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2002 Retrospective: Reloading

Other Installments:

Part One: Foreward
Part Two: The Roberto Alomar Trade

After dealing Roberto Alomar, Mark Shapiro still had some holes to fill, including a new one at second base. Rather than go through all the articles, I'll go through some of the relevant transactions and their context.


Exercised 2002 Option on manager Charlie Manuel

Declined 2002 Options on LHP Scott Radinsky, RHP Dave Burba, and OF Juan Gonzalez

Exercised 2003 Option on LHP Ricardo Rincon

Named Mike Brown pitching coach

Manuel's option was picked up after he was subjected to several medical tests. Obviously the option being only one year would have rammifications down the road.

Some interesting quotes by Manuel (PD, 10-25-01):

"We might have to change our style of play, but I think we will be a competitive and winning team. If we have to hit and run, along with stealing bases, then that is what we will have to do."

Manuel said he is no stranger to managing teams that do not rely on power ball. "In the minor leagues," he said, "I had teams where we had to manufacture runs."

While saying that Jim Thome and Ellis Burks are the leading candidates to replace Gonzalez's bat in the cleanup spot, Manuel said he is unsure what will be done to replace Lofton at the top of the order.

One option is Milton Bradley, who is a leading candidate to replace Lofton in center field. "Milton has speed in the outfield, and on the bases," said Manuel, "but his hitting needs a lot of work.

"He has got potential to be a leadoff hitter, but that might be asking too much of him right now. We might go slow with him."

The option on Juan Gonzalez was worth $14M.


Re-signed RHP Bob Wickman to a three-year, $16M contract

From the PD (11-6-01):

Closer Bob Wickman went against the wishes of his longtime agent, Dick Moss, to sign a three-year, $16 million contract with the Indians yesterday. A club option for a fourth year - 2005 - is worth $6 million.

Agents don't always have the final say.

Closer Bob Wickman went against the wishes of his longtime agent, Dick Moss, to sign a three-year, $16 million contract with the Indians yesterday. A club option for a fourth year - 2005 - is worth $6 million.

Moss said incentives could boost the contract by $1 million annually.

Starting yesterday, Wickman, 32, was eligible to file for free agency. He passed up the opportunity to sign with the Tribe. "Bob could have made more money on the open market," said Moss.

"What he did was give the Indians a hometown discount. I personally don't believe in it, but I work for Bob."

Such was the economic climate in 2001.


Signed LHP Scott Radinsky and C Tim Laker to one-year contracts

Signed OF Todd Dunwoody and C Chris Coste to minor-league contracts


Named Eddie Murray hitting coach


Signed OF Brady Anderson to a one-year contract

While the signing of free agent Brady Anderson and his .202 batting average created more sneers than cheers last week, Shapiro still acquired an experienced left fielder and leadoff hitter. He says the move means he will not be forced to make a bad trade to fill the important leadoff spot.

There were other leadoff hitters available, but they all came with question marks. Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines and Devon White, like Anderson, carried too much age. Knoblauch has struggled for the past two seasons, and Roger Cedeno and Johnny Damon are too expensive.

I know it's easy to laugh at that last sentence, but yes, Roger Cedeno signed a four-year contract with the Mets that offseason. But it still didn't make the Anderson signing look any better.

Traded 2B Roberto Alomar to the New York Mets (see previous installment)


Released RHP Steve Woodard


Signed OF Karim Garcia to a one-year contract

This continued an on-again, off-again relationship between the Indians and Garcia, as you'll see later in the series.


Signed 2B/SS Ricky Gutierrez to a three-year, $11M contract

Re-signed OF Matt Lawton to a four-year, $27M contract

On Gutierrez (PD, 12-18-2001):

"I had no problem with it," said Gutierrez. "The market is tough out there. When you get a chance to sign with a team like Cleveland you've got to take it."

Gutierrez will wear No. 12. It's the same number Alomar wore for three years in Cleveland.

All similarities will probably end there. Gutierrez is a good shortstop who has played sparingly at second compared to Alomar, who has won more Gold Gloves than any second baseman in history.

"One of the reasons I signed with the Indians is that I've got Omar Vizquel on my right to help me make the change," said Gutierrez. "Turning the double play will be the toughest thing."

On Lawton:

Lawton was the only established big-leaguer the Mets gave up. Shapiro and owner Larry Dolan were criticized in Cleveland. In New York, it was written the Indians not only had their pockets picked, but had been bilked out of their life savings.

None of that mattered to Lawton.

"I was going back to my comfort zone . . . the AL Central," said Lawton.

The Indians have won six of the seven division championships awarded in the AL Central. Lawton was always figuring out ways to beat them. Now that he's finally joined them, the Indians aren't really the Indians.

Alomar, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez, Dave Burba and Marty Cordova have left over the last two years. If Juan Gonzalez doesn't accept the Tribe's arbitration offer by Wednesday, he'll be all but gone as well.

"I'm going to sit down with the general manager on Monday and try to get a feel for where the team is going," said Lawton. "There's a good nucleus. There's Jim Thome, Ellis Burks, Travis Fryman and Omar Vizquel. And I guess they're close to signing [infielder] Ricky Gutierrez.

"We have some good young pitchers. I still think it's a division-winning team. Yes, the guys are younger and faster, and maybe that's a good thing. Look at what the Twins did last year."

Shapiro calls Lawton a high-energy player.

"There were times last season, even when we won, that I did not enjoy watching how our team played," said Shapiro. "Matt Lawton will help energize us. He gives us multiple ways to score runs."

Lawton has scored 328 runs and stolen 94 bases in the last four seasons. He can bat anywhere in the top three spots in the order, and should offer a change of pace compared to the often-dormant Lofton and Vizquel combination of last season.

"Matt is a .300 hitter," said manager Charlie Manuel, "who is capable of hitting 20 homers. I think he can steal between 25 and 40 bags a year."

These two signings are the ones that really hurt. Gutierrez had been a pretty decent shortstop for the Cubs, but the Indians signed him to play second base. Now obviously injuries affected Gutierrez's play, but giving multi-year deals to 32-year-old middle infielders isn't a great idea.  

The Lawton contract fell in the same boat. Matt's still a decent leadoff hitter, but by the time the contract expired, he was a terrible outfielder and  similar players were getting contracts worth half as much. Again, the Indians were burned because of injuries, but they knew the risks in giving a 30-year-old outfielder a four-year deal.


Signed LHP Heath Murray, LHP Dave Maurer, P JD Brammer, and UT Bill Selby to minor-league contracts


Traded OF Dave Roberts to the Los Angeles Dodgers for P Christian Bridenbaugh and P Niall Hughes

The Indians hadn't really used Roberts that much, who at this point was a pinch runner going on 30. The Dodgers gave him a chance and got a couple decent years out of him. This is probably one of the more recent examples of a player who couldn't make the Indians' roster making a career for himself elsewhere.


Signed RHP Mark Wohlers to a two-year, $4M contract with a club option for 2004

Wohlers, 31, went a combined 4-1 with a 4.26 ERA last year with Cincinnati and the New York Yankees. He gave up 69 hits in 67 innings, walked 25 and struck out 54. In 55 of 61 appearances, his composite ERA was 1.73.

Wohlers pitched 71.1 middling innings in 2002, and never pitched again. I guess this is a cautionary tale with relievers, especially since the Indians have a couple decisions to make regarding Wickman and Howry this offseason.


Signed IF Mike Lansing to a minor-league contract


Promoted John Mirabelli and Chris Antonetti to Assistant General Managers.

Signed OF Bruce Aven and OF Brooks Kieschnick to minor-league contracts


Signed RHP Omar Olivares to a minor-league contract


Traded a PTBNL (or nothing) to the Atlanta Braves for C Eddie Perez

I don't believe the Braves got a player back in return. Perez was coming off shoulder surgery in 2000, and had played in only 12 games since.