I'm back after a week out of the country (spent largely internet-less) and nothing of serious note appears to have happened in Indians-land. There are a few more rumors and a few minor moves, though, so we might as well.
Josh Judy is no longer a Cleveland Indian. The Cincinnati Reds claimed Judy after the Indians removed him from the 40-man roster in favor of the newly acquired Aaron Cunningham. Judy has been moving through the Indians farm system since being drafted in the 34th round in 2007. The right hander is a career reliever and he's moved up the chain more or less in the order you'd expect, finally making his (poor) major league debut last season. As a 25 year old career reliever with no significant major league experience, it was no great surprise that Judy was the first to be shown the door when the walls began to close on the back of the 40. However, that doesn't mean he didn't have his boosters. Lastoria has always liked Judy and had tagged him for a possible 2012 breakout in the mold of Pestano. That doesn't seem all that far-fetched—Judy has real stuff, with a fastball that can touch the mid-90s, but the reality is that most relievers in the "AAA depth" pile that Josh calls home never amount to much.
However, Lastoria is also correct to point out that this makes Cunningham's real price tag Corey Burns and Josh Judy and that this could all look pretty stupid if Cunningham can't make the roster and is lost on waivers. We'll wait until that actually happens to consider our misery, though. For now, the Indians have seen a couple of semi-interesting arms walk away in exchange for a semi-interesting bat at a position of far greater need.
The Indians haven't slowed up on minor league contracts during my vacation, it seems, with Andy LaRoche signing a minor league deal + ST invite with the club. I wrote about the Indians lust for failed top prospects after the Cunningham signing and LaRoche might be the most glaring example of this strategy to date. LaRoche was once an uber-prospect of sorts, spending two consecutive years at BA's #19 spot. His major league career has never made good on that promise, though—his issues are manifold but his sharp decline in power as he grew older and moved up the ladder stands out. That's basically the opposite of what's supposed to happen and it's why he made so many prognosticators look so silly.
LaRoche was supposed to be an all-star third baseman but at this point he's just hoping to be a major leaguer. As a result, his position has become increasingly ambiguous. He's played some 1B and 2B over the years and the A's even rolled him out at SS last season, apparently while keeping a straight face about it. For the Indians purposes', he'll be thrown into the "Give Us The Leftover 1B At-Bats!" death match that's currently being fought by Matt LaPorta, Shelley Duncan, Cord Phelps, and some guy who used to work at Cedar Point. Each is armed with a toy mallet. LaRoche has a noted advantage in this fight by virtue of being a right-handed batter and a noted disadvantage by virtue of being unable to hit at the major league level.
In LaRoche and Pie, Cleveland has brought in two players with serious pedigrees as former prospects, and, correspondingly, long track records of not performing in the majors. Sure, there's some chance for lightning in a bottle with either of these gentlemen, but their major league track records (each has over 1000 PA's of "uhh, that's not good") indicate these guys might be key figures in the fortunes of the perennially contending Columbus Clippers, if anything.
On the "Other Possibilities" front, the Rockies have stymied the Indians again, signing Casey Blake to a one year, $2M dollar deal. That seems like a reasonable number for Casey's services but I find it hard to convince myself that the 38 year-old Casey Blake is a make or break acquisition for Cleveland's 2012 season.
The Indians are still chumming the trade waters and apparently made a call on Nick Swisher. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me, considering Swisher's $10.25M price tag and New York's lack of outfield depth. Still, no harm in trying and I wouldn't turn my nose up at a homecoming for the Columbus-born Swisher. Though there are no significant rumors, the Padres are still sitting on a cache of 1B that the Indians are surely intrigued by—there's some scuttlebutt that the Pads would like to use part of that cache to snag Matt Garza to which I say, hey, isn't Fausto Carmona kind of like a really budget version of Matt Garza? Maybe?
Finally, the Rockies are supposedly making googly eyes towards Cody Ross. Ross could be the world's most boring domino, making Seth Smith (the world's second most boring domino) available via trade. That's not much help to the Indians—if anything, they should be in on the right-handed hitting Ross as a platoon option in a corner OF spot, as opposed to the left-handed hitting Smith. Even that would probably be foolish, as Shelley Duncan has already been cast as "lovable right-handed lunkhead" for the 2012 season, despite his loony reverse split in 2011. Then again, maybe Ross could platoon with him, making an unusual (and embarrassing) all right-handed platoon come to life?
Here's to a happy new year for all of you, and I hope the holiday season has brought you whatever it is you wrote on your wish list (besides Carlos Beltran, of course).