Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shapiro out of hibernation

OK, that headline is a bit sarcastic and probably unfair.

The bottom line is Indians GM Mark Shapiro didn't accomplish a whole lot this off-season, but - as he told the Plain Dealer today - it's not for lack of effort.

"Every single major guy that has been traded, with the exception of Johan Santana, we've been involved in the conversations. We've weighed what we'd have to give up. It's not been an issue of just giving up prospects. For us, for some reason, big-league talent has been part of the equation. In each case, we viewed the net result to not be an overwhelming positive for our team." --Mark Shapiro quoted in today's Plain Dealer

OK, fair enough. The truth is the Tribe has a lot of young guys who have already logged some time in the big leagues - Franklin Gutierrez, Aaron Laffey etc... -so I guess it's not surprising teams would seek out those guys when talking to the Tribe rather than some of their untested youngsters.

Shapiro also strongly hinted that we shouldn't expect much in the way of roster additions in the spring.

"We've gone through the most active part of the off-season. Historically, big deals don't get done in spring training."

Every other team is in the Central Division has made major additions - and some have had some major subtractions as well.

But, Shapiro says, for the Tribe it looks like improvement will have to come from within.

The general manager mentioned Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Franklin Gutierrez, David Dellucci, Jason Michaels and Shin-Soo Choo as players who could add more to the offense than they did last year. Of course he admitted that others might come up a little short of what they did last year as well.

Shapiro did not talk much about his efforts to extend CC Sabathia's contract, but reading between the lines it doesn't sound like much is getting done in that area.

"I don't see us ever closing the door. There's no reason to do it. Even if he files for free agency, I still think we'll be an active player."

At the risk of sounding like what George W. would call a "half-glass-empty" kind of guy, Shapiro's comments don't sound too good to me.

The Tribe might want to at least take a look at what's happening down in Tampa today. The Rays reportedly have reached an agreeement with pitcher James Shields on a seven-year pact worth up to $40 million.

Only four of the seven years are said to be guaranteed and that part of the contract is worth only $12 million.

The contract is irrelevent to CC's situation in many ways. CC is a veteran who's been around a long time. with "staff ace" and "Cy Young winner" on his resume.

Sheilds has one year and 125 days of MLB roster time and has performed admirably - except for a two-month slump last year.

Sabathia can be a free agent after the upcoming season.

Shields can't even take the Rays to arbitration until 2010 and won't be a free agent until 2013. At least that was the case prior to the signing of the contract.

Sabathia is a proven stud. Sheilds has the potential.

Still, the basic frame of the contract - four guaranteed years and thee option years - might be a place to start with CC.

You might go four years, with the fifth being a mutual option and the last two years a club option. It provides CC with firm numbers for seven years worth of paychecks, but cuts the Tribe's risk considerably.

Don't know if it would get the job done, but it's worth taking a look at.


moose said...

we got betancourt

anybody who reads this interested in playing in a fantasy baseball league - both pay and free leagues

send email to

Jack said...

hey ron, Jack again, from Tribe Report. Remember me? I've since left that site I referred you to last year, but I'm still banging the Tribe drum here in NYC!

I have something interesting to contribute, however, from Peter Gammons.I'm not sure what the hyperlink tool is in blogspot, so I'll just copy and paste it. He thinks Shapiro played the offseason well...

These two things got me excited. one from pluto... obviously a cleveland writer, but a critical one. the other from gammons:

Here's gammons. it's long, but read the whole thing. good stuff on tiges and tribe. i'm just glad we're even being mentioned.

Indians remain in very good shape
posted: Friday, January 25, 2008 | Print Entry
filed under: MLB

Indians general manager Mark Shapiro received an urgent call this week from his brother David, the director of Boston-based social agency Mass Mentoring. It seems David was scrolling through some Indians-based Internet sites and spotted a headline that read "Shapiro Dead." "I told you it would be a quiet offseason," Mark told David after assuring him of his good health. Indeed, while Shapiro checked in on a number of available players this winter, from Miguel Cabrera to Dan Haren, the only additions to the Indians' team in 2008 are a pair of 33-year olds, right-handed reliever Masahide Kobayashi and infielder Jamey Carroll. Not that what the Indians have done is that unusual. They tied the Red Sox for the most regular-season wins in the majors last season. And the Red Sox, pending a potential trade for Johan Santana and a signing like Brad Wilkerson, also have made no additions to their major league roster. And the team Boston defeated in the World Series, National League champion Colorado, has added Marcus Giles as protection for rookie Jayson Nix at second base and signed veteran pitchers Josh Towers and Kip Wells as safety nets for its quartet of talented young pitchers: right-handers Jason Hirsh, Ubaldo Jimenez and Greg Reynolds, and left-hander Franklin Morales. Even the Yankees, who won 94 games in the regular season last year before being bounced out of the ALDS by the Indians, essentially have added one pitcher -- LaTroy Hawkins. "When you can get to the point where you have stability and you have young players you trust, there isn't much need to rush out and make a bunch of moves for the sake of making moves," says Colorado GM Dan O'Dowd. "Now, in a smaller market, you have to turn things over every few years because of the economics of keeping your best players. That's an advantage the Red Sox and Yankees have because they can pick and choose which players to keep. But the important thing is to have a consistent development system." Yankees GM Brian Cashman constantly has reminded people that when it came to the clinching game of the World Series, the Red Sox had four of their own prized and developed young players -- Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester and Jonathan Papelbon -- playing in vital roles. The Indians won 96 games in '07 with the second-lowest payroll in the American League, and head into 2008 with the AL's second-youngest team. The Rockies tied the Diamondbacks for the most wins in the National League with their homegrown talent, including Matt Holliday and Troy Tulowitzki, and everyone appreciates Arizona's young talent. And now Cashman is trying to change the Yankees' culture and allow Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy et al to develop into the staff of the future rather than patching with vagabond emigrants from the Mercenary Territory. Obviously, there have been teams that have made significant moves, such as the Tigers (Miguel Cabrera and Edgar Renteria), Angels (Jon Garland and Torii Hunter), Dodgers (Hiroki Kuroda and Andruw Jones), White Sox (Nick Swisher, Carlos Quentin and Orlando Cabrera) and Diamondbacks (Dan Haren and Chad Qualls). There are still players who might be involved in major trades between now and the end of spring training: Johan Santana, Joe Blanton, Erik Bedard (Seattle?), Brian Roberts (Cubs?), Joe Crede, Noah Lowry and Jayson Bay. But with Cashman and Red Sox GM Theo Epstein thus far holding down the pulse rates of their ownerships, it has been a relatively quiet offseason. But if one goes back over the last six seasons, most of the teams that got to the World Series did not get there because of dramatic offseason overhauls. Probably the team that did the most to ensure a championship was the 2004 Red Sox, who traded for Curt Schilling and signed Keith Foulke the previous winter. The 2001 Diamondbacks already had acquired Schilling during the 2000 season, so their primary acquisitions before the season were Miguel Batista and Reggie Sanders; the Yankees put Alfonso Soriano at second and moved Chuck Knoblauch to left field. The 2002 Angels' biggest boosts came from bringing John Lackey up to the majors in June and Francisco Rodriguez in mid-September, so their big offseason move was trading for Kevin Appier; the Giants' big moves had been to substitute Sanders and Tsuyoshi Shinjo for Armando Rios and Calvin Murray. The 2003 Marlins did go out and get Ugueth Urbina for the stretch, but their impact additions were to bring Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera out of their farm system; the 2003 Yankees had outbid the Red Sox for Jose Contreras -- who won seven games -- the previous winter, and signed Hideki Matsui. The 2004 Red Sox did go get Schilling and Foulke, then on July 31 traded Nomar Garciaparra for Orlando Cabrera and acquired Dave Roberts and Doug Mientkiewicz; the previous winter, the Cardinals had rebuilt their pitching staff with Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis, moved Albert Pujols in from left field to replace Tino Martinez at first base and, most important, got Chris Carpenter back healthy as he went from zero wins in 2003 to 15 wins in '04. The 2005 White Sox traded Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednik, signed World Series MVP Jermaine Dye and Tadahito Iguchi, then brought waiver claim Bobby Jenks up from the minors for the stretch run. The 2006 Cardinals traded for Jeff Weaver in midseason, and the Tigers did sign Kenny Rogers, Todd Jones (who went on to record 37 saves) and Sean Casey, but brought Justin Verlander out of their farm system to win 17 games and Curtis Granderson up and into the mix. The 2007 Red Sox did open up the safe for Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima, J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo, but wouldn't have won if manager Terry Francona hadn't made Papelbon the closer and stuck with Pedroia, Lester and Ellsbury; the Rockies simply had their young players mature, with Troy Tulowitzki arguably the best shortstop in the business in his rookie season. • For all the firepower in the Detroit lineup with the additions of Cabrera and Renteria, the Tigers have been accorded the mantle of the team most likely to dominate the AL Central. They have brought baseball back downtown so remarkably that manager Jim Leyland says, "We may have already sold out every game for the entire season." Granted, a $135 million payroll is a big gamble, but the fans weren't coming back to Comerica Park to see Neifi Perez get 600 plate appearances. Detroit's lineup is really good, especially with so many big hitters who don't strike out (Gary Sheffield has 335 more walks than strikeouts in his career; Placido Polanco struck out 30 times all of last season; Magglio Ordonez had 82 extra-base hits, 76 walks and 79 strikeouts; and Renteria, Carlos Guillen, Polanco, Sheffield, Granderson and Cabrera were between .846 and .916 in OPS. But other than Verlander, there are questions about Detroit's starting pitching. Jeremy Bonderman still doesn't have a changeup, has a 4.78 career ERA and never has been as low as 4.00. Rogers will be 44 in November. Nate Robertson is a career 42-65, 4.60. Willis has gone from 22 to 12 to 10 in wins, 2.63 to 3.87 to 5.17 in ERA in a pitchers' park in the National League. • The Indians, meanwhile, will start the season with seven starting pitchers. Can they count on C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona combining for 38 wins and a 3.15 ERA again? Probably not. But remember, they left the city limits of Winter Haven, Fla., last spring thinking Cliff Lee and Jeremy Sowers were their second and third starters based on being a combined 21-15 in 2006 (Sowers was second in the AL in ERA in the second half), and both ended up at Triple-A Buffalo after they combined to go 6-14, 6.32. Both Lee and Sowers are a lot better than that. Jake Westbrook is better than 6-9, and Aaron Laffey demonstrated consistent sink, athleticism, and an ability to hold runners in his September and October stint. Adam Miller believes his arm and finger problems are behind him. But with Sabathia likely headed into free agency at the end of the season, Miller likely will be groomed to take his extraordinary talent into the rotation in 2009. Joe Borowski is always going to scare Cleveland fans (that 5.07 ERA might have something to do with it), but he still had 45 saves and bounced back from virtually every derailment. With Rafael Betancourt, Jensen Lewis, Rafael Perez, Aaron Fultz and Kobayashi, the bullpen is deep and versatile. Remember, Travis Hafner's home runs and OPS dropped from 42 and 1.098 in 2006 to 24 and .836, and Grady Sizemore's OPS dropped from .908 to .852 last season. This year, the Tribe will have Asdrubal Cabrera in the lineup from the start of the season. And don't forget, they finished the Yankees' season in New York in October and had the Red Sox down 3-1 in the ALCS before Josh Beckett slammed the door of momentum in their faces. David Pinto's Baseball Musings uses something called the Lineup Analysis Tool to predict each team's 2008 offense. Cleveland's given runs per game is 5.6 (which would have been second in the league in 2007), Detroit's 5.58, Boston's 5.78 and the Yankees' 5.89. Fortunately, Mark Shapiro is far from dead. He -- along with several other Indians executives, Chris Antonetti, Mike Chernoff, John Mirabelli and Ross Atkins -- and that very-well-put-together organization are working on who and what will be in place when Sabathia leaves or Casey Blake starts to age. This winter's quiet, with all that is in place to repeat as the winningest team in baseball, is testament to all the work the Indians have done the previous seven years.

Ron Vallo said...

hey jack:

whew!! it must have taken Gammons an entire week just to key that story into his computer.

I've always been a believer in pitching and defense, but those long periods of impotent offense after the All-Star game scared, and frustrated, the crap out of me.

The Tigers lineup is downright scary but if I go with my belief in pitching and defense, I think the Tribe should be fine.

I recently checked that Web site you left and it hasn't been the same since. It hasn't been updated in about two weeks. I'm thinking of de-linking it.

Ron Vallo said...

one other thing, at least I didn't say Shapiro is dead, I only said he was in hibernation.

moose said...

indians loose 6 wins a year as santana is traded to met !!!!