Saturday, December 13

Around The Bases

Forgive the short Kerry Wood signing coverage. However, barring a physical surprise we'll have a new closer in 2009 and he has never pitched for an AL team. We can only hope that by not offering Wood arbitration that the Cubs organization has brought down upon themselves another curse to last another hundred years, maybe longer.

Let's see what the 31 year-old Kerry did last season, shall we. ERA+ of 137. Not too shabby. No Brian Fuentes (168) or K-Rod (198), but ahead of our other option, 41-year-old Trevor Hoffman at 101.

I hear Kerry was at the All-Star game in NY in his first ever year of closing. He saved 34 games while striking out 84 while pitching 66.3 innings over 65 games. I guess the shock here is the Tribe got a guy like Wood in the free agent market. Yes, Shapiro’s tight-wad scrap heap signings are usually nothing to get excited about, but this is big news. The deal is alleged to be for two years with a third year team option, and while I haven't seen any real particulars on the money side, I suspect the deal for two years comes under $20 million. From all the post-season talk this is what Wedge wanted, a real big-time closer. I can only imagine how crazy it is to not know or trust who will be pitching the ninth inning for a manager. They usually have enough to worry about, and handing over the ball to a question mark isn't what I would call comforting. That, and losing games in the ninth is probably one of the most demoralizing things a team can experience over 162 games. All that said, I like Jensen Lewis and his passion for closing was evident. However I'm probably romanticizing him a little because he's "one of our guys." But obviously if Wood can come in here and slam the door in the ninth then maybe Wedge can get his Circle of Trust up and running and all will once again be right with innings seven through nine.

In other news, the Tribe traded Gutierrez in a 34-team, 190-player deal. OK, sure, it was only three teams and 12 players. Once again the three amigos of the Mets, Mariners, and Indians GM's got together to make a trade. Shapiro has a good history with Minaya in NY (thanks for Lee and Grady!) and the Mariners organization hasn't been too bad to us either (who did we trade for Asdrubal again?). So we lose Gutierrez and gain a right-handed reliever Joe Smith (get a real name!) and young (22 year old) middle infielder Luis Valbuena.

Gutierrez was a great asset to this team with his amazing defense and his ability to player center. Sure he no hit curve ball, but guys who can play center are a rare commodity in this league right now. While you may be saying our outfield looked a little crowded and we shouldn't sweat the loss of Franklin I would point out the bullpen wasn't hurting for occupants either. Let's take a roll call, Wood (hopefully soon), Lewis, Perez, Betancourt, and Kobayashi are already almost guaranteed spots but now add Smith and don't forget prospects John Meloan, Adam Miller and Jeff Stevens. Yes, once again Shapiro’s efforts of turning over a bullpen chalk a block full of arms and letting the coaching staff sort them out is in full effect. Smith is a submarine pitcher which is cool when it works and so I hope he works out. That and we all know Wedge only uses three guys regularly with a fourth tossed in for garbage duty.

Finally, the Rule 5 draft has come and gone without a Tribe player being taken and without the Indians taking anyone else's. This is not unlike that old lady who looks through all your stuff at a garage sale only to walk away empty handed. However, it would appear Shapiro is happy with this conclusion as he gets to keep all his precious players that he couldn't protect.

So there you have it. Well except for the kind of non-news that Shoppach was offered a contract for 2009 due to the fact he is arbitration-eligible. And yes this allows me and a lot of other Indians writers to point out the Tribe haven't gone to arbitration with a player since 1991's Greg Swindell, who I believe I have a good 20 1988 baseball cards featuring.

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