Transactions: Indians Shake Up Spring Roster

Rich Hill - Elsa

Yesterday the Indians made wholesale changes to their spring training roster, as well as a move to their 40-man roster.

Let's first throw out the transactions wholesale, then categorize them.

Released OF Ben Francisco

Purchased the Contract of LHP Rich Hill

Placed RHP Blake Wood on 60-Day Disabled List (elbow)

Optioned OF Tim Fedroff, RHP Chen-Chang Lee, RHP Danny Salazar, LHP T.J. House, and RHP Trey Haley to Columbus

Assigned 1B Matt LaPorta, RHP Fernando "Snowman" Nieve, and C Roberto Perez to minor-league camp

Signed LHP Scott Barnes, OF Ezequiel Carrera, SS Juan Diaz, C/IF Yan Gomes, LHP Nick Hagadone, RHP Frank Herrmann, LHP David Huff, 2B Jason Kipnis, RHP Chen-Chang Lee, 1B Mike McDade, IF Cord Phelps, and RHP Josh Tomlin to 1-Year Contracts (details undisclosed)

Renewed the contracts of RHP Vinnie Pestano and RHP Carlos Carrasco

Let's get the easy one out of the way.

Released OF Ben Francisco

This was a courtesy move, as Francisco was not going to make the Opening Day roster, and the Yankees, who (sniff, sniff) have been scourged by injuries, were looking for hitters of all types to help patch up their roster. In fact, hours after the Indians released Francisco, the Yankees signed him to a similar NRI deal. The Indians signed Francisco before bringing on Michael Bourn, and the latter move considerably change Francisco's chances of making the roster. So I'd expect they told Ben that they'd release him if some other club came calling with a better opportunity.

It is odd to see that team be the Yankees. Usually these types of transactions work the other way, but not this year; it was the Indians who signed Nick Swisher to a multi-year deal, as the Yankees, trying to stay under the 2014 Luxury Tax threshold, was busy signing players to one-year deals, including LGFT Travis Hafner. Also in camp for the Yankees is LGFT Thomas Neal, and there's a possibility that when the Yankees come to Cleveland for the home opener, two of the three Cleveland castoffs will be on their roster.

Purchased the Contract of LHP Rich Hill

Placed RHP Blake Wood on 60-Day Disabled List (elbow)

This move was likely forced by a clause in Hill's contract. The main reason why Rich Hill was available as a minor-league free agent wasn't his performance as a reliever but his health. He missed practically all of 2010 and 2011 due to elbow injuries, as well as a large portion of 2012. The Indians likely signed him to a minor-league deal promising to roster him if he could prove to the club that he was healthy.

Now this does guarantee that Hill will make the 25-man roster, but it gives him a leg up over relievers with options, such as Nick Hagadone, Scott Barnes, and Brian Shaw. Because the Indians non-tendered Rafael Perez and traded Tony Sipp last winter, they could use a left-handed specialist, and Hill fits that role rather well if healthy; over the course of his career, he's held left-handed hitters to a .209/.323/.342 line, and as a reliever, has held all hitters to a .209/.316/.294 line. However, he's never gone through a full season as a reliever healthy; last year's 25 appearances out of the bullpen represented a career high, and that represented 19.2 innings of work. He may be treated as a LOOGy not because he can't get right-handed hitters out, but because Terry Francona needs to limit his innings as much as possible.

To make room for Hill on the 40-man roster, the Indians moved Blake Wood to the 60-day Disabled List. Wood is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, and hasn't pitched this spring.

Optioned OF Tim Fedroff, RHP Chen-Chang Lee, RHP Danny Salazar, LHP T.J. House, and RHP Trey Haley to Columbus

Assigned 1B Matt LaPorta, RHP Fernando "Snowman" Nieve, and C Roberto Perez to minor-league camp

This group of players either haven't been playing due to injury, or wasn't getting playing time because the regulars were playing more and more innings. The first group of players are on the 40-man roster, while the second group were in major-league camp on NRIs. Although the official transaction says that the 40-man players were optioned to Columbus, they may end up elsewhere in the organization once the minor-league season gets underway.

Signed LHP Scott Barnes, OF Ezequiel Carrera, SS Juan Diaz, C/IF Yan Gomes, LHP Nick Hagadone, RHP Frank Herrmann, LHP David Huff, 2B Jason Kipnis, RHP Chen-Chang Lee, 1B Mike McDade, IF Cord Phelps, and RHP Josh Tomlin to 1-Year Contracts (details undisclosed)

These are players on the 40-man roster who didn't have enough service time to qualify for arbitration, and who agreed to the offer the Indians made. At this stage in their careers, these players don't really have any say over what their contract is; if the Indians wanted to give them the minimum salary every season, that's what they'd get. But usually the pre-arbitration contract are determined by a formula so that players like Jason Kipnis will get a bump in salary after a good season at the major-league level.

On a side note, it's interesting that the Indians can option CC Lee to the minors rather than place him on the major-league Disabled List; maybe it has to with the fact that Lee was injured before he got added to the 40-man roster.

Renewed the contracts of RHP Vinnie Pestano and RHP Carlos Carrasco

These two players did not agree to what the Indians were offering, so the Indians unilaterally assigned them a salary. This does not mean that they'll be getting the exact same salary this year that they got a year ago - in Pestano's case I'm 99.9% certain that he got a raise - just not the raise he was looking for.

"Baseball has a business side to it and sometimes people don't see eye-to-eye," Pestano said in a text. "There's no bad blood or hard feelings whatsoever on either side. I respect Chris (Antonetti) and the organization and in no way am I unhappy with them."

Pestano said the Indians made him an offer that was above the minimum ($490,000).

"I'm grateful for the contract offer," he said. "They have a performance bonus schedule in place and stick to it. For the first time in my career I'm at a point where I can say thank you, but no thank you . . . I exercised that option."

So after all that, here's what the spring training roster looks like now (click to enlrage).

Mar_11_2013_medium

Whew. I've added a couple more color codes to the roster.

Yellow = Player on the 40-man roster that has been optioned to the minors (in this case minor-league spring training)

Brown = Away from team participating in the World Baseball Classic

So after yesterday's moves, the number of players that are healthy and in major-league camp now should be 42. This number does not include the players in the WBC (though Asdrubal Cabrera should be rejoining the club today sometime). Because CC Lee is both injured and optioned out to minor-league camp, I placed the yellow highlight on his position.

We're three weeks from Opening Day, and some things have cleared up from the beginning of camp. Scott Kazmir seems to have position himself as the fifth starter, Rich Hill is probably going to nab a bullpen spot, Ryan Raburn right now looks like a lock to win a spot on the bench, and the team seems to be leaning towards Jason Giambi for the fourth bench spot (when the team goes to 13 position players). That likely means that (1) Chris McGuiness will be offered back to the Rangers and (2) Ezequiel Carrera will either be traded or sent through waivers. David Huff, who like Carrera is also out of options, still has an outside shot at making the 25-man roster as a longman.

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