Today I’m going to do my first of two articles on postseason teams and a few pretenders/contenders and what I believe they need to do in order to take the next step or steps for their franchise.
Many of my ideas will be “pie in the sky” wishful thinking. Without knowing the operating budgets and financial philosophies entering the offseason it is very difficult to speculate what moves teams will/can/won’t/or don’t want to make.
It is clearly easy for me to throw names around. It is yet another matter for a team to actually follow my roadmap.
First I offer some definitions. Cosmetic surgery is a tweak here; a tuck there and not a major facelift for the franchise.
Reconstructive surgery takes the team to the operating table in one condition and has it wake up in the recovery room with a totally new look.
Dr. Pleskoff is in the house
CLEVELAND INDIANS-COSMETIC SURGERY
Here are the questions I ask myself about the Indians entering the offseason:
Was Corey Kluber healthy in the postseason? Was his back stable enough for him to push off and pitch with comfort? Was there any other health-related issue that impacted his performance?
Who and what is Danny Salazar? Is he a credible starting pitcher capable of giving his team 30 starts of quality pitching? Is he vulnerable again to forearm, elbow, shoulder or arm injuries?
Is Mike Clevinger a credible 4th starter and can he sustain the progress he has made as a starter?
What is the floor and ceiling for Josh Tomlin? Is he to be trusted to offer credible starts as a No. 4 or 5 starter?
What is the physical status of Brad Miller? Why did I see several outings that were far from clean as in the past? Is his knee an issue going forward? Was he overused?
What does the team do with Jason Kipnis? He is not a good defensive second baseman and he isn’t the team’s best center fielder. His bat has dragged at times. Does he have any value on the trade market? Can Kipnis be a spare part infielder/outfielder if he isn’t good to start?
Can the club go into the season with the outfielders currently on the roster? Can the team afford Jay Bruce? Can the team afford not to sign Jay Bruce? Is the team committed to Bradley Zimmer in center? If not, they should be. Is Michael Brantley the left fielder? If so, what to do with Lonnie Chisenhall? How about the season Austin Jackson had from the right side of the plate? Can he be signed? Greg Allen is a switch-hitter. Isn’t he far more valuable than Kipnis as an extra outfielder?
Who plays third base? Is the team satisfied with the offense of Giovanny Urshela? Is there more in his tank?
Can the team sign Carlos Santana? Do they want his bat back in the lineup? Can they afford Bruce and Santana and Jackson? And Bryan Shaw is a free agent as well and he’ll want to get paid. Do they keep all those free agents? If not, which are allowed to test the market? Do they all get qualifying offers?
Is there a major-league role for Yandy Diaz? Can he play 3B as the starter with Urshela spelling him from the 7th inning on?
Is the team satisfied with the bullpen? Are there just too many pitches on the arm of Bryan Shaw to trust him for a long-term contract? What is his value in the league? If not Shaw, who sets up in addition to Miller?
WHAT I WOULD DO:
Again, I don’t know what the financial picture of the Indians is at this moment. I do know they have a minority investor now and that may help. I also know that money they could have earned from continuing in the playoffs and into the World Series is now not available. I think that will have an impact.
So, here is what I would do if financial resources permitted it:
I would do whatever I could to retain Santana, Bruce and Jackson. I believe each contribute to the overall environment of the Indians and their offense. I would pass on Bryan Shaw. I know manager Terry Francona really likes Shaw. But much will depend upon his asking price. I think Nick Goody can be Shaw.
I want to point out that the Indians will rid themselves of $9M in “dead money” they are paying former 3B Chris Johnson. He finally comes off the books this year. That’s $9M that can go somewhere else in the player salary budget.
I would part ways with Jason Kipnis in any manner I could. I would try to trade Kipnis to any team willing to take his relatively friendly contract even if I only got a reliever or minor league prospect in return. I believe Kipnis does not have enough impact to warrant a roster spot on the Indians of 2018.
#1 priority- I would sign Santana, Bruce and Jackson
#2 priority— I feel the team’s greatest need is for a left-handed starting pitcher to combat teams like the Yankees in their home park. I feel that is a huge unmet need. I would make every effort to obtain a starting pitcher in trade. I would target and go to these National League teams and target these National League pitchers:
To the Los Angeles Dodgers for Hyun-Jen Ryu if he is healthy, and only if his medical records prove he is healthy.
To the Los Angeles Dodgers for Julio Jurias
To the Pittsburgh Pirates for Gerrit Cole or Ivan Nova.
To the Atlanta Braves for Julio Teheran or Mike Fotynewicz
To the New York Mets for Robert Gsellman
To the Colorado Rockies for Kyle Freeland
To the Philadelphia Phillies for either Aaron Nola, Jared Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez or Ben Lively
If I could not trade for one of those pitchers I would not go to the free agent market for a pitcher.
In order to trade, a team has to be willing to give up good enough players to complete the deal. Here is my list of Indians players I would consider trading in any mix and match depending upon the return. Cole would be the most costly of the group. Note: * if these players are used I would trade only within the National League. A pitcher like Urias from the Dodgers will require a boatload of talent from the Indians. But the risk/reward is positive for Cleveland.
I would make these players available to obtain a starting pitcher:
Lonnie Chisenhall or Michael Brantley
*Yu-Cheng Chang (highly regarded prospect shortstop)
*Francisco Mejia (Indians highest rated prospect)
Brad Aiken- left-handed prospect pitcher
Shawn Morimando (left-handed pitching prospect)
I would NOT trade these prospects for any of the pitchers I have noted above:
What would it take to get Cole or Urias?
Gerrit Cole could probably fetch three prospects from Cleveland. They would likely have to include Mejia. I think the risk/reward of trading Mejia is worth the gamble. While I feel Mejia will be a good hitter, Yandy Diaz can hit as well and is more versatile. The Indians have two solid defensive catchers in Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes. If Mejia is needed to fetch a pitcher of Cole’s quality, so be it.
Shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang is a very good prospect. He would attract lots of attention in trade discussions. However, with Francisco Lindor under team control for a while, Chang may be someone to help gain some pitching help. Lindor isn’t eligible for arbitration until 2019. The Indians also have Erik Gonzalez as a utility infielder on the 40-man roster.
My outfield of Bruce in right, Zimmer in center and Brantley or Chisenhall in left is solid. My platoon options would include Greg Allen and Austin Jackson. Both can hit right-handed.
My infielders include Santana at first, Jose Ramirez at second, Lindor at short and Giovanny Urshela at third. Yandy Diaz is my spare part. If Lindor is injured Urshela can play short.
The rest of the bench is crucial for sustained success. Players like the 2nd catcher, and possibly Abraham Almonte can really help. I would make Tyler Naquin and Brandon Guyer, who have two years remaining on his contract available in trade. Michael Brantley’s last year under contract is 2018. Now is the time to move him while he is still relatively within reason in today’s outfield terms at $12M.
I want to see that extra pitcher on the Indians roster to lengthen the depth at that crucial role. Without that, the Indians will have to claw their way back to the postseason-where they will again face loaded pitching staffs.
I think it is important to note that at least two scouts have told me that Brantley’s value has dropped since he has become an injury risk. He still has value, as does Chisenhall. Both are attractive trade chips.
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS-COSMETIC SURGERY
Here the questions I ask myself about the Diamondbacks as they enter the offseason:
First and foremost, how does the organization shore up its depth? They scuffle to fill injuries or poor performances with a lack of quality players in their farm system ready to assume a major-league responsibility.
How can they find a way to sign J.D. Martinez to a long-term contract? Or, put in another way, can they afford to let Martinez walk away and go to another team? Was he, in fact, just a rental player for the 2nd half of this year?
Even though he had an outstanding regular season, is Zack Greinke capable of leading this team to the playoffs again? Is a 34-year old pitcher worth the money the team is paying if he plays out his contract? He is scheduled to make $34M next year and between $34M and $35M per year until his contract expires in 2021. If he isn’t deemed worthy of that salary, how can they move the contract? How much of Greinke’s contract can the team absorb (eat) if he is traded?
If the team keeps both Greinke and highly priced Yasmany Tomas, (between $13M and $17M per year between next year and 2020) will the money be available to improve the depth of the roster?
Will pitcher Shelby Miller be able to come back strong and provide quality innings to the rotation?
Where will the Diamondbacks get at least one to two more quality starting pitchers for the depth that is needed?
How can the Diamondbacks reshape the bullpen?
Who closes for the team? Is it another year for Fernando Rodney? Does Archie Bradley close? Does he go to the rotation? What is Bradley’s role?
Who plays second base on a permanent basis? Is Brandon Drury capable of improving his second base defense?
Can Jake Lamb learn to hit left-handed pitching or is he strictly a platoon player against right-handed pitching?
If not Lamb at third base, then who? Can Drury play third and platoon with Lamb?
Who plays shortstop? Is the bat of a healthy Chris Owings better at shortstop than the defensive prowess of having Nick Ahmed at shortstop?
What is the makeup of the outfield if Martinez is not retained? Assuming David Peralta plays left and A.J. Pollock plays center, who plays right field?
If he is not traded, can the team ever play Yasmany Tomas on defense?
Can Socrates Brito develop into a player?
What is the plan to retain Paul Goldschmidt once his team-friendly contract expires following a 2019 team option?
Are the Dbacks satisfied with the catching corps of Jeff Mathis, Chris Herrmann and Chris Iannetta? Iannetta is a free agent.
Is retaining Pollock a priority? His last year of arbitration is 2018. He then becomes a free agent. Mathis and Herrmann are not.
WHAT I WOULD DO:
My first priority would be to find a way to retain J.D. Martinez.
I would make every effort to trade both Zack Greinke and Yasmany Tomas, even if I had to pay some of their salaries.
I would trade Chris Owings, Brandon Drury or Nick Ahmed for pitching help. One of them.
I would work the remaining shortstop between Owings and Ahmed with Ketel Marte at second base. Marte can likely handle second base without much problem.
Depending upon the return, I would consider trading Jake Lamb and play Brandon Drury at third base on a daily basis.
I would convert Archie Bradley to closer.
I would target the following pitchers in trade: To get a quality pitcher, a quality player or players must be offered:
Taylor Guerrieri- Rays
In return I would trade one of my starting infielders from among Owings, Ahmed or Marte to Tampa Bay, depending upon which pitcher comes back in return.
If J.D. Martinez can’t be signed to a long-term contract, I would consider making a blockbuster deal for Paul Goldschmidt. I would have to get two major-league ready prospects, one veteran player and a lesser prospect for Goldschmidt. Without Martinez, the value of Goldschmidt returns to pre-Martinez strength. That is not enough to be viable in the postseason unless the pitching is vastly improved. With Martinez, the middle of the Dbacks lineup is very strong.
If I could get the right return I would consider trading Jake Lamb for a starting pitcher and at least one bullpen arm and a minor league player.
It will be very difficult for the Diamondbacks to return to the postseason as currently comprised. Martinez was a major contributor. Major. In addition, Greinke had an outstanding regular season, one I am not confident he can repeat.
Some of the young players stepped up well. However, they can’t put runs on the board on a consistent basis without one power hitter in addition to Goldschmidt. That’s Martinez.
Things fell in place for Arizona. Their lack of position and pitching depth caught up with them late in the season. They must shore up the roster to continue to improve.
They have a nice nucleus, but they fall short in minor-league organizational depth. If there is an injury, they can’t dig down and bring up a prospect. If a pitcher is injured or falters, they simply don’t have enough other starting pitchers ready to go. Yet. That may change, but 2018 requires a) at least another starting pitcher other than Shelby Miller and b) at least three different bullpen arms.
It is very hard to trade a player the quality of a Jake Lamb or A J Pollock. And heaven knows, the outcry would be outrageous if they trade Goldschmidt. But. But if they can’t sign free agents, they must, and I mean must shore up their organizational depth. That’s the only way to improve. And in any trade of value, the team must give up a player or players the other team wants.
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