The Indians clearly improved during the offseason, sketching in a few blank spaces on the roster. But the team's success in 2009 will depend more on the answers to these questions:
2) Will Cliff Lee deliver another Sabathian season? And if he doesn't, will he pitch like it's 2005 or 2007?
Thankfully this isn't a team preview, so we don't actually have to address those issues. Please note the italicized ground rules above. (If we were expected to consider those questions, our responses would be 1) no and yes; 2) no and more like 2005; 3) they'll have AL-only relevance. Choo is more interesting, but think 85-12-70-12-.285).Kerry Wood, signed for two years, $20.5 million
There really aren't many unknowns with Wood. He's a high-mileage closer, but if he's used exactly as he was in 2008 -- 66.1 innings, plus a refreshing mid-season trip to the DL -- then he'll be a tremendous asset. His career K/9 is outstanding (10.4), and it certainly didn't suffer when he moved to the bullpen. Don't be surprised if Wood repeats last year's line: 3.26 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 84 Ks, 34 SV. If he does, then he'll be a nice value pick once again. His current ADP is 146.3 over at Mock Draft Central. You can wait forever on closers in public league drafts and still end up with players like Wood, Heath Bell (ADP 172.8), Matt Lindstrom (176.2) and Joey Devine (189.8).
Mark DeRosa, acquired via trade
The nice thing about DeRosa is that he qualifies at 2B, 3B and OF. This makes him particularly useful in leagues with transaction limits (or transaction costs), and in leagues with uninteresting free agent pools. Expect DeRosa to open the season at third base for Cleveland. He'll likely bat second, behind Grady Sizemore. Last season was a career year for the 33-year-old DeRosa, yet he delivered numbers that were almost perfectly league-average in mixed 5X5 formats. His ADP is 195.4, so no one's really overpaying. Hold the line, people.
Carl Pavano, signed for one year, $1.5 million plus incentives
If this move is significant in your fantasy league, then, well...it's a heckuva deep league. Pavano has spent the past three or four seasons recovering from
a deep malaise Tommy John surgery and various aches. His K-rate has always been low (career 5.75), so he's never really been a high-upside fantasy starter. Nonetheless, he has a job, so we mention him. Stay away.
Anthony Reyes and Aaron Laffey will likely follow Pavano in the rotation, while 24-year-old lefty David Huff waits for an opening. Huff posted a 2.52 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 146.1 innings last year at Double-A and Triple-A. He's not an unusually hard thrower, but he still managed 143 Ks.
Other Tribe notes: Joe Smith joins a bullpen that suddenly seems both impressive and crowded. He follows Wood, Jensen Lewis, Rafael Perez and Rafael Betancourt in the hierarchy. ... Assuming Victor Martinez can stay healthy, he'll be something of a bargain this year. His ADP is 82.6, and nearly 40 picks separate Martinez and Russell Martin. "We have an interesting dynamic at catcher and first base," Eric Wedge told the Plain Dealer. "Victor and Shoppach are both going to catch. I know Victor and Hafner are going to play every day and Shoppach will play a little more than he did last year...If I feel in time that we're better with Victor playing more first base, that's what we'll do." ... Meanwhile, Carlos Santana is coming off a big season in the minors. The switch-hitting catcher figures to open the 2009 season in Double-A.
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