Last time, we looked at the Indians' needs at the end of last season. But before those could be addressed, Chris Antonetti had to make a couple option decisions.
(note - the below scale originally used the B-Ref version of WAR - this has been changed to use the Fangraphs version.)
Quick WAR Chart (Fangraphs)
3.0-3.9 Good Player
2.0-2.9 Solid Starter
1.0-1.9 Role Player
<1.0 Scrub Level
CF Grady Sizemore (Team Option $8.5M, $500K Buyout)- Declined (10-30-11)
Average WAR, 2009-2011: .63 (Scrub Level)
The issue here was health, and with Sizemore's latest knee surgery, that was more uncertain than ever. So the Indians declined his option; this meant that there were now 1.5-2 outfield holes, depending on how you felt about Michael Brantley, who had just finished his first full major-league season with a 1.6 WAR (2+ is considered starter level).
RHP Fausto Carmona (Team Option $7.0M, $0 Buyout + Arbitration) - Picked Up (10-31-11)
Average WAR, 2009-2011: 1.6 (Role Player)
The Carmona option was picked up for a couple reasons. First, his contract was such that by picking up this particular option, two other options (2013 and 2014) remained in place, so there was an incentive for the Indians to do it. Second, if the Indians had declined his option, Carmona would not have been eligible for free agency, so he would have gone to arbitration, and likely would have made just as much as the option. The Indians, if they really didn't want Carmona around, could have declined the option and non-tendered him a contract, but that would have opened up another hole in the rotation. If Carlos Carrasco had been healthy, they perhaps might have done this, but $7.0M isn't that expensive even for a bottom-of-the-rotation starter.
So after the option decisions were made, here's what the potential position players and rotation looked like:
|Source: Fangraphs||Source: Fangraphs|
|Position||Player||Average WAR (Yrs)||Projected WAR|
|C||Carlos Santana||3.5 (1)||6.1|
|1B||Matt LaPorta||-0.9 (2)||0.2|
|2B||Jason Kipnis||0.8 (1)||3.6|
|SS||Asdrubal Cabrera||2.5 (3)||3.1|
|3B||Jack Hannahan||1.5 (3)||1.9|
|LF||Shelley Duncan||.9 (2)||1.3|
|CF||Michael Brantley||1.4 (1)||1.6|
|RF||Shin-Soo Choo||4.1 (3)||4.7|
|DH||Travis Hafner||1.4 (3)||1.6|
|C||Lou Marson||.8 (2)||1.4|
|IF||Jason Donald||.3 (2)||0.7|
|OF||Ezequiel Carrera||.3 (1)||0.7|
|SP||Justin Masterson||3.8 (2)||4.0|
|SP||Ubaldo Jimenez||5.3 (3)||3.6|
|SP||Josh Tomlin||1.8 (1)||1.9|
|SP||Jeanmar Gomez||.7 (1)||1.0 (est)|
|SP||Fausto Carmona||1.6 (3)||1.4|
I've highlighted the non-bench positions that were projected to be less-than-starter level, which in this case meant 1B, 3B, LF, CF, DH and two of the five starting pitchers (rounding up for Tomlin).
Hafner, if healthy, would probably outperform his projection, but he hadn't been healthy, so the Indians were going to need to fill at least a third of the potential DH at-bats in 2012. With Lonnie Chisenhall just about ready, you could get away with not upgrading third base. The Indians were banking on Carmona improving, but he needed to be at the bottom of the rotation, not in the middle of it.
For the rest of the spots (1B, LF, CF, 1 SP), the Indians had clear needs that couldn't be addressed internally.