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Wickman deal was a bit raw. Jim Ingraham, Morning Journal.

Always the optimist, Ingraham opines on the organization's bargaining tactics:

After Hoffman turned down the Indians' three-year $21 million offer late Wednesday, Wickman, according to a source, was quickly given a take-it-or-leave-it one-year, $5 million offer. It's also likely that the Indians WERE NOT going to offer Wickman salary arbitration, for fear that he would accept, and, rightfully, file at a figure close to the $7 million yearly salary that has become the going rate for top closers in the current market.

Of course, Wickman did not have to accept this offer; he could have retired or had he felt like it, gone somewhere else. But he didn't. I can't guess at how Wickman felt when presented with this offer, but I do know that he accepted a one-year, $5M contract offer. We also don't know whether the Indians would have refused arbitration on him had he refused the contract offer.

In following sports, I've found that ignoring what people say and paying attention to what they do is the best way to get to the heart of player motivations and emotions. If Wickman had felt "betrayed" or "offended," then he would have went somewhere else.

Moving on:

So what do the Indians have in Paul Byrd? Looks like they have an extremely well-paid Jason Bere.

Bere's career stats: 1,111 innings pitched, a won-loss record of 71-65.

Byrd's career numbers: 1,111 innings pitched, a record of 72-64.

Speaking of Byrd, although he's just an average major league starting pitcher, it's almost refreshing to see the Indians over-pay for him, isn't it? The Indians will pay Byrd about $7 million per year over each of the next two seasons. In 2006, Byrd will make about $6 million more than 18-game winner Cliff Lee.

Cliff Lee is four years from free agency. When Lee accrues six years of service time, he'll probably be making more than Paul Byrd. Byrd had a slightly-lower ERA than Lee last season, so saying Lee was the better pitcher (as Ingraham is inferring) is not really true. Is the Lee the better bet to be better over the next 3-4 years? Sure.  

As for the Bere-Byrd comparison, I don't see much similarities beyond the career records. Bere was in Chicago's rotation at age 22, and had his last good season with the Cubs at age 30. Byrd didn't have more than 10 starts in a season until he was 28 years old, and is still pitching effectively at age 34.

Talkin' Tribe. Terry Pluto, ABJ

Pluto has some inside info on the Wickman signing:

* Bob Wickman's preference was to be the Tribe's first choice as closer for 2006. He had reason to wonder why so many teams had so little interest in a guy who saved 45 games, but he is glad to be back with the Indians. When the Tribe informed him that they needed him, Wickman said: ``You're getting your closer at a bargain. Now, let's go get a bat and play ball.''

* The Indians rated the free-agent closer market this way: (1) B.J. Ryan; (2) Trevor Hoffman; (3) Wickman. They did not make serious offers to any other closers. Ryan, who has only 42 saves in his career, went to the Toronto Blue Jays for $47 million for five years. The Indians thought they had Hoffman at one point, but the veteran wanted to stay in San Diego at this point in his career.

It's good news that they didn't even go after Todd Jones, and even better news that they didn't offer Trevor Hoffman a third year, as mentioned later in the column.