I think all of the discussion about the Crisp/Marte deal brings up a bigger point. In this current baseball economics, small and medium market teams need a constant influx of cheaper talent to sustain their success. Even if you discard most of the Moneyball sabermetrics, you have to say that developing players and trading them when they get expensive, like the A's do, is the best way to ensure long-term success (as opposed to the go for broke, rebuild and hope that you can get to the top again). It appears that the Tribe believes this. So we are going to face more situations where we trade a good player for prospects. And you have to give up someone good to get good players back.
I want to be the first one to talk about the next big deal. Let me look into the future...
Date: January, 2009
I am in favor of the proposed trade that would send Travis Hafner, X (a useful player that the Tribe is slightly overpaying, like a RP we received in a trade or our current stopgap in LF or 2B), and Y (a AAA pitching prospect with a low ceiling) for the LA/Anaheim/Beverly Hills/LaBrea Angels' top OF prospect, a scrappy middle IF and a hot AA arm.
Let me give you the reasons why I like this trade. Sure it is risky, but the Tribe should pull the trigger. Everyone believes that the OF prospect will be an All-Star. BA has him rated in their top 5 prospects for the second year in a row. And John Sickles actually drools at the mere mention of his name. At age 20, he set records for slugging percentage in AAA. His control of the strike zone is tremendous, with a 3.0 BB/K rate. He projects as a good defensive RF, with a plus arm and good speed. In 60 AB's in the bigs, he hit only .200, but with 7HR, 4 2B and 1 3B. He has two years before he becomes arbitration eligible, so he will be paid below market for the near future.
From the Tribe's side, Hafner has been a little nicked up the last two years. He has averaged just below 130 games per year. While this is not bad, we all know that sluggers can decline rapidly in their mid 30's. Also, the Tribe has a handful of good 1B/DH prospects. While they may only replace 80% of Pronk's production, they will make only 10% of his salary.
During the Tribes rapid ascension from 2004-2006, they reached contracts with a great core of players. Now Sizemore, Peralta, Martinez, Lee and Sabathia could be free agents within a short window. Add to that closer Bear Bay (who knew?) and Cy Young winner Adam Miller, both of whom have not been signed to extensions, and will become free agents in 2009, and you can see it will be impossible to keep this team together. C.C.'s new agent, Scott Boras, has already said that C.C. is one of a handful of "landmark free agents, who demand contracts over a decade and stock options from the team." No one honestly believes that a pitcher will get a 14 year contract. But Boras did get Detroit to give J.D. Drew a 12 year-$234 million deal, despite the Tigers being the only team interested in Drew. The Tribe needs to get some young, inexpensive talent mixed in with their roster. Even though none of these guys are paid more than they produce, the cumulative effect of these contracts still pushes the Tribe's payroll into the upper levels of league.
I do not favor acquiring Jim Thome to play DH. Thome only played in 81 games for the Cubs last year, hitting .235/.388/.375 (the guy could post a good OBP from a wheelchair. Unfortunately, with his back condition, he might have to).
GM Shapiro told ESPN: "It is unprecedented to trade a cornerstone from a two-time world series champion. But LA/Anaheim/Beverly Hills/Compton/Orange County made us an offer too good to refuse."
Really, I understand that everyone loves Hafner. But I think after the Crisp for Marte, last year's All-Star starter at 3B, and Westbrook for Gomes deals, and getting 14 wins out of a 315 pound David Wells for the league minimum, everyone has to finally give Shapiro the benefit of the doubt.