Friday, December 29, 2006

Mark Mulder: and then there were three--St. Louis, Texas and Cleveland

Mark Mulder: The Dojo continues it's Mark Mulder coverage with a report from Paul Hoynes stating that it's down to three teams fighting for the services of one Mark Mulder, with the Indians a team already offering him what he wants, as I reported yesterday. You have to wonder about the other teams in the mix. You have St. Louis, and as Lake Erie Hope reported, and he lives in St. Louis, Mulder was something less than happy there last year. In Texas, you have a team that always seems to be patchwork...but has outbid Cleveland in the past, most recently, for Eric Gagne. Then you have the Indians, playing the waiting game on 2 guys that could put Cleveland near, or in my estimation, AT the top of the free agent period. I don't know who the favorite is, although there could be a bit of insight with this comment from Mulder's agent:
"Mark Shapiro does a great job selling what the Cleveland Indians have to offer," said Clifton. "I think he's in a good spot to get Mulder to come to Cleveland."
Hoynes went on a little bit more about what Clifton was talking about:
Over the last two years, the Indians' coaching and training staff have done a good job keeping their pitchers healthy and durable. The top five starters in 2005 made 158 of a possible 162 starts. Last year, despite having trouble with the No. 5 spot, the top four starters made 124 of 162 starts. The training staff has helped Kevin Millwood, Bob Howry, Bob Wickman and Scott Sauerbeck get back on the mound after injuries. "If you look at those numbers, they're pretty incredible," said Clifton.
So the table is set. But let's look at one part of what Clifton said a bit more closely. "I think he's in a good spot to get Mulder to come to Cleveland." Most are portraying this to be a good thing. I'm not sure I'm NOT, but when I first read that this morning, the first thing that popped into my head is, MORE MONEY. Now, I think the Tribe can gamble a bit on Mulder. He's that good if healthy. But you won't see Shapiro do anything stupid. I don't think St. Louis will either. He's a known commodity there, and I think they know exactly what they are getting (without seeing him pitch since the injury). Besides, St. Louis rarely makes stupid signings. Texas, on the other hand, could be the patron saints of idiotic signings. So they throw this up in the air.

If I'm a betting man, Texas gets him, in a deal that leaves us all shaking our heads. I hope I'm wrong.

Keith Foulke: No news as of yet on Foulke. I would be surprised if he doesn't sign with the Tribe. There are no indications of another team involved as of yet, but you just never know. Foulke is waiting, and I have to admit that it appears as though HE'S waiting for something better. Hopefully, it's just the physical. The Diatribe talked a bit about Foulke today, but in a rather entrepreneurial sense. It's a great idea, but one that ESPN would definately take advantage of. I'm not a big fan of ESPN these days, in particular their internet content. The Insider stuff makes me insane, more because what's in there seems to be not quite worth the money they want you to pay. I'm sure opinions vary on this, but check it out. It's a great idea, and I'd certainly use it if it ever happened.

Lake Erie Hope: I wanted to shout out to Lake Erie Hope. Over the past month, I've noticed that we agree more than not on many issues involving Ohio Sports, and even though he's on a quest to bring me back to the Browns fold, I still think his blog is one of the best. In particular, his post today about Mulder, and more particular, about what signing him means to the Indians in the Big Picture. Most of you know that I'm a firm believer that Mulder doesn't even have to pan out, but signing him, and/or getting him and his agent to make quotes like the one above are just as important to success as actual signings. So again, check out his blog, as it's impressive (and I'm liking the lack of team colors for the blog...and thinking of a change here because of it). Apparently I'm not alone in thinking Lake Erie Hope has something worthwhile to say. In going through my blog walk today, I checked out the Plain Dealer's Tribe Tracker, by Joey Morona, and what did my blinking eyes see?
But I got an email from a Tribe fan in St. Louis who did some digging on David Dellucci. Some of you may recall I wrote that David Dellucci is another platoon player, in my opinion Jason Michaels with a little more pop. Anyway, here's a different perspective from said Tribe fan, who sees Dellucci as a solid, every day asset.
Congrats on the mention bro...well deserved. I've moved you up to Friends of the Dojo. And hey, for a small fee, I'll "say" I'm a Browns fan ;).

More later today, or as soon as I get rid of this "POJO flu" that has taken over over the past 24 hours.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Indians Still THE favorite for Foulke--Offer Made to Mulder

Yesterday, the Cleveland Indians offical website confirmed what we already knew, Keith Foulke had made the Tribe the "favorites" in the race for his services. It appears as though the Tribe are getting Foulke at the right time. He is obviously fairly confident in what he can do THIS season, as he seems to be passing on other, multi-year deals, for the Tribe deal for 2007, with a mutual option for 2008.
Horwits said Foulke is intrigued by the Indians because he views them as a club capable of a playoff run. The reliever is more interested in a one-year deal than a multi-year one. "He prefers to have some flexibility after '07," Horwits said.
He apparently wants to use this season to set his value for next season. That can only be a good thing for the Tribe. The only worry yesterday was that there are still other clubs involved. Any time you have a deal that is apparently done, and there's a bunch of waiting involved, it can't be a good thing in most cases. As always, you ponder all those players in the past that have used Cleveland to up their value across the league.

The Plain Dealer, however, answered all of these questions for us today.
The deal is contingent on Foulke's physical exam - which he is yet to take - and the Indians determining the amount of risk and dollars they're willing to invest in him. Foulke, 34, had knee, right elbow and back problems the last two seasons with Boston.
Again, it appears as thought the deal is done, as was Dellucci's, and we're just waiting for the physical. Considering Foulke's end of the season last year, I doubt there will be any issues with the doctors. The deal won't be official until Monday or Tuesday of next week, once Foulke makes it into town to take his physical with his team. The New Year could be a role player in all of this, so don't be surprised if it doesn't happen until Wednesday.

In the same Plain Dealer article, it makes note that the Indians have officially offered Mark Mulder a 2 year deal.
Shapiro is waiting to hear from Greg Clifton, agent for Mark Mulder. The injured left-hander should be close to making a decision on which team he'll sign with. It's believed the Indians have offered Mulder, who has a career record of 103-57, a two-year deal. He's recovering from surgery on his left shoulder and probably won't be able to make more than 25 starts this season. Arizona, Texas, St. Louis and San Diego are also interested in Mulder. The Indians are using their good reputation for rehabbing pitchers and sending them on their way to bigger and better things in negotiations. If they signed Mulder, and he returned to past form, it would allow Shapiro to consider trading a starting pitcher. Jake Westbrook is eligible for free agency after the 2007 season, but the Indians may approach him about a new deal before opening day.
I know there are questions about Mulder, but when you see he's only 29, and has 50 more wins than losses, you can do nothing but hope they sign him. I keep thinking back to Kevin Millwood, and thinking the season he had here. Mulder is twice the pitcher as Millwood, the only question is health. Many say he can be trouble in the clubhouse, but I keep trying to explain to most that when you are as good as Mulder is, and you are having arm trouble, losing velocity and control, and you are a competitor, it's hard to not only admit your arm is hurting, but I'm sure it can play havoc with your psyche. I think what you'll get from Mulder once he's healthy is nothing but fantastic. Again, Mulder, if he signs with the Tribe, will be looking towards next year as being his statement year. With his pal Zito scoring 126 million, you know Mulder has a BUNCH of reasons to come back healthy. Imagine a healthy Mulder and Sabatia at the top of this rotation. YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT A WORLD SERIES ROTATION? It's a good gamble, and I hope we get him.

As far as Jake Westbrook goes, my hope is that he's staying as well. If Mulder pans out, Westbrook would be the only righty in the starting rotation. He is the perfect pitcher to place in between CC and Mulder. Even without Mulder, Westbrook is a certifiable #2/#3 pitcher. He does nothing but good for your team. I would prefer Cliff Lee to be the trade bait if Mulder pans out, because I think when you have a towering young lefty with good big league experience, you can get a ton for him at the deadline. Then, you look towards next year, if all pans out, you have CC, MM, JW, Jeremy Sowers and perhaps Carmona or Miller or someone we haven't seen. Without Mulder, you keep Lee of course, but signing Westbrook becomes a top priority. IMO, you do it now. With that being said, I found this on Matt Cerrone's Metsblog. With Zito gone, the Mets are absolutely starving for a starter. This could mean a couple of things.

1. Mulder's $$$$ just went up.


2. Mulder signing with the Indians would make Lee and Westbrook, or even Paul Byrd EXTREMELY valuable to the Mets. (I'm getting these visions of Milledge and Pelphrey)

I don't think the Foulke signing ends our moves. As a matter of fact, it may just extend them.

Look folks, BELIEVE THIS, the Indians are players again. Shapiro has found a niche in all this insanity. He signs his minor league products long term, and uses them as a foundation. Since Cleveland is one of the best developers of talent, this works. He goes after pitchers with a fantastic sales pitch. Come here and give us a year or two. We'll win, and you can go somewhere else and make more afterwards. No, it's not signing guys to 4 and 5 year deals, and insuring an INDIAN DYNASTY, but if you become THE team, guys will start saying, "call the Indians." It's masterful. We don't know if it will pay off this year, but again, I'm going to ask you all one question.

Name a team that addressed all it's needs, potentially got a surplus of players, and didn't break the budget to do it? Quit selling yourselves on the name players. They haven't been banking in Cleveland since...well...NEVER! Don't expect it to start now, with the ownership that we have. Just thank your lucky stars that John Hart set up this team with solid successors. Shapiro is the best in the business. It scares me to think of what he could do with a bankroll.

So the waiting game continues. Hopefully, I haven't made all these Foulke and Mulder posts for nothing.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Following Foulke and other Cleveland Indians Musings

While I was focusing on Mark Mulder, it appears as though the Indians were using that to smokescreen a bigger fish (at least in the eyes of the fans). It was first reported by the Boston Globe, that Cleveland and Foulke were set for a deal. It was even reported that the deal would be made on Friday. Of course, in this day and age, as Tribe fans, you know what that deal as of yet. But the story wouldn't die, and has grown, in fact. My good friends over at Lake Erie Hope had some good analysis of what Foulke could mean to Cleveland, and how good he was in the past. I'll get to his commentary in a moment. Later that same day, FOX Sports went a step further on the potential Foulke deal, and perhaps a more realistic approach when saying that the deal wouldn't happen until after Christmas. It does appear that Foulke is going to sign, as I took this as a good signal that a deal was imminent:
Free-agent right-hander Keith Foulke is leaning toward signing with Cleveland, though a deal likely will not be completed until after Christmas, has learned. Foulke, 34, received multi-year offers, according to a source, but he is expected to sign a one-year contract with the Indians, possibly with a player or mutual option. His agent, Dan Horwits, has informed other interested clubs that Foulke is close to a deal, and that they should pursue other options.
The Plain Dealer quickly followed suit with articles yesterday and today. The bottom line with both articles are that it won't happen until Tuesday at the earliest, and that Cleveland considered Foulke the healthiest of all the closers they have looked at. In particular, what stands out to me, is that Foulke closed September with nearly 12 innings of allowing no runs. It seems as though Foulke, in the right situtation, could gain some of that old fire. Remember, in 2003 and 2004, he was one of the best closers in all of baseball. The Chronicle-Telegram has another recap of the potential deal.

After reading Lake Erie Hope's article involving the matter, I decided to look into it a bit more. I like Foulke, and always have, but didn't like his attitude, which is why I put him down on the list behind Gagne. He started a bitch-fest last year when Papelbon beat him out as closer with the fans and management that was just painful to watch. But the big comments to me were when he went off about how he just played for the money. It still gives me pause. As far as the injury issues go with Foulke, he DID have knee issues in 2005, as Lake Erie Hope reported, but he missed a good chunk of last season with Arm Tendinitis. So he has had a history of arm issues, although not severe. And I do believe that the injury issues are behind him. I do, though, keep looking back at the attitude, and can't help but think back to Matty Williams, who also wanted to play in Arizonato be closer to his family. He showed Cleveland fans that when you have the desire to do well, and are treated fairly, that you can have a mutual benefit. Matt had a fantastic year with Cleveland, and the Tribe payed it all off by dealing him to Arizona for Fryman.

Foulke's heart may not be in Cleveland, and that worries me a bit. Why? Well, in a positive sense, Foulke comes here with a 1 year deal, performs out of this world, wins the closer job, and all is well. But what happens if his competition doesn't sit well with him? What happens if Foulke is the 8th inning guy instead of the 9th inning guy? Combine that with being ultimately unhappy he had to sign with Cleveland, and you could have some clubhouse issues. Hopefully, Foulke, like Matt Williams before him, will realize the mutual benefit to shutting his piehole, and doing whatever it takes to help this team win. If this happens, with both Borowski and Foulke at the back end of this staff...things couldn't look any better.

Imagine this bullpen...healthy:


you would probably have to include another lefty in there, with Davis or Cabrera out of the picture, but you never know.

All in all, I like the fact that Cleveland is potentially going to sign Foulke, and the best part about it is that there appear to be better offers on the table. Like I said, mutual benefits could make Foulke one of the best, and make Borowski better as well. He's always appeared

Keep your fingers crossed, and let's hope we get a new year present.

And one final note before I move on. Mark Shapiro has been masterful this offseason. I know there will be some disagreement on this, but you have to look at the overall picture. How many GM offices have haphazardly been throwing money at players without much thought? How many GM offices do you picture to be in utter chaos, either because of to much money...or nothing being done. So close your eyes, and picture both of those types of front offices. Picture Chicago (both) and Boston. Picture Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. Picture Tampa Bay and Texas. Now picture Cleveland. It's been systematic. Fix the bullpen. Check (at least on paper). Fix left field. Check (at least on paper...and enough about Delucci and platooning and whatever else, Dellucci was a great signing, and cheap. More bang for the buck for sure). Fix 2nd base. Check. Now they are still in play for Mulder, and the Foulke signing isn't going to HURT that. Not only may Cleveland have shored up all their holes, but they just may end up with spare parts that will either help them directly by July, or help them by allowing a deal. Of course, you never know until the team takes the field, but either way, Shapiro has done a masterful job.

Let's all hope it pays off.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Path To Goodyear, Arizona/ More Mark Mulder News

I haven't posted in a couple of days, so just a few quick hits on the Spring Training move to Arizona in 2009, and the possibility of signing Mulder.

Let's start on December 20th, with the Akron Beacon Journal's article on both Glendale (Dodgers and White Sox new home?) and Goodyear (Tribe's new Home?) that let everyone know that the money was there for BOTH cities (it was originally reported that it was going to be only one or the other, with various rumors having LA and Cleveland potentially rollin' together, and even having Cleveland returning to Tuscon). Of course, being typical Cleveland writing, the article doesn't set it in stone, saying there are many kinks to work out before it happens.

The Plain Dealer also has a bit more detail on the possible move to Tuscon, talking a bit more about the possibility of moving, how Arizona is still looking for a 2nd team for Goodyear, and how the Dolans think this is a "good, good, sign." The interesting piece in this article is how it could HELP in signing players. I don't disagree with this, but if a player signs with another because of SPRING TRAINING locations...I mean...are you kidding me? Every little bit of help I suppose. They do even allude to the fact that Texas plays in Arizona...and may have been a reason for Gagne's choice of Texas.

The Dallas Morning News had a bit on the Indians and Mark Mulder, with a little more detail. The article is more about Texas making offers and counteroffers, but the intriguing piece is:
Clifton said the Indians and Cardinals have stepped up their interest lately, with back-and-forth proposals and plenty of dialogue.
It appears as though Texas, St. Louis, Cleveland and Arizona are all in the mix. I also wanted to take note about a couple of things. I've been in some interesting banter the past few days with fellow fans about who I'd rather have, Mulder or Westbrook. Who should they throw the money at. Well, I think they can get Mulder for 2 years (really 1 full year after rehab)at a bargain. If he becomes the Mulder of old, Westbrook can't touch that. AND, if this year's any indication, I don't know that I'd pay Jake the kind of money someone else will throw at him. Who's more of a sure thing? Westbrook for sure. But signing Mulder really shouldn't have a bearing on whether they sign Westbrook. Mulder would be a good signing. Not only for his potential ceiling, but for the message it sends to the league. Free Agents want to play here, Cleveland will outbid others to get them, and Cleveland will take a chance. PR is half the battle.

Back to Arizona. Yesterday's PD had another article on the potential move to Arizona, and how Thursday was the day that the Goodyear City Council, and the Arizona Sports and Tourism authority would vote on whether or not they would grant 30 million dollars to the building of facilities for the Tribe to begin playing in in 2009. This article is fantastic in that it lists what is potentially going to be IN this complex. It ACTUALLY DOES look like this deal could help the Indians sign free agents. Potential pieces of the complex?:
  1. It's a year-round facility. Players that live in the area can obviously work out during the offseason, as well as allow those same players to rehab during the regular season. Awesome stuff really.
  2. The facility, particularly the stadium, will be the focal point of a community development project involving retail and residential properties.
  3. A combined big-league and minor-league clubhouse. The building would include administrative offices, weight room and classrooms.
  4. Two half fields for infield practice
  5. One Agility Field
  6. Six practice fields, two for the big-league club, four for the minor leaguers
  7. A 10,000 seat stadium

The folks that built Petco Park for San Diego would be building this facility, if it passes.

And finally, Sportsline is reporting that it's a done deal after today's vote. There really is another hurdle in this deal, as it's yet to be approved with words that are specific to Cleveland, but that should only be a formality. Folks we have a new home for Spring Ball, and, apparently, this is really going to be some kind of Cathedral.

For future reference folks, I have an interesting article tomorrow on Joe Dimaggio, as well as some weekend talk. I'm also kicking of my real OSU vs florida National Championship coverage this weekend. And why not start with the OSU vs. Florida hoops game to start it all off.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mark Mulder a Step Closer to Cleveland?

Before I get to Mulder, there is a bunch of other Tribe news to report.
  • Let's get started with an interesting article on Minor League Ball, in which John Sickels ranks Cleveland's prospects. It's an interesting take on where some of their players stack up, with Adam Miller, of course, right at the top. The rest of the list isn't necesarily how I would rank the Tribe's minors, but what the hell do I know. Take a look for yourself, and Sickels does offer us all up a chance to change his mind.

  • It looks like Cleveland may be able to move to Arizona afterall. The Tribe's official site is claiming that Arizona is prepared to come up with enough money to take both LA and the Tribe in both Glendale and Goodyear respectively. As a baseball fan, this is a good thing in a sense that the old bastards in Winter Springs treat the Tribe like a daylong prostate examination. As a Tribe fan, this sucks for be, because it's easier for me to get to Florida. I've been secretly hoping that it would fall through. Such is life.

  • If you scroll down, in the same article, there's more talk on Mark Mulder. As I said early last week, and again on Sunday, Cleveland is becoming a more prominent player in the Mulder game every day. If you really don't remember or know much about Mulder, let me fill in the holes for you. Mulder's rookie year was 2000, and he went 9-10. Then followed with seasons of 21-8, 19-7, 15-9, 17-8 and 16-8. Last year was marred by the cuff injury, which effected his velocity, and allowed him to pitch only for half the season. Overall, Mulder is 103 and 57, with a 4.11 ERA. The issues with Mulder are many, but the risks are good. If his surgery is successful, he could be back by June, strength up by September, and ready for a full season next year. If he doesn't recover, well, Mulder is believed to be looking only for a 2 year deal. As the Diatribe noted, it would give Cleveland 4 lefties if he comes back healthy in Sowers, CC, Mulder and Cliff Lee. As the DOJO noted, it would seemingly give the Tribe some trade power at just the right time. But lets face facts here. Even if Mulder comes back in June, recovery from this surgery generally takes 2 years. I don't think Mulder will open up the potential for a deal period. If it does, the Diatribe makes a good case to get rid of Cliff Lee. Yes, that would be the CORRECT thing to do. Problem though is that I don't think Cleveland will be able to sign Westbrook. He would be the logical deal, or Paul Byrd...or both. Of course, that would leave 4 lefties as starters. I don't see a deal this year though, that is BECAUSE of a potential Mulder signing. I just don't see him being effective until September at the earliest. To me, signing Mulder gives Cleveland a 1-year window NEXT year to either long term Mulder, or find another after Westbrook leaves. Whatever the future holds in this move, at least it gives us something to talk about.

  • If you haven't checked out THE DIATRIBE, they have a clearer view on the Gagne dealings. It looks like it was just the weather, and that the offers were nearly identical. Ah well, maybe Gagne is another Rocker.

You know, when it's all said and done, at least it's been an interesting off season.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Tribe after Mulder?

Well, we've been focused on relievers, and power hitting outfielders. In the meantime, Mark Shapiro has been calling pitcher about the possibility of playing in Cleveland. Mulder is an experiment for sure. He's coming off an injury plagued season, was shut down, and he had shoulder surgery. The BIG question with Mulder is when will he start playing. Some are saying in late July, Mulder says a bit earlier than that.

The bottom line right now is location for Mulder. He won't say more than that, so your guess is as good as mine. Does that mean he wants to play in a location that has nice weather? Does that mean he wants to play in a location that has a chance to win? Does that mean he wants to play in a location where he feels wanted? I'm not sure where Cleveland settles in in any of those locations, but I'm pretty sure that this news is just Shapiro keeping the doors open on EVERYONE.

Mulder could certainly help, and open up the door around the trade deadline to deal a Paul Byrd, or even one of your younger pitchers if you needed a part. Other than that, he's not a high need, and will command a pretty high salary. With that being said, Mulder is ONLY looking for a 2 year deal so that he can get the arm healthy, and have a year and a half to play for his next contract. Cleveland has done this before (Aaron Boone) and could do it again.

I'm not a huge fan of Mulder because of the arm situation, but if you can get him for a 2 year, 12 million dollar deal or so, you take the risk. At most, you get a #1 guy cheap.

So watch the waiver wire. I'm sure we'll see Texas, San Francisco or St. Louis signing him over the next few days. But you just never know.

One last thing about the Tribe: I've noticed that several other teams have been making small deals for relievers. Brendan Donnelly from Anaheim went to Boston. Boston gets a former all-star who really had a good season, in particular after the break. Donnelly was 6-0 with a 3.94 ERA in 62 games last season, going 5-0 with a 3.52 ERA in 29 games after the All-Star break and holding opponents scoreless in 19 of his last 21 appearances. He was 23-8 with a 2.87 ERA and four saves in 276 appearances with the Angels. Not to shabby, and the Sox only gave up some 27 year old lefty out of their minors. Andrew Sisco was dealt to the Chicago White Sox for a backup first basemen. Sisco's numbers sucked last year, but he's not yet 24, is 6'10", had a good rookie year, and can project as a starter.

In the meantime, Cleveland has really done nothing since the signing of the three arms. The longer this goes on, the more I'm convinced that Cleveland needs one more guy at the back end of the rotation just as insurance. Perhaps they are waiting for the talks to blow up with Mike Gonzalez between the Yanks and the Braves. Perhaps they are cooking up something for Shields. I'm not sure, but I do hope that something is done. With the Angels trading away Donnelly, Shields is probably officially off the market. What will happen? Maybe nothing, or maybe a young guy DOES step up. Who knows, but Shapiro needs one more move. We'll see if he does it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Cleveland Indians--The GLASS ISN'T HALF EMPTY, it's half full

I've absolutely had it with the games about this team. For crying out loud people, WAKE THE HELL UP! It's blatantly obvious to me that most people have lost their sense of reality when it comes to the Indians, Major League baseball, and free agent signings.

Perhaps you have watched to much ESPN, which pretty much believes baseball begins and ends with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

You may be the same crew that thinks that the new collective bargaining agreement being signed with no stoppage (while again avoiding a hard cap) is a good thing. the Dojo, stop drinking the Kool-Aid, and start living in the reality.

Here's the real deal.

1. Get off the horse with free agent and tradable "superstars." Most Tribe fans that are frustrated by the Indians signings and trades this year are the same fans that think the Indians SHOULD have traded for the likes of Gary Sheffield or Manny Ramirez. Or, perhaps signed the likes of Moises Alou, JD Drew, Nomar Garciaparra, Carlos Lee, Alfonso Soriano or well...THAT'S IT FOR PRIMO, NON-PITCHING FREE AGENTS, or folks on the block. So, are you really that upset that the Tigers got Sheffield for a bunch of good young talent? Really? Am I the only one that remembers that Sheffield misses more and more time every year, isn't getting any younger and is trouble with a T in the clubhouse? I'm not. The best thing the Tribe didn't do was trade for this guy, and EXTEND his contract. Manny? I would love to have him, but there aren't but 2 or 3 guys I'd deal my TOP 3 prospect for. If Manny were 5 years younger...I'd throw his name in there for that price. He's not, and I wouldn't. Listen carefully...both of those guys would be solid aditions, but you don't trade away half your farm team for them. Moises Alou? He's 40 years old and injury prone. Sure, you get this guy for small money, and Cleveland did presumably make the highest bid for him, but I'm glad we didn't get him. JD Drew and Nomar are both fantastic players. Now all those that think they will be healthy for 160...150...140...130 games next year raise your hand. You...over there...with your hand you know anything about the game? The topper? Nomah signed for 2 years at 9.5 million a year. Again, a big gamble for a great player...but there's NO WAY you get the total value for that deal. Drew was even more confounding, as he signed a 5 year deal at 14 million a year. I can't even comment on that. The deal is ridiculous, and again, I'm glad Cleveland didn't attempt at swinging something that big. Lee and Alfonso are both fantastic offensive players, and I wanted Cleveland to go after BOTH. Reality? Alfonso signed AN 8 YEAR FREAKIN' DEAL AT 17 MILLION A FREAKIN' YEAR! Sorry...I nearly passed out at the ridculousness of that deal, especially when you consider Soriano is 30 years old. So those that are hoping Cleveland signs a Grade A prospect, the picking were slim, and the spenders were idiots.

2. CLEVELAND SHOULD HAVE SIGNED BETTER RELIEF PITCHERS, AND GOTTEN A CLOSER! Oh shut up. Here were your prospects this year...not all...but ones you heard about. Danys Baez, Octavio Dotel, Keith Foulke, Eric Gagne, and...well...who CARES! Are you saying you want Baez at 6 and a quarter million? Didn't we already do that and hate it? Dotel, as intriguing as he is, has arm issues and is 33 on top of it. Gagne is a gamble and signed for a 6 million dollar deal. Justin Speier went with a 4 year deal at over 4 million a year, which is ridiculous. Jamie Walker rolled with a 3 year, 12 million dollar deal. Again, for a 33 year old reliever? Not exactly a bumper crop here. Cleveland got arms that potentially are as good or better, and more than likely, if all things are even, ARE better. And they were signed for 1 year with an option. Sorry, but the relief pitching EVERY year looks not much better than this, AND YOU DON'T SPEND A LOT OF MONEY ON RELIEF PITCHERS UNLESS YOU HAVE LOCKS. You name for me a lock in this year's "bumper crop," and your sanity gets immediately questioned.

So you look at the Indians' moves closer. You get Delucci as a platoon with Jason Michaels, and what you get is a lot of bitching about platoons. Give me a break. No, you don't wake up and say, "Hey, I want a platoon in left or right field." But, if you can sign a solid, if not spectacular platoon player for 6-12 million a year less than the showboats (with questions), and you have a viable platoon partner already, you do it. Why? Dellucci and Michaels WILL produce. No, they aren't going to combine to put up Manny numbers. But CAN they produce numbers that put them in the top 25% at their position? You bet they can. Michaels will produce better with his new OF mate, and Dellucci has always been solid and scrappy. It also can buy you time, say, until the trade deadline when BETTER players become available that you couldn't foresee at the beginning of the year. Then, YOU HAVEN'T WASTED valuable resources in dealing for aged players like Sheffield or Manny. You even have a chance at a bargain.

You get Aaron Fultz, Roberto Hernandez and Joe Borowski, at a measly 12 million dollars. The best part about these guys is that they are equal to most of the names you see that signed much larger deals. Are their risks? You say yes, and I say no. There's no way all these guys falter, and they are all easy to cut and run from with their 1 year deals. If they go off, you have them at a deal the following year. The best part about it all is that you still have commanding young arms that are sitting there ready to perform. Sure, there are questions there, but they WILL improve. You have Rafael Bettancourt, who gave up 2 Earned runs in his last 13 games, 16.1 innings. His ERA dropped from 4.91 to 3.81. He was as good as you could get. That included 15 K's, and 3 saves. He goes through stretches of brilliance. You have Fernando Cabrera, who I still think is a stud in waiting. His season was messy, but he had two stretches of near brilliance last year that go lost in starting his season with 6 ER's. You have a wildcard in Fausta Carmona, who's looking at being a starter this year. Still, I think we all agree that he has talent, and if he doesn't make the rotation, and isn't in Buffalo, will be in long relief. In relief, from May 20th until July 25th, he was one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, giving up 3 ER's in 28.1 innings. He had 26 K's. Then came the closer experiment...and the blow up. No, he's not a closer, but he COULD be a deadly set-up guy. This is just a start. My belief is that most of these guys will step up?

Why? There's options there. They won't be the focus with the three new guys. And hell, they can't get much worse.

Yes folks, the Tribe has holes, AND PROBABLY WILL HAVE HOLES EVERY FREAKIN' YEAR! Is it possible that this will happen every year? Yes. Cleveland can't roll with a Red Sox or Yankee payroll, and they never will. Good. But, this team is essentially signed up for the next 5 to 6 years, and has the flexibility to sign the important pieces. When you HAVE viable options to sign long term in free agency, you do it. Can they sign a grade A free agent? I believe they can and they will. However, you don't just sign a name to 15 million a year because he's a name. If you pay the guy that kind of money, you make damn sure he's got at least a 50% chance of playing every year, and that he's not going to end up 64 at the end of the deal.

Don't be stupid, and spend 300 million dollars for marginal players overall. Don't be stupid and spend 100 million dollars on players that have never stepped foot on American turf.

Be smart, bide your time, because THIS team isn't that far off.

I could talk about Peralta, and how we have apparently forgotten what he's done every year in his pro career EXCEPT last year (it's really amazing when you think about it). Yeah, he played like dogshit, but are we THAT SURE THAT HE'S CARLOS BAERGA and not Jhonny Peralta? You may be, but I'm not. Andy Marte has a good glove, and should provide good pop. BELIEVE IN RYAN GARKO! I can't stand Casey Blake being in this lineup...but it could be worse. Sizemore is fantastic. VMart is a great offensive catcher. Sure, his arm isn't great, but DO WE HAVE HIM FOR HIS DEFENSIVE PROWESS? That is ridiculous. Barfield was a fantastic signing, and he's improving. I don't have to mention Sizemore. He's a stud, and top 5 in the league. Choo? Obvious questions there, but we'll see what happens.

I do think Cleveland could use a couple more sticks to that outfield. Perhaps you go out and make an offer to Aubrey Huff if you can get him cheap. Here's a guy that can play 1B, 3B and all the outfield positions. Maybe you take a flyer on Darin Erstad as a stopgap for his flex. Maybe you have a deal left somewhere with all the young talent you still have.

I don't know, but either way, stop looking at the glass half empty...

because it isn't.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Eric "Gone"ge

Eric Gagne signed yesterday with the Texas Rangers for 1 year and 6 million dollars. He has the potential to make another 5 million dollars in incentives.

If you read my blog a couple of nights ago, you heard me talk about the bonuses of signing former relief stud Eric Gagne. You also caught my thoughts that the Tribe was being used by Gagne in the same way that many other teams has used the Indians to garner a slightly larger contract from someone else. I don't know if this is what happened, or if Gagne just didn't want to play in the Cleveland market. I don't know the details, and really don't care. I just know that Gagne is gonzo.

I won't lie to you, I wanted him on this club. I really don't think that he's going to be the pitcher he was 3 years ago. With that being said, I will miss the POTENTIAL of having a healthy Gagne closing games for Cleveland. The Gagne of three years ago makes THIS team and THIS group of closers both one of the toughest in the league. With him, there would still be questions. Obviously, without him, there are more question.

With all of that said, Cleveland's bullpen IS improved. Sure, there are tons of questions, but what bullpen DOESN'T HAVE QUESTIONS? Which bullpen goes through a year without turnover, or a year without ups and downs.

Now, the minute that the Gagne signing went through the pipe, I immediately started seeing the Foulke rumors crop back up. Personally, this would be another good signing for Cleveland. But, the bottom line with Foulke is that he DOESN'T seem to want to play in Cleveland. His heart lies in Arizona, for many of the same reasons that Matt Williams was dealt a few years ago. Of course, if you can convice Foulke to sign with Cleveland for a year as their closer, you sign him. If, however, he comes to Cleveland with anything less than 100% commitment, you let him go.

Aside from Foulke, there really isn't another guy out there free agent wise that you look at. There are options, but not good ones.

Of course, there are still trade options. The real question here? Does Cleveland NEED those options, or is the pen ready to go, as is. Either way? You have a lot more to work with than you did last year.

Here's hoping that it pays off.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The REAL DEAL on Eric Gagne; The Outsiders view on the Winter Meetings

Tribe's future closer?
The WAIT on Eric Gagne: So I've been asking myself about Gagne and what's taking him so long to make a decision. It was reported on Thursday that Gagne was going to make a decision between Boston, Texas and your friendly, neighborhood Cleveland Indians. On Friday, it was reported that Gagne was going to make a decision between Cleveland and Texas, as Boston had fallen out of contention, only offering him 4 million guaranteed, whil Cleveland and Texas offered upwards of 6 million guaranteed. All were one year deals. It was later reported on Friday that Gagne would make his decision on Friday or Saturday. It's Monday, and still no news. So I asked myself why. Today, I noticed that a report said that Gagne was mulling over offers from Texas, Cleveland AND San Francisco. WHAT? San Francisco? Where did THEY come from? My best take on this is that Gagne is doing what free agents typically do with offers from Cleveland. He's using it to drum up offers from teams he REALLY wants to play for. If San Francisco offered him the up-front 6 million, you'd have to believe they would have the edge because of the National League, and NL West tie-ins. I don't know that this is true, or that San Francisco is really involved. What I DO know is that we are three days past his supposed decision, with still no decision, a new team is "rumored" into the mix, and there seems to be an all-familiar theme to all this. We don't need Eric Gagne, and he is a gamble at best with his history over the past two years.

With that being said, imagine the Indians, with a healthy Eric Gagne. You know the deal. 3 years ago, he was still in the middle of his reign of dominance as the best closer in baseball. He's only 30 years old, and certainly, if healthy, COULD return to that form. It's tantalizing to think about Cleveland with Roberto Hernandez and Joe Borowski as your set-up men, and a healthy Eric Gagne as your closer. This is without mentioning a roster full of young, up and coming Indians' relief pitchers.

Of course, as tantalizing as it is to think about all this, you do have to keep in mind the recent past history. It is highly likely that Gagne will end up in another city. I hope I'm wrong.

OUTSIDERS say YES to Cleveland: Sometimes it's good to gain perspective on the Indians off-season moves. The POJO Dojo will be the first one to tell you that I think the moves were good ones. I'm NOT saying that they will all pan out, but I do believe Shapiro is making the moves he CAN make, and not OVERspending on gambles like others are doing. In fact, it's a minor miracle that Shapiro was able to spend so little, for comparable relievers, as others spent so much for. The caveat is that the deals are only for a year, but with a CLUB option. If the moves blow up in Shapiro's face, Cleveland can put out the fires quickly. If the moves pan out, we have a two year window. You just can't lose, short or long term with these deals. I haven't even mentioned David Dellucci, who I think was a major steal. Of course, he's not a "name," so there are many critics.

On the other side of the coin, in many Indians blogs, is that Cleveland is stuck buying low-tier talent, while the Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs and Dodgers of the world are busy signing high profile prospects for much more money. This is undoubtedly true to a point. We needed a big stick in the outfield, and got Dellucci, instead of spending 100 million for Carlos Lee, or JD Drew. This, coming off of Shapiro nearly admitting that his hands were tied over the past years. This, coming off of several years of watching Larry Dolan keeping his hands in his pockets. It's easy to get down on signing Aaron Fultz instead of Jason Schmidt.

Today, I happened on an article from the Yankees YES Network. In the article, Jonah Keri talks about the winners thusfar of the Hot Stove offseason improvements. Sure enough, buried among the Yankees and Mets discussion, are our very own Cleveland Indians.
Cleveland Indians
Is Mark Shapiro the best general manager in the game? It's entirely possible, as he, along with brilliant assistant GM Chris Antonetti and a staff stuffed with great baseball people continues to collect good players at bargain prices. David Dellucci profiles like a poor man's J.D. Drew, a lefty bat with power and patience who can be a big asset if platooned with an effective right-handed hitter. Getting Dellucci for three years at less than $4 million per was a major league coup - and cost the Indians $58 million less than the Red Sox paid for Drew. The Barfield trade gives the Tribe an able second baseman to replace Ron Belliard and possibly a star down the road.

Joe Borowski, Roberto Hernandez and Aaron Fultz are nothing special — but neither are a bunch of other relievers who went for millions more this winter. The three veteran pitchers will augment a bullpen that includes a number of talented but erratic young arms, including Fernando Cabrera, Tom Mastny and Jason Davis.

Give the Indians credit for being one of the teams already well equipped for 2007, by dint of a productive farm system and a number of clever deals. The rotation is deep, with C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook, Jeremy Sowers and Paul Byrd. The lineup includes an array of talented players with upside, including Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, Andy Marte and Ryan Garko. Their best player, Travis Hafner, was acquired for Einar Diaz. 'Nuff said.
For one, it's good to see others see Mark Shapiro for what he is, probably the best GM in the game, and that Einar Diaz move is a case in point (let it be known that he stole Pronk from his mentor, John Hart). This year, is a case in point. He's making moves for players, and in many cases, equal players as other teams, at a $50 million dollar discount.

I suppose the real question here is, What were the Indians in the market for? The bottom line was bullpen. And the Tribe answered the call. They needed an answer in the outfield, and got one. I wondered a bit, when it was all said and done, what the Indians would have done had the bullpen been sound. My answer? More than likely, Shapiro would have gotten a higher profile name...and more than likely, at a deal slightly less than current market. No, Cleveland can pull a Cubs and their 300 million dollars spending spree. But, they sure as hell will contend...before the 300 million dollar Men.

Now, when do I get scared that the Yankee network knows about Shapiro and Antonelli?

The Boston Red Sox and Daisuke Matsuzaka: On Thursday, the Red Sox officially run out of time on signing Matsuzaka. What does that mean? Unfortunately, Boston would be reimbursed their $51 million. That's to bad. It would be a fantastic lesson to the Red Sox and Yankees on spending money (who am I kidding, as long as Selig is commisioner, they'll just keep spending). I truly hope that Boston doesn't get this kid. It would just let me know that there is some kind of cosmic Karma. Of course, the only karma I'll get out of this is knowing that I posted this today, which ultimately means that he'll sign with Boston tomorrow.

Oh, and if you are wondering...why the Pirates suck? Cleveland inquired about Mike Gonzalez, the Pirates closer. Now, I do want to preface this by saying that I think Gonzalez is a premier closer when healthy, and only 28 years old. With that being said, Pittsburgh and Dave Littlefield agreed to dealing him, if only Cleveland would part with Victor Martinez so they could move him to first base. Yeah, that's it Pittsburgh, we'll deal you the best offensive catcher in baseball, for a closer. You know, it's hard to see why Cleveland didn't counter Only a freakin' quarter!offer, although I'd be willing to bet that Shapiro hung up the phone in record time. Thank god our GM is Shapiro, and not Littlefield. You put Dolan and Littlefield together, and what you get is something reminiscent of damn slow coming out, and damned painful to sit through.

WAX Pack anyone? Cleveland was voted the best organization in baseball by TOPPS, the baseball company. Yes, it's an incredible honor. The real question?

Does this mean we'll be able to get that 20 year old gum they used to put in their baseball wax packs? There's nothing like ending your day, your post, and perhaps your life by chewing 30 year old gum that crumbles in your mouth like powder.

See you Tomorrow....

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Breaking News: Cleveland signs Closer Joe Borowski, and certify deal for David Dellucci

Borowsk the new Tribe closerAs reported by ESPN, Joe Borowski is officially a Cleveland Indian after sufficiently passing his physical. The new deal will pay Borowski 4 million for one year, with a club option for a second. It is a similar deal that Roberto Hernandez and Aaron Fultz signed earlier this week. ESPN reported that
The Indians had their doctors examine the 35-year-old Tuesday, and apparently felt Borowski was worth taking a chance on.
You almost get the impression that the Tribe was going to sign him at 4 million in any scenario that didn't involve Borowski's arm falling off. Dellucci's was a done deal a long time ago. Cleveland just needed the formality of a physical.

So what does this mean?

The negatives of the deal are obvious. Borowski has been injury prone in his career, and at 35, I don't know that this is going to improve. In his breakout year, in 2003, with the Cubs, he was very good. He recorded 33 Saves with a 2.63 ERA. He had 66 K's in 68 innings. In 2004, he just wasn't right, recording an 8.00+ ERA in 20 innings before going down with a partially torn rotator cuff. After missing most of the next 2 seasons, Borowski came back last year with 36 saves, and a 3.82 ERA. Of course, he complained of a sore shoulder and elbow for much of the 2nd half of the season. He's a risk.

The positives? He's a closer. If healthy, he's equal to Bob Wickman, and that is a GOOD thing for all of you that were low on Wickman. He can pitch through pain, is a strikeout pitcher, and can get the job done. As a closer, the only question in his resume was that 2004 season where in 22 games he pitched horribly, but certainly had arm issues. This gives the Tribe two viable answers as closers, at least part time. Roberto Hernandez certainly can close on occasion, and Borowski is THE closer right now, if healthy. There's no risk in this deal either, since Cleveland locked him in for only a year, with a club option. In a fantastic situation, Borowski, along with Fultz and Hernandez are a sizable upgrade over last year's bullpen. It gives the young guys a chance to develop into more reliable major leaguers.

The bonus is that Cleveland isn't done yet. There are more moves on the horizon. They seem to be "out of the running" for Manny Ramirez in many circles. My belief here is that Shapiro is backing out for now. He knows the asking price by the BoSox is far to high. If Boston comes down, money isn't an issue. I don't think they'll get Manny, but I don't think they are completely out of it by any stretch. I wouldn't give up Miller, but if they came a-knocking asking for Crowe and Garko, you would have to consider it.

Gagne looking to the Indians?Cleveland will almost assuredly sign one of the following players: Eric Gagne, Octavio Dotel or Kevin Foulke. Foulke would be a good addition to the club, but I think his time has passed. Cleveland moved away from Foulke, and towards Dotel yesterday. It's believed that Kevin Foulke may stab Boston in the hearts by accepting arbitration (it could also help send Manny out of town...less money). We may not have heard the last of Foulke, but it is probable. Dotel appears to be the best bet. He's had 1 decent season as a closer, in 2004 when he saved 36 games for Oakland and Houston. He did struggle that year (and was traded because of Brad Lidge, who was the better pitcher), and eventually blew out his arm early in the 2005 season. He came back last year, and looked terrible for the Yankees. Cleveland was in the running for him as well, last year. Tribe scouts say his velocity is back, but his control is not. That's trouble. Eric Gagne is asking for 7-8 million. I think Cleveland would pay this amount, if they could get Gagne to agree with a 1 year deal with a club option. He wants a 2-3 year deal. Gagne has the most upside. He's only 30 years old, and 2 years ago was one of the most dominant stretches any closer has ever had.

Manny back to the Tribe?You make a deal for Gagne, but you make sure it's to your liking. He puts a lot of stress on his arm, and he's no good on the bench.

Get Foulke, or Gagne. The bullpen is already better now. One more, gives us options, buys us time, and allows those young guys to step up as the season progresses. You add another pitcher the calibre of Foulke or Gagne, and if three of the 4 pan out, you immediately secure the late innings.

As for Manny? Watch and see. If he isn't dealt before the deadline, watch and see if I'm not right about Cleveland getting back into the mix. Give it time. I still think we are close to a big deal for someone. Is it Manny? I don't know. But we'll wait and see.

So far, so good.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Tribe Treading Winter Meeting Waters

Fox Sports is reporting that Cleveland and reliever Joe Borowski are "close to signing." There is no report as of yet on any site or radio or TV broadcast that I've seen that are saying anything about Borowski's Tuesday morning physical, but my guess is that he "passed." It's funny how the Phillies can have major concerns, but two weeks later, Cleveland doesn't. If the rumors are true, and Borowski pitched with arm and shoulder soreness during the second half of the season last year, combined with Tommy John surgery, than I just can't imagine signing him. The bet from this blog is that they nab him to that 1 year, 4 million dollar deal we've all heard about, then make one more reliever trade or signing. I wouldn't be surprised to see Dotel over here as well. I'd rather see if there's a deal to be had, but I'd throw a bit of money at Gagne. If he's healthy, and that's a big if, then he could be a slam dunk. We shall see, as all of these players are big risks.

Cleveland is in the mix for Eric Gagne, by the way. Not sure how interested, but they are definately talking.

Cleveland has signed on to play in the inaugural Civil Rights game to honor the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis on March 31. Cleveland was selected because of their historic place in MLB in integrating the game. For those born in a closet, Cleveland signed Larry Doby, and he became the first black man to play in an American League game. Cleveland also hired the first black manager in 1975, when they hired Frank Robinson. It is a HUGE honor to play in this game, and I should look at the bigger picture, but didn't Cleveland learn from last year that playing a series of games on their way from Florida doesn't pay off? Cleveland will play the Cardinals, who's AAA club is located in Memphis.

In an interesting note from Paul Hoynes, Cleveland has some interest in injured St. Louis starter Mark Mulder. There are several teams seeking out his services, but the fact that Cleveland is in the mix may give us all a picture of what may be happening behind the scenes. If Cleveland keeps Byrd and Westbrook, as well as Lee and Sabathia, the signing of Mulder, or even the desire to sign Mulder may be showing the Tribe's hand a bit. It makes you wonder if Shapiro may have a deal lined up, IF he can acquire another starter. Mulder is a huge risk, and hasn't been right since Oakland. But you right that ship, and you have a top end starter. As it stands, if they signed Mulder and things stayed as is, you have one of the best #5 guys in the league, or, you give him the rest until the Tribe makes a move once the season starts. Either way, interesting stuff.

There have been some rumors about Cleveland trading Jake Westbrook to the Cubs for Jacque Jones. Don't believe it, because it will never happen.

Talk with Keith Foulke has apparently broken down, and Foulke may be looking to NOW goto arbitration with the Red Sox. Good to see the Red Sox getting screwed in their gamble to acquire draft picks. I'm not sure if Foulke and the Indians are done talking yet, but with Cleveland focusing on Borowski, Dotel and Gagne, Foulke talk may be over.

More tomorrow!

Monday, December 4, 2006

The Joy of the Winter Meetings

Cleveland gave Joe Borowski a physical on Monday.

A deal with Boston is imminent for Manny Ramirez.

A deal is not imminent for Manny Ramirez.

The Tribe is currently close to signing Keith Foulke.

Cleveland is talking to both Foulke and Borowski.

Borowski hasn't had a physical, but will have on on Tuesday.

Borowski will sign a 2-year deal.

Borowski will sign a 1-year deal.

Foulke is a lock for a two-year deal.

Octavio Dotel is in serious talks with Cleveland.

Dotel's velocity is good, but he hit's the Bull.

Dotel isn't talking to the Tribe, but they want to talk to him.

LA is talking to Cleveland about Scot Shields.

LA won't talk to anyone about Scot Shields.

The Cubs are begging Cleveland for Jake Westbrook.

Cleveland won't trade Westbrook for anyone.

Cleveland won't trade Westbrook for anyone, except a good bat, and a solid closer.

Cleveland has shown interest in Carl Crawford.

Cleveland has shown interest in Rocco Baldelli.

Pittsburgh won't deal Mike Gonzalez.

Pittsburgh will deal Mike Gonzalez.

Cleveland talked to Milwaukee about Derek Turnbow.

Milwaukee talked to Cleveland about Derek Turnbow.

Nobody from Cleveland talked to anyone from Milwaukee about Derek Turnbow.

The Cubs won't part with Matt Murton.

Matt Murton will be included in a deal for Westbrook.

Matt Murton will be included in a deal for Westbrook, if Crowe is included.

Cleveland is seeking out Seattle's JJ Putz.

Cleveland will sign 1 reliever.

Cleveland will sign 2 relievers.

Cleveland will make a deal.

Cleveland won't make a deal.

Your guess is as good as mine, but it should be fun.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Shapiro Shores Up the Bullpen

Shapiro making moves

No, Mark Shapiro didn't just make the front pages of the USA Today, or even the Plain Dealer. No, Shapiro didn't get a closer, or even a potential closer. So, WHAT THE HELL DID HE DO THEN?

He made another one of those under the radar moves that you HAVE to make to make the next step into the playoffs and beyond.

Shapiro signed former closer and soon-to-be Tribe setup man Roberto Hernandez, and left-handed specialist Aaron Fultz both to a one-year contract with a club option for a second.

New Tribe setup man, Roberto Hernandez Hernandez, 42, has been in the majors since 1991. Last year, with the Pirates and the Mets, he was 0-3 with a 3.11 ERA. Hernandez brings much needed playoff experience, and is a tried and true relief pitcher. What I like the most about Hernandez is that he's perenially healthy, has closed games (no, I don't want him to close NOW, but it does give someone a potential mentor), and historically has logged a bunch of innings for a relief pitcher. His career ERA is 3.32, which coincides with his nearly identical ERA last year. A great addition to the pen.

New Tribe lefty specialist, Aaron FultzAaron Fultz is similar in that he has historically pitched a bunch of innings, which says a lot for a left-handed reliever. Fultz' best year was two years ago, when he pitched 72 innings for the Phillies with a 2.24 ERA. He is very good against lefties. Even though his ERA last season was over 4.5, it dropped to 3.77 against lefties. Philly obviously didn't just use him as a left-handed specialist, as 2/3 of the batters that he faced last season were right-handed batters. He won't see nearly that many for the Indians this year. Against the lefty batters last year, batters slugging % was only .350, with a poor .317 OBA. I would like to see that .277 average against lefties down a bit, but the assumption is that since he'll more than likely NOT FACE many righties this season, the ERA will drop since his focus will be for a couple of batters or less for every game that he pitches. His scouting report has always been as a guy that can overpower lefties, has good control, and SHOULDN'T pitch to right handers. Cleveland fits the bill.

At the end of the day, Shapiro did another nice job, as he did signing Delucci, and dealing for Barfield. He added solid players, without breaking the bank. It will also set up the bullpen quite nicely once they nab themselves a closer. Make sure you check out the Diatribe to see exactly how the bullpen will shape up with these additions. If Hernandez and Fultz don't pay off, Cleveland has only invested 1 year. If they do, they have the club option for two. It's actually a bit incredible that they were able to find quality players willing to sign a deal like this.

The bonus is that these moves were made BEFORE the Winter Meetings. My firm belief now is that Shapiro is going to these meetings with one thing in mind...CLOSER. The addition of Dellucci will also allow Cleveland to dangle out a decent prospect with the potential of adding on that aforementioned closer. I have to admit, I have have a scenario dancing around in my head that would see Cleveland sign Keith Foulke to an incentive laden 2 or 3 year deal, and then deal Garko or Choo (unless they can figure out how to make Casey Blake look more enticing...I know, I'm dreaming) to the Pirates for Mike Gonzalez. My goodness, my knees are getting downright shaky just thinking about it. This club's pen would go from one of the worst, to potentially, one of the best. The only thing keeping a guy like Gonzalez from being a premiere closer is his locale in Pittsburgh, performing for the worst upper management in the game. For more reading on the Pirates, make sure you check out The Confluence by my good friend Tony. He doesn't pull any punches about the Pirates, and for you Cleveland fans that think the Indians don't do enough, see what the TRIBE used to be, and could be like again. I'd love to see what Tony thinks about Gonzalez leaving Pittsburgh. I do believe the Pirates could use a 1b, and Garko could fit the bill there.

I am also a bit curious about Eric Gagne. Yes, he's had nothing but problems with his arm over the past 2 years, but he's also only 2 years removed from being the best closer in the game. If you could get Gagne for a year trial...or 2 or 3 years on the cheap, you'd have to think about it.

As far as Borowski goes, I wouldn't touch him with a ten-foot pole. Sure, he saved 36 games last year out of 43, but I just can't get out of my head his multiple implosions with Chicago the year before. Now, Philadelphia wouldn't even sign him because of questions with his arm. If you are going to risk money on an arm, go with the 30 year old Gagne, not the 36 year old Borowski.

So the question now becomes, 'What's going to happen at the winter meetings?' My bet is a move we expect (for a closer), a move we don't (another potential closer as a set up), and a move that blows us away because we didn't see it coming. For my money, I'll take the first two.

In other news, Buck Showalter officially became "senior adviser to baseball operations." I know the Indians have done this in the past without threat to the current manager (IE--Mike Hargrove was also a senior advisor before taking his post in Seattle), but the bet here is that if the Indians make all the moves necesary to win, and don't, Wedge will be out the door. With that being said, the Showalter move being made BEFORE the meetings lead you to believe that some big things may happen at the Winter Meetings.

And one final note, it appears as though Bud Selig is going to retire in 3 years. It's funny, I've actually seen reports that state we could do worse than Selig and get a commisioner that doesn't LOVE BASEBALL. Well, the last potentially great commisioner we had was A Bart Giamatti. Nobody loved the game more than he did. Nobody wanted to do the right thing for the game more than he did. Nobody wanted to see Pete Rose innocent more than he did. He, however, did what he had to do and banned him for betting on the game. He died five days later. My question is this, What do you think he would be doing with the steroid users? If the guy was willing to ban Rose, Bonds wouldn't stand a chance. Loving the game is one thing...respecting the game is another. If the owners vote in another commisioner that was an owner, then the game should die. Selig hasn't done one damn solitary thing to make the game better, and has only allowed it to get worse. Hell, I'm suprised that Selig didn't PROMOTE steroids with signs on outfield walls during the Sosa vs. McGwire run in the late 90's. Of course, he was to busy changing the All-Star game (ties? home field?) to make it count. You started off by cancelling a world series during a strike (does anyone remember Peter Ueberoeth single-handedly FORCING the owners and players to come up with a deal to end a strike. He DIDN'T love the game, but knew how to get the job done). You followed that by saying you'd never take the gig permanently (holding the job for five years on an interim basis, before taking on a five year term). The steroid scandal, cancelling the All-Star game after 11-innings deadlocked, looking like an imbecile at the Senate hearings and intraleague play. You are a moron. Well Bud, it appears as though you missed the boat on how to make the game good again, and it has nothing to do with anything that I've mentioned. Of course, as a former owner, and good friend of Jerry Reinsdorf and Steinbrenner, you spend to much time bending over for them. Good riddance.

photos of Mark Shapiro, Roberto Hernandez and Aaron Fultz courtesy of
photo of Bud Selig courtesy of USA Today