Here are some random thoughts about the Manny Acta hiring by the Indians and some things that came to mind in listening to his Monday press conference:- Paul and I talked about this a lot Monday night on our radio show, but what if a big reason the Indians were attracted to Acta is not only because he is bi-lingual but that he appears better able to handle communicating and relating to Spanish speaking players from Latin America?- To expand on that point, when you look back at former manager Eric Wedge's staff there was no high level coach such as the manager, bench coach, or pitching coach that spoke Spanish or spoke it fluently where they could talk to the Spanish speaking players in their native language. The only two coaches who spoke Spanish were guys in lesser roles like bullpen coach Luis Isaac and first base and infield coach Luis Rivera. I may be mistaken, but while I am sure the likes of Wedge, Carl Willis, Joel Skiller, Jeff Datz and Derrick Shelton all had an ability to speak some Spanish and understand it, I don't believe they were able to speak the language in lengthy conversations without the use of a translator when talking to a Spanish speaking player. As Acta mentioned last week, his ability to speak both English and Spanish fluently allows him to directly communicate with his players without the use of an interpreter and it ensures nothing is lost in translation.- This having been said, if you take away look at the three biggest disappointments from 2009 that had nothing to do with an injury, I think an overwhelming majority of people would say those three big disappointments this past season were Fausto Carmona, Rafael Perez, and Jhonny Peralta. All three are Latin players. If the Indians can get those three guys turned around it would absolutely do wonders for all three key areas of the team: the starting rotation, bullpen and lineup.- In addition to those three players, you also have significant pieces to the puzzle that are from Latin America such as the young keystone combo of Asdrubal Cabrera and Luis Valbuena, two up-and-coming rotation hopefuls in Carlos Carrasco and Hector Rondon, and the star catcher on the horizon in Carlos Santana who the organization hopes will live up to all the hype and become the face of the franchise. While he does have a good handle on the English language, you even have the enigmatic Andy Marte on the roster who was totally lost in his four years under Wedge. Maybe Acta can "reach" him too.- It really seems like the key to this organization getting on its feet next year and beyond is a lot of these Latin players, and so maybe Acta can help in that regard. I have no idea if he can or will be able to do that, but it is something to think about and his Latin roots certainly may have had a hand in his hiring and intrigued the Indians at least a little bit.- Moving forward, listening to Acta's press conference on Monday he made it a point to say he likes the lineup, defense, and the bullpen. For the most part, I happen to agree with him as I think the Indians have a lot of pieces in place and more coming to make this at worst a top third ranked offense in baseball. Also, there are certainly a lot of intriguing pieces in the bullpen to work with going forward and there are some more options on the horizon. The defense once Santana gets here is going to be above average or better at every position except third base and first base.- But while Acta gave high praise to the lineup, bullpen and defense and what he thinks they could be, he candidly shared his concern for the starting rotation. Again, I agree with him. The Indians certainly have a lot of options for the rotation, but the problem is all of those options have huge question marks and no one has established themselves as a reliable starter. We are a long way from the days from 2006-2008 where you knew you had three reliable arms in C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Jake Westbrook to rely on at the start of every season.- This rotation needs a lot of work. The question this offseason will be whether the Indians go with the current nine deep staff for next season of Jake Westbrook, Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson, Aaron Laffey, David Huff, Jeremy Sowers, Carlos Carrasco, Hector Rondon, and Scott Lewis, or will they go out and sign a starter in free agency to a Kevin Millwood-like deal or will they use some of their surplus in the upper levels of the system as far as outfielders, first basemen, catchers, and back-of-the-rotation starters go and make a trade for a young more established, reliable starter?- I've replayed the part many times in Acta's press conference where he references the starting rotation. While he did mention the current five man and what they need to do and Carmona being the key to the success of the rotation, I get the sense that maybe just maybe Indians GM Mark Shapiro will go out and dabble into the free agent and trade market to see if an opportunity exists to pick up a young established starter.- If the Indians spend anything on this roster this offseason, the only place I want it spent is in the starting rotation. And I am not talking going out and blowing $4 million on a Jason Johnson type, no I am instead saying if you are going to spend any money do it to acquire somebody with impact potential in the rotation. Players like Randy Wolf and Orlando Hudson slipped through the cracks last offseason and were bargain one year signings for the Dodgers, and with the economy still not any better this offseason baseball executives believe we will once again see a buyer's market once the elite free agents go off the board.- Shapiro has said many times since the Cliff Lee trade that because they moved Lee and Victor Martinez that they will have money to spend this offseason. I'm not sure I buy that, and even so I am not sure I want him to spend other than to add a pitcher or bat that as I mentioned above slips through the cracks. The one thing I do not want to see is Shapiro go out and blow $8-10 million on payroll between three guys to shore up the bench or fill roles. If they are going to invest in the $15 million saved on the 2010 payroll from the Lee/Martinez trades, I sure as hell don't want them blowing half or more of that on more David Dellucci, Trot Nixon, and Roberto Hernandez types. Either get a meaningful player, or just don't spend the money. We have more than enough young players already on the team and in the system to round out the 21st through 25th spots on the 25-man roster.- Young pitching is not often dealt, but for the right deal or scenario it has been done before. Look at Minnesota two years ago as they needed to get a young bat and had some pitching surplus to dangle to find that bat, and they eventually found a trading partner with Tampa Bay and a Matt Garza for Delmon Young deal was completed. Last offseason the same thing happened as Tampa Bay wanted a young bat and they dangled a young starter which they considered a surplus, and when Detroit came calling an Edwin Jackson for Matt Joyce deal was consummated. These are unique deals and very rare, but this is the kind of deal I hope to see the Indians try and make this offseason. I'm not sure which young hitter I would deal, but depending on the pitcher we could maybe get back I would part with anyone not named Carlos Santana. And yes, I am saying for the right starter I would deal Michael Brantley or Matt LaPorta.- It really depends on how the Indians are approaching the 2010 season. If they truly want to contend, they will go out and find a reliable veteran starter or two. If they are using next season as a transition year to sort through all the options in the rotation, bullpen, and lineup, then they should not go out and sign anyone. They have more than enough starting pitching to use next year if the plan is to throw it all against the wall and see what sticks by the end of the season. Still, considering how the AL Central is the weakest division in all of baseball, you almost have to go into the season with the idea of trying to contend.- Looking beyond 2010, one thing to note is the massive amount of payroll that comes off the books after the 2010 season with Kerry Wood's $10.5M and Jake Westbrook's $11.0M coming off the books (assuming Wood doesn't reach 55 appearances in 2010 which would automatically kick in his 2011 $11M club option). Right now, the Indians only have $23M in guaranteed deals locked up in 2011 and that is all for three players: Grady Sizemore, Fausto Carmona and Travis Hafner. No one else is locked in, though they do have a $7M option for Peralta and by then will have a bevy of arbitration eligible players. Even so, there will be a lot of payroll flexibility next offseason to do some things, and even this offseason since the have the $15M saved from the Martinez/Lee trades to make a few significant moves if they really want to.
Top Pitching Coach Candidates
From where I sit, I believe the biggest decision for new manager Manny Acta and the Indians is who they pick as his pitching coach. With so many young arms presently on the staff and a lot on the horizon, the focus the next few years will be on finishing off their development at the big league level.I really believe such a hiring will come from within the organization as they look for someone familiar with the current staff and also very familiar of the influx of arms they will be adding in the next few years from the minors. To me, that makes the two most likely candidates as Minor League Pitching Coordinator Dave Miller and Triple-A Columbus Pitching Coach Scott Radinsky.Both Miller and Radinsky to me would be solid additions to the staff. Miller has worked directly with every homegrown pitcher on their staff and those coming up through the ranks for the past eight years as the pitching coordinator in the minors. Radinsky has also worked with a lot of the pitchers on the big league staff and some others who will be joining the staff in the next year or so as he has been the pitching coach at Akron, Buffalo and Columbus the past four seasons.From what I have learned talking to players over the years they absolutely love Radinsky. They think he is an excellent coach where he holds his players accountable and has a take no crap attitude, but he knows how to teach, communicate, and get results. He is also a bit wild and not your typical cookie-cutter manager as he is a singer in a punk rock band (Pulley). I don't know much about how the players feel about Miller. I have never asked in the past how they felt about Radinsky, but the players always talked highly about him without any provocation, yet never spoke of Miller. Whether that means something or not, who knows, but it should also be noted that Miller was on the Indians bench a lot this past September as a guest coach, something I don't recall him doing in the past.In any case, I think Radinsky looks like the favorite to win the job, though Miller should get strong consideration as well and could be named to the position just as well. As with anything of course, a curveball could be thrown where the Indians and Acta come out of left field with a hiring, but it really seems like even before Acta was hired that Radinsky or Miller were lined up for this job.For a background on the two candidates, here are their writeups in the media guide this year:
Dave Miller - Pitching CoordinatorBorn: August 25, 1966 in Woodbury, NJResides: Wilmington, NCManagerial/Coaching Highlights: Enters his 8th season as the Pitching Coordinator in the Indians Player Development System... Marks his 17th season in the Indians organization as a coach, scout or instructor... As the Pitching Coordinator he implements the basic organizational pitching philosophy among the minor league coaching staff and players... Responsible for developing pitchers that have sound fundamental delivery of mechanics which allows them to develop their pitches and learn how to attack hitters while also being able to control the running game and execute defensively.Managerial/Coaching Career: 1993-1995 - Pitching Coach, Burlington Indians (Indians); 1996- Pitching Coach, Watertown Indians (Indians); 1997- Pitching Coach, Burlington Indians (Indians); 1998-1999- Pitching Coach, Kinston Indians (Indians); 2000-2001- Scout, Cleveland Indians (Indians); 2002-2008- Pitching Coordinator, Cleveland Indians (Indians).Playing Career: Selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the secondary phase of the 1985 January draft and by the Detroit Tigers in the 1985 June draft but did not sign either time... Selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 1st round of the January, 1986 secondary phase... Played professionally for 7 seasons at the minor league level all with the Orioles... Posted a career record of 43-34 with a 3.09 ERA in 152 games/83 starts before ending his career with Rochester in 1992.
Scott Radinsky - Pitching CoachBorn: March 3, 1968 in Glendale, CAResides: Simi Valley, CAManagerial/Coaching Highlights: Enters his 3rd season with Cleveland as the Pitching Coach of the Indians Triple-A team and 6th season as a coach in the Indians organization...Guided the Akron staff in 2006 to a league best 87 wins, while finishing 4th in the league in ERA at 3.74... Originally joined the Indians organization in 2004 as a guest instructor.Managerial/Coaching Career: 2004-2005- Pitching Coach, Lake County (Indians); 2006-Pitching Coach, Akron Aeros (Indians); 2007-2008-Pitching Coach, Buffalo Bisons (Indians).Playing Career: Played professionally for 15 seasons, including 11 at the Major League level with Chicago-AL ('90-'95), Los Angeles-NL ('96-'98), St. Louis ('99-'00) and Cleveland ('01)... Saved a career-high 15 games in 1992 and won a career-best 8 games while recoding 4 saves in 1993... Missed entire 1994 season after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease prior to spring training...Made a career-best 75 appearances in 1997 with the LA Dodgers...Underwent "Tommy John" surgery in 2000 and made just 3 more career appearances at the ML level following his surgery... In 11 Major League seasons was 42-25 with a 3.44 ERA and 52 saves in 557 Major League games... Was a 3rd round selection by the Chicago White Sox in the 1986 draft.By the way, bet you never imagined a guy like this could be on the Indians bench as a coach (heh):