Player Reviews: Tim Laker and Bob Wickman

C Tim Laker – Age 34
2004 Salary: $450,000
2004 EQA: .194 (.214/.262/.308)
Contract Status: Free Agent

In 1992, his rookie season, Tim Laker pinch-ran for Gary Carter in the Hall of Famer’s last game. Since then, he’s had the career of a backup catcher, bouncing from organization to organization. After arriving in Cleveland, he’s been a backup to first Josh Bard, then Victor Martinez. Now that both are healthy and not going anywhere, there’s no room for him on this team, and he’ll probably find work elsewhere; besides, who can resist the allure of a veteren backup catcher?

RHRP Bob Wickman – Age 35
2004 Salary: $5.3M
2004 VORP: 6.7 (4.25 ERA)
Contract Status: Free Agent

On November 5th, 2001, the Indians re-signed Wickman to a three-year extension. At the time, not much was said about the re-signing, since Wickman was coming off two pretty good years as the team’s closer. But later that season, Wickman injured his elbow and missed essentially two years recovering from arm surgery. Suddenly that contract was lumped in with other bad deals (Lawton Gutierrez) as evidence against Shapiro’s “transitioning” plan. Wickman finally appears healthy, but now that three-year extension has run its course. Bob now is pondering retirement, and he does so, the Indians are pretty much forced to go out and get a closer. If he decides to play another season, he would be a stopgap (aren’t most closers stopgaps?) until the team finds an internal solution.

Wickman isn’t a typical closer; he relies on his sinkers instead fastballs to get hitters out. Wickman is at his best when he throws strikes, because he’ll allow his share of base hits. Now that the label of “proven closer” has been planted indelibly on him, Wicky should have a job waiting for him as long as his arm is all right and he’s collecting some 30-odd saves a season; never mind his ERA.

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