With the MLB trade deadline looming, the Cleveland Indians find themselves in what is becoming a perennially precarious position: To invest, or not to invest. After an eyebrow-raising offseason of free agency acquisitions and trades, the Indians took to the 2013 season with a mantra of competition and contention. Whether due to windows of opportunity or a reaction to a complete abomination of a season in 2012, times were allegedly changing.
Conviction, however, is a fickle beast. It could easily be stated that the Indians’ front office believed in the current core; all they needed was an injection of educational and energetic and bro-slinging veterans to help guide them on their way. But as we sit here, three weeks away from the deadline that could make or break any desire of a post-season, we are in a similar limbo as we were a year ago. Sure, the Indians are involved in swirling rumors and season-long speculation—they’ll be active, they’ll be “buyers.” A year ago, national outlests across the dial pegged the Indians to be wheeling and dealing, only to add something called a Brent Lillibridge. This team, however, can ill afford to sit on their hands in hopes of bettter, less-expensive opportunities. As the schedule rolls along, the 2013 Cleveland Indians cannot afford to wait.
A deadline is merely a cut-off period after which any submitted materials—homework, TPS reports, trade agreements—are no longer accepted. What a deadline is not, is something that one must wait until before making any sort of decision. Term papers can be turned in a day early; TPS reports can be thrown at Lumbergh a few hours prior to review; formal trade offers can be made (and accepted) before the All-Star break.
Last season, we called for leaders. We wanted players who would hold accountability over his teammates. We wanted players who would serve as a form of quality control. This year, with leaders already in tow1, this team needs to address the talent. Leaders may take a while to instill some form of rapport with a clubhouse; talent can step in from day one and help this team win contests. Contests that are, at a thousand-level view, just one of 162 games, but season-tilting contests like Monday evening where the game is within reach and multiple opportunities are squandered, where rudimentary actions like sacrifice bunts and well-executed hit-and-runs have a scoreboard-shifting impact.
The sooner the Indians begin to add talent through trades2, the earlier the chemistry—if there is any inherent disruption from a trade—can build. The earlier the chemistry takes shape, the sooner the games that should be won, or are within arms reach, become property of the Cleveland Indians’ win column.
Sure, the Chicago Cubs currently want a haul for Matt Garza; the Milwaukee Brewers are allegedly valuing Yovani Gallardo based on his 200-strikeout seasons as opposed to the present one where he’s carrying a disappointing 7-8 record with his Faustian 4.85 ERA. But the opportunity cost of waiting, hoping for an 11th price reduction (a la Cliff Lee in 2009) is potentially that of a few games that could be added to the win column. Zach McAllister is still trying to come back from an injured finger. Carlos Carrasco can’t seem to get his Triple-A success to translate to the MLB level. Trevor Bauer recently gave up 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings for the Columbus Clippers. Rumors have Danny Salazar, who started the season out in Double-A Akron, making a start later this week. The more often the Indians are forced to play rotation roulette with the back-end of their rotation, the more likely the current 3.5-game gap between the Indians and Tigers can widen. After all, the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers each come to town before the clock ticks August.
In 2012, Indians fans were fed lines about the Indians being “active” leading up to the trade deadline, but the team was ultimately unable to consummate any deals. Whether this was due to a dried up market or a chasm between the asking price and that of the offering will never be known. What has been confirmed, however, is that the Tribe went 24-53 after the All-Star break, finishing fourth in a mediocre-at-best division. Hunter Pence, a long-time target of Tribe fans merely due to his ability to hit from the right side of the plate with above-average success, went on to the San Francisco Giants where he would wind up swimming in champagne following his team’s World Series triumph, wild broken-bat hit and all.
The Indians may find themselves in a bidding war against some large-market teams when it comes to the top-end rotation arms whom they covet. Missing out on a player due to a trade with free-spending teams like the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers makes for a convenient excuse, but will not help this team’s win-loss record improve from its current state. Sometimes, the trades not made end up being the best ones—would Kevin Youkilis made that much of a difference last season or today? But if the front office has the conviction it had this offseason when it provided a slew of household names to its roster, it would only be a disservice to wait until the July 31 deadline to make a deal while the rest of the league trolls for deals. Should the team overspend of ship off top-end prospects for a marginal upgrade? Of course not. But if the front office plans to have fan interest through the onset of Cleveland Browns training camp, which kicks off five days before the deadline, they would be wise to add at least one more.
Get that homework turned in early. You never know—there may be some extra credit tacked on when it’s all said and done.
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