Team President Mark Shapiro says the Indians "will get a back end bullpen arm with closing experience in next week or two." The Tribe has reportedly already made a 2-year offer to Joaquin Benoit as well as some sort of offer to John Axford, and there are a number of other players who fit Shapiro's description out there.
The price for such a player could go as high as $9 million a year or so, which seems to mean ownership has given the green light for at least that much in additional expenditures (possibly offset by saving ~$4 million by dealing Drew Stubbs for a prospect or two). I've been saying since the offseason began that I believe a starting pitcher is the most pressing need, because the lineup is in better shape than the pitching staff, and a starter throws many more innings than a reliever, and the Indians are likely slotting Carlos Carrasco into the #5 spot in the rotation if they don't bring anyone new in (and Carrasco was awful as a starter in 2013).
At this point though, the ship has all but sailed on adding a quality starting pitcher. Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Garza,Ubaldo Jimenez, and Ervin Santana will cost too much, and with the exception of Bronson Arroyo, every other pitcher I think is worth more than a $4 million or so flyer has been signed. I suppose the Indians could bring in a couple of those flyer-type pitchers to compete for the last spot, but you start to run into roster space limitations at that point.
If the Indians are going to spend another $9-10 million this winter, it could be that a reliever really is the best way to go. It's not as though the bullpen couldn't use another good arm, given that multiple contributors from 2013 have departed.
What I find myself wondering is, what happens to that money if it's not spent? One possible use is on in-season addition, should the team find itself in contention again come midseason. We'll have a better sense of what's needed at that point (or we'll know the team isn't worth adding to), and the right players might be out there in a trade. What I don't know, but often wonder about:
What happens to the money if it isn't spent on the 2014 team at all? Does ownership roll it over to 2015's budget, or does it just disappear?
There are a lot of factors that probably determine the answer to that, one of them being the success of the team in 2014, and the market for available talent next offseason, but what's the short answer, yes (money saved now can be spent later) or no (money saved now has nothing to do with future expenditures)?
Either way, signing one of the better available relievers this offseason will likely impact the 2015 payroll, because someone like Benoit or Grant Balfour is going to require a multiyear deal. If the Indians sign one of them this year, are we again going to hear that there's only ~$9 million left to spend next winter, when if that reliever weren't already on the books, there might be $18 million to spend, enough to add much bigger-impact player?
What do you think, if the options are "spend it on a closer now" or "save it," which do you choose?