The Cleveland Fan on Facebook

The Cleveland Fan on Twitter
Indians Indians Archive Turning On the Chris Antonetti Show
Written by Nino Colla

Nino Colla

antonettiNow that the regular season is over, everyone is handing out grades and giving season-in-review opinions on the Cleveland Indians.

I will give them one collective C+ and give you this single season-in-review opinion.

They sucked and if you expected them not to in some way shape or form, you are a little crazier than I am.

I do my season-in-review, but I take a few weeks off to step back and look at the big picture. Instead of an immediate opinion fresh off game 162 being played and the disappointment of a record that has just 69 wins, I like to let the results sit before I analyze them.

So while I take a few weeks to rehash the past, I think it is important that we take a look into the future.

The future Conan?

It would be at this point that I would link to a YouTube video of Andy Richter and Conan O’Brien doing an “In the Year 3000” sketch, but NBC has permanently deleted every trace of Conan’s version of The Tonight Show. So that joke will just have to hit home without the aid of visuals.

Yes, the future. We are looking ahead to a future with Chris Antonetti at the helm of this organization. Hopefully we’ve got World Series rings to gaze at and pennants to fly (or paint on the walls, whatever) at Progressive Field, but I’ll skip the day dream sequence for now.

With the season officially over, the Indians wasted no time at all in making the promotions they said they would once the season did in fact end. Mark Shapiro has been elevated to Team President and taking his place as the General Manager is Antonetti.

Some will say Antonetti, in effect, has already been doing much of the day-to-day GM stuff and that he won’t have to make a huge transition and that is true.

However, this is officially his show, the pressure is on, and when the public wants to blame someone, it becomes everybody hates Chris.

Some will also say that Shapiro and everyone else in the front office have essentially been given promotions for “running the franchise into the ground” or something to that delusional effect. Maybe not as harsh, but some of those opinions about elevating officials for mediocre results are valid.

I made it clear last time out that I wasn’t the biggest John Mirabelli fan, but we won’t rehash that rant.

I think you’ve figured out by now that I’m someone who deals with what is actually happening and what is able to be controlled and right now these “promotions” are happening.

With Antonetti’s ascension to General Manager, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Mike Chernoff in the role that Antonetti occupied under Shapiro and Shapiro occupied under John Hart. Considering one of the rising names in front office personnel, Chernoff will be this club’s Assistant General Manager.

Now all of that aside, I said that this is Antonetti’s show, so we might as well analyze what we expect to see in this long-running drama. It is a drama isn’t it? The Pirates would be the comedy if that is the case. Perhaps dramedy would be a better genre.

I promise I’ll stop with the television jokes.

Antonetti is taking over at a time in which there is going to have to be some crucial decisions made in regards to the Indians roster. Of course Shapiro will have his input, but do you really think Chris is going to ask Shapiro if they should keep Drew Sutton on the 40-man roster?

You got me, that isn’t a crucial decision, but Antonetti is going to be the guy at the table with Scott Boras when it comes down to perhaps the most important decision he’ll have to make in the early going.

How long do you keep Shin-Soo Choo and at what price?

Antonetti has already put himself on record of saying that he’d like to keep Choo and that the club is going to work this offseason in working out an extension.

But what kind of extension is he going to work out? Are we going to see his three arbitration years bought out so the club can avoid dealing with Scott Boras’ shenanigans for the next three years?

Will Antonetti try and go the “core player” route and do something Shapiro did with players like CC Sabathia, Victor Martinez, Cliff Lee, and Grady Sizemore and sign them to deals above current market value, but way below perceived future market value?

Or could he go in absolutely radical routes in two different directions by either helping Choo break the bank, or standing pat and challenging Boras in arbitration year by year until he deals Choo with one year left, or lets him walk after three?

This is a crucial decision for Antonetti to make because Choo is a little bit older than some of the other players that Shaprio signed to those “core player” type contracts. He is also dealing with the bullheaded Boras who isn’t shy about demanding the world and getting 80 percent of it.

Boras will no doubt be armed with statistics, some of the same the Indians use, to squeeze every last penny possible out of the Tribe in whatever type of deal they explore. This may be the toughest contract task yet in this Shapiro-Antonetti era of the Indians and it is Chris’ first task of grave importance.

That surely will bring the pressure.

Yes Choo is three years away from free agency, but the club really has to consider how they want to attack an extension given that when he does reach free agency, Choo will be 31 years old.

The early 30’s are still prime years for a baseball player, but they are the back end of prime years, not the front end. How far do you want to extend into the 30’s if you do go long term extension?

That factor alone will impact how Antonetti goes about handling negotiations with Choo and Boras.

But that isn’t all Antonetti will have to deal with for this offseason and the immediate future. The club may think of exploring extensions for Chris Perez and Asdrubal Cabrera, both who are arbitration eligible this season.

The time with Cabrera may be right, but it does come with some risk. What if Asdrubal isn’t the player we all thought he was from 2009 and 2007? What if he is merely a light-hitting version of Jhonny Peralta with better defense?

Peralta got a long term deal early in the process and in 2007 it would seem as if that was something he deserved as he was big part of that postseason run.  But the past three years have indicated that deal being more of a burden than a blessing. It wasn’t the heavyweight deal of Travis Hafner, but it certainly handcuffed the Tribe in moving in different directions for awhile.

Now Cabrera’s defense is worth it, but what if his offense this season wasn’t entirely a result of his injuries?

This is one of the factors that Antonetti is going to have to weigh. If he feels Cabrera is a piece for the long term, and personally I tend to think he is, he better strike when Cabrera’s value is at a spot where you can get a very gracious deal.

Cabrera has the same agent as Victor Martinez, so we know that the option of working out a “core player” type deal with Cabrera is certainly viable.

Then you have Chris Perez, who is a little bit more of an interesting case. Perez only has about three-fourths of a season as closer to boast, so the Indians play with fire in terms of risk that he is their guy, but become advantageous because Perez doesn’t have a long track record to merit a long term deal.

Is buying out the three remaining arbitration years worth it?

Brian Wilson, the Giants closer, avoided arbitration with his club and got just over $4 million for the 2010 season. Back in January of 2009, Jonathan Papelbon got a record $6.25 million in an arbitration avoiding deal. It was the largest for a closer in his first year of eligibility.

Perez will most likely not even command what Wilson got this past season and even if he continues down this track, probably won’t sniff much past $6 million in his third year.

But Perez seems to be a guy that would be willing to work something out long term and if Antonetti and company once again believe in the long term value of Perez, they could work something out that would throw arbitration out the window and delay free agency for a few years after.

The fact of the matter is we don’t really see relievers get those types of long term contracts, so at best I think Antonetti tries to buy out arbitration years. But I think the most likely course of action is getting a deal done for this upcoming year and worrying about the future when it comes.

In terms of the future, Antonetti is most likely going to be the man in charge when it comes time to make decisions on some older players.

Not saying Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner are old, especially not Grady, but contracts are coming up.

The club is locked into both Sizemore and Hafner for this upcoming season and I’d be shocked if you saw either not finish the year in a Tribe uniform.

But beyond that, who knows. Travis Hafner’s deal is up after 2012, but he does have an option for 2013 with a buyout worth $2.75 million.

Starting with Hafner, it isn’t out of the realm of possibilities that Antonetti and the Front Office, and even Manny Acta, get together to discuss the benefits of having Hafner on the roster in 2012.

Are you saying eat his entire salary?

Well, you’d be eating $13 million, plus the buyout which would push it over $15 million, but who’s to say they couldn’t work out a cheaper buyout for 2012 if the club really wanted to? Hafner may listen if he isn’t where he wants to be health wise.

A lot will have to depend on what happens in 2011 with Hafner and his production. Another possibility is that he continues to be a productive player. A team would certainly not object to having him if he’s able to play and put up decent numbers, as long as the Indians took on a portion of his salary.

And that is a way the Indians could avoid having to not only play Hafner at the DH spot, but also pay him as much as he’s owed. Sure they’d probably end up picking up a majority of his salary for whoever they traded him to. But it would be better than eating the entire $15-plus million.

And then there is Grady Sizemore, who has a club option set for 2012 and was the subject of trade dreaming this past offseason. You can’t trade him now; his value is at an all-time low, so for 2011 you are stuck with him. And when I say stuck, I don’t mean that in a bad way.

Because if Sizemore takes off in 2011, that is a good problem to have but you can bet there is going to have to be a decision that needs to be made. Without a doubt Antonetti would pick up his $8.5 million option, but afterwards does he consider trading him?

Of course this entire decision making process is reliant upon results and situations of the 2011 and 2012 teams, but if the club doesn’t want to get burned by another year of Sizemore getting sidelined, they could decide trading him might be best, contending or not.

There are other things though, a lot more of lesser-magnitude, but just as crucial to an organizational outlook.

There is the job of deciding on what to do with this 40-man roster jumble for this upcoming offseason.

Does he sell high on Mitch Talbot? Does he cut bait with Aaron Laffey? What will he do at third base and how long before he decides to give us what we want in regards to Trevor Crowe?

Don’t you dare by the Ocker-notion that the Indians have $15 to $20 million to spend this offseason.

But these are all immediate decisions for the most part.

Antonetti is dealing with a different beast than Shapiro did. A team that is further along in the process of trying to contend and an organization that is deeper and more progressed talent wise.

The beauty of Antonetti’s situation is the experience he’s gained in pretty much doing a lot of the things he’ll be expected to do and seeing someone like Shapiro go through the things he hasn’t.

The downside is there is more pressure given that he has experience on the top of the pressure he’ll have of a team that is further along in the process of contending.

Of course, a lot of that pressure goes away, those decisions become easier, and those potential negotiations become a lot more evident if things fall in to place and this team wins ball games.


You can follow Nino on Twitter @TheTribeDaily where he often tweets about his parties with Andy Marte and sometimes about the Indians.

The TCF Forums