Saturday, December 6, 2008

Who's going to close for the Indians in '09?

I wanted to do a non-Reds post and decided to go with this for my Indians fan(s?) reader. This also relates to the Blue Sox as you long-time readers of this blog know.

I think we can say this for sure: it's not going to be Jensen Lewis. Even though he saved 13 games in 13 tries at the end of last season the Indians want a proven veteran. (An approach that has failed for them recently with the use of such dead-weight as Bob Wickman and Joe Borowski.) A lot of the rumors have the Indians in the hunt for Tevor Hoffman as a free agent. I could see a two-year deal (with a club option on a third -- with a $500K buyout) for around $5-6mil per. The Indians have about $18 mil to spend (assuming the same payroll they had last year) and a veteran closer is one of their priorities.

I find the Hoffman option intriguing. I don't think he'll be the next Borowski, even though the thinking on Hoffman is that he's slipped dramatically in the last couple of years and that he would be hurt by a move to the superior A.L. I disagree. His era hasn't been stellar, but he's had a pretty good WHIP the last two years (a fair indication of what he'll do in '09) and his best pitch is his change-up. I could see him getting through the A.L., at least for '09, still fooling people with it.

Plus, the Indians have one of the best pitching prospects in baseball over the last couple of years, Adam Miller, who hasn't been able to stay healthy and, so far, has been disappointing. He's a long-shot to make the bullpen out of spring training and an even longer-shot to make the rotation. He hasn't been great in winter ball, but recently through 3 hitless relief innings to pick up a save and wowed the scouts. I say sign Hoffman and groom Miller to take his spot in either '10 or '11.

That leave Jensen Lewis as a valuable (to the Indians) set-up guy, but gives him no value to the Blue Sox. Bill James has predicted only 2 saves for Lewis in '09, although he did predict 70 k's in 70 innings pitched. Like I said, not bad for a set up guy, but hardly worth one of only 14 keeper spots on the Blue Sox.

Another option I like, is Bobby Jenks for the White Sox (no relation). The Mets have been rumored to be interested in a Jermaine Dye/Bobby Jenks trade, reportedly dangling Fernando Martinez. My Mets fan(s?) reader hates this idea. I think it makes sense . . . but for the Indians. Jenks solves their need at closer and, although the Indians don't have a ton of corner outfield established players, they have some depth with Guittierez, Francisco, and Choo. I could see them packaging Franciso in a deal to the pale hose, who want to get younger, and if they get Jenks coming back, they could throw in Miller. The problem with this deal, of course, is that it's tough to trade within the division on a blockbuster like this.

Bonus Indians coverage: The Indians are also looking for a #3 starter, which they either won't find or can't afford, and will have to go with the likes of Jeremy Sowers (former Blue Sock), Anthony Reyes (a Blue Sock, if I keep him), Aaron Laffey (former Blue Sock), and Scott Lewis. I think there's enough there that they should concentrate on their other needs. (Boy, they need Carmona to bounce back.)

That other need is an infielder. They have Peralta at SS and Blue Sox whipping boy Cabrutal at 2B, but could shift them to 3B and SS, respectively, if needed. That leaves any available IF as a target. Some have called for a bold move here, but I like the idea of sticking with Josh Barfield at 2B. Look at these stats from 2006:

Player A - 2006 (age 23) - 539 AB .280 BA / .318 OBP / .423 SLG / .741 OPS with 32 2B, 3 3B, 13 HR, 21 SB, 30 BB, 81 K;

Player B - 2006 (age 25) - 536 AB .276 BA / .324 OBP / .427 SLG / .751 OPS with 28 2B, 1 3B, 17 HR, 25 SB, 35 BB, 88 K.

Player A was Barfield with the Padres. Player B was none other than Brandon Phillips with the Reds. Barfield has all but fallen off the map, but look what the Red Sox (no relation) did with the miserable start from Dustin Pedroia in '07. They let him play through it and now he has a ROY and MVP. I'm not suggesting that Barfield is that good, but I think he could work there. If he doesn't, the Indians can make a trade at the All-star break to bring in an infielder on a rent-a-player deal (like a Mike Lowell, if the Sox sign Tiexiera).

Remarkably, Barfield is also a Blue Sock, if I keep him, which I almost certainly won't, as I doubt the Indians will go this way.


pj said...

Thanks for the Indians profile. How can the Indians abandon a young guy who saved 100% of his opportunities for a closer whose best pitch is a changeup? They ought to spend that money on an insurance policy for Travis Hafner (dare I mention Adam Dunn?).

big z said...

I would love it if they kept Lewis as the closer and looked elsewhere, but it doesn't look like that will happen. Right now, I think the Indians are most interested in Fuentes.

I think Dunn will end up with a team that needs him to play every day rather than as an insurance policy. He's too expensive otherwise. At least the Indians can't afford to sign Dunn if they also keep Hafner.

Dave Zahniser said...

How embarrasing to do an Indians closer post and not even mention Kerry Wood. It sounds like he's going to be the man in the 9th for the Tribe.