Cleveland Sports Insiders

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Asdrubal Cabrera: Above-Average Players and Contract Extensions

 

Eduardo Pérez (Credit: mediamoves.com)

When Asdrubal Cabrera signed a contract extension with the Cleveland Indians in 2012, Manny Acta (rightly) described Cabrera as having carried the offense in 2011. Fresh off a 25-home run season in which he was the third-best offensive shortstop in baseball, Asdrubal Cabrera’s value was at its zenith.

In a sense, it was the worst time for the Indians to sign him.

Fast forward only two years later to April 2014, the two-year, $16.5 million contract set to pay Cabrera $10 million this year is less unambiguously well-received – in much the same sense as John Elway is not unanimously beloved by Browns fans, or in the same sense as LeBron James in 2011 was slightly less Playing For The Cavaliers. Even in the best of times, Cleveland commits to shunning The Astrocab.

His contract is perhaps one of the largest contributing factors to the great heap of disdain. After a 2013 season in which he posted subpar offensive numbers, coupled with the worst shortstop defense in the league, demands for top prospect Francisco Lindor mounted, both locally and nationally, only adding to enmity toward the shortstop – not only was he objectively below-average, he was perceived as the force holding back the best cornerstone shortstop prospect in the game. Given that, bitterness swelled at the idea of giving $10 million to the below-average Asdrubal Cabrera.

Before that line of rhetoric takes off – i.e.: that Cabrera’s contract is a substantial overpay – there are two decisively mitigating factors: service time, and the quality of Asdrubal’s 2014 play. Continue reading


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Indians’ projections at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Masterson (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Masterson (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

While rationalizations over the firing of Rob Chudzinsky and the Browns’ ensuing head-coach search engross us here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, a relatively quiet hot-stove league is finally set to give way to the sights and sounds of a new and fresh baseball season. In less than a month, 27 days to be exact, pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear, Arizona signaling the start of the 2014 baseball season.

For most readers of my column, the Browns escapades and the Cavaliers year-to-year folly are mere placeholders for the crack-of-the-bat, the pop of the glove and all of the optimism that comes with the start of every year. The Cleveland Indians won 92 games last season and tasted the playoffs for the first time since 2007. With the major pieces seemingly set, it’s time to start figuring out what is to be expected of the 2014 Indians.

Can this club match the blossoming expectations that are now in place, or is the bar set far too high thanks to an unexpected September run? Regardless of what you believe, the 2014 Indians are set to give the North Coast one thing that neither the Browns nor the Cavs can. Continue reading


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Asdrubal Cabrera and Inconsequential Bouncebacks

Presumably a Popular 'Pick 3' Combination After the Wild Card Game

Presumably a Popular ‘Pick 3’ Combination After the Wild Card Game

After a 2013 Wild Card game performance in which Asdrubal Cabrera went 0-4 with a strikeout and the single most deflating play of the season, a double play in the bottom of the 4th with the bases loaded, the phrase ‘bounce back’ was not an appropriate word for Cleveland audiences. However, as the Browns’ and Cavaliers’ seasons have progressed and impressed upon fans’ minds the nature of true cosmic despair in sports, where ‘hope’ is a meaningless word even in jest, the author feels he can now make the argument for an Asdrubal Cabrera bounce-back without fear of mob justice.

The term ‘bounce-back,’ in this case, does not refer to a 40-point increase in Batting Average or a 20-home run leap from 2013; nor, moreover, does it refer to the concept of a ‘contract year,’ since it’s difficult to believe that baseball players, who are already competing against the toughest competition in the world, can merely will themselves to perform better than they already have. Baseball’s hard – Major League Baseball, orders of magnitude harder.

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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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The Indians offense is better than you think

Kipnis and Swisher, the ultimate Bro-Hioans (photo: AP)

The Cleveland Indians have a top three offense in 2014, even if the rest of the league doesn’t quite know it yet. The funny part of it all is that the Indians were a top six offense in 2013, and will only get better.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, but it is.

When you look at the Indians offense of 2013, and project it forward to 2014, it’s easy to push it aside as a mediocre club. There really isn’t one player on the roster that you can point to as being dominant.

You can say many kind things about Jason Kipnis, and he’s really, really good, but he’s not become the consistent month-to-month producer yet.

You can say many kind things about Carlos Santana, and he’s the best offensive player on the team, but he’s still not reached his ceiling yet (trust me).

Swisher and Bourn both make a lot of money, but aren’t really in their prime, and never really were players that could carry their club.

Gomes is too young and Brantley just doesn’t have the overall numbers to be that kind of player.

Then you start to look at the team as a whole, and you start to realize that there really is more than meets the eye here. When you take into account that there is more upside than downside to nearly every spot in the lineup, you can really start to see through the shadows and into the sunlight with how far this team can go in 2014

In 2013, the Indians did a lot of things very well offensively. Overall, they scored 745 runs on the season which was sixth in major league baseball, and fifth in the American League. What’s most interesting about their runs scored is that they were consistently in the top ten from month-to-month. Certainly that’s not the end-all and the be-all statistic for how good an offense is, but at the end of the day, the name of the game is scoring runs, and the Indians were very good at that last season.

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12 Days of Christmas at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Progressive FieldIt’s Christmas time here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, and what that means for the Pete household is a respite before loading up the Pete Family Truckster for a criss-crossing, 2000 mile trek up and down the East Coast, taking my family to both Florida and Pennsylvania over the next two weeks.

Trust me when I say that I’ll enjoy the respite of Christmas day with just my family, opening presents, watching 24 hours of a Christmas Story, and hopefully falling asleep at some point around 5:00 P.M.

Hopefully you’ll be doing the same.

With all of that said, it’s Wednesday, and the column must go on. I’ve decided to take a much more relaxed tone this week, and have delved into the land of theme.

With Christmas Day finally here, I’ve decided to go the route of the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas for the 2014 Cleveland Indians.’ Oh, I could have rehashed the 2013 season (it certainly would have been easier), but thought it would be fun to take a look into Christmas’ future, rather than Christmas past.

Jeez, I just hope I, or the Indians, don’t bump into the Grim Reaper along the way.

Let’s give this a whirl…

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Optimistic offense at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Santana Slam (by Jason Miller US Presswire)

Santana Slam (by Jason Miller US Presswire)

The winds of change are blowing here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, as Drew Stubbs was sent packing to the Colorado Rockies for left-handed reliever, Josh Outman.

The deal in and of itself wasn’t something that should shake the ground that Cleveland Indians fans walk on, but it certainly showcases Chris Antonetti’s drive to reshape this team.

Stubbs became expendable back in November when they signed outfielder David Murphy to a two-year deal, and while there was speculation that Michael Bourn may be the better candidate to deal, it turned out that the initial belief that Stubbs would be dealt turned out to be true.

Who is Josh Outman?

He’s most certainly going to be the second left-hander in the bullpen, after the Indians acquired Marc Rzepczynski last year. He’s the pure definition of a LOOGY, as he absolutely decimated left-handers last year to the tune of .186/.251/.272 over the course of his major league career as both a starter and a reliever.

Outman should also provide a bit of a value gain from Drew Stubbs, as he should make $2 to $3 million less than the former fleet-footed outfielder would have made with the Indians this season.

I know that many people wanted more for Stubbs based on a market that seemingly is overpaying for everything, but he’s likely exactly the right value.

Will this preclude the Indians from making more moves as the offseason continues?

That’s the real question.
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The Spin Cycle: What would YOU do if you were the GM?

David Murphy

David Murphy

What is going on with the Cleveland Indians?

They clearly aren’t going to be doing anything this offseason since they haven’t made a major move since the David Murphy signing on November 25th.

Look, it’s December 15th, and the while “the rest” of Major League baseball are busy spending ludicrous amounts of money on the rather adequate 2013-2014 free agent pool, the Tribe has been busy sitting on their hands over the past several weeks.

Okay, so they really haven’t been sitting on their hands. They’ve been working the phones of several agents and GMs searching for the right mix of player and money. That’s clearly a finicky job for a team like the Erie Warriors, who are already at or near their soft pay ceiling as they try to fill out their 2014 roster.

Last season, Chris Antonetti had a similar difficult path in front of him, but had more dollars to work with. Last year, even with Terry Francona in tow, Antonetti had to convince a free agent or two to actually come to Cleveland.

He had some advantages last year with most of the rest of the big league front offices trying to figure out the ramifications of the group of players that had turned down their qualifying offers, costing a team signing them their first round pick.

The Tribe didn’t have to worry about that pick because theirs was protected, so when you combine that with some financial flexibility, Terry Francona and a Free Agent who’s more or less from Ohio and attended Ohio State, you had a perfect storm of sorts.

Past that though, Francona and Antonetti were able to do some other things prior to their January 3rd Nick Swisher signing.

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All-Aught Indians: SS: Omar Vizquel (2000-2004)

Omar Vizquel

Omar Vizquel

There wasn’t a more solid position in the Aughts for the Tribe than at shortstop. The first nine years of the decade were anchored by both Omar Vizquel for most of the first five season, followed by Jhonny Peralta for the next four. There truly couldn’t have been more difference between the two players.

Vizquel certainly is arguably (maybe not so much) the best defensive shortstop to ever don the Indians’ jersey, and one of the best defensive baseball players of his era. The Indians, tantalized by Peralta’s offense, allowed the elder Vizquel to leave via free agency after the 2004 season. Defensively, Peralta proved to be a fairly plodding infielder who covered as much ground as a fire-hydrant. He found himself in Eric Wedge‘s doghouse more often than not, and never really found the offensive consistency that would have allowed him the ability to overcome replacing one of the most popular Indians of all time.

The decade ended in full-circle, with another #13 roaming the position in Asdrubal Cabrera.

The All-Aught Indians shortstop could only be Asdrubal Cabrera’s hero growing up, Omar Vizquel.
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