The Indians, of course, have been searching for some free agent help on the cheap, and we're getting to that time of the hot stove season when the last table is left at the flea market. Even though the Tribe was willing to dish out $5 million to Orlando Hudson, don't expect the Indians to throw out that kind of deal to anyone else. I'll get to that in a second. The Indians are likely looking for a right-handed bat to their line-up, and perhaps a veteran starter that could log some innings to allow some of the younger pitchers some time to develop a bit more.
Who might the Indians sign?
Terry Pluto took notice of Jermaine Dye, a free agent that might fit the bill for the Indians. Dye smoked the ball prior to the All-Star break, then turned into a pumpkin afterwards. He ended with a line of .250/.340/.453, with 27 homers, 81 RBI and 78 runs scored for the Chicago White Sox. His first half line was a more than solid .302/.375/.567, with 20 homers and 55 RBI, while his second half was .179/.293/.297, with 7 homers and 23 RBI. The 35-year-old outfielder went through the biggest slump of his career, with no real answers.
"I have no clue," Dye said. "I put in the work and sometimes it doesn't work out. There's nothing wrong with the mechanics. When you struggle, the pitches you should hit you foul off. The pitches you take normally when you feel good they're balls, they're strikes now. When you struggle everything goes wrong. This second half it just didn't happen."Dye wasn't injured, so it's unsure if it was simply season-long fatigue, the fact that he's now 35, or just a fluke.
What we know about Dye is that he's been a solid performer for the White Sox over the past five seasons, and that he turned down a $3.3 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. Dye can play right, left and first base, as well as DH, so he could be a solid stop-gap for the Tribe if he can perform as he did the first half of the year last season. Foxsport.com's John Paul Morosi reported today that Dye is focusing his attention on the AL to maximize his playing time, so the Tribe will likely be in play. The only question left is what kind of money is on the table. It will likely be much less than the $3.3 million he was initially offered. We shall see.
Past Jermaine Dye, there really aren't many other options that would be worth taking a slot away from a young guy trying to win a job. Pluto mentioned Jonny Gomes, and there are guys out there like Rocco Baldelli, but the problem with any of these sells is that it's hard to make a case for a question mark, when you have plenty of question marks that can already fill the role.
With that said, there is one player that intrigues me a bit, if not for his offense or defense, then for what he could bring to the team.
That player is Nomar Garciaparra. The rumor bill is buzzing that Nomar is thinking about retiring, but former Tribe-hand and good friend to Nomah, Lou Merloni, says that he has one more season left in the tank. I'm not really sure what's true with regards to the former all-star shortstop, but he would be a valuable commodity, if only for a short time.
Nomar isn't the player he once was, not even close. He went from what was on pace for a hall-of-fame career to a back-up infielder. A bum calf has hindered his career over the past few years, and a once-sure-fire hall of fame career is now in jeopardy. Nomah is a clubhouse presence for sure, and if he's healthier than in past years, he could bring a decent stick in a back-up role. The bonus is that he'll likely sign for a minor league deal, if he decides to play, and he can play most of the infield positions, as well as the corner oufield slots.
You can't forget about Johnny Damon, who's still likely looking for something north of $5 million.
There are starters still available, but all are a mixed bag. There's the old tribe hand, Bartolo Colon, who's a free agent, but would likely sign a cheap deal. There's John Smoltz, who bombed with Boston, but did fare well with the Cardinals. There's Pedro Martinez, who may just be holding out for more money. There's a guy like Noah Lowry, who hasn't played in two years. Braden Looper is still out there, and may be had for less than the $1.5 million that Erik Bedard received from the Mariners. There could be a typical Tribe reclamation project in the bag, but the Indians haven't bitten yet.
The Indians are likely waiting out spring training. Knowing past history, they'll be looking to sign some players to long-term deals, but I'll get into that in the next couple of days. There could be some names that don't make the big league club, and refuse assignment. Shapiro may play the waiting game, and get someone either through a trade or free agency to help out closer to April.
It's fairly evident that free agency isn't a priority this season, and it shouldn't be, should it?