NOMAR SAYS 'NO WAY' TO TRIBE
I'll be honest: I really, really wanted to see Nomar Garciaparra playing for the Indians in 2006.
I thought a one-year deal in a place where Juan Gonzalez and Kevin Millwood resurrected their careers might appeal to Nomar. I thought he would fit in nicely at first base, and, eventually at shortstop if the Tribe moved Peralta to third in 2007 (Boone's contract would have been up by then.) That was my two-year plan for the Tribe, but now it's all moot.
Shapiro and Dolan (GM and owner of the Indians) made a reasonable offer to Nomar. They offered one year somewhere in the vicinity of $6 million. For someone who has spent more than half of the past two seasons on the disabled list, that's a competative offer. Nomar, however, has ties to L.A. Even though Wedge and recently signed Lou Merloni were lures for Cleveland, the Dodgers have Derek Lowe, Grady Little and most importantly, Mia Hamm (who has a house somewhere in the L.A. megalopolis) pulled Nomar to Hollywood.
I could be bitter about this, but instead, I choose to go back to my initial offseason philosophy for Cleveland: don't splurge on risky free agents. Save up that money to pay off the "core" (i.e. Sizemore, Crisp, Lee, Peralta) in a year or two when they have established themselves as stars.
Shapiro went out and signed Paul Byrd in late November as a contingency plan for signing Kevin Millwood. Millwood has now all but left Cleveland, and I expected as much. He wanted too much guaranteed money for his injury-prone arm. Elarton bolted for Kansas City, but this is no unpatchable hole. I liked "Big Scott," but I like Fausto Carmona and Jeremy Sowers more. Both of these guys have star potential.
Shapiro has also brought back Bob Wickman after the failed courtships of B.J. Ryan and Trevor Hoffman. Most are lukewarm about this, but I'm OK with it. As long as Wedge and pitching coach Carl Wills think Wickman can still close games, I think it, too. He proved last year he's a mental warrior. You can't argue with 45 saves. Additionally, Steve Karsay and Danny Graves will report to camp with minor-league contracts. I don't expect both to become major contributors, but even if one of them makes the club and works into the bullpen rotation, it will turn out as a brilliant pickup.
Your typical, cynical Indians fans are already hammering Shapiro (who won almost every executive-of-the-year award you can win this offseason) for not keeping up with the champion White Sox in the Hot Stove race. I know all about the Thome signing, the Konerko re-signing and the Javier Vasquez deal. I also know that championships are not won in December. Sure, the Indians may not be making themselves look significantly better on paper, but the team's improvements will have to be made by Wedge, the coaching staff and the players' off-season training. Another 93-win season would probably put the Indians in the playoffs in 2006. To be honest, I would be perfectly content with that. We know from watching the playoffs that anyone can win it; it's only a matter of getting there. The Indians may not be as active as other teams in the free agent market, but right now they are good enough to win the wildcard or, who knows, even the division--if the Sox have a post-championship slump.
Look for potential trades involving Ben Broussard, Josh Bard, Jason Davis and maybe even Casey Blake. Though I wouldn't mind if the Indians walked away from the Hot Stove poker table, I have a notion that Shapiro isn't through dealing.