Tribe Needs to Spend Wisely

My favorite part of the Sunday Plain Dealer sport section is reading Terry Pluto’s column, usually encompassing a comment on each of Cleveland’s professional teams. 

Last week, he discussed the Indians and their approach to the off-season, mostly in how they will handle the upcoming team options on both Grady Sizemore and Fausto Carmona. 

Pluto figured the Tribe would pick up both options because their 2012 salaries would figure to be what each player would get on the open market. 

However, should GM Chris Antonetti be making that decision based on what other teams might pay?

If Cleveland raised their 2012 player payroll to $80 million, then exercising the options on Sizemore and Carmona, together with Travis Hafner’s salary, would cost the team almost $30 million.

Would it be prudent for a mid-market team like the Indians to commit over 1/3 of the payroll to three players who are question marks for next season?

It says here, no.

It is understandable that this is a tough decision to the Indians’ front office, as all three players have been in the organization for a long time. 

There probably isn’t anything the team can do with Hafner, whose market value isn’t good because he can’t play in the National League, and there aren’t many American League teams interested in a player who can’t play in the field at all.

If Antonetti wants to trade Pronk, the Indians would likely have to absorb a good part of his salary.  And Hafner really isn’t an offensive force anymore, as his slugging percentage has dipped below .450.  He’s not a middle of the order force anymore.

Sizemore looks totally out of sync at this point after three consecutive injury plagued years.  He’s no longer the elite leadoff man he was in his heyday (2005-08), and his strikeout rate in alarming. 

If someone wants to take a chance on Sizemore and pay him close to the $8.5 million he would get from Cleveland next season if his option is picked, good luck to them.  At 29 next season, it is doubtful he can get back to his prime form.

If Sizemore wants to take less cash next year and give the ballclub an extra couple of years, that might be doable.  However, he would have to understand he may need to move out of the leadoff spot and also centerfield.

As for Carmona, would it really be a good idea to pay $7 million for a starter as inconsistent as the former 19 game winner?

One thing needed from a starting pitcher is the ability to keep their teams in games.  That’s the appeal of Josh Tomlin.  You know, for the most part, you will have a chance to win any game he starts.

Since his 19-7 record in 2007, Carmona has put together one decent year (13-14, 3.77 ERA in 2010) in the last four.  That’s doesn’t merit that kind of money.

Now, Carmona’s option may be worth picking up if only to see what kind of interest there may be in a trade.  Some team may want to take a chance on his stuff, which can be tremendous, if you can live with poor performances.

If the Indians want to take the leap into being real contenders to get to the playoffs next season, they will have to do more to the roster than just tweak it.

They need to get a legitimate right-handed hitter and another dependable starting pitcher.  They will need money to get both players, probably in a trade with a team looking to trim payroll.

To base picking up options on struggling players based on market value doesn’t seem to be the smart move for a franchise on a fixed income.



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