Cleveland Sports Insiders

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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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Rotational conversation at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Danny Slazar (REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk)

Danny Slazar (REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk)

The holidays have passed, and the New Year is in full bloom here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, and I’ve got my thermal underwear, as the temperature is hovering right around zero, with a wind chill somewhere south of that. This is the time of the year that really has me missing baseball.

The freezing temperatures have a chokehold around a Greater Cleveland area that doesn’t have any more football to watch, and has been mesmerized by another basketball season full of more dysfunction than one city should have to endure.

While the hot stove season is still in full effect, this is the downtime that can drive a fan absolutely crazy. The Indians certainly haven’t been stagnant, but after last year’s rapid upheaval of a “thought-dead” organization, the few moves that have been made just haven’t put the wind behind many sails.

It can be utter torture, especially when you watch the spending several other teams have made this offseason, including some small market team located right here in the A.L. Central. Continue reading


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The Spin Cycle: Should the Indians sign Ubaldo Jimenez

Ubaldo Jimenez (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Ubaldo Jimenez (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

In this week’s Spin Cycle, we are going to continue to look at the Indians’ starting rotation, as we have the past few weeks. The Indians have been quiet since they dealt Drew Stubbs this past December, because their club as a whole seems to be fairly complete. While the Indians have minor concerns at shortstop and third base, their pitching remains the question mark heading into the 2014 season.

How much of a question mark depends on who’s looking.

Today, we are going to focus the spotlight once again on Ubaldo Jimenez, who remains a free agent in an unknown market for starting pitchers.

Two weeks ago, we took a look at the #5 slot in the rotation, and Carlos Carrasco came out on top with 32% of the vote.

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Resolution dialogue at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Jose Ramirez (photo courtesy of Lianna Holub)

Jose Ramirez (photo courtesy of Lianna Holub)

It’s New Year’s Resolution time here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, as the Cleveland Indians’ enter the 2014 season coming off of a massive rebound during the 2013 season. They made the playoffs thanks in large part to a ten-game win streak to close out the season last September. Their stay in the playoffs was short, but the taste of October was sweet.

I’m ready for more.

I was browsing through my New Year’s piece last year, and it’s always interesting to take a look at what I was talking about. In my piece last year, I was actually focusing on…Shaun Marcum?

Here’s what I said:

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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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Trend Spotting: Quiet additions edition

Since the last time I opined in exacerbating detail the Indians have made three moves which will undoubtedly be impactful on the 2014 season. The three pertinent moves include the signing ofJohn AxfordShaun Marcum’s entrance into the fold, and the trade of Drew Stubbs for Josh Outman. This is of course conceding that the Matt Treanor signing to a minor-league deal will at best have the impact of replacement level production.

I will leave the Axford signing alone in this space because Jim Piascik wrote a detailed and insightful piece on Tuesday, which should be read as the definitive piece on Axford throughout the Cleveland Blogosphere.

Digressing, I would first like to touch upon the addition of Shaun Marcum. The details of course have become common knowledge but I will include them here: It is a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. If Marcum is to make the roster, he will make a million dollars with the incentives to drive the contract as high as four million.

Marcum is indeed the ultimate invite type, offering sizable upside with a fair contract, as well as zero risk for the Indians. Indeed, he appears to be in that slight way, Kazmir comparable.
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