So do the Indians exist in the minds of the Cleveland sports media? Usually the most juicy articles appear on Sunday mornings, and I figured there’d be a couple rumors regarding free agent signings. I found exactly two articles; one was an editorial lamenting the loss of Omar Vizquel and how baseball has changed from the halcyon days of yesteryear when players played their entire career with one team. I wasn’t alive during the 1950s and 1960s, but I believe there was this thing called the Reserve Clause which allowed clubs complete control over their players. The other was a piece on Corey Smith by Aeros beat writer Stephanie Storm, whose work I really enjoy reading.
But there was absolutely nothing on the Indians and who they are targeting for next season. And it’s not like the Indians are in offseason shutdown mode. This article from Chicago stated that the Indians have been the “most aggresive” organization going after free agent Matt Clement. This is a good sign, especially he mentioned that Cleveland is close to home for him. But not a peep from the local writers was heard on Clement, excluding the usual litany of players the team might be going after. It’s real frustrating that most of the news regarding the Indians’ offseason moves has to be gathered from other cities’ papers.
Going back to the Smith article. Of all the players that have been bandied about as being unworthy of a 40-man roster spot, Smith is the one player that I can’t think of explanation for why he’s still protected. He hasn’t hit, he’s been an error machine at third base all through the minors, and now he’s a bit…shall we say, hesitant to move to the outfield. Smith is a guy I think Farrell really is fighting for, much like he “pounded the table” for Ivan Ochoa last winter. If I had my druthers, Jason Cooper would replace Smith on the roster, given that that now both are outfielders and played at the same level last season. It’s one thing to protect players who have shown themselves worthy; it’s quite another to protect a player solely because he was a first round pick.
After looking over the guys left unprotected, I’ve compiled my list of the most likely players to be picked. Note that this list doesn’t rank them in order the best prospects who were left unprotected.
1. 2B Eider Torres – stole 48 bases in the Carolina League, he only committed 9 errors at second base.
2. 2B Joe Inglett – this year’s Luis Gonzalez; good plate discipline, older prospect
3. LHP Shea Douglas – if he’s healthy, then he’ll be taken
4. 3B Pat Osborn – he played some shortstop in Kinston; if not for his injuries, he may have been protected
5. RHP JD Martin – may be better in a relief role
6. C David Wallace – athletic catcher; may be picked because of the lack of free agent options
7. OF Jason Cooper – one of the sabermetric organizations may take a chance
8. OF Nathan Panther – has the range to play center field
9. RHP Dan Denham – still has upside but no success in high minors
10. LHP Chris Cooper – left-handed
Others I considered: Ben Francisco, Victor Kleine, Lee Gronkiewicz, Keith Ramsey