Cleveland Indians miss big on deals for Myers and Reynolds

Terry Francona, Chris AntonettiThe Cleveland Indians front office has to be nearly flawless to compete for the playoffs in any year.

If you don’t believe that proposition, just ask the Moneyball A’s or Wall Street Rays, whose innovation and knack for value propelled them to long playoff runs.

Entering 2013, the Tribe made major long-term investments on Nick Swisher (4 years, $56 million) and Michael Bourn (4 years, $48 million). Those signings alone added significant payroll for this upcoming season.

But the team also inked one-year deals with two veteran free agents expected to provide stability at key positions: right-handed pitcher Brett Myers ($7 million) and free-swinging first baseman Mark Reynolds ($6 million).

With today’s move to designate Reynolds for assignment, it’s likely neither one will play again for the Indians in 2013. They finished the year with a combined -1.7 WAR.

It’s easy to wither away in sadness with the Tribe just losing their third straight game to the rival Detroit Tigers. But there also are some not-so-awful components of these deals and where Cleveland stands right now with 48 more games remaining in the season.

Let’s review a few of the main talking points in bullet-point form:

— Reynolds and Myers entered the year as not-so-sexy but reliable veterans. They had averaged a combined 2.4 WAR per season since 2007, when the former player first broke into the big leagues with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In TD’s article about the Reynolds signing on Dec. 10, he wrote: “Last night, while still waiting to hear from Youkilis, the Indians decided they would go in another direction and nab themselves a power hitting first baseman. … Bringing in Reynolds could be the opening salvo that will signal the change that we have all been waiting for.”

In my article about the Myers signing on Jan. 5, I wrote: “Myers, a 32-year-old who spent 2012 as a reliever with the Astros and White Sox, brings a reliable reputation as a solid innings-eater to Terry Francona’s club. He will easily be the most experienced pitcher on the team’s roster in 2013.”

If one recalls, the Indians had one of the worst starting pitching rotations in decades last season. The rotation’s 5.25 ERA ranked 28th in baseball and their .801 OPS allowed ranked 27th.

They also had inconsistent (at best) production at first base from the likes of Casey Kotchman, Matt LaPorta and Jose Lopez. The team’s .675 OPS from first baseman ranked 28th in baseball.

These two players were expected to contribute immediately, bring a veteran presence to a young roster and not be awful. Yet, they were.1

— One-year deals are the trademark of low-payroll organizations like the Indians. TD had a fantastic article in May about the past hit-and-miss rates on deals like those for Kevin Millwood, Ronnie Belliard, Joe Borowski and Jason Johnson.

At the time, TD placed Reynolds into the Millwood category because of his incredible early production and their price. Scott Kazmir was just starting to pick up steam back in May. Myers had already landed on the disabled list after his horrific start to the season.

So yes, I whole-heartedly agree that one-year deals are great. They’re relatively low risk. Some work out for a great one season, yet may work out too well, leading to long-term deals with other organizations. Some don’t work out too well, but at least it’s not multiple years of an albatross contract like the one for Travis Hafner.

Yet, big money – especially in the range of $13 million – does not live in a vacuum for a team like Cleveland. Numbers are all over the place on the Internet, but the team’s Opening Day payroll was somewhere in the range of $76-82 million. That means Reynolds and Myers were making about one-sixth of the money.

Spending $13 million in 2013 does affect the team’s ability and willingness to spend major money in future years. The front office and ownership put a lot of money into this past offseason, but will they do it again? These misses hurt a lot and money just doesn’t grow on trees, especially when considering …

— Indians salaries for 2014 are expected to balloon anyway. I wrote about this topic two weeks ago when the team was again struggling at new Target Field.

Per that article: The increases for Bourn, Swisher and catcher Carlos Santana add nearly $13.5 million alone to the payroll docket next season. Factor in the unknown status of shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera ($3.5 million increase) and that could be even more. This also doesn’t consider the $2 million contract just given to Ryan Raburn.

So immediately, those first three players’ increases counteract the $13 million that was spent in 2013 on just Reynolds and Myers. In addition, the team has an $8 million mutual option with starter Ubaldo Jimenez, plus free agency decisions to make on Joe Smith, Matt Albers, Jason Giambi and Kazmir. By the end of 2014, de facto ace Justin Masterson will be a free agent, too.

Again, while I applaud the Indians effort for going out and grabbing two guys they thought would help the team immediately, it failed miserably. Myers was hurt within a few weeks and probably won’t return. Reynolds has now been kicked to the curb after an abysmal three-month slump.

My guess is that the Indians won’t have the financial flexibility to make similar one-year deals with actual veterans this coming season. They missed big on their $13 million investment to bring in talent and assist a winning team. Who knows when that opportunity might come up again?

(AP File Photo/Mark Duncan)

  1. A quick aside: If it weren’t for the production of low-money investments Ryan Raburn, Yan Gomes, Mike Aviles and Scott Kazmir in 2013, where would the Indians be? Those four have combined for a 6.1 WAR. Overall, 62-52 is a far better pace than what the WFNY crew predicted for this season. Those four are the true unsung heroes of this season. []

  • Can’t believe Shapiro and Crew missed so gigantically. They usually are spot on with this type of stuff. How there hasn’t been a regime change in the past dozen years is beyond me.

    At least we’re still 12 games up on Minnesota for third place in the AL Central. This is the only race the Indians will be competitive in during August and September.

  • WFNYJacob

    Kansas City?

  • Brian R.

    This negativity sucks. Reynolds was a $6 mil player that produced the first part of the season. Everyone was all over him (and his huge K rate) and people wanted to extend him. He has not produced lately, was benched and now has been jettisoned. Raburn can slide into his role just as cheaply, and has done so. I don’t think this is as bad of a miss as people are making it out to be.
    This team is only 2.5 games out of the wild card.

  • this is joke right? to expect all free agent signing to be hits?

    can we see the precedent for the never-signed-a-bum GM that exists in the minds of some writers?

    and what are we talking about? a 1yr/6m contract for reynolds and 1yr/7m for myers. both were known gambles… THATS WHY THEYRE ONE YR CONTRACTS! sheesh.

    they’re 17th in payroll and up until two days ago holding a playoff spot. not for nothing, if they hadnt signed those guys, they would be cited for the low salary spend and dolan killed for being cheap. remove myers/reynolds they’d be 22nd and there’d be dolan characature contests. oh wait.

    what in the hell does it take? we all know we’re a small (and declining market) team in a non salary capped league right? we know that if we DID want to sign FAs we have to overpay because it’s not a popular destination right?

    i say we’re lucky to be where we are and without francona recruiting for us, we wouldn’t even have had the opportunity to make a these mistakes.

    oh, and michael bourne.

    mind is blown that this is what passes for critique.

  • Was it a critique or was it just stating a fact? I really didn’t read Jacob’s article as critical of the organization. He’s just pointing out that they’re a team that needs to rely on one-year deals and these didn’t work as opposed to when the Indians tried Millwood and that one season they had Juan Gonzalez on fire.

  • Mike Stein

    Don’t forget about the $13 million wasted on Nick Swisher.

  • stating a fact is to say the indians DFA’d reynolds who cost them 6m. this piece layers on analysis suggesting these misses will impact future directions. the analysis doesnt take into account bourne, kazmir, raburn, etc. wasnt giambi for 750k and getting a 4.4% HR ratio good value?

    but mainly i just disagee with the premise.

    to call these ‘misses’ implies that misses are unacceptable.

  • Fair enough. I took it to mean that misses are painful to the organization especially with salaries naturally ramping up.

  • Sure, the Tribe missed on Meyers and Reynolds, but they were signed to one-year deals. No matter whether they failed miserably or succeeded beyond expectations, they were only signed for one year and the Tribe was going to have to do something about them in the off-season and deal with the salary increases of the players signed to multi-year deals.

    Why do the deals for Meyers and Reynolds mean the team won’t be able or willing to sign someone next year to take their places?

  • i think the indians FO (and dolan) deserve a hell of a lot praise; particularly when compared to the browns and the payroll strategy they’ve revealed to date.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Royale with cheese please!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Oh no you didn’t! (covers ears, closes eyes begins to hum “Don’t worry, be happy!”)

  • nj0

    I know we’re in “sky-is-falling-mode”, but the front office doesn’t have to be flawless to compete for the playoffs. I reject this seemingly popular opinion. It’s easy to point out a multitude of bad moves from this past off-season and yet we’re still right up in the wild card hunt.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I for one am glad the Dolans woke up and decided to spend but lets face it the job ain’t nearly done and until I see them spend for consecutive seasons I’ll consider this past winter more of the norm then the exception!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Joanna Garcia Swisher on line 2.

  • nj0

    You’re one of the good ones.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    You used to be leading now you are right up there a few more games that may change even more.

  • nj0

    As for salaries next year, here’s what is coming off the books:
    Myers: $7M
    Reynolds: $6M
    Choo: $3.5M
    Smith: $3.15M
    Hafner: $2.75M
    Albers: $1.75M
    Hill: $1M
    Giambi: $750K
    TOTAL: $25.9M

    As for contractual increases, we’re at about $21.75M. That’s assuming we take Jimenez’s option. If not, we save $7M. In addition, I’m counting seven players going to arbitration. I’m not smart enough to guess what those increases will work out to be.

  • nj0

    True, but we’re still competing, right? Still in it? That’s all I’m saying.

  • Hopwin

    Where can I find Reynolds WAR without Myers mixed in?

  • nj0
  • Natedawg86

    Boy they missed hard though. I guess with a huge gamble, you have to be willing to take the potential for a huge letdown when you conisder the chance of the player contributing above average.

  • Harv 21

    Have to agree with Kanicki and some others here regarding the hypercritical tone, Jacob. Context, man.

    Their spending ability is not identical to 2012, despite attendance woes. They had the cable windfall this year, plus the new revenue sharing. Don’t get caught comparing ’13 dollars to ’12 dollars.

    Whatever value you assign to Reynolds, it’s more than the league minimum because he catapulted the team in the first part of the season while many were scuffling. So in retrospect if $6M is too much, what would have been fair? $4?

    Re Myers, they misjudged his health and took a total flyer on Kazmir. Is Kazmir worth the Myers $7? If no one hits on everything, and it’s necessary for a FO to take some risks, you hope things even out. They protected Salazar instead of another pitcher. I’d say, generally, things have evened out..

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Yes and yes you never know the offense that’s currently in the deep freeze could thaw and finally help out the SP. I’m doubtful but hey who knows. Keep hope alive!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Lets hope they don’t have to exercise Ubaldo’s option.

  • Harv 21

    One more: every team is looking for starting pitching, always. But not every team has to go fishing for power hitters. In the hundreds of players drafted in almost 20 years since Jim Brian Giles and Richie Sexson, where are they? Amazing that there’s virtually none our scouts could spot.

  • K.C. will finish second. Our goal should be third place.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    They will? Their schedule for the next two months looks quite a bit tougher than the Tribe. They have 11 games against the Tigers, not to mention a series against the Red Sox, a series against the Rangers, two series against the Tribe, and a make-up game against the Rays for good measure.

  • willf6

    That’s what I was thinking. At least w/ Reynolds and Meyers, we don’t have to keep paying them beyond this season. I like the dude, but I think he has been a bigger bust than the other 2.

  • left out

    it’s pretty hard to figure out whos been the most disappointing this season and that’s not because there are a lack of candidates for that title.

  • nj0

    Andy Marte?

  • Harv 21

    even if he could hit, talking about our drafts. Marte drafted by Atlanta, dumped on Boston, dumped on us.

  • WFNYJacob

    I answered your question in the article in talking about the 2014 salaries…

  • WFNYJacob

    So we have $4.2 to give out to new free agents to keep payroll constant, not including arbitration raises? Sounds about right. Good math.

  • nj0

    And recently signed by the Angels. It’s true!

  • Harv 21

    i saw that. Gotta replace Pujols somehow (pfffft)

  • nj0

    Well, that’s assuming that payroll won’t increase much. There’s a variety of other factors as well. Getting rid of Perez will save us about $9M+. There’s also the fact that they’ll get some sort of reimbursement for Myers since he’s on the 60-day DL and (hopefully) avoid paying some or all of Reynolds remaining $2M. Hopefully some of that will go towards next year’s roster.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    This schedule forecasting really needs to stop it’s bad enough when it’s for the Indians but now we’re doing other teams too? ;-(

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I thought I heard somewhere that insurance may pay part of if not all of Myers. Not sure if this is correct but if so it would be nice.

  • nj0

    I believe that’s how it works, but I’ve read that the team has to make the claim which makes it sound like it’s not guaranteed. The business of baseball is so confusing.

  • nj0

    Aren’t you the one always saying you can’t have enough pitching?

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I wouldn’t do it if there was a small difference. We’re talking about a big difference. Indians have 13 games left against teams over .500, not including the Royals. The Royals have 19 of such games, not including the Tribe. Kinda huge difference for a team that is also currently 2.5 games behind the Tribe. I’m just tired of hearing people complain simply because they can’t beat the Tigers. Doesn’t mean they are all of a sudden going to have to settle for third in the Central. It’s absurd.

  • No, you didn’t actually. You say because areynolds and Meyers are busts that means the Indians won’t have money next season. But that is not the case.

    Are you saying the Indians will be hesitant to spend money next season because of these tow contracts? Not sure that would be accurate, either. They have to fill out the roster somehow and while they are not handing out a $25 million contract, they are going to have to pay someone,

  • Bourn, Michael Bourn

    I think it’s fair to criticize the FO for these signings. Reynolds, Myers, Kotchman, Damon, Sizemore, and Lowe have cost us $27.5 million over the last 2 years, that is pure dead weight. These 1 year deals add up over time, and we have frankly had more success with minor league signings. A small market club cannot afford to waste significant money like this.

    Imagine if we’d signed Lohse rather than Myers and Reynolds. We’d only owe a 3rd round pick and he signed a reasonable 3 year $33 million contract. His 3.23 ERA would look great next to McAllister, Kluber, Salazar and Masterson for the next two and a half years.

  • Hopwin

    Thanks, is that a picture of the Coliseum?

  • fliegeroh

    So it looks like the Tribe will have to trade Asdrubal to pick up a Right handed power hitter. If Chisenhall doesn’t start to pan out as a 3rd baseman, they may try to package him too and the right handed power hitter will have to be a third baseman. Mike Aviles moves to short until Lindor is ready and Carrasco or Bauer has to replace the departing Ubaldo and Kazmir. Our starting staff would be Masterson, Kluber, McAlister and Salazar.

  • Roy Phillips

    what a difference three days make. latest standings shows the Tribe is 8 games out, with no one to blame a dismal lack of offense on now.