Tri-State at the Plate Episode #40: Pony Up Now

This week Andy and Jason discuss a potential All-Star game at the base of Mt. Rushmore. Then Jason discusses the Justin Masterson extension and Ubaldo Jimenez’s potential return to Cleveland.  Andy calmly discusses A.J. Burnett before Jason makes him look at Edinson Volquez’s numbers, which makes Andy sick to his stomach and forces him to re-evaluate his life.

The Arbitration $ituation in Cleveland

Justin Masterson
The Indians haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 1991 when they went up against Greg Swindell (he won) and Jerry Browne (he lost), but it looks like that streak will end in 2014. As of today Justin Masterson, Michael Brantley, Vinnie Pestano and Josh Tomlin are all scheduled to have their 2014 salaries decided via an arbitration hearing sometime in February.
Of those four Brantley and Masterson have received the most press, but I am more surprised by the fact that the cases of Pestano and Tomlin are still lingering. After all, Tomlin spent most of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery. For a starter who only pitched two MLB innings in 2013 it seems like a salary of $800,000 (a $201,000 increase from last season) would be acceptable. However, Tomlin filed for $975,000.
Of course Pestano is facing a similar situation. It was revealed over the weekend that Pestano originally hurt his elbow last year in the WBC and pitching coach Mickey Calloway admitted that the injury hurt the unconventional mechanics that have helped the right-hander find success. Pestano made $501,000 last year, and filed for $1.45 million this year. The Indians countered with $975,000.
Vinnie PestanoIn Pestano’s case I think it would be in his best interest to settle and move forward. Pestano has a lot of future earnings riding on his performance this year and it would seem wise for him to just focus on pitching and not be bogged down in a contract dispute. With that said, I can’t help but wonder if some of Pestano’s stubbornness in regards to his contract stems from the fact that he was sent down last August.  Pestano was certainly pitching poorly at the time of the move, and if you re-construct the situation there really weren’t too many other options, but Pestano has always been an important clubhouse guy so the move was a little shocking. Perhaps I am reading too much into things, but I’m sure that Pestano felt burned by his demotion and he sees this as an opportunity to burn the Indians back.
Michael BrantleyIn Brantley’s case I actually feel like the Indians are way too low with their offer. Last year Brantley made $526,900. As an everyday player (coming off two strong and very consistent seasons) in his first year of arbitration Brantley will see a more significant raise than Pestano or Tomlin will. MLB Trade Rumors projected that Brantley would earn $3.7 million this year and the left-fielder filed at $3.8 million. The Indians countered with a $2.7 million offer.
To me the Brantley situation is the most troubling. Brantley is probably the Indians most consistent performer of the last few seasons and the Indians are said to be exploring a multi-year contract extension with his agent. Because he lacks some of the traditional attributes of a corner outfielder (namely high power numbers) it will be interesting to know what that contract would look like but I can’t imagine that this situation is helping work out an extension.
Of course the final case is that of Justin Masterson. Masterson (who is in his final year of arbitration) made $5.7 million last year. After a strong 2013 campaign the big right-hander feels his compensation should almost double so he filed at $11.8 million. The Indians on the other hand, are probably a little reluctant to devote “ace” money to the uneven Masterson and they countered with $8.05 million.
Now, for what it is worth MLB Trade Rumors projects Masterson should earn around $10 million this year and it just so happens that the midpoint between the two sides is $9.925 million. I won’t lie, I was disappointed with the news that Masterson and his agent have broken off extension talks with the Indians. I would imagine that Masterson’s string of uneven performances would hurt his case in an arbitration hearing, but make no mistake, he would be helped by a strikeout rate that is almost elite. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them settle this 2014 contract situation at around $10 million before there is an official hearing.
Speaking of an “official hearing” it’s important to note that hearings are not fun affairs for either side. The player’s agent obviously brings all of the player’s positive attributes to light, focusing on areas where they excel beyond what the average player contributes. Of course those attributes are highlighted in order to drive the price of the player up. Therefore the job of the team is to bring the price of the player down by pointing out all their flaws and weaknesses. In addition, most players have already arrived at Spring Training by the time the hearing takes place so the hearing is a little contrary to the “hope springs eternal” attitude that dominates MLB spring training. All in all, an arbitration hearing is a messy affair that can leave a player with a bad taste in their mouth, and can leave front office personnel with an axe to grind. Not exactly the best way to start a new season.

Noise on the North Coast – Jan. 27

By Jason Ruggiero

Noise on the North Coast

It might still be bitterly cold, but Spring Training continues to creep ever closer. With your heart warmed a little by the realization that we are now only 15 days from pitchers and catchers being due in Goodyear, let’s get started on another edition of Noise on the North Coast.

Carlos Santana & 3B

Obviously the most interesting piece of news over the last month has been the continued development of Carlos Santana at third base. While many bloggers and writers have taken Santana’s quote in an ESPN Desportes piece as evidence that the Indians are heading into Spring Training with Santana already written in at third I think they are getting a bit ahead of themselves.

Santana has become more much more comfortable at third as he has gained more experience there through winter ball but there is still a long way to go before Opening Day. Manager Terry Francona and General Manager Chris Antonetti both expressed over the weekend that while they are hopeful that Santana will be able to handle third, no one in the Indians front office has his name in ink at the hot corner.

While that might not be an exciting piece of news, it is the most realistic approach. Santana has quickly progressed from a train wreck to a capable third baseman. Over the weekend he had one game where he successfully handled all six balls hit his way without an error. In another game he made a great play on a chopper toward third where he fielded the ball and threw on the run (you can check out the video below- at about the 1:50 mark you will see Santana’s epic chinstrap beard followed by the aforementioned play). His winter ball coach has even gone so far as to say that Santana has the potential to be one top third baseman in the game.

That’s all great praise and has me more excited about the possibility of Santana at third then I was a month ago, but I won’t be ready to commit until the Indians identify their back-up catcher. According to the Indians front office Yan Gomes will be the primary catcher this year. That means that Gomes will probably catch somewhere around 100-110 games. So who will catch the other 50-60?

Frankly the idea that Santana would be the primary third baseman and back-up catcher is ludicrous. If Santana is going to play third he will need extra reps to help him learn the position and continue to develop. Extra reps at third means less reps behind the plate and Santana was a below average catcher even with everyday reps at catcher. There are not really any viable major league catchers on the roster right now. Matt Treanor will be in camp but I don’t have much faith in him. Roberto Perez is probably the closest to being major league ready and is an asset defensively but will provide nothing with his bat. Maybe Santana comes into Spring Training, blows everyone away with his development and forces Antonetti to find a back-up. But until that happens I don’t see Santana as anything other than Lonnie Chisenhall’s platoon-mate to protect him against left-handers.

Pestano Was Injured in the WBC

Vinnie PestanoTribe Fest rolled into Cleveland this weekend and with it came some interesting news and notes. Elbowing (pun intended) its way to the front of the pack was pitching coach Mickey Callaway’s public revelation that Vinnie Pestano actually injured his elbow in the World Baseball Classic before the season even began. While Callaway did not get into specifics on what the extent of Pestano’s injury was, he did say that the injury led Pestano to change his mechanics, which resulted in less-than-stellar results.

As we discussed many times last season, Pestano does not have a blazing fastball. Instead he always managed to dominate hitters with a low-90’s fastball because of his deceptive mechanics. Those mechanics saw Pestano short-arming the ball and throwing out of an arm slot near his ear. While no pitching coach (including Callaway) would normally promote those mechanics it has obviously worked for Pestano up to this point. Callaway even pointed out that while, “I’ve never told anybody to have bad mechanics,” that specific arm-action is critical to Pestano’s success. During his press conference Callaway expressed faith that Pestano will be able to regain those mechanics and his effectiveness.

Bourn’s Hamstring

During Tribe Fest Michael Bourn spoke publicly for the first time about how he tore his left hamstring on the final day of the season against the Minnesota Twins and how he played in the one-game playoff with a torn hamstring.

Outfielder Cleveland Indians Michael BournBourn said that he did not want the injury to impact this season so he made the decision to have surgery within two weeks of the injury and began his rehab about a week later. When asked how his rehab is progressing Bourn responded that while he is not at 100% yet, he is running well and should be ready for the start of the season.

Bourn also spoke about his lack of stolen bases in 2013. He said that the injury had nothing to do with the fact that he only racked up 23 steals last year, but was actually the result of trying to get used to American League pitchers and their pick-off moves.

Misc.

– Callaway also said that the team has worked with Carlos Carrasco to increase the deception in his delivery. The Indians thought that since Carrasco routinely sits around 96-98 MPH hitters should be taking uglier swings at Carrasco’s fastball than what they see on tape. In order to add that deception they have raised his lead arm.

– It was also announced over the weekend that former Indians pitcher and Arizona Diamondback’s pitching coach Charles Nagy will be joining the Indians in an as-of-yet undefined role. It’s expected that Nagy will serve as a roving pitching instructor for the minor league system. It is interesting to note that Nagy has experience working with Indians pitching prospect Trevor Bauer when Bauer was in the Diamondbacks organization.

Gregory Polanco’s Amazing Winter

By Andy Burdick

If you haven’t heard, Pittsburgh Pirates outfield prospect Gregory Polanco has been on a tear in the Dominican League this winter for the Leones del Escogido.

Games AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB K SB CS OBP SLG AVG OPS
44 166 28 55 10 1 5 28 82 28 34 7 1 .428 .494 .331 .922

I’ve had a chance to watch a few of his at bats and Polanco’s swing looks as smooth as it did this summer.  It’s a long swing that generates a lot of power, specifically to right.  While Polanco is putting up some eye-popping numbers in the Dominican League, it’s important to note that not all of his at bats are against Major League talent.  That being said, it’s never a bad thing when a club’s top hitting prospect succeeds at playing baseball at any level.  His continuing trend of plate discipline has carried over into the winter league as well, which is another promising sign for 2014.

Gregory  Polanco Altoona Curve Outfielder 2013

Pittsburgh is growing five-tool talents in the outfield like it’s their job.

Travis Sawchick of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review noted in a recent article that General Manager Neal Huntington stated:

“[Polanco] showed some very positive signs when he moved to Double-A last year; as many walks as strikeouts, he drove the ball, but he also showed some signs that he had some work to do. We are really excited. We see him in our outfield for a long time. I just don’t know it’s going to be April 1.”

Regardless of where he starts 2014, Polanco seems to have set himself up to be a Pirates outfielder sooner, rather than later.  An outfield featuring Polanco (22 years old), reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen (27 years old), and Starling Marte (25 years old), could be one of the youngest and best outfields in baseball and the core of a Pirates team that has forced analysts everywhere to use the term ‘respectability’ when referencing the Pirates.

It’s the little things in life, folks.

Indians In the Middle of Cuyahoga County Sin Tax Debate

By Jason Ruggiero

Downtown Cleveland

There is a fight brewing in Cuyahoga County and the Cleveland Indians are finding themselves right in the middle of the feud.

In order to understand what the fight is all about, you have to understand how we got here. So let’s step back to when the Indians were still playing in Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

It’s the early 1980’s and the Cleveland Browns and the Indians both play in the rapidly aging Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Cavaliers are housed in the Richfield Coliseum, located about halfway between Cleveland and Akron. City leaders are short on revenue, but they need to find a way to build a new home for the Browns and Indians and they would love to find a way to lure the Cavs back into downtown Cleveland.

The first idea is straight out of the 80’s – a multi-purpose dome modeled after the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit. That proposal was backed by property taxes and thankfully the voters balked and the idea went down in flames.

Idea number two, was actually uglier than the first. This idea called for a six-sided dome, called Hexatron, with a retractable roof. The idea, thankfully never left the drafting table, but the proposed funding source would become a big issue later. That funding source was a sin tax on alcohol and cigarettes (it was proposed by Jeff Jacobs, son of future Indians owner Richard Jacobs).

Despite these setbacks, Cleveland Mayor George Voinovich and Ohio Governor Dick Celeste continued to move forward on their plans. In fact, they even went as far as borrowing $22 million and teaming with Cleveland Tomorrow to begin the acquisition of property. By 1989 they had purchased and razed multiple buildings but had not reached agreement on who would cover all the funding for the project and the project died again.

In 1990 a new team took over the leadership of the dome stadium group including Tom Chema (of Cleveland Tomorrow) and a group of elected officials that included Cleveland City Council members and Cuyahoga County Commissioners. This group quickly decided to go back to the sin tax idea and put together a proposal that would ask county residents to approve a 15-year sin tax that added 1.9 cents per can of beer, 1.5 cents per ounce of liquor and 4.5 cents per pack of cigarettes.

There was heavy advertising on both sides of the issue and that pushed what normally would have been a light-turnout election into a heavy-turnout. Almost half of all registered voters cast their ballot on May 8, 1990 and the sin tax passed by 51%. A month later the Gateway Economic Development Corporation (a non-profit organization) was formed and Chema was named Executive Director.

Gateway Complex

Ok, so that’s how we got here? Well not quite. That tells the story of how Jacobs Field and the Gund Arena were built but it doesn’t fill in all of the gaps.

When Jacobs Field was built about half of the money came from the sin tax, the other half was provided by Indians owner Richard Jacobs.  The original lease that they signed with the Gateway Corporation was a pretty great deal for the teams, but Gateway suffered some serious financial turmoil and when that lease was re-negotiated the Indians and the Cavs both had to agree to pay for all maintenance and capital repairs under $500,000, as well as the all the costs for running Gateway which manages the grounds and facilities.

On top of all that you need to add that when the original sin tax expired in 2005, voters approved a 10-year renewal, with the revenue put toward the debt for the Browns new stadium. Not to mention the fact that the Browns were able to wrangle their own funding for stadium work out of the Cleveland City Council earlier this year. After some heated public hearings the two sides struck a deal where the city agreed to contribute $2 million a year from the city’s general fund for the next fifteen years. In exchange the Browns agreed to cover the remaining 50% of the work and cut the city a break on helping pay for maintenance when the city’s debt service on the stadium balloons from $850,000 a year to more than $5 million in the last five years of the Browns lease.

That basically brings you up until Tuesday, which is when the Indians, Cavs and Browns all went in front of the Cuyahoga County Council and asked for a 20-year extension of the sin tax. That extension, which would total around $260 million, would be used for stadium maintenance according to team representatives.

The upgrades that will probably get the most press are the Cavs and Indians plans for new scoreboards, but what the Indians are mainly concerned about are the un-seen items at the ballpark. Courtesy of Nick Castele of IdeaStream and Andrew Tobias of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, here is a copy of the Indians wish list.

Indians Wish List

Obviously there isn’t much on that list that will make you buy tickets to an Indians game. No one snaps up a ticket to check out the new plumbing fixtures, or take in the newly concreted walkways. But on the other hand, they are definitely the kind of things that if they truly are in disrepair, could certainly keep you from coming to the ballpark at all and that’s where the rubber meets the road.

There are two main points of contention when you get down to it. The first is whether or not the items on the Cavs and Indians respective wish lists should be considered capital maintenance or capital upgrades. The leases that the teams operate under make a big distinction between upgrades, which Gateway does not have to pay for, and repairs, which Gateway is obligated to cover. This is obviously where an item like a new scoreboard gets such scrutiny – would an updated scoreboard be an upgrade or a repair? The teams argue it should be a repair because the existing scoreboards are so obsolete that repair is no longer an option.

Progressive Field

The second issue, whether the sin tax should even be approved at all, is the most contentious. Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland are both staring into the tight grip of a weak economy. Sure, the sin tax was originally put in place to help pay for and maintain these stadiums, but in tough economic times should the city and county continue to bear so much of the cost or should they do their best to push more responsibility back onto the affluent owners?

That’s the question that got so much attention Tuesday at the Cuyahoga County Council meeting but some of that outrage is mis-directed. The terms of the Gateway leases mean that the city is on the hook for any capital repairs over $500,000 regardless of the outcome on the sin tax vote. If you think that forcing the city or county (ultimately the Q reverts to the county while Progressive Field reverts to the city) to dip into the general fund to pay for stadium repairs is a good policy, then you are on the same page as the Browns ownership (which I don’t think I have to remind you is a bad place to be right now).

If instead, you think that making the city decide between hiring police officers and fixing the plumbing at Progressive Field is a bad idea, then approving the sin tax is the way to go. In this case, there is a dedicated revenue stream that since 1990 has existed for no other purpose then to help keep the Indians, Cavs and Browns in downtown Cleveland.

To be fair there are other ideas out there. Some citizens like the idea of adding a ticket surcharge so that only the people who go to the games are footing the bill for stadium upgrades but in the end that plan is a pipe dream. Why would the teams ever agree to re-negotiate their leases and take on a bigger share of the maintenance burden? They have already done that once and it ended up costing them $4-5 million more a year (that’s the amount the teams contend they put into the operations of Gateway last year).

Some of this outrage is certainly the result of the chickens finally coming home to roost based on fan anger toward the Dolan family or Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.  Many Clevelanders view the Dolans as cheap and many see Gilbert as very wealthy (his casino down the street doesn’t help his case). So the idea that these two are looking for public money to help fund their private ventures obviously makes people upset but the reality is that the lease deals obligate the city to a certain level of commitment and the sin tax seems to be the least painful way to fulfill that commitment.

 

Noise on the North Coast – Jan. 20

By Jason Ruggiero

Noise on the North CoastWith only 22 days until pitchers and catchers are due to report in Goodyear, things are beginning to pick up in pace at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. So let’s look back at the last week of news with Noise on the North Coast.

Santana & the Hot Corner

As we head into Spring Training it seems like Lonnie Chisenhall and Carlos Santana will be sharing time at the hot corner in 2014.

As we head into Spring Training it seems like Lonnie Chisenhall and Carlos Santana will be sharing time at the hot corner in 2014.

The blogosphere went into overdrive late last week when Indians catcher Carlos Santana was quoted in an ESPN Deportes piece as saying that he is only preparing to play third at this point. Many writers and reporters have taken this to mean that Santana will be the Indians third baseman in 2014.

In reality, many of the bloggers mis-read Santana’s initial statement (which is easy to do since the original article is all in Spanish). But it seems as though Santana’s comment is only reference to his remaining time with his winter ball team, Leones del Escogido. The Santana-to-3B experiment has gone well, and probably well enough that he will enter Spring Training getting plenty of reps at third, and be the odds-on-favorite to play third against left-handers (who Lonnie Chisenhall hasn’t hit well at any level) in the beginning of Spring Training. Assuming anything beyond that is just guessing at this point. Not to mention the fact that I don’t see any way with the current roster construction that Santana won’t have to spell Gomes from time-to-time behind the plate. We may be about to see the beginning of Santana as a third baseman, but I doubt we have seen the last of him as a catcher (or DH).

Arbitration Numbers Exchanged

Friday was the deadline for players and teams to file their arbitration numbers. At this point the Indians have come to terms with four of their eight arbitration-eligible players. Frank Herrman ($560 K), Blake Wood ($560 K), Josh Outman ($1.25 M) and Marc Rzepcynski ($1.375 M) have all been signed. The following players remain:

Vinnie Pestano – Filed for $1.45 M, Indians offered $975 K
Josh Tomlin – Filed for $975 K, Indians offered $800 K
Michael Brantley – Filed for $3.8 M, Indians offered $2.7 M
Justin Masterson – Filed for $11.8 M, Indians offered $8.05 M
Michael BrantleyMasterson and Brantley will obviously be the toughest two cases to resolve. The Indians have not gone to an arbitration hearing since 1991 but that streak will probably be tested this year as the difference between Masterson and the Indians is the widest gap of all the arbitration cases filed this year. It’s possible that no one in the two camps is really concerned with the arbitration process right now if they are discussing a long-term deal, but the obvious difference in value could make the extension process even harder to negotiate.
Personally I feel that Masterson’s situation is a little overblown. I expected him to earn around $10 million this year and the middle ground between the two filed numbers is $9.925. In my opinion the real surprise is the difference between Brantley and the Indians. MLBTraderumors projected Brantley to earn $3.7 M, which is just about what Brantley submitted for. It will be interesting to see how the negotiations pan out for both Brantley and Masterson since they are both exploring long-term contracts with the Indians. By far the best place to follow the arbitration game is with MLBTraderumors Arbitration Tracker.
 Movement in the Pitching Market?
January 24 is the deadline for Masahiro Tanaka to sign with a major league club. That means by this Friday (and possibly as early as Tuesday or Wednesday according to some reports) we could see the Japenese product agree to an MLB contract.
It's January and Ubaldo Jimenez is still on the free agent market.

It’s January and Ubaldo Jimenez is still on the free agent market.

Once that hurdle is cleared, everyone expects that the pitching market will finally sort itself out. With about three weeks remaining before Spring Training begins Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Bronson Arroyo (among others) still don’t have jobs. With every passing day it becomes more and more likely that one of those names will end up with the Indians. As I have said before, I think the two likeliest scenarios are Jimenez and Garza. It wasn’t until February of last year that the Tribe signed Michael Bourn, and we might be in for a similar surprise this February.

If a February surprise is around the corner it will be interesting to see if the Indians have to clear payroll shortly before or after the move is made. The obvious choice would be Asdrubal Cabrera. The Indians have incredible middle infield depth with major league ready guys like Mike Aviles and top prospect Francisco Lindor (not to mention Jose Ramirez). By trading Cabrera the Indians would immediately free up $10 M, which would go a long way toward Jimenez or Garza.
Just in case that doesn’t work out though, the Indians are still trying to add depth to their rotation with minor league signings. The Indians are rumored to be one of two teams interested in bringing in Scott Baker on a minor league deal.
Misc.
– The Indians have signed former Milwaukee Brewer and current goofball Nyjer Morgan to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. I still believe that if any extra outfielder makes the team Jeff Francoeur would get the nod.
– Shortly after being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, Cardinals staff revealed to John Axford that he was tipping his pitches. Check out this article by R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus to learn what exactly Axford was doing to let the batter know what was coming.
– Carlos Santana’s winter ball team has qualified for the Dominican League World Series. You can check out the games on ESPN 3. Most of the games are live-streamed around 4 PM EST, but you can re-watch them at any time. (FYI – The broadcasts are in Spanish.)
– Former Indian Grady Sizemore is apparently close to a deal with the Cincinnati Reds.
 

Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Arbitration. Cases: Closed.

By Andy Burdick

Mark Melancon relief pitcher Pittsburgh Pirates 2013

Mark Melancon wanted paid. And what Mark Melancon wants, Mark Melancon gets!

General Manager Neal Huntington avoided going to the war room with any of the six remaining Pirates players eligible for salary arbitration.  According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Huntington stated, “Both parties should prefer to avoid that hearing room.  It’s a tough process.”

Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Gaby Sanchez, Vin Mazzaro, and Mark Melancon all agreed to one year deals Friday while Travis Snider worked out a deal with the club on Thursday.  Below is a table of the players, their 2013 salaries (according to baseballplayersalaries.com) and their raises for 2014.

It is definitely in your benefit if you can find a union job.

Player2013 Salary2014 Salary
Neil Walker$3.3 million$5.75 million
Pedro Alvarez$.7 million$4.25 million
Gaby Sanchez$1.75 million$2.3 million
Travis Snider$.505 million$1.2 million
Vin Mazzaro$.490 million$.950 million
Mark Melancon$.521 million$2.59 million

While these bumps in salary were expected and these players are not the shiny new toy that fans enjoy seeing their favorite team sign in the off season, Huntington again proved his mettle in reaching agreements with everyone who was arbitration eligible.  As he noted, going in front of an arbitrator is a very unhealthy process for all parties.

Also, as Bill Brink noted in his Post-Gazette article, as it stands, Pittsburgh is projected to end up about $4 million short of its 2013 payroll.  With approximately $25 million coming in to the organization through the national TV contracts, there is money available to for clubs to spend.

Right now it looks like Pittsburgh is fine with spending its money on retaining some of the talent that helped take them to the playoffs for the first time since 1992.

Tri-State at the Plate Episode #39: Alex Rodriguez Goes to Night Court

This week Andy and Jason talk about becoming best friends with Clayton Kershaw after he signs his $215 million contract. Jason then waxes poetic about the addition of Jeff Francoeur and Nyjer Morgan. Then Andy talks about the gaping hole at first base and voluntary workouts. Finally, the gang wraps things up by standing on their soapbox and discussing Alex Rodgriguez and PEDs (as well as Night Court, featuring Harry Anderson, and The Lincoln Lawyer, starring Matthew McConaughey).

2014 Pittsburgh Pirates Minor League Managers

By Andy Burdick

Tom Prince catcher Bradenton Marauders ManagerThe Pittsburgh Pirates announced their Minor League coaching staffs for 2014 and four managers will be returning to the Pirates’ system this year.  Dean Treanor returns to Triple-A Indianapolis, former Bucco infielder Carlos Garcia returns to Double-A Altoona, Michael Ryan returns to Class A West Virginia, and Milver Reyes returns to the Rookie League Pirates where they all managed last season.

New managers for the Pirates affiliates include former Major League catcher Tom Prince, who will take over top-step duties for the Bradenton Marauders in 2014, Brian Esposito, who will manage short season Jamestown, and Edgar Varela, who will manage the Pirates’ new Advanced Rookie Appalachian League team in Bristol, Virginia.  The Appalachian Rookie League will be the Pirates second Rookie League club, along with the GCL Pirates.  The Pirates also have two Dominican Summer League teams, giving the Pirates a total of nine Minor League affiliates.

There is definitely plenty of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball to keep up with this summer.

Noise on the North Coast – Jan. 13

By Jason Ruggiero

Noise on the North Coast

While the polar vortex drove everyone inside to hunker down and wait out the cold there was some Tribe-related news that managed to survive the cold and make it out into the open. So let’s take a few minutes and catch up on all the Noise on the North Coast.

 

Is Antonetti Still Shopping?

Probably the most exciting news that leaked out last week was a rumor propagated by Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. In this article Hoynes explains that the Indians front office is still in contact with the agents for free agent pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Bronson Arroyo as well as Masahiro Tanaka.

While Hoynes never comes right out and states that the Indians have the money to add a free agent starter, he does offer this statement after discussing how in 2013 the Indians patiently waited for the price on Michael Bourn to come down before signing the outfielder.

 They are trying to do the same thing this offseason with the emphasis on adding a          front-of-the-rotation starter at below sticker price. They are not in the market for another shot-in-the-dark veteran like Brett Myers.

Not adding another Brett Myers is already a step in the right direction, but patiently waiting to see how the market unfolds for Jimenez and company is definitely the right approach.

Realistically, the Indians don’t have anything more than a puncher’s chance at signing Tanaka, but it is good to pursue him and build some goodwill for future attempts to sign Japanese players.

Of the remaining four I think that Santana is the least likely to sign with the Indians. He was given a qualifying offer by the Kansas City Royals this winter, so the Indians would forfeit the 22nd pick in the draft, along with the attached bonus pool money, for signing him. While giving up the pick would be offset by the compensation pick the Indians will receive when Jimenez signs elsewhere, and the competitive balance pick they were awarded last year, the loss of bonus pool money that goes along with forfeiting the 22nd round pick makes Santana un-appealing.

It's January and Ubaldo Jimenez is still on the free agent market.

It’s January and Ubaldo Jimenez is still on the free agent market.

Jimenez is attractive to the Indians for many reasons. For starters, he won’t cost them a draft pick. Secondly, he is obviously familiar with the team, the trainers and the coaches. From the outside of course it is easy to say that Jimenez should be indebted to Tribe pitching coach Mickey Callaway for finally fixing his delivery. The reality of course is that while Jimenez may feel comfortable around Callaway this is his one chance to cash in on a free agent deal and he is likely to take it. I just can’t believe that Jimenez will sign on to the length of contract that the Indians would want in order to keep him in Cleveland. Frankly, I think Ubaldo ends up with the Yankees.

That leaves Arroyo and Garza. The Indians have always kept one eye on Garza, even reportedly trying to work out a trade for the right-hander last July. I think that the lack of draft pick compensation and the recent string of injuries suffered by Garza might just drive his price right into the Indians comfort zone. If it doesn’t, the last man standing may be Arroyo. While he hasn’t been anything special for years, Arroyo is incredibly durable. In a rotation with Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister and Danny Salazar that durability could pay big dividends.

Masterson Extension

The Tribe is reportedly discussing a contract extension with Masterson.

The Tribe is reportedly discussing a contract extension with Masterson.

With salary arbitration filings due on Jan. 14 this is the time of the year when GM’s and agents begin discussing contract extensions. This year, the Indians have three possible candidates for extensions, Justin Masterson, Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley. Of those three, only Masterson and Brantley are eligible for arbitration.

Last week it was reported that Masterson’s agent Randy Rowley and Tribe GM Chris Antonetti are open to discussing a contract extension for Masterson. Earlier in the year, Rowley was quoted as saying that he wanted to see how the starting pitching market developed before talking about extensions. While that hasn’t really happened yet, there are a few contracts that could serve as guideposts.

Ricky Nolasco signed this offseason with the Minnesota Twins for 4 yrs./$49 million and Hiroki Kuroda re-signed with the Yankees for 1 yr./$16 million. I think Masterson will easily outpace Nolasco and probably come much closer to Jered Weaver’s $85 million. In the end, for an extension to get done I think the Indians will probably have to commit to around 5 yrs/$80 million.

Chief Wahoo Demoted?

Paul Lukas, a sports uniform blogger, reported last week that the Indians were demoting Chief Wahoo by changing their primary logo to the block C.

Ever since this logo was introduced Chief Wahoo has slowly been on his way out.

Ever since this logo was introduced Chief Wahoo has slowly been on his way out.

 

The Indians have denied any reports that Chief Wahoo has in fact been “demoted” but if you have been paying attention Chief Wahoo has been moving down the ranks ever since the introduction of the script I logo. I still distinctly remember logging on to the Indians website about ten years ago and seeing the background pattern of tiny Chief Wahoo logos replaced with a pattern that alternated Chief Wahoo and the script I. I realized then that the ownership was working on slowly phasing out Chief Wahoo and they have continued that pattern today.

The script I never took off, but the block C has and they have used it more and more in recent years. The story that Lukas seized upon is that the Indians have filed paperwork with the league so that the block C is used to represent the team on broadcasts rather than Chief Wahoo. This follows a long list of slight revisions including re-designing the batting helmets and away uniforms so that Chief Wahoo is shown less and less.

Francoeur and Atchison 

The Indians also announced last week that they signed right-fielder Jeff Francoeur and right-hander Scott Atchison to minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training.

Francoeur will hope to turn a strong spring into a spot on the Tribe's 25-man roster.

Francoeur will hope to turn a strong spring into a spot on the Tribe’s 25-man roster.

As I have said many times, I am in favor of almost any minor league signing with a Spring Training invite. They are low-cost and low-risk with the possibility of a huge reward if things work out and I think these two deals fall in that category as well.

If Francoeur shows that he has re-gained his hitting stroke it’s possible that he could benefit from a nice platoon where Manager Terry Francona puts him in a position to excel. He’s an intriguing option and definitely someone worth taking a look at in Spring Training but the Tribe’s major league roster is very crowded and I’m not sure there will be a spot open for Francoeur.