The arbitration tender deadline has come and gone and several players are left in the lurch without a contract. The vast majority of players that do not receive a tender at the deadline are not worth the money they would be owed in arbitration, but there are a few players in particular the Cleveland Indians could target to shore up their roster before the Winter Meetings hit next week.
All arbitration estimates are via MLB Trade rumors. Non-tender free agents are not subject to arbitration--they are just regular old free agents--but their arbitration estimates are a good starting point for how much they could earn in free agency without me just making things up off the top of my head.
Al Albuquerque | RP | Age: 29 | Arbitration estimate: $2.2 million
The former Detroit Tigers reliever could be a great addition to the Indians bullpen, but he comes with a big risk. His strikeout rate has steadily dropped over the last three seasons, and he has some issues with giving up walks and home runs--not a great combination. Albuquerque looked like a solid relief option in 2014 when he finally got his walk rate down to a career-low 8.9 percent (the first year of his career it was ever below 15 percent) with an ERA+ of 155. But his walk rate jumped back up to 12.2 percent in 2015 and his ERA+ dropped down to 94.
If the Indians can get him for less than the $2.2 million per year he would have made through arbitration, it could be worth a gamble to see if he can make it back to that 2014 form.
Pedro Alvarez | 1B/DH | Age: 28 | Arbitration estimate: $8.1 million
Of all the non-tender free agents, Pedro Alvarez could potentially have the biggest impact on the Indians. He is listed as a first baseman, but in no one should he be seeing the field with his poor defense. Instead, the Indians could pick him up as the big power bat that their lineup needs. Alvarez is very much an all-or-nothing hitter, either hitting a home run or striking out in 34 percent of his career plate appearances.
Given the rarity of power in this free agent class, Alvarez could find himself with multiple suitors, so his price may approach, or even go over, the $8.1 million estimate. If it does, the Indians will probably be out of the bidding quickly, but if every other team is leery of his poor plate approach the Indians could get him relatively cheap.
Chris Carter | 1B/DH | Age: 28 | Arbitration estimate: $5.6 million
If they miss out on Pedro Alvarez, the Indians could turn their attention to Chris Carter. The longtime
Minnesota Vikings receiver Houston Astros first baseman is shockingly similar to Alvarez in that they both should be a designated hitter and they both hit for tremendous power. However, Carter walks a lot more than Alvarez does and he should come a bit cheaper. Carter is also the fabled #righthandedpowerbat that the Indians need, unlike the southpaw Alvarez.
If I were to place on money on who I want the Tribe to pursue most, it would be Carter. Purely as a DH, of course.
Steve Cishek | RP | Age: 29 | Arbitration estimate: $7.1 million
Steve Cishek would be a great addition to the Indians bullpen, but he will probably come with too high of a price tag for a team that only has ~$15 million to work with this offseason. He had a bit of a down season in 2015 (3.58 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 8.6 K-BB%), but he has posted a sub-3.00 ERA in three of his five Major League seasons.
Another team will jump on him quickly, and while I am sure the Indians will at least take a look at him, he will quickly go out of their price range.
Ryan Cook | RP | Age: 28 | Arbitration estimate: $1.4 million
Ryan Cook would be a cheaper, but still effective, option for the bullpen. The 28-year-old was ineffective in 2015, but he only threw in 8.2 innings split between the Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox. The rest of his Major League career has been solid as long as he keeps his walk rate under control, with a strikeout rate sitting in the mid-20 percent range in any given season.
Cook also comes with a variety of pitchers. According to Brook’s Baseball, he throws a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a changeup, and a slider--mainly relying on his mid-90s mph fastball and his slider.
Cesar Ramos | RP | Age: 31 | Arbitration estimate: $1.7 million
Cesar Ramos is another relief alternative with a large pitch repertoire. He is not going to blow anyone away with a fastball that sits in the low-90s, but he can rely on control and mixing up his pitches to fool batters late in games. Ramos does not have dramatic splits between right-handed and left-handed batters, but the southpaw still fills a need for left-handed pitching that the Indians bullpen needs with the departure of Nick Hagadone.
* * *
It is also worth noting that, although the deadline to tender a contract has passed, not every non-tender has been made public yet. But looking at the list of players left, none of them look to me like targets for the Indians or players that will be non-tendered. If you want to see for yourself, MLB Trade Rumors has a great tracker. And, of course, if I missed any who you think would make good Indians targets, yell at me in the comments.