Is trading Nick Swisher to the Orioles for Ubaldo Jimenez a realistic possibility?
-- Joe B., Cleveland
To bring some readers up to date, Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this week that the Indians have explored trading Swisher for another player with an inflated contract. Given Swisher's subpar, injury-plagued season in 2014, it makes complete sense for Cleveland to gauge what kind of interest there might be on the trade market for him.
Jimenez, who excelled down the stretch for the Indians in 2013, endured a disastrous campaign with Baltimore last year, posting a 4.81 ERA in only 25 games. The right-hander has $38.75 million remaining on his contract, which runs through 2017. Swisher is owed $30 million through 2016 and has a $14 million vesting option for '17.
Cleveland could obviously afford to make the swap, and the team has had success with Jimenez in the past, but I don't see this specific deal happening. Jimenez hasn't had consecutive good years since 2009-10, and he struggled in the second half of '10 with the Rockies. I'd rather roll the dice on Swisher rebounding in 2015 than bring Big U back into the fold for three more years.
Video: CLE@MIN: Francona on shutting down Swisher
Long-time reader, first-time asker. I've heard rumors and speculations that Justin Masterson and Jimenez are both possible fits for the Tribe in 2015. Personally, I like the guys, but I'm not sure it makes much sense for them to come back. Then again, it will be a new year, so maybe one of them is worth the risk?
-- Todd P., Copley, Ohio
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As noted in the previous question, I don't feel that bringing Jimenez back to Cleveland makes much sense either. Of the two pitchers, Masterson would seem to be more realistic, considering it could be a one-year contract to help the sinkerballer re-establish himself before hitting free agency again next winter. Masterson dealt with injuries last year, and he's shown an ability to bounce back from bad years throughout his career. That said, at least a dozen teams have already checked in with Masterson's camp and I'd expect the pitcher will see if he can get more job security, or a two-year deal, elsewhere.
Could the Indians afford to trade for an ace pitcher like left-hander Cole Hamels to put behind Corey Kluber in the rotation?
-- Zach W., Dayton, Ohio
It's an interesting thought, because Hamels -- even though he's owed $90 million through 2018 -- might actually be more affordable than some of the top free-agent arms on the market this winter. Cleveland also has the kind of prospects that could probably get that kind of trade done. Still, it's a steep price both in terms of annual salary and potential prospects lost. If Cleveland was able to shed some future payroll in trades, pursuing this type of deal would make more sense, but I wouldn't get your hopes up.
What do I say to the people crying that Kluber shouldn't have won the American League Cy Young Award and Felix Hernandez was robbed?
-- Ricky C., Akron, Ohio
You could summon your inner Lebowski and say: "Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."
I'm guessing you'd like a little more meat to your argument for Kluber, though. For starters, I think the best response is to say that both pitchers turned in incredible seasons worthy of winning the Cy Young Award. Really, when you break down their respective campaigns, Kluber and Hernandez were very, very close statistically, and either choice for the award would have been justified.
Take a look for yourself ...
Kluber: 18-9, 2.44 ERA, 235 2/3 innings, 269 strikeouts, 51 walks
Hernandez: 15-6, 2.14 ERA, 236 innings, 248 strikeouts, 46 walks
I mean, this race was so tight that Hernandez (48 balloting points) actually finished higher than Kluber (45) in voting for the AL Most Valuable Player Award. That shows you that, had the Cy Young Award selection consisted of a different group of voters this year, perhaps Hernandez would have won.
For proponents of ERA, King Felix edged Kluber by 0.30. That said, Kluber (2.35) narrowly beat Hernandez (2.56) in the increasingly-popular Fielding Independent Pitching metric, which focuses on home runs, strikeouts, walks and hit batsmen (things under a pitcher's control). While Hernandez led the AL in ERA, Kluber led the league in FIP. Kluber also had a 7.4 Wins Above Replacement, compared to 6.8 for Hernandez.
Basically, considering Kluber and Hernandez were so close, voters were tasked with looking for some tiebreakers or prioritizing one statistic over another.
One element that may have swayed some voters -- Kluber had 17 first-place votes compared to 13 for Hernandez -- was the fact that Safeco Field is more favorable for pitchers than Progressive Field in Cleveland. Another big factor in comparing the two was the Tribe's Major League worst defense, which had a minus-72.4 UZR in comparison to 8.4 (10th overall in the Majors) for the Mariners.
MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince had a good column last week that examined many of these points.
Video: Castrovince pleasantly surprised by Kluber winning Cy
Why don't the Indians try to get Hanley Ramirez on a one-year deal to see if he can stay healthy to cash in on a bigger contract next winter? They could play him at shortstop or third base and maybe have Lonnie Chisenhall grab some time in the outfield.
-- Chris S., Crestview, Fla.
Ramirez will not be signing a one-year contract anywhere. He's arguably the top position player on the market this offseason and could command a five- or six-year deal. I could see Chisenhall trying his hand at the outfield down the road, but he remains in Cleveland's current plans for third base.
Who will be the Indians' breakout player in 2015?
-- Brandon B., Hilliard, Ohio
I'd expect right-handers Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer to take steps forward in 2015. Carrasco was one of the AL's top pitchers over the final two months of this past season, so it'll be interesting to see if he can carry that over for a full campaign. Bauer had tastes of the big leagues in 2012 and '13, but he got his first real look in '14. Given his drive to analyze and improve, Bauer could be poised for a breakout year for the Tribe.
Video: CLE@MIN: Bauer throws six strong innings vs. Twins
In closing ...
Have the Indians conducted any wind studies to see how the stadium renovations in center field might affect the play on the field?
-- David B., Tallmadge, Ohio
During a recent visit to the ballpark to check out the progress, reporters were told that the team had indeed done some wind studies in light of the renovations. According to Jim Folk, the team's vice president of ballpark operations, the conclusion was that there will be no significant change to the current playing environment.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.