Hannahan’s Time In Cleveland Should Be Over
After a disappointing 2012 Cleveland Indians season the organization is at a crossroads to decide how to progress with the organization, not just for the 2013 season but several seasons to come. Decisions involve ownerships, the front office, managerial and coaching decisions and the players. For the month of October, we’ll look at how the Indians ended up in their current predicament, but most importantly, Where Do the Indians Go From Here. Today we analyze one of the many players facing salary arbitration this winter.
By Craig Gifford
Jack Hannahan‘s days in Cleveland are likely numbered. At least, they should be.
Hannahan, a journeyman third baseman, was picked up by the Indians before the 2011 season. He was tabbed to be a stop gap at the hot corner as well as a defensive specialist on a club seemingly with plenty of offense.
Two seasons later, Hannahan is no longer needed as a bridge to the future. Young prospect Lonnie Chisenhall, if he can stay healthy, appears ready to be the everyday third baseman. The Chiz Kid’s bat, much stronger than that of the 32-year-old’s, is now needed in a batting order that has great need for a quality hitter or three.
Without a daily position to play, the $1.5 million MLBTradeRumors.com reports Hannahan would make in arbitration this year would be a bit steep of a price. The Indians can use that money to help them find upgrades in spots like left field, first base and starting pitching. A journeyman utility player is no longer a necessity for a Cleveland team that, if not in total rebuild mode, is looking to upgrade at multiple positions on a tight budget.
Hannahan’s strength is his glove. Despite a down year with 13 errors in 2012, Hannahan still gets to balls and makes plays that the average third baseman would not. When Tribe management was deciding between Chisenhall and Hannhan in the preseason, it was the veteran’s glove work that won out. With a lineup that was presumed to have the return to health of Travis Hafner, Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore, along with improving newcomers in Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis, it seemed there would be offense aplenty. Hafner and Sizemore proved washed up. Hafner played less than half the season, while Sizemore missed the whole year, both players due to injury. The other guys were up and down with long stretches of struggling.
Offense is needed and Chisenhall should provide that. He has 25-30 home run, with a .300 batting average potential. His defense is not as good, but it is a tradeoff Cleveland should be willing to make. Besides, it is the 24-year-old’s time. Chisenhall has done all he can do at the minor league level. For several years, he has been viewed as the third baseman of the future. The future needs to be in 2013 as Cleveland looks to the future.
No longer a fit with the Indians, the best place for Hannahan would be with a National League contender. He would be ideal as a situational player and pinch hitter in the Senior Circuit. The NL, much more than the American League, utilizes role players a lot more due to no designated hitter and the pitcher batting. A contending team, like the Giants, Nationals, Reds or Braves, who have the majority of their rosters set, would be ideal locations for a guy who would likely be near the end of a bench.
A .250 hitter with minimal power and above average glove is the exact definition of a defensive replacement or late-game pinch hitter. Hannahan can still fill a roll, but not with Cleveland at this point. A team with a stronger roster can afford to have a player of Hannahan’s ilk taking up a spot on the bench. A team like the Tribe needs to see what it has in younger players. Someone like Jason Donald or Cord Phelps should be afforded the chance to be Cleveland’s infield bench players. They are the ones with youth on their side, whom management hopes will be around a while.
It is no fault of Hannahan’s that the time has come to say ‘good-bye’. He was a fine presence for the Indians over the last couple years. He has been a positive influence for the young guys and never complained when Chisenhall did get opportunities to play regularly. Hannahan knew his role was to keep the seat warm for the up-and-comer. That role no longer needs filled. Circumstance dictates the Tribe should let Hannahan walk away rather than deal with him in arbitration.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images