October 1, 2014

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Pronk to re-sign? Hope so : Tribe Commentary

There has been speculation, which is all it really is since at least some of it is coming from WTAM bag of wind Mike Trivisonno — a guy who rarely makes an appearance at Jacobs Field and has no legitimate Indians sources to substantiate most of his claims where the team is concerned — that Travis Hafner is close to signing a long-term contract.
For the Indians’ sake, he better be.
The consensus is that the team — i.e. owner Larry Dolan — is not going to come up with enough money to sign ace C.C. Sabathia, who has one more year remaining on his contract before commanding what figures to be a multi-year contract in the triple digits millionwise.
If history has shown Indians fans anything during Dolan’s ownership, it’s that the regime doesn’t work well with salaries in that range and that it won’t be the highest bidder — i.e. Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome.
Sabathia, who is en route to his finest season ever, is going to get his big free-agent payoff, and odds are very good that the Indians will not be the team signing the check.
That’s why it is so important to sign Hafner.
He’s not an ace, but he is the team’s most potent run producer — no matter how things have played out this season.
And they better do it soon. If they wait until next season — Hafner’s option year — it might be too late. What if he puts up a monster season and teams once again come calling with more money than Team Tightpockets is willing to spend?
The Indians can probably live with losing either Sabathia or Hafner, but not both of them. Since Sabathia figures to be out of their sights, why not zero in on Hafner?
Calling All-Stars
Currently, the Indians are assured of just one representative in the upcoming All-Star Game in San Francisco, a spot that is undoubtedly reserved for Sabathia, who leads the majors with —
12 wins and owns a sparkling 3.20 ERA through his first 18 starts.
Here’s hoping Detroit’s Jim Leyland, the American League manager, AL players and fans (via Internet voting) add at least one more when the All-Star rosters are announced today — Victor Martinez.
Martinez leads all AL catchers in virtually every offensive category and has vastly improved his efficiency in throwing out would-be base stealers. For that, he deserves a spot on the roster.
Grady Sizemore, Cleveland’s lone representative last year, probably won’t be back, thanks to a sub-.300 batting average, a whopping strikeout total and better performances from outfielders around the league.
Hafner, who has produced All-Star numbers the past two seasons, is out of the picture after struggling for much of the first half, while Fausto Carmona took himself out of the running by losing three of his last four starts — including his worst effort of the year his last time out.
Rafael Betancourt, who has been as good as any AL reliever out of the setup role, has an outside shot, but it’s rare to see a pitcher out of the bullpen make it, unless he’s a closer.
More Star stuff
Fan voting for the All-Star starters is complete but won’t be announced until today. Here’s who they were voting for via the last official results released, and who they should have voted for if they didn’t get it right. (Statistics through Friday).
American League
1B: David Ortiz (Red Sox), .319, 13 HRs, 48 RBIs. The right choice: Ortiz.
2B: Placido Polanco (Tigers), .332, 2 HRs, 36 RBIs. The right choice: Polanco.
3B: Alex Rodriguez (Yankees), .334, 28 HRs, 79 RBIs. The right choice: Rodriguez.
SS: Derek Jeter (Yankees), .339, 5 HRs, 38 RBIs. The right choice: Jeter.
C: Ivan Rodriguez (Tigers), .280, 7 HRs, 42 RBIs. The right choice: Victor Martinez (Indians), .318, 14 HRs, 63 RBIs.
OF: Vladimir Guerrero (Angels), .329, 14 HRs, 71 RBIs. The right choice: Guerrero.
OF: Magglio Ordonez (Tigers), .375, 13 HRs, 68 RBIs. The right choice: Ordonez.
OF: Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners), .364, 5 HRs, 39 RBIs. The right choice: Suzuki.
National League
1B: Prince Fielder (Brewers), .282, 27 HRs, 63 RBIs. The right choice: Fielder.
2B: Chase Utley (Phillies), .331, 15 HRs, 66 RBIs. The right choice: Utley.
SS: Jose Reyes (Mets), .319, 4 HRs, 34 RBIs, 39 SBs. The right choice: Reyes.
3B: David Wright (Mets), .289, 13 HRs, 42 RBIs. The right choice: Miguel Cabrera (Marlins), .322, 17 HRs, 65 RBIs.
C: Russell Martin (Dodgers), .298, 9 HRs, 52 RBIs. The right choice: Martin.
OF: Carlos Beltran (Mets), .268, 12 HRs, 46 RBIs. The right choice: Matt Holliday (Rockies), .348, 13 HRs, 61 RBIs.
OF: Ken Griffey Jr. (Reds), .290, 21 HRs, 50 RBIs. The right choice: Griffey Jr.
OF: Alfonso Soriano (Cubs), .306, 15 HRs, 30 RBIs. The right choice: Carlos Lee (Astros), .295, 15 HRs, 67 RBIs.
Smooth move
The Indians couldn’t find any trade takers for Roberto Hernandez, who was designated for assignment last week.
What a shocker, no one wants to give anything up for a 42-year-old reliever who can’t get anyone out.
It’s easy to take a shot at general manager Mark Shapiro on this one, but it looked as though Hernandez still had something left in the tank after his performance in 2006.
He didn’t, and that’s not Shapiro’s fault. Spending
$3.5 million on a questionable reliever is.
How good would Bob Howry look right about now, the same guy the Indians passed on paying $4 million per season for three years?
Here come the Twins
Don’t look now but those surging Minnesota Twins are, well, surging again.
The same team that came out of nowhere to win the Central Division last year, has won 12 of its last 18 games and trailed the first-place Indians by 5½ games through Friday.
Will the Twins do it again? I think not. The Twins bullpen is solid and they’ve got a few nice position players in reigning AL MVP Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer, but with Francisco Liriano on the shelf, Johan Santana is pretty much all they have to offer in the rotation.
That’s enough to be competitive, but not to win the division or qualify for the wild-card berth this year.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com,