At baseball’s winter meeting in Dallas, Indians’ GM Chris Antonetti hinted that his team was talking about a trade involving a player that no one could guess if they had 50 chances.
Apparently, that deal fell through.
So, the Indians’ off-season has been limited to getting Derek Lowe from the Braves, re-signing Grady Sizemore, and inking catcher Matt Pagnozzi and OF Felix Pie to minor league deals.
No quality right-handed bats in that group.
The two people in the free agent market who fit that profile are Michael Cuddyer, who can play 1B, 3B, LF, or RF, and Josh Willingham, who would fit at first or left field.
If the Tribe doesn’t sign one of those two players, it more than likely will be about money. Again, we understand that the Dolan family doesn’t have the resources that teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and you have to include the Angels in that group now.
So, they have to spend wisely.
Which brings us to our central point, if Antonetti doesn’t have sufficient cash to sign one of these right-handed sticks, and we prefer Cuddyer, it’s because they gave $5 million to a player who hasn’t produced at a quality level since 2008.
And that would be Grady Sizemore.
Now, if that is the case, and there is no saying the Indians could agree to terms on either player if they had the extra $5 million, you have to ask the question: Would Cleveland be better off with the right-handed bat in the middle of the order and no Sizemore, or no power bat from the right side and Sizemore?
And the Grady Sizemore, if healthy, you will likely get will be better than the 2009-11 version, but not as good as the 2005-08 edition.
If they were able to sign Cuddyer, the type of professional hitter the Indians need, that would lead to a lineup that looked something like this:
Choo RF, Kipnis 2B, Cabrera SS, Cuddyer LF, Santana C, Hafner DH, Chisenhall 3B, LaPorta 1B, Brantley CF.
That’s a lineup in which the top six hitters are solid, and the possibility of a solid hitter in the #7 slot in Chisenhall.
With Sizemore in the lineup and no Cuddyer, here is what you have:
Brantley LF, Kipnis 2B, Cabrera SS, Santana C, Choo RF, Hafner DH, Sizemore CF, LaPorta 1B, Chisenhall 3B.
That’s a very left-handed dominant batting order, and you have questions at the top of the order and in the bottom third of the order.
Getting Cuddyer (or Willingham for that matter) would give the batting order some balance, and in Cuddyer’s case, he makes pretty good contact, which would be something different for a Cleveland hitter.
The point is this: Since the Indians have a limited payroll, for whatever reason, they have to make sure they are getting bang for the buck.
One of the problems the Tribe has had the past few years is that they are getting very little production out of their two highest paid players in Hafner and Sizemore.
That’s what made inking Sizemore to a contract for 2012 strange. He’s still one of the team’s higher paid players and no one can be sure what he will do next season.
Plus, it appears to be restricting Antonetti from getting what Manny Acta really needs, a reliable right-handed hitter.
Perhaps we’re wrong and Cleveland can still get Willingham or Cuddyer on the free agent market, but after an aggressive start to the off-season, the Indians are kind of quiet.
If they want to contend in 2012, and they’ve said they do, they need to get a right-handed hitter. Whether or not they have the resources is up for debate.