind that part of Ramirez’s calling card is his ability to get on base and put up quality at-bats. However, he just has really struggled in that area so far this winter, and there does not seem to be any real reason as to why that’s the case. The one positive thing to remember here is that it’s just 21 games and 86 at-bats, so there is time for Ramirez to get it straightened out. Nonetheless, after such a strong 2013 season that ultimately resulted in a promotion with the Major League club, one would hope that Ramirez would have gotten off to a better start in winter ball.

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Orbiting Cleveland: What to expect from Zach McAllister?

Orbiting

Graphic created by Lianna Holub

As the Hot Stove season continues to heat up, questions are swirling in regard to just exactly what the Cleveland Indians will do.

Will they sign a bat? Will they get an arm? Will they make a trade? These are the prevailing questions in the minds of Tribe fans at the moment.

Instead of looking at the what ifs though, let’s talk about what we know, and what we know is that at least four members of the Indians’ 2014 starting rotation appear to be set in stone. Barring any significant changes, Justin MastersonDanny SalazarCorey Kluber and Zach McAllister seem to be locks to enter 2014 as members of the team’s starting rotation.

All four of these players are coming off of good to great 2013 seasons, but outside of Masterson, they all also seem to have some question marks that surround them.

Perhaps none of them are more puzzling than McAllister. Just exactly who is Zach McAllister?
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Orbiting Cleveland: Should Colon be an option?

OrbitingOn Monday, the Cleveland Indians’offseason took its latest turn when the team announced it had extended a $14 million qualifying offer to free agent right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez.

By all accounts, the qualifying offer was a good move. Jimenez now has until Nov. 11 to accept or reject the offer. If he accepts it, he will be bound to the Indians for one year at $14 million. If he declines and signs with another team, the Tribe receives an additional 2014 draft pick at the end of the first round.

That, my friends, is what you call covering your bases.

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