Signed Bob Howry to a minor-league contract; Invited him to Spring Training

The “Failed” Physical

Well, late last night, word came down that Omar Vizquel failed his physical, nullifying the trade which would had sent him to Seattle for Carlos Guillen. More specifically, Omar’s surgically-repaired knee nixed the trade. While this does hurt the Indians in the short-term, as $3M-$4M just disappeared from their budget, this doesn’t really change anything past next year. Vizquel isn’t going to be brought back at his current salary (a mutual option), and he probably isn’t going to be traded during the season.

Seattle GM Bill Bavasi just dodged a huge bullet, and I’m sure some of the more experienced conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this. This probably helps the Indians sell more tickets, along with the 8,756,456 different Omar! products flooding Indians team shops. When Omar finally leaves after the season, fans will still bemoan the Indians for not keeping a fan-favorite around until his retirement. However, once the Indians start winning again, fans will find new favorite players, or (gasp) they’ll just root for the teams, not individual players.


Signed Jake Westbrook to a one-year, $900k contract, avoiding arbitration

Vizquel for Guillen

The Seattle Times is reporting that the Mariners and Indians are finalizing a trade thar would send Omar Vizquel to Seattle for Carlos Guillen. Rumors have been floating around the last week or so, and intensified when Seattle lost out on the Miguel Tejada sweepstakes. As of now, the Indians would pay a couple of million of Vizquel’s $6M 2004 contract. It has also been reported by WTAM that the Mariners will give Vizquel an extension through the 2005 season. Carlos Guillen will make $2.5M next year, and will be eligible for arbitration after the season.

So what does this mean for the Indians if true? For starters, the Indians will save about $3M for next year, and it’s assumed they will use the proceeds from the trade to sign a free agent 2B and starter. Guillen will be 28 next year, and the Indians will probably get one his best offensive seasons. Guillen is definitely not the equal of Vizquel defensively, though; his Fielding Percentage and Range Factor are both below league average.

Omar Vizquel has been one of the most popular athletes in Cleveland history, and trading him will definitely create some negative reactions from various sources. But speaking strictly as a baseball move, this is a good deal for the Indians. The Indians got a younger player and saved money while doing it. However, in order for this deal to look good for the vast majority of the fanbase, the money needs to transparently be spent on a free agent, probably a decent pitcher. If the Indians follow up the trade by signing a decent 2B and a quality starter, then this trade will look pretty good.


Rule 5: Colorado selected Matt White from the Indians

Rule 5: St. Louis selected Hector Luna from the Indians

Rule 5: Houston selected Willy Taveras from the Indians

Rule 5: Colorado selected Luis Gonzalez from the Indians

Rule 5: Detroit selected Lino Urdaneta from the Indians

Rule 5 (AAA): New York (NL) selected Lance Caraccioli from the Indians

Rule 5 (AAA): Kansas City selected Honeudis Pereyra from the Indians

Rule 5 (AAA): Philadelphia selected Miguel Quintana from the Indians

Rule 5 (AAA): San Diego selected Ignacio Montano from the Indians

Rule 5 (AAA): Cleveland selected Michael West from Milwaukee

Rule 5 Recap

The Indians lost 9 players from their minor-league system today, and 5 in the major-league section of the Rule 5 Draft. Only the Pirates lost as many. While you hate to lose this many players, it shows the type of system the Indians have. Each of the players drafted had multiple young players ahead of them on the depth chart.

Let’s take an in-depth view of the players lost (for now) in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Remember, each of these players has to stay on the clubs’ 25-man roster for the entire season to keep him.

1) IF Luis Gonzalez – drafted by Colorado

Probably the best bet to stay with the team that drafted him. He can play multiple positions, won’t be that overpowered at the plate, and he played most of the year in AA, so a jump to the majors isn’t too far-fetched. I think this is nice pick by Colorado, as they may fill a need for $350,000 ($50,000 + the minimum). Too often, clubs go for toolsy players (see below) that are really far from being ready and neglect players that are a bit older and don’t much of an upside but could realistically contribute at the major-league level.

Chances of being returned: 25%

2) LHP Matt White – drafted by Colorado

Again, a nice pick by the Rockies. White was picked last year by the Red Sox, was traded to the Mariners, and eventually returned to the Indians about half-way through the season. After returning to Buffalo, he pitched well. He could contribute as a LOOGY, especially at Coors Canaveral. The Indians picked up Cliff Bartosh, who has historically put up better numbers than White, as well as Carl Sadler, who’s pitched well in the Dominican Leagues. Both Bartosh and Sadler have better upside than White, and both can be optioned down next year, something the Rockies will not have the luxury of doing.

Chances of being returned: 50%

3) SS Hector Luna – drafted by St. Louis

Also drafted last year, Luna has offensive potential and speed, which made him so attractive to teams. The Cardinals will try to make him the second utility infielder, but can the Cardinals, who are expected to contend next, afford to essentially have a 24-man roster all year? Luna spent the entire year at Akron after being returned by Tampa Bay before Spring Training, so he’s a more viable offensive player now. But the track record of Rule 5 picks staying on a playoff (or quasi-playoff) team isn’t good.

Chances of being returned: 75%

4) RHP Lino Urdaneta – drafted by Detroit

Urdaneta, who signed a minor-league contract a couple of weeks ago, was picked almost entirely based on his performace in Venezuela league. His minor-league stats have been average at best, and although the Tigers are team who will probably keep one of their picks, Urdaneta is not likely to be one of them.

Chances of being returned: 95%

5) OF Willy Taveras – drafted by Houston

The combination of the rawness of Taveras and the expected contention of the Astros make it an extreme longshot for Taveras to stick around past Spring Training, let alone the entire season. As of now, all Taveras can provide at the major-league level is speed. I just don’t see the Astros, especially down the stretch, keeping a one-dimensional player on their roster.

Chances of being returned: 99%

I’m not going to touch on the minor-league portion, as most of these players are roster-fillers. Unlike the major-league portion, most of the players selected stay with in the drafting teams’ organization.

Free Agency Update

1) Tony Graffanino has signed a two-year contract with the Kansas City Royals. He’ll be platooned with Desi Relaford. Obviously the sticking point was the length of the contract.

2) Todd Walker will reportedly sign a two-year contract with the Texas Rangers in the wake of an expected Alex Rodriguez deal. Again, the length of the contract played a huge role in Walker’s decision. Likewise, Shapiro is sticking to only offering a one-year contract, which I have absolutely no problem with. For a time, the Indians were the frontrunners in landing Walker, as all the other contenders wanted him to switch positions.

New Profiles

IF Chris Clapinski (signed to a minor-league contract)

RP Cliff Bartosh (Claimed off waivers from Detroit)

RP Lino Urnadeta (signed to a minor-league contract)

Site Update

I’ve added the 40-man Roster to the side, so it’ll be easier to find their profiles. Eventually, I’d like to make this the homepage of my site, but it’s going to take some tweaking. Hopefully everything will be in place by the beginning of Spring Training. Until then, I’ll continue to post every day or every other day, covering Indians baseball, as well as relevant stories from around the league.

List of Possible 2B Free Agents and/or Trade Possibilities

Here’s a fairly comprehensive list of who’s still available (in alphabetical order):

Free Agents

1) Roberto Alomar – Age 36

Last Year:

CHW 253 AB, .253/.330/.340, 3 HR, 11 2B

NYM 263 AB, .262/.336/.357, 2 HR, 17 2B

Career Hitting:

.301/.372/.444, 14 HR, 35 2B

Career Splits

vs. LHP: .267/.335/.410

vs. RHP: .315/.387/.457

Career Fielding: (League Average)

FPerc. .984 (.981)

RFactor 4.75 (4.56)

Arbitration: No

Comments: Would be a nice signing, except for the small fact that he blasted Shapiro after he was traded in December 2001. I doubt he’s coming back unless his other options fall apart. His place in the Hall of Fame is fairly assured, but he’s definitely on the downside of his career, after two years of drastic decline after 2001.

2) Ron Belliard – Age 29

Last Year:

COL 447 AB, .277/.351/.409, 8 HR, 31 2B

Career Hitting:

.266/.343/.398, 10 HR, 36 2B

Career Splits:

vs. LHP: .345/.426/.584

vs. RHP: .254/.324/.350

Career Fielding:

FPerct. .978 (.982)

RFact. 4.88 (4.80)

Arbitration: No


Looks to be a decent signing if he’s platooned..check out his splits vs. lefties. He’s a pretty good fielder as well. I’m leery of his numbers last year, as his numbers were Coors-ified. In 2002, he had a horrible season, with an OPS under .600. Again, he might be a decent half of a platoon, but no more than that.

3) Miguel Cairo

Last Year:

STL 261 AB, .245/.289/.375, 15 2B, 5 HR

Career Hitting:

.267/.317/.361, 4 HR, 22 2B

Career Splits:

vs. LHP: .306/.346/.423

vs. RHP: .257/.308/.341

Career Fielding:

FPerc. .982 (.980)

RFact. 4.62 (4.57)


He doesn’t really fit what the Indians are looking for, as he’s basically a utility infielder now. He’ll probably end up on a contending team as the 5th or 6th infielder.

4) Tony Graffanino – Age 32

Last Year:

CHW .260/.331/.428, 7 HR, 15 2B

Career Hitting

.258/.330/.398, 9 HR, 21 2B

Career Splits

vs. LHP: .263/.348/.438

vs. RHP: .256/.316/.369

Career Fielding

FPerct. .975 (.981)

RFact. 4.00 (4.55)


Here’s my top choice of the available free agents. He mashes left-handers (a definite need on a team with a lot of left-handed power hitters, he can play three positions at least decently, and he should be fairly affordable. One catch…it would be nice to plug in a left-handed 2B from time to time with Graffanino. The White Sox had one of the best platoons in the league with Valentin and Graffanino, and the Indians should look into acquiring (or finding) a platoon partner for Graffanino.

5) Keith Lockhart – Age 39

Last Year:

SDG 95 AB, .242/.339/.411, 3 HR. 5 2B

Career Hitting:

.261/.319/.411, 7 HR, 19 2B

Career Splits:

vs. LHP: .220/.292/.346

vs. RHP: .265/.322/.389

Career Fielding:

FPerct. .981 (.982)

RFact. 3.77 (4.62)


Not an everyday 2B anymore, and has marginal defensive value. Could be a bench player, but nothing more.

6) Pokey Reese – Age 31

Last Year:

PIT 107 AB, .215/.271/.262, 1 HR, 2 2B

Career Hitting

.251/.310/.357, 9 HR, 26 2B

Career Splits:

vs. LHP: .241/.312/.353

vs. RHP: .254/.310/.358

Career Fielding:

FPerct. .984 (.982)

RFact. 5.16 (4.72)


Here’s a guy I wouldn’t mind taking a chance on for the right price. At worst, he could be a useful utility infielder, and if everything goes right, he returns to his 2002 levels and is a league-average second baseman. He’s always been a good fielder. If he can be had for $1M or less (and it’s very possible), he’s someone the Indians should go after.

7) Todd Walker – Age 31

Last Year:

BOS 587 AB, .283/.333/.428, 13 HR, 38 2B

Career Hitting:

.290/.346/.434, 13 HR, 39 2B

Career Splits:

vs LHP: .234/.282/.373

vs RHP: .301/.352/.448

Career Fielding

FPerct. .981 (.980)

RFact. 4.42 (4.71)


If the Indians had money to burn, a Walker/Graffanino platoon at 2B would be outstanding. But it’s not going to happen. With Fernando Vina getting $6M from the Tigers, you’d have to think Walker would get at least that much from somebody. So he’s on the periphery of the possibility spectrum. He’s definitely the best offensive solution at 2B in the free agent market, but I don’t think it’s wise sinking a 2-3 year contract into him, especially where the Indians are at.

8) Eric Young – Age 37

Last Year:

MIL 404 AB, .260/.344/.421, 15 HR, 18 2B

SF 71 AB, .197/.293/.225, 0 HR, 2 2B

Career Hitting:

.285/.360/.393, 8 HR, 31 2B

Career Splits

vs LHP: .296/.376/.432

vs RHP: .281/.354/.379

Career Fielding

FPerct. .977 (.982)

RFact. 4.83 (4.62)


Wouldn’t be a bad one-year stopgap. He should provide what Ricky Gutierrez would have provided had he stayed healthy. I seriously doubt he’ll get any multi-year offers, and depending on what happens with Danys Baez, should be with the Indians’ price range.

Trade Possibilities

1) Orlando Hudson – Age 26

Last Year:

TOR 474 AB, .268/.328/.395, 9 HR, 21 2B

Career Hitting:

.270/.326/.408, 11 HR, 26 2B

Career Splits:

vs LHP: .168/.210/.221

vs RHP: .300/.357/.462

Career Fielding:

FPerct. .985 (.981)

RFact. 5.32 (4.93)


The Jays are looking for young pitching, and that’s what they’d want for Hudson. Shapiro isn’t going to give up Cliff Lee or Jason Davis, and with Traber and Tallet both done for 2004 with Tommy John surgery, the “excess” (although I hate to use this word with pitching) is all but gone. It’s doubtful anything will get done now.

2) Placido Polanco – Age 28

Last Year:

PHI 492 AB, .289/.352/.447, 14 HR, 30 2B

Career Hitting

.294/.337/.402, 8 HR, 30 2B

Career Splits

vs LHP .325/.370/.398

vs RHP .297/.338/.407

Career Fieding

FPerct. .987 (.982)

RFact. 4.30 (4.78)


As far as I know, there hasn’t been any mention of the Indians and Polanco, but it’s a possibility. The Phillies have a couple of 2B prospects close to the majors, and Polanco is arbitration-eligible, so there’s a chance he’ll be either traded or non-tendered. Polanco had a career year in 2003, so there would be a lot of interest from other teams if he’d be made available.

3) Junior Spivey – Age 30

Last Year:

ARI 365 AB, .255/.326/.433, 13 HR, 22 2B

Career Hitting

.279/.363/.453, 17 HR, 31 2B

Career Splits

vs LHP .311/.412/.572

vs RHP .262/.336/.392

Career Fielding:

FPerct. .980 (.982)

RFact. 4.18 (4.99)


By far the most realistic of the three trade possibilities listed here. Alex Escobar and Ryan Ludwick were mentioned as candidates in a possible trade, but Shapiro seems reluctant to part with either of them. If something can be worked out, Spivey is a pretty nice gamble. He could return to his 2002 level and have and OBP approaching .400, or at worst he’ll be a decent one-year fix, and he can be non-tendered next year. Milwaukee has a cheaper option at 2B, has a definite need for a corner outfielder with power, and the Indians have outfielders to burn. It seems like a nice solution, but will Shapiro give up a possible 30+ HR outfielder for a possible one-year fix?

After December 20th, I’ll cover the 2B non-tenders.

How to (and How Not To) Fill a 2B Hole

Sorry for the sabbatical, but with my classes clamping down on me in the past couple weeks, I’ve had to cut back on baseball-related stuff…and it’s not like the Indians have been a big player so far in the free agent market.

That being said, they’re probably doing the right thing and not jumping head-first into the market. Their biggest need is an adequate second baseball that will allow Brandon Phillips a year in Buffalo to sort out his hitting issues. Now, adequate is nice, but along with adequate needs to come inexpensive. And no long-term contracts, either. Ricky Gutierrez will be exorcised from the payroll at the end of this year; no need to take on another similar contract.

Witness yesterday’s signing of “slick-fielding” Fernando Vina to a 2-year, $6M contract. Yes, Albert Belle’s former speedbump is going to Detroit, where he’ll probably be paraded as an example of ownership trying to win. Now Detroit has been deemed as a small market for years, but sucking for a decade does not make a small-market team. As market size goes, Detroit is second to Chicago as far as market size goes in the AL Central. So theoretically, they should have a pretty high payroll, and they do. Unfortunately, the former Randy Smith regime left the Tigers with the highest per-capita albtrosses in the majors. Dean Palmer, Bobby Higginson, Damien Easley, and I could go on. Up until this point, I thought new GM Dave Dombrowski has done as good a job as he could with trying to build the team while waiting out the contracts.

Until now. The Vina contract fails every kind of test a rebuilding (or building, in the case of the Tigers) team should be looking at when filling a hole via free agency:

1) Is the player going to be part of the next winning team?

Well, since two years is generous by any standards for the Tigers to start winning again, the first answer is no. Compounding this is the age of Vina (34) and his injury-riddled 2003 season. This is not a player in his prime; if anything, he’ll get progressively worse over the next two seasons.

2) If no to #1, is the contract affordable?

In this instance, $3M to Vina is probably a bit over market value. Over the coming month, after the non-tenders and other signings start to happen, you’ll see some better players sign for less. I’ll cover some of these 2B options later on today.

3)If no to #1, does the contract give the team flexibility for next year?

In other words, is it either a minor-league contract or a one-year major-league contract? Well, since Vina received a two-year, guarenteed contract, this answer is no.

So, why did the Tigers sign Vina to a two-year contract again? I have no logical explanation. It’s not like Vina was in demand, so why not just sign him to a one-year deal, and then look at the free agent market next year? Vina certainly isn’t a long-term solution, and he’s not much of a short-term solution, either. His main assets are his defense and his bunting, two things readily available for close to the minimum these days. In fact, the Tigers could have had Juan Uribe for next to nothing if they wanted a young, cheap solution. And they have a couple of in-house glove-men in Andres Torres and Ramon Santiago.

What the Tigers needed at the position was an offensive upgrade, but is Vina really an upgrade of the incumbant Warren Morris?:

Career OPS+ (A player’s career OPS versus the league-average OPS, with 100 being league-average):

Vina 90

Morris 83

That certainly isn’t worth an increase of $2.7M for Vina.

OK, you may be saying, so how should the Indians avoid an idiotic signing like this, and who’s out there? I’ll get to that later today.

Offseason Mode

With the regular season completed, and free agency and related player movement a month or so away, I’d like to take this time to explore a couple issues that have been floating inside my head.

First of all, I’d like to explore the fiscal efficiency of putting together a roster. Or in other words, how much bang teams get for their bucks. In today’s game, paying a replacement-level player more than replacement-level money will quickly lead to an inefficient use of money, which, especially in medium-to-smaller markets, will lead to losing seasons.

Let me back up a second with some definitions. When I use the words replacement-level, I refer to a ficticious player who has exactly league-average statistics for his position. Baseball Prospectus rates players in reference to a replacement-level statisctics through something called VORP, or Value Over Replacement Player. If a player has positive VORP, then he is more valuable than at least half the players at his particular position. If he has a negative VORP, then he is less valuable than the average player at his position.

Now how can you relate this measurement to a team’s fiscal efficiency? By comparing his on-the-field value to his monetary value. In this instance, I’ll use my own concocted statistic called SORP, or Salary over Replacement Player. The median salary in baseball in 2003 was $2,555, 476, so I’ll use that as what a totally average player at his position should be paid. In no way am I attempting a scientific statistical analysis, but it should give us fans a realistic picture of whether a player was overpaid or underpaid.

VORP measures hitting production in runs, and is pretty difficult to use comparatively, so I’m going to use EQA instead. EQA’s baseline for average players at each position is set at .260, so it will be a lot easier to compare (and the scale is such that good EQAs and bad EQAs are fairly recognizable with the baseline being .260)

I’ll start with an analysis of the Indians’ 2003 season, and then, I’ll move onto other teams and see where the Indians rank.

Also, I’m compiling an Excel sheet with the entire organizational roster of hitters, complete with statistics. I’m trying to formulate my own grading system (on a scale of 100) for the prospects, so please bear with me.

I’ll post updates as the numbers are crunched

Part I: Pitching Attrition

With the announcement that Billy Traber is going to have elbow ligament replacement surgery (or Tommy John surgery), the number of healthy young arms that were in contention for the 2003 rotation dwindled to exactly 3 (Jason Davis, Cliff Lee, and Jake Westbrook). For my purposes, Jeremy Guthrie was not going to be in the picture in 2003 (and he wasn’t), and Jason Stanford wasn’t on the radar. Brian Tallet and Billy Traber both will probably be out the entire 2004 season (Tommy John surgery), and Ricardo Rodriguez was traded in to the Rangers for Ryan Ludwick.

Thankfully, the Indians have enough pitching prospects that they can afford some attrition, which almost always happens with young pitchers. They will have another wave of starting pitching on the way, which includes Kyle Denney, Jeremy Guthrie, and Francisco Cruceta, among others. Those three will probably start the season in Buffalo, and will see Cleveland before the 2004 season is over.

What does this teach us? Nothing new, really. The need for pitching (and lots of it) has always been a staple of baseball wisdom, and it’s still painfully relevant today. Pitchers (and baseball players in general) are not sure things, so diversification is a necessity if you want to be sure of having a continuous supply of pitching.

Back to Traber, for a moment. Looking over his innings and pitch counts, there’s nothing the Indians did that really stands out. He threw 111 innings this season, hardly a sign of being overworked. Talking to the media after the surgery announcement, Traber made mention to the fact that the elbow had always been an issue, and I think his delivery also may have been a contributing factor as well. Regardless, losing Traber for 1 season at the least is a blow to the staff, but at this juncture the Indians won’t be mortally wounded thanks to their pitching depth.

Part II: The PD Series on Shapiro

If you haven’t read the first two articles on Mark Shapiro and the Indians’ front office, I suggest you do so now. The series homepage is here. I’m not going to review the series, but I’m going to take the opportunity to review Shapiro’s strengths and weaknesses.

Major-League Free Agents

This is probably his weakest area, as the majority of his signings have turned out badly. I can safely say that Ricky Gutierrez, Brady Anderson, and Jason Bere were probably his worst signings. Matt Lawton has thus far been a bad investment, and is probably untradable right now. Re-signing Bob Wickman was unecessary given hindsight. The only real good signing two years into his tenure as GM has been Brian Anderson. Shane Spencer wasn’t really a bad signing, given his intended use and contract.

Has Shapiro learned from his 2002 gaffes? We probably won’t really know until the Indians start signing free agents with a mindset for contention, which probably won’t happen until after the 2004 season. He might sign a player or two this offseason, but I seriously doubt they’ll be anything but stopgaps or bench players.

Minor-league free agents

This year especially, Shapiro’s minor-league signings were pretty good. Casey Blake is the first guy you think about, and he’s provided a replacement-level third baseman for the league minimum. Rafael Betancourt was also a very good find as a back end bullpen arm. Kaz Tadano was probably Shapiro’s best signing, though, as the Indians acquired the best college arm in Japan for a standard minor-league contract. Yes, there were some other forces at work with the Tadano signing (which you can read here), but he was available to every other club for the same price. Other notable minor-league free agents: Jason Boyd, Chad Durbin, and Paul Rigdon. Durbin is probably has the biggest upside, as he’s been injured.


The trades made in 2002 have provided the backbone of the rebuilding effort. Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Ryan Ludwick (via Ricardo Rodriguez), Francisco Cruceta, Travis Hafner, Coco Crisp, and Derrick Van Dusen (via Marshall McDougall) have all been brought into the system through veteren-for-prospect trades in 2002. While it’s not practical to judge trades so soon after they’ve made, at the very least Shapiro has rebuilt the Indians’ minor-league system into the best in the majors by making these trades. With today’s trade climate, the fact that he was still able to get this amount of talent has to be commended.

Waiver Claims

Shapiro has only made two waiver claims of any substance; Jack Cressend from Minnesota, and Nick Bierbrodt from Tampa Bay. Cressend has provided some depth in the bullpen when it was desperately needed, and Bierbrodt has yet to contribute in Cleveland, although he’s capable of contributing next year.

The only player Shapiro has lost through waivers was Earl Snyder, who hit .255/.299/.454 for Pawtucket of the International League this year.

Player Development

Shapiro’s strong suit, as that’s where his experience is. The Indians, along with their talent, run a very good player development system. The drafting in the past couple years has looked good on the surface (as with trades, it’s virually impossible to judge a draft until at least 5 years down the road). This year the Indians organization lead the majors in minor-league winning percentage.

So, in summary, Shapiro’s weaknesses seem to be evaluating major-league talent (as in free agents). This year’s crop of free agents (Anderson (the pitcher), Spencer, Bere) fared better than last year’s (Lawton, Gutierrez, Anderson (the outfielder)), but he still needs to improve in this area. Other than that, he’s done a very good job as GM, considering the situation he entered into.

I’ll start to get into more player profiles after the season ends this week. Look for another column on Monday.

Next week, I’ll be back with an original column, concentrating on some players that have surfaced since this review was written, along with comments on minor-league vets and Rule 5 candidates.

(Originally posted on July 15 and July 22, 2003 at this address)

Reviewing the 40-Man Roster: The Half-Way Point

In addition to adding stats to practically all the players in the organization, I’m also adding some commentary on each individual player. I’m starting with the players currently on the 40-man roster (and the disabled list), and I’ll do this twice a season to give future readers some sort of baseline on which to judge that particular player. Next week, I’ll start on the 2003 Rule 5 class (players eligible for the Rule 5 draft), and then work my way down towards the short-season players.

The Pitchers

(Stats through July 7, 2003)

Brian Anderson (Age 31) Starter

CLE 99.2 IP, 4.15 ERA, 36 SO, 20 BB, .292 BAA

2003 Salary: $1.5M

Signed through: 2003 (Free Agent)

Doing exactly what the Indians wanted of him, and even more. He’s scattered several good to great starts throughout the first couple months, and has made himself a commodity this July. While the temptation to trade him is justified, the Indians have the luxury of waiting until the right deal comes along. Anderson is a local guy, and would even accept a bullpen role with Indians in the future, although I find that hard to believe. However, just about every contender needs a pitcher, and come the end of July, some prospects may be available that wouldn’t normally be.

Danys Baez (Age 25) Closer

CLE 42.0 IP, 3.43 ERA, 34 SO, 13 BB, .203 BAA

2003 Salary: $5.125M

Signed through: 2003 (Arbitration Eligible)

He’s had his blowups, including a total meltdown against the Mariners early in the year, but for the most part has been an effective albeit overpaid closer. His contract is up at the end of the year, and may or may not be eligible for arbitration, so his salary will continue to go up from now on. With at least $12M (1/4 of the team salary) invested in Baez and Wickman next year, Baez might be shopped after the season.

Update (9-15-03): Baez is no longer the closer, and I’m beginning to doubt whether he’ll be with the team next year.

Jason Bere (Age 32) Starter

2003 Salary: $1M

Signed through: 2003 (Free Agent)

Pitched only two games before his season was ended with an arm injury. The Indians only owe him $1M, but it’s still wasted money.

Rafael Betancourt (Age 28) Long Relief

BUF 6.2 IP, 4.05 ERA, 6 SO, 3 BB

AKR 45.1 IP, 1.39 ERA, 75 SO, 13 BB

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Another flyer that has paid dividends, Betancourt can be a useful spare part in what’s becoming a pretty good bullpen. Like Casey Blake, he’ll be very affordable for the next couple years, as he’s just made his MLB debut and has at least two more seasons making the minimum. Whether he’ll be around is another story, however, and it looks like the Indians are using the rest of the season to find out. Along with Jason Boyd and Jack Cressend, Betancourt has shown that you don’t have to spend millions or trade prospects in order to have an effective bullpen.

Jason Boyd (Age 30) 7th/8th Innings Specialist

CLE 30.1 IP, 3.86 ERA, 22 SO, 13 BB, .182 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Arbitration Eligible)

One of the bigger surprises of the season, Boyd solidified the bullpen after its horrendous April. He’s made himself into a part of the bullpen’s future, and a big reason why Dan Miceli was traded away.

Fernando Cabrera (Age 21) AA Closer

AA 84.0 IP, 2.57 ERA, 88 SO, 31 BB, .231 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Just moved to closer in Akron after a pretty good stint as a starter. I’m not a fan of making good starters into closers, but with all of the starters in the high minors, Cabrera will get to Cleveland much faster as a bullpen arm. He certainly has the prerequisites of the perfect closer: outstanding K/BB ratio, a blazing fastball with a very good curve. How far he progresses as a closer will determine how long Baez sticks around. As it is, he probably needs an entire season as a closer, and that means he probably won’t be ready until sometime during the 2004 season.

Jack Cressend (Age 28) Long Relief

CLE 2.2 IP, 3.38 ERA, 2 SO, 0 BB, .222 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Technically he’s still rehabbing his arm from last season’s surgery, but his recovery is almost complete. When completely healthy, his fastball will gain a mph or two. The Indians claimed him off waivers last winter when the Twins tried to sneak him off their 40-man roster, another “free talent” pickup that’s contributing in the bullpen.

Francisco Cruceta (Age 21) AA Starter

AA 90.0 IP, 3.20 ERA, 75 SO, 37 BB, .234 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

A high-ceiling arm, Cruceta is a very raw talent right now, and is working on some mechanical issues. There’s no real reason to rush him to Cleveland, so his ETA will be 2004 or later. If he develops, he could become a front-of-the-rotation starter. The other player in the Paul Shuey trade, but in the future we may refer to that trade as the Cruceta trade.

Jason Davis (Age 23) Starter

CLE 99.2 IP, 4.79 ERA, 53 SO, 28 BB, .276 BAA

2003 Salary: $301,100

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

The most consistent of the rookie arms thus far, and the owner of an impressive fastball and a very good sinker. The mediocre numbers you see are a product of a downright horrible first couple of starts; since then, he’s pitched on par with C.C. Sabathia. The scary thing is that he’s still projectable, only one year removed from Kinston. The Indians should err on the side of caution and shut him down in late August or early September, for he’s on pace to throw over 200 innings, bad pizza for a rookie starter.

Dave Elder (Age 26) Long Relief

CLE 2.1 IP, 19.29 ERA, 3 SO, 4 BB, .417 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Sidelined with rotator cuff tendonitis, Elder is done for the 2003 season. During his 2002 stint with the Indians, he was pretty impressive, and he should be back next year to fight for a spot in the bullpen. Any production the Indians get from him will be gravy, since he was what Cleveland got for the infamous John Rocker in 2002.

Jeremy Guthrie (Age 24) AAA Starter

BUF 50.1 IP, 6.79 ERA, 31 SO, 12 BB, .325 BAA

AKR 62.2 IP, 1.44 ERA, 35 SO, 14 BB, .196 BAA

2003 Salary: NA

Signed through: 2006

A tale of two affiliates. Jeremy blew through the Eastern League, and has been hit hard by AAA. Jeremy is in his first year of professional baseball, so he’ll be treated with kid gloves, and probably won’t see Cleveland this year, not even as a September call-up. Assuming he figures out AAA hitters, he’s a possibility to break camp next year with the big club.

Alex Herrera (Age 26) LOOGY

CLE 6.1 IP, 2.84 ERA, 5 SO, 5 BB, .174 BAA

BUF 37.0 IP, 5.35 ERA, 33 SO, 31 BB, .221 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Once considered a top prospect, Alex aged three years before the 2002 season. Now those microscopic numbers he put up in the low minors indicated domination by an older player rather than lights-out stuff. However, his stuff is still good, judging by his BAA; it’s his walks that have killed him thus far. The Indians have brought him up to be the token match up guy, and also to find out once and for all if he can get major league hitters out. If not, he may be headed off the 40-man roster, for the Indians once again have a lot of minor-leaguers to protect for the Rule 5 Draft.

Cliff Lee (Age 24) AAA Starter

CLE 6.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 5 SO, 3 BB, .150 BAA

BUF 29.2 IP, 2.12 ERA, 29 SO, 14 BB, .243 BAA

AKR 12.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 13 SO, 4 BB, .167 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Would have started the year with Cleveland, but an oblique muscle sidelined him for two months. Now he has a hernia problem, and the Indians are trying to let him finish the year without aggravating the injury. Lee is probably the best of this year’s crop of starting pitchers. He has four quality pitches, but sometimes has issues locating them. Along with Billy Traber and C.C. Sabathia, Lee could give the Indians three southpaws with three totally different pitching styles.

Terry Mulholland (Age 40) Innings Eater Extraordinaire

CLE 52.2 IP, 4.44 ERA, 20 SO, 24 BB, .292 BAA

2003 Salary:

Signed through: 2003 (Free Agent)

Has been extremely valuable to the Indians, in that he’s eaten the innings that the Indians don’t want their younger players to. He’s even put up a respectable ERA. Look for him to snag a start or two in September, when some young arms are shut down. A much better “salary dump” than Lee Stevens.

David Riske (Age 26) 8th Inning Specialist

CLE 42.0 IP, 2.88 IP, 43 SO, 11 BB, .215 BAA

2003 Salary: $314,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Finally healthy, Riske is delivering on the promise he showed a couple of years ago. For now, he’s one of the best set-up men in the league, and he’s going to be affordable for another couple of years. A big contributor to his success this year has been the development of a splitter, and has made his fastball that much tougher to get on top of.

C.C. Sabathia (Age 22) Starter

CLE 110.0 IP, 3.27 ERA, 72 SO, 36 BB, .248 BAA

2003 Salary: $1.1M

Signed through: 2005 (TO for 2006)

Built off last year’s second-half success, and has put it all together. Even though the Indians had to be represented in the All-Star game, Sabathia certainly was worthy of the selection. Now the biggest issue with Sabathia is keeping his innings and weight down. He’s on pace to throw 220 innings this year, and he’s only 22, still the youngest member of the pitching staff. While he’s in his third season, the statistics tell us that any pitcher under 25 has an elevated chance of arm injury, especially when combined with high pitch counts and high inning totals.

Carl Sadler (Age 26) AAA Reliever

BUF 23.1 IP, 7.71 ERA, 11 SO, 12 BB, .323 BAA

2003 Salary: $303,200

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Yes, those numbers are ugly. Sadler has been probably the biggest pitching disappointment of the season. If Herrera (or someone else) works out, expect him to be Outrighted after the season, if not sooner. At his age, being smacked around by AAA hitting is not a good sign.

Jason Stanford (Age 26) AAA Starter

BUF 99.0 IP, 3.18 ERA, 82 SO, 21 BB, .257 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

One of the nicer stories around, Jason was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Indians, and has worked his way up the ladder, defying the odds at each rung. His upside is probably as a 5th starter, but with the Indians, he may not get much of a shot at the rotation. He’d be a nice fit as a long-man/spot starter. However, I’m not going to bet against him if he’s got this far already.

Brian Tallet (Age 25) AAA Starter

BUF 70.0 IP, 4.76 ERA, 59 SO, 31 BB, .260 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

A bit of a disappointment thus far. He’s really picked a bad time to have a below-average season, as Billy Traber has solidified a rotation spot in Cleveland, and Jason Stanford is probably ahead of him on the depth chart now. With more pitching coming from below, Tallet needs to come back with a good July and August in order to keep himself in the rotation hunt, or he may find himself shipped off to another organization or tossed into the bullpen.

Billy Traber (Age 23) Starter

CLE 57.0 IP, 4.89 ERA, 49 SO, 29 BB, .291 BAA

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

He’s finally been added to the rotation, and has responded pretty well. He was put into the bullpen as a long-man to begin the season, and was adequate, but has shown that he’s much more valuable pitching every fifth day. Last week, he mystified the Yankees in a one-hit gem, but has scattered in a shelling or two. At age 23, he’s a polished pitcher, and the Moyer comparisons only get stronger the more quality outings he puts together.

Jake Westbrook (Age 25) Starter/Long-man

CLE 61.1 IP, 4.55 ERA, 24 SO, 22 BB, .298 BAA

2003 Salary: $305,500

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

For now, he’s back in the rotation after an exile to the bullpen. He’s one year removed from an arm injury, and the Indians don’t want him to pile up that many innings. Westbrook is a ground ball pitcher, and when he’s on, he’s something to watch. If he can build back his arm strength, he could be a useful back-of-rotation or bullpen arm.

Bob Wickman (Age 34) Closer

DNP (Injured)

2003 Salary: $6.0M

Signed through: 2004 (TO for 2005)

With Baez being the closer of the present, and Cabrera being the closer of the future, Wickman may find himself playing out his contract as a set-up man. He had Tommy John Surgery after the 2002 season, and looks to be on pace to contribute next year. If the Indians find a buyer for him (and his contract), they won’t hesitate to send him on his way.

Mark Wohlers (Age 33) 8th Inning Specialist

DNP (Injured)

2003 Salary: $2.6M

Signed through: 2003 (TO for 2004)

The easiest decision Mark Shapiro will make this off-season will be to turn down Wohlers’ 2004 option with a $1.0M buyout instead of paying an exorbitant $8.0M to retain his services for 2004. He wasn’t really needed last year, and Shapiro seems to have learned his lesson on giving role players multi-year contracts. After he is exorcised from the team, only Wickman, Gutierrez, and Lawton remain on the salary dump to-do list.

The Hitters

(Stats through July 7)

Josh Bard (Age 25) AAA Catcher

CLE 206 AB, .228/.280/.316, 9 2B, 3 HR

2003 Salary: $302,100

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Recently optioned to Buffalo, for two reasons. One, he still has some offensive deficiencies, and two, the Indians wanted to see what Victor Martinez can do. At this point, Bard projects as a very capable backup catcher, unless he suddenly ups his OPS 100 points or so. He is a very accomplished defensive catcher, so the Indians may experiment in the future with spotting Martinez at DH once or twice a week.

Casey Blake (Age 29)

CLE 268 AB, .269/.331/.451, 19 2B, 10 HR

2003 Salary: $330,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Blake, after a bad start, has really done a good job at third, providing decent defense with some power, exactly what the Indians needed from him. If he can put these numbers up consistently for the next couple of years, the Indians can afford to be patient with Peralta/Smith/Whitney or whoever is the current “Third Baseman of the Future”. A minor-league free agent from the Twins system, Blake will be a bargain for the next two years.

Milton Bradley (Age 25) Center Fielder

CLE 266 AB, .346/.451/.534, 27 2B, 7 HR

2003 Salary: $314,300

Signed through: 2003 (Arbitration Eligible or Renewable Contract)

Easily the best player on the Indians, and should have been an All-Star based on his numbers. Milton has finally delivered on the 5-tool promise he showed during his Montreal days, and has become the leader of the new Indians. As always, his baggage continues to follow him, and may have been a big reason why he was left off the All-Star team. That’s unfortunate, because it takes away from people seeing how talented he is. One of the more intense players in baseball, I don’t see any regression from him, especially since the All-Star snub.

Ben Broussard (Age 26) First Baseman

CLE 157 AB, .255/.330/.414, 8 2B, 5 HR

2003 Salary: $303,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

I’m not entirely sold on him yet, but he has shown some signs of breaking out. When Travis Hafner, his main competition, went down with a foot injury, Broussard has given the Indians occasional power along with a decent average. He’s kept the strikeouts in check, although his walks are down a little from his minor-league averages. With Matt Lawton gone for a month, the Indians have an opportunity to place Broussard and Hafner in the lineup together and make a real comparison.

Ellis Burks (Age 38) Designated Hitter

CLE 198 AB, .258/.355/.414, 11 2B, 6 HR

2003 Salary: $7.167M

Signed through: 2003 (TO for 2004)

May have played his last game as an Indian. Although his presence in the clubhouse has been very much needed, and he’s expressed an interest in returning, Burks’ contract is really unnecessary, especially as a DH. With Travis Hafner and a slew of outfielders (including Matt Lawton), the Indians won’t have a problem in finding someone to DH. Having said that, Burks is one of those guys you want to make an exception for; he’s one of the good guys in baseball. Deciding whether or not to pick up Burks’ 2004 option will be one of Shapiro’s toughest decisions after the season.

Ryan Church (Age 24) AA Outfielder

AKR 247 AB, .259/.337/.462, 13 2B, 11 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

This season has been tough for Ryan, as he’s had to struggle through injuries from the start. Currently on the DL for a couple weeks because of a hand injury. A converted pitcher, Ryan as a very good outfield arm, and is looked at as major-league right fielder. With Jody Gerut’s emergence, and all of the other outfield prospects in AAA and AA, his path to the Indians is full of hurdles, but he’s made it onto the 40-man roster, and will certainly get a look in September.

Covelli Crisp (Age 23) Left Fielder

CLE 102 AB, .225/.286/.314, 3 2B, 0 HR

BUF 225 AB, .360/.434/.511, 19 2B, 1 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

He isn’t going to be a center fielder if the Indians can help it, so he’s going to have to cause enough havoc on the bases to justify him playing a corner outfield position. The way things look, he has the rest of the year to prove his worth. If he does stick, he’ll give the Indians an outfield with exceptional range. Left field is probably the best place for Crisp considering his lack of arm strength. With Escobar, Church, and Sizemore close, Coco may eventually lose his starting job if his on-base numbers don’t improve quickly.

Alex Escobar (Age 24) AAA Outfielder

BUF 313 AB, .243/.291/.438, 15 2B, 14 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Tons of potential, and tons of strikeouts. Escobar is basically on a one-year rehab assignment after various problems kept him from taking a single at-bat in 2002, including political unrest in his native Venezuela. After a horrendous start to the season, Escobar has slowly began to put up respectable and even promising numbers. This is his last option year, and the Indians have to carry him on their roster in 2004, which is why the Indians want to accumulate as many at-bats in Buffalo as possible. A center fielder with Alex’s power is very rare, and the Indians are going to give him every opportunity to succeed.

Luis Garcia (Age 24) AAA First Baseman

BUF 276 AB, .236/.277/.399, 22 2B, 7 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Unless Garcia comes back with a monster second-half in Buffalo, he may be stuck there for a while. With Broussard and Hafner in Cleveland, as well as others such as Matt Knox and Michael Aubrey below him, Luis didn’t have much of an opportunity to make the club, and the window is closing rapidly. His plate discipline has been Escobar-like (67 SO, 14 BB) without the home runs or the knee injury excuse.

Update (9-15-03): Luis Garcia has been outrighted off the 40-man roster, so he’ll stay with the organization for the time being.

Jody Gerut (Age 25) Right Fielder

CLE 194 AB, .278/.329/.515, 17 2B, 9 HR

BUF 65 AB, .277/.377/.585, 5 2B, 5 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Probably the biggest surprise of the year. The one thing Gerut lacked as an outfielder was power, and he came in Spring Training with it. Although he was sent to Buffalo to start the season, he was the first outfielder recalled (over Crisp), and has responded by putting up numbers that makes him a Rookie of the Year candidate. Along with his very nice slugging percentage, Gerut is an outstanding all-around fielder, and is a very polished baseball player. The Indians may have found themselves a core player.

Ricky Gutierrez (Age 33) Infielder

CLE 33 AB, .242/.316/.333, 3 2B, 0 HR

2003 Salary: $3.916M

Signed through: 2004 (TO for 2005)

Coming back from the spinal injury last year is very commendable, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be a useful infielder, much less worth the money he’s getting this year and next year. He no longer has the range to play short, and doesn’t have enough power to play third on a regular basis, so he’ll probably be an expensive utility player until his contract is up.

Travis Hafner (Age 26) Designated Hitter/First Baseman

CLE 104 AB, .221/.289/.423, 9 2B, 4 HR

BUF 85 AB, .294/.459/.412, 4 2B, 0 HR

2003 Salary: $302,200

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Hafner started slow, got injured, and then lost his job to Ben Broussard. With the Lawton injury, Hafner’s going to get a chance to DH for at least a month. In his short rehab stint at Buffalo, he took 25! walks along with 23 SO. In a perfect world, the Indians would like Hafner to DH, as his first base skills are marginal at best. But with Lawton presumably returning next year, he may have to beat out Broussard in order to get playing time

Tim Laker (Age 33) Backup Catcher

CLE 93 AB, .247/.278/.387, 7 2B, 2 HR

2003 Salary: $400,000

Signed through: 2003 (Arbitration Eligible)

A pretty serviceable backup, especially considering all he’s went through in the past year. Whether he’ll be back next year will depend on what role the Indians see Josh Bard playing, which is hopefully the backup to Victor Martinez.

Matt Lawton (Age 31) Designated Hitter/Stationary Object

CLE 311 AB, .248/.342/.434, 16 2B, 14 HR

2003 Salary: $6.75M

Signed through: 2005

Matt was on his way to having a career year, and thoughts began flying around that Shapiro could trade him if he ate his Wheaties. But, alas; Lawton dislocated a finger while swinging a bat, and is out until the middle to end of August. So it looks like the long-awaited trade may have to wait until 2004. While Lawton is a nice bat to have in the lineup, his being here really doesn’t mesh with what the Indians are doing.

Update (9-15-03): Lawton is done for the season, as his finger still hasn’t healed. Meh.

Ryan Ludwick (Age 25) Corner Outfielder/DH

PCL (OKL) 317 AB, .303/.372/.558, 24 2B, 17 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Picked up from the Rangers for Shane Spencer and Ricardo Rodriguez, Ludwick is a much needed right-handed power bat. Rodriguez is a steep price to pay, but he’s displayed legitimate power numbers through every stop in the minors, and gives the Indians something they really didn’t have before. He isn’t the on-base machine that Hafner can be, but probably projects as having a bit more power. For now, he’ll alternate between the outfield and DH, one more piece of Shapiro’s master plan to acquire every masher the Rangers have.

Victor Martinez (Age 24) Catcher

CLE 26 AB, .231/.259/.308, 2 2B, 0 HR

BUF 274 AB, .328/.395/.474, 19 2B, 7 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Victor had absolutely nothing to prove offensively in Buffalo, so now he’s in the majors. Thus far, Victor has seen a lot of off-speed pitches, as his reputation has preceded him to Cleveland. When (not if) he adjusts, he’ll be one of the best offensive catchers in the league. His defensive game is not as good as Bard’s is, but he’s closed the gap a little, which should be enough to make him the permanent catcher.

John McDonald (Age 28) Utility Infielder

CLE 123 AB, .252/.288/.341, 6 2B, 1 HR

2003 Salary: $314,400

Signed through: 2003 (Arbitration Eligible)

The same rules apply to John as has been his entire career:

1) He’s an outstanding defensive player

2) He can’t hit for average or for power

So he’ll remain a weekend warrior with Cleveland until he gets too expensive, which may start happening soon, if he does in fact qualify for arbitration. With Vizquel’s recent knee problems and Phillips’ recent demotion, this may be John’s last chance to play everyday in an Indians uniform.

Jhonny Peralta (Age 21) Shortstop/Third Baseman

CLE 34 AB, .176/.222/.176, 0 2B, 0 2B

BUF 237 AB, .257/.310/.329, 12 2B, 1 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Peralta is probably the most underrated prospect in the system, partly because he came from the DSL, and partly because no one really knows at what position he’s going to end up. Right now, he’s the youngest position player in the American League, and he really isn’t ready yet. He has the range and arm to play third or short, but he may grow out of shortstop and develop enough power to play the hot corner. While Vizquel is rehabbing his knee, Peralta will suffice defensively at short, and won’t hit. Don’t write him off, though; in a couple years, you might not recognize the finished product.

Brandon Phillips (Age 22) Second Baseman

CLE 280 AB, .211/.242/.307, 13 2B, 4 HR

2003 Salary: $300,900

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

Brandon Phillips was not demoted to Buffalo because of his defense (which was stellar) or his attitude (which was great). He was demoted because he had huge holes in his swing, and they needed to be fixed in a low-pressure environment. Too many times we expect plug-and-play pieces to the puzzle direct from the minors, but in most cases, prospects take a while (and sometimes a demotion) to become what we think they’ll be. In retrospect, the Indians got a little greedy with Phillips, and should have let him spend a couple months in Buffalo perfecting his swing before calling him up to Cleveland. They did this with Victor Martinez, although for a different reason. True, seeing John McDonald at second everyday may frustrate fans (me included), but it will pay off in the long run, when games will actually mean something more beyond player development opportunities.

Angel Santos (Age 23) Middle Infielder

PAW 228 AB, .237/.340/.355, 9 2B, 6 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

The PTBNL from the Jamie Brown trade to Boston, Santos is a very interesting prospect. He’ll take a walk, will hit for power, and is young enough to allow for some improvement. Added to the 40-man Roster in the wake of Ricky Gutierrez having more problems with his spinal cord, he should provide what Gutierrez did for a fraction of the cost, and could eventually make John McDonald expendable. And he’s 10 times better than…

Zach Sorensen (Age 26) Utility Player/Placeholder

CLE 22 AB, .182/.280/.316, 0 2B, 1 HR

2003 Salary: $300,000

Signed through: 2003 (Renewable Contract)

He can’t hit, and he isn’t known for his glove, so why is he up here? Well, mainly because the Indians don’t want to bring a real prospect up only to have him sit on the bench, and because he can easily be outrighted at a moments’ notice. Or maybe Shapiro wanted to validate the 1998 Draft by bringing up the 2nd Round pick up. Well, CC Sabathia was the 1st Round pick in 1998, so it can’t be that. Maybe it’s because he can play a zillion positions and isn’t really good at any of them. In other words, Bill Selby’s successor. Ugh.

Omar Vizquel (Age 36) Shortstop

CLE 231 AB, .255/.332/.351, 12 2B, 2 HR

2003 Salary: $5.75M

Signed through: 2004 (Mutual Option for 2005)

Vizquel is out at least a month with a knee problem, the latest victim of the contagious Veteran Disease that’s ravished this team. In all probability, Vizquel will be back for the 2004 season, but it’s doubtful he’ll stick around beyond that. He’s still a magician at short, but he’s lost a step or two, and the average will probably continue to decline. It would be nice to have at least one of the main cogs of the mid-90s teams to retire as an Indian, though I have a feeling Omar wants to stick around as long as he can play. Regardless, it’s still a pleasure to watch Vizquel play the game. If he played 10 years ago, he’d have a ticket to the Hall of Fame, but with today’s slugger shortstops, he’s a marginal candidate at best.