Once again, somehow, the WFNY crew has given me control of today’s ‘While We’re Waiting.” I’m not sure what Michael Bode was thinking, but, since I’ve got the reigns, why not go crazy. The Cleveland Indians are going to be contenders for the World Series regardless, but they could make a few fairly easy moves and become a 2017 juggernaut, and PEARL JAM!!!
I know what the Cleveland Indians are likely to do this offseason. They’re already doing it. They’re going to go out and make as many minor moves as possible, bringing in interesting arms of all kinds, and some corner guys that could provide some sort of platoon help. They’re going to be passing out minor league contracts like weekend fliers for bands playing at the local dive, and doing the things that Chris Antonetti does: wait for the market to come to him. It’s small market baseball at its finest, and while it’s frustrating for fans who want big moves, it’s really never in the best interest for a team to overspend in the early free agent frenzy.
And when the Indians hit on a player like this, it gives them a year of insane value. While we can rip on players like Jeff Manship, his one year of fantastic work in the middle innings was almost worth the year of having to deal with him pitching like, well, Jeff Manship.
As is mentioned in nearly every offseason piece ever written about this current Cleveland Indians’ club, they were one big hit away from winning the 2016 World Series against a team that was, in theory, better than they were. They somehow did that with a team that looked nothing like what Shapiro, Chernoff and 2016 Manager of the Year Terry Francona thought they had, even at the trade deadline, thanks to injuries to Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. This team was built on the starting rotation, and that rotation was decimated. It turned into Corey Kluber and a whole bunch of duct tape.
Thank god that duct tape was Andrew Miller.
But what if the Indians decided to continue pushing the chips all in, as they did in late July? What if the Indians utilized their assets this offseason in a manner that would set up their offense early, improve their defense up the middle, extend their line-up, and still give them major pieces to bring up later in the year? Sounds great right?
I want to preface all of this by saying I don’t believe the Indians will make any of these moves, but if they made them all, this team would be tough to beat. Of course, they’ll be tough to beat anyways. That said, these are moves the Indians can make, if they get creative. They don’t have to, but they can, and if they did?
How fun would that be?
Sign Edwin Encarnacion, and just ignore the fact that Mike Napoli’s not likely to get a multi-year deal anywhere, let alone Cleveland.
Let’s start with this: Don’t sign Mike Napoli. We had our party. It was fun. It was amazing. But it was over, LONG before the playoffs. It’s time to move on. Thanks for the memories, Mike Napoli.
You go get Edwin Encarnacion.
There really isn’t a whole lot more I can say about signing Encarnacion that hasn’t already been said at WFNY, via Jeff Nomina, but I’ll try. Let’s try and be sensible about this. Encarnacion turned down four years and $80 Million to stay in Toronto, which was clearly a monumental mistake. The Blue Jays then went out and signed 33-year old DH Kendrys Morales to a three-year, $33 million dollar contract, and 33-year old likely first basemen Steve Pearce to a two-year, $12.5 million dollar deal. While I don’t think this precludes the Blue Jays from signing Encarnacion, I do think it puts him on severe notice.
His dreams of a four-year $80 million deal are likely gonzo.
I still think Encarnacion gets a four-year deal, but perhaps it’s for $68-$70 million, which would be similar to the deal signed in 2014 by Victor Martinez. Sure, $17.5 million is a ton to pay for a guy that’s 33-years old, but boy does he make the Indians’ line-up look interesting, especially if Michael Brantley can play the outfield.
- Carlos Santana 1B/DH
- Francisco Lindor SS
- Michael Brantley LF
- Edwin Encarnacion 1B/DH
- Jason Kipnis 2B
- Jose Ramirez 3B
Now I’m going to stop there, because I’m going to get into the bottom of the line-up with my next two moves. Obviously, this order isn’t set in stone. You can manipulate it in some pretty amazing ways, thanks to the switch-hitters, and the potential for some different guys to hit lead-off. I mean, it’s a tasty thought to have a healthy Brantley, a newly signed Encarnacion, and Carlos Santana hitting 3-4-5.
You could even argue that the Indians #5 hitter could be Encarnacion, in some sort of freakish clean-up hitter, with the OBP prowess the Indians could produce in front of him. Of course, you don’t sign a guy to that kind of money to hit fifth, but the options are certainly there.
My point here is that with or without Brantley, Encarnacion makes this offense about as legit on paper as their is in the league, and that includes the stacked Chicago Cubs.
Do the Indians need to do it? No.
Would it be fun? Hell yeah.
If he signs for four-years and $68 million, would the Indians be in on it? They should be, but c’mon, Dave Dombrowski is still sitting out there, likely chuckling, and I still think Toronto could make a play for him. Remember, the waiting game wasn’t created by Antonetti, that’s a Shapiro ploy, and while they went quick after Morales and Pearce, I still think they’re lurking for Encarnacion.
But this would be the key get for the Indians. I don’t think they have the money for this move today. I know a lot of speculation is out there about new investors, playoff tickets and new season ticket numbers helping. With all of that said, I still think the Indians are risk-averse as spenders, and if they truly are sitting at $105 million at the end of arbitration, I don’t think they’ll justify another $17.5 million.
But, what if they got rid of another ten million prior?
Trade Lonnie Chisenhall and Bryan Shaw for some upside somewhere
I think the WFNY Indians’ crew have been talking about this for two months now, but this is the absolute easiest way to cut money. If you want to go straight platoon in right field, the best combo that you have going is Brandon Guyer and Tyler Naquin. Their splits fit perfectly, and while Naquin’s sample size is small, and his BABIP suggests regression, I think he’s always going to hit right handed pitchers pretty well. He crushed them at every level in the minors, and continued the trend in the majors.
You put him with Guyer, who shellacks lefties, and you have a pretty sound offensive split, even if they’re defensively deficient.
Now, this is where the #LonnieLovers will come bearing pitch forks, and that’s fine. Chisenhall has proved his worth over the years in a variety of ways, none of them spectacular over the long haul. In baseball, you don’t have to be spectacular to be a solid contributor, especially when carrying trays of water to dump on a pile of players. Chisenhall has value, but only if he’s the best value.
Lonnie’s going to make somewhere between $4 and $5 million, and while you can make a case for his stellar offense and wunderkind defense all you want, he’s just not great. The fact that if you number it up, the Guyer/Naquin combo far supersede Lonnie in every category, including cost, well…you see my point. If you get better production, and can save a couple million, you do it, every time. Nothing in life is a guarantee, but at the end of the day, I’ll take my flier on the Guyer/Naquin platoon. And if they don’t work out, in June you bring up Bradley Zimmer. Not a bad problem to have, and I haven’t even mentioned Abraham Almonte yet, or the other guys that could step in.
Likewise, I think it’s time to move on from Bryan Shaw. I’m not going to say a single bad thing about Shaw, other than the fact that I think he’s likely thrown too many innings since becoming a member of the Indians’ bullpen. Of course, I say that time and time again, and he continues to prove me wrong. Shaw has been as productive a player in the bullpen as anyone, and while his few implosions stand out, it’s clear that usage plays a part, nearly every time.
Like Lonnie, Shaw is going to make in the $4 to $5 million range this year, and while you clearly can make a case that it’s a steal, if he drops off the cliff regarding velocity, it’s a big, John Axford-like hit. It’s a gamble when you are dealing with a bullpen, but boy, it feels like we’re walking on borrowed time with Shaw, doesn’t it?
What’s great about both Shaw and Chisenhall is that they do hold solid value in the open market. What can you get for them as single entities? I’m not really sure, but would it be idiotic to suggest that you could get a prospect for each, with the possibility of getting a solid younger guy?
Not a stretch in the least. If you put them together, you can make a case that you are selling $10 million in 2017 assets, at half their cost in free agency. This WOULD be savings for the Indians as well, but it would free up money for the Encarnacion signing (or really, anything else, even if they don’t sign EE), and it would open up the outfield a bit, for some others to make an impact. With Yandy Diaz and Bradley Zimmer knocking at the door, and the way-too-sleeper Greg Allen proving he has the far-and-away best glove in the system, it’s time to prop up the defense, and who are we kidding, get some upside in that offense as well.
My only concern is that bullpen, with Shaw gone. While I do think there are able replacements, and a unique way to utilize the pen, Shaw would be missed. Chisenhall’s production would not.
Bring up Yandy Diaz and Greg Allen, and to hell with convention…and Michael Martinez.
Diaz would immediately become the uber-utility player that Jose Ramirez was when he opened the 2016 season. Diaz is in many ways, similar to the Indians 2016 spark-plug, other than the fact that he’s already older than JRam. Yet, Diaz is a solid defender in multiple places, and has the type of professional bat that the Indians’ brass looks for.
He can play third, second, left and center, should the Indians need a replacement at short, they can slide JRam over, and put Yandy at third. This is the perfect avenue for the now-25 year old to make his debut, and the fact that I have it in my WWW dream move scenario because of Michael ‘Freakin’ Martinez really says it all. I don’t think he’s as good as JRam, but he’s a guy the Indians really need to take a look at, and having a guy that doesn’t strike out at the bottom of the order would be spectacular.
Now, you’ll hear the boneheads out there talking about not wanting to start the Big League clock on Diaz, but for crying out loud, HE’S 25-YEARS OLD! Are you kidding me? He’ll be 32 before he can become a free agent as it stands. The Indians’ always worry about the clock, but in this case, I’m fairly certain that Diaz is ready and able. The ONLY case you make for Diaz not making the club is if you believe in Erik Gonzalez. What I love about Diaz over EGone is the versatility. If you are to believe the scouts and the coaches, Diaz is an able defender everywhere, and has a gun of an arm. He’s getting legit time in center right now, and that’s simply because he can. If you look at how they’ve handled other utility players in the past, none have found the time to haul around in center field. Diaz is out there daily in winter ball, and turning some heads.
But the real ballsy move here would be Greg Allen bouncing straight up to the big league club from Double A. I think the likelihood of this happening is akin to making gold out of yellow snow, but I’m just going to go ahead and say it: he’s ready. I’m sure you can tell me 100 viable reasons why he isn’t ready, and honestly, they are all viable. But sometimes, you just have a guy that has a skill-set so ready, you can make that move without too much to worry about.
Oh, I get it. You don’t skip to the big leagues from Double A, ever (shhhhh…don’t tell JRam). I know…his bat isn’t quite up to snuff because he’s only been in Double A for six weeks (a legit concern, but one I could argue). Wait…his CEILING IS LIMITED (says the robots that don’t truly understand that when you say this two years ago, and he proves it’s not true, IT’S ACTUALLY NOT TRUE). As I’ve said a million times, and as I wrote a couple weeks ago, Greg Allen is absolutely legit.
The reality is pretty simple. Bradley Zimmer is long ahead of him, and he’ll likely be roaming center long before Allen simply because of logistics. Zimmer is older, and while he likely slots into right field long-term, with Naquin and Guyer there in my scenario (and likely Chisenhall, since not a soul would ever listen to me to begin with), Zimmer’s most likely position will be center in 2017. The chances of Allen rocketing past him are slim, even though it shouldn’t be.
While Zimmer’s toolsy wonder is fun to watch, Allen defense may be the most fun thing I’ve seen in a ballpark in years (well, not counting playoff runs and such).
So ignore the fact he’s played less than 40 Double A games. Ignore the fact that a more heralded prospect is ahead of him, and theoretically at the same position. Ignore the fact that several “experts” continue to say he has limited upside, simply because TONY FREAKIN’ GWYNN POLISHED HIM OFF IN COLLEGE.
Then watch that play again, and try to sensibly make a case that his defensive skills, at 24, wouldn’t fit in a big league uniform, and I’ve seen far better plays via Allen, in a really small sample size. Allen makes catches like that on a nightly basis.
On a nightly basis.
What would the line-up look with Allen starting in center, and Encarnacion?
- Allen CF
- Lindor SS
- Brantley LF
- Encarnacion 1B/DH
- Santana DH/1B
- Kipnis 2B
- JRam 3B
- Perez/Gomes C
- Naquin/Guyer RF
If that’s too radical, then you bump Allen to ninth, and slot Santana in the lead-off hole, or anyone else who’s led off, leading off, and keep Santana in the DH. My point? The line-up is long, and these are a group of professional hitters. You have malleability, speed, defense…and a whole lot of fun. You have Diaz ready to play almost anywhere, and the ability to move people into left, should Brantley falter.
And you still have Zimmer.
While the proposed moves would cause some concerns, mostly in the bullpen, the Indians front office could likely manipulate the 10-day DL and rubber band some guys between Columbus and Cleveland, to supplement the loss of Shaw. Chisenhall is a redundant player (if you can get someone else to carry water trays), Encarnacion would be as impactful a bat as has worn the Indians’ jersey in years, and Allen and Diaz would add a defensive and bat IQ influx to an already High IQ and battle tested team.
It won’t happen, but boy, should it.
Pearl Jam came steamrolling out of Seattle in 1990, as one of the forebearers of grunge music. When the dust settled, Pearl Jam was the one band of that early grunge era that was not only still together and Alive, but they were still relevant.
Pearl Jam was a band created when Andrew Wood, the lead singer of Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard’s original band, Mother Love Bone, overdosed on heroin. Gossard started playing with another guitarist, Mike McCready, to help get over the devastating loss of Wood, and once the surfing kid from San Diego, Eddie Vedder joined the mix, history was made.
Ten, their first album, and arguably one of the ten greatest albums of all time, was the voice of a generation, and while many point to Nirvana as being more impactful during their short run, it’s hard to argue that the longevity that Pearl Jam has sustained as the only band left out of that Seattle movement isn’t equally or more impressive.
In March of 1994, I strolled into the CSU Convocation center, as was absolutely blown away by a near three-hour setlist from the band.
So for today’s close, here’s the song that was weaving through my life back in 1994, and from their pretty historic MTV Unplugged set. Congrats Pearl Jam…here’s to another 25 years.