When was the last time I was able to write something positive regarding our baseball team? Im seriously at a loss, or should I say several losses, because that’s all the Indians seem to do these days. They look like a team asleep at the wheel, looking forward to the day the season is over. The slump has worn down everyone. The pitching has been horrific. The offense never came around and the at-bats are looking weaker and weaker.
Its easy to point fingers at the front office’s brutal job during the winter in terms of acquiring bats. They never solved any problems they had going in (signing Grady Sizemore, Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon don’t count as solutions). Lonnie Chisenhall’s ascent never was able to come to fruition because of his broken forearm. His rocket shot homer in his first game back Monday made me sad more than anything. Lonnie missed two big months of big league development.
So we are in September and are forced to look at lineups which like last night’s which had a four through nine of Russ Canzler, Matt LaPorta, Brent Lillibridge, Jason Donald, Thomas Neal, and Zeke Carrera.
Of the guys you see above, Canzler maybe makes the roster next year as the Shelley Duncan replacement, while Lillibridge will battle Donald for one roster spot, and Carrera could be the fourth outfielder. The saddest thing is the majority of the names you see are the best the organization had to bring up in September. Yet Manny Acta is the one who will most likely lose his job. Was he in charge of overseeing the top tier levels of the minors and watching them become a laughing stock?
GM Chris Antonetti is on the road with the Tribe in Texas for this series. He should be embarrassed by what he sees when he looks at his team’s lineup card. He is directly responsible for it as well. Which brings me to the upcoming offseason.
We all need to come to grips with the fact that the Dolan’s aren’t going to sell the team as much as we would love to see them do so. We are stuck with them for the immediate future and probably longer. They love stability so it wouldn’t shock me one bit if Antonetti continued to be the GM of this team in 2013 (which I am COMPLETELY against by the way). He has a major problem on his hands.
It’s not just the fact that his owner is never going to spend on free agency, it’s that he has no fruit to pick from Akron or Columbus. There is only one way to solve a barren minor league system – trade your veterans and hope the prospects you get are hits. We were put in this position in the first place because of years of bad drafting and the trades of Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia, back to back AL Cy Young award winners, essentially produced Michael Brantley and a backup catcher in Lou Marson. I can’t count Jason Donald because he still has yet to prove he is a big leaguer. Carlos Carrasco is coming off of Tommy John surgery.
Antonetti or whoever the GM is this winter must look at 2013 for what it is; a chance to restock the farm system. That “window of contention” is as big of a joke as calling the late 90’s “the era of champions.” I mean, how many World Series championships did it produce besides zero? The window that Antonetti talked about when he sold off his best two pitching prospects to Colorado for fifth starter Ubaldo Jimenez doesn’t exist. This team has more holes than a golf course. 2013 will be no different than 2012. So the time to unload your veterans has once again arrived, sooner than we all had hoped unfortunately.
You would think it is more than obvious that closer Chris Perez will be sent packing as soon as possible. He will make somewhere between $6.5 and $8 million in arbitration for 2013 based on his performance on the field. That is way too rich for the Indians blood for a closer when you have a ready-made, inexpensive closer in waiting (Vinnie Pestano) on the roster already. However, Perez’s on-going commentary about the state of the franchise essentially decreases his trade value. It also would show any player in the organization that he can talk his way right out of town should he choose to do so.
RF Shin-Soo Choo has rebuffed the Indians extension offers for the last two years. Or should we say super-agent Don Buckwald Scott Boras has rebuffed extension offers from the Tribe. Dealing Choo this winter should be at the top of the list. He clearly has one foot out the door already, has no chance of coming back, and to be honest, I really don’t think he is a winning player. He was terrific for about two months and average the rest of the season. However, if you are the Indians GM, you sell his rocket arm, his decent speed, and the fact that he had close to no help in the lineup outside of three/four players tops.
The name Justin Masterson has been bandied about as well. In late July, three contenders at the time (Texas, Boston, and Pittsburgh) sent scouts to watch Justin’s last pre-deadline start in Minnesota (I was there as well). He put up one of his many clunkers (nine of his 30 starts this season, Masterson has allowed at least six earned runs) and nobody bit. We all love the big right-hander’s personality. He is one of the most popular guys in the clubhouse with his teammates and with the media. But look at his results ; Masterson is starting to resemble another starting pitcher who had one big year and then was expected to be the future ace of the staff before falling off – Fausto Carmona, now known as Roberto Hernandez.
Now I am not saying that J Mast will have the drop in performance that Fauxberto did, but this season has been a mechanical roller coaster. When Masterson is able to find his arm slot, he has looked great. Then at other times he is getting completely rocked. With the Indians so bereft of starting pitching depth, I’m not sure trading Masterson is prudent. There will most likely be a new pitching coach in 2013, and hopefully whoever that is can help turn Justin back into the guy we saw in 2011.
That said, everyone on this team not named Vinnie Pestano, Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis should be for sale. If you can get the right package for Masterson, then trade him.
This brings me to Asdrubal Cabrera.
Asdrubal Cabrera? Really?
The Indians All-Star shortstop came off the best season of his career and signed a two-year extension which keeps him in Cleveland through the 2014 season. Then he showed up in Goodyear, Arizona looking beefy. Acta stepped forward to say nothing was wrong, but it was clear Asdrubal was out of shape. However when the season started, Asdrubal’s bat was right there. He was terrific again, earning his second straight appearance in the mid-summer classic.
Then just like last season, he has completely worn down while the team around him completely collapsed. Hat tip here to friend of the site and Indians.com beat writer extraordinaire Jordan Bastian on these stats, but they tell the Asdrubal story:
Through the first 69 games: .300/.379/.495/.874, 11 HR, 40 RBI
Over the next 59 games: .228/.281/.321/.602, 3 HR, 16 RBI
Defensively, the extra weight he was carrying showed with shrinking range and sloppy play. While he got himself back in shape, Cabrera has made a career-high 17 errors, which is the most for any AL shortstop. Ironically, the player with the least amount of errors in the AL? Jhonny Peralta. Then again, its tough to make errors when you can’t get to anything!
So to recap – Asdrubal has worn down in both of the last two seasons after the All-Star break (arguably because he was so responsible for carrying the offense) and he is having the worst defensive season of his career. However, he is on a relatively club friendly contract, under control for two more seasons after this one and there is no doubt when he is on, the man can hit.
So I ask you this question – why not open up Cabrera to the trade market and get as many quality prospects as you can for him? He’s only 26 years old, played a vital role for the Indians as a rookie in the 2007 playoffs and is among the best hitting shortstops in the game. Don’t forget he can also move over to second base if need as he did with the Tribe in ’07 when good ole’ Jhonny was roaming position number six.
I know the Indians have no shortstop ready to take over. #1 prospect Francisco Lindor is still at least two years away. But remember that 2013 is going to be about restocking the farm system and developing young players (sorry, I refuse to believe this team contends with this pitching staff). By the time the Indians roll back around into contention, Asdrubal will be ready for free agency, where he will walk. Give Donald the shortstop position for one season and give him enough rope to either save or hang himself.
Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, this offseason is going to be as interesting as we have seen in years. Changes are afoot. How sweeping they will be is still very much up in the air.