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December 26, 2003  

CIR UPDATE: Indians sign Belliard  
Greetings from Ford Field and the Motor City Bowl. The Indians officially announced the signing of Ron Belliard today to a one-year contract. Terms were not disclosed as of this update. More in the next CIR.


December 23, 2003  

CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT -- Tuesday, December 23  

Warning: This is a huge update. Grab yourself a cold one or a hot one (your choice) before settling in for the read. Here we go....


The Rule 5 draft was conducted on the final day of the Winter Meetings (Monday, December 15) and Indians prospects were especially popular as the Tribe system lost a total of nine players with five being selected in the major league portion and four being selected in the minor league phase. This marks the second straight year in which the Indians system was plundered after four Tribe farmhands were drafted last season. While the Indians stand to receive $298,000 initially ($50,000 for each of the five major league draftees and $12,000 for each of the four minor league draftees), that total could diminish as players are offered back to the Indians which the Tribe can return to the system for $25,000 (half of the original draft price). Note that this only applies to players selected in the major league draft and you can learn more about the Rule 5 Draft in the Rule 5 Draft FAQ on the CIR website.

As we discussed prior to the draft, there is a definite method to the madness of deciding which players to protect and which not to protect and Mark Shapiro alluded to that when he was quoted post-draft as saying "It's one of the byproducts of having a good system. The aggregate number is dramatic. The guys you lose strategically are guys that you think the odds are they won't make it out of Spring Training. So you expose, rather than release them, for the fairness of the player, it gives them a chance to hook on with another team. Of all the guys we lost, we like all the guys, but I think they're all replaceable or we're going to get them back."

Keep in mind that this was a year in which the Indians felt the Rule 5 impact was not going to be as severe as next season when the likes of Jason Cooper, Travis Foley, Jake Dittler, Dan Denham, JD Martin, Brian Slocum, Ben Francisco, Nathan Panther, Shaun Larkin, Fausto Carmona, Nelson Hiraldo, Rafael Perez, and Keith Ramsey (among others) will need to be added to the 40-man roster or risk being exposed to the Rule 5 draft.

Here's the breakdown on who was selected and their respective chances of being returned to the Indians...

Matt White was the first Indian popped when the Rockies grabbed him with the 9th selection in the first round. This marks the second consecutive season in which White was picked after he was drafted last year by Boston before eventually returning to Cleveland after a side trip through Seattle. The left-hander pitched well upon his return (2.13 ERA, .231 BAA) with 34 strikeouts in 42.1 innings but was left unprotected again this season, perhaps in favor of Carl Sadler depending on how you view the structure of the roster. White was originally drafted by the Tribe in the 15th round of the 1998 draft out of Clemson and converted to the bullpen while pitching in Akron in 2002. Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd was quoted on as saying that White profiles as the third lefty in the Rockies pen behind Javier Lopez and Brian Fuentes. Josh Boyd notes for Baseball America that "he was a good selection last year, though and he's a good pick again this year because when he's healthy, he's tough on lefties and throws 90-93 mph with a good breaking ball.". I'd love to see what White can do in the big league with the Indians so let's hope that Coors Field works its magic and returns White to us.

Hector Luna went next at #14 to St.Louis and, like White, this was the second consecutive year in which he was selected. Last year, he was the number one overall selection by the Devil Rays before returning in the spring. Luna struggled initially upon his return, which John Farrell attributed to a major league hangover (I like that description), but rebounded to hit .297/.368/.359/.727 with two homeruns and 17 stolen bases for the Aeros. He also was charged with 35 errors but the majority of those were committed in the first two months of the season. The .297 average was a career high and he improved his BB/K ratio from 39/79 (Kinston, 2002) to 48/64 which is a nice bit of growth for a 21-year old in his double-A debut. The power numbers fell, however, from 32 extrabase hits to 23 (19 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR) and that's a concern although he's still very young (turns 22 in February).

Luna is an interesting prospect but he's being squeezed by Brandon Phillips and Jhonny Peralta ahead of him and Ivan Ochoa climbing the ladder behind him. If he had not been selected in the Rule 5, I think it would have been interesting (and still may be if he is returned) to see where the Indians would have played him this season. Phillips and Peralta are targeted for Buffalo and Ochoa is ticketed for Akron. I suppose Luna could have played short at Buffalo with Phillips at second and Peralta at third but all signs point to Peralta staying at short this season (with Phillips also seeing time there) in preparation for an Omar-less 2005 in Cleveland. If that's the case, then where does Luna play in Buffalo? A position switch to third seems unlikely given his lack of power. The outfield? I suppose it's possible but that's not going to get him to the big leagues anytime sooner with all the kids in Cleveland and Grady Sizemore and Ryan Church in triple-A. So now we're talking about a return to Akron where Ivan Ochoa is slated to move up from Kinston to play short. With Ochoa on the 40 and the Indians raving about his defensive abilities, could Luna slide over to second? Maybe. I suppose Ochoa could start the season in Kinston but, once the option clock starts ticking, a player is usually somewhat fast-tracked through the system so I think Akron is a likely starting place for Ochoa next spring. Four players, two seats. Where's he gonna sit? (smack) Where's he gonna sit? (smack). Anyone else channeling Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin in Cannonball Run right now? Nevermind.

Luna stands a decent shot at making the Cardinals opening-day roster as he joins starter Edgar Renteria as the only natural shortstops on the Cardinals roster. Bruce Mannon, the Cardinals Director of Player Development said on that "We've got good reports on him. Our people like his defense. They like his ability to steal a base. He fits in that he's a guy that could come in and have a chance because of his position. The real plus is that he's a shortstop. That makes him valuable to us." Luna will battle Bo Hart and Brent Butler for a utility role.

Mark Shapiro was quoted in the papers this morning as saying that the Indians would probably take back all of the five players selected if they were offered back, but I wonder if Luna may turn out to be the exception to that thought. If only because of the presence of Phillips, Peralta, and Ochoa, if the Cardinals offered a similar prospect at another position, I think the Indians might be interested in that. If you remember, they took this route last season when Marshall McDougall was offered back by the Rangers and the Indians instead worked out a deal that netted them left-hander Derrick Van Dusen.

And here's an interesting thought from Baseball America's Josh Boyd regarding Luna and I suppose Matt White also: "Luna can declare free agency if he's outrighted for a second time. " This is true for any player who has been designated for assignment twice, they can refuse the assignment and elect to become a free-agent rather than accept being outrighted to the minor leagues. I wonder if this applies to Rule 5 cases, however. Hmmm....

Kinston outfielder Willy Taveras followed two picks later to Houston with the #16 pick after hitting .282/.381/.350/.731 with 57 stolen bases this year. The 21-year old was also named the best defensive outfielder in the Carolina League (this follows a similar honor in the Sally League in 2002) in a poll of league managers by Baseball America. Speed and defense is obviously his calling card and will likely earn him a shot at the big leagues in the next couple of years but he'll have to add strength (17 extra bases) to develop into anything more than a role player. Taveras also needs to stay healthy as he has missed portions of the last two seasons with wrist and hamstring injuries. I would be very surprised to see Taveras stick with the Astros given how raw and how far away from the big leagues he is and Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker said as much on when he was quoted as saying "It's a long shot to think that this fellow can make our club and compete at the Major League level this year. But he's got tremendous tools. He's a great center fielder, has a solid arm, he can really run. He's been a prolific base stealer up this point in his career. He's got good instincts for stealing bases." That said, barring a spring surprise, Willy Taveras should be in centerfield next season in Akron.

The Rockies dipped into the Indians farm system for the second time in the draft with the #18 overall pick as they took infielder Luis Gonzalez. He'll compete for a utility role in Denver with Benji Gil (signed yesterday and who spent the last few weeks of 2003 in Buffalo) and perhaps Mark Bellhorn, although there was speculation yesterday that Bellhorn was headed to the Red Sox. Very much under the prospect radar for most of his career, Gonzalez started to draw a little attention this season thanks to a .318/.385/.436/.821 campaign for the Aeros and he's followed that up with a strong winterball season in Venezuela where he's currently hitting .303/.396/.480/.876 with six homeruns and 46 RBIs. His versatility is also a plus as he can play all four infield position. Like Luna, though, he's a victim of numbers in the Cleveland system. I wouldn't be surprised if he sticks in Colorado, I wouldn't be surprised if he's offered back, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Indians worked out a deal for him.

The final Indian selected in the major league portion of the Rule 5 was a player who has yet to officially wear an Indians uniform. Lino Urdaneta, signed as a minor league free-agent in November, was selected by the Tigers with the #20, and final, pick of the draft. Urdaneta is a hard-throwing right-hander (98 mph this winter according to Baseball America) who has pitched well in Venezuela this winter due to the tune of a 1.29 ERA in 25 appearances. Command has always been an issue with him, however, and for as hard as he throws, he's certainly not blowing anyone away this winter (11 BB and just 12 K in 28 IP). The Tigers bullpen is wide open so he'll have a shot at making the big league roster but with two other Rule 5 draftees trying to make the roster as well, I think he'll eventually be offered back to the Indians.

In the minor league portion of the draft, the Indians lost left-hander Lance Caraccioli to the Mets, right-hander Honeudis Pereyra to the Royals, outfielder Miguel Quintana to the Phillies, and left-hander Igancio Montano to the Padres. There are no roster requirements for players selected in the minor league phase so these players will not be offered back to the Indians. Of the bunch, Caraccioli is probably the biggest name after he was acquired in 2002 from Los Angeles for Jolbert Cabrera and spent the last two seasons in Buffalo. He posted decent numbers for the Dodgers but didn't really pitch all that well after joining the Indians as evidenced by his 5.10 ERA in 34 appearances last year for Buffalo. Pereyra is a 22-year old right-hander who struck out an impressive 97 batters in 68 innings the last two seasons but I believe that he's a soft-tosser and he's yet to make it out of short-season ball. Quintana was drafted in the 8th round of the 2001 draft out of Florida International but didn't show much power or plate discipline in his three seasons in the Indians system and hit .283/.318/.382 with four homeruns in 99 games for Kinston last year. Montano is a smallish left-hander (5-8, 155) who posted a 3.38 ERA in 40 innings for Lake County last season. None of the four should be considered a major loss as they all profile as organizational fillers.

The Indians did add one player in the ule 5 as they selected infielder Todd West from the Brewers organization in the minor league portion of the draft. He'll serve as middle infield insurance should Hector Luna and Luis Gonzalez not be returned to the organization. West hit .239/.287/.303 for single-A High Desert last season and the Indians noted in their release that he's a slick-fielder who had a .989 fielding percentage with only five errors last season. He was originally drafted by the Brewers out of the University of Texas in the 14th round of the 2000 draft, 15 picks before the Indians took Ryan Church.

For more information, Baseball America has their Rule 5 recap available as does John Sickels on


Did you blink and miss the Indians brief flirtation with Todd Walker over the past 48 hours (12/14-12/16)? In a scene right out my rotisserie league (Hi Paul), the Indians reportedly extended a one-year, $2.4 million deal to Walker under the conditions that he had a very limited window in which to accept the offer. That window apparently shut Monday night (12/15) or early Tuesday morning (12/16) as the Indians withdrew the offer this afternoon (12/16), although there are some reports that both sides will keep the door open for future negotiations. It's believed that Walker is hedging his bets that once the A-Rod/Manny trade goes through, an offer to play second base for the Texas Rangers (with Michael Young moving to shortstop) will come through for more dollars (and perhaps years) than the Indians offered.

What was interesting about the Indians offer is that Larry Dolan reportedly authorized Mark Shapiro to go beyond his limited available payroll dollars in order to land Walker. That's nice to see, although it doesn't look like it will work out in this case. The Indians are now expected to return to the bargain basement and the local papers are reporting that they might extend an offer to another player within the next several days.

That player turned out to be Ronnie Belliard, whom various sources reported as having agreed to (or close to agreeing to) a contract with the Indians last week. Last season the 27-year old hit .277/.351/.409/.760 with 31 doubles and 8 homeruns for the Rockies. He spent the first four seasons of his major league career with the Brewers where he had a strong debut season in 1999 but tailed off from there. Not my first choice, but maybe we'll get lucky.

Note that there's been very little mention of Belliard in the press since last Friday and whether this mean that Belliard has turned down the Indians offer (likely for far less than what was offered to Walker), or the Indians are awaiting results of his physical (as noted on Friday by Paul Hoynes), or his window has passed and the Indians are now reviewing the list of non-tenders (which includes Marlon Anderson) is unknown.

Could it also be possible that the uncertainty surrounding the A-Rod/Manny trade has forced Todd Walker to reconsider the Indians offer, especially with the Indians now having a little extra cash around with the non-tendering of Danys Baez? I'm not sure, but the silence is interesting. Of course, once I hit publish, I'm sure we'll see an official annoucement that Belliard has signed later this afternoon :-).

As for the rest of the second base market...

Rey Sanchez signed a 1-year, $1 million contract with the Devil Rays to be the caretaker of the shortstop position until BJ Upton arrives next spring. Julio Lugo will likely move to second which increases the already strong possibilities that Marlon Anderson will be non-tendered on Sunday (Note: He was non-tendered). He's a guy who may interest the Tribe.

Tony Graffanino got the two-year deal he was looking for when he signed a two-year, $2.2 million deal with the Royals.

Geoff Blum, who was thought to be a non-tender candidate, was traded by the Astros to the Devil Rays for pitcher Brandon Backe.

If the Bellhorn deal mentioned above goes through, the Red Sox are expected to non-tender Damien Jackson on Sunday (Note: It did and he was)

The Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox and Pokey Reese are close to a one-year deal.


Omar Vizquel was going home to Seattle but now he's coming home to Cleveland after his trade to the Mariners for Carlos Guillen was called off after his knee failed the M's physical. As much as I love Omar and all he's meant to the Indians over the past 10 years, this would have been a very good deal for the Indians.

Over the past three seasons, Omar (.657, .759, .657) and Guillen (.688, .720, .753) have posted similar OPS' with the 36-year old Vizquel trending negatively and the 28-year old Guillen trending positively. Although, to be fair, neither has been much at the plate. Defensively, as much as I love Omar, he's living off reputation as much as his actual performance on the field at this stage of his career and it's highly unlikely that his defense would improve given his age and two knee surgeries last season. Guillen is a solid, if not spectacular, defender and I doubt we would have noticed much difference between the two in the field this season save for the occasional bare-hand play. Financially, the savings in this deal ($4.5 million) would have allowed the Indians to shop outside the bargain bin for pitching and land a starter or additional reliever or perhaps improve their offer for a second basemen. Alas, though, it was not meant to be thanks to a balky 36-year old knee. While I'll enjoy watching Omar play out his final season in Cleveland, I'll also be wondering what could have been with this missed opportunity. Bravo to the Indians, though, for attempting this deal knowing the public relations hit they would take.

Danys Baez is now a free-agent after he was non-tendered by the Indians on Saturday. Paul Hoynes notes in the PD that he turned down a two-year, $4 million offer from the Indians earlier in the week and it will be interesting to see if he can command more than that on the open market. The Mets and the Rangers are already in pursuit. I would suspect the Indians will now use that money for a starting pitcher or, perhaps, another reliever. If you're wondering, the right-handed side of the bullpen is now flavored by Bob Wickman, David Riske, Jack Cressend, Rafael Betancourt, Bobby Howry, Giovanni Carrara, and David Lee.

Carl Sadler was also non-tendered although Hoynes notes that he's expected to sign a minor league contract with the Indians sometime this week.

The 40-man roster now stands at 38 after the above two moves.

Real quick, the remaining available free-agent starting pitchers who may be in the Indians price range...

RH Scott Erickson, Balt; RH John Burkett, Bos.; RH Robert Person, Bos.; RH Jose Lima, K.C.; RH Rick Reed, Minn.; LH Kenny Rogers, Minn.; RH Cory Lidle, Tor.; RH Shane Reynolds, Atl.; LH Shawn Estes, Cubs; RH Ryan Dempster, Cin.; LH Darren Oliver, Col.; RH Rick Helling, Fla.; RH Andy Ashby, L.A.; RH Todd Ritchie, Milw.; LH Glendon Rusch, Milw.; RH Pedro Astacio, Mets; RH Terry Adams, Phil.; Matt Wise, Ana.; RH Steve Sparks, Oak.; RH Brian Moehler, Hou.; LH Ron Villone, Hou.; RH Jose Mercedes, Mon.;RH Julian Tavarez, Pitt.; LH Jeff Fassero, St.L.; RH Garrett Stephenson, St.L.; RH Brett Tomko, St.L; Jason Johnson, rhp; Damian Moss, lhp, Scott Elarton, rhp; Matt Miller, rhp; Britt Reames, rhp.

Not much left, huh? Of this group, Jason Johnson is the guy I would target but I suspect he's going to be too rich for the Indians. The Arizona Tribune reports that the Diamondbacks are close to signing Shane Reynolds and Steve Sparks. If true, it will be interesting to see what these guys sign for as both would seem to have been in the Indians price range.

Jake Westbrook avoided arbitration (and possibly being non-tendered) by agreeing to a one-year, $925k contract for the 2004 season. This represents a $600k+ raise from the $305k he made last season when he went 7-10 with a 4.33 ERA (133 IP, 142 H, 56 BB, 58 K) while splitting time between the rotation and bullpen. Thanks to the injuries to Brian Tallet and Billy Traber, he'll enter camp as one of the front-runners for one of the two open spots in the rotation. This signing leaves David Riske as the lone arbitration-eligible Indian on the roster.

The Indians officially announced the signings of Giovanni Carrara, Tim Young, Adam Piatt, Ernie Young, Mike Porzio, and Bobby Howry to minor league contracts.

Carrara is a 14-year Venezuelan native who has spent time in the Blue Jays, Reds, Orioles, Japan, Reds (again), Rockies, Dodgers, and Mariners system. He most recently pitched for Seattle where he posted a 6.83 ERA in 29 innings for the Mariners last season. That followed two pretty solid years out of the Dodgers pen in which he fashioned back-to-back ERAs of 3.16 in 2001 and 3.28 in 2002. Forecasting, perhaps, his 2003 downturn was the noticeable drop in his K/BB ratios and K/IP ratios from 2001 to 2002 which was obscured by the low ERA. Carrara also gives up a lot of homeruns (12 in 85 IP in 2001, 14 in 90 IP in 2002, and 6 in 29 IP in 2003), especially for a guy who has spent the majority of the last three seasons pitching in Dodger Stadium and Safeco Field. He'll be 36 on opening day and while he'll have an opportunity to make the big league club with a good spring, he's likely nothing more than triple-A insurance.

Young, Tim is a smallish left-hander and if the name sounds familiar, it's because he's actually pitched in the Indians organization although his official stats generally don't reflect that. If you recall, Young was acquired from the Red Sox in September 2002 to fill out the Bisons playoff roster and he even picked up a save for the Bisons in the playoffs. The 30-year old signed with Toronto last season and posted a 6.75 ERA in 19 appearances for Syracuse before being released in June. He finished the season in the Rockies organization, posting a 2.49 ERA in 29 appearances, striking out 27 in 25.1 innings. He's a longshot major league LOOGY and likely nothing more than triple-A filler.

Piatt is a former minor league player of the year whose big league career has been derailed by injuries. Originally drafted in the 8th round of the 1997 draft by Oakland, Piatt burst onto the scene in 1999 when he hit .345 and slugged .704 with 48 doubles, 39 homeruns, and 135 RBIs for double-A Midland which earned him the Topps and Baseball Weekly minor league player of the year awards. Impressive numbers even with the knowledge that Midland was an extreme hitters park in those days. That performance resulted in a big league opportunity in 2000 for Piatt where he hit an encouraging .299/.392/.490/.882 with five homeruns in 157 ABs. Unfortunately, that's the highpoint of his big league career as Piatt was first diagnosed with a partial tear of his rotator cuff during winterball and after recovering from that injury, he was diagnosed in June 2001 with viral meningitis which caused him to lose 15 pounds, sapped his strength, and forced him to miss the rest of the season. He's since spent the last two years as a major league reserve, displaying some power but none of the plate discipline (46 K and 9 BB in 132 ABs last year) that fueled his rise as a minor league slugger. The A's finally released him this past August and he spent the final six weeks of 2003 with Tampa Bay.

Interestingly enough, while the bulk of his major league experience has come in the outfield, Piatt was originally drafted as a third basemen and he's currently listed as an infielder on the Bisons roster on Whether a move to the hot corner or first base (where he has also played) is in the offing this spring remains to be seen, but it's an interesting thought. Piatt's still young (28 on opening day) and if he can rediscover his plate discipline, his power bat would be an interesting option for the Indians.

Ernie Young is a 34-year old career minor leaguer who was originally drafted by Oakland in 1990. He made his major league debut with the A's in 1994 and hit .242 with 19 homeruns in 1996 in what became his only full-time season in the big leagues. In addition to the A's, Young has played for the Royals, Diamondbacks, and Tigers during his career and hit .264/.342/.452 with 21 longballs for Toledo last season. I'm pretty sure he has also spent some time in either Japan or Mexico as well. Young was most recently a teammate of Grady Sizemore on Team USA where he hit .467 (14-for-30) in the AFL and .455 (5-for-11) in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. For Bisons fans, a middle of the order featuring Sizemore, Piatt, and Young should be very entertaining this summer.

Mike Porzio is a 31-year old left-handed pitcher whose baseball travels have taken him from the Cubs to the independent Northern League to the Braves to the Rockies and, most recently, to the White Sox. Last season, he made three starts for the Sox, posting a 6.43 ERA in the process. Two of those starts happened to come against the Indians, the first on July 12 when he took the loss after allowing three runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings while striking out six and the second on July 21 when he was credited with the win after allowing three runs on five hits in five innings of work. For the remainder of the season, he pitched for triple-A Charlotte where he went 8-6 with a 4.24 ERA (133.2 IP, 124 H, 47 BB, 115 K). Porzio also spent a chuck of 2002 in the big leagues pitching out of the White Sox bullpen where he posted a 4.81 ERA in 43 innings (40 H, 23 BB, 33 K). If you're thinking LOOGY, Porzio has actually fared much better against right-handed hitters (.238 BA) than lefties (.308) in his brief major league career (71 IP). He's also allowed 17 homeruns in those 71 innings which is a pretty alarming ratio. A longshot to make the Indians roster, Porzio will likely spend the spring battling for a spot in the Bisons rotation.

Bobby Howry is a former closer who sat out most of last season after undergoing elbow surgery in June but who's not that far removed from a pretty good five year run (1998-2002) in the White Sox bullpen. Originally drafted by the Giants, Howry was dealt to the White Sox in the infamous "White Flag" trade in the summer of 1997. He made his major league debut the following season and moved into the closers role by year end thanks to a 3.15 ERA in 54.1 innings (37 H, 19 BB, 51 K). A strong 1999 (67.2 IP, 58 H, 38 BB, 80 K) followed in which he was credited with 28 saves. The emergence of Keith Foulke removed Howry from the closer role in 2000 but he still pitched extremely well, posting a 3.17 ERA in 71 innings (54 H, 29 BB, 60 K). 2001 brought the worst season of his major league career as he posted a 4.72 ERA (78.2 IP, 85 H, 30 BB, 64 K) but he rebounded in 2002 to post decent numbers with the White Sox and Red Sox (midseason trade) and a 4.19 ERA (68.2 IP, 67 H, 21 BB, 45 K). That brings us to last season where he posted a 12.46 ERA in 4 innings with the Sox prior to his surgery. I like this signing. It's low-risk and, when healthy, Howry has shown he can be a decent-to-good setup man. I don't consider Jack Cressend and Rafael Betancourt to be absolute locks for the bullpen so, if the arm is sound, I would not be surprised at all to see Howry break camp with the Indians if he has a good spring.


The New York Daily News reported last week that the Mets were trying to send Roger Cedeno to the Indians for Matt Lawton. Both players have two years remaining on their contracts with Cedeno owed $10 million and Lawton owed $14 million. The Mets had tried to send Cedeno to the Mariners over the weekend for Jeff Cirillo (two years, $15 million) but that deal fizzled after the two teams could not agree on how much of Cirillo's contract the Mariners would absorb. The Mets would likely also want the Indians to absorb part of Lawton's contract which I can't see the Indians doing. Lawton is a better player than Cedeno anyway so why trade outfielder for outfielder if you're not saving any money? Unless the Indians can flip Cedeno for something else (or they don't have to eat any of Lawton's contract), I can't see them making this type of deal. Mark Shapiro confirmed that much in the local papers the next day.

Grady Sizemore and Fausto Carmona were named the Indians minor league player and pitcher of the year by the organization. No big surprise there as each was clearly the best Indians prospect in the field and on the mound this past season.

Corey Smith is the subject of an article on in which John Farrell is quoted as saying that he's (Corey) on the same pace that he came into the draft, a five-year plan, and the Indians still feel that he will be an everyday major league player. Kevin Kouzmanoff, for the first time that I've seen, also gets a mention as a prospect.

Derek Thompson was non-tendered by the Dodgers, thus making him a free-agent. How this affects his Rule 5 status with the Indians, I'm not sure. Since he had spent all of 2003 on the Dodgers disabled list after blowing out his elbow in the spring, it was my understanding that his Rule 5 roster requirement extended to 90 days on the big league roster for 2004. Whether that will apply to a team that eventually signs him, I'm not sure. I would hope the Indians still have the opportunity to reacquire him. Young lefties don't grow on trees, you know.

Todd Greene signed a one-year, $500k contract with the Rockies after Brent Mayne spurned their offer and signed with the Diamondbacks. What this may do to any Josh Bard talks I'm not sure. Power is Greene's one plus skill and that could play well in Coors Field but, defensively, he's very weak.

You can remove Oakland from the list of potential Josh Bard suitors after the A's acquired Damian Miller from the Cubs for Michael Barrett, whom they had just acquired from the Expos.

The Marlins are looking for a closer and have reportedly offered Armando Benetiz a 1-year, $3 million deal. They've also been linked to the Red Sox and Scott Williamson as well as the Cubs and Kyle Farnsworth. Braden Looper remains a possibility to return if they can sign him by Sunday for less than the $4 million he is expected to command in arbitration (they didn't and he was non-tendered). I mention all this simply because I find it somewhat odd that we haven't seen Danys Baez' name mentioned/suggested/linked with the Fish. The Cuban/South Florida connection alone would have merited speculation about such a move I would have thought, even if to only say that talks aren't happening.

Justin Speier returns to the American League after he was dealt from the Rockies to the Blue Jays. He'll setup Aquilino Lopez and/or Kerry Ligtenberg in the back of the Jays pen.

Anthony Medrano was selected by the Expos in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft while Jim Goelz was selected by the Marlins. How many times have the Expos acquired Medrano over the past two years?

The Rangers have made an offer to free-agent Julian Tavarez, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Ricky Ledee (remember him?) avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $1.225 million with the Phillies.

Much to the delight of fantasy owners everywhere, Jeromy Burnitz signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Rockies. He could put up some monster homerun numbers in Coors Field next year.

Mike Bacsik signed a minor league contract with the Rangers.

Tanyon Sturtze signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers. The Indians had reportedly been interested in signing him.

And finally, according to the ATM Reports, Bill Selby has signed a minor league contract with the Cubs.

Like I said, this was a long report. It's also likely to be the last one in 2003 so let me take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support of the CIR this year and wish you and yours the best this holiday season!

See you in 2004!


December 22, 2003  

CIR UPDATE: Baez and Sadler now free-agents  
Danys Baez is now a free-agent after he was non-tendered by the Indians on Saturday. Paul Hoynes notes in the PD that he turned down a two-year, $4 million offer from the Indians earlier in the week and it will be interesting to see if he can command more than that on the open market. I would suspect the Indians will now use that money for a starting pitcher or, perhaps, another reliever. If you're wondering, the right-handed side of the bullpen is now flavored by Bob Wickman, David Riske, Jack Cressend, Rafael Betancourt, Bobby Howry, Giovanni Carrara, and David Lee.

Carl Sadler was also non-tendered although Hoynes notes that he's expected to sign a minor league contract with the Indians sometime this week.

The 40-man roster now stands at 38.

More in the next CIR.

CIR UPDATE: List of Non-Tenders  
List of the 58 players who were non-tendered over the weekend. Some interesting names, mostly pitchers. Some familiar names as well (Damian Jackson, Karim Garcia, Russ Branyan).

Note that Derek Thompson was non-tendered by the Dodgers. How this affects his Rule 5 status, I'm not sure.

Shawn Wooten, c-inf, Jason Johnson, rhp; Damian Moss, lhp, Edwin Almonte, rhp; Damian Jackson, inf; Gabe Kapler, of; Lou Merloni, inf; Scott Sauerbeck, lhp; Jason Shiell, rhp, Danys Baez, rhp; Carl Sadler, lhp, Ben Petrick, c-inf; Andy Van Hekken, lhp, Kris Wilson, rhp, Augie Ojeda, inf, David Dellucci, of; Karim Garcia, of, Jeremy Fikac, rhp; Frank Menechino, inf; Mark Redman, lhp, Marlon Anderson, 2b; Gerardo Garcia, rhp; Jared Sandberg, inf, Jason Tyner, of, Trever Miller, lhp; Cliff Politte, rhp, Rod Barajas, c, Michael Barrett, c; Scott Chiasson, rhp; Randall Simon, 1b, Russell Branyan, inf; Ruben Mateo, of; Reggie Taylor, of, Scott Elarton, rhp; Matt Miller, rhp; Jay Payton, of; Kit Pellow, inf, Armando Almanza, lhp; Toby Borland, rhp; Braden Looper, rhp, Nate Bland, lhp, Michael Brohawn, lhp ; Alfredo Gonzalez, rhp; Derek Thompson, lhp, Jayson Durocher, rhp, Hector Almonte, rhp; Orlando Hernandez, rhp; Britt Reames, rhp, Pedro Feliciano, lhp; Jeremy Hill, rhp; Scott Strickland, rhp, Travis Chapman, 3b; Valerio De Los Santos, lhp, Mike Lincoln, rhp, Gene Stechschulte, rhp, Mike Matthews, lhp; Miguel Ojeda, c; Todd Sears, inf


December 19, 2003  

CIR UPDATE: Indians invite five players to camp  
The Indians confirmed the previously discussed signings of Giovanni Carrara, Tim Young, Adam Piatt, and Ernie Young this afternoon and also announced the signing of left-hander Mike Porzio to a minor league contract.

From the press release...
Porzio, 31, spent the majority of the 2003 season at AAA Charlotte in the Chicago White Sox organization, going 8-6 w/a 4.24 ERA in 26 appearances/22 starts (133.2IP, 124H, 63ER, 47BB, 115K). He made 3 starts in July for the White Sox, two of which came against the Indians (1-1, 6.43ERA). Porzio appeared in a career high 32 games for the White Sox in 2002 (2-2, 4.81ERA) and limited ML hitters to a .248 average against. Porzio has appeared in 51 major league games and 250 minor league contests (140GS) over an 11-year professional career.

Interesting thought on Adam Piatt as Barry reminds us on the website comments that Piatt came through the A's system as a third basemen. I wonder if time at the hot corner will be in his Indians future?

All five received invitations to spring training but are likely longshots to make the opening day roster.

CIR UPDATE: Belliard close to signing  
Paul Hoynes reports in the Plain Dealer that the Indians and Ronnie Belliard have agreed on a one-year contract pending Belliard passing a physical. The 27-year old hit .277/.351/.409/.760 with 31 doubles and 8 homeruns last season with the Rockies. He spent the first four seasons of his major league career with the Brewers where he had a strong debut season in 1999 but tailed off from there. Not my first choice, but maybe we'll get lucky.

CIR UPDATE: Giovanni Carrara signs with Indians  
Baseball America notes in their minor league transactions that pitcher Giovanni Carrara has signed with the Indians. Carrara is a 14-year veteran who posted a 6.83 ERA in 29 innings for the Mariners last season after two pretty productive years pitching out of the Dodgers bullpen. He's likely bullpen and triple-A insurance.


December 18, 2003  

CIR UPDATE: Adam Piatt signs with Indians  
Paul Hoynes notes in the Plain Dealer that Adam Piatt has signed a minor league contract with the Indians. He's a former minor league player of the year whose big league career has been derailed by injuries. Right-handed power, Piatt is a corner outfielder who has also played some first base. Interesting signing, especially for those who live in Buffalo.

CIR UPDATE: Lawton for Cedeno?  
The New York Daily News reports this morning that the Mets are trying to send Roger Cedeno to the Indians for Matt Lawton. Both players have two years remaining on their contracts with Cedeno owed $10 million and Lawton owed $14 million. The Mets had tried to send Cedeno to the Mariners over the weekend for Jeff Cirillo (two years, $15 million) but that deal fizzled after the two teams could not agree on how much of Cirillo's contract the Mariners would absorb. The Mets would likely also want the Indians to absorb part of Lawton's contract which I can't see the Indians doing. Lawton is a better player than Cedeno anyway so why trade outfielder for outfielder if you're not saving any money? Unless the Indians can flip Cedeno for something else (or they don't have to eat any of Lawton's contract), I can't see them making this type of deal.


December 17, 2003  

CIR UPDATE: Omar Vizquel deal officially dead  
Mark Shapiro tells that the Omar Vizquel dealis officially dead. The article also notes that the Indians have made an offer to a second basemen and they expect to hear a response within the next 24 hours.

CIR UPDATE: Indians sign Bobby Howry  
The Indians signed Bobby Howry to a minor league contract today that includes an invitation to spring training. I like this signing. It's low-risk and, when healthy, Howry has been a decent setup man.

CIR UPDATE: Mariners have 3:00 PM deadline  
Both the Akron-Beacon Journal and the Seattle Times are reporting that the Mariners have until 3:00 PM this afternoon to give the Indians a final answer. No word on whether that is eastern or pacific time.

CIR UPDATE: Omar staying in Cleveland  
Omar Vizquel failed his physical last night cancelling his trade to Seattle for Carlos Guillen. No word on whether talks are completely over or if a second opinion will be sought.


December 16, 2003  

CIR UPDATE: Indians sign Jake Westbrook  
The Indians announced that they have signed Jake Westbrook to a one-year contract today. He was eligible for arbitration and it had been speculated that he was a candidate to be non-tendered on Sunday. No terms were announced. David Riske is the lone arbitration-eligible Indian on the roster.

CIR UPDATE: Omar trade nearly official is reporting that an Indians official told that Omar passing a physical is the only thing remaining before the trade can be made official. Carlos Guillen is again mentioned as the player headed to the Indians and the deal is expected to be finalized on Wednesday.

CIR UPDATE: Todd Walker offer pulled  
The Associated Press is reporting that the Indians have pulled their offer to Todd Walker off the table. A direct quote from the article... "Our offer is officially off the table, and we are preparing another offer for another player," Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said. Shapiro would not say who that player was".

CIR UPDATE: Omar to Seattle?  

The Seattle Times is reporting that a deal to send Omar Vizquel to Seattle is "all but done" and could be announced as soon as this evening. ESPN is also reporting the story. Carlos Guillen, who recently signed a $2.5 million contract for 2004, is speculated as being the leading candidate to come to the Cleveland where he'd likely takeover at shortstop. Vizquel is scheduled to make $7 million this season so the Indians would save approximately $4.5 million in this deal if no additional money is involved. What they plan (or might) do with that $4.5 million or if there are any prospects involved (let's hope) has not been reported. More in the next CIR.


December 15, 2003  

CIR UPDATE: Rule 5 Minor League Results  

The Indians selected infielder Todd West from the Brewers organization in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft this morning. Similar to the major league portion, the Indians were a popular organization to plunder as they lost Lance Caraccioli (NY Mets), Honeudis Pereyra (Kansas City), Miguel Quintana (Philadelphia), and Ignacio Montano (San Diego). Unlike the major league phase, these players do not need to stay at a certain level all season and, therefore, do not need to be offered back to the Indians. In short, they're gone, but I wouldn't lose too much sleep over that fact. More in the next CIR.

CIR UPDATE: Indians lose 5 in the Rule 5  

The Indians had FIVE players selected in the Rule 5 Draft this morning. Matt White (Colorado), Hector Luna (St.Louis), Willy Taveras (Houston) were selected in the first round while Luis Gonzalez (Colorado) was picked in the second round and Lino Urdaneta (Detroit) was tabbed in the third round. On the plus side, the Indians made $250k today. On the down side, we lost some talent although some or all of these players could be returned to the Tribe in the spring.

Cleveland and Pittsburgh lost the most players at five apiece. Five of the first six players selected were Pirates. Lino Urdaneta will be one of three Rule 5 draftees trying to make the Tigers opening day roster.

I have not seen the minor league portion results yet but I'll post them as soon as they become available. More in the next CIR.


December 13, 2003  


Hi Everyone,

As is now known, the Vladimir Guerrero story that I posted on Thursday was a joke. It was never intended to be read as fact or rumor. Aside from how unbelievable the story itself was, clues hidden within the text pointed to the fact that it was a joke and you can now see them highlighted in the original message at this website. It was intended to be nothing more than a humorous diversion so that Indians fans would laugh and say "boy, I wish that was true" before returning to the reality of a very quiet winter meetings and offseason.

Unfortunately, though, intent and reality are often two different things. To say that I expected to wake up this morning and find Paul Hoynes and Mark Shapiro discussing this story in the Plain Dealer is simply beyond words. I vastly underestimated the amount of people who would take this seriously, vastly underestimated the number of people who would not recognize the hidden clues and message, vastly underestimated how quickly and how far this story would spread, and all of that is very much a regrettable error on my part. To anyone who feels they were the victim of a cruel hoax, I offer my sincerest apologies.

I would also like to specifically apologize to any members of the media and major league clubs (especially the Indians) who spent any time on this story within the past 36 hours. At this busy time of year, I recognize that chasing false leads is not in anyone's best interests and for that I am truly sorry.

To the baseball blogging community, I would also like to express my regrets for any damage this may have done to the perception of online reporting. There are countless individuals and sites that churn out fantastic work on a daily basis as nothing more than a labor of love and that is something not to be trifled with. You can visit any number of these sites from the links on the CIR website and they are all worth spending some quality time with.

As for the CIR, it remains the same as it always has been, one fan's opinion of the news and events surrounding his favorite team. What may have changed, however, is your opinion of the CIR and that is something I recognize and respect. It has been a privilege to be welcomed into your mailbox and browser over the past two years and whether or not you choose for that to continue, please let it be known that I have appreciated your support.

Best Regards,


December 12, 2003  

CIR UPDATE: Minor League Awards  

The Indians announced today that Grady Sizemore and Fausto Carmona have been named the organization's Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year. More in the next CIR.


With the Winter Meetings upon us, the Indians are expected to mainly be bystanders in what could shape up to be a very busy weekend throughout baseball. Sure, they'll talk, they'll listen, they may negotiate, but for the most part, they'll be like the rest of us and watch the A-Rod/Manny situation and Yankees spending spree unfold, albeit from an insiders perspective.

The Tribe did make one roster move this week as they claimed left-hander Cliff Bartosh off waivers on Monday. Originally drafted in the 29th round of the 1998 draft out of Duncanville HS in Texas (why does that sound familiar?) by the Padres, Bartosh is a 6-2, 175 pound, 24-year old southpaw who has spent the majority of his career working out of the bullpen. He spent last season in triple-A Portland (where he was a teammate of new Indians front office member Charles Nagy) and posted a 4.29 ERA in 64 appearances (71.1 IP, 67 H, 22 BB, 51 K). He also pitched in the Arizona Fall League, although not too well, as he allowed 31 hits in 21 innings with a 7.29 ERA in 12 appearances. BA had him ranked as the Padres #23 prospect entering this season. The Indians will actually be his third team in three months as they actually claimed off waivers from the Tigers who had previously signed him after he was released by the Padres. Command has been an issue in previous years but he showed improvement in that regard this season although he did sacrifice some dominance as his K/IP ratio fell off. Scouting reports say that he throws in the upper 80s and uses a slurve for a pretty good second pitch and, since he's a lefty, Bartosh has been profiled as a LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY). I don't think, however, that the Indians would have used a roster spot on Bartosh at this stage in their transition unless they felt he could be used for more than one batter.

With the roster now complete full at 40 players, this addition means that the Indians will be unable to participate in the Rule 5 draft on Monday (barring additional roster moves, of course). Obviously, they must have felt that Bartosh could help them more than any player available in the Rule 5 but talent alone may not have factored into that decision. Remember that any player selected in the Rule 5 will have to spend the entire season on the Indians major league roster. That requirement will not apply to Bartosh which means the Indians will be able to send him to Buffalo if he doesn't break camp with the big league club. That flexibility and not having to tie up a roster spot for the entire season likely made Bartosh far more attractive then the Rule 5 candidates. I'm not sure how many options he has remaining but it should be at least one so Bartosh will likely be around for this season (at least).

Also note that the Indians said very early in the offseason that they were likely to look within the organization or minor league free-agents to address their left-handed reliever needs. I think this transaction follows right along those lines.

Also note that with the roster full, any free-agent signed to a major league contract will require a player to be removed from the 40 and exposed to waivers. Remember the concept of "assignable players"? We'll see if that comes into play over the next few months.

As for the Rule 5, I'll have the "potential Indians to be selected" preview finished over the weekend. Before signing Bartosh, however, there were a few players I had thought the Indians might have been interested in which included Cincinnati left-hander Ty Howington, Montreal second basemen Josh McKinley, San Diego second basemen Jake Gautreau, Atlanta left-hander Ray Aguilar, Seattle left-hander Craig Anderson, and New York Mets lefty Lenny Dinardo. All would have fit the Indians stated needs for a second basemen and left-handed reliever but would they be worth carrying around on the roster for the entire season? In the case of the Rule 5, beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. Howington's a former first round pick who's battled injuries. McKinley may convert to catcher to increase his versatility (what does that say about his defense at second?), Gautreau is another former first round pick who has been battling colitis and has not posted impressive numbers in his minor league career. Aguilar, Anderson, and Dinardo are lefties with a nice K/IP and K/BB ratio who may have helped out of the bullpen. We'll see if any of these guys end up being selected.

Jayson Stark noted on that this Rule 5 draft crop is not impressive according to major league front offices. Interestingly enough, there are quite a few former first round picks available, including Brad Hennessey from the Giants and Youngstown State and five of the top 10 picks (Luis Montanez, 3rd; Mike Stodolka, 4th; Matt Wheatland, 8th; Mark Phillips, 9th; and Joe Torres, 10th) from the 2000 draft. That's pretty amazing. Of course, if you've heard of the guy and he's not protected from the Rule 5, chances are it's for a pretty good reason. Most Rule 5 picks tend to be relative unknowns. For example, how many people outside of Indians fans have heard of Hector Luna or Wily Taveras or Lino Urdaneta? Not many. I'm getting ahead of myself here but we'll talk more about this on Monday.

In second base news, Paul Hoynes reports in the Plain Dealer that Chris Stynes, Ron Belliard, and Eric Young are three of the 11 middle infielders that the Indians have contacted. Depending on the price, I wouldn't necessarily mind any of the above three. Tony Graffanino reportedly turned down an offer from the Indians because he wanted a two-year deal. I wonder if his opinion has changed with a return to the White Sox no longer an option. Hoynsie also mentions Jeff Reboulet as a name to remember. Yikes. Don't we already have Johnny Mac to fill the role of utility infielder?

The Tigers signed Fernando Vina to a two-year, $6 million contract. I know they have to do something but Vina isn't going to put anybody in the seats and how many games is really going to help them win? I appreciate what they're doing but I think this will end up being wasted dollars.

The Cardinals are interested in Robbie Alomar, according to the St.Louis papers. If he rebounds (admittedly, that's a big if), this would be a great addition to an already dynamic offense.

Miguel Cairo signed a one year, $900,000 contract with the Yankees.

Brent Butler signed a one year deal with the Cardinals. He would have been an interesting guy to bring to camp as a minor league free-agent.

The Denver Post reported this week that the Indians are interested in infielder Deivi Cruz although the paper did note that "Vallin (Cruz's agent) is expected to exhaust all avenues with Colorado before moving in another direction". Cruz would potentially replace the traded Juan Uribe as the Rockies starting shortstop. This was confirmed this morning in the Plain Dealer as Paul Hoynes noted that the Indians have talked with Cruz but there's not a lot of interest from either side.

The Rockies are also courting free-agent catcher Brent Mayne with Josh Bard remaining as a longshot backup plan according to the Post. They quote an Indians official as of Wednesday saying that the Rockies "rank third among six teams pursuing the catcher and admitted a straight-up deal for third baseman Garrett Atkins or pitcher Jason Young likely wouldn't be enough to part with Bard". Interesting. We talked about Atkins previously and the Indians not willing to make a straight-up isn't that much of a surprise. I wonder who the other two teams would be? Oakland has frequently been mentioned but who's the newcomer? Hmmm...

Note that Vinny Castilla signed a one year, $2.1 million contract with the Rockies, thus making Garrett Atkins more available (or so you would think).

Kerry Ligtenberg signed a two year, $4.5 million contract with the Blue Jays. He's the one setup guy I wish we could have afforded this season.

The Twins lost closer Eddie Guardado to the Mariners after Everyday Eddie signed a three year, $14 million contract with the M's. Candidates to step into the closer role from within the organization include recently acquired Joe Nathan, JC Romero, and Grant Balfour. I like they'll also look outside at free-agents such as Ugueth Urbina and Armando Benetiz (among others).

Kansas City signed Scott Sullivan for two years and $5 million to setup Mike MacDougal in the bullpen. They also added Matt Stairs (one year, $1 million) to the outfield mix but they're still shopping for an everyday rightfielder. The Royals also signed Benito Santiago for two years and $4.3 million.

Bartolo Colon signed with the Angels for four years and $48 or $51 million. That's a lot of jack for someone so out of shape and with a lot of innings under his belt.

The Yankees and Padres are battling over Kenny Lofton as the San Diego Union Tribune reports that the Padres made Lenny an offer (terms not disclosed) while the Newark Star-Ledger reports that the Yanks have made a 1 year, $3 million offer. I would expect to see Kenny in pinstripes in 2004.

David Cortes signed a minor league contract with the Tigers.

The Indians officially announced the details of their new scoreboard this week with the revelation that it will be the largest scoreboard in North America with one full-color screen 36 feet high and 149 feet long. Sweet.

They also confirmed that the Reds will visit Jacobs Field from June 11-13 which we talked about last week (thanks Andy!).

Enjoy the hot stove talk this weekend!

CIR UPDATE: Congrats to Patty  

Congratulations to Patty on being the first person to decipher the hidden message in last nights CIR Update!

The first clue hidden within the text was the last sentence of the third paragraph which read...

"A source close to the Indians says that it was the first letter which indicated whether or not Guerrero was serious about playing in Cleveland."

The second clue was the exclamation point "!" at the beginning of the last paragraph.

Taking the above into account, you find that the first letter of each paragraph spells out...

J U S T K I D D I N G !

Apologies to those who feel they have been hood-winked. A tip of the hat to those who have now deciphered the hidden clues. In an offseason where the highlight is shaping up to be claiming Cliff Bartosh off waivers, I hope we all enjoyed dreaming a little, even if it was for only one night.

But, alas, Vladimir Guerrero has less chance of being a Cleveland Indian than I do of, well, being a Cleveland Indian. After all, I'm a lot cheaper and can make the pivot at second base. But if it does happen, you heard it here first ;-).

CIR UPDATE: Vlad Update  

Before things really spiral out of control this morning, let me confirm that this story is false. There were clues in the post pointing to that fact but (as far as I know) no one has found them. That is your quest, should you choose to accept. A winter meetings and Rule 5 preview will follow later today in the next CIR.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Tony Graffanino discussion.


December 11, 2003  


Just one day before the start of baseball's winter meetings in New Orleans, the CIR ( has learned that Mark Shapiro and the Cleveland Indians are poised to drop one of the biggest bombshells in recent winter meetings history as the Indians are close to an agreement with Expos superstar outfielder Vladimir Guerrero on a multi-year contract.

Unusual circumstances have brought Guerrero and the Tribe together as a soft free-agent market and big market teams filling their needs (or soon to fill them) through trade left a rapidly shrinking market for the 27-year old who hit .330/.426/.586/1.012 with 25 homeruns while plagued by back problems last season.

Sources close to Guerrero indicated that only one other team had shown serious interest and that expected offers from the big market clubs never materialized. Additionally, the Guerrero camp was informed over the weekend not to expect bids from the Angels and Braves as they were going to allocate their dollars towards other needs. This unexpected turn of events forced Guerrero's agent to solicit interest from other teams via a series of letters and e-mails. A source close to the Indians says that it was the first letter which indicated whether or not Guerrero was serious about playing in Cleveland.

Terms of the contract are still being held close by both sides but the source confirmed that it will be a four-year contract worth $60 million and that the Tribe will hold two club options for 2008 and 2009 that Guerrero can vest automatically based on performance. Other escalators and incentives can push the total value of the contract even higher. Although the dollars may differ, structurally, the deal is very similar to what we offered Jim Thome last season claims the source.

Key to this deal is the Indians ability to shed enough payroll to add a contract of this magnitude.

It's expected that Omar Vizquel will be traded to the Seattle Mariners and that deal could be announced as soon as tomorrow. The Mariners are expected to absorb all of Vizquel's 2004 salary now that they have been informed by Miguel Tejada's camp that the three-year, $24 million offer they made for the former AL MVP is short on both money and years. A trade with the Red Sox or Athletics involving Bob Wickman will follow depending on the outcome of the Keith Foulke sweepstakes. That deal is currently being reviewed by major league baseball as a complicated set of performance triggers will be used to determine how much of Wickman's 2004 salary the Indians will ultimately have to cover. Josh Bard may also be included in the deal with Oakland in exchange for the A's absorbing more of Wickman's 2004 salary.

Dealing Vizquel ($7 million) and Wickman ($5 million) will (potentially) save the Indians $12 million in 2004. Non-tendering Danys Baez and Jake Westbrook will save an additional $2-3 million which closely adds up to the $15 million that Guerrero will earn next season.

Depth in the outfield, with a projected starting threesome of Guerrero, Milton Bradley, and Jody Gerut, will now likely allow the Indians to consider moving Ryan Ludwick, Alex Escobar, and/or Alex Escobar for pitching and infield help. A small increase in payroll (originally projected at $43 million for 2004) will likely follow and our source reports that Indians are currently running revenue projection models to estimate the impact this signing will have on ticket sales and sponsorships.

It's expected that Guerrero will be in Cleveland tomorrow or Saturday for a physical and an official announcement could follow as soon as Monday.

Neither the Indians or Guerrero's agents returned calls this evening.

Guerrero is a four-time all-star with 234 homeruns who's hit .323/.390/.588/.978 in eight major league seasons. He made $11.5 million with the Expos last year.

! Wow! More in the next CIR


December 08, 2003  

CIR UPDATE: Indians claim Cliff Bartosh  

The Indians claimed Cliff Bartosh off waivers from the Tigers today. Bartosh is a left-handed reliever who Detroit claimed off waivers from San Diego in October. says that Bartosh held left-handed hitters homerless with a .208 average last season at Triple-A Portland to go along with 10 saves. He posted a 2-5 record and 4.29 ERA, allowing 67 hits in 71 1/3 innings against 51 strikeouts. A year earlier, he finished second in the Southern League with 25 saves and 62 appearances for Double-A Mobile. He's 27-31 with a 3.59 ERA over his career, recording 48 saves in 461 innings. The Indians 40-man roster now stands full at 40 players. More in the next CIR.

CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT -- Monday, December 8  

Snow storms have you trapped inside and unable to hit the malls for holiday shopping? Why not head over to and help support the CIR in the process. Every purchase that you make at Amazon when you enter the site through the link on the CIR website ( results in a small referral fee for the CIR at no cost to yourself and helps to keep the newsletter and website free of charge. As always, your support is greatly appreciated.

The Indians said goodbye to one old friend yesterday while potentially welcoming another back.

As expected, Ellis Burks was not offered arbitration which means that he cannot re-sign with the Indians until May 1. It is possible that EB could sign a minor league contract with the Indians and play in Buffalo the first month of the season but, at this stage of his career, that seems like an unlikely course of action. I had thought the Indians might make the offer just to extend the negotiating window and, by not doing so, I think we can infer that the front office felt that there would not be a roster spot available for Burks this season, even at a club friendly price. For those hoping to unload Matt Lawton this winter, take note of that last sentence. His continued presence on the roster (and need for ABs to increase his market value) is the main reason Burks faced limited at-bats and by severing ties with Burks this early in the offseason, it doesn't look like the Indians are very confident about their chances of moving Lawton.

Aside from his on-the-field contributions, Burks served as a mentor to the young hitters and was a steadying force in the clubhouse. The fact that he traveled with the Indians on the road last season while injured speaks volumes about what kind of teammate he was and how the Indians felt about him. In that regard, he will definitely be missed. The market for a 39-year old, rehabbing from injury designated hitter will likely not be very large and it will be interesting what types of offers he receives on the open market. I think Oakland or perhaps Texas (reunited with John Hart) would be good destinations for him. Mark Shapiro has said previously that the door is open for Ellis to move into the front office once he hangs up the spikes and with the Burks family choosing to make Cleveland their home, I wouldn't be surprised to see Ellis join the growing list of special assistants in the Indians baseball operations department sometime in the near future. Burks finishes his Indians career with a .287 average and 66 homeruns in three seasons.

Terry Mulholland was offered arbitration by the Indians, which he is expected to refuse, and that extends the Tribe's negotiating window with the veteran lefty through January 8. This could be viewed as a minor surprise because Mulholland had indicated at the end of last season that he was looking for the opportunity to compete for a spot in a rotation in 2004 and the Indians informed him that they were unable to offer that opportunity. Based on this latest development, however, it looks like Mulholland did not (or has not yet) received an offer that includes a chance to start and a return to the Indians bullpen seems increasing likely. Or perhaps, they're going to give him a chance to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring.

If you remember last year, the Indians and Mulholland went through this same process, offer and refuse arbitration, before Mulholland eventually signed a $500k contract in early January. I suspect the same is true this year, they've agreed to a contract, and if Mulholland can find a better offer before the January 8 deadline to sign with the Indians, he's free to take it. The reverse is probably true also, if the Indians find a better option for his roster spot, they're free to pursue that as well. Considering the Indians 40-man roster jam, it's possible (probable?) they could sign Mulholland to a minor league deal and bring him to camp as a spring training invite with a virtual guarantee that he will be on the opening day roster. As for bringing Mulholland back, I'm all for it. He's cheap, left-handed, incredibly versatile, willing to help the kids, and he can still pitch a little. For the 12th man on the staff, you could do a lot worse. Note that Mulholland is a no-compensation free-agent so the Indians will not receive any draft picks should he sign elsewhere.

Aside from the Winter Meetings this weekend in New Orleans, the next big date for the Indians is December 20 when they have to tender contracts to their unsigned players. Don't be surprised if Jake Westbrook (eligible for arbitration) prices himself out of the Indians market and is non-tendered.

It was a busy day throughout baseball yesterday as teams worked to re-sign their free-agents before losing negotiating rights with them.

Mark Grudzielanek re-signed with the Cubs on Sunday for 1 year and $2.75 million thus debunking speculation that the Cubs had decided to pursue Fernando Vina instead of Grudz.

Mark McLemore, Rey Sanchez, Todd Walker, Tony Graffanino, Robbie Alomar, Fernando Vina, Chris Gomez, Denny Hocking, Shane Halter, and Chris Stynes were among the second basemen not offered arbitration by their former clubs. Jeff Suppan, John Burkett, Robert Person, Rick Helling, Cory Lidle, Jamey Wright, and Shane Reynolds were among the starting pitchers let loose yesterday that could fit/fall into the Indians price range.

Kaz Matsui is expected to announce today that he will sign a three-year contract with the New Yawk Mets. Jose Reyes will move to second which is important to note for Tribe fans as this signing and position switch effectively removes the Mets from the second base market.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Reds are interested in bringing Pokey Reese back to the Queen City.

The Twins re-signed Shannon Stewart to a three-year, $18 million deal and offered arbitration to Eddie Guardado. Look for the Jacque Jones trade talks to heat up in New Orleans this weekend. The Royals lost Michael Tucker to the Giants (2 years, $3.5 million) and the White Sox offered arbitration to Bartolo Colon.

The Marlins declined to offer arbitration to closer Ugueth Urbina. They are also expected to non-tender former closer Brandon Looper on December 20. Think the Fish may have an interest in Danys Baez? Note that they did re-sign reliever Chad Fox, a personal favorite.

Steve Kline signed a 1 year, $1.7 million contract to remain in St.Louis. Todd Pratt re-signed with the Phillies for 1 year and $875,000. Steve Reed will remain a Rockie for at least one more season after he re-signed for $625,000 and a mutual option for 2005. Jason Grimsley re-signed with Kansas City for an even million. Dave Burba signed a minor league contract with the Brewers that will pay him $440k plus incentives if he sticks with the big league club. Carlos Baerga returns to Arizona after agreeing to a $1 million contract with the D-Backs. Joe Roa inked a minor league deal with the Twins.

Jaret Wright will continue to be a Leo Mazzone reclamation project after re-signing with the Braves for $850k. Wright, incidentally, is almost in the top 10 for worst career ERA vs the league average (min 500 IP) over the past half-century according to the ATM Reports. His 5.68 career ERA is 1.01 worse than the 4.67 league average during his career which ranks 12th on the list. The "leader" is Kevin Jarvis with a 1.47 differential while other luminaries on the list include Jay Hook, Dick Pole, Kevin Ritz, Mike Kekich, Billy Champion, Brian Williams, Jimmy Anderson, Steve Dunning, and Chris Knapp. That's not the company we thought he'd keep back in 1997, is it?

The Denver Post reports that the Rockies are "aggressively" pursuing a trade for Josh Bard to fill the need for a backup behind Charles Johnson. The paper goes onto note, however, that the Indians need to lower their asking price before Colorado will agree to a deal. On paper, it looks like the Indians and Rockies are a good match because one of the Rockies organizational strengths is at third-base which, as we all know, is a glaring need at the upper levels of the Indians system. The paper specifically mentions triple-A third basemen Garrett Atkins who hit .319/.382/.481/.863 with 30 doubles and 13 homeruns in Colorado Springs last season. Impressive numbers on the surface but Baseball America reports that Atkins hit over .100 points higher at home altitude (.377) than on the road (.267) which is an important distinction. That's not a lot of power either for playing half of your games at altitude, is it?

I like Atkins, probably more so as a fantasy leaguer in Coors Field, but I'm not sure I'm ready to part with Bard for a prospect of his caliber. That said, I'm definitely not adverse to dealing Bard in the right deal. Mark Shapiro is doing the right thing by apparently placing a premium on the switch-hitting backstop. Catchers are always in demand and if Bard shows that he can develop into a solid major league hitter, he will be an extremely valuable commodity. It will be interesting to see how these talks develops. Bard, of course, was originally acquired from the Rockies, along with Jody Gerut, for long-departed Jacob Cruz in one of the worst deals in Rockies history. You can get a quick glimpse of the Rockies system by clicking the Baseball America link above. Jeff Baker, Jeff Francis, and Jayson Nix are three guys of whom I hold significant interest.

The A's, since dealing Ramon Hernandez to the Padres last month, have also been linked to Josh Bard in trade talks.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Friday with the ABJ doing the same on Saturday that the Indians and Brewers continue to talk about Junior Spivey with the Brewers asking for Alex Escobar in return. Now I'm not the biggest Escobar fan and would not be adverse to dealing him (much like Bard), but I think I'd like to get more than a one-year player for him in return. And that's all Junior Spivey will likely be unless he returns to his 2002 levels and accepts a club-friendly deal in 2004, especially with Brandon Phillips waiting in the wings. If that's accurate, I'd rather take my chances with a Tony Graffanino type at second and see what Escobar can do with regular at-bats at the major league level.

Hal Lebowitz reported on Sunday that the Indians and Mariners have held talks regarding Omar Vizquel but with the M's reportedly offering Miguel Tejada a 4-year, $32 million contract over the weekend this may be Seattle's fallback plan if Tejada signs elsewhere. To make this possible, Omar would have to waive his no-trade clause but it's widely believed that he would agree to waive it (or have it bought out) in order to return to Seattle. Omar is scheduled to make $7 million next season so any deal would likely have to include the Indians taking on some salary in return or paying a portion of Vizquel's salary. The Mariners have been exploring moving starting pitcher Freddy Garcia this offseason and he might be an interesting guy for the Indians to look at. Garcia made $6.875 million last season when he went 12-14 with a 4.51 ERA (201.1 IP, 196 H, 71 BB, 144K) and is scheduled for arbitration which is the reason the M's have considered moving him. If the Indians could entice Garcia to agree to a one-year contract for $7 million (or the same amount that Omar will make this year), a straight swap of Vizquel for Garcia might be interesting.

Note that I said might. On the one hand, you're already paying the $7 million so the question is whether you would rather spend it on a 37 year old shortstop coming off injuries or a 27-year old pitcher? Which player would likely have more value at the trade deadline? I think Garcia, provided he's pitching well of course, since good pitching is always priced at a premium. Furthermore, Garcia would fill a hole in the rotation and trading Omar would free up at-bats for Jhonny Peralta and/or Brandon Phillips at short.

On the other hand, Garcia may be a 27-year old pitcher but he's coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons and has endured a heavy workload throughout his career. Additionally, there has been speculation that Seattle would non-tender him instead of risking a $9 million contract award in arbitration so why trade for him at $7 million (or so) when you might be able to get him cheaper on the open market. But then we'd still have Omar and wouldn't have the payroll dollars anyway so that's a moot point. Finally, trading Omar might be a public relations disaster and send an already pessimistic fanbase over the edge. I would definitely be interested in exploring this option though.

Paul Hoynes reports in the Plain Dealer that the Indians are negotiating minor league contracts with Tanyon Strutze and Bobby Howry. Strutze is an awful, awful pitcher who went 7-6 with 5.94 ERA in 40 games (8 starts) for Toronto last year. That followed a 2002 season in which he went 4-18 for the Devil Rays and surrendered 271 hits in 224 innings. If he's triple-A insurance, that's fine, but if he's a serious contender for the fifth spot in the rotation, oy vay. Bobby Howry, on the other hand, I like. He missed most of last season after undergoing elbow surgery in June but he's not that far removed from a pretty good five year run (1998-2002) in the White Sox bullpen. If the arm is healthy, he's a worthwhile gamble and nice insurance to have down in Buffalo.

Hoynsie also noted on Sunday that the Indians are worried that they may lose recently signed right-hander Lino Urdaneta in the Rule 5 Draft next Monday. Urdaneta is dominating in Venezuela this winter, posting a 0.72 ERA in 22 appearances (25 IP, 18 H, 9 BB, 11 K). The same fate befell the Indians with Matt White last year when he was selected by the Red Sox after dominating in the early part of the winterball season.

Our West Coast spy reports that the Indians-Expos June 11-13 series has been cancelled to allow the Indians and Reds to play a home-and-home series this season (the two teams are already scheduled to meet from July 2-4 in Cincinnati). Local radio in Seattle reported this after finding out that Ken Griffey Jr will not be returning to the Great Northwest. The Mariners will instead play the Expos, which can't make the M's sales department too happy. No details have been announced yet by the Indians.

Another spy reports that the Indians did release Kinston pitcher Nick Moran during instructional league.

And finally, the Browns are on Monday night football this evening and I'm pumped up for the Average Joe finale. How sad is that? Not for me, for the Browns. I'm cool.

See you with a Rule 5 and Winter Meetings preview on Friday.


December 05, 2003  

CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT -- Friday, December 5  

All's quiet right now on the Indians front.

See you next week.

What? You want more? Hmmm, ok, lemme see what I can come up with.

Most teams around baseball will spend the next several days deciding whether or not to offer their free-agents arbitration by the midnight Sunday deadline. That's the December 7th date you've probably heard quite a bit about lately. Offering arbitration allows teams to continue negotiating with their own free-agents through January 8 and it also compensates them with draft picks (if they are a Type A or Type B free-agent) should that player sign elsewhere. It also allows the player to accept the arbitration offer and that's what is giving teams great pause before extending an offer in this fiscally conscious offseason. Arbitration typically results in large salary increases and, for many teams, the mere possibility that a player may accept the offer is enough for them to decline to extend the offer in the first place. Once they do officially decline to offer arbitration, teams lose negotiating rights with that player and they also lose the opportunity to receive compensation draft picks, but they're off the hook for a potentially huge salary award in arbitration.

As for the Indians, they have already re-signed Jason Bere and Mark Wohlers, Terry Mulholland is a no compensation free-agent which makes not offering him arbitration a no-brainer, and I'm not even sure they can offer Ellis Burks arbitration since he became a free-agent after the Indians bought out the option in his 2004 contract. Even if they could, they won't, for the financial reasons mentioned above. One thing you may see happen over the weekend is teams agreeing to offer arbitration and players agreeing to reject arbitration so that they can extend the negotiating window until January 8. Perhaps the Tribe will take this route with Ellis Burks.

Notes on Free-Agent compensation:

Type A: Teams receive the signing teams first-round pick as well as a supplemental "sandwich" pick between the first and second rounds. The signing teams pick is top 15 protected so if that pick is in the top 15 of the first round, the signing team will keep the first-round pick and lose a second-round pick instead.

Type B: Same as type A except no sandwich pick.

Type C: Supplemental "sandwich" pick between the second and third round

The next key dates for the Tribe are the Winter Meetings in New Orleans from December 12-15, the Rule 5 Draft on December 15, and December 20, which is the last day for teams to tender a 2004 contract to their unsigned players. Around this date, we'll learn what the Indians have offered Danys Baez and then the fun will really begin. It's also expected that a large number of players will join the free-agent market after being non-tendered on the 20th and it's highly probable that we won't see the Indians make a move until these players become available.

Much like the free-agent market (outside of New York, of course), the second base market has been relatively quiet. There is some news worth discussing though...

Luis Castillo re-signed with the Marlins for three years and $16 million thus removing the top second basemen from the market. The Mets, Red Sox, and Yankees continue to shop.

Not a lot of talk concerning Todd Walker (Type A) right now, although I did read where his agents called the Tigers to gauge interest and found it was mild. Depending on where you slot Robbie Alomar, Walker is probably the number two traditional second sacker available but many teams seem to be more interested in exploring the possibility of signing a shortstop and moving him (or another player) to second. I think it's very, very unlikely that Walker will fall into the Indians price range but anything that removes teams from the market is good for the Tribe.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Cubs will not offer salary arbitration to Mark Grudzielanek (Type A) on Sunday thus making him more attractive on the open market as the team that signs him will not lose any draft picks as compensation. The Cubs would also lose the right to negotiate a new contract with Grudzielanek as well. The paper hints that the Cubs are looking at paying Grudz no more than $3 million per year which is $2.5 million more than he's worth if you ask me.

In a related piece of news, the Detroit News reports that the Tigers have offered a two-year contract to Fernando Vina (Type B) but reports out of St.Louis indicate that Vina is leaning toward signing with the Cubs. This would fit with the Cubs preparing to cut ties with Grudzielanek.

Colorado's acquisition of second basemen Aaron Miles from the White Sox (for Juan Uribe) makes it more likely that Chris Stynes (Type C) will not re-sign with the Rockies, especially if the Rox can ink the Frozen Caveman Lawyer (a.k.a Vinny Castilla) to man the hot corner.

Another former Rockie, Eric Young, has been mentioned as a candidate to head for the mountains but the Rockies interest may have cooled with the addition of Miles.

As for the other half of that deal, the Chicago Daily Herald reports that Uribe will replace Tony Graffanino as the Sox utility infielder, meaning Graffanino will sign elsewhere this offseason. We've talked about him before and he will likely slot into the Indians price range.

The Daily Herald also notes that Robbie Alomar had agreed to re-sign with the Sox for one more year at $3 million but talks have fallen off once his agent started talking about a two-year deal. As it stands now, the Sox are looking at Willie Harris as their starting second basemen next season.

The Brewers now have a glut of middle infielders after acquiring Junior Spivey and Craig Counsell from the Diamondbacks in the Richie Sexson deal. Along with the afore mentioned duo, the Brue Crue also has incumbents Keith Ginter, Bill Hall, and soon-to-be incumbents J.J Hardy (short) and Rickie Weeks (second). With the Brewers cutting payroll faster than Superman clipping coupons, you know that they would love to unload the $2.3 million that Spivey is scheduled to earn next season. The Tribe did inquire on Spivey earlier this offseason so this could be a match.

The New York Daily News reports that Cuban defectors Maels Rodriguez (right-handed pitcher) and Yobal Duenas (second basemen) will hold a workout in El Salvador the week of Jan 5-10. I wonder if anyone from the Tribe will be in attendance?

Enrique Wilson re-upped with the Yanks for 1 year and $700k as he continues to morph into Luis Sojo.

Within the organization, Aeros infielder Luis Gonzalez is raking in Venezuela, hitting .308/.414/.511/.925 with a league leading 41 RBIs. Named the Player of the Month for October, Gonzalez has gone deep five times with eight doubles, two triples, and 21 walks in 37 games (through 11/28). This performance follows a strong 2003 campaign for Luis in which he hit .318/.385/.436/.821 for the Aeros while walking (46) more times than he struck out (41). Originally drafted as a shortstop, Gonzalez played all four infield positions (and some outfield) last season and is currently playing first and third in winterball. He remains well under the prospect radar but I don't see why he can't challenge for a utility role in the next few years.

I have to admit, though, that I am curious as to how he has managed to remain a member of the Indians organization this offseason. As we've discussed previously, minor leaguers can become free-agents after six renewable contracts (that's why they're called six-year free-agents). In actuality, though, this really means seven years as the initial contract is not considered to be a renewable contract, it's the initial contract. In the case of Gonzalez, he has spent seven years in the Indians system (1997-2003). I would assume that his first season in Venezuela (1997) would be the initial contract so the next six years in the States (1998-2003) would then be the six renewable contracts that he needs to be declared a free-agent. Since he continues to be listed on the Bisons roster and is running a front-page story on him, my thinking is obviously incorrect. If anyone has thoughts, an explanation, or finds the fault in my line of thinking, I'd love to hear from you.

Could old friend Kenny Lofton be headed to the Bronx? Peter Gammons has reported that the Boss is interested and one of the New York fishwraps is reporting that Lofton has received a 1-year, $3 million offer. Furthermore, today's trade of Nick Johnson and Juan Rivera for Javier Vasquez does potentially open a spot for Lofton in the lineup as Jason Giambi can now return to full-time duty at first and Bernie Williams can slide into the DH role. If he does sign, at least this year Kenny won't have to worry about what contender he gets dealt to in July.

The Twins lost a pair of pitchers this week as LaTroy Hawkins signed with the Cubs and Eric Milton was dealt to the Phillies for reliever Carlos Silva, utility man Nick Punto, and a PTBNL. Silva's a strange duck as he throws hard (mid 90s) but doesn't strike out anyone (just 48 in 87 innings last year). I don't think he's going to be expected to replace Hawkins, however, as the $9 million saved by unloading Milton should allow the Twins to re-sign closer Everyday Eddie Guardado and let the recently acquired Joe Nathan move into the Hawkins role. With Milton gone, their rotation now consists of Johan Santana, Brad Radke, Kyle Lohse and two question marks.

Don't think that the Twins are necessarily ripe for the taking, however, as they have plenty of young players to trade or ready to step in should they decide to move Jacque Jones or Doug Mientkiewicz to free up payroll for a pitcher. They're going to be one of the more interesting mid-market teams to watch this offseason.

Terry Francona was named the manager of the Red Sox today. The son of former Indian Tito Francona, Terry hit .311 in 62 games for the 1988 version of the Tribe and also served as a special assistant to baseball operations in the Indians front office in 2001.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before but a new scoreboard is being installed at Jacobs Field this offseason. At a reported cost of $10 million, some local wags were wondering why that money was going to the product in the stands and not the product on the field? Hal Lebowitz cleared that up in a recent article when he noted that the new board was being funded by both Gateway and the Indians and that advertising was already being sold to help cover the cost. The new board is needed because the old one had worn out and replacement parts had become unavailable (or too difficult or expensive to source) since Sony exited the scoreboard market. The new board will be one huge piece, rather than the three separate boards we're used to and is expected to provide more information and entertainment with greater clarity. Sounds cool.

The Aeros announced that their games will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1350 again this season.

The Captains signed a three-year extension with WELW 1330 to be the Captains radio home through 2007.

My "Clubhouse Presence" squad of Einar Diaz, JT Snow, Rey Sanchez, Casey Blake, Cesar Izturis, BJ Surhoff, Juan Pierre, Jeromy Burnitz, Jimmy Anderson, and Mike Maroth finished 21st in Baseball Prospectus' Hacking Mass contest this year. Well done (or not done), guys.

If you're hitting the malls this weekend, the following Indians will be making appearances as part of the Indians 12 Days of Christmas program...

Friday: South Park Mall, Mike Hargrove (6-8 PM), Travis Fryman (7-9 PM), Kevin Keane (WTAM)

Saturday: Belden Village, Mike Hargrove (12-2 PM)
Saturday: Midway Mall, Travis Fryman (12-2 PM)

Sunday: Summit Mall, Milton Bradley (1-3 PM), Santa Slider (1-3 PM)

Anyone else incredibly annoyed by espn motion?

If you're doing any holiday shopping at this weekend, don't forget that you can help support the CIR by entering Amazon through the link on the CIR website ( All purchases that you make results in a small referral fee for the CIR at no cost to yourself and helps to keep the newsletter and website free of charge. As always, your support is greatly appreciated.

And finally, if you love baseball trivia, I encourage you to sign up for the baseball trivia mailing list by clicking that link. Tuesday's question was "Duane Kuiper had 3,379 career at-bats. Off which fellow player-turned-broadcaster did he hit his sole career MLB home run?" You know the answer, don't you?

Have a great weekend everyone!


December 01, 2003  

CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT -- Monday, December 1  

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, let me remind you that every purchase you make at when entering amazon through the link on the CIR website or the CIR bookstore results in a small referral fee for the CIR. The referral fee is paid by Amazon at no additional cost to yourself and this type of support helps to keep the CIR free of charge. For those reading this on Yahoo, the CIR website can be found at or by typing Cleveland Indians Report on any search engine. I hope to have a baseball gift guide ready by the end of this week. As always, your support is greatly appreciated.

Questions regarding the Rule 5 Draft have filled up my inbox so while I'm in the process of responding to them, let me point you to the Rule 5 FAQ on the cir website. Along with information on the Rule 5, you'll also find FAQs on roster management, the June draft, and free agency. It's a pretty good resource.

Tickets for the April 12 home opener against the Twins went on sale Friday and you can purchase your ducats at, Indians team shops, Office Max, and/or Jacobs Field. Tickets for all other games will go on sale in March.

The Indians and Milton Bradley avoided arbitration when Bradley agreed to a reported $1.735 million contract for the 2004 season. This represents a hefty raise from the $314,300 that Bradley earned last season when he hit .321/.421/.501/.922 and established himself as one of the top centerfielders in the American League.

The Indians announced their 2004 minor league coaching staffs and they are as follows...

Marty Brown returns for a second season at Buffalo where he'll be joined by hitting coach Carlos Garcia and pitching coach Terry Clark.

Brad Komminsk, who led the Aeros to their first Eastern League championship last season, returns for his third year in Akron. Komminsk is the Aeros all-time leader in managerial wins and has made two consecutive appearances in the All-Star Futures Game. He has a career winning percentage of .583 (408-292) as a manager in the Indians system. Steve Lyons returns for his second tour of duty as the Aeros pitching coach. Sean McNally joins the Aeros as hitting coach. He assisted last season in Burlington after a nine-year playing career that included 51 games for the Bisons in 2001.

Torey Lovullo returns to Kinston where his staff will include hitting coach Lou Frazier and new pitching coach Greg Hibbard.

Luis Rivera, Sally League manager of the Year last season, returns for a second season at the helm of the Lake County Captains and he'll be joined by pitching coach Tony Arnold and new hitting coach Jack Mull. This will be Arnold's second season in Eastlake and 14th overall in the Indians system. Mull spent last season in Burlington, his 8th in the Indians system.

Mike Sarbaugh, who spent the last four seasons as the hitting coach in Akron, will manage Mahoning Valley this season. Sarbaugh has been coaching at various levels in the Indians system the past nine seasons and this will be his first turn as skipper. He'll be joined by pitching coach Ken Rowe and hitting coach Chris Bando.

Rouglas Odor returns to Burlington for a fourth season where he'll be supported by pitching coach Ruben Niebla and hitting coach Wayne Kirby. Kirby spent last season mentoring the bats in Lake County.

Ted Kubiak, who managed in the Valley last year, has been named the organization's Defensive Coordinator and he'll oversee defensive guidelines and instruction at every level. Johnny Goryl, who had been the Defensive Coordinator, will become an Advisor to Player Development and continue his 21-year association with the Indians.

The other field personnel remain the same as 2003: Tim Tolman (Field Coordinator), Dave Miller (Pitching Coordinator), Derrick Shelton (Hitting Coordinator), Al Bumbry (Outfield/Baserunning Coordinator), Minnie Mendoza (Latin American Field Coordinator), Joe Hughes (Strength & Conditioning Coordinator), Lee Kuntz (Rehab/Medical Coordinator), Lino Diaz (Assistant Director, Player/Cultural Development), Charlie Maher (Sport Psychologist), John Couture (Sport Psychologist Assistant)

Lonnie Soloff was named Head Trainer after spending the last six seasons with the Reds. He replaces Paul Spicuzza who will become a senior consultant after spending 22 years with the Indians. Hopefully, this will bring some stability to an area which has been lacking since the passing of Jimmy Warfield.

Rick Manning was hired as a part-time instructor for the major league coaching staff and he'll be responsible for all aspects of the Indians baserunning and outfield play. Manning will be in uniform for all of spring training and will work on his coaching duties during early work and batting practice before heading to the broadcast booth during the regular season. Manning won a gold glove in 1976 and stole 168 bases during his 13-year major league career. He's spent the last 14 years in the broadcast booth. Talk about inside information in the broadcast booth. I wonder how he'll react if/when the other announcers start getting on him for an Indians baserunning blunder?

Mike Hargrove has officially re-joined the Indians as a special advisor to baseball operations. He'll be in uniform during spring training and then assist the minor league staff during the regular season.

I haven't seen an official release on this yet, but lists Chris Clapinski on the Bisons roster so I'm going to assume that he has signed a minor league contract with the Indians (this is confirmed in the latest edition of Baseball America). Clapinski is a 32-year old infielder who spent the majority of last season with the Dodgers triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas, hitting .317/.377/.525/.902 with 18 doubles and 10 homeruns in 96 games. He was loaned to the Reds late in the year and hit .345 (10-for-29) in seven games for Louisville. Originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of LSU by the Marlins in 1992, Clapinski toiled in the Marlins system for seven years before making his major league debut in 1999 where he hit .232 in 56 at-bats. He followed that up with a 49 at-bat (.306) stint in 2000 for the Marlins which was the last year he played in the show. Clapinski can play anywhere in the infield (and some outfield) although he played primarily at shortstop last season. As triple-A signings go, this one is decent enough as Clapinski can hit a little (although his stats were likely inflated by the Las Vegas park) and his versatility will serve Marty Brown well once the Cleveland-to-Buffalo shuttle starts traveling I-90. Goodbye Greg LaRocca, hello Chris Clapinski.

Ernie Young also appears on the Bisons roster but I have yet to see an official announcement on him either. Young is a 34-year old career minor leaguer who was originally drafted by Oakland in 1990. He made his major league debut with the A's in 1994 and hit .242 with 19 homeruns in 1996 in what became his only full-time season in the big leagues. In addition to the A's, Young has played for the Royals, Diamondbacks, and Tigers during his career and hit .264/.342/.452 with 21 longballs for Toledo last season. I'm pretty sure he has also spent some time in either Japan or Mexico as well. Young was most recently a teammate of Grady Sizemore on Team USA where he hit .467 (14-for-30) in the AFL and .455 (5-for-11) in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. If the signing is accurate, Young will rejoin Sizemore in the Bisons lineup next spring.

Grady Sizemore is ranked as the number two outfield prospect in baseball by Baseball America. Last season, he ranked number fifteen. Jason Cooper made the alphabetical list of prospects #21-40 and Nathan Panther and Willy Taveras made the sleeper list. Note that Taveras was not added to the 40-man roster and can be selected in the Rule 5 Draft at the winter meetings next month. profiles Jason Cooper and Ivan Ochoa as part of their "catch a rising star" series. Of note, John Farrell is quoted as saying that Ochoa's hands are equal to Jhonny Peralta's but his range is better. That's particularly interesting, especially regarding Peralta. Both players (Cooper and Ochoa) are slated to start next season in Akron.

Add Ronnie Belliard to the list of second-base candidates after he was released by the Rockies last week after hitting .277 with eight homeruns this past season. A former top prospect with the Brewers, Belliard was let go because manager Clint Hurdle felt he was miscast as a leadoff hitter and the club did not want to go to arbitration with him. The paper also reported that prior to his release, the Rockies were trying to work out a deal with the Indians.

Along those lines, you can add Carlos Febles to the list as well. Even though he's not listed on any free-agent list that I'm aware of, he's also not on the Royals 40-man, AAA, or AA rosters and I'm pretty sure he's available. He's another former top prospect who never lived up to the hype, hitting just .235 in limited duty for the Royals last year. The KC Star adds that Febles was hitting .294 with a .400 OBP through 14 games this winter in the Dominican Republic. Both of these players share a common trait of frustrating fantasy league owners to no end but they're both still 27 and possess a little speed, doubles power, and a decent glove. I would expect both to be signable with a minor league contract.

Peter Gammons noted in a recent Diamond Notes column on that the Indians had talked with the Blue Jays regarding second basemen Orlando Hudson but Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi told the Toronto Star on Friday that nobody has called to talked about Hudson since the end of the season.

The Boston Herald reports that the Red Sox are close to offering Tony Graffanino a one-year contract.

The Kansas City papers are reporting that the two-year deal signed by Brian Anderson with the Royals is worth $6.5 million and that he could have received more money by signing elsewhere. BA is quoted as saying that "there were quite a number of teams (that expressed interest). This thing really started to heat up in the last week. It got to the point where I was talking to my agent three or four times a day.” Those numbers see pretty high to me but perhaps not when you consider that Kelvim Escobar just signed for $6 million a year with the Angels and BA was the number two left-hander on the market behind Andy Petitte. Regardless, I'm glad the Indians passed at those numbers.

Speaking of BA, the Indians completed his trade by sending left-hander Chris White to the Royals. White finished 2003 with a 1-1 record and a 4.87 ERA in 14 appearances for Mahoning Valley last year.

Sandy Alomar re-signed with the White Sox for one year, with a club option for 2005.

46-year old Jesse Orosco signed a minor league contract with the Diamondbacks that includes an invitation to spring training. If he makes the opening day roster, the D-Backs will be the 11th team for whom he has played.

Dave Maurer signed with the Devil Rays. Mike Spiegel did the same with the Phillies. Chris Coste will play for Milwaukee's triple-A squad next season while Travis Driskill signed with the Rockies.

Jason Boyd was arrested for the second time this month after hitting a man in the face with a beer bottle during a dispute on the dance floor at a bar. He had previously been arrested two weeks prior after being charged with punching a man during a pickup basketball game. Boyd was claimed off waivers by the Pirates in October after having a solid 2003 campaign in the Indians bullpen.

From the "Did You Know" Department, Tribe farmhand Daniel Guzman is the younger brother of Cubs top prospect Angel Guzman. If he develops into half the prospect that his older brother is, the Indians will have a pretty good pitcher on their hands.

For those who have been watching Average Joe, do you recognize this guy?

Per Grumps request, I have no comment on the Browns this week.


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