There is a new feeling around the Cleveland Indians.
It isn’t a feeling of cockiness, but confidence. It’s a feeling of pride in what has been accomplished since the end of a 94-loss season in 2012, and also a focus on the work that is left to be done. It’s a feeling of comfort and trust, while starting so many things different and new.
However you try to describe the feeling, it is one created by new Manager Terry Francona.
Francona was hired on Oct. 6 after the end of a difficult and disappointing season for the Tribe. Cleveland’s 2012 season floundered and left a roster in despair at season’s end, but it also provided Francona a chance to recharge after eight seasons managing the Boston Red Sox. Francona spent the 2012 season as an analyst on ESPN, a break from managing between Boston and the Philadelphia Phillies for 12 seasons, Francona was ready for a new challenge—steering the small-market, tight-budget Cleveland Indians.
Nick Swisher may be the happiest person ever to move to Cleveland. If the production is half as entertaining and heart-felt as the press conference, Cleveland is in for a treat.
Thursday afternoon the Cleveland Indians introduced their new right fielder to the media. Swisher agreed a four-year contract, valued at $52 million on Dec. 23 with the Tribe but passed his physical and was officially added to the roster on Wednesday. His outgoing and infectious attitude could be felt in the room the moment he walked in, creating a feel not felt around the Indians in some time.
“We are excited to introduce Nick Swisher as the newest member of the Cleveland Indians,” Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti said. “As we started our off season we wanted to fortify our lineup by bringing in an established run producer. In agreeing to terms with Nick, we’ve done exactly that. I’m not sure we could have found a more perfect compliment to our team and our organization.”
By David Roberts
Several weeks ago, we chronicled the Indians minor leaguers participating in the Dominican Winter League as members of several of the Dominican teams. Here is how the eleven Indians farmhands faired in the DWL.
The 27-year-old lefty who missed significant time during the 2012 season after a self-inflicted broken wrist after a rough outing with the big league club sought to make up some time in the Dominican Winter League.
He made six appearances for Aguilas Cibaenas logging six innings of relief to the tune of a 0-1 record and a 9.00 ERA. He struggled with his control as he struck out eight but walked five. The lefty has a chance to be an impact hurler in the Tribe pen in 2013 if he puts together a solid spring.
Salazar, the 20-year-old righty posted a solid 2012 season after getting healthy. The Dominican native looked to pick up some extra innings and continue his success.
He posted a record of 0-3 but that was deceiving record as the righty appeared in five games, three of which were starts. Over those five outings, he logged 14 innings and tossed his way to a 3.86 ERA for the Tigres del Licey. Salazar again demonstrated his ability to be a solid pitcher with a high strikeout rate as he struck out 17 and only walked four in his 14 innings of work.
Tuesday the Cleveland Indians opened the new year the same way they finished the old one, by making a free agent signing. This time the Indians signed right-handed pitcher Brett Myers.
Myers, who turned 32-years old in August, was used as a relief pitcher in 2012, splitting time between the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox. He made 70 appearances last season, 35 with both the Astros and White Sox, going 3-8, with a 3.31 ERA in 65.1 innings. According to CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman, the deal is a one year deal, worth $7 million and includes a club option for 2014.
By Bob Toth
The Cleveland Indians have had a productive offseason. While they have acquired outfielder Nick Swisher and infielder Mark Reynolds via free agency, Trevor Bauer as a rotation piece of the future, and Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw to further solidify the bullpen, one position on the team has gone noticeably unfilled – the spot of the designated hitter.
There has been plenty of speculation on who the team would look to fill the role with. Could the team bring back veteran Travis Hafner on a performance-based contract, hoping he could finally stay healthy long enough to contribute for a full season? What about another return of Jim Thome to the roster, the 42-year-old slugger who seems unwilling to allow the Indians to begin construction of his eventual statue near Heritage Park at Progressive Field? Could the team look outside of those familiar faces and sign a Delmon Young, Carlos Lee, or Carlos Pena type of player on a similar short-term deal on the cheap, sacrificing hits, strikeouts, or age for a defensively limited or incapable player with a little pop?
A greater likelihood may be that Cleveland does not acquire a DH at all.
By Mike Brandyberry
Since Nick Swisher agreed to his four-year, $56 million contract on Sunday, baseball analysts and fans have wondered, “Why would he want to go to Cleveland?”
Swisher seems like the perfect fit for Cleveland. He’s hit more than 20 home runs in eight consecutive seasons and becomes the replacement to Shin-Soo Choo in right field for the next four seasons. Swisher just turned 32 years old a month ago and will be only 35 when his contract with the Tribe expires, 36 if the fifth-year option vests.
But why would the trendy, husband of an actress, glamour boy who has been a part of the New York scene for the last four years want to come to Cleveland? New York stars don’t leave the Yankees for the Indians for more money very often, like ever. In any regard, it is bizarre at least.
Maybe Cleveland fits Swisher perfectly.
By Mike Brandyberry
According to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News the Cleveland Indians and Nick Swisher have agreed to a four-year, $56 million contract, with a vesting option for a fifth year. If the fifth year is exercised, the contract would be worth a total of $70 million.
The 32-year old Swisher hit .272, with 24 home runs and 93 runs batted in last season with the New York Yankees. He is a career .256 hitter, with 209 home runs and 673 runs batted in, in nine seasons with Oakland, the Chicago White Sox and New York.
According to Feinsand, the fifth year vests based upon plate appearances in the 2016 season. According to Feinsand, “If he’s healthy, it should happen easily.” The deal is the fifth largest free agent contract given this winter behind Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton, Anibal Sanchez and B.J. Upton.
By Bob Toth
Last week, I looked into the Indians’ recent draft woes, how it has impacted the present roster, and what the team has done in the recent drafts to hopefully correct the poor drafting and development over the last several years. If you missed the story last week, follow this link – Dispelling the Indians’ Draft Woes
One of the difficult aspects of drafting young players is that there is no way to predict their futures. Even being the very first person drafted is no assurance of superstardom. It cannot even guarantee a moderate level of success professionally.
It really is an impossible task to attempt to judge a draft shortly after it has happened. It is challenging to forecast the ceilings of such young players and the impact that their development, injuries, or their personal lives may have on who they become on and off the field.
It is all just educated guessing.
By Mike Brandyberry
Friday evening Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the Cleveland Indians had signed left-handed pitcher Scott Kazmir to a minor league deal and an invitation to Spring Training. The Indians are taking a low risk chance on an injury-riddled pitcher who has had a strong Winter season in Puerto Rico.
Kazmir pitched in only one Major League game in 2011, surviving only 1.2 innings and allowing five runs, with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He did make five starts in the Pacific Coast League in 2011, losing all five. Kazmir pitched much of 2012 with the Sugar Land Skeeters in the independent Atlantic League. He was an American League All-Star in 2006 and 2008 with the Tampa Bay Rays.
One reader tweeted DTTWLN and said, “if Scott Kazmir is the answer, I don’t want to know the question.”
By Bob Toth
The Cleveland Indians have developed a reputation as a team that does not draft well.
That was certainly the case for the earlier portion of the first decade of the 21st century.
Poor drafts and talent evaluation problems helped to deplete the Indians’ minor league system of valuable prospects. The team was forced to acquire new young prospects through the trades of some of the team’s most popular and productive players or other expendable veteran parts. Moving these players early, instead of allowing them to potentially leave at the end of their contract with the club, ensures that the team procures future talent.
This week’s trade of Shin-Soo Choo and others to Cincinnati and Arizona was no exception to that norm. In fact, such a trade in 2006 with the Seattle Mariners was how Choo arrived on the scene with the Cleveland organization.
When everyone knows, it’s no longer a secret.
And that’s where the secret may have reached in the Asdrubal Cabrera trade talks. The idea of trading Cabrera seemed like a foolish one when the season ended, then looked to be an inevitable conclusion after Mike Aviles was acquired and trade talk swirled, but now seem to have cooled again with talks the Indians could keep him.
Cabrera’s second half slumps and conditioning problems have been well-documented. In 2012, Cabrera hit .286, with 11 home runs and 42 runs batted in during the first half, but only .251, with five home runs and 26 runs batted in during the same in the second half. The same is true for 2011 when Cabrera hit .293, with 14 home runs and 51 runs batted in as the start of his breakout season, but only hit .244, with 11 home runs and 41 runs batted in.
It’s time to give Chris Antonetti some credit.
The Indians General Manager has deservedly received his fair share of criticism for the Tribe’s struggles over the last few seasons, but after several decisions that resulted in disappointment, he seems to have made a very positive move Tuesday evening.
“We need to do a better job of shaping our roster,” Antonetti said at his season end press conference in October. “There were some decisions we made last year that didn’t turn out the way that we had hoped. We certainly need to reinvent our process that led to those decisions.”
Tuesday’s three-way trade that sent Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald to the Cincinnati Reds and Tony Sipp and Lars Anderson to the Arizona Diamondbacks isn’t the only move to change the shape of the roster, but it is the biggest. The Indians received Drew Stubbs in return from Cincinnati and Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw from Arizona.