One in a series of articles previewing the upcoming trade deadline. Previous entries:
I began this trade series with an argument for Cleveland to make a trade. Basically, Cleveland does not have a huge amount of on the cusp talent in the farm system, so any trade of prospects for something to improve the big league club now is probably a good decision. I stand by that view, but I am still going to end the series with an argument to not make any major changes at the expense of the current big league club. This argument is one simply based on timing. All of the major components of the current Tribe roster are around for one more season. That famous "window" closes next season--and next year's trade deadline could be very different from the Indians perspective--not this season.
Along this line of argument, Buster Olney tweeted the following yesterday:
The Indians' focus, as the trade deadline nears, is on players they can control past this year -- not rental players, like Shane Victorino
This is a view I can get behind. Consider what the 2013 opening day roster looks like right now:
|Right field||Shin-Soo Choo||Starter #1||Justin Masterson|
|Center field||Michael Brantley||Starter #2||Ubaldo Jimenez|
|Left field||?||Starter #3||Zach McAllister|
|First base||?||Starter #4||Josh Tomlin|
|Second base||Jason Kipnis||Starter #5||?|
|Shortstop||Asdrubal Cabrera||Closer||Chris Perez|
|Third base||Lonnie Chisenhall||Set-up #1||Vinnie Pestano|
|Catcher||Carlos Santana||Set-up #2||Joe Smith|
|Backup C||Lou Marson||Relief||?|
|Util #2||Brent Lillibridge|
Admittedly, this is a roster with a lot of question marks. But on the whole, the parts that are filled are filled well--every one of the offensive starters above has All-Star potential--and the parts that are not filled have decent competition in place. I did not fill in the relief spots, but the Indians have a slew of relief arms between Cleveland, Columbus and Akron. Despite the volatility in relief performance and knowing how dependent the 2012 team has been on Perez and Pestano, the bullpen is not my primary area of concern. The starting pithing is more troubling, but more because of the top-end than the depth. I wrote Tomlin in to the 4th spot, but in reality he is probably in a joint competition for the 4th and 5th spot that should include Gomez, Slowey, Kluber, Carrasco, Barnes, and a sizable wave of younger arms in AA and AAA. Despite the Tribe's more aggressive approach to pitchers lower in the system the past few years, they have been quite cautious in promoting starting pitchers to the major league level. I would not be surprised to see that change next spring. The bigger challenge is to continue working to develop Ubaldo and Masterson into consistent starters.
The holes on the corners of the offense are also a problem and seem like a likely target area in the off-season. The Indians have some internal options for a few of these spots (Fedroff as the 4th OFer? Canzler/LaPorta/Goedert as DH?), but this is an area that needs addressing for both the 2012 and 2013 teams.
For the most part, the pieces valuable enough to result in a major trade this season are unlikely to leave major components of the 2013 team in place. The Indians do not have enough firepower in the minors to pull off Detroit's Sanchez/Infante trade. For the Tribe to make an equivalent move, they would almost surely have to part with someone like Choo or Perez. The Indians should seek to improve the 2012 team, but in a way that will also help the 2013 team. This is unlikely to be a trade for one of the big names, but instead acquiring a more marginal player who can improve one of the question marks above. So to be clear, I am not arguing for the Indians to remain silent, only to act cautiously in pursuit of improving this year and next year's squad.