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Panda, Headley, Gio, and the Hot Stove: While We’re Waiting…

Cleveland Sports

Its the day before Thanksgiving and most of you aren’t working. Make sure that you all enjoy your holiday weekend and be safe. Think about what you are thankful for and appreciate it. If you read my piece from Monday about my late father, you know what I am talking about. Eat, drink, be merry, and enjoy your family. I know I will. And I will be hammering food Thursday and Friday. See you at the gym Saturday morning!

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It is Hot Stove season in Baseball, boys and girls. It is also the silly season. For example, 92.3’s Chuck Booms and Kevin Kiley pitched an idea last week (I respect their time filling abilities on this one) that the Indians and Free Agent Third Baseman Pablo Sandoval would be a perfect match. On paper, of course The Panda would be exactly what the Tribe could use. He’s a switch hitting hot corner-man with a hot bat and a dynamic personality. Sandoval was beloved in San Francisco by the fans and his teammates.

Is George Costanza bucking for the assistant GM job again? “I’ve got a way for us to get Bonds and Griffey, and we wouldn’t even have to give up that much!”  In other words, Sandoval to the Indians was an all time pipe dream. The Indians aren’t going to swim in that pool again, especially with the Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn contracts on the books for two more years. The point is moot anyways because the Big Bad Boston Red Sox, the last place Boston Red Sox at that, have swooped in and thrown their money around. An agreement with Sandoval has been apparently agreed upon with would bring him to Beantown for five years and around $90 million. This came right around the same time that the Sox handed Hanley Ramirez, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers, four years and $88 million.

Boston, like the Yankees and Dodgers, can spend over mistakes while developing young talent simultaneously. Throwing out big contracts won’t hurt them. Just ask Yahoo! Sports baseball writer Jeff Passan:

Boston always will play in that market, even if the market doesn’t dovetail with its plans to avoid long-term deals with pitchers, because the Red Sox understand even in this offensively neutered environment, bats alone will not win championships. Such is the glory of being a big market in baseball. No matter how hard baseball tried to even the playing field, nothing short of a hard salary cap – which not only won’t happen but shouldn’t – will change the inequity.

Sandoval will take over at third base, which became a black hole with Will Middlebrooks struggling and Xander Bogaerts now the regular shortstop. Ramirez, a shortstop by trade who also played some third base, will most likely move to left field. This leaves the Sox LOADED with parts, some of which have to be moved. Boston needs starting pitching. Their rotation as it sits today is a bleep show. The talk is that they will package a few young players for Philadelphia left-hander Cole Hamels. Or they could send Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to Cincinnati for one of their starters who has one year left before free agency like Mat Latos or Johnny Cueto.

Could the Indians get involved? I could see it happening. More from Passan:

The Red Sox have David Ortiz at DH, Mike Napoli at first base, Dustin Pedroia at second base, Sandoval at third base, Christian Vazquez at catcher and the following players to fit among shortstop and three outfield spots: Ramirez, Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Allen Craig, Shane Victorino, Xander Bogaerts, Daniel Nava, Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Will Middlebrooks.

Would you sign up for Cesepedes for one year if it cost you Trevor Bauer or Danny Salazar? I don’t see that happening. Craig may cost you less and is intriguing. In St. Louis, Craig was a fantasic right-handed hitting bad, but defensively challenged. He was money in 2012 (.307/.354/.522/22 HR/92 RBI/2.3 WAR) and 2013 (.315/.373/.457/13 HR/97 RBI/2.6 WAR) but floundered last year (.215/.279/.315/ hR/46 RBI/-0.6 WAR) before being sent to Boston in the John Lackey deal. Unlike Cespedes, Craig is under contract for two more seasons and $20 million, plus a $13 million club option in 2017. If O could get the 12-13 version, sign me up. But can Craig put it back together? In addition, he would have to play right field here with Carlos Santana locked into first base. Craig makes Ryan Raburn look like a gold glover out there.

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It is just an idea, but I know the front office is looking at all options to improve this club within their means. Which brings me to Chase Headley.

The Indians and Headley have been linked in the past. They kicked the tires on him last winter and may be looking at him again now that he is a free agent. There is a rub though. He’s a free agent. Headley is a defensive wizard at third and played well in New York after being dealt over from the Padres. He has not been able to repeat his spectacular 2012 season where he hit 31 homers, drove in a NL leading 115 RBIs, won a Gold Glove, and posted a 6.4 WAR (top five in all of baseball). Like Sandoval, Headley is a switch hitter who would fit perfectly here.

The other tie in with The Panda and Headley hurts the Indians if they are indeed pursuing him. With Sandoval getting a reported $18 million per year and Hanley off the market, Headley is now the top free agent infield bat available. He has become Plan A now for many teams. The Indians are not going to be getting into a bidding war for anyone’s services in free agency.

For a look at Headley’s suitors, look no further than our old friend Anthony Castrovince. Here are his thoughts on the Tribe’s chances:

Indians: It’s hard to see the financials working unless the Indians move mountains (i.e., the Nick Swisher contract) or increase their payroll more than anticipated. But strictly from a defensive perspective, no team would benefit more from Headley’s arrival than the Tribe, which had 2014’s worst defensive performance by just about any objective metric.
Internally, the Indians still aren’t sure what they have in Lonnie Chisenhall, who had a very boom (.915 OPS in the first half) or bust (.591 OPS in the second) bat in 2014. Defensively, Chisenhall showed some improvement after taking over the position full-time from Carlos Santana, but the team still isn’t certain that he’s a lock to remain there long-term, and it’s hard to know if prospect Giovanny Urshela — a stud defender — is ready. The Indians believe they can make a run at the AL Central title behind their strong young starting pitching, but that pitching is going to need considerably more help from the infield defense.

You notice I am talking a lot about third baseman. So what about the incumbent third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall? Like Castrovince said, his second half was more of what we saw of him the previous couple of seasons. If you look at his body of work, the outlier seems to be his hot 2014 start. Plus, as you know, Lonnie’s glove leaves a lot to be desired. The Indians have been developing his replacement in their system; the afformentioned Giovanny Urshela.

The problem there isn’t really a problem, but more of a delay. Urshela was tearing Winter Ball in Venezuela, hitting .396 before injuring his knee sliding. There was  major concern that the ACL could be torn, but after returning to Cleveland, his MRI results came back clear of major damage, just a PCL sprain. He should be ready when Spring Training opens at the end of February.

The 23-year old Urshela is coming off a season that he split between Akron and Columbus and was one fo the organization’s top run producers. He will start the season in AAA, but his glove is Major League ready. An eventual left side of Francisco Lindor and Urshela will make us all forget quickly about the defensive bleep shows we saw the last few seasons with Asdrubal Cabrera and Chisenhall. The question is how soon?

It wouldn’t shock anyone if Chisenhall was a part of a package this winter to bring in either a right-handed stick or more pitching (you can never have enough). Either way, the Indians brass will continue to be creative in their hopes to improve this roster/

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Your Old School Hip Hop Track of the Week:

A Tribe Called Quest, to me, is the gold standard in Hip Hop. It doesn’t get much better. Their second and third albums – The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders – are the subject of constant debate. They are 1 and 1A. To say one os better than the other is like trying to choose between two children. Gun to my head, if I could only choose one, I go with The Low End Theory, but maybe by a hair.

That said, the song I believe to be their best was off of Midnight Marauders. That track is none other than Electric Relaxation. Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone.