More Questions Than Answers…

sabathiacleans3.jpgDriving home last night with the trade announcement buzzing in my mind, I tried to answer the questions that kept popping up in my head. Unfortunately, I had more questions than I could answer… the biggest one being how long are the Indians going to suck? 

I will concede that C.C. Sabathia and the Indians were not going to be able to work out a deal to bring #52 back next year and beyond. I have come to terms with that already-

The Indians are willing to pay Sabathia around that type of money, but do not want to invest it past 4 years. Why not? Well, Barry Zito, (forget the start against the Indians this week) Carl Pavano, Pedro Martinez…or even Travis Hafner. All received the big payday, and all have struggled for one reason or another since getting the deal.

If Sabathia decides that he will not sacrifice the security of those extra 2 years, then he will go elsewhere. If the Indians decide that they can’t tie up that kind of money long-term, then they will trade Sabathia to get something in return.

Right now I have no ill feelings towards Sabathia or the Indians for not agreeing on a contract. I don’t really have a problem with trading Sabathia either. We have already run the white flag up on this season. It makes perfect sense to get the best you can for Sabathia.

I will also concede that what we got for Sabathia is the best we could get. Somewhere, someone is writing the ‘Cleveland won the trade’ column, and someone else is typing out the ‘Milwaukee wins’ post. You and I both know that the measure of this trade will not be known for years. If the Brewers don’t a.) win the World Series, or b.) sign Sabathia to an extension, it would certainly shift the favor to the Indians side of the ledger. I’m no expert on the Brewers, but both seem like a stretch to me.

I will not pretend to be an expert on Matt LaPorta, Rob Bryson or Zach Jackson. I am not a scout, and more than likely you aren’t either. LaPorta is the name most associated with being the Brewer’s top prospect. The rest of the ‘big three’ were not involved in this deal. The other two are pitchers, one starter and one potential closer. Those would be positions of need for the Tribe, and so we are giving the scouts and Shapiro the benefit of the doubt that these guys have a decent chance of helping the big league club in the future.

Here’s the question I want to ask Mark Shapiro. Are we talking about the immediate future, or a couple years down the road? LaPorta is in his second professional season, and having a good year at AA. Bryson is at low level A. These guys are not likely to be lighting up Cleveland next season. It is certainly possible that LaPorta gets some AB’s with the big club this year, but more than likely will spend the bulk of the season at AAA Buffalo.

Which makes me wonder, are we contenders next year or not?

Sizemore and his all-star bat and glove will remain. (Hopefully not leading off, but that is an argument for another time.) Ben  Francisco is showing that he belongs in the majors. We would expect Victor Martinez to make a complete recovery and be back to form. Do you expect the same from Travis Hafner? I don’t. Hafner has something to prove, specifically that he can be a .280/35/100 guy again. Or that he can play a whole season without landing on the DL for less than a month. The Indians are vested in him, and so he will once again get the chance to be the clean-up man next year.

I’m already tired of seeing Gutierrez swing at breaking balls that bounce to the plate. He has a good glove and a great arm, but he is not the answer in right. Ryan Garko would be a rec league legend. He just isn’t consistent enough to be a viable long term option at first. As for Peralta, man I wish they could find a team interested in him. Let’s give the job to Cabrera and let him forget about hitting. Just focus on defense Asdrubal. We can survive one guy hitting .200, but not the entire infield.

What about the glaring hole at 3b? Yeah, Andy Marte can play every game from here on out this year just to satisfy any curiosity that exists about him. Then we can get serious about figuring out his replacement. As Scott mentioned earlier Beau Mills is a couple years away. Casey Blake is as good as traded, and if not he will most likely go elsewhere next year.

And what about the rotation? The ‘ace’ of the staff would likely become Fausto Carmona, with Cliff Lee, and Aarron Laffey. Jake Westbrook? Don’t count on him until after the all-star break, and honestly guys coming back from TJ surgery take a full year to recover anyway. What about Adam Miller? Will he shake off the injury bug and be ready to grab one of these rotation spots? Suddenly, the staff is a little thin, especially if you are talking about contending for a championship. The bullpen? Let’s not even go there right now.

With holes at third, right field, first and middle infield is this a line-up that can contend? With questions about your 3-5 starters, no closer, and shaky set-up men is this a pitching staff that can contend next year?

I want to hear what the plan is. I would like to know if they are building for ’09 or for ’10. If the plan is for next season, then there had better be some serious activity going on before the trade deadline, AND in free agency. Of course, signing impact free agents isn’t what the Indians usually do. And I doubt that is part of the retooling plan.

  • Devon Young

    I read somewhere last night that LaPorta could be a regular in Cleveland by next July. Not sure what to think of that statement. But if the Indians are willing to try getting Sabathia back, I’d imagine they’re expecting to contend next year. It’d be nice to hear a plan come out of Shapiro’s mouth though. Back in ’01 I remember him saying he intended to have the team contending in ’05… and they did! I don’t think Cleveland will be a contender again ’til at least 2010…maybe more like 2011.

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  • Tim

    – LaPorta was drafted as a 1B but then moved to the OF. We’ll he be back at first for the Tribe?
    -Any money from the Sabathia pool can be used to sign a free agent arm or two to fill out that rotation next season.

  • Rick

    Shapiro said in his press conference that they plan on contending next year.

  • JonCole

    Why is it that Cleveland can’t get bats and pitching at the same time?

    Several years ago we had lots of runs being scored, but then just about the same or more being scored on us as I recall.

  • Scott

    RocaWear!? He’s going to New Jersey to be closer to Jay-Z!!
    /east coast

  • tdash69

    go tribe! and take larry dolan with ya

  • Ricky

    I think LaPorta will be in AAA when he gets here and then be called up in September. I hope he can be in the majors by opening day next year, but I understand a lot has to happen for that to happen

    I don’t think this team can contend in 2009 but they will be a decent team, I am thinking around .500. The rotation will be pretty good, 1-3 they will be very solid. Sowers could still become a consistent pitcher, although I think Miller would be better fit in the bullpen, maybe as a closer. I think Cabrera can still be a decent hitter in the majors but we need to see him again this season to see if he improved in AAA. By 2010 though, I expect this team to contend for a championship. We have a few good young pitchers in our system and by then I think we will have a very good rotation led by Carmona, a very solid lineup with Sizemore, LaPorta and Martinez in the middle of the lineup, and by then hopefully our infield will be settled by then because we have the talent in our system they just have to get major league ready.

  • Rick

    Shapiro said that LaPorta will start at AA Akron. How long he is there depends on how well he does I imagine. I can’t see him staying there much longer than a few weeks if he continues to perform.

  • RockKing

    I would tend to agree with Rick. At 23, LaPorta is already a little old to be at AA, so I’d imagine the Tribe will be somewhat cautious, but will look to move him up as quickly as humanly possible. If he keeps hitting, he’ll move up much more quickly in the Indians system than he would have in the Brewers system.

  • Scott

    Something to consider: The Brewers apparently leave their “core” prospects together. In this case, Gamel, LaPorta and Escobar were all kept in AA together. They did the same with Weeks/Fielder. So just because he’s in AA, it’s not a testament to his abilities…