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Indians Exercise Option on Jimenez, don't pick up options on several veterans

Indians to Say Farewell to Hafner, Sizemore, Kotchman and Hernandez; Exercise Option on Jimenez

 

 

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It’s truly the end of an era in Cleveland Indians baseball as the club has announced that they will not exercise their options on center fielder Grady Sizemore or designated hitter Travis Hafner. The Indians have also declined to resign right hander Roberto Hernandez and will allow the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona to become a free agent as well. With these three moves, the Indians have cut ties with the last of the players that came oh-so-close to winning the AL Pennant in 2007 and are officially building for the future once again. The Indians will not exercise their option on first baseman Casey Kotchman either following a lackluster performance in 2012 and will have to turn to Russ Canzler, Matt LaPorta or Jack Hannahan if they plan to fill the position internally.

The Indians now have a ton of issues to address this offseason and it will be interesting to see how they go about doing so. It’s no secret that Shin-Soo Choo is not going to sign a long-term deal with the club and he is eligible for free agency following the 2013 season, so if the Indians can move him this winter they will. The only real downside to moving Choo is that the club already needs a left fielder as none of the ten different men who started that position in 2012 look to factor into their plans for the future. If Choo is traded, they will also need to find a starting right fielder as well, but the quality of talent that the team could get in return is more than worth the risk.

At first base, Canzler is a reasonable option given his performance in September both on the field and at the plate. Hannahan is an option there as well, but he is more likely to compete for the starting third base job with Lonnie Chisenhall next spring. LaPorta is out of options, so if he wants a spot on the Indians’ roster he’s going to have to do a lot of work this winter to figure out how to hit big league pitching. And of course there is Carlos Santana, who could finally make the jump from backstop to full-time first baseman next season. The Indians are still keen on Santana being their man behind the plate, but defensively Santana is not progressing in his development and it might be time for the Indians to switch gears and see what the big guy can do at first base on a regular basis. The Tribe could go out and try to find someone to fill the void via trade or through free agency, but they are more likely to go that route to upgrade what is looking like a miserable starting rotation and try to fill the first base hole internally.

Most Indians fans will not be sad to see Hernandez go, after all, he hasn’t pitched well since 2007 and missed most of last season following an embarrassing identity theft scandal in his native Dominican Republic which revealed that he was not only going under a false name, but was also lying about his age. Given his inconsistency, it is unlikely that there will be too many teams chomping at the bit to land the big right hander this offseason, but his departure certainly opens up a spot on the Tribe’s roster for one of their young arms to step up and prove that they belong in the big leagues for good.

The Tribe will retain Jimenez despite his 9-17 record last season. The truth is that the Indians had to give up a lot to get Ubaldo from the Rockies in 2010, and they are not about to admit that they made a horrendous mistake by letting him walk away following the worst season of his career. If Jimenez can figure out how to pitch again, he could be a very important asset to the club next season as they will be looking to him and Justin Masterson to anchor a very young rotation that is likely to consist of Zach McAllister, Jeanmar Gomez and Carlos Carrasco. The Indians could use some of the money that they’ll be saving by letting their veterans go to find an experienced arm to help them out, but they may be gun shy to do so following the monumental mistake that they made by signing veteran Derek Lowe last year to do the same thing.

With Hafner, the Indians simply can’t afford to carry a full-time DH if he cannot stay healthy, and once again there won’t be many fans that are sad to see the oft-injured big guy go. With the Astros moving to the American League West next year, interleague play has been completely revamped and teams will be shifting in-and-out of it all season long instead of two or three weeks in June as it has been in the past. As a result, it becomes riskier to carry a full-time DH because there will be more opportunities throughout the season where they will have to ride the bench because they cannot contribute in the field. Don’t expect the Indians to look very hard in free agency to find a designated hitter for next season when they have Santana, second baseman Jason Kipnis and Canzler who can all fill in as needed. If the team decided to hold on to Choo through the first half of the season, he too could be used as a DH to give him a day off from playing in the field.

 

 

By Robert Gonzalez
Cleveland Indians Correspondent

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