July 24, 2014

Tribe At The Winter Meetings: Will They Add, Or Blow It Up?

With Baseball’s annual Winter Meetings getting underway today in Nashville,  your Cleveland Indians find themselves in a very interesting predicament. In dire need of a revamping, Team President Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti saved their jobs by landing Terry Francona as their manager. While the hiring was a complete coup, none of it will matter unless the now three-headed braintrust monster can figure out a clear path going forward.

But which direction will they go?

As Antonetti will tell you, the core of Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Shin-Soo Choo, Lonnie Chisenhall, Justin Masterson, Vinnie Pestano, and Chris Perez is a nice group of young players that they can build around and contend with. Add a big bat and a couple of starting pitchers, and the Indians could possibly make noise in the AL Central in 2013 if the cards are all played correctly.

On the other side of that school of thought is what I like to call “reality.” Choo, represented by Super Agent Scott Boras, is in the last year of his contract and has shown exactly zero interest in signing an extension with the Indians. He is also is a vastly overrated glove man and someone I feel is not a “winner.” Hanging on to him is futile, unless you have faith in the Indians ability to hit on that compensation draft pick they would get when Choo walks.

Cabrera, a two-time All-Star shortstop, has shown up to Spring Training heavy and out of shape the last two seasons and subsequently has faded down the stretch. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he has had to play every single day and carry the weight (no pun intended) of the offense on his shoulders. He will enter 2013 with two club-friendly years left on his deal at the age of 27; the prime of his career. Of the Indians trade chips, Asdrubal is clearly the hottest commodity.

The closer market has plenty of options for teams searching for an upgrade – free agent Rafael Soriano (another Boras client) is there, and the Pirates have been said to have been dangling Joel Hanrahan as well. A team could take a shot with free agent Jose Valverde if they so please. The Indians are sitting on Chris Perez for now, despite the fact that he has taken more shots at the front office and the organization than the fans have. The thing about CP is that despite his mouth, the guy was nails on the mound in 2012. He is great at his job. However, Pure Rage will be getting nice raise with his arbitration eligible status. The Indians closer could make upwards of $8 million in 2013. That is a big number for this market when you consider that Vinnie Pestano is ready to take over the spot at a moments notice.

Masterson’s name too has been floated as a guy someone who other clubs have interest in; in particular, his former team the Red Sox. Justin struggled in 2012 to find any sort of consistency and his demise, along with that of Ubaldo Jimenez, killed any chance the Indians had to hang around the top of the weak AL Central. The 28-year old has shown he can be a dominant guy if his mechanics are right, but he has a lot of moving parts. Most importantly to the teams that like him (and to the Indians of course), he is under club control for another two seasons.

So this is the choice Antonetti is faced with – hang on to the four trade chips, add to them, and attempt to win now or deal any or all of them and replenish the completely barren top levels of your farm system and build for the future. The time to make that decision is upon us. The Winter Meetings are where Antonetti can make his mark.

I think it is a complete no-brainer. You have to blow it up now and get yourself an infusion of young talent. Maybe I would feel differently if any of the Indians top tier prospects were above the A Ball level last year. But the Francisco Lindor’s, the Dorsys Paulino’s, the Tyler Naquin’s, and the Danny Salazar’s of the world are still probably two years away from Cleveland. There are so many holes in this organization – outfield, first base, and starting pitching in particular – you cannot go forward with the status quo. It doesn’t matter who the manager is.

So where will Antonetti go first?

If I were in charge of this team, Asdrubal Cabrera would be the first guy I would send packing. He is a 27-year old, two-time All-Star, who hits from both sides of the plate with decent power. He won’t hurt your defensively and has a knack for making the spectacular play. Antonetti acquired SS Mike Aviles a month ago and gave himself the flexibility he needed in case he wanted to deal Cabrera. Aviles can serve as a stopgap until Lindor is ready for the bigs.

There are several contending teams who would love an offense first shortstop and have young arms to deal. I’d be calling the Athletics, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks first to see what they would give me.

The A’s have a bevy of young arms who we saw on display in September and into October , however, do we like Antonetti’s chances in a trade against Billy Beane? The Cardinals have a young, right-handed hitting power first base prospect in Matt Adams who would look great in a Tribe uniform. With Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig (played both 1B and OF last year) in his way, Adams is a guy would could be packaged with one of their young starters, like a Lance Lynn. That’s a deal I make all day long. The Cardinals know that Pete Kozma is not the answer at short and they have no idea what  35-year old Rafael Furcal in 2013 coming off of injury.

The D’Backs are loaded with kid arms and are said to be open to trading their former first round pick, soon-to-be 22-year old Trevor Bauer. A one for one swap there for a young stud like Bauer would be a great place to start the rebuilt rotation. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, Arizona is “said to be one of the most aggressive teams” at the Winter Meetings “by far.” Trading Justin Upton to add pieces could give them more ammo to come after Cabrera.

One thing to note about Asdrubal. Fox Sports’s Jon Paul Morosi uncovered the fact that Cabrera had a six-team no-trade clause in the extension he signed before last season. Interestingly, the list is loaded with big market franchises – both New York teams, Boston, Washington, San Francisco, as well as the rival Detroit Tigers (not a big market team, but spend like one).

Choo needs to be dealt somewhere for whatever you can get for him. You can say the market for him will be the same now as it will be at the trade deadline, but I would disagree with you. Find a team that thinks they could sign him long term after the season, like Boston for example, and send him that way. Choo is not a guy who has shown that he plays well under pressure, and he enters his contract year. If he fails to produce, what are you going to get for him at the deadline? Rather him go now to a team that would get at least a full year from him.

I think keeping Perez for now is the move. I know Pestano is the closer in waiting, but the Indians are a better team with Pestano pitching the eighth in front of CP, no doubt about that. Would I deal him for the right price? Of course, but as I said earlier, the closer market has plenty of other options that wouldn’t cost a team any sort of prospect. The Angels, a team thought to be a potential suitor, just signed Ryan Madson to a one-year deal to be their closer. If the Indians did deal Masterson for prospects, the rotation’s headliner would be Ubaldo.

Let that sink in for a second.

I think you hang on to Masterson and see if new pitching coach Mickey Calloway can make headway with him and help him find his breakout 2011 form.

Speaking of Ubaldo, it was reported over the weekend that the San Diego Padres could have some interest because of his durability.  Try to keep your laughter to a minimum.

Can Antonetti come out of these meetings with some young players to fill their many holes? Will he hang onto the core and add pieces on the cheap and try to go for it right away with Francona at the helm? It should be an interesting week. I would be very surprised if at least one of the four players I mentioned above wasn’t dealt by the end of the week.

Photo via Chuck Crowe/PD

 

  • boomhauertjs

    Agree 1000000% on Choo. The burden of free agency will hurt him at the plate. And can anybody remember a game winning hit he’s had?

  • BisonDeleSightings

    Remember when he went into a miserable slump after his DUI because, as he said, he was putting too much pressure on himself? Imagine the pressure he’ll be under when he’s hitting .250 in July of his contract year.

  • WFNY_DP

    I have a more philosophical question: can you *really* “blow up” an already-smoldering pile of rubble?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    ^5

  • http://www.zfcomics.com dgriff13

    “rebuilding” or “blowing up” seems to have a different definition for small market teams who have maybe a 3 year limit before they have to start over. Had this discussion with my husband, a Phils fan, who sees rebuilding as something you do AFTER maybe 10 years with a winning team who probably won a series (or two). Imagine that.
    Maybe we should call it a “Do-Over”.

  • matt underwood

    If we are going the rebuild route, I’d look into trading Pestano too. The guy’s value is sky high – cheap, controllable. If the tribe is rebuilding, why does it need a closer? Let’s target and land some young starters.

    Also, please Indians organization, dump matt underwood and send him to “souvenir city” – has to be the worst and ‘douchiest’ play by play man around.

  • typo

    Here is what they will do. They will talk big. Sound very busy and drop big names. Then they will do nothing. Their big off season move will be signing some useless third baseman to a minor league contract. I have spoken.

  • mgbode

    someone please explain to me why we all are supposed to be holding out hope that Masterson regains his 2011 form while shoveling dirt on Ubaldo? It makes no logical sense to me.

    statlines: ERA/FIP, K/BB, WAR (IP)

    2009 Masterson 4.54/4.04, 1.98, 2.1 (129.1)
    2010 Masterson 4.70/3.93, 1.92, 2.5 (180)
    2011 Masterson 3.21/3.28, 2.43, 4.7 (216)
    2012 Masterson 4.93/4.16, 1.81, 2.3 (206.1)

    I apologize for that chilliness you now feel as it is the cold slap of reality hitting you across the cheek. Masterson has been an extremely consistent pitcher at the MLB level except for one magical 2011 season in which he limited HRs while walking a batter less per 9IP. We had hoped that 2011 was a sign of things to come, but his regression back to his career norms in stats across the board is more likely significant to what he is.

    Ubaldo to follow….

  • mgbode

    2008 Ubaldo 3.99/3.82, 1.67, 4.3 (198.2)
    2009 Ubaldo 3.47/3.36, 2.33, 5.9 (218)
    2010 Ubaldo 2.88/3.10, 2.33, 6.7 (221.2)
    2011 Ubaldo 4.68/3.67, 2.31, 3.6 (188.1)
    2012 Ubaldo 5.40/5.06, 1.51, 0.2 (176.2)

    First, let’s put 2010 for Ubaldo in the 2011 category for Masterson. A special year that we cannot count on repeating moving forward.

    What I see though are remarkably consistent numbers until a small regression in 2011 (though most peripherals are intact), then a fall-off-the-cliff dive in 2012. Is it possible that Ubaldo fell off that cliff and his career is over? Sure. But, shouldn’t it be more likely he returns to his career norms than Masterson replicating his one good year?

    Why did 2012 happen to Ubaldo? Well, he did a whole ton of things worse than he ever had in his career. Let’s go over the big item ones.

    K/BB rate: 1.51 is a career worst. He walked a batter more per 9IP while striking out a batter less per 9IP. That is a double-whammy.

    HR/FB: unlike Masterson, and despite pitching mostly in Coor’s, Ubaldo had a remarkable penchant for keeping FBs in the park in his career. But, after hovering around 7% in his career, he spiked to 9% in ’11 and then all the way up to 12% in ’12.

    GB%: Ubaldo is a worm-killer. He is supposed to have above (or at least around) 50% GB%. Last season, he was at 38%. So, not only was he giving up more HR per FB, but he was giving up more FBs. Another double-whammy.

    So, why hold out any hope? Well, for one, he had a terrible year. But, before that terrible year he was a better pitcher than anyone we have on our staff and better than anyone we are likely to acquire. I think the odds of him regaining some of that stature (even if not all of it) are better than someone else growing into that role in 2013.

    Oh, and Bill James agrees with me:

    2013 Ubaldo “projections” 3.97/3.99, 1.84, N/A (170)

  • mgbode

    if we trade Pestano, then I would think we get something similar to the Padres when they traded Frieri:

    http://www.minorleagueball.com/2012/5/4/2999870/prospects-in-the-ernesto-frieri-trade-alexi-amarista–donn-roach-angels-padres

    A utility-man and a mid-level pitching prospect that is bouncing between SP and RP roles (who is in single-A).

    Ummm, no thank you.

  • http://www.cinpleweb.com/ stin4u

    Is there a chance they DON’T sign Mark Reynolds?

  • FearTheRoo

    Exactly. Mention big names to get fans excited, then bid so slow it is impossible to get any of them. So, at least they can say “Hey we tried!” Like I’ve said, look at their list of targets. Find the worst ones and those are the one’s we will sign.

  • Wahoo’s Your Daddy?

    Not that Matt Adams hasn’t been a productive hitter but I believe he bats from the left side?

  • mgbode

    fun games revolve around it actually :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_Dq8vQQjwE

  • architrance

    Whether to blow up the ship or add pieces only becomes a difficult decision if ownership has actually indicated that they’d be willing to pay for any decent free agents. So maybe they spend some of the savings from Hafner’s contract? Maybe that’s enough to add one, maybe two pieces to this roster (Youkilis and Bay?). What does that get us? Not enough to realistically contend with anyone. So unless ownership has given a green light to a significant payroll increase, the choice for Shapiro/Antonetti is quite clear. Blow it up.

    Build a young roster around Santana/Chisenhall/Kipnis/Brantley. Everyone else is expendable. Give prospects playing time earlier than they’d normally be called up. Look to be competitive again in 2-3 years at the earliest.

  • Kildawg

    Maybe we could send Choo to SF (they have OF need and dearth of SP) for a bounty or see what Steinbrenner has. Cabrera for J Upton straight up. Sign Youkilis and Swisher (with Canzler it’s a 1B/LF/DH rotation and Santana can play 1B/DH on occasion). Carry Santana, Marson, and Gomes on active roster (Gomes can also play 1B/3B/DH).

  • cmm13

    A point I think that is missing from this discussion is the announcement of the Premium Luxury seating.
    Why announce expensive premium new seating without the ability to sell this seating?
    It’s a small point, but I believe it could point to trades and adds that give them the ability to sell this seating; not blow it up for youngsters and stop gaps for 3 years.

  • mgbode

    let’s just make it a blockbuster:

    Choo+Asdrubal+?? (they don’t need Perez, maybe a couple mid-level-prospects?)
    for
    J.Upton+Cahill

    Yes, with Upton controlled through 2015 and Cahill controlled through 2017, we would be the team needing to send more there.

  • SDA

    never happen. The money saved by Hafner etc. will go in the Dolans pocket

  • Ty

    Matt Adams isn’t right handed.

  • Kildawg

    Arizona has a surplus of OF, what sense would it make for them to get Choo? If Choo and Cabrera are going to the same team in a blockbuster-type deal it would most likely be the Cards because they can send back young SP and 1B/OF candidates. We got the better end of a trade with them a few years ago, right?

  • Kildawg

    We can’t trade Vinnie Pestano (yet). He’s actually looking quality on a national stage. Anyone that has watched How I Met Your Mother would know (good show BTW). Of course the entire city of Cleveland gets good props too.