Player Reviews: Under Contract

This is actually a really short list; Only four Indians (five counting the recently re-signed Bob Howry) have 2005 contracts. That’s pretty amazing.

3B Aaron Boone – Age 31
2003 Salary: $3.7M
2003 EQA: .281 for Cincinnati, .255 for New York (AL)
Contract Status: Signed through 2005 ($3.0M); team option for 2006 ($4.5M with various bonuses)

Now that Boone has been splashed all over sports shows to celebrate his 2003 ALCS-winning home run, let’s try to separate fact from mystique.

Before coming to the Yankees, Aaron Boone was a pretty nice player for the Cincinnati Reds; his EQA only dipped below average in 1999 (.256) and 2002 (.259). He’s a very good defensive third basemen, has some speed, and will hit for decent power. Assuming Boone is in playing shape by April and puts up career-average numbers, Boone for $3M is a pretty good investment. The side effect of Boone’s signing is that it will probably force Casey Blake to move to second base, a position he’s never played before. If Boone was completely healthy, I would think that he’d be a better fit at second than Blake, but turning the double play isn’t exactly the best thing for a player coming off two knee surgeries. Monetarily, signing Boone might actually save the Indians some money; Boone will probably make less than Belliard will make in arbitration, plus the team can trade Belly for something useful. Offensively, Boone/Blake is a bit better than Blake/Belliard, but not that much. Defensively, it might be a wash depending how Blake takes to second base; if Casey can impersonate Mark Bellhorn defensively, things should work out OK. I guess yet another side effect of the signing is that Jhonny Peralta can stay at short for the time being, pushing Brandon Phillips into a utility role and making John McDonald look for employment elsewhere.

As you can see there’s a lot of variables at work here, and I don’t really know how it’s going to work out. But that the Indians have actually started to spend money on relatively good players again is a step in the right direction as far as the rebuild is concerned. And that Boone chose the Indians because he believes in the future of the team is a nice shot in the arm for the organization’s stature among possible free agents this winter.

OF Matt Lawton – Age 32
2004 Salary: $7.25M
2004 EQA: .274 (.277/.366/.421)
Contract Status: Signed through 2005 (~$7.5M)

The Indians finally got a healthy Matt Lawton in 2004, and he posted numbers pretty much in line with his career averages. That he was paid $7.25M to do so is a lingering effect of Shapiro’s giddy offseason spending following the 2001 season. Still, he’s the most proven quantity the Indians have in the outfield right now, so unless the perfect salary swap presents itself this winter, Lawton should be playing either right or left field for the Indians next year. He’s an underrated leadoff hitter, and can still steal a base, so it’s not like he’s dead weight on the roster. Looking at his defensive numbers, he actually looks pretty average, believe it or not.

LHSP C.C. Sabathia – Age 23
2004 Salary $2.7M
2004 VORP: 40.2
Contract Status: Signed through 2005 ($4.5M); team option for 2006 ($7.0M)

First, the bad news: Sabathia didn’t pitch well at all after tweaking his bicep before the All-Star Break. His ERA after the ASB was 5.12.

Now, the good news. Sabathia’s stuff didn’t seem to suffer that much, and he pitched better in Saptember, posting a 3.71 ERA.

Looking at Sabathia’s 2004 as a whole, you don’t see much deviation in his peripheral numbers, like H/9 or SO/9, etc. He’s stayed healthy in his first four seasons, which is a minor miracle, and although the probability that he’ll become that top-notch starter has gone down, there isn’t much wrong with the pitcher is today. Yes, he needs to shed some weight, and his mechanics have always been a concern, but overall Sabathia is a very valuable starter that will probably be the team’s titular ace over the next two seasons.

LHRP Scott Sauerbeck – Age 32
2003 Salary: $1.556M
2003 VORP: 4.9 with Pittsburgh, -2.7 with Boston
Contract Status: Signed through 2005

Sauerbeck’s shoulder was a mess after arriving in Boston, so take the Boston stats with a grain of salt. I’ve gone over Sauerbeck just recently, so I’ll spare you any repetitious remark on the left-hander.

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