The World Series will end either Wednesday or Thursday night, and with its conclusion, the 2013/14 offseason will get into full swing.
Here are some of the key events/dates:
- 5th day after World Series: Last date for former club to tender qualifying offers
- 6th day after World Series: Free agents may sign with all clubs
- 12th day after World Series: Last date for players to accept qualifying offers
- November 11-13: GM/Owners Meetings in Orlando, Florida
- November 20: Reserve lists for all Major and Minor League levels filed
- December 5: Tender deadline
- December 9: Last date to outright a player prior to Rule 5 Draft
- December 9-12: Winter Meetings in Orlando Florida
- December 12: Rule 5 Draft
The Indians have a handful of players set to hit free agency.
Key free agents:
- Ubaldo Jimenez
- Scott Kazmir
- Joe Smith
- Matt Albers
- Jason Giambi
Smith, Albers, and Giambi obviously don't merit qualifying offers (which are set at $14.1M for 2014). Jimenez will be given a QO, which he will almost certainly decline (the only way he accepts it is if he thinks he can rebuild his value even further with a full season like the second half he had in 2013), and go for a total bonanza a year from now, but I think that'll be too big a risk for him). A declined QO means the Indians will receive a draft pick (between the 1st and 2nd rounds) as compensation if Jimenez then signs with another team. The one debatable case is Kazmir. I'm on record saying the Indians should not make him a qualifying offer, but there's plenty of disagreement within the fan base. For now, we can't count any of those players as Indians.
According to Cot's Baseball Contracts (one of the most reliable resources for baseball salary info), the Indians are on the hook for $49 million for 2014. That figure only includes 7 players though, because it does not include arbitration figures for eligible players (because the team could decline to offer them arbitration and non-tender them instead), nor does it include the small figures the team is going to pay players who aren't even eligible for arbitration yet.
Returning players eligible for league minimum (~$500,000):
- Jason Kipnis
- Yan Gomes
- Lonnie Chisenhall
- Corey Kluber
- Danny Salazar
- Zach McAllister
- Cody Allen
- Bryan Shaw
- Nick Hagadone
When you start factoring in those league minimum figures, which cover close to a dozen players and the cheapest potential arbitration cases (such as Carlos Carrasco), you reach something like $60 million, with half a dozen or so roster spots to fill.
More expensive arbitration eligible players ($2M+ each):
- Chris Perez
- Justin Masterson
- Drew Stubbs
- Michael Brantley
It's a no-brainer to bring back Masterson and Brantley. Masterson is going into his 3rd (and final) year of arbitration eligibility. Given his 2013 salary ($5.7M) and production, I would guess he's in line for something like $8M in 2014. Brantley is entering his first year of arbitration eligibility, and given his production, I'd predict he gets something like $4M in 2014. I also think it's an easy decision to non-tender Perez. He's not a very good pitcher anymore, but is likely to cost $9M if offered arbitration. I would question whether the Indians should pay any reliever that much money, and they certainly shouldn't pay it to a mediocre one.
That leaves Stubbs. This us year 2 for him, and he'll likely cost $4M. That's not a bad price for him. He can't hit right-handed pitching though, so the Indians need to bring in a platoon partner if they keep him (or let Swisher play right field three times a week, which probably isn't wise). Stubbs will be an interesting case. With the figures I gave, the Indians will either be up to $76M (with Stubbs) or $72M (without him), and in need of a starting pitcher*, a reliever, and one or two position players (pending the decision on Stubbs). If they were to attempt to upgrade the starting lineup, it would need to be at 3B or RF, though I suspect they want to give Chisenhall one more season to become the guy at third. They could also look to trade Cabrera, but I suspect is value right now is too low to be worthwhile.
*The Indians will have Masterson, Kluber, Salazar, and McAllister penciled into the rotation. Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, or Josh Tomlin could end up as the 5th starter, but none of them seems an ideal candidate.
I think the Indians will run with a payroll somewhere near $90 million come Opening Day 2014, which means they'll have something like $15-20 million to spend for 2014. If they re-sign Jimenez, they'll likely look to fill the other holes with minor league players or free agents willing to sign for no more than $1 million. If Jimenez leaves, I expect they'll try to re-sign Kazmir or find a comparable pitcher who costs something like half their available funds, leaving $8-10M for a bat or two, or a bullpen arm.
Over the next two weeks, I'll examine some of the options likely to be available through free agency.