Tribe trio faces uncertain future following playoff exit
Resurgent Giambi, Jimenez and Kazmir big pieces of club's success
CLEVELAND -- Now what?
With the Indians' 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay in Wednesday's American League Wild Card Game, what happens next? What does a team that surprised so many and accomplished so much turn its attention toward now that there are no longer any games left to play?
The 2013 season is officially over, so it's probably not a bad idea to begin thinking about 2014. Cleveland has plenty of personnel decisions to make. In addition to deciding which players to bring in, the Indians must decide which players to bring back.
It's possible that starting pitchers Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez and designated hitter Jason Giambi have all donned Indians jerseys for the last time. Kazmir and Giambi signed Minor League deals in the offseason. Jimenez's contract contains a mutual option for next year.
Jimenez enjoyed a resurgent season after disappointing times with Cleveland in the past. Following a rocky start to the year, he went 13-7 with a 2.61 ERA over his final 28 starts. In September, when he was named the AL Pitcher of the Month, he had a 4-0 record and 1.09 ERA.
Will he come back?
"It feels good to be here," Jimenez said. "They did everything possible to help me out. They never gave up on me. Yeah, it's hard to know right now. The only thing you have in your mind is that we lost."
Jimenez believes that Cleveland has something special in the works. He thinks the team will build on all the success of this season and continue to play winning baseball in the future. The pitcher heads into the offseason with peace of mind regarding his own performance, a stark contrast to the worry he dealt with following recent seasons.
Kazmir must be of a similar mindset. Like Jimenez, he was known for turning in impressive outings in the past. And like Jimenez, his career went off the rails, so much so that he spent all of 2012 out of affiliated baseball completely.
The Indians took a chance on Kazmir, hoping that he could become the pitcher he used to be. Throughout the season, Kazmir demonstrated moments of his former brilliance, and he knows that might not have been possible without Cleveland's faith.
Four times -- three of which occurred in September -- Kazmir tallied double-digit strikeouts. He finished 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA.
"I feel like we have a great team," Kazmir said, "but at the same time, you just have to look ahead and hopefully, I'll be back with these guys next year and we can continue and pick up where we left off."
Neither Jimenez nor Kazmir are very advanced in years. Giambi is. Before this season began, the 42-year-old was hoping to grab the manager's job in Colorado. That didn't work out, and he ended up in Cleveland.
All season long, Giambi's leadership and experience have been described as invaluable to the Indians. While the Tribe is grateful for all that he does off the field, he'll be the first to remind you that he was given a chance to play for a reason. He earned it.
Some of Giambi's numbers weren't pretty, but he came through with multiple hits that spurred the Indians to key wins. The walk-off home run he hit against the White Sox after Cleveland blew a lead in the top of the ninth inning will live in Tribe lore for quite some time. Many on the team believe they would not have reached the postseason without Giambi's contributions.
He wants to continue playing baseball, to extend his career to an even 20 years.
"I'd love to play," Giambi said. "If I get an opportunity to come back here or if not, it's been fun. I would love to play, definitely."
In hindsight, the Indians were glad Giambi wasn't chosen to manage the Rockies. He couldn't have been too upset about it either, considering all he got out of playing another year.
"I had the time of my life," he said. "No doubt about it. It's been fun. I've enjoyed every minute, watching this ballclub grow and being a part of it."