February 12, 2013 by Matt Musico
Although there were quite a few minor signings that happened yesterday, I felt the four-year agreement between the Cleveland Indians and Michael Bourn was big enough to talk about on its own. Scott Boras held out as long as he could to get the best deal for his client, and he was able to do so, as the center fielder will get $48 million over the next four years. The contract also includes a vesting option for a fifth year, bringing the total possible value to $60 million. So, this signing begs to ask the question: what kind of strategy are the Indians trying to employ for 2013? My boss told me last night that the Indians have made some odd moves, and I wholeheartedly agree.
After having a solid first half of 2012, the Indians spiraled to a 68-94 record, leading to Manny Acta taking the fall and getting fired. It’s clear that Cleveland would have to go into full rebuilding mode, and selected Terry Francona to take on the task of bringing the Indians back to being a force within the AL Central. At the press conference to announce his hiring, it sounded as if it would be a multi-year process, but now that pitchers and catchers have reported, some of their off-season acquisitions beg to differ.
No, no, I’m not talking about their recent minor league signings of Jason Giambi and Daisuke Matsuzaka, but some of the other ones. I felt like they made a good move by acquiring Trevor Bauer in a three-team trade with the Diamondbacks and Reds, which included Cleveland sending soon-to-be free agent (and Scott Boras client) Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds. They also acquired Drew Stubbs to play center field, and eventually agreed to terms with Nick Swisher to take Choo’s spot in right field.
They also signed Mark Reynolds to a one-year deal, which again makes sense as they could get some cheap power from him in the short-term in either infield corner position as they rebuild. It started to not make sense to me when they signed Brett Myers to a $7 million deal with an option for 2014…to be in the starting rotation. Then, they turned around and gave Scott Kazmir a minor league deal to see what he has left in the tank as well. You can never have too much pitching, but when a team is rebuilding and they already have young guys like Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson still looking to find their way, it made me scratch my head to spend that much in the short-term for a starter. For me, it would have made more sense to give Kyle Lohse a multi-year deal, as he could help the team in 2013 and beyond.
Then comes the deal with Bourn. I agree in the fact that it gives them a great defensive center fielder and a proven lead-off man to be a spark plug for the offense, but not at the price they’re paying. Stubbs struggled last season in Cincinnati (.213/.277/.333), but he’s probably just as productive as Bourn is on the base paths (30 SBs in ’12), has more power (14 HR in ’12), and going into his age-28 season, could provide more to the team in all aspects of the game than Bourn can, and at a much cheaper rate.
Even with their latest acquisition, I still don’t see them overtaking the Tigers for the AL Central crown, and with deep divisions to the East and West, it will be a dog fight for those two Wild Card spots, and I question the depth of their rotation to get the job done. I don’t necessarily agree with their logic for signing Bourn, but I applaud them for putting their foot on the gas, as they feel like he’s a valuable piece of the puzzle that could get them over the hump to experience some good times in Cleveland once again.
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