Transactions: Turning the Page



7-30-2010

Placed RHP Mitch Talbot on 15-Day Disabled List (Back)

Optioned RHP Jess Todd to Columbus (AAA)

Purchased the Contract of RHP Justin Germano and Recalled him from Columbus (AAA)

Recalled RHP Jensen Lewis from Columbus (AAA)

This was the aftermath of the pitching debacles of the previous two evenings. Perhaps with a more stable pitching staff the Indians would not have had to place Talbot on the Disabled List, but in this case the roster spot had precedence over the rotation spot.

Justin Germano, unlike many of the pitchers in the rotation, has a history of throwing strikes. He spent 2009 in the Japan Pacific League, making 13 starts for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. He came back to the States over the winter, and signed on with the Indians. He started the season in Akron's bullpen, then was promoted to Columbus to serve as a longman/spot starter. Before he was called up Justin had been in the Clipper rotation. The Indians chose him instead of more celebrated prospects because he was scheduled to throw on Friday, and the Indians needed a pitcher who could pitch at least 4 innings if necessary. The selection paid off, for Justin Masterson had to be pulled early, and with the contest a blowout, Germano finished the game. He might stick around for a while because the Indians really do need a longman with a staff full of rookie starters.

Jensen Lewis replaced Jess Todd in the bullpen, and I'd expect that the two would trade places again if the Indians have to overuse their bullpen again. Lewis has been a yo-yo this season, the Indians taking full advantage of his last option year. For a marginal pitcher like Lewis, I would think that having an option year would be better, since a club would be more likely to roster you if you had an option than if you were a "25 or else" guy.

7-31-2010

Traded OF Austin Kearns to the New York Yankees for a Player to be Named or Cash (by August 20th)

Reinstated RHP Kerry Wood from the 15-Day Disabled List (finger)

Traded RHP Jake Westbrook and Cash to the St. Louis Cardinals as part of a 3-Team Deal; The Cardinals traded OF Ryan Ludwick to the San Diego Padres; The Padres traded RHP Corey Kluber (AA) to the Indians and LHP Nick Greenwood to the Cardinals

Recalled OF Jordan Brown from Columbus (AAA) - Major League Debut

Traded RHP Kerry Wood and Cash to the New York Yankees for a Player to be Named or Cash (October 15th)

A tale of three contracts.

Of the three trades executed Friday night and Saturday, the Indians might get the best prospect from the Kearns deal. That doesn't mean that Kearns is the best player of the three (though he might), but that he had the most favorable contract. Austin will make $750K this year, so the Yankees will be on the hook for about $250K for the remainder of the season, chump change for any club, and pennies for the Yankees. GM Mark Shapiro noted that the PTBNL will be a major-league prospect, definitely better than whatever detritus the Indians will get for Wood and possibly better than Kluber. The Indians really made out on the Kearns signing, getting a good corner outfielder for a song, and then turning him into a prospect that could help the major-league club over the next couple of years. Kearns wore down as the season progressed, but he won't be an everyday player with the Yankees. That should keep him off the DL, and set him up for a major-league contract this winter.

Jake Westbrook didn't have the favorable contract status, but teams wanted him and Jake negotiated down his trade bonus so that he could go to a contender, so the Indians were able to make a deal happen and get back a prospect in the process.The Cardinals, to make room for Westbrook's salary, dealt LGFT Ryan Ludwick, who's making $5.45M this year and will be arbitration-eligible this winter, to San Diego, who sent the Indians a decent prospect and the Cardinals a marginal one.

Corey Kluber is a 24-year-old right-hander with a fastball topping out in the low 90s and a deceptive short-arm delivery, so his strikeout rates have been uniformly excellent through his professional career. This season, in AA San Antonio, he's struck out 136 and walked 40 in 123 innings. His other two pitches, a slider and changeup, are less effective due to command issues, so most of the projections I've seen tab him as either a swingman or a straight reliever. If the Indians make him a reliever, he could move fast; if they stick with him as a starter, his path to Cleveland will be more arduous.

To take Westbrook's spot on the roster, the Indians recalled minor-league stat-sheet stuffer Jordan Brown, who had been hitting .309/.344/.474 with the Clippers. Brown has always been able to hit for average in the minors, and hit 30-35 doubles a season, but there are some major flaws in his game that will get exposed in the majors. Brown, who is a marginal defender, doesn't make up for his defense (like say, Shelley Duncan) with home run power; he's only hit 57 home runs in his major-league career despite never being young for his level. The Indians are bringing Michael Brantley back to the majors as soon as he spends 10 days in the minors, which will hopefully cut down on Brown's (and Trevor Crowe's) playing time.

Kerry Wood's contract situation is the flip-side of Kearns'. Wood was signed for to a big contract by the Indians following the 2008 season, Cleveland thinking that all they needed was a good closer to fix a bullpen that had dragged the 2008 club down into also-ran status. It turned out the Indians needed more than a closer, for in 2009 the whole team stunk, and in just a couple of months the Indians still had an expensive closer with a rebuilding team around him. Because Wood was untradeable even with a decent 2009 season, the Indians had to keep him around into 2010, hoping against hope that he would have a dominating season and they would be able to trade him for an actual prospect. That didn't happen, for he missed the first month of the season, and in July missed another two weeks with a blister. The Indians had to settle for a partial salary dump. The Yankees have committed to paying a little more than 40% of his remaining salary, and if Wood stays healthy, could tack on another couple hundred thousand dollars. The PTBNL, if there is one, will be an organization soldier.

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