The baseball winter meetings came and went for the Cleveland Indians without any moves.
However, in the week after the get together, the Tribe started adding some pieces, mostly to upgrade the pitching staff, and in particular, the bullpen.
First, GM Chris Antonetti added reliever John Axford, presumably to be the leading candidate to be the closer.
The right-hander led the National League in saves in 2011 with 46 for the Brewers and had 35 more in ’12. That year, his home runs allowed started to rise and last year, his strikeouts dropped to just one per inning.
Keep in mind; he fanned 179 in 143 innings in ’11 and ’12 combined.
He pitched well for the Cardinals down the stretch and in the post-season after being traded to them last season.
We feel he is in the same position as Vinnie Pestano, a pitcher who has had a great deal of success for two or three years, and simply just had a bad season. It wouldn’t be a surprise if both hurlers didn’t bounce back in 2014.
He averaged 95 MPH on his fastball last year, so his troubles weren’t a result of losing his stuff.
A few days later, the Indians signed RHP Shaun Marcum to a minor league deal. Marcum has had success in the past in Toronto and Milwaukee but had some circulation troubles last year with the Mets. Those problems were taken care of with surgery, so he should be ready.
Marcum is typical of the low risk, high reward signings Antonetti specializes in. Certainly, the Tribe’s success in taking care of rehabbing pitchers probably draws pitchers who are coming off injuries.
If the right-hander is sound, he can be a middle of the rotation starter. He’s basically this year’s version of Scott Kazmir, and much like him, he’s not a guy Terry Francona can count on going into spring training, so the Indians still need rotation help.
Yesterday, Antonetti pulled off a deal, sending OF Drew Stubbs to Colorado for LHP Josh Outman, a LOOGY. Stubbs is a fourth outfielder type with good speed, a good glove, and a guy who strikes out a ton.
Outman will help in the bullpen, as he held left-handed hitters to a batting average under .200 for his career. He will take Rich Hill’s place in the ‘pen.
What the Stubbs deal really does is free up money. The outfielder would have received somewhere between $3-$4 million in arbitration had he went that route, so trading him frees up that money in the Cleveland budget.
(Of course, we’ll ask again…where did that national television contract cash go?)
That money should help in getting a legitimate starting pitcher to slot between Justin Masterson and Danny Salazar in the rotation. And if that’s the case, then the trade is really a no-brainer.
With the addition of David Murphy and the likelihood that he and Ryan Raburn will platoon in right field, Stubbs became superfluous.
And the Indians, in their mid-market situation, can’t afford to pay players who won’t get a lot of at bats, $3 million per year.
We still see a big acquisition this winter for the Tribe, probably a starter, and dealing Stubbs is a step in that direction. Picking up a guy who can be a useful relief pitcher is icing on the cake.
Remember that last year, fans scoffed at getting players like Kazmir, Jason Giambi, and Raburn. They worked out in these cases, but seriously, what’s the harm in taking a chance on guys like them.
Hopefully, one of the players who joined the organization this week can have the same effect on the 2014 Tribe.