Mark Shapiro participated in an online chat on Nov. 30 regarding the Indians' upcoming season. The Cleveland general manager answered fans' questions regarding current players, offseason trades, acquiring free agents, and the Indians Minor League prospects.
Mark Shapiro: Thanks for joining me today on this chat.
jarrodu: Will Ryan Garko be given an opportunity during Spring Training to win the starting job at first base?
Shapiro: If we add a corner bat to the outfield as we hope to do, it will create a competition between Shin-Soo Choo and Garko. Some weight will be given to defense and overall versatility, but Ryan's offensive contributions last year certainly make him a factor in 2007.
ruu: At this year's Winter Meetings, will you consider having a conversation with Red Sox GM Theo Epstein about the possible return of Manny Ramirez?
Shapiro: It is part of my job as GM to do my due diligence on every opportunity. We talk to every GM about what is out there to satisfy our needs. That dialogue with all teams to improve our ballclub to seek fits and trades will continue at the Winter Meetings and beyond.
ruu: This year, Fausto Carmona struggled as the closer for the Indians. What are your plans for his role as a pitcher on your team?
Shapiro: A great testament to his makeup was the fact he regained his focus and finished the season strong despite the tremendous adversity he faced as a closer. We believe in Fausto's stuff and we believe in his makeup. The role he pitches in will be either as a starter or middle relief -- wherever our club needs him to win games.
cluz: Are the Indians at all interested in Eric Gagné?
Shapiro: At this point we have explored and entered into discussions with every free agent reliever with back-end experience. It is an area of priority for us and until we find options it will remain a priority for us.
goorange: How good do you think Andy Marte will be?
Shapiro: We are counting on Andy to provide average or above average defense and provide some power. He impressed us last year with his maturity, power, work ethic and defensive ability.
cluz: The Indians have enough hitting and fielding, when will you acquire some bullpen help?
Shapiro: We are in the process of negotiating on several fronts. My hope is to have several announcements in the next seven to 10 days.
goorange: Will Adam Miller play a factor in 2007?
Shapiro: Adam has had a very strong developmental path and made exceptional progress. He has a more upside than any pitcher in our organization. If he continues to progress there is a chance he could become a factor at some point in the 2007 season at the big league level.
dish28: You've mentioned previously that you expect Jhonny Peralta to have a bounce-back year next season. Can you explain why?
Shapiro: There is no position player more important to our success next season than Jhonny. We need for him to be closer to the player he was in 2005, rather than the player he was in 2006. Jhonny has committed to a rigorous offseason program and has expressed to us his desire to make adjustments and improve next year. Based upon his track record and his commitment he is voicing, I believe he will bounce back and have a good year next year.
cluz: Without a good bullpen, do you think fans will be as interested in the Indians?
Shapiro: Our bullpen clearly needs to be better and is an area we're working hard to address.
Thomas_Decker: What is your relationship with other GMs?
Shapiro: Understanding there are only 29 potential trade partners out there, it is important to maintain a good working relationship with all potential trade partners in respect to other GMs. Yet, as in all businesses, we tend to develop better relationships with certain GMs and these positive working relationships usually result in more trades with those teams. In each trade situation you are seeking to find a win-win for both teams, and if you trust and respect the other GM you are dealing with, you have a better opportunity to accomplish that win-win.
cluz: Will there be any competition for any position spots on the team?
Shapiro: It depends on how the offseason goes. There is still a lot of offseason left.
Thomas_Decker: What do you estimate your total payroll will be for the Indians next year?
Shapiro: We haven't been given a firm number, but it has been made clear that we will be given the opportunity for a meaningful increase. In order to do that we need to find the players worthy of that expenditure.
scultra32: Why is a 33-year-old career backup outfielder with a tendency to strike out far more often than he produces, suddenly a good bet to be the team's starting left-fielder? How does he improve Cleveland's lineup?
Shapiro: If we complete the deal, I hope we will be able to explain why David Dellucci might be a good fit for this team.
dmoney190: Will you guys make a push to try and bring back Ronnie Belliard to play second base?
Shapiro: While we maintain a respect for Ronnie, we traded for Josh Barfield to make him our second baseman for this year and beyond.
bullzdog: Why does Garko have to compete for a job, while you just hand Casey Blake a job?
Shapiro: Casey is a versatile defensive player who has contributed meaningfully to our team over the past four Major League seasons. We love Ryan's upside and feel strongly about his future, but he is still a young player and is limited to play first base. It is our hope that both players will fit on the club at some point soon, as early as the beginning of next year.
Silvio_Mecone: Do you see Victor Martinez as our catcher, or are there plans for him? What is the likelihood of a trade?
Shapiro: Victor made great strides in the second half last year with his throwing. His blocking and game calling were very good last year. As long as he works hard on this throwing mechanics, the offensive production he gives us from the catching position provides us tremendous flexibility on building our team.
dominic_pavone: With the prospects and starting pitching we have, it seems that we would have the talent to acquire a Scott Linebrink-Vernon Wells type of player, right?
While I won't comment on specific trades, it's important to educate on the reality of making a deal. Trades are extremely difficult to make. What you read on the internet and rumor mills are far from the reality. The price and level of talent required to acquire a good Major League talent is almost always steep. Trades remain one possible alternative for acquiring Major League talent, but it takes the perfect storm of variables for a trade to fit for both teams and then get consummated. It is safe to assume that whenever there is a player that is a good fit for us, we have always inquired about that opportunity.
Michael_Scavone: I would love to see Barry Zito fill out our rotation -- maybe give Jeremy Sowers more experience in Triple-A. What are the odds on this happening?
Shapiro: Right now with all of the needs in the bullpen, it would be hard to give up the resources to sign a starting pitcher.
jarrodu: What is the estimated time of arrival for Trevor Crowe, and what position and slot in the batting order is the organization considering him?
Shapiro: Trevor is an exciting and dynamic prospect. Offensively, he has the natural ability to be a quality leadoff or second-hole hitter. Defensively, we could play him in either left or center depending on the need. His athletic ability and competitive fire and hitting make him a unique prospect. Trevor will determine his own timeframe to make the Major League level, depending on his performance, but I would not be surprised to see him debut this coming season.
Rick_Berg: What is the best part of your job and what's one thing you would change?
Shapiro: The best part of my job is that I get to wake up every day and work in and around a game that I'm passionate about. Almost as good for me is working side by side with a group that I respect and trust. Overall, I'm extremely fortunate to do a job that I love. The criticism as times is tough only because it's tough to explain why we do things, but it's part of the job and is certainly a worthwhile tradeoff.
bullzdog: Would the money spent on Dellucci (or another corner outfielder) have been better spent on a reliever?
Shapiro: I think it's important to wait until the offseason is done before judging it as we go. If we had to choose between a bat or reliever we certainly would've chosen a reliever. But in this offseason we have the ability to satisfy both needs.
bittkid: How many wins do you see it taking to make the playoffs in the American League or even winning the Central?
Shapiro: In the Central Division from top to bottom has probably become the most competitive division in all of Major League baseball. While this presents a significant challenge and certainly puts us in a position for a high win total, it also forces us to measure our self against the best day in and day out. Should we achieve that playoff spot we will be well prepared to play deep into the postseason.
Darren_Lewis: Is the front office considering negotiations with any core players regarding extensions, e.g., Travis Hafner/C.C. Sabathia/Jake Westbrook?
Shapiro: It is safe to say that among our offseason business we will take a serious look at which core players we have the opportunity to extend. We usually focus the first part of the offseason on building our team and then utilize Spring Training for those discussions.
Shapiro: Thanks for the interest and support. We have a lot of work left to accomplish but feel confident to field a team that you will be proud of and that competes for a championship in 2007. Happy holidays and go Tribe!
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.