Baseball had a slight rebirth in Cleveland over the past two weeks.
Jason Giambi’s home run, which turned a defeat into a win on September 25th, awoke interest in a team fighting for a playoff spot, and for the next week, sports fans on the North Coast were wondering what was going on with the Indians.
The loss on Wednesday night that eliminated the Tribe has fans talking about next year, even in the midst of a Browns’ three game winning streak.
So, ownership, looking for a spark in fan interest the past few years, can’t blow it this off-season. They have to keep that interest alive over the winter and have people looking forward to spring training in late February/early March.
It should start with getting single game tickets on sale on Black Friday, the first huge shopping day of the Christmas season. We understand the push is to sell season tickets, not you have to give people the opportunity to get tickets while the 2013 season is fresh in their minds.
And, the front office needs to continue to improve the ballclub.
We understand (and we have said this before) that the Indians cannot have a $100 million payroll. They probably need to be around the mid $80 million range.
Still, that is possible. Heck, the Tribe did it this year, and teams like Tampa and Oakland do it on a more frequent basis that the Tribe has.
The biggest decision for GM Chris Antonetti is what to do about the pitching staff, with Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir eligible to free agency. Jimenez and the Tribe have a mutual option at $8 million for next season, which the right-hander will certainly turndown.
We’ve gone back and forth on what Antonetti should do, and is both parties would agree to pick up the option that would be fine. However, in reality, Jimenez could draw three and four-year offers at more than $10 million per season. If that’s the case, the Indians need to look elsewhere.
There is just too much of a risk. Cleveland is not the type of franchise that can handle a long-term deal where the player is not producing at a high level.
The fact is this: Jimenez spent 14 months in an Indian uniform and had an ERA under 4.00 in less than half of those months (6). With the complexity of his mechanics, what if Ubaldo goes back to the type of pitcher he was for most of his career with the Tribe?
That’s too big of a risk for this franchise.
Now, if he wants to discuss a two-year deal, that is something that could be done without hampering the long-term future of the organization.
Remember, Justin Masterson is a free agent at the end of the ’14 campaign and he should be a higher priority than Jimenez.
Kazmir will be looking for a big payday too, as well he should since he was on the baseball scrapheap last year. Still, he should come at a lower cost and fewer years than Jimenez.
And since the Indians rescued him from the independent league, perhaps he will have some loyalty toward Francona and Mickey Calloway. Maybe a three-year deal at $6-7 million could get it done.
Remember, Danny Salazar should be in the rotation from day one in 2014, and the Tribe still has Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister as starters. If Trevor Bauer can get straightened out, he could be in the mix as well.
And you could get another low risk, high reward type signing on a one year deal for a pitcher trying to re-establish his career. Although Brett Myers didn’t help like he was supposed to, the signing was a good one. It was for one year, and when he didn’t work out, the Tribe just said goodbye.
It wouldn’t hurt to do that again with a different pitcher.
There is an old saying in baseball that you can’t have too much pitching. The Indians can’t get caught short, but they can’t put the future in jeopardy either.