The Links: Rumors Swirl Around Tribe and Could Intensify Quickly
By Mike Brandyberry
Consider this week the slight breeze before the gale force trade winds begin to swirl a month from now in Nashville, Tennessee. This week all 30 general managers met in Indian Wells, California and free agent signings and trade speculation all began to surface.
While few transactions and roster moves were completed, all 30 organizations will reconvene in Nashville on December 3-6. In the meantime much of the conversation started this week will continue, with some of it resulting in movement in Nashville. In the case of the Indians, 94 losses and a roster with numerous issues will make you the center of conversations quickly. If only a fraction of the rumors come to fruition, it should be a winter full of decisions for the Tribe.
In terms of the Indians, the rumors are swirling from all directions. The first, and easiest to execute, is the Tribe’s interest in free agent Kevin Youkilis. Cleveland tried to trade for Youkilis in June when he was struggling with the Boston Red Sox and rookie Will Middlebrooks was taking their third base job. The Tribe lost out on Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox, but they decided not to exercise his $13 million option for 2013, making him a free agent. He hit .235, with 19 home runs and 60 runs batted in between Boston and Chicago this season.
Youkilis originally reached the Major Leagues as a first baseman with Boston and just recently moved to third base on a full time basis in 2011, when the Red Sox signed Adrian Gonzalez. Considering Cleveland is dedicated to giving Lonnie Chisenhall a full opportunity in 2013, Youkilis could fill the first base void with the Indians. Casey Kotchman is a free agent and not expected to return and Matt LaPorta has had several opportunities and not taken advantage. LaPorta is also recovering from hip surgery and not expected to be 100% until March.
If Youkilis signed with the Tribe he would be reunited with manager Terry Francona and immediately be regarded as a leader, with championship experience. Francona was the only big league manager Youkilis had before the 2012 season. He hit .500, with three home runs and seven runs batted in against the Indians in the 2007 American League Championship Series. Playing first base, instead of third base, could help keep the 33-year old healthy and alleviate some of the wear and tear on his body. He has made trips to the disabled list in each of the last two seasons.
According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network and CBS Sports, the White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies each have interest in Youkilis, where he would still play third base.
Meanwhile, Youkilis is not the only thread that ties the Indians and Red Sox together. Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports reports that Boston has interest in both Justin Masterson and Shin-Soo Choo. Choo and Masterson are each arbitration eligible this year, with Choo projected to make $7.9 million and Masterson $5.7 million. Choo will be a free agent after the 2013 season while Masterson is under the Indians’ control until after the 2014 season.
With Francona’s previous ties to Masterson, it seems unlikely the Indians would consider moving the side-winding ace of the staff unless they were overwhelmed. Despite a difficult season in 2012, he is just a year removed from a season where he donned a 3.21 ERA in 216 innings. With the Indians starting rotation in shambles, it seems unlikely the Tribe would trade the player closest to stability.
However, Choo should draw interests from several teams this winter, including the Red Sox, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants. It may be in the Tribe’s best interest to wait and see where free agent Josh Hamilton signs, then capitalize on trading Choo’s left-handed power as to a team who loses out. The Texas Rangers and Pirates were rumored to have interest in Choo at the trade deadline in July.
Finally, the hottest rumors involve Asdrubal Cabrera this week. The rumors began to surface after the Indians acquired Mike Aviles last Saturday—along with Yan Gomes—for Esmil Rogers. Aviles was the starting shortstop for the Red Sox in 2012, and while he could be a quality utility player for the Indians, he opens the door to be a stopgap for the Tribe while they wait for their young, shortstop prospects to develop.
With Cabrera under contract for the next two seasons, and a shallow free agent pool, teams should have serious interest and need to meet a serious price to pry him out of Cleveland. The first team to express serious interest appears to be the St. Louis Cardinals. They have the young players that are Major League ready to meet the Indians’ demands. Other possible locations include the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, Pirates and Giants. Cleveland was rumored to be discussing a major trade with Arizona in July. Stories surfaced this week leaking the Diamondbacks interest in trading young starting pitcher Trevor Bauer in the right deal.
It certainly is the season for the trade winds to blow and while it isn’t possible for the Indians to make all the deals rumored, General Manager Chris Antonetti must have started dialogue with many teams concerning many players on the Tribe’s roster. It would be fair to assume the Indians to be active over coming weeks.
Other News and Notes
- It is rumored the Red Sox have interest in signing Grady Sizemore. Sizemore missed all of 2012 after resigning with the Indians on a one-year, $5 million contract. Sizemore missed the entire season with knee and back issues. He could never regain enough strength to run at full speed.
- Kevin Slowey and Jared Goedert each elected for minor league free agency this week. Slowey was acquired last winter from the Colorado Rockies for reliever Zach Putnam. Despite having the inside track for the fifth starters’ job in Spring Training, Jeanmar Gomez beat him out. He was optioned to Triple-A Columbus and sidelined for the rest of the season in mid-May. Last week he was optioned off the Tribe’s 40-man roster. Goedert hit .311, with 19 home runs and 77 runs batted in between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus this season. The 27-year old utility player quickly signed with the Pirates.
- Cleveland resigned Hector Rondon and signed Luis Hernandez to minor league contracts and invited them to Spring Training on Thursday. Rondon is only 24-years old and is a legitimate bullpen option for the Indians, when healthy. However, he has been limited to only 10 minor league innings in the last two seasons while he has recovered from two elbow surgeries. Rondon is fully healthy and pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League. Hernandez is a utility infielder who hit .262 at Triple-A this season and appeared in two games with the Texas Rangers. He began his career in the Atlanta organization and has appeared in 122 Major League games since 2007 with Baltimore, Kansas City, the New York Mets and Texas.
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