Tribe Needs to Spend, but Spend Wisely

Baseball’s General Managers’ Meetings take place this week, and thus the first trade rumors and maybe the first trade of the season will take place.

The first free agent signing may also happen.

Already, outrageous contracts are being talked about and the sabermetric people are justifying large contract demands for guys like Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana, based on what other players comparable to them received in the past.

The Cleveland Indians will stay away for these long-term, big money deals for pitchers who are a little above average.  Not because they the ownership doesn’t want to spend the cash, but because they don’t make economic sense.

Yes, baseball is flush with cash because of the new television contract, and even the Tribe should be able to spend more than they normally would because of it.  However, it won’t mean going crazy with deals that will hamstring the franchise’s ability to improve in the future.

We have written before the reason to make the qualifying offer to Ubaldo Jimenez is because it is a one year deal, and even if the right-hander goes back to 2012 form, the Indians can walk away after the season.

For proof, look at the contracts signed by Mark Reynolds and Brett Myers last season.  Yes, it didn’t work out, but no harm, no foul.  They were one year deals and they are over with.  No problem going forward for GM Chris Antonetti.

It doesn’t make financial sense to give a five-year deal to a pitcher with a lifetime record of 89-75 and an ERA of 4.37 (Nolasco) or one who has a career mark of 105-90 with an ERA of 4.19 (Santana).

Instead, the Tribe may look toward older pitchers for a one or two-year deal to compliment Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, and Zack McAllister in the rotation.  That’s why you’ve heard them connected on some sites to Tim Hudson (38 years old), Bronson Arroyo (37),  and Bartolo Colon (41).

They may also take a shot on Josh Johnson, who has had some injury problems in the past, but will be just 30 years old next season.

Of course, they are still involved with trying to re-sign Scott Kazmir, who would like a three-year deal, and currently Antonetti is offering one.  Looks like there is room for a compromise at two years (which we would do) with a club option for a third season.

The same goes for the bullpen, which could be losing Joe Smith, Matt Albers, and Rich Hill, and have already cut loose Chris Perez.  The one area were the Tribe has organization depth is in the bullpen with C.C. Lee, Preston Guilmet, and Blake Wood, who appeared with the Indians last season, and relievers like Tyler Sturdivant, Austin Adams, Shawn Armstrong, and lefty Kyle Crockett, who was drafted last year, on the horizon.

And don’t forget Vinnie Pestano, who could make a comeback after his lost 2013 season.  He wouldn’t be the first relief pitcher to have several good years, a horrible one, and then regain his effectiveness.

That’s why we would be shocked if the Indians contacted free agent reliever Joe Nathan, who will be 39 next year.  This is not to say Nathan won’t be effective next season, but Antonetti can afford to spend the money in other places than at closer, where they have in-house alternatives like Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw.

The Indians will be active again this off-season, because that’s the new way of the organization since Terry Francona has come aboard.  They will try to make the playoffs every year.

But the basic ideas of the organization will remain the same, and that is maintaining payroll flexibility.  That means no huge deals to players who are a bit better than average.

MW

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