After a surprising 2013 Cleveland Indians season the organization has higher expectations for 2014 than any season dating back to 2008. The Indians and their fans will expect a playoff team and World Series contender. For the month of October, we’ll look at the how the Indians became a contender, but most importantly, How Do the Indians Reach the Next Level?
Perhaps no other player on the 2013 Indians induced more yawns than middle/long relief pitcher Matt Albers. When Terry Francona summoned the big right hander from the bullpen, Albers wasn’t horrible, but he wasn’t great. He wasn’t exciting, but he also didn’t make you angry. He wasn’t a fan favorite, but he wasn’t really a goat either.
Albers was just there.
Having a guy like Albers around isn’t a bad thing, especially when he is only counted on to be just an early innings eater or mop-up man. Albers filled this role well for the Indians this season, almost never pitching in an important situation all season. He posted a solid 3-1 record with a 3.14 ERA and a 1.270 WHIP in 63.0 nearly stress-free innings of work in 2013 for the Tribe. He gave up just two homeruns all season and walked 23 compared to 35 strikeouts. While his performance was acceptable for his role, the Indians are likely to part ways with Albers for one simple reason…money.
Albers made $1.75 million last season and is a free agent heading into 2014. After a season in which Albers improved his overall stock and did his job admirably, expect him to try to get a similar looking deal for next year as well. Albers will turn 31 years old in January and will likely look to get every possible penny that he can, in what will probably end up being be a one year deal somewhere.
Heading into the 2014 campaign, the Indians have younger, cheaper relief options than Albers in their organization already. To go along with bullpen-locks Bryan Shaw (26 years old in 2014), Cody Allen (25) and Marc Rzepczynski (28), the Tribe will have potentially better options in Vinnie Pestano (29), Nick Hagadone (28), Scott Barnes (26), Preston Guilmet (26), CC Lee (27) and Blake Wood (28). Any of those younger options are capable to matching the job that Albers did last season—and for a much more inexpensive rate. In addition, the Indians have Carlos Carrasco and Matt Capps as a possible bullpen options and the team will likely sign a few more candidates in free agency as well. Because there is no lack of arms, the Tribe will surely allow Albers to test the free agent waters instead of paying him the money he may command. Resigning Albers to a minor league contract is not completely out of the question, but Albers would likely get a job where he has a better chance to contribute to a Major League roster.
A well-traveled player, pitching for a new team would be nothing new to Albers. Last December, Albers was brought to the Indians from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a nine player, three team trade along with Shaw, Trevor Bauer and Drew Stubbs in exchange for Shin-Soo Choo, Tony Sipp, Jason Donald and Lars Anderson. In comparison to the other players the Tribe received, Albers was only out-performed by Shaw, helping to ease the pain of Bauer’s underperformance. His trade to Cleveland marked the second time that Albers was dealt in just over four months as he was sent to the D-Backs from the Boston Red Sox at the 2012 trade deadline. Before that, he was a pitcher for the Houston Astros from 2006-2007 and was traded to the Baltimore Orioles prior to the 2008 season.
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