Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Wedge Watch

With the Indians having now settled into the business of finishing this disappointing season, with the Browns underway, and with the Cavaliers never very far from being in the spotlight, the furor over the future of Eric Wedge as manager of the Indians has died down somewhat.

But it is still an issue, one that won't be resolved, one way or the other, until after the season. Only General Manager Mark Shapiro and club president Paul Dolan know which was the organization is leaning on that crucial decision. But, given the magnitude of the underachieving by the team this year, it's difficult to imagine that the club will go into the 2010 season without making some changes. The only question seems to be how sweeping those changes will be.

Will Wedge be fired? Will Wedge stay, but his coaching staff fired? Selected coaches fired? Or will it be a back up the truck wholesale housecleaning, with Wedge and all his coaches being shown the door and the Indians starting next season with a completely new field staff?

The spectrum of potential change ranges from no changes at all to changing everyone. Suffice to say that the most interesting upcoming date for the Indians future will be Monday, Oct. 5. That's the day after the last game of the season. And that will likely be the day when the changes, if any, changes are made.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Who's next?

Is there anyone left on the Indians' roster that another team would want? Talk about an "everything must go!'' sale. The Indians have just about stripped their roster clean of all tradeable veterans. In the last six weeks the Indians have traded Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Mark DeRosa, Rafael Betancourt, Ryan Garko, Ben Francisco, and Carl Pavano. That's almost one-third of their opening day roster. That's almost unprecedented.

It wasn't just one white flag trade. It was a flurry of them. The Indians would undoubtedly love to make a couple more such trades, but don't look for General Manager Mark Shaprio to be getting any calls asking about the availability of Travis Hafner and Kerry Wood. Shapiro would love to trade both of them, given that the Indians are still on the hook for about $50 million to those two players through 2012. Wood has one year left at $11 million. The rest of that $50 million will go to Hafner, who is signed through the 2012 season.

Clearly the Indians would love to trade one or both of those players, but it's very unlikely that will happen. Thus, the Indians will go into next season with two players in their mid-30s coming off bad years making huge money. Those two contracts have become albatrosses for the payroll-cutting Tribe. The best Indians officials can hope for is Wood getting off to a great start next season, perhaps setting the table for a potential mid-season trade, since by that time the remainder of Wood's salary would be about $5 million, which a contender, desperate for a closer, might be winning to take.

Hafner? It's unlikely he would ever be able to hit to the level that would make what's left of his contract attractive to another team.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

After the deluge

Now that the Indians have stripped their roster of most of their marketable assets and embarked on a full blown - even if General Manager Mark Shapiro refuses to acknowledge it as such - rebuilding of the roster, what is left for Indians fans, those still inclined to pay attention to the team, to watch for over the remainder of the season?

Unfortunately, most of the key players acquired in the many white flag trades made by the Indians are in the minor leagues. But one who isn't is Justin Masterson, the pitcher acquired from Boston in the Victor Martinez trade. Masterson is currently in the bullpen but the Indians intend to move him into the starting rotation in the not too distant future. Masterson is worth watching, because the Indians are obviously in need of starting pitching for next season, and they hope he can fill one of those spots in the rotation.

Jake Westbrook, speaking of next year, should be activated off the disabled list sometime in the next week or two. Westbrook is over a year removed from Tommy John surgery, and after exeriencing a recent setback in his rehab, he is back pitching again in the minor leagues. Because of his injury the Indians have gotten virtually noting out of Westbrook in the first two years of his three-year $33 million contract. Next year will be the final year of that contract, and the Indians are hopeful that he'll be a productive starter, and they can get some return for that $33million.

Carl Pavano could be pitching his way into a trade to another team by the end of this month or, beyond that, into a multi-year contract this winter. Pavano does not seem to be the kind of pitcher - older, and seeking a multi-year contract - the Indians would bring back next season, but stranger things have happened.

The Matt LaPorta vigil, meanwhile, continues. It remains one of the great mysteries of this lost season that the Indians have refused to recall LaPorta, who cost the Indians CC Sabathia last year, even after Shapiro himself, totally unprompted, told the media on June 27 that LaPorta would be recalled "very soon.''

Should the closer on a contending team get injured this month there is an outside chance that the Indians might get a call inquiring about Kerry Wood. Trades can still be made until the end of the month, with any players acquired still elgibibe for post-season play. But in order for any trade to be made, the player has to first pass through waivers unclaimed.

The Indians will probably, if they haven't already, put Wood's name on waivers, hoping somebody will claim him, so they can get out of the $11 million they owe him next year. That's a lot of money to be paying a closer on a team that doesn't figure to win again until 2011, at the earliest. Any contending team with a serious interest in acquiring Wood wouldn't have to worry about another contending team claiming Wood off waivers to prevent him from getting to the team that really needs him. Because all teams know that if any team puts in a claim on Wood, he's theirs. The Indians would be delighted to get out from under that contract.

So there ARE some plot lines for the last two months of this Indians' season. Unfortunately, however, an attempt to win their division is not one of them.