Hot Stove Notebook: Kipnis, Salazar Trade Rumors and LoMo Love

Relief options flying off the table

Tuesday evening marked a big milestone for the relief arms in this free agency class. Two of the bigger names on the market found new homes. Tommy Hunter banked his one good season to ink a two year, 18 million dollar deal with the Philadelphia Phillies and, most notably, now former Cleveland Indian Bryan Shaw found a new home in Colorado.

A nice, well-deserved payday for the most polarizing pitcher in Cleveland over the last five years. Along with his darting cutter, a plus ground ball rate will help Shaw play better than most in the high altitudes of Denver.

While the Indians never expected to retain Shaw, this thinning of the relief market provides added incentive to focus on talks with Joe Smith, who could be a cost-effective option to retain.

More Kipnis Trade Speculation

It’s interesting to note that the Mets keep appearing as a potential Kipnis landing spot. That interest level is compounded by recent Terry Francona comments in which he called Kipnis “positionless,” an unexpected deviation from expectations concerning the Indians valuation of Kipnis.

The crux of the Kipnis dilemma is Jose Ramirez. The team has made it quite clear they would like him to be the permanent second baseman, which would be merited by his play there throughout Kipnis’ absences. However, piecing together what may be best for the team falls quite differently. With the Brantley option picked up and the team’s plans to keep him in the outfield, it severely limits the flexibility of using Kipnis; thus the trade speculation. It seems improbable that a Kipnis trade would produce win-now assets unless a prospect of value were to be included, so the hypothetical benefit of trading him is mere salary relief. This option only makes sense if the Indians were able to acquire something of value with the salary relief trading Kipnis provides.

Danny Salazar Trade Talks

Bruce Levine of CBS Sports Chicago reported the Chicago Cubs and Indians have discussed a Danny Salazar for left-handed hitting swap though he also said “there’s nothing close at this time.”

Kyle Schwarber should be the name immediately coming to mind as that left-handed bat, but Ian Happ is a switch-hitter who might also fit what the Tribe would seek. There has been previous speculation of a Salazar-for-Happ trade this offseason, this current report will do nothing to mute such thoughts.

The Carlos Santana Front

Michael Hattery pointed out in yesterday’s hot stove notebook, the Indians have (rightfully) made Santana their primary focus at first base. As Santana is mulling his free agent offers, the Indians have been linked to another fallback plan on the Santana front, Logan Morrison.

Should Santana command a salary beyond the Indians comfort zone,1 Morrison is quite appealing. Though he meddled in mediocrity for the first seven years of his major league career, significant profile changes in 2017 are appealing. A member of the esteemed Elevation Revelation, Morrison increased his fly ball output significantly and reaped the rewards. A 2017 slash line of .246/.353/.516 to pair with a career high 130 wRC+ is both respectable and sustainable, based on the approach changes that led to more fly balls and improved plate discipline.

Yelich and Ozuna

Jim Pete has already touched on the virtues of trading for one of Miami’s two impressive outfielders. Now it appears the rest of the league expects both Ozuna and Yelich to be dealt this winter. Yelich will fetch more in a trade, based on his consistency and contract (under team control through 2022). If they plan on trading both outfielders, the Marlins would do well to exploit the market for Yelich first in order to maximize their return. This would allow them to turn to spurned clubs with Ozuna and demand a bigger return, perhaps playing into what seems to be a limited outfield trade market. If the market does not offer what they deem a suitable return for Yelich, his contract allows them to hang onto legitimate trade value. With Ozuna’s two years of arbitration remaining, his value is likely to decline significantly as time passes.

A Familiar Name

Word leaked on Tuesday afternoon that the Indians had acquired Alexi Ogando. The 34-year old right-hander most recently spent MLB time with the Braves in 2016, venturing off to Korea to pitch in 2017. The statistics from his jaunt to Korea leave something to be desired, but the Indians front office’s recent track record on bullpen flyers is pristine. The acquisition is exciting in the sense that he was once dominant and the Indians must have seen something intriguing about his recent body of work, albeit the signing most likely is rooted in building pitching depth at the AAA level.

  1. Worth noting the Indians only offered three million more per annum than Shaw received from the Rockies. []