What We Talk About When We Talk about Glove

I’ve been a bit hesitant to throw my hat too far into any potential trade situations involving the Indians this year.  It’s not that I don’t think they could benefit from some changes; that goes almost without saying.  It’s not that I think they won’t make a trade: if I were a betting man, I’d wager they do something to shake the roster up before August.  It’s not that I’m a timorous ninny who’s afraid to be wrong.  Well, yeah.  It’s probably because I’m a timorous ninny who’s afraid to be wrong.

But even more than that, it seems trades are always so complex, especially among the lower tier teams, that handicapping them seems a fool’s errand.  There are so many names out there that make some degree of sense.  I still think Jeff Francouer would fit well as part of an OF platoon (the nerd baseball writers of America have shunned my from the next D&D meeting for this, by the way).  I’ve heard others—Paul Cousineau and Terry Pluto among them—suggest utility player Mike Morse from the Nationals should be the target because he still has a few years of club control.  Still others want to sell the farm to get someone like Carlos Beltran* or Matt Kemp or even Ubaldo Jimenez.

*Carlos Beltran, by the way, has a full no-trade clause.  Those clauses were basically invented so that aging superstars don’t have to go to small-market teams like Cleveland to finish their careers.  I know Buster Olney says that we’re still in on him, but I must say that I’d be beyond shocked if he’d agree to play here.

Most of the suggestions though, seem to point toward one particular trait: a right-handed bat that can slot in somewhere in the middle of the lineup with some ability to play a corner position.  He must be right handed.  He must have “pop”.  I haven’t heard much concern over defense.

The reasons for this are fairly obvious, and not worth getting too in depth on.  We do have a dearth of right-handed bats on this team, what with LaPorta and Obie struggling to offer much in the way of…anything.

But I will say this: things aren’t nearly as bad as they would seem on paper.  Do you know what our team splits are this year?












As the prosecuting attorney from My Cousin Vinnie would say, “EYE- (claps hands) –DENTICAL!”

Well, not really, but you get the point.  We hit for a slightly higher batting average against lefties, but with less power.  Nothing too dramatic, at least not in my eyes.

And last year, the splits were similar.  Which got me thinking: why are we so much better than we were last year?  And guess what I found?  A really decent portion of it is our defense.  Having Jack Hannahan at third and Grady Sizemore in center and Michael Brantley in left are important, even when they’re not always hitting.

Last season, according to UZR, the Indians were 56 runs below average.  In other words, our defense alone cost us about six losses.  This season, we’re about average.  Check it out for yourself.  Our offense is basically the same.  Our starting pitching (fielding independent)* is only slightly better.  A big portion of our success has come from shoring up the defense.

*Of course the starters’ ERAs are lower this year than last: the question is how much of that is the pitcher’s responsibility and how much defense (and how much just dumb hit-‘em-where-they-ain’t luck).  If you want to read something I wrote about trying to separate these, read this, from way back in the day.

Now I’m not advocating that we go trade for Jack Wilson or Alcides Escobar—not at all. But I do at least wonder why no one ever talks about adding an “impact glove” at the deadline.  Because these things do exist—we’ve even seen them on display this season.

We just don’t bother to notice all that often.

  • Jake

    We’re not adding a glove because we are strong there. We want to add a power bat because we are weak there. Its as simple as that. If the Tribe are going to make the playiffs (What If?), they MUST get stronger in critical weak areas. Trade OCab, bring up the Kolumbus Kipper full time. If theres a cheap way to get a SP like Anibal Sanchez, do that as well(only really need a one year rental, just before White and Pomeranz join CarCar, Masterson and Tomlin full time). They need help in the OF, and as someone said in the Grady injury piece, grabbing an OF prospect at the deadline might be the way to go. It is likely that Choo is leaving after this year and that we won’t pick up Grady’s option. That leaves us with Brantley i the OF. As much as I want to see us pick up a bat and march into the playoffs, the best thing to do is play for 2012, and that means we need to keep reloading, and now the OF is that biggest area of need. Colby Rasmus and Mike Morse come to mind. Who agrees?

  • Jake

    If they stay the course and play for 2012 like the plan was since day 1, then trading OCab and getting a SP shouldnt happen. But trading for a young OF should…. Sorry if the first post seemed a bit misleading.

  • humboldt

    “What We Talk About When We Talk about Glove”

    Raymond Carver reference?

    If so, nice work Jon

  • mgbode

    Jon – I don’t think we’re getting Beltran because I think the Mets will ask for too much from us for him. But, he’s a UFA after the season, so why would he give a blanket no to coming here?

    note: unless his agent has him convinced that Boston will trade for him if he says no to everyone else.

  • NJ

    I agree that handicapping trades is a fool’s game. This year seems especially difficult because of the glut of buyers and the unique situations of the NYM & LAD.

    I’ve been unimpressed with the realistic candidates. If you’re talking Francour, fine. That could happen. But, as I’ve said in previous trade threads, getting any serious every day player will most likely cost us in REAL minor league talent. Morse is a great example – an affordable, young 15-20 HR & .350 OBP guy with two years of team control left? Expensive. Not to say he wouldn’t be worth it, but it’d be costly.

    @1 – As I said in the other thread, we control Choo through 2013. It’ll be arbitration deals so we may end up paying more than we want, but he’ll be an Indian next season (barring any agent stupidity).

  • mgbode

    Francouer is the 3rd of the Jeff’s that are potentially available that I would want the Indians to get.

  • jimkanicki

    ill disagree mg — i’d love francouer and i’d wager you’ll like if he winds up here. however — to jon’s statement on beltran’s no-trade — francouer has said he wants to stay in KC.

    likewise, i’m not sure beltran has said he wouldn’t come to cleveland. he has said he’d like to remain a met. and since he’s a UFA at the end of the year, he will have every opportunity to go back to NYC. if beltran REALLY wants to be a met, then he ought welcome a chance to improve the team he’ll be playing for in 2012-13-14.

    this ‘sell the farm’ biz is jive. will kipnis or gomez or huff get you into the playoffs next year? maybe/maybe-not. it’s highly unlikely that DET/CHI will crap the bed again like they did this year. but this year.. here we are in 1st place. now. late july. and without two starting OFs. and there’s a .900 OPS RF (switch-hitting no less) with a huge contract playing for a bankrupt owner on a team pretty much out of the hunt. the baseball gods are talking; we just need to listen.

    jon: what do suppose the WARP (wins over replacement player) is for beltran when you plug him in against the buck/kearns/duncan show in right field? more than 5, more than 10? how much more effective will hafner/santana be if theyve got beltran hitting #5 instead of … laporta/buck/duncan.

  • NJ

    Going off Fangraphs: Beltran has a WAR of 3.5 over 90 games. That’s about 2.4 for sixty.

    Kearns -0.5, Dunacn 0.3, Buck 0.1.

    You’re looking at a net of around three WAR. Baseball Reference would put that number even lower. (For some reason BR LOVES Austin Kearns defense.)

  • http://serandez.blogspot.com Ezzie

    Don’t waste stuff for Beltran. What’s Kemp’s contract situation? Dude is sick (in a good way).

    Would love to get Jimenez if he’s not too expensive, but I gather the Rockies are trying to take advantage of a weak SP market to grab a ton of top prospects… though truthfully I’d bet Matt LaPorta would do well in Colorado.

  • mgbode

    @7 – no offense, but if you are okay with trading Kipnis to rent Beltran, I’m glad you disagree with me.

    and I would prefer Francoeur over Jeff Francis, so he has that going for him (this could be the Year of Jeff at the trading deadline).

    My list (obviously Karstens is going nowhere and I don’t think the Rays trade Niemann or he woudl top the list):

    1. Jeff Keppinger
    2. Jeff Baker
    3. Jeff Francoeur
    4. Jeff Francis
    5. Adam Everett (no, really. his first name is actually Jeffrey)

    Any other potentially available Jeff’s we need to keep an eye on?

  • mgbode

    saw that Beltran has said he would welcome a trade. did not stipulate that it would be a subset of teams either.

    “I made it clear to the organization that if they were willing to trade me, of course I’d waive it,” Beltran says. “I’d love to go to a competitive team in contention and play meaningful games.”

    One caveat: Beltran says he wants to play the outfield, not land somewhere as a designated hitter.

    “Right now, we’re playing good as a team without David Wright and Jose Reyes,” Beltran says. “But at the same time, you have to be realistic and say, ‘How long are we going to be able to keep this going with so many holes?”


  • mgbode

    again, Beltran would matter in how much the Mets want back. if they want back huge prospects, then I say no to the rental. if we can get him with a mid-tier prospect, then go for it.

  • jimkanicki

    beltran’s WARP is ~4. that’s the diff between 82 and 90 games. playoffs and not playoffs.


    we wait for our prospects to mature and maybe — MAYBE — 3 years from now we’ll be ready to contend. (and we grab one of the above Jeffs and hope he magicially turns into a solid #5 hitter. hey it could happen. but hope isnt usually a great strategy.)

    i mean… that’s the plan right? wait 3 years? who knew we’d be good this year. but yeah… all this first place and contending and gunning for the playoffs… that’s not in ‘the plan; and we should stick to ‘the plan.’

    PEOPLE!! we can make the PLAYOFFS!! would beltran put us over the top? don’t know, but maybe. can make the playoffs with buck/kearns/duncan in the OF every night? do know: no.

  • http://www.morningjournal.com/content/articles/2011/01/31/sports/doc4d463b0cd062d819200129.jpg Return of the (Alex) Mack

    @mgbode…. perhaps we can give Jeff Kent a call?

  • christopher

    i say we go after the two yutes….

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Jon

    First, two people have noticed my Raymond Carver reference. This makes me unspeakably optimistic about the state of Indians’ fandom.

    RE beltran: I thought that might stir up some ire. What’s more important than whether he’d come here is whether we’re ready to “shift the window” enough to get him. Basically, we’d be giving up some of the later years of competitiveness (via prospects) to try to win everything now. This is not remotely the strategy I’d take–mostly because I don’t think Beltran by himself will win us a pennant this year–but that doesn’t mean it’s without merit.

    Getting back to some of the points of this article though, he IS a great defensive outfielder. So there’s that…

  • RPM

    @3, @16

    “What’s in Columbus…?”

    “So much blotter so close to home” (re: Bengals and Stillers lately)

    “The third thing that killed my season off”

  • humboldt

    @Jon – Hands down, some of the best American short stories of the past several decades. Perhaps we can substitute WFNY live chat book groups for Cavs open threads during next year’s lockout?!

  • mgbode

    @14 – great call. the stache, the attitude, the fire. we at least would have an increase in brawls (including in our own dugout).

    @jimkanicki – it is NOT the difference between 82 and 90 wins. we would not have him for the complete year. we would have him for 50-60 games. if we were lucky, we’d get 3WAR out of him, which is great.

    however, if he gets injured (as he is apt to do and hasn’t yet this year), then we just traded a guy who many think is our longterm franchise 2B for a rental OF who is injured. Or, if we miss the playoffs anyway, then same thing. we’re not the Brewers (wasting the future because we are deluded in today).

    and why are you talking about 3 years from now? we were supposed to contend next season after we got Alex White, Chisenhall, Phelps, and potentially Kipnis (in a Sept callup) some experience at the MLB level this season. Instead, we’re a full year ahead of schedule. Great.

    also, I don’t know if you’ve checked the standings lately, but even with all the injuries and the slump, we’re still in 1st place. we are contending this year. we don’t have to overpay for someone who will leave once the season ends just to prove we want to make the playoffs. we can make them anyway.

  • Tommy

    Impact glove at the deadline – EZ Carrera

    Kuroda would be a good addition to rotation