Today is the day where a lot of new free agents will flood the market; today is non-tender day. Granted, most of these players won’t be the caliber of the top-tier free agents, but teams with modest payrolls like the Indians can find some nice bargains. Guys like Jacque Jones, Jay Gibbons, and Josh Fogg might become available if clubs decline to offer their arbitration-eligible players salary arbitration for next season.
The Indians have four players who are eligible for arbitration still unsigned as of this moment: David Riske, Ronnie Belliard, Casey Blake, and Jake Westbrook. Westbrook and Blake are locks to stay, but Belliard and Riske may be cut loose. I really haven’t seen or heard anything regarding Riske’s status, but ever since the Hernandez signing the Indians have been adament that they’d either retain Belliard or sign a free agent. My top choice among the 2B options, Placido Polanco, has apparently accepted (free agent) arbitration with the Phillies, so he isn’t going anywhere for the moment, although the Phillies may try to trade him. So given the other options, retaining Belliard looks to be the best choice. $3M or so should get Belliard signed, which leaves about $5M to get a pitcher. Thankfully, that would take them out of the Eric Milton “sweepstakes,” which is one bidding war I didn’t want the Indians participating in.
The Indians have been active in the minor-league free agent market, though.
Stark and Zerbe are local guys (Stark graduated from my alma mater, Toledo, and Zerbe was born in Findlay). Both are Buffalo-bound unless something drastic happens. Kinkade is returning to the States after an unsuccessful stint in Japan. He has the uncanny knack of getting hit by the pitch: he accumulated 16 of them (in 162 ABs!) while with the Dodgers in 2003. He’s a corner infielder who can also play the outfield, something the Indians don’t exactly need right now, so he should be a nice addition to the defending IL champions.