Cleveland Sports Insiders

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Diary of a Baseball to the Cleveland Outfield

It’s still kind of surprising to me that I bought one of these things. It’s embarrassing, really, that I’m buying a book just to let out my feelings. I feel really stupid.

Have you ever lost someone close to you? Not, like, they died or anything. Just – have you seen someone you used to be good friends with drift away? It wasn’t as though they were my closest friend in the world – what Andrelton and I had was – we were really close. But I’m not trying to make a friendship-ranking here; I’m not Buzzfeed and friendships aren’t listicles. I just want to let the Cleveland outfield know that I miss them.

God, it’s just so… stupid, to write that in a diary. ‘You’re just a baseball,’ is what my conscience tells me, ‘so go out and actually tell them. Be the bigger man.’ Baseball, I guess is correct. Be the bigger baseball. Not literally bigger, so as to violate MLB regulations, but figuratively. I need to mend bridges between me and the Cleveland outfield. That’s what my conscience tells me.  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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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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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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Optimistic offense at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Michael Brantley (photo: AP)

Michael Brantley (photo: AP)

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?

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Plenty of movement at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Carlos Santana (photo: Jim Mone/AP)

Carlos Santana (photo: Jim Mone/AP)

Major League Baseball’s 2013 Winter Meetings are set to officially kick off tomorrow, on December 9th, at Walt Disney’s World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida. While things have been quiet since the David Murphy signing a couple of weeks ago at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, the rest of baseball has blown the doors off of free agency with a slew of signings that have taken place over the past few weeks.

Off the board is Robinson Cano, who is heading to the Great Northwest to play for the Seattle Mariners to the tune of ten years and $240 million dollars. The Cano signing came on the heels of Jacoby Ellsbury signing with Cano’s old team, the New York Yankees, for seven-years and $153 million. This is after the Yankees had signed former Braves’ catcher Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million dollar deal and Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $16 million dollar deal. Oh wait, we aren’t done yet. The Evil Empire also signed Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45 million dollar deal.

According to www.mlbtradrumors.com, those players represent four of the top 12 players that were free agents. You could argue that they were a lot higher than that.

The Tigers have been busy as well, dealing Prince Fielder to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler, and trading Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for a potential star in left hander Robbie Ray, Steve Lombardozzi (a back-up infielder) and Ian Krol (a lefty reliever). They then signed closer Joe Nathan to a two-year, $20 million deal.

And how about the Twins. They unleashed a four year, $49 million dollar deal to Ricky Nolasco, then followed that up with a three-year, $24 million dollar deal to Phil Hughes.

I could continue discussing all of the signings that have taken place inside and outside the American League Central since the hot stove season began, but I just don’t feel like analyzing all of the exorbitant amounts of money that has been spent by a variety of teams that normally break the bank (who said the Yankees weren’t going to spend freely anymore?), and all of the odd teams that have dipped their feet into the free spending pool known as 2013-2014 free agency (yeah, you Houston an Minnesota).

Some of the moves have been prudent, and some of the moves have been idiotic, but all of the moves have been relatively chaotic.

It’s a different dance than last year, but one that you can never really predict, can you?

What have the Indians done so far?
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David Murphy joins the party at the Corner of Carnegie & Ontario

Progressive FieldRumors of the first real move of the offseason were wafting through the air here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario on Tuesday night when the Indians reportedly came to an agreement with former Texas and Boston outfielder David Murphy.

The rumors proved to be fact as the hours passed by into Wednesday, as Jordan Bastian broke the official word on Twitter that the Indians had signed Murphy to a two-year, $10-ish million dollar contract.

The game is on this offseason.

First moves always bring out first emotions.

It’s inevitable.

Fans don’t know the complete picture yet for the Indians front office heading into 2014, and when you combine fan expectations with the unknown of free agency and the hot stove season, you get early conclusions.

I, for one, love them all, and David Murphy certainly brings out those conclusions.

Before we get into that though, who exactly is David Murphy?
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Cleveland Sports Insiders: The Podcast 55: David Murphy

The Cleveland Indians have apparently made their first volley into free agency, by signing David Murphy to a two year, $10+ million dollar contract. Is this signing a good one, or is it one the Indians will regret this early in the free agent signing period. Could this move be the first of many? Join Mike and Jim as they discuss what this signing means for the Indians.

This is a the perfect 12 minute podcast for your drivetime!!


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The Indians Add David Murphy

The  David Murphy rumor is one which as of yet lacks absolute strength, or any sort of necessary confidence. However, I cannot help be extremely interested.

While Murphy is not a big splash, he offers a tremendous amount of ability to positively impact this team offensively and defensively.

Entering the off-season it was clear that the Indians had to improve both third base and right field in order to take a step forward, it was also clear that monetarily they were relatively limited in their ability to impact both positions.

Thus, with Ryan Raburn’s incredible platoon splits, it was fairly obvious that a left handed hitter, with success against right handed pitching and solid defense, would be a solid addition, in order to optimize production in right field at a reasonable cost.

A description that really could just by saying the name, David Murphy.

Of course, there are surface concerns, Murphy struggled offensively in 2013 with a slash line of .220/.282/.374. What was likely his worse season offensively in the big leagues.

However, I don’t believe this is a continual trend or a player aging at a nearly exponential rate.

While Murphy did have a slight down tick in his line drive %, to 19.5%, his BABIP was fluky low. Murphy’s career batting average on balls in play is .302, in 2013 it was .227.

As another point of context, the big league average BABIP was .297. Indeed, it is beyond a shadow of a doubt that Murphy will have a bounce back season offensively in 2014. His BABIP will regress to the mean, and likely we will see him to return to his stable .270 batting average type guy.

More importantly, while Murphy’s BB% was a tick below career average it was not particularly concerning because it was paired with his lowest strikeout rate of his big league career. Which does not show a player who has become lost at the plate.

Thus, offensively, Murphy will absolutely rebound and may offer the Indians a terrific buy low scenario.

Of second importance are his splits, in his big league career, Murphy has posted the following splits against right handed pitching: .280/.347/.467 for an OPS of .816. His discipline is strong against right handed pitching as well with a .63 BB/K ratio.

Outside of Murphy’s value offensively as a platoon guy for Raburn he has other talents to bring to the table.

Murphy has according to UZR and UZR/150 been an above average fielder in left and an average to tick above average defender in right. This defensive versatility offers Francona yet another player to move around a bit in order to most effective optimize his lineup based on opponent.

Of course this is not a major pickup and lacks sex appeal but this could be a very smart move that provides a legitimate marginal value improvement in right field. I am entirely satisfied with this being the Indians move to address right field situation if it is but a domino.

If this is a domino move that allows the Indians to either shore up the 5th slot in the rotation or third base, then they deserve praise.

This move cannot stand alone, it is a start, but this off-season the Tribe needs to make a big step.

The contract data released so far has the deal at two years for a total of $10 million. This deal has upside and lacks any sort of major financial risk. A truly solid under the radar signing.