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First up, Pluto:


About the Indians ...


As the Indians went through a series of postseason meetings, the need for a third starter behind Cliff Lee and Fausto Carmona became apparent. That man was supposed to be Jake Westbrook, but he's recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery and not expected back until the summer. A year ago, the hope was Aaron Laffey or Jeremy Sowers would have pitched themselves into that spot, but neither proved they were ready. Laffey (5-7, 4.23) did have some minor elbow problems at the end of the season, and that may have been what led to some of his struggles. As for Sowers (4-9, 5.58), he was given 22 starts to prove he belonged -- and had major problems.


The Indians would love to find a veteran pitcher to rent for a year or two, as they did with Kevin Millwood in 2005 when he was coming off some physical problems and his free agent value dropped -- or a Paul Byrd-type for a year. But no free agent seems in that same position this season. The pitching market is so thin, it would not be a shock if 37-year-old Byrd (11-12, 4.60) receives a multiyear deal. Yes, the Padres have Jake Peavy (10-11, 2.85) on the market, but he has a no-trade clause and has listed only four NL teams as destinations.


The Indians don't talk about it much publicly, but they believe David Huff might be ready to take a spot in the rotation despite not having pitched in the majors. A lefty like Laffey and Sowers, the difference is Huff throws harder -- his fastball consistently is in the 90-92 mph range, and can be as fast as 94 mph. Huff is 24 and had a combined 11-5 record and 2.56 ERA between Class AA Akron and Class AAA Buffalo. He averages nearly nine strikeouts per nine innings, compared to 2.1 walks. In 80 innings at Buffalo, he fanned 81, walked 15 and allowed eight homers. The one drawback is having only 214 pro innings, and he did have elbow problems in 2007, limiting him to 11 starts. But if he stays healthy, he could be the Tribe's big surprise of 2009.


The Tribe would love to add a veteran closer, but there is strong support from manager Eric Wedge and his staff that Jensen Lewis could do the job. He was 13-of-13 in saves with a 2.94 ERA after the All-Star break and batters hit .250 against him. He doesn't walk many (2.1 per nine innings) and seems to emotionally handle the pressure, something that unraveled Raffy Betancourt last season. Lewis is about as effective against lefties (.267) as righties (.264), a key to closing.


If Lewis were a free agent, he'd be a hot item and the Indians would be considering him as a closer. So why shop if you have a developing closer on the roster? The plan then would be to add some veterans to bolster the bullpen, and at least one with some closing experience. In his limited big league career, Lewis has a 3.30 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 95 innings over two seasons, very solid numbers.


My pick to surprise in the bullpen is Jeff Stevens, who played in the Olympics. In between, he had a 5-1 record and 2.51 ERA at Akron, followed by going 0-3 with a 3.94 ERA at Buffalo. I liked that he averaged 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings this season, but his 4.2 walks is a bit high. He throws 93-95 mph, he's 25 -- and he is the player to be named later from the Reds for Brandon Phillips. It would be nice to get something from that trade.


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And Hoynes:


Qey, Hoynsie: ESPN's Buster Olney says the Pa dres are actively shopping pitcher Jake Peavy. Any chance the Indians would put together a package of young players similar to the Dan Haren deal? What would you think of a move like that? -- Rory Callahan, Columbus


Aey, Rory: From what I understand, Peavy has told the Padres he'll go only to a select number of teams. All of them are in the National League.


Qey, Hoynsie: With Travis Hafner recovering from shoulder surgery, the Tribe will be leaning heavily on the bat of Ryan Garko next season. Is it possible we could see Victor Martinez at third base in 2009? This could be an easy -- albeit unlikely -- fix, allowing the Tribe to trade for a second baseman and / or possible starting or relief pitching. -- Joe Cepec, Columbus


Aey, Joe: If you see Victor Martinez playing third base on a regular basis for the Indians next year, run for your life because the world as we know it just might be ending.


Qey, Hoynsie: Any chance of the Indians looking into bringing back Casey Blake to play third base? It would be nice if we got Carlos Santana and Jon Meloan just for "renting" Casey to the Dodgers for four months. -- Mike Conway, Shaker Heights


Aey, Mike: GM Mark Shapiro indicated at the end of the season that he would be open to pursuing Blake as a free agent this winter. Blake made a favorable impression on the Dodgers as well following the trade.


Qey, Hoynsie: How do you see the Tribe outfield shaking out? Shin-Soo Choo and Franklin Gutierrez are out of options. Michael Brantley, Trevor Crowe and Matt LaPorta are in the pipeline and it's doubtful David Dellucci can be traded. -- Mark Lasher, Bangor, Pa.


Aey, Mark: I think anyone not named Grady Size more or Shin-Soo Choo could be traded among the Tribe's outfielders. At this moment, however, I'd say the starting outfield would be Ben Francisco in left, Sizemore in center and Choo in right.


http://www.cleveland.com/sports/plainde ... xml&coll=2



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Castrovince wrote about the upcoming Bill James Handbook - check out the link for the entire thing:


According to James, the Indians rank seventh in all of baseball in regard to their stockpile of young talent (with "young" being defined as players under 30 in 2008). James takes into account runs created for position players and runs allowed for pitchers, then adjusts according to injuries and the number of years a player should be at his peak performance.


This is what James had to say about the Indians: "One of the Cleveland announcers during the postseason said that the Indians had missed their moment, and their opportunity was getting away from them. Our analysis suggests that this is untrue, and the Indians, despite their injuries and the loss of Sabathia, are still well stocked. ... I think the Indians are still very capable of challenging the Twins and the Royals for the future of this division."


http://castrovince.mlblogs.com/archives ... young.html



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BTW, the number one team on James's list is the Twins:


Twins general manager Bill Smith said he was flattered when he saw that the "2009 Bill James Handbook" ranked his team No. 1 in young talent, even though it didn't have one player ranked in James's top 25.


"I think it's a tribute to our scouting staff and our entire organization," Smith said. "We feel good about our people and the decisions we've made with our young talent, but it's always nice when that's reinforced by someone with Mr. James's reputation and credentials."


According to James, the Twins have six players in the top 100, eight in the top 120, and 10 in the top 150. The major league average, says James, is five in the top 150.


The Twins' top 10 young players are Joe Mauer, Delmon Young, Justin Morneau, Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, Carlos Gomez, Nick Blackburn, Jason Kubel, Denard Span, and Glen Perkins.


"And then," writes James, "they have Michael Cuddyer, and Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser, and Craig Breslow, and then they have a bunch of other guys. The Twins rank seventh in the majors in young pitching talent, and first in non-pitching talent."


After the Twins, the Diamondbacks, Rays, Marlins, Royals, Brewers, Indians, Rockies, Braves, and Red Sox round out the top 10. The Yankees ranked 29th and the Blue Jays 28th.


Only four teams - the Brewers, Mets, Red Sox (Dustin Pedroia at 6 and Jon Lester at 16), and Dodgers - had two players in James's list of the top 25 young players.


Smith said his offseason needs are in the bullpen and at shortstop and third base.


"Everyone's looking for bullpen help," he said, "and shortstop and third basemen are hard to find. But between free agency and trades, we're hoping we can come up with quality at those positions that would allow us to compete with the White Sox, Indians, Tigers, and Royals."


http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/a ... ?page=full



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From the above link, Nick Cafardo looks at some big names that may be on the move:


Front burners warm with Hot Stove talk

By Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff | October 26, 2008


As the World Series draws closer to a conclusion, the Hot Stove talk should start escalating right through the winter meetings in December. And likely beyond.


Many teams, including the Red Sox, have already outlined a "game plan" in internal discussions. Some are having their organizational meetings before the general managers convene Nov. 3 in Dana Point, Calif., where much of the groundwork will be laid for deals.


Adding to the intrigue is the issue of the economy. You're hearing more general managers use the word "budget" when they preface any free agent talk.


The consensus is that the big-name players will get their money and there will be competition for them, but not so much for the mid-level free agents. Here are some of the latest thoughts on free agent signings and trades:


CC Sabathia. Though the West Coast sentiment is strong for the Bay area native, would the Angels or Dodgers make a massive outlay of money for him? The Brewers are trying to keep him, but they might not have much of a chance. Which always brings us back to the Yankees. While New York doesn't appear to be Sabathia's cup of tea, what type of sweetener would it take? The Yankees could do it.


Mark Teixeira. The Angels would be out of their minds not to re-sign him, especially if they let Frankie Rodriguez go. If it's a five-year, $100 million deal Scott Boras wants, the Angels have to do it. If not, the Yankees and Red Sox won't be shy, though the Yankees need to think of Jorge Posada as a first baseman/DH in a year or two.


Frankie Rodriguez. If the Angels don't keep him, watch for the Tigers, Mets, Brewers, Cubs, and possibly Dodgers showing interest. The Rays will claim they can't afford him, but there's the Joe Maddon tie-in (former Angels coach). There's still a "buyer beware" aspect, with Rodriguez's reduced velocity at the root of it.


A.J. Burnett. The Blue Jays still have a window where they might be decent if they keep Burnett, but if they can't, they could lag far behind the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees. There's no shortage of bidders for Burnett - Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles, Phillies, Cardinals, Astros, Braves, Brewers, Tigers and perhaps others. Burnett loves the idea of St. Louis, though he lives in the Baltimore area.


Jake Peavy. Whenever you have a quality 27-year-old pitcher being dangled in trade talks, there's going to be interest. The Braves appeared to be the best fit, but GM Frank Wrenn is backing off Kevin Towers's demands. The Astros, Cardinals, and Brewers (perhaps the best fit) will be out there. The Sox are waiting to see whether Peavy would erase them from his no-trade list, though he's not a huge priority.


Peavy was in the Padres' system when Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino were team executives, so there's a history. The Sox would be able to satisfy San Diego's demands for low-priced players, especially a shortstop (Jed Lowrie), a center fielder (Jacoby Ellsbury or Coco Crisp), and a pitching prospect (Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, Justin Masterson).


Derek Lowe. He may be the most sought-after pitcher out there. Lowe told this reporter he wants to play for the Red Sox again, but it's unclear whether the feeling is mutual. The Mets are going after him strong and have the resources to land him. They also employ Lowe's personal trainer, Chris Correnti, but Lowe, who wants to play for a winning organization in a place where he's comfortable, may not see the Mets that way. St. Louis, Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Detroit might be better fits.


Manny Ramírez. SI.com reported that he may get a two-year, big-money offer from the Dodgers, but even if it's offered, he would walk away because it's not the minimum four-year deal he's seeking and only a fraction of the seven-year deal he'd love to have. So the Mets and Yankees could be players. While there have been reports of Blue Jays interest, GM J.P. Ricciardi has downplayed them. Ramírez may not be offered anything more than three years. The Phillies could be players because of the Charlie Manuel association, but it wouldn't be like them to unbalance their payroll for one player.


Pat Burrell. The Phillies want him back and he'd like to come back, but Burrell will play the field with so many teams in need of a righthanded power bat.


Matt Holliday/Garrett Atkins. The Rockies might get inquiries, but don't expect either to go unless there is big-time value coming back. Holliday would be a perfect Red Sox player, but like Willie McGee, where would you play him? Ditto Atkins. The Mariners might take a shot at one or both.


http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/a ... ng?mode=PF



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This is what James had to say about the Indians: "One of the Cleveland announcers during the postseason said that the Indians had missed their moment, and their opportunity was getting away from them. Our analysis suggests that this is untrue, and the Indians, despite their injuries and the loss of Sabathia, are still well stocked. ... I think the Indians are still very capable of challenging the Twins and the Royals for the future of this division." [/b]




It always brightens my day when someone like Bill James agrees with me...that top 25 isn't exactly what I was expecting though.


Let's Go Tribe posted his 2009 projections for the Indians a few days ago, too.


http://www.letsgotribe.com/2008/10/22/6 ... e-2009-rot


Too bad for our pitchers, but I still think if Fausto and Lee can even come close to reproducing their career years this can be a good staff.

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Here's the latest from Hoynes. As for the 3B question, rototimes posted this little blurb today:


Hodges continues tear through AFL


Cleveland Indians' prospect Wes Hodges was 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBI in the Arizona Fall League on Friday.


Our View: Hodges now has a 1.134 OPS through 14 games with five home runs and 20 RBI. The Indians are in search of a third baseman, but its possible that they turn the reigns over to the 24-year-old if an optimal deal does not come their way.


http://www.rototimes.com/mlb/player.php ... nid=121930


Q: Hey, Hoynsie: Colorado has made noise that it does not want to sign outfielder Matt Holliday to a long-term contract and would like to trade him. What would be the chances that the Indians could get another cornerstone outfielder to go with Grady Sizemore and Matt LaPorta to give them an outfield comparable to the mid-90s teams? -- David Allen, Tipp City, Ohio


A: Hey, David: Such a deal is easy to talk about but hard to make. Holliday is going to make $13.5 million in 2009 and will be a free agent after the season. If you make a deal, is it with the intention of signing him long term or renting him for 2009? How much does Indians GM Mark Shapiro give up and does he really believe Holliday is the difference between the Indians making the postseason or going home at the end of the regular season? Holliday was slowed this year by hamstring and back problems.


Q: Hey, Hoynsie: Do the same rules for rain delays apply to the postseason as they do for the regular season? For example, if Game 5 of the World Series had been called after the fifth inning when the Phillies were up, 2-1, would the Phillies have been awarded the game (and the World Series) like in the regular season, or would the game still have been suspended and played another day? -- Chris Probst, Akron


A: Hey, Chris: If Game 5 had been called before Tampa Bay tied the score in the sixth inning, Commissioner Bud Selig said he would have waited as long as necessary to resume play so that nine or more innings were contested. I can't argue with Selig. I don't think any fan would want to see a World Series-clinching game decided in less than nine innings, regardless of the circumstances. The umpires allowed play to continue until Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton boogie-boarded home through the standing water on the Citizens Bank Park infield with the tying run, which let them suspend the game and send everyone home for 46 hours before play resumed.


Q: Hey, Hoynsie: What can we expect out of Indians pitcher Anthony Reyes in 2009? -- Tony Mollica, Athens


A: Hey, Tony: If Reyes and the Indians can keep his right elbow healthy, I think he'll make the starting rotation out of spring training.


Q: Hey, Hoynsie: Acquiring Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts makes a lot of sense to me as it would allow Asdrubal Cabrera to move to shortstop, Jhonny Peralta to move to third and Grady Sizemore to move into the middle of the lineup. -- Jeff Prosek, Kailua, Hawaii


A: Hey, Jeff: The Indians have kicked the tires on Roberts in the past and the price is high. It's not that the Orioles wouldn't trade Roberts -- even though he's a favorite of owner Peter Angelos -- but they want a lot. The Orioles need starting pitching and middle infielders. Would you trade Cabrera for Roberts, filling one hole and potentially creating another? Roberts, who will make $8 million in 2009, can be a free agent after the season.


Q: Hey, Hoynsie: What did you think of Charlie Manuel's postgame comments after his Phillies won the World Series? He seemed like he really wanted to get to your question. Then he finished it off by telling you to go back to Cleveland and tell them that, "Yeah, I knew I was good." Is there an inside story that we don't know about? -- Scott Moelloer, Gary, S.D.


A: Hey, Scott: I was surprised when Manuel told Katie Feeney, the NL's interview room moderator, to take my question. I think Manuel just wanted to let everyone in Cleveland who had doubts about his managerial abilities when he was in charge of the Indians know that he'd won a World Series. It's hard to blame a guy for crowing a little at such a moment.


Q: Hey, Hoynsie: What is all this Mark Teahen talk about? He really looks to be the same player as Casey Blake. -- Joe Winnefield, Columbus


A: Hey, Joe: There was interests between the Indians and Kansas City Royals about a Teahen trade. Since Royals GM Dayton Moore called stories speculating about a trade an "outright lie," it doesn't seem like there's much chance of it happening now.


Q: Hey, Hoynsie: Why is the Tribe looking for a third baseman? I thought they were going to hide Jhonny Peralta there and let Asdrubal Cabrera move to shortstop. -- Terry Hancock, Bay Village


A: Hey, Terry: Heading into the off-season, the Indians said they were looking for a bat. It could be in left or right field, first or third base or second base. If it was a second baseman, it would allow them to move Cabrera to shortstop and Peralta to third.


Q: Hey, Hoynsie: I know it's a foregone conclusion that pitcher CC Sabathia won't be back with the Tribe. What are the chances of him going to New York (Mets or Yankees)? Don't you think his performance in the postseason this year cost him about $1 million a pitch? -- Marvin Rappaport, Kingston, Pa.


A: Hey, Marvin: I think Sabathia only increased his value going down the stretch for the Milwaukee Brewers. He made four straight starts on short rest. Each of them, including the one that clinched a trip to the postseason, was in that sense a playoff game. If there was any doubt about Sabathia's ability to carry a team, he answered it.


I still believe the way the Brewers handled Sabathia down the stretch was wrong. I know the Brewers were limited by injuries, but you have to wonder who had Sabathia's back through all that. Someone should have been more responsible and not repeatedly put him in harm's way at such a pivotal time in his career.


Sabathia's success in Milwaukee, from what I've heard, opened his eyes and convinced him he can pitch anywhere in the big leagues. He's a West Coast guy, and if he stays in the National League he'll be able to hit, but that doesn't mean he'd say no to the Yankees if they offered him a multiyear deal at $25 million to $30 million a year. I can't see the Mets getting involved because they already have so much money tied up in pitcher Johan Santana.


http://blog.cleveland.com/sports/2008/1 ... sie_3.html



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New Hoynsie!


I like his answer to the first question.


Not to beat a dead horse, but Moneyball wasn't about the importance of walks, OBP and power. It was about exploiting market inefficiencies. Dan Drezner says it well here:


"When a business sector is run by an insular old-boy network, an outsider can exploit market inefficiencies and reap significant arbitrage opportunities. For some of those traditionalists, the apparent decline and fall of the A's symbolizes the failures of the "Moneyball" philosophy...The popularization of sabermetrics has left Beane with less of an advantage -- it's harder to find diamonds in the rough when everyone else is mining the same territory. The A's are not struggling because of "Moneyball"'s failure -- they are struggling because of its success."


http://marketplace.publicradio.org/disp ... ommentary/


Hey, Hoynsie: The Indians need a third or second baseman. They have a lot of part-time players with "potential." The last-place Pirates and Nationals have Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Zimmerman, respectively. How would you react to a trade of Andy Marte, Josh Barfield, Franklin Gutierrez or Ben Francisco and Aaron Laffey or Jeremy Sowers for either of the above? The Indians lose none of their starters and could solidify their infield. -- Ken Bobrosky, Nassau, Bahamas.


Hey, Ken: No offense, but you're thinking like a Indians fan instead of a general manager.


You correctly called the players you're willing to trade spare parts. Marte and Barfield might not be on the team by opening day. Gutierrez had a miserable season offensively and Francisco hasn't proved he's an everyday player. Laffey or Sowers might one day be reliable starting pitchers, but they're coming off below-average seasons.


If I'm Nationals GM Jim Bowden why would I trade Ryan Zimmerman, an everyday third baseman, for bits and pieces? Zimmerman was hurt this past season, but he still has the ability to hit 20-plus homers and drive in 100 runs a year.


Lopez won the NL batting title in 2006 and is an everyday second baseman. GM Neal Huntington, former Indians farm director might be an easier sell because of what he knows about their talent, but I'm sure he'd want an everyday player back. What if he asked for Asdrubal Cabrera and Sowers or Laffey?


The best general managers try to make trades that help both teams. That way they can do business again.


Hey, Hoynsie: Now that the Tigers have given up on longtime Indians nemesis Edgar Renteria, is there any chance the Tribe might sign him? He might have lost a step in the field, but he could move to second with Asdrubal Cabrera moving to short and Jhonny Peralta to third. He could hit in the No.2 spot behind Grady Sizemore and his playoff experience wouldn't hurt. -- Andy Resnik, Columbus


Hey, Andy: Scouts say Renteria's game has slipped, except when he plays the Indians. He hit two grand slams against them last year.


The Indians are considering all infield options. I'm sure they've discussed Renteria, but could you really cheer for the man who broke Cleveland's heart in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 1997 World Series?


Hey, Hoynsie: Watching Charlie Manuel's press conference after the Phillies World Series victory, it was hard to tell if his comments to you were just good-natured ribbing or a jab at the Indians' organization. -- Dave Follat, Eastlake


Hey, Dave: There was a touch of humor in Manuel's message, but he was making a point as well.


Hey, Hoynsie: I'm not sure how important a bullpen coach is, but do you think the Tribe will hire an experienced one or go out of the box like they did with Derek Shelton? -- Ray Zanko, Sagamore Hills


Hey, Ray: Manager Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis have been conducting interviews for a new bullpen coach to replace fired Luis Isaac. One of the in-house candidates is former big-league pitcher Scott Radinsky, who has been a pitching coach in the Tribe's minor-league system for four years.


Shelton came from the Tribe's minor-league system as well. He's done a good job in his four years in the position.


Hey, Hoynsie: The Indians have a history of bargain shopping by signing free-agent pitchers coming off injuries (see Kevin Millwood, Bob Howry, and Brendan Donnelly). Do you think they will make a similar play for Chad Cordero? -- David Bruno, Chagrin Falls


Hey, David: Cordero, the man with the flattest bill to his baseball cap in the big leagues, made only six appearances for the Nationals last season before undergoing surgery on his right shoulder. He's not expected to be 100 percent until spring training, if not later.


Several teams, including the Indians, Tigers and Mets, have inquired about him, but the condition of his shoulder, and his spotty performance before the operation, would have to be a concern for any interested team.


Hey, Hoynsie: I am currently reading Moneyball. In light of the Indians' budget, what is your view of the book, A's GM Billy Beane and using some of the ideas in the Indians' front office? -- Jim Halas, South Euclid


Hey, Jim: I hate to break this to you, but you're not exactly covering new ground. Moneyball has been out for several years. The Indians are deep into statistical studies of players, but they also recognize the importance of scouts. Beane seemed to brush them aside in the book.


Beane is on his second major rebuild since trading Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder after the 2004 season. He won the AL West in 2006, but lost 86 games each in 2007 and 2008. This past season he finished 24 1/2 games out of first place.


The Indians are firm believers in the Moneyball principles that stress walks, on base percentage and power, while ignoring speed. Baseball, however, is a hard game to put in a box. Philadelphia and Tampa Bay reached the World Series this year with lineups that can run, steal bases and hit the ball out of the park.


Hey, Hoynsie: I was looking over the free-agent filings. Casey Blake and Mike Lamb look to be the only third basemen in the Tribe's price range. I also saw outfielder Rocco Baldelli filed. Do you think the Indians will pursue any of these players? -- Mark Lasher, Bangor, Pa.


Hey, Mark: They have an interest in Blake, but I don't think they'll pursue Lamb or Baldelli. Lamb didn't play much for the Twins last season and Baldelli is still dealing with a rare disease that leaves him fatigued after workouts. At last week's general managers meetings, GM Mark Shapiro said they were happy with their outfielders.


Hey, Hoynsie: Well, Brandon Phillips has his Gold Glove and we still have manager Eric Wedge with his thinking that strikeouts on offense are OK, speed is overrated, a defensive liability playing the most demanding infield position, a catcher starting at first base and daily lineup changes. -- Tom Bardley, Cleveland


Hey, Tom: Next time, ask a question.


Hey, Hoynsie: With the Indians needing a closer, would they consider Arizona free agent Juan Cruz? He could save 100 games if the Indians signed him to a three-year deal. -- Ricky Stehlik, Strongsville


Hey, Ricky: If we're talking about the same guy, Juan Cruz has saved one game in his big league career. So I guess that makes you his agent or his best friend.


http://www.cleveland.com/tribe/index.ss ... er_21.html



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CLEVELAND -- The Indians have the needs.

But as tends to be the case for small- and mid-market teams in the high-priced and high-risk world of free agency, they don't have the dollars.


That's not to say the Tribe will be nonexistent in the free-agent aspect of the Hot Stove season, which kicks off in earnest Friday, when teams are officially able to bid on free agents from other clubs. Look for general manager Mark Shapiro and Co. to kick the tires on an assortment of players.


"We'll look at the impact those players make," Shapiro said, "as well as the value that we apply to them and the costs associated with them."


Even in a sagging national economy, the cost of free-agent ballplayers will always be high. So it would be unrealistic to expect the Indians to fill all their needs through signings.


Therefore, Shapiro and his staff will prioritize their needs, which include an infielder at third base, second base or shortstop, back-end relief help (preferably in the closer's role) and a third starter.


Plugs for those holes, of course, won't come cheap.


If the Tribe's first priority isn't to land an infielder, it should be. The team has learned it cannot reasonably rely on Andy Marte to man third or Josh Barfield to handle second.


The Indians have several options when it comes to filling their infield. If they find a second baseman, they can move Asdrubal Cabrera to short and Jhonny Peralta to third. If they find a third baseman, they can keep Cabrera and Peralta where they are. And they are not ruling out the possibility of finding a shortstop to bump Peralta or Cabrera to the hot corner, though that seems less likely.


Overall, the Tribe's flexibility and open-mindedness expands the club's infield options, but filling third base would be the least-complicated solution.


At third base, the club's free-agent options include Casey Blake, whom the Indians traded to the Dodgers in July, and Joe Crede, who has battled back problems and just had surgery.


As is the case with all their needs, the Indians might be best-served to try to fill their third-base hole through trade. The Rockies might make Garrett Atkins available, and the Astros might be dangling Ty Wigginton. The Indians were linked earlier this month to the Royals' Mark Teahen, but that rumor was refuted by both Shapiro and Royals GM Dayton Moore.




Team free-agent reports


Choose Your TeamAL East • Baltimore Orioles • Boston Red Sox • New York Yankees • Tampa Bay Rays • Toronto Blue Jays AL Central • Cleveland Indians • Chicago White Sox • Detroit Tigers • Kansas City Royals • Minnesota Twins AL West • Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim • Oakland Athletics • Seattle Mariners • Texas Rangers NL East • Atlanta Braves • Florida Marlins • New York Mets • Philadelphia Phillies • Washington Nationals NL Central • Chicago Cubs • Cincinnati Reds • Houston Astros • Milwaukee Brewers • Pittsburgh Pirates • St. Louis Cardinals NL West • Arizona Diamondbacks • Colorado Rockies • Los Angeles Dodgers • San Diego Padres • San Francisco Giants


• Hot Stove MLBlog

• Hot Stove Tracker





At second base, the Indians have talked to the agents representing Orlando Hudson, but he will be a high-priced commodity this winter, regardless of his injury history. The rest of the second-base pool is decidedly weak.


Orlando Cabrera heads an equally weak shortstop market that also includes Rafael Furcal.


"In an ideal situation," Shapiro said, "third base would be the area we plug a guy in."


The Indians feel they can plug Jensen Lewis into the closer's role, if no more attractive options are nailed down. After all, Lewis himself nailed down 13 saves in as many opportunities after taking over the ninth-inning role Aug. 8. Left-hander Rafael Perez can also help out in the ninth.


But the Indians would nonetheless like to have more experience in the back end.


Forget about Brian Fuentes and Francisco Rodriguez. The Indians aren't likely to match the offers, in terms of both dollars and years, that those closers can get on the open market.


All-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, who just turned 41, could be available after saving 30 games for the Padres, and Kerry Wood is a free agent after saving 34 games for the Cubs. If they don't re-sign with their respective clubs, the Indians will be getting in touch with their agents. Jason Isringhausen, who lost his closing job with the Cardinals and suffered an elbow injury late in the year, is another option.


The Indians will also be in touch with teams who might be willing to part with a closing candidate. That looks to be the case in Florida, where the Marlins are believed to be shopping Kevin Gregg, and in Oakland, where former closer Huston Street can be had for the right package.


In the end, the Indians will have to ask themselves if the price of a closer is worth it, or if they should stick with what was working at the end of '08 with Lewis.


"We're going to look to get better," Shapiro said, "and look to add very meaningful pitchers to the back end."


As for the rotation, the Indians would feel much more comfortable if they could add a quality starter for the third spot, behind likely American League Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee and Fausto Carmona.


But they might have enough depth in the form of left-handers Dave Huff, Aaron Laffey, Scott Lewis, Jeremy Sowers and Zach Jackson and right-hander Anthony Reyes to get by. So it doesn't appear as though the No. 3 starter is a top priority when it comes to financial commitment.


Still, should the Indians go that route, their options might include the likes of Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and Braden Looper.


"We have a lot of [internal] alternatives," Shapiro said. "But I'd feel better if we had one more experienced top-of-the-rotation guy."


Chalk that up as a need the Indians might not have the dollars to satisfy.

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Adam Miller is quietly building up arm strength as a starter.


He will transition to a reliever before he leaves the Dominican Republic.


And perhaps be available to the Indians as a reliever for the 09 season


He has reached 97 on a gun in winter ball.


And that's all I have to say about that.

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Guest Masters

I think Jensen Lewis should get the closer job. Can hit 94MPH with his fastball consistently, went 13/14 in save chances when made the closer, and my favorite, after getting the closer job, he was bad in non-save opportunities (which seems to be the case for every good closer in the league).

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I think Jensen Lewis should get the closer job. Can hit 94MPH with his fastball consistently, went 13/14 in save chances when made the closer, and my favorite, after getting the closer job, he was bad in non-save opportunities (which seems to be the case for every good closer in the league).


Is that really the case for every good closer in the league? That they're "bad" in non-save opportunities?


I know many studies have concluded that closers are worse when not in a save situation but is it true that most closers are "bad" in that spot? Serious question, don't know the answer.


Here are a few links that look at closers when they're not closing:


http://statspeak.net/2008/08/closers-an ... tions.html


http://statspeak.net/2008/08/save-situa ... aders.html


http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/artic ... ituations/


BTW, I'm with Masters. I'd like to see Lewis given the job from opening day. He's around the strike zone, isn't a split machine and actually seems to hold up well when given the ball in the ninth.



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Adam Miller is quietly building up arm strength as a starter.


He will transition to a reliever before he leaves the Dominican Republic.


And perhaps be available to the Indians as a reliever for the 09 season


He has reached 97 on a gun in winter ball.


And that's all I have to say about that.


I read about him a couple days ago. ERA dropped from about 12 to 5 in a couple starts if I remember it right. Something like 8 K/9 (can't find the stats now). I'd love to see a real power arm in the Cleveland bullpen...hopefully get back the righty lefty dominance of Betancourt and Perez from '07. Wouldn't mind seeing Miller groomed as a pure closer either....should be interesting.

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