I’m sometimes accused of throwing out a generic statement or course of action without getting into the specifics that would allow someone to disagree with me. The Indians should trade for young starting pitching. Well, yeah. They need to move Chris Perez. A little warmer, but that’s still pretty non-specific, no? The seventh inning Hot Dog race is a gambling shammockery organized and operated by a Youngstown crime ring. Ok, that last one was pretty specific and I don’t really see how anyone could take issue with it.
Anyway, I wrote last week that it made quite a bit of sense for the Indians to trade Asdrubal Cabrera this offseason without specifying exactly what they should get in return. I hope the reason for this is obvious: we just don’t know, dude, the player(s) we might receive in any given trade. It’s a fool’s errand to try to name the specifics.
But I run errands all the time. And for the sake of webloggery, I thought I might show you what a good off-season might look like for the Indians, at least from my very specific point of view.
Keep in mind that all of this exists only in my foolish head.
Trade Asdrubal Cabrera to the St. Louis Cardinals for Lance Lynn (RHP) and Carlos Martinez (RHP). It looks like St. Louis is ready to deal for Cabrera to fill their impending hole at short stop*, and they know that two years of cost-controlled, All-Star short stop doesn’t come free. Lynn has Big League experience, and would slot directly into the rotation for 2013. He has a career K/BB ratio as a starter of 2.80 and has struck out more than a batter per inning, both of which would put him at the top of the Tribe rotation.
*Of course, the Cardinals have Rafael Furcal under contract for 2013, but he’s dealing with multiple injuries that may still require surgery. According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Cardinals are looking for a permanent solution at short stop, and their interest in Cabrera is real.
Martinez is currently the Cardinals’ #2 or #3 pitching prospect (behind Shelby Miller, who I’ll assume is untouchable, and maybe Trevor Rosenthal). Martinez has real upside, but is only 21 years old, hasn’t pitched above Double A, and could end up a reliever if he his body can’t handle the rigors of starting. Here’s a brief scouting report from Baseball Prospect Nation:
Martinez’s fastball draws rave reviews from scouts, parking in the 94-97 mph range and touching 100 mph with some regularity. He generates his elite velocity with a lot of effort in his delivery, and that effort combined with his small stature concerns some scouts. He could end up in the bullpen long term where airing out his fastball and potential plus breaking ball could allow him to dominate the eighth or ninth inning.
I think this is a realistic, if impressive, haul for a top-ten short stop and $16 million of financial liability (remember trades are of contracts, not just players). The Indians would immediately upgrade their rotation and minor league depth, while clearing some salary off the books for free agent signings (see more on that below). Mike Aviles would take over at short—an obvious downgrade offensively, but either a wash or an upgrade with the leather. We’d also have a cost-controlled bridge to Fransisco Lindor, who just might arrive in the Big Leagues the same year as Carlos Martinez throwing triple digit heat. Lynn, it should be noted, barely has a year of ML service, meaning that he’d be under club control until at least 2018.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, would likely offer to extend Cabrera’s contract after the acquisition, who is only 27 years old himself and potentially approaching his offensive peak. Cabrera could prove the Cardinals’ first long-term successful short stop since Edgar Renteria in the early 2000’s. All this while holding on to their two blue-chip pitching prospects for years to come.
Trade Chris Perez to the Miami Marlins for Logan Morrison. Is there a team in baseball that seems a better fit for Perez than Miami? He played his college ball up the street at the University of Miami. The Marlins just traded away the steaming pile of failure named Heath Bell who used to “close” games for them, and they therefore sit right in the middle of the closer market. They no longer employ Ozzie Guillen, so there wouldn’t be any impending personality confrontation—at least no more than Perez would normally bring with him. Furthermore, I hear there’s a basketball team down there that doesn’t always sell out their home games. I mean, the guy’d be a hit publicly dissecting the city’s attendance issues!
Look, I’ve wanted to trade Chris Perez for a while now. I used to ask my mom to tell me bedtime stories about selling high on bullpen arms, so this is nothing new. But let me say this as clearly as I can: if the Indians open the 2013 season with Perez on their roster they will have failed before even playing a game. The fact that we can even have a conversation about moving a player who will pitch roughly 60 innings and make $8 million for a player who can play every day in a corner spot that we desperately need filled while making less than $500,000 IS INSANE. You make this deal. You make it every day of the week and twice on Sundays. You make this deal and then think dirty thoughts about how good it was.
Morrison’s stock seemed to take a hit with the Marlins’ front office over the past two years, which is why he could be available to begin with. The club demoted him to Triple A in 2011 after he openly criticized the team on his Twitter account (see, he’s a perfect doppelgänger for Perez!). In 2012, they moved him to first base after demoting Gaby Sanchez, only to lose him to a knee injury that required surgery on July 28. From everything I’ve read there is no reason to believe that Morrison won’t be fully healthy by Spring Training and ready to contribute to the Indians either in a corner outfield position or at first base.
This is another move that would solve multiple problems. First, the salary impact is significant. I’ve argued before that the Indians cannot afford to pay a player who plays so seldomly so much. If he stays an Indian, Perez could likely be the highest paid player on the team next season. That’s silly. Second, we might finally be able to fill the hole in left field that has been caving in on itself since before David Dellucci and Jason Michaels and Ryan Garko and Trot Nixon and Shelley Duncan and Johnny Damon and OHMYGODJUSTSHOOTMEINTHEFACEALREADY. Also, Morrison’s defensive flexibility would allow the team to use him at first base, either corner outfield spot, or DH—that’s the kind of flexibility we lacked last season, and it’s why we had to give Casey Kotchman 500 plate appearances despite his below-replacement-level performance. Last but not least, we’d be getting four years of control over Morrison in exchange for just two years of “control” over Chris Perez (can pure rage really be controlled?). That’s the sort of move that needs to be made—over and over again, to be honest—if a team with a low-budget hopes to continually infuse cheap talent.
So, why would the Marlins make this deal? For one, they need a closer. They spent a bajillion dollars putting that 2012 team together, only to watch Heath Bell blow it all to smithereens night in and night out. Perez would (they hope) provide a consistent and dominant force out the ‘pen to help them compete with the Nationals for the division for the next several years. Nothing is more frustrating, I would imagine, than watching an otherwise good team flail around with a lead each night. This team is built to win right now—to capitalize on the new stadium—and if they think that Perez is the last piece to their puzzle, they just might jump. In the same vein, the Marlins are all about marketing these days, and what’s more marketable than a hometown hero with attitude and quotable-quotables and long hair and let’s face it he’s EXTREME!!11one11!!
Radical. Gnarly. Get it done, please.
Sign Kevin Youkilis to a two-year $22.5 million deal with a vesting option (based on plate appearances) for the third year at $12 million. By moving Asdrubal and Perez (not to mention Hafner), we would have cleared up more than enough money to make this addition. Youkilis could move between first base and DH, as well as filling in at 3B in a pinch. He’d hit from the right side, which would give us three right handed capable bats in our everyday lineup with Aviles and Santana. It’s not an ideally balanced lineup, but it’s not terrible either, especially when you realize that no division in baseball has a larger proportion of right handed starters than the AL Central does. Youkilis could slot into the middle of the lineup, providing protection and leadership to an otherwise young and inexperienced core of players. We know he’d work well with Terry Francona, and that might even factor in to his decision to take a deal in an otherwise unattractive situation.
Is this way too much money to spend on a 34 year old with diminishing defensive skills who has already shown some signs of significant decline (not to mention a pot belly)? Yeah, it totally is. But this is what playing in the free agent market looks like for most teams. If you need a significant addition, you have to put your money on a guy with some upside and hope for the best. To be honest, it’s what we did with Grady last year right before he crapped the bed. But the idea is the same: sign a guy with some warts for as little as you can and hope the warts come off and the true talent rises to the surface more often than not. This is obviously a bigger gamble than Grady because of the money and years, but it’s also less likely to bust, especially after watching what Youkilis did down the stretch for the White Sox last season.
As I’ve written before, I’d probably keep Choo. I don’t think teams will give us enough to make it worth our while, and I think his value is likely to increase as we get closer to the deadline, by which time we’ll know better what to make of our own roster. I also see no reason to move Masterson at the nadir of his value—we know he can be better than he was last year. Shouldn’t we be the team to see if we can make that happen? Even if we end up trading him in another year, I’d rather wait to see if we can inflate his value first. Same would go for Santana, but I’ve admitted to being irrationally in love with Carlos, so I could be wrong there.
Anyway, from what I can tell, these moves would be neutral in total cost to the club, so I’d be all for doing more than this, but that seems a bit greedy. Here’s how I’d envision our lineup in 2013, for basically no extra money. Note that I’m moving Tomlin to the pen as the long-man and dropping Raffy Perez altogether (I hope we move him in a minor deal–he’s not worth what he’ll likely make in arbitration).
This was fun to think about and write, but I should be clear: it was a total waste of everyone’s time—definitely yours and most certainly mine. Which is why I don’t often write with such specificity about the moves a team might make. After all, not only am I not privy to the inner workings of the many front offices I discuss above, I simply can’t predict the future. Even more than that, there are literally dozens of other players who might make just as much sense in the exact same spots I’ve outlined above. The permutations are, if not endless, than at the very least mind-numbing to think about, and certainly beyond my ability to fully account. In other words, these things are hard, yo.
But the point is made, I hope, that the front office has some flexibility this off-season—flexibility that must be employed if they hope to turn this team around without a full, soul-crushing rebuild. To hope that the team we had last season miraculously performs 20 games better without some major changes seems foolishly naïve to me. By the same token, remaking the team doesn’t mean that the Dolans have to mortgage their paddle boats to clear up some extra payroll cash or give away the entire roster and start over from scratch. It just means that we’re going to have to say goodbye to some familiar faces.
We should, at the very least, be used to it.