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Winter Meetings Roundup—Willingham, Blake, and Pray for Better Players

Don't act like this doesn't excite you.
Don't act like this doesn't excite you.

The storyline of Cleveland's offseason remains unchanged—with a veteran starter (Derek Lowe) in hand, the Indians are most interested in adding a right-handed bat that can provide a little pop and play either left field or first base. I ran through some of this last Friday, and the situation has continued to evolve since then. According to Hoynes, Derek Lee is unswayed by Cleveland's plaintive courting and the Indians have turned their gaze elsewhere. Carlos Pena is still in the water, searching for the kind of chum he likes (multi-year and high dollar, it seems), but there's been no significant link between Pena and the Indians at any point. Pena and the Tribe is a situation of a few analysts cocking their heads and going, "Well, that could make sense", and, indeed, it does make some sense, but that doesn't mean it'll ever approach consummation (most relationships don't, after all).

So, where does all that overwrought prose leave the fearsome Tribesmen? Free agent wise, the player that the Indians have been most explicitly linked to in the last forty-eight hours is Josh Willingham, the corner outfielder who played in Oakland last season. Willingham's an intriguing bat—he's never OPS'd below 810 in a full season and he seems at least serviceable in left. However, this might end up a protracted process, because Willingham is Plan B for the Twins, contingent on what Michael Cuddyer ends up doing. Cuddyer is apparently mulling over an 3 year, $25M dollar offer from the Twins and if that's the approximate price for Willingham, I'm not sure the Indians ought to take the bait.

Frankly, I'm not really sure if Cuddyer is even the more desirable player for the Twins. Cuddyer's career triple slash is .272/.343/.451, while Willingham is .262/.361/.477. Nothing indicates that either player is going through any changes at this point in his career, and Willingham's generally been the slightly better hitter, although he's also played primarily in the NL. I think Cuddyer might have some kind of Sean Casey, mayor-status thing going in Minnesota—I'm not going to bother to look that up, though.

At any rate, these are the sorts of right-handed bats Indians fans are clamoring for and if the going rate is $8M per over three seasons or, gulp, higher, I'm not sure what I'd do if I were in Antonetti shoes. If you want to read tea leaves, perhaps Hoynsie knows something we don't and that's why he went asking after the mysterious "Casey", likely either Kotchman or Blake—I'm guessing Blake. I think you all know Mr. Blake's Cleveland career well, but it's important to note that Blake is in full-on decline at this point, posting his lowest total for both games played and OPS last season (or, at least his lowest since he established himself in the majors), notching marks of 63 and 713 in those respective categories. Blake could likely trot between first and left when asked, but no one should be particularly shocked if his career is already effectively complete. At any rate, we already knew Cleveland was kicking the tires on its former 3B/2B/1B/SS/OF.

Kotchman might also be in play, at least according to Heyman, but the interest there appears to be more of a casting of wide nets as opposed to a laser like focus on Kotchman and his particular skill set. So, that's the best summary report I can manage, and now I'll take a moment to beat my cockamamie Carlos Beltran drum. The market for Beltran may be "thin", and I hope the Indians are able to take advantage. Beltran could play some corner outfield for a year or two and then DH in the third year of a deal. He'd take over for Hafner, who will no longer be under contract at the conclusion of the 2012 season (it's almost over! it's almost over!).