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Indians Indians Archive The State Of The Tribe
Written by Paul Cousineau

Paul Cousineau
Mark Shapiro held his State of the Indians post-season press conference earlier this week, and our brand new celebrity Paul Cousineau was listening.  In his latest, Paul takes Shapiro's press conference, and breaks it into very easy to read blurbs, decipherable by topic.  Shapiro hit on Paul Byrd, CC's contract, Hafner's struggles, the 2008 payroll, and several other topics.  And Paulie C breaks it down for us.

With Mark Shapiro speaking in front of the Cleveland media earlier in the week, I would be remiss if I didn't provide a quick summary and translation on what the Tribe GM had to say (and what he inferred).  
The audio is available
here, but here's what Shapiro had to say - steering away from all of the "next step" and "success vs. failure" talk that resulted from some poor questions and some spinning from Shapiro about how the Indians couldn't get to the playoffs without C.C. or Fausto, how Fausto is mentally strong, rehashing the ALCS, etc. - as he did hit on a number of interesting topics about the team (and specifically the roster) going forward, when you read between the lines. 

The lines in quotes are verbatim, the rest are my impressions from his words: 

The HGH matter is being handled by MLB and could affect the Indians picking up his 2008 option. It's something that the team will watch as it develops and, while they were surprised by it, he gave no indication that the results of the investigation will be the end-all, be-all when it comes to 2008. 

Pronk put too much pressure on himself, "carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders" as he strode to the plate each time at the end of the season and Shapiro expects him to rebound from a season that "wasn't disastrous, but not up to his standards". Shapiro intimated that Hafner has difficulty separating between at-bats because of how "well he always wants to do to help his team" and it is something that he hopes to improve for 2008. 
2nd Base

While not going so far as to say that 2B belonged to AstroCab for 2008, he said he had trouble seeing Asdrubal not playing a prominent role next year. The role of many players will be determined by organizational meetings in the next few weeks, including where Barfield and Cabrera end up. 
Adding Pieces/Payroll

The club won't contain many surprises next year as most of the pieces are in place and the depth in the organization will have the club asking if holes can be filled internally or if they'll have to go out of the organization to do so. There are no restrictions on payroll that would "prevent the Indians from bringing their team back"; while a firm number certainly does not exist. Because most of the team is under contract for next year, the Tribe is in a unique situation where most of the payroll is already spoken for. Due to a weak FA market, they can attempt to find value (in the bullpen, in particular) instead of having to target one specific position or area.  
C.C.'s contract

It will be dealt with "sooner rather than later" and "won't go to Spring Training with it being an open issue" without promises of regular updates to keep everyone informed. When asked if C.C. would be traded if the two sides are "miles apart", Shapiro said that the team is the most important thing and "C.C. will be a Cleveland Indian, no matter what the scenario next Spring". 
Borowski and the Bullpen

JoeBo's option will be picked up as no good reason exists for the Indians not to pick it up. The pieces for a core of pitchers in the bullpen are closer than they've been in a long time for the Tribe. Shapiro indicated that the young arms that emerged to play vital roles in the bullpen (Perez, Lewis) were "on the radar" in Winter Haven. The bullpen will continue to be a fluid group with flexibility and evolving roles by design. 
Youngsters in 2008

Players identified as young players that could contribute in 2008 were the Big League Choo (who is out of options) and Atom Miller, but with the players that emerged this year (Cabrera, Laffey, Lewis, etc.), he doesn't expect a huge amount of farmhands to explode on the scene as a lot of the current depth is filled by players making their debuts in 2007. 
Veteran OF

Dellucci will play next year, if healthy, for the Tribe and is being counted on to contribute both on the field and as a leader in the clubhouse. The Trotter and Kenny, though Shapiro never came out and said it, have played their part in the development of the team and will not return. 
Veteran vs. Rookie

Shapiro explained that one of the reasons that some young players didn't make the team out of Spring Training and were passed over in favor of a veteran is that the young players are given a chance to mature and work their way into the starting role while the production of the veteran is evaluated. If the veteran works out, the desired depth is achieved in the organization. If the veteran disappoints, the young player is (hopefully) ready to step in. On the flip side, if the young player is given the first opportunity and he disappoints, few options exist and the risk of damaging the long-term success of the young player comes into play.
The most surprising comment to me was regarding Dellucci, who it seems would be the odd man out (along with Michaels) in a suddenly very-crowded outfield with Grady and Frank the Tank patrolling 2/3 of it. Between Blake (assuming he's not the 3B), Choo (who, again, is out of options), and Francisco, plus whatever they may be able to add "externally", counting Dellucci in as a main contributor for 2008 seems premature. Between the starting pitching depth and OF depth, Shapiro has some areas to deal from to improve the parts of the team that remain worrisome. 

It will be interesting to see how the off-season plays out with the nucleus of the team more or less in place for another run and how much tinkering the Front Office decides to ultimately do.  Those expecting an overhaul (for whatever reason) will be disappointed, but don't expect the Tribe to sit on their hands as there are many decisions to be made and options (internal and external) to consider.

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