We are on the brink of the Thanksgiving break. And given that we are socially instructed and morally obligated to give thanks this time of year, I can think of no better time to say thank you to all those who help keep things fresh and interesting around these parts, even when the Indians are having a tough time of it.
Here's wishing each of you a safe and blessed holiday season.
Now pass the cornbread and fire away with your questions.
Are the Indians looking to shop Kerry Wood? If this is a rebuilding year, then we don't really have much need for a $10 million closer. -- Nathan H., Stevensville, Ontario
Your assessment of Wood's placement on this roster is a simply stated and accurate one, Nathan. But Wood's probably not going anywhere this winter. There are too many closers available on the open market, thus diluting Wood's already questionable trade value after his disappointing 2009 season.
Furthermore, to trade Wood, the Indians would likely have to eat a decent-sized chunk of his $10.5 million contract, which pretty much defeats the purpose of trading him. Better to hold onto him, hope he shows more consistency, then dump him at July's non-waiver Trade Deadline if the team is indeed out of contention.
There is, however, one potential hiccup in that outlook. That pesky $11 million vesting option for 2011 that kicks in if Wood finishes 55 games in '10. If he's on pace to reach that provision, the Indians will be hard-pressed to move him.
A year ago, Wood was the Indians' high-priced, high-profile, blockbuster signing. Now, fans can't wait to dump him. I've seen high school relationships with more stability. That's baseball.
What do you think new manager Manny Acta and the Indians will do to fix the bullpen problems this winter? -- Rob, Logan, Ohio
I don't foresee any major additions to the bullpen picture. Rather, the Indians will most likely stick with the arms they have and hope the uptick in effectiveness the 'pen displayed as the '09 season rolled along is a sign of things to come. Granted, such a tactic has backfired for Tribe decision makers in the past, but we did see some real signs of encouragement from the likes of Chris Perez and Tony Sipp in the second half last season.
The key, in lieu of additions, will be new pitching coach Tim Belcher and new bullpen coach Scott Radinsky getting the most out of the young arms in the 'pen and helping them get to the next level. It will be interesting to see if Perez, in particular, can develop into an effective closer, given the Wood contract situation.
Basically, the Indians aren't going to spend much money on new additions this winter. And while the bullpen is far from a sure thing, I don't see them committing significant resources toward improving it, given their other needs.
Have a question about the Indians?
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I am getting caught up with the Tribe, due to me being recently deployed. I know the team won't be a key player in the free-agent market, but I think two areas that could benefit it are picking up another veteran arm (such as Darren Oliver or Bob Howry) in the bullpen. Also, I love Kelly Shoppach, but his potential has not been reached by any means yet. Any way the Tribe can bring a veteran catcher to help him? -- Shane F., Columbus, Ohio
We just covered the bullpen topic, obviously. As for Shoppach, he was overpaid in '09 ($1.95 million), and he's in line for an arbitration raise for 2010. That helps make him a prime candidate to be non-tendered by the Dec. 12 deadline.
As far as adding another catcher to the mix, this is a topic Acta addressed in his conversation with the Tribe's beat reporters last week. He said the Indians have talked about adding a veteran backstop (and the fact that such a conversation even took place makes it appear more certain that Shoppach is not in this club's '10 plans, despite what is said on the record). But Acta said the Indians could also just stick with their young guys -- meaning Lou Marson and Wyatt Toregas, with Carlos Santana on the near horizon.
"We've gone back and forth on that, because our rotation is so young that you feel you might need a veteran guy," Acta said. "But then you look back, and last year we had Victor [Martinez] and Shoppach. Both guys were veteran guys, yet still, some things didn't click. So we could go either way."
What are the chances that the Indians trade Shoppach? Does he have any value, or would he be non-tendered? -- Aaron H., Steubenville, Ohio
I could be wrong, but I don't see why a team would trade for Shoppach, given his arbitration situation. He's more likely to be non-tendered, in which case he would become a free agent.
And in a related update, former Indians first baseman Ryan Garko, who was traded to the Giants in July, is probably in line for the same fate.
What team in Puerto Rico will Jake Westbrook play with? -- Jose T., Utuado, P.R.
Westbrook will pitch for Ponce. His debut is scheduled to take place Saturday. The Indians have not yet determined how long Westbrook will be in Puerto Rico, but he's expected to make around four starts, building up his pitch count each time. Acta will be in Puerto Rico to see him pitch in the middle of December.
You mentioned in your blog that new third-base and infield coach Steve Smith has been suspended twice for "on-field incidents." What were the nature of these events, given that Charlie Manuel dismissed him after last season? -- Logan P., Boulder, Colo.
He had some disagreements with umpires that got a little heated. It is my understanding that the personalities of Smith and Manuel didn't exactly mesh.
It's clear that the Indians aimed to protect their prized prospects from the Rule 5 Draft. And 60 percent of the time, that works every time. But might the Indians have their eye on anybody to acquire from the Draft? -- Ryan M., Marion, Ind.
Apparently not, because the Tribe's 40-man roster is now full. The Indians' only potential activity in the Rule 5 looks to be losses, not gains. Yohan Pino, Carlton Smith, Chuck Lofgren, Steven Wright, Jose Constanza and Matt McBride are among the guys who might get swiped.
Any word on Grady Sizemore's condition and how the surgeries went? -- Don L., Auburn, N.Y.
Everything has gone to plan so far, Don. Sizemore initiated his offseason conditioning program on time earlier this month and is currently doing running and agility drills at the Goodyear, Ariz., complex, near his Scottsdale home. He (and his elbow and groin) should be ready for the start of Spring Training.
I was wondering if the Indians are going to do the "12 Days of Indians" at the various malls this year like they used to around the holiday season? It was a nice way to meet the players, but they seem to have stopped doing this over the past couple of years. -- Ashley G., Painesville, Ohio
The Indians aren't holding that particular event anymore. They are, however, holding the annual "Pronkta Claus" toy drive from 7-9 p.m. ET on Dec. 3 at Summit Mall in Fairlawn. Travis Hafner and Santa Slider will make an appearance, and all fans donating a new or unwrapped toy (or monetary donation) worth $10 or more will receive Pronk's autograph. The donations benefit Beech Brook, a local foster care and adoption agency.
Speaking of holiday cheer...In the last Inbox, you said the Yankees aren't greedy. THEY BOUGHT A RING. I love the Tribe's talent they have coming up, but they had to trade their three best players in two years for salary reasons. When is the last time the Yankees traded for salary? Never. You're a reporter for the Indians, not the Yankees. Move to New York if you want to, but don't tell Indians fans the garbage about the Yankees' pride and heart. They signed the three best players on the market. That's greed. LOOK IT UP. -- Austin K., Lock Haven, Pa.
I will. And I suggest you look up the definition of the word "sarcasm."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.