Note: You should probably glance at "3rd and Long" before going through this one as they're connected.
The Indians made a big move last summer in acquiring Ubaldo Jimenez in a surprising trade with the Colorado Rockies. It's been noted everywhere and by everyone, but it is true that the Indians likely need to contend by 2013 or they will have to live through some rough years as the farm system is bleak and many core players won't be with the organization anymore.
Chris Antonetti showed last summer that he was going for it with this group and three races left in their window. After the trade last year the Indians bombed by losing 11 of 12 to their direct competitor, Detroit, and finished 15 back. This year the first half went alright for AL Central standards but yet again the team is slipping and it doesn't seem likely they'll stick in the race through 162 games. I'm a bit bullish though about the team and think there still is a fairly good chance they can make a surge.
That may leave the team with just 2013 as a season to be a serious contender. Many Indians fans lamented the lack of big moves Antonetti made at the 2012 trade deadline. It was frustrating to watch as the pieces we wish we could have acquired, and were reported on by the LGT staff, either were moved or, as in most cases, they were simply kept by their current club.
The moves Antonetti did make weren't upgrades to the core of the team. The upgrades were to the fringe guys. While they might help out a bit, they're completely underwhelming in the push for the division title as we need upgrades to the starting lineup and rotation, not to AAA or the bench. No offense to Lillibridge or Anderson.
Adam wrote a great piece outlining many of the Indians potential pieces in deals if Antonetti was interested in going for it with this current core. Let's take a look at some key words in his summary and as the Indians situation ends up being pretty straight forward.
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.
The Indians just really couldn't put together any packages that any other club valued highly enough to part with an impact player which can be pretty much defined as one of the people covered in the wonderful "Trade Target" series the LGT guys worked on.
The Indians were trying to bring in both players who could help now, and for the future. Ubaldo was in that boat last year and the goal this year was to just bring in anyone who could do the same but was less of a "name."
Paul Cousineau of The DiaTribe comments on the failure of the Indians to even put together a package for a pair of players who could have done the job for us but were pretty well know to the average baseball fan:
Most notable was the trade between the Cubs and the Braves that sent LHP Paul Maholm (under club control through next year) and 4th OF/LHP masher Reed Johnson to Atlanta, as those two players would have filled the Indians’ needs – short-term and long-term – pretty neatly by adding to the rotation for today and tomorrow and by upgrading from the troika currently roaming around LF. And while the cost for the Braves looks like a couple of Minor-League arms (and one injured one at that), let’s realize that Atlanta gave up a 21-year-old RHPin Aroldys Vizcaino that throws in the upper-90s that ranked #62 on Kevin Goldstein’s pre-2011 prospect list who had already made it to MLB as a 20-year-old last year. Though Vizcaino may end up in the bullpen and while I realize that he’s been hurt and doesn’t figure to contribute until next year…yeah, that young, fireballing arm is still something that the Indians don’t have unless you’re talking about them giving up a Carlos Carrasco (who is 4 years older than Vizcaino and not under club control for as long) for that duo.Remember the idea that the Indians lacked the ammo (in terms of prospects) to make the additions that they may have felt were necessary?Yeah, that even applies to a package that could have netted them Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson…
Johnson fills a double need for the Indians. He hits right handed and he plays left field while also having the versatility to play center in small doses and right.
Interestingly enough, his contract ends after the 2013 season. He has an 119 OPS+ in the 2012 season.
Maholm's story is fairly similar. He fills our biggest need as a "front of the rotation" starter as our staff has been embarrassingly bad in 2012. While his 107 ERA+ this year doesn't really back that "front of the rotation" description I just laid out, on the current version of the Indians he'd likely be our ace if he kept that up.
His contract has a team option that will in all likelihood be picked up in 2013 as well.
Those two pieces being added to the Atlanta Braves were the type of thing that the Indians still couldn't even get as our prospects aren't valued enough to get that done.
As this 2012 squad barrels through the rest of this year and into 2013 it's pretty unclear whether this group is going to accomplish anything. Without something drastic brought in to the rotation and at least one impact bat added it's going to be a tough ride.
I guess I'm not sure whether Antonetti is going to keep going for it as his Ubaldo trade showed he would or whether he'll start shipping out some core players this winter to upgrade the farm system.
And let's not even get started on thinking about what the 2014 season may look like as the fairly barren farm system will be called upon heavily to replace many of the current men running out each day for the Tribe.
The only thing I'm going to keep hoping for though is that we'll be sitting around late in 2017 saying the next five years went as poorly as 2008-2012 because that would be inexcusable at best.