After a lost weekend in Minnesota, the Indians brass has to know that reality has set it. It is time to reel it back in and regroup. This season is all but lost and the future must be attended to. They have little to no organizational depth in AA and AAA in terms of high impact players. GM Chris Antonetti has perhaps the biggest trade chip on the market in terms of a hot bat in the form of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
Now before you all start your “I will never show up to another game if they trade away a fan favorite in his prime” bit, it is important to remember what the Indians are. They are a team that can never afford to keep any of their own star free agents once they hit the market for the first time. Its sad, but its true. Its not like this should be news to any of you. CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Victor Martinez were the most recent cases that we are all familiar with. Choo will soon be added to that list.
The real question is when is the best time to trade Choo? Do they think they are better off with him for one more year, hope they can contend in 2013, and then decided what to do with him at this point next year?
There are pros and cons for both sides of sending Choo packing in the next 24 hours.
There are more teams that are buyers out there then ever before thanks to the second wild card. It is clearly a sellers market. The amount of high quality bats available is a very shallow pool. One of the guys who many teams targeted, Carlos Quentin, just re-upped with the San Diego Padres on a three-year deal, taking him off the market. The Red Sox already dealt Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox. The guy who continued to get the most attention from scouts is San Diego’s Chase Headley, and he isn’t nearly the player Choo is.
With a year and two months left on his deal, Choo’s stock may never be higher. He isn’t just a rental player. Whoever gets him could watch him explode during his free agent walk season of 2013 and reap the benefits.
A team like the Pirates, desperate to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 1991 may feel as though this is their “all in” moment and be willing to overpay (Ubaldo trade ring a bell?), considering they have had a revolving door at the leadoff spot all season and have been searching high and low for a big bat to pair with All Star stud center fielder Andrew McCutchen. If the Indians could get two of their top prospects, say AAA OF Starling Marte and their 2011 first round pick SP Gerrit Cole, you’d have to take it.
The Pirates are just one of several teams that would love Choo. Who wouldn’t love a .291/.378/.862 hitting cannon-armed right fielder?
And let us be honest. We all know that Choo is never going to re-sign long term with the Indians. His agent is Scott Boras, best known as the guy who gets his clients the most possible money, no matter where the destination may take the player. If Choo keeps his career stats on this same path, the big market suitors will be lining up for him which makes him too rich for the Tribe’s blood.
Then there are the quotes from Choo, courtesy of Jordan Bastian of Indians.com:
“The more important thing is I want to win. I want to make the playoffs.”
“In the first two months, I was slumping and not playing very good,” Choo said. “I was thinking about so many other things outside of baseball and the ballpark. I worried about too many things, and it didn’t work. After that, I just focused on being healthy, playing every day and my numbers will come.”
“Everybody says the same thing, that they hate to lose,” Choo said. “But I really, really hate to lose. I want to win. Win. The last couple years, it’s been the same situation. We play good, are in first place and then go down at the same time.
While its a good thing for possible Choo suitors that he has a year and a half left on his deal, its also a positive for the Indians today. Should they choose to hang onto him, the Tribe is clearly a better team in 2013, a year that they targeted as potentially their best chance to win the AL Central. Your core group of Choo, Michael Brantley, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall, Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Vinnie Pestano, and Chris Perez should all be back together.You will have the ultimate albatross of a contract – Travis Hafner’s $14 million – off the books, along with $5 milion to Derek Lowe, $5 million of the burnt money that was paid to Grady Sizemore, and the $5 million combined given to Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon.
That is $29 million that will go away in 2013. Not a single one of those players is even close to be irreplaceable. The Indians could decide to hold and reload for next season.
In addition, trading Choo right now obviously signals a waving of the white flag for this season and in the eyes of many, next season as well. You think the attendance, currently last in the majors, looks bad now? Imagine what Progressive Field could look like in September and even early next season (they never draw well in April regardless) if another star is traded away in his prime.
Not all Indians fans are wired the same way. I will support this team and go to games no matter what, but I realize not all of you share the passion I do. I still cannot decide if holding onto Choo now, waiting until the offseason, or seeing where they are at the deadline in 2013 is the best time to move him. But to me, you’ve got to sell him high at some point. That is the way it goes here in Cleveland. I know it won’t be a popular move, but it is what will be best for the organization long term.
The key for the Indians will be to actually HIT on a trade of Choo. Matt LaPorta being a giant bust was a major setback for the organization, still searching for a right-handed power bat for the middle of their order (Josh Willingham anyone?). LaPorta was acquired back in July of 2008, so we are going on four years now. The Lee trade brought a backup catcher (Lou Marson), a utility infielder who is stuck in AAA (Jason Donald), a 19-year old pitcher with shoulder issues (Jason Knapp), and a young starting pitcher who missed this entire season after needing Tommy John surgery (Carlos Carrasco).
Another miss like the two I mentioned above could be detrimental to the franchise.
(AP Photo/Jim Mone)