Re-signed RHRP Bob Wickman to a one year, $2.75M contract (plus incentives)
Probably the smart thing to do. After Percival signed with Detroit, the Indians were down to realistically three options:
A. Pay Benitez over $20M to be your closer for 3-4 years
B. Bring back Wickman for another season
C. Take a gamble on Dustin Hermanson
I guess you could say that there's D (Trade for a closer) or E (None of the above), but neither was really an option. In the end, Shapiro chose the safer route, paying just under $3M for a one-year stopgap. Wicky is by no means a great closer, or even a good closer at this stage of his career. What he is is a guy who's done it before, and he at least gives the Indians a baseline to work off of. For a reasonable price. The Rockies made a pitch for Wickman, but presumably the Indians matched or exceeded the Rockies' offer. If the Indians' hadn't signed Wickman, it would have been Hermanson or guys like Rob Nen or Matt Mantei, who both have even bigger injury questions attached to them.
What this signing also does is make virtually every free agent starter within striking range. The Indians supposedly have about $7M left in their budget to land a starter, and other than Carl Pavano and Pedro Martinez, they can go after anyone that's out there. The big catch in the second tier of starters is Matt Clement, who the Indians are aggresively courting, but Jon Lieber has also been linked to the organization. I'd go up to 3/24 for Clement and up to 3/18 for Lieber. That's probably overpaying for both of them, but given what Kris Benson just received from the Mets, those salaries look like the going rate for a #3 starter.
Another interesting route the Indians can go is to maybe trade for some pitching help. Coco Crisp may be at his highest value right now, and there are several teams looking for a center fielder. I'm not suggesting trading Crisp just to trade him, but if you can get a quality starter for Crisp and a prospect, you should think about it. If Belliard is retained, then you move Blake to the outfield, creating a jam between Casey and Crisp, Sizemore, Lawton, and Ludwick. Maybe you can dump Lawton somewhere; there aren't a lot of outfielders out there, and Matt may start to look nice compared to the free agent options.
Designated IF John McDonald for Assignment
McDonald may actually be dealt before the 10-day period ends. With so many clubs looking for middle infield help, McDonald may, like I said yesterday, be more expensive on the open market, so teams may want to get him before he becomes a free agent. Whoever acquires him theoretically can keep him through 2007, so the Indians may pick up a minor prospect.