Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tribe Talk 11.22.16: My Cleveland Indians Offseason Plan

By Alex Hale, @ThatCLESportGuy

The Indians enter the 2016 Offseason at a crossroads in the organization.  After falling 1 win short of the franchise’s first World Championship since 1948, the Indians are now dealt with the task to improve their team and hopefully find the missing pieces to finish the mission in 2017.  Now as we all know the Dolans have been cheap in the past on free agency and Chris Antonetti has been unwilling to trade away prospects in order to fill those missing pieces.  This offseason the Dolans and Chris Antonetti have the opportunity to break that trend and go for it in 2017.  What makes this possible is the arrival of the Indians new Minority Owner, John Sherman.  For years the Dolans have been trying to find someone who could bring in the extra capital they need in order to spend.  On top of this, this offseason finally takes the contracts of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher off the books.  If there was ever a time for the Dolans to spend, it is now.

Now as I normally do each offseason, I show my own Offseason plan if I was the Indians General Manager.  Now as we go into this, we’ll explore 3 areas, Free Agent Options, Trade Options, and Roster Options.  At the end I’ll explain what I would do if I was Indians General Manager.

Free Agent Options

Re-sign CF Rajai Davis- The almost Indians immortal legend has to be a top option for the Indians to bring back.  It couldn’t be understated how welcome of an addition Rajai’s ability to run the bases was for the team.  In a way his ability to steal bases carried over into the rest of the team.  While I wouldn’t expect Rajai to lead the AL in steals again next year, but the energy and leadership he brings to the Indians has to be brought back to the Indians in 2017.

Potential Contract- 1 year $8 million

Sign Matt Holliday- The Indians might need to look for a replacement for Mike Napoli and Matt Holliday is probably the best veteran bat on the market outside of Napoli.  Outside of his injury-plagued 2015 season, Holliday has hit 20 HRs every year since 2006.  Holliday is one of the more respected players in the game and would instantly replace the leadership that Mike Napoli brought to the Indians in 2016.  While Holliday won’t be able to play 1B every day, at his age this is where the benefit of playing in the American League will come into play.  The Indians could go forward with Carlos Santana at 1B full time and making Holliday the everyday DH.  The bottom line is there’s a lot of competition for Mike Napoli’s services and probably will be out of the Indians price range.  Holliday will be a cheaper alternative that can provide the same impact in the lineup.

Potential Contract- 1 years $10 million

Sign Trevor Plouffe- The former Minnesota Twin (and Indians killer) became a Free Agent recently after the Twins out-righted him.  The Indians will need to find a backup 3B/Utility player to provide a spark off the bench and Plouffe is a perfect fit for that role.  Plouffe has played just about everywhere on the field and throughout his career for the most part has had a reliable bat.   His power and run production dropped off from 2016, but he’s only a year removed from a 22 HR/86 RBI season in 2015.  The Indians will need a guy who can give Jose Ramirez some days off in 2017 and Plouffe (primarily a 3B) is a perfect fit.  One thing to note here, outside of Target Field, Plouffe has hit the most home runs at Progressive Field over any other road ballpark he’s played in.  It might not mean much, but for what the Indians will need from him, he’ll provide what they need.

Potential Contract- 1-2 years $5 Million a year

Sign SP Henderson Alvarez- If there was a pitcher that Mickey Callaway could revive that would solidify his place as the top Pitching Coach in baseball, this is the guy.  Only 26 years old, Alvarez is one of the most intriguing SP options out there.  He was outstanding in Miami creating a 1-2 punch next to the now late Jose Fernandez.  He even threw a No-Hitter against the Tigers in 2013.  Unfortunately in 2015 underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a tear in his shoulder.  He pitched 33 innings in the minors for Oakland before having shoulder surgery again.  Now the Indians probably won’t have to offer much, they might even be able to offer a Minor League invite to Spring Training.  The upside on him is still there and if I was GM, I would definitely explore the possibility of giving him another chance.

Potential Contract- Minor League Invite

Sign RP Javier Lopez- Honestly in a perfect world, I’d make a strong case to add Greg Holland to the bullpen, but because of the uncertainty of his return from Tommy John Surgery, I’d opt to get Lopez in the mix.  As Indians fans learned in the postseason, the Indians could use an extra lefty reliever to go with Andrew Miller.  While it’s possible Miller could be made the Closer in 2017, this move is to prevent overusing Miller in lefty/lefty matchups.  Lopez has consistently been one of the Giants more reliable relievers, especially against lefty hitters.  Lopez in his 13 year career has held lefty batters to a .208 average with an OPS of .626.  Add a lefty specialist like Lopez to the Tribe in 2017, the Indians bullpen could be at a completely different level compared to everyone else.

Potential Contract- 1 year, $3 million

Other Options- UTIL Steve Pearce (BAL), 1B James Loney (NYM), IF Luis Valbuena (HOU), OF Jon Jay (SD), OF Austin Jackson (CWS), OF Carlos Gomez (TEX), OF Dexter Fowler (CHC, longshot)

Trade Options

Trade for Joey Votto- Let’s get the most unrealistic trade possibility out of the way.  First off Votto would be an outstanding fit for the Indians as it would give the Indians the ability to permanently move Carlos Santana to the DH role and more importantly gives the Indians the proven big bat they’ve been searching for in the lineup.  It would take some cash coming from the Reds to even make this trade possible as he’s got another 7 years and well over $100 million left on his contract.  This trade probably would tap out any flexibility they Indians have this offseason, but it makes them a legit contender right out of the gate to repeat as AL Champions and potentially be an even more dangerous threat to the Cubs in a potential World Series rematch.  Again this is almost completely unrealistic, but I’m throwing this in here because unlike Jose Abreu/Miguel Cabrera who are in the division, Votto is on a rebuilding Reds team in the NL.  The cost on prospects would be extremely high as you won’t get Votto for cheap.

Potential Trade- Indians acquire 1B Joey Votto from Cincinnati in exchange for SP Trevor Bauer, 1B Bobby Bradley, SP Triston McKenzie, OF Greg Allen

Trade for Kevin Pillar- Now let’s come back down to earth with the more realistic names the Indians could look at.  Pillar was a guy the Indians were interested in last year as a potential everyday CF.  While Pillar won’t blow you away with his bat, what makes him valuable is his speed and fielding ability.  Pillar has Gold Glove ability in CF and I believe the ability to be a leadoff hitter for the Tribe.  What’s best about Pillar is he would be under team control through 2020.  I don’t think we’ve seen the best out of Pillar yet and I think the connections between Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro could make for real dialogue to make a trade happen.  On top of that, I don’t think you would have to sacrifice the entire farm to get him, which for the Indians is even better.

Potential Trade- Indians acquire CF Kevin Pillar from Toronto in exchange for OF Greg Allen and SS Yu Cheng-Chang

Trade for Charlie Blackmon- A lot of Indians fans might look at the Rockies Outfield and would prefer Carlos Gonzalez, but I would look to his counterpart in Charlie Blackmon.  Now for his career Blackmon for the most part had his numbers inflated by the Coors Field effect (.334/.261 Home/Away average split), but in 2016, it seemed like he really was figuring things out as his numbers went significantly up hitting a career highs .324 with 29 HRs and 82 RBIs.  His steals in 2016 went down from 43 in 2015 to 17 in 2016.  The one number that gives me hope is Blackmon hit .313 away from Coors Field, which was a significant jump from 2015 (.238).  Could it just be a career year for Blackmon or is it a sign of things to come?  He’s under team control until 2018, so the Indians would have to blow away the Rockies as some believe they might be competitive in 2017.

Potential Trade- Indians acquire CF Charlie Blackmon and RP Adam Ottavino from Colorado in exchange for CF Bradley Zimmer, SP Brady Aiken, and SS Yu Cheng-Chang

Trade for SP Chris Archer- I know what you’re thinking on this…”We got enough starting pitching, why get Archer?”  Here’s my response, why not get Archer?  The Indians have enough depth at the position to potentially create a 3 headed monster of Kluber/Carrasco/Archer at the top of their rotation.  While it would take either Salazar or Bauer along with multiple prospects, this trade only solidifies the stranglehold the Indians will have in terms of pitching in the American League.  While the former Indians prospect led the league with 19 losses last year, he was playing for a mediocre Tampa Bay team that pretty much relied on him to throw a shutout every start.  His stuff is off the charts striking out 485 batters the past 2 years and pairing him with Kluber alone is a nightmare for everyone who opposes the Indians.  The Indians would be crazy to not explore this.

Potential Trade- Indians acquire SP Chris Archer from Tampa Bay in exchange for SP Danny Salazar, SP Brady Aiken, CF Will Benson, and 2B Tyler Kreiger

Other Trade Options- CF Andrew McCutchen (PIT), CF Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY), 1B Jose Abreu (CWS)

Roster Options

Move 3B Yandy Diaz to 40 man roster- Most years, I’d have a few options for this area, but this year this is the only roster move I’d make.  Yandy Diaz has transformed himself into a solid prospect for the Indians at 3B who someone will grab in the Rule 5 Draft in the December Winter Meetings.  While he doesn’t have the best defensive game, his ability to hit has really improved year to year and I was stunned he wasn’t part of the September Call-ups.  The Indians have numerous 40 Man spots they can open up (Michael Martinez specifically) to give Diaz a roster spot.  Again with the emergence of Jose Ramirez as the everyday 3B for the Indians going forward, the Indians must be able to have some depth behind him now going forward and Diaz is an excellent fit in that role with the ability to even play some OF if asked.  Indians can’t let him get away.

Now that we’ve seen all the options, it’s time to put everything together and see what I would do if I was Indians General Manager.

Re-Sign Rajai Davis
Sign Matt Holliday
Sign Javier Lopez
Trade for Kevin Pillar
Trade for Chris Archer
Move Yandy Diaz to 40 Man Roster

Obviously we can’t go overboard in terms of salary, so this could be the most viable option for the Indians.  I think the speed and energy of Rajai Davis needs to be brought back in 2017 and would be affordable.  To protect the Indians from a potential Michael Brantley setback, I would go for the Kevin Pillar trade option for multiple reasons.  He’s a good defender, has good speed, and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of his hitting ability yet, plus he won’t probably cost a lot in terms of trade value.  By saving prospects to get Pillar, I go big on the trade market and bring Chris Archer back to Cleveland.  While I would lose Salazar, Archer has proven to be a Cy Young contender and putting him next to Kluber only makes the Indians a tougher out in a potential playoff series.  To improve the bullpen, adding Javier Lopez would give the Indians another lefty for matchup purposes, saving Andrew Miller for later in games.  In order to save money from all the moves I’d be making, I’d put Yandy Diaz on the 40 Man Roster and hope he can be a Trevor Plouffe like addition for the bench.  Lastly I’d replace the loss of Napoli with Matt Holliday, I mean why Party At Napoli’s when, “It’s Holliday Season” all year long?  This would be what I would do if I was Indians GM.  I think these moves put the Indians in excellent position to get back to the playoffs and make another run at a World Series Championship.

While some may believe the Indians have no money to spend, I have to believe being so close to a World Championship and the fact that a lot of potential Season Ticket sales might happen in 2017 (Thanks Browns!), this might be the time for Dolans to put their money where their mouth is.  Remember fans, in 2009, Paul Dolan said, “When We Win, We Will Spend”.  Well Mr. Dolan, you were one win away from a World Championship.  I’m not asking you to break the bank and spend a lot of money, but be flexible and know by showing the fans you’re willing to spend the money and go for it, the fans will come.  As much as the Browns sucking has brought down this city, the Indians resurgence has the fans reminiscing of the summers of the Mid-Late 1990s.  They’re starving for an Indians World Series Championship and all it will take is investing a little more.  We’re close Tribe fans, it’s time to fill in the final pieces.

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