I must confess that I was more than surprised when I heard that the Indians had more than a passing interest in free agent right-hander Tim Hudson. According to Braves beat writer Mark Bowman both the Indians and Kansas City Royals have expressed interest in bringing Tim Hudson into the fold.
There is some linkage between Terry Francona and Tim Hudson, as Francona served as the bench coach for the 2003 Oakland Athletics, as IBI beat writer Jim Berdysz has noted. Granted, I think it would be challenging to find a player in MLB who hasn’t crossed paths with the ebullient Indians manager, and come away not wanting to a part of one of his teams.
Digressing, I must confess that I have some sort of hot stove fanaticism. I find myself incredibly interested by the options the Tribe has and thus will attempt to respond as frequently as possible to any players that the Indians are substantially tied to.
Returning to Hudson question, I believe that the Indians should not pursue this route for a few different but equally important reasons.
First are health concerns, these exist outside of Hudson’s fractured ankle. Which are not to be underrated in terms of the stress the bear during the pitching motion. The health concerns are most directly tied to age, 38 and turning 39 during the 2014 season makes you question his overall capacity to remain fresh on the mound.
Of course, Hudson to this date in his career has been impressive in his ability to stay healthy as well as log innings. However, the fragility of the ankle as well as age causes some preliminary concerns.
Second, stylistically Hudson is just not a great fit on this roster because of the talent currently surrounding him. Obviously this can change but a major piece of my concern is based on the assumption that Lonnie Chisenhall, Asdrubel Cabrera, and Jason Kipnis will be breaking camp with the Tribe in 2014. In terms of the odds of these assumptions, Kipnis is guaranteed to return, while he has improved, any evaluator or analytic has him as a league average defender, give or take a little on either side.
In terms of Cabrera and Chisenhall, I don’t believe we have any sort of guarantee that both will be on the roster on May 1st, 2014, but for now, we have to assume that they both will with no other viable starting options. Cabrera grades as one of the leagues’ worst defensive shortstops, while his hands are adequate, his range, in favorable terms, can be described as abysmal. Though Chisenhall is not as inept as Cabrera defensively, he grades out somewhere around average to a tick below average.
Why are these pieces important?
Because Hudson is ground ball pitcher, and that may be selling him short.
Perhaps more accurately, he is ground ball dominant. In 2013, Hudson’s batted ball against profile had him at 55.8% for ground balls. For his career it is closer to 59%.
Furthermore, while a ground ball pitcher like Masterson can have success with mediocre infield defense because of his strikeout rate which sat at 9.09 K/9 in 2013, Hudson cannot because he only strikes out around six per nine.
Thus, unless the Indians made defensive improvements, one could expect Hudson’s BABIP to spike as the infield range, as a collective, is questionable at best.
Also worth noting is that if Cabrera remained, Hudson would move from the best defensive shortstop behind him, in Andrelton Simmons, to on of the worst. This is a huge defensive value gap at a position that has legitimate effect on a ground ball pitcher like Hudson.
This not to say that if the Indians made a change or two, the move would not become reasonable. If the Indians front office planned on starting Jose Ramirez at shortstop, an immediate defensive improvement would occur. The same type of improvement would come to pass when Lindor is promoted.
Third base could be improved defensively as well, in which case Hudson would be a more rational addition. However, due to his age, his lack of strikeout stuff, and his dependence on above average infield defense I would be apt to avoid signing Tim Hudson.
Of course all of this, as with any player acquisition, is dependent on cost. If the price is right then it must be considered. One of the important ideas when looking at improving your roster and sustainable contention is that any player is movable for the right return, and any player (within reason) can be a valuable addition if added for the right price.