Available Free Agents with 2005 Stats:
First Base / BA / HR / RBI / OPS
Paul Konerko / .283 / 40 / 100 / .909
Tony Clark / .304 / 30 / 87 / 1.002
Dmitri Young (TO) / .271 / 21 / 72 / .796
Travis Lee / .272 / 12 / 49 / .757
Kevin Millar / .272 / 9 / 50 / .754
J.T. Snow / .275 / 4 / 40 / .708
Ben Broussard / .255 / 19 / 68 / .771
The drop-off is obviously pretty big after Konerko, with Tony Clark (who the D-Backs did a favor by signing this past year) rating as the second best 1B available. Somebody (hopefully not the Tribe) will overpay for Clark because of his 2005 campaign, one which is not likely to be duplicated. The Tigers hold a team option on DaMeatHook, though I’m not sure he would work in Cleveland because of his poor fielding. Lee and Snow represent two veteran players who are good defenders who can spell a 1B who may be a defensive liability (Garko).
It’s interesting to see how our boy Benny stacks up against this list - not too badly. Though his streakiness causes many headaches, Broussard is a solid defender and did knock in nearly 70 runs, not facing left handed pitching. I’m not saying he’s the answer, but brace yourself (because Konerko is likely to command top dollar, probably from the ChiSox) for the possibility that he may be back in a platoon with either Garko or Blake at 1B. What this FA list essentially tells us is that the answer at 1B isn’t on the FA market. The solution will come either via trade or from within.
Outfield / BA / HR / RBI / OPS
Brian Giles / .301 / 15 / 83 / .906
Reggie Sanders / .271 / 21 / 54 / .886
Juan Encarnacion / .287 / 16 / 76 / .796
Jacque Jones / .249 / 23 / 73 / .757
Preston Wilson / .261 / 10 / 43 / .772
Jay Payton (TO) / .267 / 18 / 63 / .769
Jeff Conine / .304 / 3 / 33 / .777
Casey Blake / .241 / 23 / 58 / .746
A couple of nice names at the top of this list, though Giles and Sanders are unlikely to leave San Diego and St. Louis, where they’ve grown comfortable. I would love to see Reggie Sanders come to Cleveland on a 1-2 year contract, but I think that the Redbirds will get the first shot at him. It’s also not likely that Giles would leave a comfortable situation in Southern California, unless the money is REALLY right. Encarnacion, Jones, Wilson (though he was hurt), and the others may not be that much of an upgrade over our Iowa farmboy. There certainly isn’t that “big RH stick” here that will miraculously solve all of the Tribe’s problems.
Shapiro has recently been talking up Blake as an adequate #9 hitter, hitting 20+ HR and knocking in some runs. So much so, that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Casey keep a starting role (1B or RF) or become a “super-sub” playing nearly every day. Again, like at 1B, the immediate answer doesn’t jump off the page at you.
Starting Pitcher / W-L / ERA / IP / WHIP / BAA
Kevin Millwood (R) / 9-11 / 2.86 / 192.0 / 1.22 / .300
Paul Byrd (R) / 12-11 / 3.74 / 204.1 / 1.19 / .301
Matt Morris (R) / 14-10 / 4.11 / 192.2 / 1.28 / .315
Jeff Weaver (R) / 14-11 / 4.22 / 224.0 / 1.17 / .305
Jamie Moyer (L) / 13-7 / 4.28 / 200.0 / 1.39 / .331
Esteban Loaiza (MO) (R) / 12-10 / 3.77 / 217.0 / 1.30 / .318
Scott Elarton (R) / 11-9 / 4.61 / 181.2 / 1.30 / .315
Jason Johnson (R) / 8-13 / 4.54 / 210.0 / 1.34 / .328
Brett Tomko (R) / 8-15 / 4.48 / 190.2 / 1.37 / .329
Joe Mays (R) / 6-10 / 5.65 / 156.0 / 1.56 / .361
A.J. Burnett (R) / 12-12 / 3.44 / 209.0 / 1.26 / .312
Jarrod Washburn (L) / 8-8 / 3.20 / 177.1 / 1.33 / .330
Kenny Rogers (L) / 14-8 / 3.46 / 195.1 / 1.32 / .323
Tony Armas Jr. (R) / 7-7 / 4.97 / 101.1 / 1.52 / .355
Ted Lilly (L) / 10-11 / 5.56 / 126.1 / 1.53 / .348
The thinness of this list has a two-fold effect on me:
1) It makes the Indians’ efforts to re-sign Millwood that much more important because of the limited number of impact pitchers available through FA this off-season.
2) It makes me think that the market for Millwood (who is clearly the best available pitcher) is going to spiral out of control in a hurry.
Don’t you think that the Yankees and Red Sox (or even teams like the Blue Jays and Tigers who are looking to spend money this off-season) are sharpening their pencils right now to get a shot at Kevin Millwood? What’s their alternative? Jason Johnson or Matt Morris? Burnett and Rogers (attitude), Washburn, Armas, and Lilly (injuries) don’t interest me. But neither do Tomko, Johnson, and Mays (performance)! That leaves 7 attractive starting pitchers hitting the market at a time when (as always) pitching is at a premium.
All it takes is one team. We learned that with Manny and the Sawx and Thome and the Phils. All it takes is one team wanting to make a splash or wanting to “send a signal to their fans” to take Millwood out of Cleveland. Either that, or The Boss sinking another $40M into the pinstripes.
The alternatives, were Millwood not to sign, would be to lock up Byrd or Moyer (or even Loaiza) to a 2 year deal or go after Elarton (who is eminently signable). Let the Tigers go after Matt Morris (more damaged goods to join Percival and Ordonez) and let Weaver stay on the West Coast. Bottom line, the FA starting pitching market all starts with Millwood, and we should hope that the Tribe is in on those discussions to the bitter end.
LOOGY /G / IP / ERA / BA vs. LH
Chris Hammond / 55 / 58.2 / 3.84 / .164
Mike Myers / 65 / 37.1 / 3.13 / .158
Scott Sauerbeck / 58 / 35.2 / 4.04 / .162
Terry Mulholland / 49 / 59.0 / 4.27 / .202
Mike Stanton / 59 / 42.2 / 4.64 / .235
Buddy Groom / 47 / 41.0 / 4.83 / .244
Joey Eischen / 57 / 36.1 / 3.22 / .250
David Weathers (TO) / 73 / 77.2 / 3.94 / .265
The ever-popular LOOGY (Lefthanded One Out GuY) is one that is usually the last to be filled, but can have dire consequences (see Paul Assenmacher vs. Scott Stewart). The Tribe may fill this one from a bunch of LH arms in the minors (Tallet, Traber, Stanford, Zerbe, etc.) because players like Hammond and Sauerbeck like to pitch in the NL, where their role is expanded. An interesting name on the list is Terry Mulholland, who is a former Featherhead. Despite the fact that he’s probably 55, he can be used in the role of a LOOGY or of an innings eater.
Closer / S / ERA / WHIP / BAA
Bob Wickman / 45 / 2.47 / 1.26 / .310
Bob Howry / 3 / 2.47 / 0.89 / .237
Trevor Hoffman / 43 / 2.97 / 1.11 / .274
Billy Wagner / 38 / 1.51 / 0.84 / .229
B.J. Ryan (L) / 36 / 2.43 / 1.14 / .284
Braden Looper (TO) / 28 / 3.94 / 1.47 / .345
Todd Jones / 40 / 2.10 / 1.03 / .276
Mike Timlin / 13 / 2.24 / 1.32 / .319
Tom Gordon / 2 / 2.57 / 1.09 / .272
As I’ve said before, the dominoes on this one all start with Wickman. If Wickman wants to come back, you weigh signing him vs. signing Howry vs. bringing someone else in. If Wickman wants to retire, you weigh re-signing Howry vs. going after a B.J. Ryan or Tom Gordon (who are still going to cost a ton, in guaranteed years and money). Only one thing is for certain: the closer next year will have closer experience. Shapiro has gone on record that he would not give the closer role to someone who has never closed before.
But it all starts with the Sticky One.
The Free Agent period is always a kind of poker game, but expect Shapiro to bring some serious chips to the table to bring continuity and strength (again) to the pitching staff. The offensive help will probably come through other avenues.
Next we’ll take a look at players who may be available via trade for these same positions (with one of the offensive needs likely being filled via trade) and what players on the Indians’ roster may be expendable or attractive to a trade partner.
Enjoy the playoffs, where I’m throwing my weight behind the Cardinals (though we all saw what 150 lbs., soaking wet, did for the Tribe this season).