It's Time to Begin Working Toward 2010!

Hello everyone, I think there is little question that this 2009 season will end in only one way, without making the postseason.  I think these two Indians articles (here & here) from mention several ways that we should prepare for 2010, most of which I agree with (the only ones I'm questionable about are whether Radinsky should become the bullpen coach or the pitching coach and whether I want Victor to be the everyday catcher as Cousineau is wanting, though I think I can understand that Victor's trade value would be higher if we did decide to trade him if he plays virtually everyday at catcher, plus the fact that LaPorta would have a permanent spot at 1B, so I could maybe warm up to the idea, but I fear that Victor's bat wouldn't be as consistent if he's playing at catcher everyday, and certainly, his bat will be needed at peak condition if we're going to make a run in 2010).

Just a few highlights I wanted to discuss:

- It's pretty likely there will be no comeback this year - 1-8 in our last 9 games, sweeps at the hands of the Brewers at home, the Cubs on the road, and a near-sweep by the Pirates on the road has pretty much decided that the 2009 season will be without a postseason run for the Indians.  Add to that the fact that Pavano has fallen off considerably performance-wise and Sowers is still an ineffective starter, and I think it's obvious that we shoul be looking toward 2010.

- Like the authors of those pieces, the time for guys like Herges, Aquino, and Vizcaino, has come and gone (and the last two are no longer here) - it's time to begin figuring out things for 2010.  That means that all possible candidates, including all relevant Minor League pitchers (this includes Herrmann, Wright, Stiller, Putnam, etc.) to get some time up here during the rest of this season to see if they can be viable 2010 options.  It's better if we start learning about them the rest of this season than to give them "try-outs" in 2010, a season in which we expect to contend, and the possible final seasons of Lee and Martinez.

- I also agree with the idea of removing Chuck Hernandez as the bullpen coach.  It's debatable how much fault lies with him in regards to the 2009 bullpen, but it seems that his skills do not include being able to get guys to repeat their deliveries and to avoid walking people - the guys in this bullpen are walking guys at an exorbitant rate that do not match up with their career norms (this includes guys like Wood and Perez), so it would seem that Hernandez has had some effect, at least in that he has not been able to "fix" them and get them back to pitching at or near their career norms in terms of their command.  Additionally, I'd hate to have Scott Radinsky, who is highly-touted and is "on the rise" in most people's eyes, as well as very familiar with many of our up-and-coming pitching prospects, get away as someone else's pitching coach; I'm torn between having him as the pitching coach or as the bullpen coach, but utilize him in some fashion before he gets away (which seems likely to occur sooner rather than later).

- Like Cousineau mentioned, move Sowers into a long-relief role; his skills would seem to match perfectly in that role, and we haven't had a true "long reliever" for a while, and while in past seasons, we may not have needed one, that has not been the case in 2009, and if we rely on more young pitchers in 2010 (Huff, Carmona, maybe Lofgren or even Rondon), it would seem likely that a long reliever may be beneficial to have.  Plus, if Sowers could fill that role, at least he wouldn't be a total loss as a first rounder (like Guthrie, Denham, Dittler, Smith, etc.), unlike many of the first-rounders have been in recent years.

- I also agree that we should look to trade, not just DeRosa (that's pretty obvious to most everyone), but also Pavano (we likely wouldn't get much, but he's not a long-term fixture either, and his trade value will likely continue to drop) and even Shoppach (the article mentions why he still would have some value, despite providing inconsistent offense and poor defense), even if that means including him with DeRosa.  The main reason is that Toregas is likely every bit of Shoppach's equal defensively (if maybe not even a hair better than Shoppach), and while Toregas likely wouldn't match Shoppach's power offensively, it's conceivable to think that Toregas would provide a more stable BA (he seems to have a better grasp of the K zone, specifically when it comes to K, even taking into account the AAA to ML transition), and thereby, be no worse offensively (and perhaps a bit better).  Not to mention the fact that Toregas would be cheaper and be under control for longer.  Plus, as Cousineau mentioned, you could mix in Gimenez from time to time as your 3rd catcher if you wish to give Victor and/or Toregas off.

- I also agree with the idea of bringing up guys like LaPorta and Brantley - let them get their feet wet consistently at the ML NOW.  Don't wait until 2010 for these guys to get extended ML playing time.  Sure, they'll likely go through some struggles, as did LaPorta his first time around (and LaPorta should have gotten more playing time the first time he was up here), but it's better if they learn to overcome those struggles NOW, rather than try to do it on-the-fly in 2010 while we try to make a run at the AL Central in what could be Lee's and Martinez's final seasons here.  It's likely that guys like LaPorta and Brantley will be counted upon pretty heavily to come through in 2010 if we are truly going to make a sustained run at the postseason - it would seem reasonable to conclude that having them work out the "kinks" now at the ML level would help to better prepare them to contribute more meaningfully and consistently at the ML level in 2010.

- I also agree that Gimenez should get more consistent playing time if he's being groomed for the super-utility role (which will be needed after DeRosa is traded away).  Gimenez should be getting regular ABs at AAA until DeRosa is traded, then have him move around and get consistent ABs up here once DeRosa is traded.  Letting these guys sit on the bench (Gimenez now, LaPorta before, even Valbuena before until Cabrera was injured) is not going to help them get acclimated to the MLs.

- I also agree about Carmona, Lewis, and Westbrook - there's NO point in rushing these guys back.  Even if all three were to come back and consistently pitch at the top of their games (this is more unrealistic than the bullpen actually finding itself and pitching decently for an extended stretch), it's not likely this team would reach the postseason.  And, as Cousineau mentioned, all three (and especially Carmona and Westbrook) will be vital to the Indians' postseason chances in 2010 and beyond - there's no reason to set timetables or to rush them back in the hope that we can get ourselves "back into the race," being "only" 12 games out.

The Indians need to realize, if they haven't yet, that 2009 will NOT result in a postseason birth - pretending that this season will turn around and playing like we're "still in the race" is not the best course of action if we truly want to compete in 2010 and beyond.  Continuing to pitch "retread" pitchers, having players in roles that they are not best suited for (Francisco getting regular ABs, Shoppach continuously catching Lee - I understand Lee has pitched well with him, but I don't think that Lee will fall apart if Shoppach doesn't catch him continuously, plus it's debatable whether Shoppach will be here long-term), and having players who are expected to be future contributors either sitting on the bench for most games and/or down in Columbus facing AAAA players that they likely won't see at the ML level is not going to help the Indians make the most out of what remains in a disappointing 2009 season.   The main objective for the rest of this season should be to make ourselves stronger for 2010 so that we can make the postseason next year when we have a more realistic chance of making it, rather than try to convince ourselves that we are still in the race and are just a "hot streak" away from getting back into the thick of it.  The way the Indians are playing, a "hot streak" of that magnitude is NOT realistic, regardless of whether we get back Cabrera, Westbrook, Lewis, Laffey, Carmona, Betancourt, etc.  After all, we are very close to the beginning of July, virtually half the season is over, and the trading deadline is only about a month away, and you have at the very least, one viable trading chip (DeRosa), who has been a pretty significant part of the offense to this point.  Would it be better to keep him for that so-called "hot streak" or better to trade him for a piece or pieces that can help you in 2010 and beyond?  I think the choice is the latter, being that our chances of putting everything together for that so-called "hot streak" are slim, in my opinion.

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