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The Week in Transactions: Indians lock up Josh Tomlin

In which I write too many words about what a relatively minor extension means for the near-term plans for the Cleveland organization.

Josh Tomlin will be in an Indians uniform through at least 2017.
Josh Tomlin will be in an Indians uniform through at least 2017.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Tribe Transactions

January 26

Signed RHP Josh Tomlin to a two-year, $5.5M contract (2018 team option)

Other details: $250,000 bonus for reaching 20, 25 starts, 160, 180 innings; $500,000 for reaching 30 starts or 200 innings. These bonuses are paid for meeting each threshold, so Tomlin could get a total of $2.0M in a season if he makes 30+ starts and throws 200+ innings. This applies to both 2016 and 2017, and presumably 2018 as well if the option is picked up.

Tomlin would have been a free agent after this season, so the deal could keep him under team control two extra years. Josh hasn't pitched a "full season" in a MLB rotation since 2011, but because of the extensive spent on the major-league disabled list, he had accumulated 5+ years of service time. That, plus the uncertainty of whether the end of 2015 could be repeated, could have made for an impasse in contract negotiations. But Tomlin chose the certainty of a multiple-year deal rather than the chance of hitting it big in free agency if he proved that 2015 was not a mirage.

I have more to say about this deal in the 25-man roster segment.

Invited RHP Will Roberts, IF Eric Stamets, RHP Adam Plutko, and UT Todd Hankins to Spring Training

These are minor-league players already in the organization that will report to major-league, at least to start the spring. No Bradley Zimmer or Clint Frazier, so perhaps there's going to be a second round invitations soon.

Selected MLB Transactions

January 26

New York Mets signed OF Yoenis Cespedes to a three-year, $75M contract (opt-out after 2016)

In other words, if Cespedes has a good season (heck, or just a decent season), this turns into a one-year deal. And because the total length of the deal is just three seasons, the Mets don't have a lot of risk here.

January 28

Houston Astros signed RHP Doug Fister to a one-year, $7M contract

This deal might look like a gigantic bargain by the time we reach the All-Star Break. I know that Fister's injury scared some teams off, but I could name 5-6 teams that should have jumped at that salary.

Tampa Bay traded LHP Jake McGee and RHP German Marquez to the Colorado Rockies for OF Corey Dickerson and 3B Kevin Padlo

This the Rockies unload one of their outfielders, but for what end? Maybe I'm underestimating the value clubs place on the closer role, but I always have a tough time justifying a deal in which a relief pitcher is traded for a position with less service time. McGee is under team control for two more seasons, and unless the Rockies shock the baseball world, he probably won't be pitching in many meaningful games. Dickerson was a player I thought the Indians might be interested in, and would have been thrilled had the deal been Shaw-for-Dickerson, a comparable (or better) trade than the Rockies actually made.

January 30

Milwaukee Brewers traded SS Jean Segura and RHP Tyler Wagner to the Arizona Diamondbacks for RHP Chase Anderson, 3B Aaron Hill, SS Isan Diaz and Cash

Hill is salary balast: he's due $12.0M this year, and the Diamondbacks are paying $5.5M of it. The meat of the deal is Segura, Anderson, and Diaz. Anderson is going to be in Milwaukee's rotation as back-end guy, and Diaz could be an offensive weapon at either shortstop or second base if he develops. Arizona gets Segura, a player who has been running in place the last couple of seasons after a breakout 2013.

If the D-Backs were willing to trade a prospect like Diaz, then why not sign Ian Desmond, who IMO is a better player than Segura and would not have cost them their first round pick. Or perhaps they did finally reach their budget and this was a rather complicated way of shedding some salary.

Latest 25-man/40-man Roster

(embiggend version here)

Jan 31 2016

With Tomlin signed, the Indians have their rotation under team control until at least 2018. The big three (Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar) are under contract or team option through perhaps 2020. In the past the organization has attempted to be self-sufficient with its player development, as their payroll just wasn't (and isn't) big enough to fill in gaps via free agency. But that strategy was flawed because the player development was flawed, with nobody coming up from the minors to supplement and eventually replace the current stars.

With a better farm system in place this time around, the Indians have adapted a self-sufficient mantra, only signing two major-league free agents, and those free agents got just one-year deals. They could have made trades of pitching for offensive players but didn't, which shows that they feel at least somewhat content about the near future of the organization. And that I think points back to the last 5-6 drafts, which are responsible for building back to respectability what had been one of the worst farm systems in baseball. And unlike even a couple years ago, the vast majority of top prospects in the system are homegrown players, with Mike Clevinger the only top prospect who wasn't drafted or signed for the organization.

The good news with Tomlin is that the Indians won't have to go looking for the next Scott Kazmir if Tomlin washes out of the rotation; they should be able to fill that spot with someone from the farm system, whether it's Cody Anderson or Mike Clevinger or TJ House or Adam Plutko. So in that sense the Indians didn't extend Tomlin because they had to, but because they wanted to.