An insightful and hopefully humorous look at the upcoming trade deadline. For information on the current Indians contract situation, look here.
Joe: One of the most common talking points with Indians fans right now is how active the Indians will be before the trade deadline. You wrote an overview on where the Indians stand, but were vague as far as specific players or teams were concerned. What do you think is the most important hole to fill on the Indians roster?
Mike: Now that the team won’t have any need for Albert Pujols now that Matt LaPorta will be coming off the DL soon, I think we need an everyday right fielder with some power, preferably a right-handed hitter. One name I keep hearing is Hunter Pence in Houston. But also look at Mitch Moreland from the Texas Rangers. They have a bad bullpen who might want to overpay for a set-up guy. What players from outside the organization are you looking at?
Joe: It really depends on how much the Indians want to spend. I agree that the Indians biggest hole is right field and could see any number of players being more capable to fill it than internal options. A return of Ryan Ludwick from San Diego or taking any of the Oakland outfielders that will be free agents at the end of the season (David DeJesus, Coco Crisp or Josh Willingham). If the Indians don’t want to spend, they could take a flier on Mike Cameron who was just released by the Red Sox. Replacing the defense that is now lacking with [Shin-Soo] Choo’s absence is just as important as replacing his offense.
Mike: No way the Indians would pick up Mike Cameron. He will still be owed nearly $3.5 million the rest of the season for a guy who had two stints on the DL last year and earned a -6 VORP this season. The problem with the names you mentioned is what exactly are the Indians going to have to give up to get a mediocre Ludwick or any of those A’s hitters?
Joe: Here is where we disagree. Currently the Indians have a huge excess of middle infielders that will be Major League ready within a year or are already. This includes Cord Phelps, Jason Kipnis and Luis Valbuena although there are others slightly further down the line. The Indians only need one of these players as a starting second baseman and shortstop is filled for the foreseeable future. I wouldn’t be adverse to keeping whoever they decide is the best one and trading the other two. While Valbuena isn’t worth much, Jason Donald and Jason Knapp were both rated high enough to be traded for Cliff Lee two years ago and each are closer to the Majors now than they were then.
Mike: You might be able to trade Luis Valbuena and or Jason Donald for an impact player on MLB 11 The Show, but I doubt Chris Antonetti would pull the trigger on a trade like that would send players with at least little upside for a mediocre 0-1 WARP player with no upside. What would be the point? Don’t forget the Mariners dealt a middle infielder, in which they had excess of, back in 2006 for an aging outfielder because they lacked outfield depth. If you don’t remember, the Indians sent Eduardo Perez to Seattle for… Asdrubal Cabrera.
Joe: Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, there are plenty of examples either way. Usually the team getting the prospect does better, because they have the player for multiple years, not just one. The most important thing to me with regards to the Indians making a trade is not to throw away either this year or next year. As long as a player won’t be needed in 2011 or 2012, I wouldn’t mind seeing him traded to help win in those two years.
Mike: So you are prepared to add $3-5 million in payroll for a player that will have little or no impact on the 2011 team? Do you honestly believe Ryan Ludwick would make the Indians world series contenders? You must be outside your mind. No, if you want a player of impact, you must give up a player of impact- especially in this buyer market. We have 4 really good set-up men… teams like the Rangers have none, the Brewers and Phillies have one. I am more than certain one of those three teams are salivating for a late-inning relief pitcher. The Phillies have Dominic Brown…
Joe: I would hate to part with any of the best pitchers in the bullpen right now. If you’re worried about giving up players with upside, Vinnie Pestano has had one of the greatest starts to a career for a relief pitcher in Indians history. Another problem is that the Indians bullpen depth isn’t as deep as it seems. Recently when they gave up a couple runs and lost the game to the Diamond Backs, it wasn’t that surprising seeing as all four main pitchers ([Rafael] Perez,[Tony] Sipp, [Joe] Smith and Pestano) had to pitch in 3 straight games. If the Indians are going to be winning often, they will need all of those guys and more. If they do decide to trade one, it would have to be Smith or R. Perez and it should only be done after [Frank] Herrmann has been given a few more innings to prove himself. Neither he nor [Chad] Durbin has been used in more than a week, so that shows you what [Manny] Acta thinks of his bullpen depth.
Mike: Look, you are not going to get anybody of impact by offering Luis Valbuena, Jason Donald or Jason Knapp. Unless you can steal a Hunter Pence away from Houston, which is an organization that historically has made bad trades. But not all GMs in MLB are like Cox Communications robots, they actually have a brain.
Joe: Another name I have heard thrown around is Orlando Cabrera. Both he and Jack Hannahan are no longer of any real use to the Indians and could be a good pickup for a team lacking infield depth. I know the Giants were looking at Cabrera and he could be enough, with some low level minor leaguers, to get one of their lesser outfielders like Pat Burell or Aaron Rowand. The point is that anyone would be better than who they have now.
Mike: Then why not put Josh Tomlin in right-field?
Joe: The Indians are too conservative. Would worry about him getting hurt. Truthfully, if they would go against their ridiculous love affair with Austin Kearns and bring up Ezequiel Carrera, it could be enough. It would immediately bring the outfield speed back up to the level it was before and Carrera had as many RBI in 8 AB as that other guy has had in 98. For some reason, every bad thing about the Indians revolves around him.
Mike: You are just blowing smoke now. You are now talking about making a move that just would not make any difference what so ever. We need an impact bat.
Joe: Ok, I’ve got one more idea for you, if you’re really after a big bat. Remember 2007, when the Indians sold out Progressive Field and got everybody excited by trading for Kenny Lofton? They should do it again. Trade for Jim Thome and have him start at first base. He can take one of the extra outfielders spots on the roster and Matt LaPorta can return to his original position in the outfield. It would kill the defense, but it would make a great story and bring the biggest slugger in Indians history back to Cleveland.
Mike: I would make that deal in a heart-beat. PECOTA has him projected to hit 13 homeruns the rest of the season. I wouldn’t play him at first everyday though.
Joe: So its decided, we’re going to trade Vinnie Pestano and Jason Knapp to the Twins to get Jim Thome to retire as a Cleveland Indian. It will be just like the old days when nothing like this has ever happened before.
Mike: Pestano, Knapp, and Slider for Thome.
Joe: Does that mean that Zizzy will get called up to the big leagues? I can’t wait to tell him the good news!
Mike: It’s well deserved.
Joe: I think that’s enough of this madness. I can’t wait until Antonetti pulls the trigger on this one.
Mike: Our site is the first thing he looks at in the morning.
Joe: Exactly the way it should be.