Opening Day Cactus League Style

By Jason Ruggiero

The Indians will open their Cactus League schedule today at 3:05 p.m. ET versus the Cincinnati Reds. Trevor Bauer will start the game for the Indians and be followed by Aaron Harang, Nick Hagadone, Colt Hynes, T.J. House, C.C. Lee, J.C. Ramirez and Preston Guilmet.

In the field Manager Terry Francona’s lineup will shape up like this:

CF – Nyjer Morgan

SS – Asdrubal Cabrera

2B – Jason Kipnis

3B – Lonnie Chisenhall

LF – Ryan Raburn

C – Yan Gomes

RF – Jeff Francoeur

1B – David Cooper

DH – David Adams

 

The Reds will start the game with Alfredo Simon on the hill and the following alignment in the field:

CF – Billy Hamilton

2B – Brandon Phillips

1B – Joey Votto

LF – Ryan Ludwick

RF – Jay Bruce

3B – Todd Frazier

SS – Zack Cozart

C – Devin Mesoraco

DH – Brayan Pena

 

The Indians and Reds will square off again on Thursday. In that game the following Tribe pitchers are scheduled to work: Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Tyler Cloyd, David Aardsma, Josh Outman, Blake Wood and Mike Zagurski. On Friday, Josh Tomlin is scheduled to work the first two innings followed by John Axford, Scott Atchison, Cody Allen, Mark Rzepcynski, Travis Banwart and Scott Barnes.

 

Allen, Shaw, Swisher and Bourn on Delayed Schedules

Nick SwisherAs you can see from the scheduled pitchers listed above Cody Allen won’t make his spring debut until Friday and Bryan Shaw won’t work in a game until sometime after that. According to Francona this is all according to plan. Francona told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer that “I’d like to start them about a week behind everyone else. This will give us a chance to look at the other guys.” Allen, who made the second-most appearances in the American League last year (77), supports the plan to ease him back into game shape.

Centerfielder Michael Bourn is expected to play on Thursday versus the Reds but Nick Swisher will be held out of the first “four to five” Cactus League game this spring. Once again that schedule is all part of Francona’s plan to ease the regulars into game action while getting a better chance to evaluate guys who are fighting for a roster spot like Nyjer Morgan, Jeff Francoeur, David Cooper, Bryan LaHair and David Adams.

 

 

Noise on the North Coast – Cactus League Preview

By Jason Ruggiero

Noise on the North CoastWe are now entering that strange part of the year when there is baseball being played in Arizona but snow is still on the ground at home. You see pictures of men in short sleeves playing catch and taking batting practice but you still have to psych yourself up to run outside without a coat on. This is late February Spring Training. Everyone has reported to camp but there isn’t much to report . . . for now.

What to Watch For

Jeff Francoeur has an outside chance to make the Tribe roster.

Jeff Francoeur has an outside chance to make the Tribe roster.

Spring Training games will start this Wednesday for the Tribe and that’s when things will finally start to get interesting. We will finally get extended looks at some of the more interesting players and storylines of this offseason. In case you are wondering what Tribe players I will be watching this spring, here are six players to keep an eye on.
Carlos Santana – Santana’s transition to third base is probably the biggest story in camp this spring. He progressed from a train wreck to very serviceable during the Dominican Winter League. The question in Goodyear is can Santana stay serviceable over Spring Training? Even more intriguing – could he get even better?

Carlos Carrasco – Carrasco is the Tribe’s best bet for the fifth spot in the rotation. He has a great arm but a suspect amount of mental fortitude. He’s out of options so he will be given the best chance to win the job. If he still can’t put it together the Tribe will stick him in the bullpen and hope for the best.

Trevor Bauer – The former #1 pick had a really rough 2013. He has supposedly re-vamped his mechanics. I cannot express to you how curious I am to see Bauer pitch.

Jeff Francoeur – Frenchy has had runs of success in the big leagues with stretches of dismal performance mixed in. If he can regain his hitting stroke Terry Francona will find room for him on the roster.

Bryan LaHair – LaHair had an All-Star first half for the Cubs a few years ago and is coming off wrist surgery. He blames his second-half fade on the now (hopefully) corrected wrist. He has some serious platoon splits but Francona has demonstrated that he knows how to put players in a position to succeed (see Raburn, Ryan).

Shaun Marcum – Marcum is intriguing because his upside is a middle of the rotation starter. I’m even more curious because he is coming off an uncommon injury – Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

 When to Watch

As I mentioned above, the Tribe’s Spring Training slate kicks off on Wednesday, February 26th against the Cincinnati Reds. You can check out the full schedule, including where to look for the radio and tv broadcasts right here. (Spoiler alert: The opener on Wednesday will be on both Sports Time Ohio and WTAM 1100.)

How Much Does it Matter?

When you sit down to watch a Spring Training game or read a story about a non-roster invite clubbing three homeruns in a game you might find yourself wondering – How much does Spring Training performance really matter?

Jesus Aguilar will homer this spring but you better know who he was facing before you get too excited.

Jesus Aguilar will homer this spring but you better know who he was facing before you get too excited.

As you might have guessed the answer is – it depends. For established players Spring Training performance means very little. It’s often about building up endurance, getting your timing down and just generally getting back in the swing of things – especially in the early going. Some established pitchers will use Spring Training to work on a new pitch or refine a secondary offering. Sometimes the results are ugly and the new pitch is scrapped so it’s important to not get too wrapped up in spring stats.

Before you get too enthralled (or disgusted) with spring stats it’s also important know all the parties involved. Did Jesus Aguilar homer off a non-roster invite who was DFA’d last year or an established major league starter? What you can draw from that event changes a lot based on who is involved.

The reality is that there are only a few spots on the Tribe roster (or basically any major league roster) that are up for grabs. This spring the Indians are looking for a fifth starting pitcher, 1 or 2 relievers and 1 (or possibly 2) bench spots. So unless you are vying for one of the spots your Spring Training is really about staying healthy and getting ready for the long-haul of the regular season.

Starling Marte Versus the Regression Monster

By Andy Burdick

Starling Marte had an amazing 2013 season by just about every statistical measure.

Year Age Tm G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2013 24 PIT 135 566 83 143 26 10 12 35 41 15 25 138 .280 .343 .441 .784 122 225 6 24 6 1 2

The standard triple slash of .280/.343/.441 is a great season for a hitter.  Marte’s 122 OPS+ is well above average, which is always a reassuring number.  You can also compare his numbers to the league average numbers below, which explain what averages a league average hitter would have in the same parks as Starling Marte. Continue reading

Goodyear Notebook – Feb. 20

By Jason Ruggiero

Goodyear Notebook Cleveland Indians Spring Training Cactus League Arizona

Indians and Masterson Avoid Arbitration Hearing
The Indians wrapped up their arbitration hearing schedule on Tuesday by agreeing to a one-year $9.7 million deal with starting pitcher Justin Masterson. Masterson and his agent Randy Rowley were scheduled to fly to St. Petersburg, Florida on Tuesday in preparation for right-handers arbitration hearing with the Indians on Thursday. All parties seem to be thankful that won’t have to happen now.
Now that arbitration case is settled it will be worth it to keep an eye on any long-term contract negotiations between Masterson and the Indians. Those talks were put on hold about a month ago in order focus on the arbitration case but there was not a true breakdown in negotiations. In fact, Masterson admitted that those long-term negotiations continued to work their way into his arbitration negotiation. Many people are skeptical about the Indians extending Masterson but with the Ubaldo Jimenez ship fully out of the port I think there may be a renewed focus on signing Masterson.
Carlos Santana and the Continuing Tale of Third Base
It won’t be long now before we all get a chance to see Carlos Santana play third base for the Indian. Right now, only those in Goodyear have that privilege but all reports are positive.
Manager Terry Francona said that Santana has been working incredibly hard to learn the position. In fact, he has even been taking a practice ball back to his room at night so that he can continue working on his side-to-side movement.
Carlos Santana and his epic chinstrap beard have been taking groundballs at third base this Spring.

Carlos Santana and his epic chinstrap beard have been taking groundballs at third base this Spring.

Santana began playing third base this offseason in Winter Ball with his Dominican team Leones del Escogido. Initially he struggled but eventually he progressed to the point where he was beginning to look comfortable. In fact, his Leones team continued to use Santana at third base throughout the playoffs. It’s important to remember that fact since Winter Ball teams are not at the mercy of MLB teams. In other words, if Santana was struggling they could have easily moved him back to first base for the playoffs. The fact that they didn’t do that means they had confidence in his abilities at the hot corner.

If you follow this site you know that I have always been a fan of Lonnie Chisenhall so I think it will be interesting to watch Chisenhall and Santana fight for the third base job this spring. While it may seem like Chisenhall has been around forever he’s only 25. He has struggled to hit lefties throughout his career but he also hasn’t received many opportunities against lefties. Santana has no problems with left-handers so I think it’s entirely possible that Santana and Chisenhall form a platoon this season as Chisenhall get’s one last shot with the Tribe. However, the reality is that if Santana comes as good as advertised at third base Chisenhall will need to make the most of this opportunity or Santana could easily steal his position.
This Just In: Asdrubal Cabrera Trained Hard for His Free Agent Year
Everyone knew that Asdrubal Cabrera was capable of a lot more than he produced last season. In this case everyone includes Cabrera as well.
Asdrubal Cabrera did not do a lot of sitting this off-season.

Asdrubal Cabrera did not do a lot of sitting this off-season.

Cabrera disappointed by his season and his performance in the AL Wild Card game last year texted Manager Terry Francona the night of the Wild Card loss and told his skipper he could do more. Then after taking a month off to rejuvenate himself Cabrera set out to stand by his word.

He called the Indians strength and conditioning coach Nelson Perez and the two trained together for the next 2 ½ months. Cabrera also passed on his traditional entrance into Venezuelan Winter Ball. Reports from Perez are that Cabrera greatly improved his leg strength and in doing so increased his quickness and agility.
Hopefully Cabrera’s off-season work pays dividends during the 2014 season. The Tribe could certainly use his bat in the lineup and with Francisco Lindor waiting in the wings Cabrera could use a solid season before entering free agency.
Misc.
  • Tribe prospect Tony Wolters is back in big-league camp this year but as a catcher this time. Wolters made the position switch following Spring Training last year and got solid reviews in High-A Carolina. Francona said the best news for Wolters is that you can’t tell that he’s a converted catcher.
  •   Reliever Frank Herrman is working his way back from Tommy John surgery. Herrman has begun throwing to batters.
  • Former Indians Carlos Baerga is in camp as an instructor. Baerga spent the winter managing the Mayaguez Indians in the Puerto Rican winter league. Current Tribe prospect Roberto Perez was part of Baerga’s team.
  • Former Indians player and manager Mike Hargrove is also in camp. Hargrove is currently a special advisor to the Indians front office.
  • Live batting practice begins on Friday.

Tri-State at the Plate Episode #41: Burned by Burnett

This week Andy and Jason discuss the merits of a 6 year, $105 million contract for David Dewitt Bailey, a.k.a. Homer. Jason closes the arbitration cases in Cleveland, discusses Carlos Santana at third and sheds a tear (a tiny tear) for Ubaldo Jimenez. Then Andy discusses being spurned by Allan James Burnett, a.k.a. A.J., further discusses how he needs to apologize to Pedro Alvarez and wraps up by discussing the impact Pirates prospects need to make in 2014. Finally Andy and Jason get up on their respective soapboxes about the positives and negatives of the qualifying offer system.

Noise on the North Coast – Feb. 17

By Jason Ruggiero

Noise on the North CoastHere it is. The first Spring Training edition of Noise on the North Coast. Men have played catch . . . and that’s about it. But hey, that’s a lot more than we could say about the last few months. So let’s get rolling and see what’s going on under the sun in Goodyear.

Tribe Signs Harang and Davies to Minor League Deals

Pitchers and catchers may have reported last Tuesday, but Chris Antonetti is still looking for ways to improve the Indians roster. No, he hasn’t signed Ubaldo Jimenez. In fact, as this article goes up on the website it is being reported that the Orioles are nearing a deal with Jimenez. Instead, Antonetti added two more wildcards to the deck bringing in right-handed starter Aaron Harang and right-handed reliever Kyle Davies. Both pitchers have struggled in recent years but on minor league deals the price is almost always right.

Shaun Marcum's delay in throwing this spring is probably a big reason why Aaron Harang signed with the Indians.

Shaun Marcum’s delay in throwing this spring is probably a big reason why Aaron Harang signed with the Indians.

Why is Harang just joining the fold? Well the news that Shaun Marcum will be delayed 7-10 days as he continues to recover from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery likely played a big role in Harang’s decision to sign with the Tribe. Marcum is the guy everyone is hoping wins the fifth starter’s role but his injury means Harang has a more realistic shot at snatching that last rotation spot away. Marcum’s recovery is certainly one storyline to keep an eye on this spring.

Tomlin Loses Case

Josh Tomlin lost his arbitration case on Friday versus the Indians.

Josh Tomlin lost his arbitration case on Friday versus the Indians.

The Indians and Josh Tomlin faced off in an arbitration hearing on Friday and the Tribe came out on top again. Tomlin will be paid $800 K in 2014 as opposed to the $975 K he filed for. The $175 K difference between the two filed numbers represented the smallest difference of any arbitration case. That reality lends credence to the idea that with Pestano and Tomlin the Indians were trying to prove a point about how much these players are actually worth. A point they seem to making since they are now 2-0 in arbitration. Of the four arbitration cases the Indians did not resolve only one, Justin Masterson, remains.

Misc.

– As I noted above, as this article is being published it is being reported that the Orioles are nearing a 4 yr./$48 million contract with Ubaldo Jimenez. This isn’t much of a surprise as we knew the Orioles were always interested in adding pitching. The value is a bit higher than I would have expected at this stage which is probably why the Indians wisely removed themselves from the bidding.

– While pitchers and catchers reported last Tuesday, position players were due to report to Goodyear on Saturday. The first full-squad workout was slated for today, February 17th.

– Former Indians starter Jake Westbrook announced his retirement last week.

 

The A.J. Burnett Offseason Timeline

By Andy Burdick

A.J. Burnett Russell Martin Shaving Cream Pie to the face

“How could you leave, A.J.? You had such a great time in Pittsburgh, right? RIGHT?”

With Spring Training underway, last year’s National League strikeout king A.J. Burnett is settling into his new clubhouse in Clearwater, Florida.  I think it is important for Pirates fans to understand the timeline of Burnett’s offseason, the ramifications to the club, and what this offseason says about free agency in baseball in 2014.

What’s going to stick in a lot of Pirates’ fans craws is how A.J. Burnett approached this offseason, which he explained in an interview on October 21, 2013.  Burnett talked to 93.7 The Fan radio host Colin Dunlap about his future in baseball.  Colin Dunlap said, “So you’re pretty much going to play here or retire, is what I can read through the lines.”

To which Burnett replied, “As of right now, that’s where my mind is.  Yes sir.  As of right now.” Continue reading

Noise on the North Coast – Feb. 10

By Jason Ruggiero

Noise on the North CoastPitchers and catchers are due to report to Goodyear, Arizona tomorrow. That means by this time next week I will have juicy nuggets to report like “So and so is in the best shape of his life” and “Blank looked sharp in his bullpen today.” Fascinating stuff to be sure, but that is all next week. So let’s get rolling on another pre-Spring Training edition of Noise on the North Coast.

Pestano Loses Arbitration Case

The first of the Indians’ four arbitration cases was decided on Saturday when the arbitration judge sided withe Indians and awarded Vinnie Pestano a $975,000 contract for 2014.

I always thought that Pestano was un-wise to pursue the  arbitration hearing. While he had two excellent seasons his 2013 was an absolute train wreck. When his 2013 injury and ineffectiveness is coupled with his role as a set-up man (and therefore a lack of saves) it isn’t surprising to see the judge side with the Indians.

The Indians are still poised to face-off against Josh Tomlin (Feb. 14), Michael Brantley (Feb. 17) and Justin Masterson (Feb. 20). As I’ve said numerous times the Brantley and Masterson hearings get the most press but I wouldn’t be surprised if the involved parties reach an agreement before the actual hearing begins. I don’t expect the Indians to budge on Tomlin. They are trying to prove a point by going to hearings with Tomlin and Pestano and they certainly won’t back down after being vindicated once.

Hagadone and Indians Settle on Grievance

Do you remember the Indians 2012 season? I don’t either but I do remember that after another stink-bomb outing in 2012 Nick Hagadone went into the Tribe dugout and threw an 80-grade fit, fracturing his forearm in the process.

Nick HagadoneThe Indians, disappointed in Hagadone’s pitching performance and disgusted with his tirade optioned Hagadone to the minors and put him on the disabled list there. By placing him on the DL in the minors Hagadone was not credited major league service time for the 94 days he spent on the disabled list (since he was not on the 25-man roster during that time).

In protest Hagadone (supported by the MLBPA) filed a grievance against the Indians. That grievance was finally settled last week with both sides gaining something in the process. Hagadone will be credited (and compensated) for 94 days of major league service time and the Indians will receive another minor league option on Hagadone.

The credit for service time is bad news for the Indians since that 94 days could push Hagadone to Super 2 status if he spends most of 2014 on the active roster. While that could lead to a bigger payday for Hagadone in the future the minor league option is a huge asset for the Indians going into 2014. Without it the Indians would be forced to carry Hagadone on the MLB roster all season for fear of losing him to waivers. Now they are free to shuttle him back and forth to Columbus as needed for one more season.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

It’s that time again . . . time for the obligatory comments on the Ubaldo Jimenez saga and the still developing free agent pitching market.

Scott Baker, Bronson Arroyo and Paul Maholm are all off the board. Tribe pitchers and catchers report to spring training tomorrow and Ubaldo Jimenez is still searching for gainful employment. In fact Ervin Santana and A.J. Burnett are still looking as well.

Burnett probably isn’t coming to Cleveland. While he would be a great fit in terms of years, Burnett has a very specific list of teams he is looking at and it doesn’t seem like the Indians are on that list.

Santana isn’t coming to Cleveland either. The Indians are hesitant about spending on Ubaldo so there is no way they are going to spend on Santana when they have to give up a draft pick too.

Ubaldo JimenezThat only leaves Ubaldo. The Indians appear to be ready to head into Spring Training without signing another pitcher. It’s entirely possible that the Tribe front office is really planning on bring Ubaldo back, they just are waiting him out so they get the lowest price possible. It’s also entirely possible that the Indians just aren’t that concerned about bringing Ubaldo back and is more excited about the idea of an extra draft pick.

There are rumors that Ubaldo may consider waiting until after the June draft to sign. If a player who was given a qualifying offer waits until after the draft to sign the team that signs them will no longer have to give up a draft pick. (Nor will the team who gave the qualifying offer receive any compensation.) Obviously this would be the worst scenario for the Indians but June is a long way away. I still think the most likely scenario is that Ubaldo signs a short-term deal with the Indians to rebuild his value.

Noise on the North Coast – Feb. 3

By Jason Ruggiero.

Noise on the North Coast

With only eight days until pitchers and catchers are due to report in Goodyear there are still some big names on the free agent market. So let’s dig into another edition of Noise on the North Coast and see where things stand in the free agent market for starting pitchers.

 

The Waiting Game

In the second half of 2013 Ubaldo Jimenez had a 1.98 ERA and was certainly the best pitcher on the Indians. In fact, he was probably the best pitcher in baseball, but just a few days before players start reporting to Spring Training Jimenez still doesn’t have a job.

The first hold-up was Masahiro Tanaka, but he signed weeks ago. Now the hold-up seems to come down to one thing – money. I’m sure that the contracts Jimenez is being offered are not what he had in mind when he entered free agency. Those offers of course are tempered by the fact that teams who sign Jimenez will lose a draft pick and the bonus pool money that goes along with that pick. That means Jimenez has to decide if he wants to take a below-market deal with the Indians or someone else.

Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer hit on an interesting point over the weekend. We all know that since the Indians gave Jimenez a qualifying offer in November that they will earn a compensation draft pick if he signs elsewhere. But what if the Indians value that extra draft pick (and the bonus pool money that comes with it) more than they value Jimenez? It’s an interesting idea, especially when you consider the possibility of bringing Jimenez back on a one-year deal.

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

With just a few days before some teams report for Spring Training Ubaldo Jimenez is still un-employed.

Every offseason analysis of possible scenarios for Jimenez focused on the idea of minimizing risk and that’s understandable since Jimenez has been such an inconsistent pitcher. From that perspective, the Indians ability to possibly sign Jimenez to a one-year deal seemed like a great scenario for the Tribe – the highest level of risk protection. What writers failed to consider in that scenario is that the potential return from that deal was lowered as well. What if Jimenez signed for one year and had a poor year? If he performs poorly the Indians would be foolish to offer him a qualifying offer (for fear he would accept the offer) and would then lose a compensation pick (which is between the first and second round) for one year of poor performance.

The Indians front office is probably working hard to hedge against that situation. On a one-year contract the best hedge would be the lowest possible salary but that is still an un-even trade (one year of control versus six years of control of a late first-round pick). If I were in the Indians front office I would be working to sign Jimenez to a longer-term deal, something like three years, with a fairly low AAV each year and plenty of incentives. This would protect the Indians financially in case the deal backfires, push Jimenez to perform at an elite level and balance out the cost of losing a late first round pick.

Spring Training Invites

With just over a week until pitchers and catchers report I thought it would be a good time to list all of the new faces that will be joining the Tribe in the desert. FYI – Every player who is currently on the 40-man roster is invited to Spring Training. The list below are the additional players that have been invited.

Pitchers

David Aardsma, Scott Atchison, Travis Banwart, Matt Capps, Tyler Cloyd, Shaun Marcum, J.C. Ramirez, Mike Zagurski

Catchers

Luke Carlin, Jake Lowery, Matt Treanor, Tony Wolters

Infielders/DH

Jason Giambi, Elliot Johnson, Francisco Lindor, Ryan Rohlinger, Joey Wendle

Outfielders

Matt Carson, Jeff Francoeur, Nyjer Morgan, Tyler Naquin

 

Misc.

– Jose Ramirez is still about three weeks away from returning to baseball activities. He underwent surgery on his thumb this winter after suffering a thumb injury sliding into third base in a Dominican Winter Ball game.