Indians Dealing With Emotion

The Cleveland Indians, a team that has been often criticized for lack of emotion when considering beloved veterans (like C.C. Sabathia and Victor Martinez), has lead off the day after the World Series ended (congratulations Boston) with a couple of emotion based moves. Despite being one of the first teams to embrace sabrmetrics, the Indians have gone completely against all logic and re-signed Jason Giambi and released Chris Perez in the same day. Just prior to this news coming out, I wrote this article explaining at length why Giambi shouldn't have been brought back so I won't go too deeply into the subject again.

If there is a silver lining on the Giambi deal, it is that it is just a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, giving the Indians plenty of time to come to their senses. If Giambi starts Spring Training off 0-50, similar to what happened in 2013, then the Indians would still have the option to replace him with one of the thousands of human beings that would be more help to the Indians on the field next year at little cost. Since he obviously has nothing left in the tank, this move is about as emotional as the White Sox bringing Minnie Minosa back for three games in 1976 and two in 1980 just so he could play in two more decades. It certainly seems like Terry Francona and and Giambi became friends during the season and the only reason he was signed was so they can hang out in the dugout some more. He certainly is not going to help the Indians win more games in 2014 than they did in 2013, something they will need to do to win the AL Central.

The Perez move makes more sense, but was more wasteful. The biggest problem with arbitration is that, while most free agent deals at this point are based around true value, discovered by internal metrics and stats like WAR, arbitration deals have more to do with counting stats and money made by players of a similar position. This means, just because Perez lead the Indians in saves in 2013, he would make far more money than any other Indians reliever (if they were all in their final year of arbitration), despite being the fifth most valuable Indians reliever. Because of this, Perez is set to make between $8 and $12 million in 2014, more than the rest of the bullpen will make combined and far more than the Indians can afford to pay a closer. 

The wastefulness of releasing Perez was that he was still under team control and could have been traded. His value is greatly depleted for the same reason the Indians wouldn't sign him, because he would make the same in arbitration from any other team. Of course, now that he has been released he doesn't get the privilege of arbitration. The Indians almost certainly did their due diligence in attempting to find trade partners (and have likely been looking for two years), but they didn't need to make this move the first day possible. The Indians could have held on to Perez until next February at no additional cost while trying to find a suitor. It is impossible to tell which teams will become desperate for a closer as the off-season progresses and if they had kept him, the Indians would have reaped that benefit instead of Perez himself.

There were only two obvious reasons for the Indians to cut ties immediately. The first is the emotional. Perez has wanted out of Cleveland for years and many Indians fans concur. By making this move early, it may (but probably won't) increase season ticket sales among fans who care more about what a player says than what he does on the field. The real reason to cut him prior to the rule five draft is that they don't want to have to protect a player they aren't going to keep. Of course, this is a complete turnaround from last season when they protected David Huff and Lou Marson, who were obviously not going to help the team, and lost T.J. McFarland and Hector Rondon, who both stayed with the teams that drafted them all year.

These are scary decisions by the Indians considering how close they were to winning the Central Division this year. Instead of placing emphasis on the young stars who helped them win as many games as they did, the early off-season focus is placed on two players who were ineffectual at best. It may make the locker room a more fun place by bringing back Giambi and losing Perez, but it certainly isn't going to do anything to help the Indians in their ultimate goal of winning the World Series.

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since it's inception in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians.

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