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Mark Shapiro chat
12/15/2004 10:52 AM ET
Indians general manager Mark Shapiro made a couple of key moves at last weekend's Winter Meetings. The Tribe acquired veteran reliever Arthur Rhodes from the Pirates in exchange for right fielder Matt Lawton. Cleveland also signed utilityman Jose Hernandez, who is being looked at as an insurance policy for young Jhonny Peralta, Omar Vizquel's heir at shortstop. Hernandez will also give the Indians a utility player who can be productive everywhere except center field and catcher.

Shapiro chatted with fans on Wednesday, Dec. 15. Read the transcript of the chat below.

Hey Mark, I think you have done an excellent job with limited resources. Please explain to me why we can't make a run at Tim Hudson? He is cheaper next year than any of the starters we are looking at, plus we can sign him to a long-term deal for around $14 million.

Mark Shapiro: I would not rule out us making a run at anyone. However, it would be hard because of the resources you referred to, us giving up our greatest assets -- prospects -- for a player that could only be controlled for one year.

What is going on with Ronnie Belliard? Does he want more money? So many times he ignited the offense last year, I think you really need to re-sign him because he was a big part to the Tribe's offense last year.

Shapiro: We are actively talking to Ronnie right now. He is absolutely an alternative for us. We are just seeking to ensure we find the best alternative -- offensively and defensively.

I saw Ryan Garko in the playoffs at Buffalo. What are his chances of making the team this year?

Shapiro: He had a rapid ascent though our system last year. While we love his potential, he probably needs part of another minor league year. He does have a bright future with us though.

Dave Littlefield described the Matt Lawton deal as a trade of relative strengths. As the roster stands right now, do you consider OF to be a position of strength in 2005?

Shapiro: Outfield is a position of depth for us. Especially once we get Jody Gerut back. Because of the youth of Grady Sizemore and Coco Crisp, I would not yet consider it a position of strengh -- rather depth.

In what role will Jason Davis ultimately provide the most value to the Indians -- starter or closer?

Shapiro: That is a good question. One in which we have some internal difference of opinion. I think more people feel his greatest feeling is in the bullpen. Time will tell.

With the signing of Jose Hernandez, Brandon Phillips seems slated once again for Buffalo. What improvements did he make last year and what will he have to show in Spring Training and during the season to make the majors for good?

Shapiro: This is not pre-ordained that Brandon will go to Buffalo. Jhonny Peralta will get the first shot at Spring Training. But Brandon will battle him. Brandon needs to have consistent, disciplined at-bats. Once he does that we feel his potential in the middle infield is very high.

Is Michael Aubrey developing as expected and when can we expect to see him in Cleveland?

Shapiro: Michael Aubrey's track record in the minor leagues has been exceptional. His only blemish has been some minor injuries. He will probably need one more year and part of another year in the minors. But he's on a fast track.

Ryan Garko posted nice numbers in Arizona this fall. Do you see him as an eventual major league regular or more of a 1B/DH/C guy like Matt LeCroy?

Shapiro: Matt LeCroy is a guy that we have compared Ryan to. With the effort he is giving on his defensive side of the game, he can make himself into an everyday catcher or first baseman.

Between Francisco Cruceta and Fernando Cabrera, which would you expect to make a bigger impact and in what roles will each fill?

Shapiro: We like both of those young pitchers. Cabrera in the bullpen and Cruceta as a starting pitcher. I would hate to speculate which one will make a bigger impact, just hope they both will make a big one.

With Michael Aubrey on the fast track, could Ben Broussard be playing his last season in an Indians uniform, or do you have other plans?

Shapiro: I think Ben's future is in his hands. His second half last year is the kind of play that will keep him in an Indians uniform for a long time. He needs to consistently play at that level for us not to look at other alternatives.

Where will Jeremy Sowers start his professional career and what can we expect from him?

Shapiro: He'll most likely start at Kinston in the Carolina League. We hope he is a solid middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. His intelligence and his arsenal should provide him with the ability to make adjustments and develop at a good pace.

After a fast professional start, Jeremy Guthrie's development seems to have hit a wall. What are the biggest challenges he faces in trying to win a big league bullpen job this spring?

Shapiro: Jeremy actually finished strong last year. We felt good about the progress he made. He needs to maintain a consistent delivery. That will allow his above-average stuff to translate consistently.

What will Aaron Boone bring to the third base position that Casey Blake did not?

Shapiro: It is not about what Aaron will bring that Casey did not. It is about making us a better team. We are a better team with both Casey and Aaron playing. Aaron Boone will bring experience, leadership, well above average defense, and good offense. We are excited about his addition.

Excellent pick up for Johnny Mac - how does Tom Mastny project as a potential major league arm?

Shapiro: We love his feel to pitch and his command. He also has proto-typical pitcher size. Having completed only one A-ball season, it is still too early to determine his role or ceiling. But we are excited to have him.

Grady Sizemore struggled against lefties last summer. What adjustments does he need to make to earn PT in more than a platoon role?

Shapiro: Grady has always hit lefties well in the minor leagues. I think it is more of a matter of settling into the major leagues. His talent and track record will ultimatly make him much more than a platoon player.

How has Franklin Gutierrez looked in winter ball?

Shapiro: Our reports have been very good. It is difficult to gauge his accomplishments down there due to inconsistent level of competition. It is great to see Franklin playing every day and putting up some good numbers. We are excited to have him playing every day next year in our system.

If Wickman's elbow blows, who is next in line to close? Howry?

Shapiro: He is a guy that has both closing experience and at times last year was dominant and appeared ready to resume that role. While we have other guys that could contribute as a closer, he is the most likely alternative to Wicky.

Mark, would you rate any of the Indians' minor league pitchers above Jose Capellan and Edwin Jackson? If so, whom, and what is your thinking on not trading minor league pitching now for help in the rotation?

Shapiro: Good question. It is difficut for me to compare our own prospects to ones I'm just reading scouting reports on with a limited look. I do know that Adam Miller is one of the better young prospects that I've had a chance to see in my 13 years in Major League Baseball. He is behind those two pitchers in development. But I think next year he could be a name mentioned with Jackson and Capellan.

In our market with our revenue challenges it is very difficult for us to trade pitching prospects. However, at the right moment with a championship in clear sight, I do not think we would stop at trading anyone for a player that could put us over the top.

Who did you fear losing the most in this week's Rule 5 Draft?

Shapiro: Brian Slocum, JD Martin and Pat Osborn were all guys we thought we might lose. I hate to lose any of our minor league talent. So it is hard to say which one I wanted to lose the least.

Do you envision Travis Hafner playing more games at first base this year than last?

Shapiro: I still envision Travis' primary time at first coming in interleague play. With the way Broussard played in the second half, it is hard to take him or Travis out of the lineup versus right-handed pitchers. The only thing that would bring him significant time at first would be injury or drop in performance by Broussard.

Hey Mr. Shapiro, I think you have done a great job in turning around the Indians so quickly, but, my question is what is the status on getting that No. 2 starter?

Shapiro: We're working hard on it as we speak. Which is why I have to end the chat session. Thanks for your support and go Tribe!

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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