Let's go point by point from yesterday's Paul Hoynes column, a state of the union with the Tribe from GM Mark Shapiro.
On C.C. Sabathia: The Indians, short of an early collapse this season, won't trade C.C. Sabathia. Regardless of Johan Santana's contract with the Mets last week, General Manager Mark Shapiro believes it will be Sabathia's call on whether he stays in Cleveland after the 2008 season. Shapiro thinks there are other contracts just as relevant to Sabathia's negotiations as Santana's record-setting, $137.5 million, six-year deal. The five-year contract extension the Indians made to Sabathia at the end of December is not an ultimatum. If Sabathia does go to another team, Shapiro said the Indians won't crumble in 2009.
MTAC - Anyone who thinks C.C. will be in a Tribe uniform in 2009 is either on crack or needs a lobotomy. As much as we would love for that to happen, do you honestly think in this market, the Indians can afford to pay C.C. $20 million a year for six years which is what he will command on the open market? The smart play is to stick with him this season and go for the World Series title. If they fall out of it early, start a bidding war and deal the Big C.
Shapiro on Cliff Lee: "Cliff clearly is the staring pitcher with the greatest opportunity, with an improved performance, to impact the team this year. In order for him to improve, he's got to make adjustments. He just can't pitch like he did last year. That's obvious."
MTAC - That is classic GM speak. The truth is they couldn't give the guy away unless it was for "$.25 on the dollar." That is what Buster Olney told us at the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission dinner. Bottom line is the Indians had great chemistry last year except for one guy; Stiff Lee. He was at odds with Victor Martinez, lost his control, and was sent down. When he was recalled, instead of being humbled, he continued to whine. You can never have enough starting pitching, but if I'm Shapiro, I deal this guy to a National League team and call it a day.
Shapiro on Asdrubal Cabrera: "There is some unknown when you take a first-year player at second base. . . . but we feel very confident in his long-term ability to be an everyday middle infielder."
MTAC - The game is all about adjustments. I think AC was amazing when he came up last year and really should get credit for the spark he provided. He kicked the Tribe into a different gear with his defense, energy, and timely hitting. But I expect him to start the season with a bit of a struggle with his bat, but he'll be a stud for the next five years in Cleveland.
Bullpen: Shapiro said there would be one spot open for competition.
MTAC - Someone always gets hurt, and that is why the signing of Jorge Julio to a minor league deal could be important. The Tribe looks loaded with Raffy Betancourt, Raffy Perez, Masa Kobayashi, and Jenson Lewis setting up Mr. Excitement Joe Borowski. You keep hearing the name Jeff Stevens as the sleeper.
Adam Miller: Shapiro said he will not be considered for a spot in the rotation or bullpen coming out of spring training.
MTAC - The top pitching prospect in the Indians system has to prove he can make it through a full season injury free. With the amount of good arms in the pen, he should stay starting and prepare himself for a spot in the rotation in 2009 since Paul Byrd and C.C. Sabathia facing free agency.
Left and right field: Shapiro hopes David Dellucci and Jason Michaels will win the left-field job and Franklin Gutierrez proves he can start in right. Ben Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo provide options.
MTAC - Enough of this already. Are they really seriously going to go into next season with Dellucci and J-Mike platooning in left? That is painful. Dellucci is garbage. J-Mike has 13 HR's in over 700 AB's in Cleveland. Not exaclty what we are looking for from a power position. Here is what they should be doing. Drop Dellucci some way, somehow. I have no problem with J-Mike playing against lefties. He did a good job in that role last year and is a smart player. Ben Francisco is ready. He won the AAA batting title in 2007 and came up to the big club and showed he can rake, especially against righties. Even though they are both Right-handed, platoon J-Mike and Francisco in Left with Franky G playing in right every day. Remember last year against the Tigers when Eric Wedge sent up Francisco to pinch hit for Michaels in a one run game in the eighth (righty for righty) and he promptly tied the game with a HR? You want Franky G to get some time off here and there, put Casey Blake in Right occasionally, which will open up some AB's for Andy Marte at third.
More Shapiro on C.C. and the future: "A lot of our job is assessing risk," he said. "In recognizing the market we operate in, we have to be very aware of risk and very careful. There are players like C.C. that will push the boundaries of our risk tolerance.
"I can promise you that C.C. . . . will push our risk tolerance.
Not limitlessly, but he will push the boundaries of that risk. Frankly, he already has."
If the Indians lose Sabathia, Shapiro says they will survive. Internally, Adam Miller, Jeremy Sowers or Aaron Laffey could fill the opening in the rotation.
"I don't see a major rebuild tied to one player," said Shapiro. "As I look into the future, I feel good about next year's team no matter what form it takes."
MTAC - The Indians are in a very good position if they do lose C.C. to free agency. You've got Sowers, Laffey, Miller, and Chuck Lofgren (#2 pitching prospect in the Tribe's farm system) to go with Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona. Most organizations would kill for that kind of depth. The best part of these pitchers listed is that other than Westbrook (signed through 2011), all are under the Indians control for a minimum of five more years.