a big question for the front office is how much are we allotted to spend this offseason? we do have some money coming off the books, but we also have many players who are now eligible for arbitration and will be getting pay increases next season. i will venture to guess that our payroll remains close to the same as it was last year. i can't see it largely increasing or decreasing. therefore, it should be between 80-85 million. so how will that be divvied up?
i'll start with the fact that we freed up 13 million from the departures of Myers and Reynolds. so you're thinking, okay let's take that and lure a decent name here. not so fast. Swisher's salary rises from 11 to 15 million bucks and Bourn's goes up from 7 to 13.5 million. those two are getting a combined 10.5 million dollar salary increase, which almost completely wipes the Myers/Reynolds money away. the leftover $2.5 million is not going to last long.
in addition to Swisher and Bourn, there are 4 other players who already have set contracts going into 2014. those guys are Cabrera, Santana, Raburn, and Aviles. all 6 contracts total $47,750,000. that's an increase of $19,250,000 from last season.
i went through our roster and also found we have up to 9 players whose paychecks will rise due to the increase of the league minimum salary in 2014. the lucky 9 include Kluber, McAllister, Salazar, Kipnis, Chisenhall, Gomes, Allen, Shaw, and Hagadone. the new minimum is said to be a 2% increase from last season, or $500,000. of the 9 guys, only 2, Kip and Shaw, were already making more than this amount. according to my calculations of their lowest possible salaries, these guys will earn a minimum combined total of $4,531,300. compared to what they were making in 2013, their raises add up to at least an addition of ~$81,400. and there very well could be extra cash worked into some of these contracts, too.
if you combine the set contracts total and the league minimum salary increase total, the payroll approximately stands at $52,581,300. that gives us about 30 million left to play with. however, we still have 11 players eligible for arbitration and 7 free agents. we won't sign everybody, but the Indians are still going to need to make very enticing offers to certain players if they want them to stay. i have no inside track on what these guys will be offered, but i will break down the rest of the team and make a guesstimate as to how much money they might cost us.
in the arb eligible group, we've got Perez, Masterson, Stubbs, Rzepczynski, Marson, Brantley, Wood, Pestano, Tomlin, Carrasco, and Herrmann. dare i put it out there that Perez, Stubbs, and Marson might be non-tendered? regardless, there's still enough players in this group to bring about a decent pay increase. i went over what all these guys made in 2013, and after taking their performances into consideration, i came up with what i believe to be fair (and maybe a little generous) salaries for 2014. assuming we retain everyone except Perez, i calculated a total of just under $21 million for the arb eligibles. and that brings the payroll up to $73,581,300 so far.
now let's take a look at our free agent class. there's Ubaldo, Kazmir, Smith, Giambi, Albers, Hill, Kubel, and Shoppach. Ubaldo is getting a large multi-year contract from another team and he would be stupid not to take that. Kazmir is going to get a lot of large offers too, and i just don't know if we will be the most appealing to him. Smith would be a tough guy to lose because he is so vital to our bullpen. i know he wants a 3-year deal and so far the Tribe has only offered 2 years, so who knows how that's gonna go. i think Kubel and Shoppach are gone, since we don't have much room for them and they just aren't that good. although, it's possible they get a spring training invite and end up in Columbus. Albers could end up somewhere else, too. however, he does have a Francona connection, so maybe he'll agree to terms and stay. Francona also really likes Hill, so he probably isn't going anywhere. and Giambi said he really wanted to come back, so i think we're gonna get to see how he performs as a 43-year old.
say we agreed to bring back only Kazmir, Smith, and Giambi. that's still more money added back to the payroll. Kaz certainly won't be signing on a minor league deal this year, he'd be making bank. Smith will most likely get a few more million also. the only good news is Giambi would be the cheapest lol looking at what they made last year and giving them what i think are generous pay raises, that would total $13.5 million.
okay so if we add everything up, we're already at upwards of $86 million just keeping our own guys. and even if i overshot some contracts, that figure should still be in the ballpark (ha) of where our payroll actually ends up for the year. there's basically no extra money to go get someone else unless Antonetti is "allowed" to spend more. of course there are still variables, like if not everyone makes the Indians roster. some players could end up in Columbus, and therefore just earn their minor league pay. that could take away a few million from my estimate. and maybe we don't keep everyone i assumed we would. particularly if we can't keep Kazmir, and/or if we do deal Cabrera, that would also decrease my payroll prediction. thank god i'm not really in charge of this because i don't do well with spending limits lol i can't wait to see how dead-on or off i end up being with all my approximations though.
now let's say our goodbyes. who i think is outta here:
--Chris Perez (the Indians are not going to pay him the $9 million he would get in arbitration when they can easily replace him in-house or by getting a cheaper FA closer)
--Ubaldo Jimenez (he will get a large long-term contract elsewhere)
--Jason Kubel (he was nothing more than insurance when we brought him in, we don't need him anymore)
--Kelly Shoppach (same as above, unless Marson is non-tendered and signs elsewhere)
--Scott Kazmir (50-50 chance honestly, depending on how money-hungry he is and how cheap we are)
if i'm in the front office, my first order of business would be to try and secure our starting pitching. i'd lock up Masterson to a long-term deal. and if they do that, that's another large contract on this and future payrolls. however, he is one guy who absolutely deserves a raise. then i would approach Kazmir and really try to convince him to stay with the organization that assisted him in getting back to the major leagues. but i don't know if the Indians would offer him more than a 2-year deal. i can accurately figure that other teams will offer him 3 years for more money, so i'm worried he would then walk. we shall see how much, if any, loyalty he has towards us since we did help him revive his career. and yes, make the qualifying $14 million offer to Ubaldo, but don't bat an eyelash because he's definitely a goner. extending the QO at least gets us a late 1st round draft pick and that's better than nothing.
next, what we really need to do is keep Smith in the bullpen and sign him to a long-term deal. i really think they should just give him the 3 years that he wants. they can always trade him after 2. it's not like they've never done something like that before. Smith said he wanted to stay here, so hopefully the Indians will recognize his importance and not let money get in the way.
there really are no good free agents on the market that we're gonna be able to afford. if we want to bring in another impact type guy, then Antonetti's going to have to come up with some kind of 3-team trade with a lot of moving parts again. and i believe his phone will be extremely active with teams calling to check in about some of our players and their availability.
so who's on the trading block?
well, it's been argued that Bourn and Stubbs are very similar in what they do. and Stubbs is cheaper, so i wouldn't be shocked to hear some Bourn rumors. that'd be a good way to save some cash. although if the organization is gonna trade him, it would probably be during the next offseason, and only if he once again plays below average and proves that he just can't get acclimated to the American League. cheaper or not, Stubbs also had a disappointing season, so maybe he'd go. if he's non-tendered and doesn't like what the Indians have to offer, then he might just leave on his own accord.
i don't know who would make a serious offer for Perez. yes he saved 25 games this past season and has like a 90% save rate over the last 3 years, but there are other factors that make him unattractive to teams. his weed habit was revealed this season, he had a rotator cuff injury, and in September he couldn't do his job and was giving up hits and homers that hurt us. and i didn't even mention his big mouth. i honestly don't believe any teams would trade for him. but if we let him go venture into free agency, that's a different story and some team will probably grab him. either way, his career in Cleveland is over because as i said before, there is no chance we give him the 9 million bucks he would receive in arbitration.
Cabrera's name will also be out there once more, though he too did not have the greatest time this season. getting rid of his big 10 million dollar contract would definitely be helpful, but i'm not sure what teams would offer us in return for him after his down year. maybe Cabby ends up in a deal like Choo was last offseason. then again, the Indians may not like what they hear and perhaps Cabby stays. potentially he could have a breakout year with us right before free agency, similar to what Ubaldo just did, and then make a lot of money elsewhere. wouldn't that be classic Tribe? it's also plausible that Cabby starts the season here, does well (fingers crossed), and then is traded before the deadline in July for whatever our big need is at that point.
i know a lot of fans dislike Chisenhall and wouldn't mind getting rid of him, but the Indians maintain that he's gonna be something special and they're not ready to give up on him yet. there would have to be one hell of an offer on the table in order for Chiz to be traded.
after going through the rest of our roster, i can't see anyone else who could realistically be traded. all i know is, if we were to give up any of our essential pieces on this team, then we better be getting some freakin 50 home run hitting players back in return. you couldn't justify trading a Kluber or McAllister or Shaw type player any other way.
the last possible option would be to put a package of some Columbus kids together. maybe include a starter, bullpen or position player, and a little cash. there may even be some players in Double A Akron to trade. other than that, i'm at a loss. it will be very interesting to see if Antonetti can make another deal and round up some more players that we need.
and who do we need? or more specifically, what positions?
major Tribe needs for 2014 include:
--closer/more bullpen depth
--a couple starting pitchers
the needs are certainly less than last year but we still have holes once again. let's run through the scenarios of who we've got for next year at this particular point in the offseason.
Left Field: Brantley, Raburn
Center Field: Bourn, Stubbs, Brantley
Right Field: Swisher, Stubbs, Raburn
other options: Carson?, Aviles
the outfield, for once, is probably the only part of the team that is set going into next season. if anything, they may try to bring in another backup outfielder or two on a minor league deal to build up the farm in Columbus and for protection.
1st base: Santana, Swisher
2nd base: Kipnis, Aviles, ?
shortstop: Cabby, Aviles
3rd base: ?, Chiz, Aviles
other options: Ramirez, Lindor possibly after the All Star break
we desperately need to figure out what we're gonna do about 3rd base. i'm assuming Chisenhall stays, but he can't be the every day guy unless he somehow can establish he's finally good enough. we could use Aviles there or bring someone else in. except, if Cabby does leave, then short becomes Aviles' every day spot unless we find a replacement there. maybe Aviles could platoon with Ramirez if the team thinks he's able to play a full season in the majors. either way, Aviles can't take over both the main short and 3rd base roles, so we'd need to bring in a legit player for one of those positions or we're in trouble. and if Aviles becomes too much of a regular and leaves his spot in the Goon Squad (bench), that could hurt his performance, his numbers, and therefore the team as a whole. however, if the Indians feel Lindor is ready to make his major league debut, he could take over at short mid-season, freeing up Aviles a bit more to play at 3rd. it's all a moot point though if Cabby stays. then we would just have to deal with 3rd. there's too many ifs right now.
Behind the plate:
Catchers: Gomes, Santana
other options: Marson?
Gomes will be the every day catcher, which means catching 4-5 games a week. he did well this year because he wasn't playing every day, so the game never really caught up with him. next year, it's possible that over the course of a full season, his numbers won't be as high and he'll struggle a bit. that's okay, just as long as he's still doing a killer job behind the plate.
and with Gomes now taking over as the main starting catcher, that allows for Santana to play more 1st base and also DH. if the Indians bring Marson back, then he could be the 3rd catcher. i think they definitely want a player with some major league experience available down in Columbus just in case there's another early or lengthy injury.
other options: Swisher, Raburn
on any given day, really anybody on the roster could be the DH. but the 2 mains will be Santana, when he's not catching or playing 1st base, and Giambi, if he comes back as a player and not a coach. still, it would be good to bring in another power bat who can be a DH and also play in the field. we really need a player with some pop who can make an impact in the middle of the order. i don't know who though. again, the price is wrong on a lot of the free agents out there this offseason.
other options: Kazmir?, Tomlin, Carrasco, Bauer
the Indians like to keep 7-8 viable starters in the system because they know during the course of the year, things will happen and we will need replacements. going into 2014, we have Masterson, Kluber, McAllister, and Salazar penciled in as starters. if we cannot retain Kazmir, i wouldn't be shocked to see the Indians find and sign another reclamation pitcher to a minor league deal. you never know how that might turn out though. there's always Tomlin, Carrasco, or Bauer to choose from as a 5th starter as well, although i wouldn't be very confident if either of the last 2 were named to the rotation. odds are we will have to find some outside help, but it probably won't be a top of the rotation pitcher. maybe we'll luck out and at least find a cheap middle of the rotation vet with a little something left in the tank.
the bullpen will be very different next year. again we know Perez is outta here, via either trade or non-tender. and we have no idea if Pestano's gonna bounce back and be able to take back his 8th inning setup role, let alone be considered as a closer candidate. if we don't bring in a proven free agent closer, we might use Shaw there or even Allen if Tito thinks the kid is ready. i can't really even write out one scenario, i have to do several.
if Smith isn't retained and Pestano doesn't get better:
8th inning setup: ?
7th inning: Allen
long relief: Shaw
8th inning setup: Allen
7th inning: ?
8th inning setup: Shaw
7th inning: ?
if we retain Smith, but Pestano doesn't get better:
8th inning setup: Allen
7th inning: Shaw
8th inning setup: Smith
7th inning: Allen
8th inning setup: Smith
7th inning: Shaw
if we retain Smith and Pestano gets back to his old self:
8th inning setup: Pestano
7th inning: Allen
8th inning setup: Smith
7th inning: Allen
closer: Allen, ?
8th inning setup: Pestano
7th inning: Smith
other options: Rzepczynski, probably Hill (though i'd love to let him go), Albers (if he re-signs), Tomlin (if he's not one of the 5 starters), Carrasco (if they realize he can't start anymore), Herrmann (if he's healthy enough), maybe Wood, Hagadone or Lee (if they pitch well enough in spring training), and/or guys brought in on minor league deals or possibly from a trade.
i've gone through all the players, but there's one more important person we could lose this offseason, and that's Sandy Alomar, Jr. for the last couple years, he's been interviewing for managerial jobs and hasn't gotten one yet, but this could be the year. there are several teams looking for new managers and maybe this time he'll finally get his shot. that would be great for Sandy but very sad for Cleveland fans. he was part of the glory days in the 90s and i think most fans still love seeing him in an Indians uniform. Francona already changed up some of his coaching staff's roles—Alomar is now the 1st base coach again, Sarby is the 3rd base coach, and Millsy is the bench coach—and it's been speculated that it was done in anticipation of Sandy leaving. Tito likely has some replacement candidates in mind if this ends up being true, but it won't be the same.
this is another offseason with a lot of questions, though we're probably in a better spot than we were a year ago. but are we going to be able to get another starter, 3rd baseman, power bat, and closer? i anxiously await to see what tricks Antonetti has up his sleeve to improve this ballclub. i'm sure Francona will have an influential say as well. what's certain is we can't just look internally to fix things like they always say they hope to do, and we can't take a step back. more money must be spent to make the team as strong as possible in order to reach another (longer) postseason berth in 2014.
157 days until Opening Day as of this blog post. Go Tribe!