Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tomahawks While We Wait

The maelstrom that is the Winter Meetings is starting to swirl, so let’s take a quick gander around some topics and release some Tomahawks accordingly:
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Ken Rosenthal has an interesting bit about how the Brewers may be looking to move JJ Hardy for a legitimate #2 or a #3 starter to presumably replace CC and Sheets in their rotation using the logic that, “Hardy, who is two years away from free agency, would be worth that price. Not only is he a top defender, but he also ranked second among major-league shortstops in homers, fourth in slugging percentage and eighth in on-base percentage last season.”

Let’s see, Hardy ranked 2nd in HR, 4th in SLG, and 8th in OBP among SS last year - and Rosenthal thinks that 2 more years of him, at a premier defensive position, before he hits FA could net the Brew Crew an established front-to-middle-of-the-rotation starter.

If that’s the case, what would THREE years of a player who also plays a premium defensive position as a catcher, who ranked 3rd in HR, 2nd in SLG, and 10th in OBP among C last year net for the Indians?
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A week after Jordan Brown (who was left off the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft) joined Tony Lastoria and I for our weekly edition of “Smoke Signals”, we welcomed Chris Gimenez (likely the last player added to the 40-man instead of Brown) to the show. The full podcast can be found here, with Gimenez calling in about 15 minutes into the show, after Tony and I discussed some of the infield talk (Hudson, Blake, Lowell, etc.) that’s been circulating recently regarding augmenting the 2009 team.

Gimenez, for those who aren’t familiar with him, is a soon-to-be-26-year-old super utility player whose primary position is listed as catcher – though his versatility to catch or play any of the corner positions (infield or outfield) is what makes him so attractive to the Indians – beyond his productive minor league seasons, highlighted by a minor-league OBP of .378, which has risen every year since his 2005 in Lake County.

During the course of the conversation, Gimenez described his elation over being added to the 40-man being tempered somewhat by the knowledge that a number of his close friends (notably Brown) did not get the same good news, as well as touching on how becoming a catcher improved his approach as a hitter, and how 3B is still the position that he feels most comfortable at, despite playing only 24 games at 3B in the last three years.

Interestingly, Gimenez takes the moniker of “super utility” as a bit of a badge of honor, realizing that his versatility is likely the way that the MLB door will open for him, perhaps leading to a permanent position somewhere down the line – wherever or whenever that may be.

How Gimenez fits into the Indians’ eventual plans, position-wise, or even where he fits in Columbus next year (Torregas figures to be the C – assuming no C is traded this off-season – and Hodges figures to be the everyday 3B in AAA) remains to be seen, but as long as he hits in Columbus (and he didn’t in his first taste of AAA last year), he becomes an in-house option to fill cracks that may emerge on the roster at a number of positions.

Ideally, Gimenez turns into a Casey Blakesque (is that a word?) player, whose versatility becomes an asset that the Indians can use to put a productive bat in the lineup while retaining some flexibility as to where his bat produces from.
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Speaking of Blake, it looks like the specter of Casey returning to Cleveland on a (gasp) 2-year deal isn’t going to come to fruition as the Indians are (rightfully) hesitant to match the 3rd year that seems to be included in the offers on the table from the Dodgers and Twins.

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating, that Casey Blake is a nice player to have on a roster, because of his versatility and his average production from wherever he plays on the diamond. But committing multiple years and lots of zeroes on paychecks during those multiple years is not the direction the Indians should be taking in adding an infielder.

The whole reporting that the Indians “kept in contact” with Blake sounds to me like nothing more than a back-up plan (think Wickman a couple years ago being Plan B while the Indians chased other closers) in case the Indians found themselves empty-handed after looking for an infielder elsewhere. And truthfully, that’s about as far as the Indians should have gone on it – to keep Casey in mind, but not at the forefront of anyone’s mind.

The contempt for Casey Blake while he wore an Indians’ uniform is a notion that I will never understand as he played hard, put up respectable numbers, was never hurt or a distraction, and cost the Indians very little in terms of salary before 2008. Despite this, he became the poster boy for all that was “wrong” with the Indians – a veteran “grinder” who maximized his ability and fill a role on a team that asked him to do just that. That, and probably some association with The Atomic Wedgie as Wedge’s “boy” led most in the fanbase to direct their vitriol towards a player that was what he was – an excellent complementary piece and a clubhouse leader, whose presence for the last few years was vastly underrated and, often, unfairly derided.
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The whole reason that the Blake return thoughts seem like a back-up plan to me is the quote I just can’t shake from Wedge that Peralta is likely to eventually end up as a 3B, with Cabrera as SS. Throw in the fact that Peralta’s mere presence in the Dominican Republic (much less the fact that he’s playing 3B) is newsworthy as he’s NEVER played Winter League Ball since making it to the Bigs, and the idea that Peralta’s move to 3B is being very seriously considered. If not in 2009, then at some point past that.

If, then, Peralta is eventually going to slide over to 3B, what logic is there in signing a 3B to a multi-year deal that essentially keeps the infield makeup the same as it’s been for the last year and a half?

A one-year “rent-a-player” at 3B or just giving Andy Marte/Jamey Carroll a shot at 3B makes more sense than getting someone who figures to man the Hot Corner for the next three years. Not as much sense as adding a 2B to the mix, but more sense than looking (again) for that long-term option.
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At the urging of a few of the serial posters here, I have created a Facebook page for The DiaTribe here – apparently fulfilling all of the wishes of my inner 13-year-old girl.

If you don’t know what that last sentence means, don’t worry about it.
If it does make sense to you, come join me…if only so I can prove to the DiaBride that more people read the ramblings of a slightly obsessed Indians’ fan that aren’t of blood relation to me and go beyond my beloved serial posters.
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Winter Meetings start officially this weekend, so I’ll try to get all of my Facebook giggling and “poking” out of the way to come correct and in full effect so we can talk about something…or is it anything?

5 comments:

A.G.B said...

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/8900402/A's-out-of-running-for-SS-Furcal?MSNHPHMA

It appears that the Athletics are out of the running for Rafael Furcal.

Better yet, it turns out he is not against playing 2B

Even better yet, it turns out he is not against signing for less than 4 years at all.

Mark Shapiro better be on the phone with Furcal's agent RIGHT NOW as I right this. Athletics are out of the running, Giants are out of the running, Mets have Jose Reyes at Short and too much money committed to Luis Castillo at 2B and the Yanks have nowhere to fit Furcal either.

The indians really seem like the obvious choice at this point.

Just thought I'd post the article here because I had to post it somewhere and my head is racing with thoughts of Rafael Furcal playing 2B and batting leadoff at Progressive Field

A.G.B said...

*as I write this, I meant to say.

It is clear that that Grammar class I just took this quarter, paid huge dividends.

I normally just let spelling mistakes slide in my comments but that was to egregious to ignore.

I sincerely apologize to any spelling enthusiasts I may have hurt.

Paul Cousineau said...

No need to apologize Alec...these are all tremendous reasons to get fired up and throw grammar out the window.

R.M. Jennings said...

Furcal would have to take a huge pay cut for the Indians to sign him. He and Orlando Hudson have similar numbers (minus stolen bases, which Wedgie doesn't use too often), but Furcal made $7M more last season. I'd pay neither player more than $8M annually, and I don't see Furcal accepting that after his last contract.

But yeah, it would be cool to have one of those guys bat leadoff with Grady at #3.

Tomo Ohka - Indians Cy young winner in 2009!

L.R. Andress said...

You are going to see players taking pay cuts in this offseason. The economic situation seems to be setting the market, with the exception of the top 2-3 contracts. I think a 3/24 gets Furcal in all honesty, even if he doesn't want to accept it.