A little over a week from now, baseball’s winter meeting will start. December 5th to be exact. That setting is usually the place where a lot of trade discussion occurs and many free agents agree to deals.
So far, the Cleveland Indians have added to their starting rotation by getting Derek Lowe from the Braves, and they resigned Grady Sizemore to a one year deal.
The $5 million guaranteed to Sizemore is too much money, by the way, based on the outfielders” performance over the past three years. Giving him a little less would give GM Chris Antonetti more cash to fill other needs.
In interviews, Antonetti indicated that Sizemore will play CF most of the games. Of course, the number of games played should depend on his production, because if he’s hitting like he did after May of last season, Manny Acta cannot continue to write his name in the lineup.
As for the position he has and will continue to play, why wouldn’t the Indians move him to LF to take some stress off his ailing knees. There is no question that Sizemore’s defense in the middle of the outfield was not up to past performances.
It seems like although he has struggled with both injuries and production the last three seasons, Cleveland is overlooking that and is returning him to favored status within the organization.
Let’s say right now, that is a big mistake. Anything Grady Sizemore gives the Indians in 2012 should be looked at as a bonus. They should continue to construct their team for next year as if he will not be healthy once again.
There is no question the Tribe needed help in the rotation, so getting Lowe addresses one area that needed upgrading. However, the Indians still need a right-handed bat, preferably a 1B/DH type, so keeping Sizemore did nothing for that spot.
Since the free agent budget is probably limited (the Tribe isn’t signing Albert Pujols), many are figuring the team will be looking for a platoon like player, such as Andruw Jones or Derrick Lee, older players with limited skills. We’ve seen this before, trying to fix a problem with two players, and it hasn’t worked. Remember the LF combination of David Dellucci and Jason Michaels?
To get a quality right-handed stick, it is more likely that Antonetti will have to make a trade. The Tribe’s farm system has been stripped bare at the top levels. but it still has some depth in the bullpen, where Nick Hagadone, Zach Putman, and C.C. Lee are ready to compete for spots on the big league roster.
We have said before that the biggest trade chip the Indians have may be closer Chris Perez. Now, it may seem like heresy to deal a closer with more than 30 saves in 2011, but you have to be concerned with Perez’ declining strikeout rate, which dropped from one per inning in 2010 to about 2/3 per frame in ’11.
Besides, it looks like Vinnie Pestano can assume the closer duties. He whiffed 84 batters in just 62 innings, and has been a closer in the minors. And if he doesn’t take to the new role, remember what former Tribe GM John Hart said about closers. It was something to the effect that they fall out of trees.
Other bullpen candidates to be dealt are southpaws Tony Sipp or Rafael Perez with Hagadone ready for a steady big league job, and sidearmer Joe Smith, who had by far his best year in 2011.
Sipp has the better strikeout rate, but gives up many more home runs (10) than does R. Perez (2). Smith went from being a guy with an ERA around 3.50 to a 2.01 mark last season. It’s always good to trade somebody off a career year.
The front office knows it can’t stop right now and expect to contend in the AL Central next season. In the next month or so, we should have a good idea if the Cleveland Indians have addressed the things they need to in order to get back to the post-season.