We knew that this day would come, but it doesn't make it less painful. Joe Smith played five seasons for the Indians after coming over the three-day deal that also involved Franklin Gutierrez (who also is a free agent this winter) and Jason Vargas (who just signed a surprisingly-large four-year deal with the Kansas City Royals). In those five years Smith has been one of the best relievers in MLB. He's only saved three games during his career, but that shouldn't detract from his value, and obviously it hasn't, as he's going to get $15M from the LA Angels.
I can hear the questions now: why wouldn't the Indians give Smith $5M over 3 years? After all, look at what they gave Chris Perez the last couple seasons. Well, in this case it's not really about the dollars but about the length of the contract. Relievers can be great and then suddenly be horrible. A prime example of this reliever volatility is Vinnie Pestano, who for two seasons was one of the best setup in baseball. Then all of a sudden he wasn't. The Indians' bullpen will look much different in 2014, with Chris Perez and now Joe Smith gone, but bullpens are the easiest portion of the roster to rebuild.
We'll probably see them sign a major-league free agent or two, add in a couple of guys coming back from injury (Matt Capps, Blake Wood, Frank Herrmann) and perhaps sprinkle in a few guys from the minors (Preston Guilmet, CC Lee, Bryan Price). And of course there is a nice existing core already in place with Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, and Scrabble.
I'm not bringing this up for the analysis, but for this piece of news:
I've heard Carlos Santana is already taking grounders at third base and could play some third this winter in the Dominican Republic. I'm not sure if it's to increase his versatility or to give the Indians another option if Chisenhall can't do the job.
Interesting if true on several levels. Jason will be talking more about this a bit later.
This was news several days ago, but I didn't have a chance to comment on them. My fearless predictions were (if you're in a charitable mood) 50% correct:
The Indians added three position players and two relievers to their 40-man roster. Four out of the five players that they added could help the Indians at some point in 2014, with Erik Gonzalez being the player that's at least a couple years away. The other four will probably start the season in Columbus, and will serve as depth in 2014. Bryan Price especially should be a regular callup to the majors for the expected doubleheaders or for when the Indians burn out their bullpen and need a fresh arm.
One thing that was included in the article that I want to turn your attention to:
Among the Rule 5 eligible players for the Indians are right-handers Joseph Colon, Tyler Holt, Bryce Stowell, Enosil Tejeda and Giovanny Urshela; lefties Elvis Araujo, Matt Packer and Giovanni Soto; first baseman Chun Chen; outfielder LeVon Washington; and catcher Alex Monsalve. Washington (No. 13) and Monsalve (No. 18) are among MLB.com's Top 20 Indians prospects.
I didn't believe Washington would be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, as he signed in his Age 18 season, but apparently he is. It's unlikely someone would take a chance on him, as he was injured for a good portion of the last couple of seasons, but the upside is there.
Here's the update 40-man roster:
(click to embiggen)
The next logical step for the Indians is to trade Drew Stubbs, preferably for the tender/non-tender deadline early in December. He should be valuable as a starting center fielder, with those who can't afford Jacoby Ellsbury being the primary market. The Mets and Cardinals are out of the market, as they signed/acquired Chris Young and Peter Bourjos, but there are still several clubs out there with interest.
AL Central News
Only in Detroit (or perhaps LA or New York) would this even be a rumor. If anything the Tigers would be in the market for another outfielder, what with top prospect Nick Castellanos moving back to third base (and Miguel Cabrera moving back to first base).
This has become one of the stranger stories of the winter. Paul Konerko is a free agent, and it seemed that he'd call it a career, but there's been a lot of noise that he'd come back to the White Sox, with owner Jerry Reinsdorf wanting to keep him if he wants to play. With Adam Dunn and Jose Abreu signed, there's really no place for him to play, so he'd have to serve in Jason Giambi-type role for the White Sox. Or perhaps the White Sox trade Dunn.
The Twins have been pretty quiet so far in moves this winter (unless you count the Mauer-to-1B news as a move), but two of their prospects were on Baseball America's top AFL prospects list. Byron Buxton, who is probably going to be #1 on many overall lists, was ranked #1, with Alex Meyer coming in at #5. Tyler Naquin, who had an excellent AFL, didn't make the BA's list, but he did make MLB.com's list (#20), which emphasizes performance more than potential.
If the Royals signed Beltran, they'd probably trade Billy Butler to make room on the payroll. Beltran probably should be DHing at least part-time anyway, so a Butler trade would make sense from a 25-man roster standpoint as well.
Not too surprised at this. Yankees catchers a year ago were awful, and the Yankee way to fix a hole is a sign a free agent. I was a bit surprised that they didn't sign Jhonny Peralta as well, what with Alex Rodriguez's status up in the air and Derek Jeter certainly no guarantee to be able to play shortstop. Perhaps that makes Asdrubal Cabrera a target...