Indians trades need to look like more than cost cutting

Terry Francona

Obviously this entire conversation is based upon the assumption that the Indians will make a trade or two this off-season. It also assumes that at least one of those players traded will be Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera or Chris Perez. If that assumption seems faulty, then read no further. I’ll wait… … Assuming you’re still reading, I think it could end up being a little more treacherous from a public relations standpoint than what we’ve all considered.

A quick glance at the Indians payroll from last year shows that Travis Hafner’s $13 million is falling off the books. Then, after Hafner, the next three highest paid players in 2012 were Choo, Cabrera and Perez in that order. Choo made $4.9 million in 2012 agreeing with the Indians to avoid arbitration. Perez made $4.5 million and is due another raise in arbitration as well. Finally, Cabrera is due $6.5 million this year and $10 million in 2014 before becoming a free agent. If the Indians trade all three of those guys, just for example, they will be chopping somewhere in the ballpark of $17 to $20 million from the payroll in 2012 alone.

This assumes that the Indians trade for younger prospects who aren’t making big-time MLB salaries. I think that’s a safe assumption as the Indians need to reload their farm system with all kinds of different players that any trade involving these guys will bring in younger, cheaper players. So, assuming that, the most cynical of fans will be left to once again proclaim that the Dolans are cheap and will do anything to become the Pittsburgh Pirates.

As Jon pointed out, no trade should be off the table for the Indians. There is just no sense in being overly protective of a 68-win team even if the manager needed to be replaced. This team needs to rebuild for sure. At the same time, it’s a bit of a scary proposition for a Tribe front office that also needs to prove to the fans that they are making moves to put a more competitive team on the field.

Then again, the Indians finished 29th in attendance for 2012 with only Tampa trailing. If the Indians feel like the team they put out there drew rock bottom attendance anyway, maybe it does free them up to do whatever they want with almost no repercussions to an already dwindling attendance number.

What I want the Indians to do is go ahead and rebuild that farm system by trading guys who were the core of a 68-win team that was outscored to catastrophic levels over the last two years. But in addition to that, I’m hoping that the Indians can at least sign a guy or two to help bridge the gap. I’m not looking for anymore Trot Nixon, David Dellucci or Johnny Damon types of signings, but this team needs some professional, veteran leadership in addition to Terry Francona. Without at least doing a token piece or two in free agency like that, I fear this off-season will too easily be sold as another “the Dolans are cheap” rant.

(Photo: Marvin Fong / The Plain Dealer)

 

  • mgbode

    i agree with some of what you wrote up there. but, i’m seeing this from a different angle. I hope the FO doesn’t take much into account about what the fans think and just goes about building the best baseball team that they can for next year and the future.

    really, should the fans be driving how the FO goes about the offseason? if Antonetti decides to ignore his scouting/payroll guys opinions about signing Pagan for $7mil because the fans recognize the name BJ Upton more at $10mil even if they don’t feel he is the same player, then hasn’t something gone inherently wrong with the whole system?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I thought they’d do more a year ago too instead what they did do was not much on a large scale and completely failed.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    So wait the fans are to blame I mean isn’t “building the best baseball team that they can for next year and the future” inherent in any professional sports management position? If the fans are effecting Antonetti’s judgment then he clearly shouldn’t be the person making such critical decisions. Fans are down on this team and question them because the decisions they’ve made to date have largely been poor and the results speak for themselves. Nature of the beast.

  • mgbode

    no, the fans are not to blame for a decade worth of bad drafting, poor development and recently completely missing on trades too.

    my point is that the FO better not be weighing the fan reaction to moves as Craig seemed to suggest above.

  • mgbode

    a year ago, they threw away money in their budget, which a small market team cannot do.

    $5mil to Grady (insurance paid much of it, but they didn’t know last Nov)
    $5mil to Lowe (outside of May, a waste even with ATL paying $10mil)
    $1.5mil to Slowey
    $1mil to Damon
    $2.5 earmarked to Fausto (actually more in Nov – that’s the Jan adjusted amt)

    That is $15mil of payroll. You could also argue to include the $3mil of Kotchman if 1B is where you had decided to go after to upgrade. This is all in complete hindsight, of course.

    However, when you look back at a small market team throwing away 25% of it’s payroll last offseason (those are limited to moves made last offseason), then it’s pretty apparent how bad of an offseason we had. Couple that with Hafner on the last year of a deal he was not earning ($13mil) and we were basically wasting 50% of our restricted budget. Add in that every single starting pitcher regressing from 2011 and that’s how we became the 2nd worst team in the AL.

  • http://twitter.com/PEngle39 Phil Smith

    No defending the front office here.

    Mainly because this version of the Cleveland Indians were built with the wrong foundation. They are a faulty ball club. Shapiro said when he was trading everybody in sight, “you build the arms and buy the bats.” So what do they do? They draft and develop bats that still aren’t very good and they ruin every single pitcher they lay their hands on.

    They, as a staff, have one more chance to fix this organization or they will ALL be gone, pretty simple. Follow the most recent Oakland A’s plan, trade everyone for as many high-end arms as possible, maybe a bat or two with some potential, spend a little cash in FA and see what you have at the end of the day. The A’s were much better off at the end of the day than the start and Indians have way more talent and resources…..

  • Steve

    Absolutely agree. Remember the old saying about doing what the fans want and you end up sitting with them.

    Anyone who thinks the Dolans should do something to end the “Dolan is cheap” rant is not dealing with the reality of the situation. I’ve responded to this point many times, and yet we still end up here, so I’m not going to do it again, but it’s nowhere near as simple as people want to believe. The team has to make moves that best put them in position to contend for the division (and not necessarily this year) and hope the fans support a winner.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Your first response is why I asked absolutely agree 1000%. But I agree on your second just as much, lets hope not indeed.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Everything they did was wrong and nothing right. Honestly I can’t remember a single player move other then signing Esmil Rogers who unbelievably looked the complete opposite of how he did in Colorado.

  • mgbode

    and, to be even clearer, I do not think the Indians FO weighs the fans reaction. I think they might float some bogus rumors out there for the fans benefit (Carlos Beltran was never coming here), but other than that, I hope/think they just construct the team to the best of their abilities.

  • mgbode

    Esmil Rogers. Thank you. Antonetti signed Esmil Rogers. He has 1 positive thing (and possibly the Aviles trade could be coupled with that or destroy it – we will see).

  • Harv 21

    Again, I feel compelled to differentiate between “Dolans are cheap” and “Dolans are poor” complaints. There is a difference.

    Let’s say there is some benefit to the org to signing some vets who can play to: 1) start re-establishing a culture and example of competence and professionalism on the big league level, which will speed the development of young players as they come up, and also 2) to signal your disgruntled former customers that you don’t expect them to pay attention while you make no effort to entertain them, even while you ask them to pay major league prices.

    If the Dolans are “cheap” (they have it but want to keep it) they won’t do that – less for them to keep. If this is the case, someone or something might make them reconsider. But if they are poor they might want to but simply can’t – they’re licking their wounds from consecutive years in their financial death spiral of losses, dwindling attendance, spending cuts, more losses, less attendance … etc. Taking Hafner, et al. off the books may be something they’re counting on to keep them afloat until something happens, the stock market rebounds or the right minority investor appears, whatever.

    The Dolans are lawyers and cablevision stockholders, not billionaire entrepreneurs. We can’t assume (as so many do) that they’ll come close to replacing old salary with new just because hey, it’s no worse for them than last season. I actually worry that their financial situation is becoming precarious by now. They may have had Hafner’s last payroll circled on their calendars for three years.

  • mgbode

    they no doubt had Hafner’s last payroll circled on their calendars for the last 3 years regardless of which category they fall into.

    however, I think the argument is wrong. if they are “poor,” then they are going to have to sell and/or move the team (as we saw with Art, just moving the team will likely not save you long-term). the market for sports teams varies too often and losses (or smaller profits depending on who you ask) will happen from time to time. nothing can be done about that.

    but, if they cannot afford the market inequalities and are going to be forced to cost-cut to that extreme, then why did they add $18mil in new payroll in 2012? I demonstrated below the new $$ they spent on the payroll. They did not ‘have’ to do that (and unfortunately, even many cheaper options on the market had better years).

    that is why many assume that they have some sort of baseline payroll of ~$60-65mil. it’s around where they have hovered (outside of 2010 after they jettisoned Lee and Victor the previous summer).

  • Steve

    I don’t think they floated a bogus rumor on Beltran. They genuinely wanted him, and badly. They tried to trade for him then sign him. Agree that he wasn’t coming here, but that had nothing to do with the Indians FO.

  • mgbode

    I think they genuinely wanted him, yes. I also think he made it very clear at the trade deadline that it wasn’t going to happen, which is why I contemplated the possibility that they floated his name out again in the offseason.

    Maybe not, but the FO had to know it was a complete shot in the dark.

  • Steve

    I don’t remember a quote like that, and I doubt the Indians would pigeonhole themselves into one specific plan like that, nor did they. They’ve drafted plenty of young arms. I agree that there is (hopefully was) some problem at the major league level with finishing off the young starters, but they’ve certainly tried to build arms.

  • Steve

    I also feel that Beltran used the Indians to leverage a better deal from St. Louis. If he’s playing nice with the Indians’ FO, and they want him, what exactly are they supposed to do? There’s no benefit in calling his bluff.

  • Harv 21

    Don’t see your ref to $18m (don’t have time to search; how do you find my comments so quickly?) but there’s a few additional factors I didn’t mention. nor has anyone else. Poor Dolans will find it difficult to keep up with soon to increase salaries, but don’t have to sell b/c now their expenses will be covered. Reason is the new national tv contracts with Fox, Turner and ESPN which will result in $52M annually(!)/team. I believe this windfall will jack contracts yet again but may be why they are adding payroll now. But when every team’s revenue increases they’ll still lose any bidding.

  • mgbode

    comments RSS. makes current comments pop up to the top. nice disqus feature. my comment is 4 posts down from this one on my screen ($15mil + Kotchman – $3mil).
    $25mil/season per team increase is what I have seen. I agree that it will increase contracts across the board as will the local TV deals in Anaheim/LA/etc.

  • Harv 21

    I see the $52M figure everywhere, which I think was calculated after the last of the 3 networks signed on with MLB. Here is a recent citation to that figure (along with a prediction of skyrocketing FA contracts) but there are more detailed analysis in articles from about a month ago. http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2012/11/07/baseball-free-agents-will-be-heavily-courted/1689259/

  • mgbode

    aha. it says it’s doubling the previous contract. so, they are making about a $25mil/season increase from the previous.

  • Jaker

    They’re still $#%??!