Over the next few months, the Cleveland Indians Examiner will take a look at the off-season decisions for the Indians as they head into 2014. The first installment here takes a look at the free agents:
By next Monday, the fifth day after the World Series completed, the Cleveland Indians will have decided whether to give qualifying offers to the five free agents of the club.
Those free agents include starting pitchers Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez, relief pitchers Joe Smith and Matt Albers and Jason Giambi.
A qualifying offer is a one year deal to free agents set at $14.1 million in 2014. A team offers its free agent players this qualifying offer immediately after the season.
By not making this offer, a team risks losing the player to another team who wishes to sign them. If a player is offered this $14.1 million, one-year deal and rejects it to pursue other teams and lengthier or higher-priced deals, the original team is offered a draft pick between the first and second round as compensation for losing that player.
To boil it down, the question becomes two-fold: does a team offer a player the $14.1 million qualifying offer? And if so, does the player take that offer?
Let’s look at each case individually.
Note: this article was published before Jason Giambi signed a minor league contract Thursday evening with the Indians. An article detailing that contract is forthcoming.
Relief Pitcher Joe Smith
Pictured: Joe Smith #38 of the Cleveland Indians pitches against the New York Mets during the eighth inning of their game on September 8, 2013 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. The Mets defeated the Indians 2-1. (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
Joe Smith is a free agent after five seasons with Cleveland, having finished a two-year contract with the Tribe that ended in 2013. He was paid $1.75 million in 2012 and $3.15 million in 2013.
It should be noted that almost no relief pitcher makes $14 million in a season. In 2013, one reliever did, according to Baseball Prospectus: Rafael Soriano.
In short, no team would offer a reliever this $14 million qualifying offer. Smith was one of the stalwarts of the relief corps last year, following up a decent 2012 campaign with a 2.29 ERA and 54 K’s in 63 innings. He’ll make money in 2014, just not that kind of money.
Pictured: Relief pitcher Matt Albers #32 of the Cleveland Indians delivers a pitch in the eighth inning of the game against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on July 20, 2013 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Indians 3-2. (Photo by Marilyn Indahl/Getty Images)
Matt Albers – Much of the same. He is a free agent after spending one year in Cleveland as a part of the monumental trade between the Reds and Diamondbacks. He pitched well enough in Cleveland, but isn’t really a strikeout pitcher, at least not enough to make up for 23 walks in 63 innings pitched. He won’t be given that offer.
Pictured: Starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez #30 of the Cleveland Indians pitches during the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field on September 24, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jimenez is an interesting case. The RHP had a dominant second-half of 2013, the kind the Indians were hoping for when they plucked him from the Rockies two years ago. Jimenez posted 5.10 and 5.40 ERAs in 2011 and 2012, but followed that up with a respectable 3.30 ERA and 114 ERA+ last year, striking out nearly 200 in 182.2 innings. He’s not quite 2010 Ubaldo yet, but he seems back on track to get there.
He seems like a candidate to get that $14.1 million offer, but its questionable whether he’d accept it. Jimenez will be just 30 next season, coming off one of his best halves of a season he’s had in four years. Instead of opting for a $14/1-year deal in Cleveland, maybe he finds a multi-year deal somewhere else. Many people have noted that maybe Jimenez, capitalizing on his second-half streak in 2013, could take the offer, pitch well in 2014, then build signing value as a free agent this time next year. Likely, Jimenez will pitch somewhere other than Cleveland in 2014.
Pictured: Scott Kazmir #26 of the Cleveland Indians delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on September 28, 2013 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Kazmir may have been one of the most unlikely successes of 2013. Signed to a minor league contract in December 2012, Kazmir hadn’t pitched in the majors regularly since 2010 when he posted a 5.94 ERA in 28 starts. A year before, he posted a 4.89 ERA in 26 starts in Tampa Bay and Los Angeles. His last decent season was as a 24-year old in 2008. Seemingly out of nowhere, he pitched respectively in Cleveland, many times dominantly, going 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA. He pitched around league average, but that was good enough to meet most expectations. He threw 158 innings for a decent rotation and struck out 162 batters, walking 47.
It’s entirely possible the Indians offer him the $14.1 million. It is possible Kazmir comes back, throws another solid season and helps stabilize the Indians rotation. It’s also entirely possible he reverts back to his 2009-2011 days. The Indians aren’t exactly a big-money team, so it’s reasonable they don’t make this offer. But they may do so, and if it’s likely Kazmir would take the offer if given to him.
Jason Giambi #25 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after hiting a walk-off two-run home run to defeat the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field on September 24, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the White Sox 5-4. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Giambi – What can you say? The veteran was supposed to come in, be a role model for the younger players, provide some bench power and little else. He did those things and little else in 2013. But he won’t be paid $14.1 million. Expect to see Giambi as a coach somewhere, or perhaps, if another team is in need of his one-year services as the Indians were, could offer him a very similar deal. The Indians only gave him a minor league contract to start out..who knows if another team does the same to the 42-year-old.