Valuing Cleveland's Tradable Assets

Jun 23, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Would the Indians be wiling to part with precious rotation depth, like Jeanmar Gomez, for a lineup upgrade: Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

Every team develops their own value for a given player based on their evaluations and need, making it impossible to truly estimate a player's trade value prior to an actual trade. Nevertheless, what follows is a rough guide for the Indian's tradable assets. For my purposes here, I am focusing exclusively on player's who have spent most of the season in the Tribe's minor league system, so no significant current pieces of the major league team. My own logic in this effort is to consider three general criteria in establishing a player's value, ranked by order of importance; ultimate ceiling as a player, proximity/likelihood of reaching that ceiling, and roster status (40-man, options, years of club control).

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$$$$$ - No one. Jason Kipnis might be the best example I can give of the kind of player who would be here, but the Indians have no one available at this level.

$$$$ - No one. If I thought he was available, Francisco Lindor would be here, and he would likely be here by himself. This is where I would have ranked Drew Pomeranz prior to last year's Ubaldo trade, but the Indians have no one of that caliber available today.

$$$ - This is where things get a little dicey. Here in the "moderate value" bracket you have guys with high ceilings, but questions about their developmental trajectory and/or still sitting in the lower half of the minors. You can also put some of the better upper-system fodder guys in this bracket. Here's who I would place here:

Ronny Rodriguez: Rodriguez has a .738 OPS and a 26 errors as a SS in Carolina. But those numbers fail to highlight the guy who might be the most valuable trade asset the Indians have going into the deadline. Rodriguez, although raw, has the tools to stick at SS with the possibility of providing plus-power at the position. His entire game needs a lot of fine-tuning, but he's raised his OPS more than 150 points over the past two months after an agressive placement by the organization to Carolina. His availability is made possible by the Indians organizational depth at SS.

Jeanmar Gomez/Zach McAllister: I have a very hard time imagining the Indians letting go of either of these pitchers given the thinness of Cleveland's rotation. But given their age, service time, and the success they have had in limited time at the major league level, they are probably Cleveland's most valuable and tradable pitching assets. Outings like Gomez's last night for Columbus do not hurt (9 inning, shutout).

Matt LaPorta*: This is a provisional placement, acknowledging that this is probably the high-water mark for LaPorta's valuation. My guess is most teams hold the same negative view of LaPorta as the Indians, despite his seemingly impressive batting line placing him near the top of the IL leaderboard (.949 OPS, 17 HRs). But the right team might think they can fix him and be willing to pay a bit for him in the hopes he becomes their own Bryan Lahair. LaPorta may not have earned much time in Cleveland this year, but it is possible he has retained a small amount of value for the right team.

$$ - At this point we are talking about the peripheral players and below in most big trades, which is most of what Cleveland has to offer.

Cord Phelps: Phelps might be the most valuable positional prospect the Indians could reasonably trade. How high he is valued depends probably on how teams scout his potential as a middle-infielder. If he is graded out as an above-average fielder, he likely has enough bat to be of value. If not, his value slips considerably.

Luigi Rodriguez: Rodriguez is another legitimate prospect. The marks against him in terms of value is his distance from the majors (Lake County is a long way from Cleveland in prospect-time) and questions about whether he has any power potential at all. At the least, he is a very athletic, speedy center fielder, with good hitting ability.

Dorssys Paulino: Paulino might be as good a hitting prospect as the Indians have. But, given that he is 17 and playing in the Arizona Complex League, that is a pretty big "might."

Scott Barnes: If a team thinks they can keep Barnes as a starter, as a young, tall lefty with good numbers he has some value. Despite stuff that has underwhelmed scouts, Barnes has continued to rack up Ks as he has moved up the system. If it was not for health issues this year, he would probably be a rotation candidate for the Tribe rather than a peripheral bullpen arm.

High-end bullpen arms - Cody Allen, Bryce Stowell: There are probably a few guys who could be added to this list from the list of "low-end" arms below. Allen has really shot up the system this year, and in so doing, has probably been seen by lots of organizational scouts. Stowell has come back from a phantom 2011 and some injury issues to once again put up some crazy K-numbers. A number of other guys would be here if not for injury. Chen Lee would be here except for his current injury status, which might involve TJ surgery. Hagadone could be here too, except for...well....that.

$ - These guys have value...at least to the right club.

Jesus Aguilar: Not enough power or trust from scouts to be ranked higher.

Ezequiel Carrera: Carrera is likely headed on the Jose Constanza DFA to the majors path, but his youth (25) and recent strong performance (.371 OBP in June) might work in his favor.

Chun-Hsiu Chen: If he were still a catcher, he would be a notch (or two) higher. But as a first-baseman, he barely tips the prospect scale.

T.J. McFarland: McFarland's youth and GB-rate (55-62%) give him a bit of an edge over his former Akron starting rotation partners (see below). The Indians showed this by promoting T.J. to Columbus earlier this season, and another team might make the same judgement.

David Huff: Huff retains some value based on his reputation and status as a former first-round pick. The right team might see what appears to be the missing element in Huff. But like all the guys on this end of the list, Huff is just a notch above waiver-wire worthy.

Corey Kluber: What works against Kluber is simply his age and reputation. At 26, Kluber has never been regarded as much of a prospect. But he has always done a good job striking batters out, and this year in Columbus has been no different. His 113Ks currently lead the International League.

AA-starters - Steven Wright/Giovanni Soto/T.J. House: Akron has had a surprisingly good pitching staff throughout the season. The work of Steven Wright and his newly honed knuckleball, a bit of a comeback from TJ House, and Giovanni Soto's return from injury have been a big part of that. None of these guys project as front-end starters, but they could potentially emerge to the level of 4th or 5th starter.

Elvis Araujo: Araujo might be the most highly regarded, by scouts, of the young pitchers in Lake County. If his performance this season were more consistent and stronger, he could easily be a notch or two higher on this list.

Roberto Perez: Perez is a plus defender at catcher with above-average plate discipline. He may not have much hitting ability, but he showcased well in last year's Arizona Fall League and has done a decent job handling Steven Wright's knuckleballs this season.

Low-end bullpen arms - Tyler Sturdevant, Rob Bryson, Matt Langwell, Frank Herrmann, Eric Berger, Preston Guilmet, Bryan Price, Loek Van Mil, Kyle Landis, Jeff Johnson, Grant Sides: This list could go on and on. The Indians have a huge number of mildly interesting bullpen arms, even after the extensive trades over the past two seasons. Any one of these guys could make the leap forward into something worthwhile, if not quite reaching the height of Vinnie Pestano. How other teams value them is hard to judge.

*****

SUMMARY: The bulk of the Indians assets come in the form of low-ceiling pitching arms. Whether they be starters in Akron or Columbus, or bullpen arms scattered throughout the system, the Indians have a wealth of arms that "could" be interesting to the right buyer (or seller). None of these guys are trade "headliners," and I doubt the Indians will be able to put together a Ubaldo-like "headline" trade. They already did that last year. The lack of development in the pre-Brad Grant positional prospects really costs the Indians. Guys like Weglarz, Fedroff, Crowe, Mills, Bellows, etc., should be tradable assets now, but all are marginal players or gone at this point. I probably could have included a few more positional players on the list above (e.g. Juan Diaz), but none of these guys has any sizable value.

Given the assets the Indians have, they are in something of a strange position to act potentially as both buyer and seller. Some of the upper-level bullpen arms could make a difference for a contending team and net either a prospect(ish) or marginal improvement bench player in return. Simultaneously, a struggling organization lacking starting pitching depth might be willing to part with an outfield bat for a guy like Gomez or McAllister, who could provide cheap starting rotation depth for several years.

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