Finally we've gotten through the news desert. Everyone has arrived in Arizona, and while actual roster decisions won't be made for several weeks, at least we have something to talk about.
Harang will compete for the fifth starter spot. I'm not that enthused about bringing him aboard, but perhaps events will make him necessary. For now he'll be in a four-way competition (along with Josh Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer) for the last spot in the rotation. As Jason mentioned yesterday, if he was willing to go to Columbus (and given the lack of depth in Akron/Columbus this year, he wouldn't be blocking anyone), he'd perhaps get the callup if the Indians needed an emergency starter. At least I'm hoping that's how he'll be used.
One of the new players in camp in Josh Outman, who the Indians when the dealt Drew Stubbs to Colorado. Outman is going to be a pure match-up left-hander, probably coming into the game in the sixth or seventh inning if there's a particularly good left-handed hitter that needs to be gotten. Outman had a rather extreme right/left split last year, (.347/.423/.459 vs right-handed hitters, .198/.278/.261 vs left-handed hitters), and while he'll make some adjustments to be more effective against the occasional right-handed hitter, the Indians should use him almost exclusively against left-handed hitters.
Outman's acquisition essentially means that, barring injury, Nick Hagadone, Scott Barnes, and Colt Hynes will probably start the year in Columbus. Although I suppose there's nothing preventing Francona from having three left-handed pitchers in the bullpen. Nick Hagadone, who has the stuff to get both right-handers and left-handers out, now has a 2014 option thanks to the grievence settlement he and the Indians reached this winter (Hagadone received 94 days of MLB service time and his 2012 major-league salary, and the Indians now have a 2014 option on him), so that will probably work against him as far as making the Opening Day roster.
The Indians are so far 2-for-2 in arbitration hearings this year, winning against Vinnie Pestano and Josh Tomlin. However, those hearing could create some animosity between club and player, as the club has to essentially convince the arbitrator that the player wasn't good enough to make the salary he's asking for. So when Pestano and Tomlin reported, the Indians tried to make sure that there no lingering discontent:
In an effort to make sure there were no hard feelings, Francona mentioned that Antonetti met with Tomlin (and reliever Vinnie Pestano before him) before and after the hearings to make sure the lines of communication were left open.
"Anytime there’s communication, I think it’s important," Francona said. "I’m sure it helped. It’s a weird dynamic. They’re your guys and (yet) for that period, you’re kind of in adversarial (roles). I’m glad I’m not part of that. I wouldn’t want to have any part of that."
(A note for those who missed the news: Sheldon Ocker, long-time beat reporter for the Akron Beacon-Journal, retired this winter, and Stephanie Storm, who has covered the Indians and Aeros for the ABJ for many years, will be taking over the beat.)
The latest 25-man/40-man roster:
(click to embiggen)
Changes from the last time:
- Brantley signed a long-term contract. I've included both his 2014 salary ($1.5M) and signing bonus ($3.5M) in this chart.
- The Indians won their arbitration case with Josh Tomlin. He'll be making $800,000 this season.
- Added SP Aaron Harang to the growing NRI list (now at 24 players)
- Moved Carlos Carrasco to the minor-league category. Assumed for now that Blake Wood, Vinnie Pestano, and Frank Herrmann make the club.
With Tomlin and Brantley now signed, that means Justin Masterson is the only arbitration-eligible players not signed for 2014. His arbitration hearing his scheduled for this Thursday (Feb 20), and I'm hoping that a long-term extension gets done by then.
AL Central News
The headline refers to the "best shape of their life" cliche that you see this time of year in Spring Training stories.
Both Scherzer and Justin Masterson can both become free agents after the season, and usually if a pending free agent isn't signed to a long-term deal by the time the season begins, it's almost certain they'll test the free agent market. Because by that time the risk to the player (injury, poor performance) is lower than the potential reward (having clubs bid against each other in free agency).
This national nightmare is only just beginning.