The known vs. the unknown. Call it the very heart of decision making. Like a game of poker between teams and agents, with track records and million-dollar contracts as the hands being dealt, baseball’s winter transpires.
The known vs. the unknown. Call it the very heart of decision making.
Like a game of poker between teams and agents, with track records and million-dollar contracts as the hands being dealt, baseball’s winter transpires.
Before heading to Goodyear, Ariz., this week to start spring training, Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro offered a look back at how the Tribe came to their offseason conclusions.
The Indians acquired free agent Kerry Wood to be their closer in December, inking him to a two-year deal worth $20.5 million, with a third year as a vesting option. Less than three weeks later, the Angels signed Brian Fuentes to a two-year deal worth $17.5 million, with a club option for the third year.
The inquiring mind might wonder: Why pay the dominant but injury-prone Wood $3 million more than the less-heralded but healthier Fuentes?
Shapiro will tell you that’s not the decision he faced in early December. Whether it was more years or more money, Fuentes’ asking price was different then.
“It’s not revisionist history,” Shapiro said. “We don’t have the ability to say, ‘We know Fuentes will sign at two times $8 (million) and we have Wood at two times $10.5 (million). That’s not what happens. It’s the agent telling you what Fuentes’ expectations are at that moment. It’s the number of teams that need closers and could need closers.”
It’s all the factors, many of which are unknown.
With the Mets having signed Francisco Rodriguez, Shapiro and assistant GM Chris Antonetti had to guess what other teams would spend cash on a closer.
The Angels, Brewers, Tigers and Cardinals were possibilities. The Indians also wondered if Fuentes would get what he originally wanted. Could they gamble by laying in the weeds and going after him at a discount later in the offseason? Could they wait on Wood?
“There were some strong voices to wait internally,” Shapiro said. “I was the strongest voice not to wait.”
For Shapiro, the security of locking up Wood at the agreed upon price – the known -- was better than waiting to see how the market played out – the unknown.
“We felt there could be one guy that was without a chair when this all ended. If we were that certain of that, we probably would have waited,” Shapiro said. “We also felt there were about three clubs that could decide to enter the closer market and, if they did, had strong resources.”
When they knew they could get the versatile Mark DeRosa as their third baseman for three prospects, the Indians weighed that against the known alternatives.
They could sign free agent Joe Crede. They could move Jhonny Peralta to third and look for a second baseman. They could take Jamey Carroll off the bench and play him everyday.
They could play Andy Marte (OK, stop laughing).
Too many questions surrounded those possibilities. Cleveland decided to take on DeRosa and the remaining $5 million of his contract.
The Wood and DeRosa moves meant the Indians wouldn’t be signing a front-line starting pitcher. Cleveland took Carl Pavano off the bargain bin.
“The area we’re going to be least comfortable with is going to be our starting pitching,” Shapiro said. “We’d have loved to sign two starters and would have loved to sign a guy we could have inked with more certainty in the No. 3 spot or No. 2 spot.
“But I think we knew going in that wasn’t going to be realistic. Or we were going to do that and nothing else. That’s what it kind of comes down to. Do you put your whole offseason on one move and one guy? Or do you spread that over and look to impact as many areas as you can, still in a confined amount of resources?”
Some other items from Shapiro as spring nears:
- Shapiro wouldn’t directly discuss signing Cliff Lee to an extension but said the organization will “walk through this process over the next two weeks” in regards to all players. “This is when we would do it,” he said.
- On the situation at catcher: “Right now Victor Martinez is our catcher and Kelly Shoppach is our backup, with the ability to change that at any point during spring training.”
- On Travis Hafner: “It is our hope that somewhere in the beginning of the spring schedule he’ll be able to play. It is our expectation.”
- If Anthony Reyes is healthy, pretty much pencil him into one of the rotation spots.
- On young outfielders Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley or Trevor Crowe making the big league club: “It’s not impossible.”
- Catching prospect Carlos Santana will start the season at Double-A Akron.
The Repository (Canton, Ohio)