Restoring the rosters: No. 13 – Cleveland

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
No. 15 – San Francisco
No. 14 – Texas
The Indians had a history of producing stars as frequently as any team during the 90s and the early part of this decade. The problem is that a few of those guys were actually ex-Expos and some of the rest are starting to get old now. As a result, the Tribe doesn’t rate as highly as one might think.
Rotation
CC Sabathia
Fausto Carmona
Jeremy Guthrie
Aaron Laffey
Bartolo Colon
Bullpen
Rafael Perez
Brian Tallet
Danys Baez
Edward Mujica
Jensen Lewis
David Riske
David Huff
The rotation would have looked a whole lot better two years ago, with Carmona and Guthrie emerging as quality young starters and a solid Paul Byrd replacing Laffey. Byrd was still considered for the last spot over Colon, as were Tallet, Huff, Scott Lewis and Jeremy Sowers. As is, it’s CC and a bunch of guys who haven’t contributed this year. Tallet has pitched better than most of them, but I still think he’d be more valuable in the pen.
Lineup
SS Marco Scutaro
1B Russell Branyan
C Victor Martinez
LF Manny Ramirez
DH Jim Thome
3B Jhonny Peralta
RF Luke Scott
CF Ben Francisco
2B Maicer Izturis
Bench
OF Ryan Church
INF Kevin Kouzmanoff
INF John McDonald
C Wyatt Toregas
While the pitching staff is a mess, the lineup remains awfully nice. Brian Giles is out, but there were still more legitimate alternatives for the team in Willy Taveras and Ryan Garko. Center field is the weakest position, and Church might deserve a chance to start over Francisco against right-handers. He lacks range in center, but Francisco isn’t exactly a Gold Glove contender either. Against lefties, Francisco should hit second, with Branyan exiting the lineup in favor of Kouzmanoff.
Of course, Victor, Manny, Thome is one of the best 3-4-5 combinations in the game. It’s the middle infielders enjoying career seasons that really boosts Cleveland’s lineup, though. Scutaro’s defense allows Peralta to be played at third, where he’s likely a more valuable player. Izturis has always been pretty solid, but he’s topped his career OPS by 70 points this season.
Summary
Indians prospects have been relative disappointments lately, as should be evident from the team above. The only players on the roster to come along these last couple of seasons are fringe guys. The system has plenty of talent now, but much of that is a result of deals that cost the team Sabathia, Martinez, Cliff Lee, Casey Blake and Mark DeRosa. The Indians are a mid-market club these days, so it’s imperative that they start having better drafts. As is, they haven’t hit big with first-round pick since Sabathia in 1998.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.