Friday, January 19, 2007

Tribe Signs Trot and other Odd Indians News

The Cleveland Indians have signed Free Agent and former Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon to a one-year, three million dollar contract.

Huh? What? Trot Nixon? Where did this come from?...and Why? I've purposely avoided all other blogs on this one, so I could get a clear take on it. The spin on this signing is that Trot Nixon brings a playoff presence, a solid on base percentage and low-strike out guy. Nixon has been described as "heart and hustle" in just about every article that I've read. I know Trot Nixon, and I don't disagree with any of what I just typed. He's all of the above. So do I like the signing?

Right now...NO.

Nixon hasn't played even close to a full season in three years due to a variety of reasons. In 2004, he had a herniated disc. In 2005, he had a left oblique muscle strain. In 2006, he had a right biceps strain, and a staph infection that followed. He's obviously injury prone. A lot of that is due to the way that he plays. He is 100% tough, a roughneck who charges pop flies like a linebacker. Unfortunately, it's cost him many games, and more importantly, sapped him of the strength that led to his best season, in 2003, in which he hit .306 with 28 taters and 87 RBI. Since then, Nixon hasn't hit more than 13 homers in one season, and has 27 three seasons. Not all that good.

Nixon does bring a presence to this club, and the playoff experience will help. At 3 million, it's another low risk signing.

Nixon's signing can mean only one thing for the 24-year old Shin-Soo Choo: back to the minors. Choo was expected to start in right field for the Tribe, and certainly has the talent to be the starter. With the addition of the veteran bat however, it's believed that because of the now veteran mix of Jason Michaels, David Dellucci, Casey Blake, Grady Sizemore and Trot Nixon, that Choo will find himself roaming the outfield in Buffalo.

It really seems as though Shapiro lacks the confidence in his young players.

Now, there is some potential to this signing, and keep in mind that Cleveland isn't trading away young talent to pick up Nixon. It's another low-risk, potential high-yield signing. If Nixon stays healthy, and plays close to the player in his prime, you can count on a .280 average, somewhere in the realm of 20-30 dingers, and 75-85 RBI coming out of the 2 whole. It does set the lineup a bit better.

The Lineup would look as follows, right now:

Grady Sizemore
Trot Nixon
Casey Blake
David Dellucci
Andy Marte
Jhonny Peralta
Josh Barfield

Now, let's go a bit further. Imagine if one of the following three bring the stick that we think they can: Andy Marte, Jhonny Peralta or Josh Barfield. If Peralta returns to his freshman form, or Barfield continues to progress offensively, you can move either to the two-hole, and move Nixon to the five-hole. I like this a lot better if Nixon is the player of old, because he provides instant protection for VMart if he simply is the guy that has a .360 OBP. Imagine if Marte begins to really develop the power. In my humble opinion, anything that you can do to move Dellucci, Michaels or Blake down in the order, makes your team that much better.

The other way to look at this is on the trade front. If Nixon pans out, it certainly allows you to entertain some trades with your depth in the outfield. With Choo, Francisco, Crowe and Gutierrez knocking on the door, you'd have to expect that Cleveland will be looking to make a move down the line for a better outfielder at the deadline, or a package with Garko for a better first baseman. Who knows. I suppose we need to wait to see what happens down the line, but overall, I can't figure this deal out.

So, again, the Indians and Mark Shapiro surprise me, and go out and sign someone unexpected to a low risk deal. Let's hope it pans out.

Cleveland designates Jeremy Guthrie for assignment: One question is answered with the signing of Nixon. To make room for Trot, Cleveland designated Guthrie for assignment, who was out of options. Guthrie, a former #1 pick, has yet to show the Indians that he was worthy of the pick. Shapiro said it best:

"It might have been a slight miscalculation on us on how advanced he was when we drafted him."
You always hope that the light turns on with a guy with this much talent. It just doesn't happen yet. Don't be surprised though, if Guthrie turns into a decent pitcher down the road, if someone gives him a chance. He will certainly be picked up.

Cleveland avoids arbitration...again: As most of you know, Cleveland has avoided arbitration with any players over the past 15 years. Davis was the last player this year, who was eligible. Cleveland, in typical fashion, came in at the deadline, and signed Davis to a one-year, $650,000 deal. Davis was asking for $760,000, and Cleveland was asking $600,000. Davis has wicked talent and a blazing fastball. If he ever puts the talent together with a bit of a mental game, he could be something special. Cleveland won't be letting him go until he proves that he'll never mature into that mental game. There seems to be a lot of evidence showing that this may be Davis' year. He was a bit of a bright spot in the bullpen last year, going 3-2 in 39 appearances, with a 3.74 ERA in 55 1/3 innings. He only gave up one home run. If he continues to advance, he really adds to this team. For more on the arbitration deal, check out two fantastic articles at Erik Cassano's Weblog, and at The Diatribe.

Cleveland also signed Rafael Bettancourt: Another player up for arbitration was Rafael Bettancourt. Rafael signed a one-year, $850,000 contract, which was over a 100% raise from last year. After a rough spot, Bettancourt, rom Aug. 23 through the end of the season, had an ERA of 1.10 in 13 games, and converted three straight save opportunities. He's another player, that if plays to standards, or improves, really makes the Tribe a hard team to beat in the last four innings.


  1. In a way, I get the Nixon signing from a "Throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks" standpoint. The Indians obviously don't have players good enough to lock the corner outfield positions down, so they have to cast a wide net and hope they squeeze a good 2007 out of someone.

    Having said that, why Nixon? What does he bring that David Dellucci doesn't already bring? I would have liked to see a right-handed power bat added to the roster. The Indians don't have a lot of them at the moment.

  2. The first thing I thought was...what about Dellucci. I get the "stick to the wall" analogy, and certainly see it, and there is some upside to this deal. But Nixon isn't a starter to me. And even though platoons don't bother me, if Trot Nixon is starting for your team, healthy or not, are you really a contender?

    There has to be more to this than meets the eye.

  3. Frankly, I'm surprised at the hesitation to get excited over this signing...

    The deal is as clean as a deal can get...1 year for relatively nothing (3 mil). It's a no mess no fuss perfect fit for this team.

    Nixon has always been a terrfic player when his health has been in order...that is unquestioned...and true he has sufferred injuries in the past, but with the structure of the deal the way it is....why the hell not? It makes sense to me.

    POJO, you asked, "if Trot Nixon is starting for your team, healthy or not, are you really a contender?"...I answer that with a resounding - YES!

    The Red Sox were contenders for almsot his entire career there when he was the main option in right field, and I know he wasn't the focal point of that lineup - but he won't be the focal point of our lineup either. He's a perfect complimentary player...

    I don't think right field was solid enough with a platoon of Choo (who struck out a TON last season) and with Nixon and Blake, things are so much better out there. Nixon always makes contact, he walks-to-strikeout ratio is usually very close, and he is an absolute on-base hog - just what we need in front of Hafner....

    It solves our #2 hole problem against right handed pitching and allows Barfield to bat 9th and grow....just like Sizemore did in 2005...when he started at the season in the nine hole.

    I really compare this signing to the Kevin Millwood signing in 2005. A veteran guy, coming off multiple injury plagued seasons, who brings playoff experience and could provide locker room stability to a young club house trying to win it all....

    We all saw how valuable Millwood was in 2005....and we all saw how much we missed his presence in 2006. I think Nixon provides this same kind of pointed out how he is a "go for broke" player and a team first guy....I think this team will benefit greatly from Nixon just being around....and if he stays healthy all year and plays the way he is capable of - it could be Shapiro's best signing of the winter.

    Once again, I give him a standing ovation on the signing....

    Depth, depth, depth....this team now has a Plan A, and Plan B, a Plan C and a Plan D....and that is important because we had too few plans last season....and when they didnt work we were we have answers if certain things dont work.....


  4. I don't totally disagree with you. I actually agree with most of your post here, and I have no problem with depth. He absolutely brings all of that to the table.

    If it pans out, I agree with it the way that I've agreed with every other move Cleveland has made.

    What Cleveland doesn't need, however, is a no pop outfielder in Right Field. I like no K's, but if you have a guy that doesn't strike out in the outfield, he should hit for power, or average, or both.

    Right now, Nixon doesn't hit for power, or average, and he hasn't for 3 years(well, three years ago, he was on pace for a good year before he went down after 48 games).

    You compare him to Millwood, but fact is, Millwood started 25 games for Philly the year before Cleveland and went 9-6, and went 14-12 the year before. You throw in the fact that when Cleveland signed him, he was 30 years old, and not 33, and you have a player who's trend isn't injuries at all. As it turned out, it was only a one-year deal, and he's performed ever since.

    People will compare this to Foulke, but I point to Foulke's last month as proof positive that he's healthy, as he was relatively lights out.

    People will compare this to Borowski, but he had nearly 40 saves last year.

    My point is, Trot is a long time removed from solid playing days.

    I agree that Choo struck out a ton, but I remind you that it was his first year. Now, I don't think Choo is going to be as good as MRam, but I WILL tell you that Ramirez' early critics talked about how many K's HE had. No, Choo's offense isn't nearly as good, and will never be, but the point being that the only way you learn to choose the right pitches is to play. Now, there's no reason for Choo to K the way he does without the power. That bothers me a bit.

    Cleveland led the league in K's last year, I get what Shapiro's doing.

    And it wasn't a BAD move.

    I just don't know that it answers ANY questions, unless it's the first part of a bigger picture.

    You compare him to Millwood

  5. good points, but Nixon does have more power then I think you give him credit for. Sure, he only hit 8 homers total last year, but if you look at his splits and compare them to when he hurt his arm you can see a different story.

    Nixon got hurt in late June...and before that time he was on fire. He was driving the ball with power, he was getting on base, he was driving in runs, and he was doing it in the heart of the Red Sox order when Manny was struggling.

    He had an OPS above .900, his slugging was up where it was during his best years, and many would argue that he carried the Red Sox in May because Big Papi also began struggling then....

    After he got hurt, his season was derailed because he admitted he tried to play through the injuries instead of going to the DL....because he felt the Sox needed him because pf no depth.

    The story is different now in Cleveland. We have depth, so he understands if he gets hurt, the best thing for him and the club is to take the DL stint and not force a play through.....let Choo, and Blake and Gutierrez fill in for him until he is healthy again.

    The best thing about last season when Nixon was healthy in April and May was that he started hitting lefties too....he was batting 5th against righties AND lefties, and he was having success against them both.

    I really believe....and call me crazy, and call me an Indians homer - because I freely admit being guilty of both....but we will be praising both Dellucci and Nixon by the end of the season....and we will be talking about what we need to do to keep Nixon here for 2008.

    Great post POJO - you always spark a emotional reaction from me....

  6. Again, I here you, and I have looked at the splits...

    but you are ignoring one fact...

    injuries, and the fact they have sapped him of his power and productivity.

    3 years in a row with an injury that curtailed his stats in all three years...and he's going to turn 33.

    I don't mind taking the gamble...

    just of all the moves, this one doesn't make sense by itself...

  7. although again, it does show OTHER players that Cleveland will sign them...

  8. POJO,
    Good take on the Trotter. I see the logic to it, I just don't think it was necessary.

    Would Nixon outperform Choo? Who knows.

    More importantly, since you're a rabid Steelers fan...thoughts on the new Steelers coach?

    SURPRISE! It's not Grimm.