Tag Archives: Cliff Lee

The Tribe is Alive!

The Tribe is alive. I can’t believe it either.

The Cleveland Indians are just 4 games back of the second wildcard spot entering the final month of the season.

A month ago, I, and many others, were counting the Tribe as out. The bats were dead, the starting pitching wasn’t keeping the game in check and the bullpen was suspect. Add to that the lack of moves by the front office at the deadline and our suspicions weren’t unfounded.

This season was over, in every sense of the word.

And then, slowly but surely the Tribe won a few games.

Then the won a few series and then, they got a sweep.

The bats have been working lately, the starting pitching has been keeping opposing hitters at bay, and the bullpen, when they’ve been needed, have delivered.

The defensive play has been the hidden lynch pin to the Indians streak of success as of late. Who would have known that the addition of Abraham Almonte (seriously?) in centerfield and the return of Lonnie Chisenhall in RF along with the play of Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela on the left side of the infield.

After the current series with the Blue Jays, the Indians have games within and only within the AL Central. Those games include 6 against the Tigers (3/3 Home/Away), 6 against the White Sox (3/3 Home/Away), 7 against the Royals (4/3 Home/Away), and 6 against the Twins (3/3 Home/Away). They are going to need to win approximately 80% (20) games to cement themselves in the wildcard playoff for the American League. There is no chance anyone in the American League Central will catch the Royals. Currently, they are 13 games ahead of the second place team, the Minnesota Twins and 16 games ahead of the Indians.

The next month of baseball could be very interesting. Undoubtedly, memories of 2013 have begun to whimsically drift into the back of my head as I reminisce about one of the greatest months of baseball in recent memory.

While the next month will be interesting, the big Indians-related news of the week occurred late Sunday night

Shapiro back, back, back and gone to Toronto

Reports surfaced last week of an impending offer of the Presidency/CEO duties of the Toronto Blue Jays to current Indians President Mark Shapiro. The collective interwebs and social media were aflame with ifs, ands, and buts about the whole thing before it went quiet for a few days.

Then on Sunday, the hammer was dropped. Multiple well-known and respect sports journalists reported that Mark Shapiro would accept the offer from the Blue Jays effective at the end of the 2015 season. Soon after, the team confirmed it and a press conference was scheduled for Monday afternoon.

At the presser, Mark said he was excited about the opportunity for growth in Toronto and addressed (barely) issues he faced here in Cleveland. When asked about attendance, he side-stepped the issue and moved on to other topics of interest.

Direct reports to Shapiro will now report to Paul Dolan and Dolan also stated he will not look outside the organization for a successor for Mark. It would appear that the next era of the Cleveland Indians Presidency will take effect from within the organization and speculation has begun about who that individual will be.

When looking back over Shapiro’s impressive 24 year career in Cleveland, one can’t help but feel bad for the guy.

When John Hart left the organization in 2001 and Shapiro ascended the GM throne, he was left with a very bad situation: a fan base used to winning and winning a lot, a minor league system devoid of any serviceable talent ready for the majors, and owners who didn’t want to spend much money on talent.

With that, Mark began the process of shaping the Indians from the ground up into the team he envisioned. Unfortunately for him, his drafts were awful. In the early to mid-portions of the first decade of the 2000s, you would be hard-pressed to name one decent major leaguer that came up through the Indians farm system (and no, Matt LaPorta isn’t decent. At all). Where Mark really shined was in his ability to leverage current team assets towards futures of other teams’ farm assets.

Case and point: the Bartolo Colòn trade of 2002:

In 2002, the Cleveland Indians were out of contention and Shapiro pulled the trigger on a deal that sent staff ace Bartolo Colòn to the Montreal Expos for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips.

I don’t need to tell you about the contributions and accolades that group of players have garnered over the course of their MLB careers to prove to you how fantastic that trade was.

When Shapiro stepped aside for Chris Antonetti to assume the role of GM, he took over as team president and was able to turn his attention things outside of personnel and baseball operations. His role in the new construction at the ballpark which debuted this season and his work in making Progressive field more fan and family friendly have been enormous. I love what has been done to Progressive field and I feel way more connected to the team and the game when I’m at the stadium than when I was younger.

Mark Shapiro has been around the Indians organization for longer than I’ve been alive. He has been there with us during the highs (1994-2001), the lows (2002-2006), and the playoff runs and appearances (1995-1999; 2001; 2007, and 2013). He has felt the heartache we’ve all experienced at one point or another. He’s felt the exhilarating highs of Tom Hamilton’s walk off calls in the lazy summer evenings and the lows of a Matt Underwood curse before an opposing player does something great.

Sure he’s a part of the organization, but he is also one of us. He did the very best he could with the resources he had, and I for one, can’t blame him for anything. He’s going to a great organization north of the border with deep pockets and a handful of great hitters. I wish him nothing but the best, and hopefully, he’ll come back around Cleveland from time to time to check in on us.

Cleveland Indians Thanksgiving

 

First off, I want to wish all of you readers out there a Happy Thanksgiving!

For the first time in several years, Cleveland sports fans can actually be thankful for their teams. That got us thinking at MTAF: Cleveland — What would different members of the professional organizations be thankful for as they sat around the table sharing Thanksgiving dinner?

As a fan of the Cleveland Indians, I attempted to delve into the mindsets of several different members of the organization, trying to ascertain what they would be giving thanks for.

Chris Antonetti & Mark Shapiro

My first thought with regard to what Chris and Mark would be thankful for would be getting Terry Francona to come on board and coach the Tribe. But then I sat back and looked at the larger picture. If I was Chris or Mark, I would be thankful for how well the trades they’ve made over the past ten years have worked out. Just look at how a handful of the following trades worked out (in terms of production) for the Indians:

Year CLE Sends CLE Receives
2002 Ryan Drese & Einar Diaz Travis Hafner
2008 Casey Blake Carlos Santana
2009 Victor Martinez Justin Masterson & Nick Hagadone
2006 Ben Broussard Shin-Soo Choo
2006 Eduardo Perez Asdrubal Cabrera
2002 Bartolo Colon Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips & Cliff Lee

And those are just a few of the trades that have been made. Think about this: In a three team deal involving the Cardinals and the Padres, we gave up veteran pitcher Jake Westbrook and received 2014 AL Cy Young Winner Corey Kluber. Had Matt LaPorta worked out better, the Sabathia deal (which included 2014 MVP finalist and Silver Slugger award winner Michael Brantley) would have been seen as more genius than the Colon deal.

As Mark and Chris pass the gravy boat, they’re going to be giving thanks that so many of their trades worked out so well.

Terry Francona

As Terry Francona rides his scooter to the store to pick up cranberry sauce, I imagine he too will think about what he’s thankful for. I would venture a guess that he’s thankful for several things:

1. His health

2. Mickey Callaway

Tito has probably never worried about his health (see: Urban Meyer). I’m not old by any stretch (I’m 23). I’ve found out that older men are thankful for their health, regardless of how healthy they actually are. Next, Tito should be counting his lucky starts that he has Mickey Callaway sitting on his bench coaching up his pitchers. Think about 2013. Mickey Callaway turned around a struggling Ubaldo Jimenez into quite possibly the best pitcher of the second half in the American League. I feel that if Tito had started Ubaldo in the place of rookie Danny Salazar, the Indians may have gone on to be World Series champions. Then we look back at 2014 and (channeling my innermost LeBron here) not one, not two, but THREE examples of what Mickey Callaway can do. First, Corey Kluber. Mickey has said that he really didn’t have to do much with Klubes this past season. As much as I’d like to believe that, there’s a reason he’s the pitching coach. Mickey worked with Corey to develop his secondary pitches and propel him into the upper echelons of pitching talent in the MLB. Next, there is Trevor Bauer. Bauer’s problem in 2013 was consistency and immaturity. Unfortunately for Trevor, he is young and often impatient. He need time to develop under more mature, accomplished pitchers. He got that with Justin Masterson and Corey Kluber. This year, while he had his troubles, Bauer was much more consistent and flashed some of the greatness that made the front office go out and get him. Finally, we have Carlos Carrasco. Known affectionately as “Cookie” among die-hard Tribe fans, Cookie experienced many of the same issues that Bauer faced — inconsistency and maturity. Remember his ejection and subsequent suspension in 2011 against Kansas City? How about his ejection for plunking Kevin Youkilis in 2013? That wasn’t a wild arm. Tito and Mickey worked with Carrasco and put him in the bullpen in 2014 and boy, did he deliver. Carrasco was electric out of the pen and proved to be the long-reliever we needed, especially when one of our starters couldn’t make it out of the 4th or 5th inning. How many times can you remember Carrasco putting in three to four quality innings, saving our bullpen arms for the home stretch?

Finally, The Indians are thankful for YOU, the fans.

When you go to a game or buy a jersey, you help finance the continued journey toward that elusive World Series title. When you get on Twitter or Facebook and talk about the Indians, you help them make a branding impact on new fans or fans who just don’t know it yet. When you write odes to Tom Hamilton or romanticize what the Tribe means to you on a t-shirt, you help the Indians build an regional identity. In a city like Cleveland, our professional sports teams need their fans as much as we need our teams. In some ways, we define one another. The Indians wouldn’t have much meaning without us and we wouldn’t have much meaning without them. So when the front office, the coaching staff and the players sit around their respective tables to share food and make memories, they will probably reflect, even if it’s only for a moment, on what it means to put on the Tribe uniform day in and day out for the best fans in the major leagues.

As for me, I’m thankful for football, a lot of food and a day off to enjoy it all with my family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving fans. Enjoy your turkey.

What Should the Indians Do At the Deadline?

The Indians are facing an incredibly difficult decision within the next couple of weeks. The July 31st Trade Deadline is approaching, and the Indians could benefit greatly from a couple of moves.

GM Chris Antonetti and VP Mark Shapiro are deliberating in earnest just what their course of action should be. They’re tiptoeing the incredibly thin line that separates the “win now” mentality from the “win in the future” mentality. Whatever their decisions may be could affect the foundation of this ballclub.

“Should we grab a starting pitcher?”

“Should we scrap the farm system and go after a big-time player?”

“Do we grab a bat or a reliever?”

“What do we do?”

The answer is a tough one, but I believe you can find the perfect formula for winning both now and in the future.

First of all, I am somewhat against trading for Matt Garza, or any starting pitcher for that matter, because they neither give you the ability to win now or win in the future.

Garza is a great talent who could certainly propel the Indians to the playoffs this season. My problem is, however, that the price isn’t worth the production.

The Cubs are going to want some major prospects for their ace, and the Indians have a couple they can afford to give away. Garza will only be an Indian for half of a season, while the prospects could change the face of the Chicago Cubs for many years to come.

That’s the problem. If you sign a rental type player like Matt Garza, it’s not going to do you any good this or next season. Garza could lead the Tribe to the playoffs, but he wouldn’t make enough of an impact to get past the first round.

If you can sign Garza for a couple years after this season, I’d be all for it. However, it doesn’t seem likely that Garza would resign with Cleveland.

The other pitchers on the market have the same issues, Yovani Gallardo and Chris Sale especially.

The Brewers and White Sox are more than willing to give up players, but they’re going to come at a big price. Gallardo is statistically no better than Ubaldo Jimenez, and trading Chris Sale to a Divisional opponent may take Francisco Lindor, and that’s not something the Indians are willing to give up.

Unless…

It’s for a big time player like Cliff Lee or Giancarlo Stanton.

This is where I’m fine with giving up any collection of prospects in the system. Lee will get you a playoff berth and may even take you to the ALCS. Stanton might bring you to the Fall Classic. A trip to the ALCS and/or the World Series would be worth any asking price.

I’d be more than willing to trade most of the special farm pieces for guys who are going to help the Indians go deep in the postseason this year. Stanton or Lee would all do that.

That, however, doesn’t seem all that likely. The Phillies, for whatever reason, seem to think they are still buyers, while the Marlins have the face of their future in Stanton. Of course, they’d like to unload Stanton before his price tag becomes out of their reach, but that time may not be at hand quite yet.

If the Phillies or Marlins are willing to budge, I think you have to go for it.

The smartest and most realistic course of action would be to make a move for a reliever and a bat, preferably a reliever and a bat that would stick around for a couple more seasons.

The Indians bullpen has become an absolute liability. The starters and their lack of ability to pitch past the sixth inning certainly doesn’t help, but the bullpen can no longer be completely trusted when the game is on the line.

While adding a reliever would be a perfect gameplan, it doesn’t seem like their are all that many out there who could help this Indians team. I think one of the best options was Matt Thornton, but the lefty reliever has already been moved to the Boston Red Sox.

Then there comes the bat. The Indians are an incredibly streaky team in the batters box and could greatly benefit from having a solid bat in the middle of the lineup. Think of another Michael Brantley, although Brantley is a one of a kind.

I really like what the Milwaukee Brewers, who are going to be extreme sellers, could give to the Indians. Ironic how it could be the Brewers, the team with which the Indians traded to acquire Michael Brantley, who could bolster the lineup.

Norichika Aoki would be someone to keep an eye out for. An outfielder with a .294 batting average and a .360 OBP, Aoki could certainly put a solid, middle of the road hitter in the Indians lineup.

This may be a bit of a stretch, as he probably will not be moved, but I love Carlos Gomez of the Brewers as well.

After a poor 2012, Gomez is hitting .295 this season with 14 home runs, 45 RBI, and a .337 OBP. Gomez would add the lethal combination of power and contact that the Indians oh, so desperately need.

Tribe fans, I’ll leave it at this.

I’d much rather add a bat and a reliever over a starting pitcher. I think you have your starting pitcher to get you to the postseason, and his name is Danny Salazar.

Salazar is the real deal, and I think he could have a Jarrett Wright like impact on this club. The Indians certainly could trade some pieces and go after a starter, but I don’t think it’s in their best interest.

The way I see it, the Indians will win 90 games if they stand pat. There’s no sense giving up the future to barely squeak into the playoffs. Instead, find players who can stick around and who will get you deep in the postseason and keep the majority of your future at the same time.

I know this is much easier said than done, but I finally have faith that Antonetti and Shapiro can do it.

Cleveland Indians Need to Make Every Effort to Acquire Cliff Lee…and Soon

by Ryan Isley

As the end of July approaches, it marks yet another trade deadline in Major League Baseball. And for the second time in three seasons, the Cleveland Indians appear to be buyers, not sellers, on the market as they sit just 2.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American League Central Division.

While the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline might be on July 31st, for the Cleveland Indians it is actually a week before that. Why, you ask? Simple – the Cleveland Browns veterans report to training camp on July 24th. For the Indians to keep the fans of Cleveland engaged and interested in baseball while the Browns are underway in preparation for the upcoming season, they need to make a splash prior to the opening of training camp. As I pointed out in a previous piece about the Browns, Cleveland is a Browns town.

This has been something I have never understood when it comes to Cleveland fans. The Indians and the Cavaliers are free game for criticism, but the Browns are off-limits.

But why?

The only answer I ever get is because Cleveland is a “Browns Town.” This excuse is complete and utter crap. What exactly have the Browns done to earn this title? Sure, they won the city’s last championship. In 1964. The Browns have done nothing but kill the hopes and dreams of sports fans in the city since their return to the NFL in 1999. And please don’t come with that “the league screwed the Browns from the start” argument. What the league did in 1999 is not playing a factor in what the Browns do in 2013. Or what they did in 2010. Or 2008. You get the picture.

For this reason, the Indians need to act quickly. But the question is who should they target? For me , the answer is to go after someone with whom everyone is familiar – Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee. The reason that the Indians should go after Lee is easy to understand – he is simply one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball as evidenced by his 10-2 record and 2.73 ERA this season.

Lee would give the Indians a legitimate front of the rotation starter that they have been missing. In his 18 starts this season, Lee has failed to pitch at least seven innings just three times, a stark contrast to what the Indians rotation has done this season. While Justin Masterson has three complete game shutouts (Lee has one), the Indians No.1 starter has gone seven or more innings in just nine of his 19 starts. In fact, Indians starters have gone six innings or more just three times in their last 13 games dating back to June 27th.

The Indians need an anchor in their rotation – a guy who they can hand the ball to every fifth day and know he gives them a great chance to win the ballgame. They just do not have that right now, despite Masterson being an All-Star. Masterson has been wildly inconsistent and Ubaldo Jimenez has as well. Plus Jimenez has shown that he is no longer a guy that can give a team seven innings, having pitched 5.2 innings or less in 11 of his 20 starts this season, including six in a row before going six innings on Tuesday night. And while Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber have flashed signs that they can pitch at the Major League level, the Indians have gotten nothing from Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer.

Lee would be a huge boost for the Indians in the second half of the season, especially since the Indians will be facing three teams from the National League East after the all-star break when they face the Miami Marlins (August 2-4), Atlanta Braves (August 27-29) and New York Mets (September 6-8). Lee is a combined 4-0 against those three teams this season with an ERA of 1.69 in those four starts. That also included his one complete game shutout of the season which came against the Marlins. Lee has also faced the Minnesota Twins and earned a win, going seven innings and giving up just two earned runs. The Indians have four series and 13 games remaining with Minnesota.

The left-hander also had one start against the Boston Red Sox this season, going eight innings and allowing just one earned run on four hits while striking out eight. This would provide the Indians some much needed help considering that the Indians would potentially see the Red Sox in the postseason if they make it there and the fact that the Indians are 1-6 against the Red Sox this season.

Speaking of the playoffs, another dimension Lee would bring is postseason experience and success. Despite going a combined 0-3 in 2010 and 2011, Lee has an overall playoff record of 7-3 with a 2.52 ERA. Of the pitchers currently in the Indians rotation, only Jimenez and Scott Kazmir have any career postseason starts and they are a combined 1-4 with a 4.66 ERA in 12 starts. Kazmir also had a relief appearance and Masterson has nine appearances out of the bullpen.

What would or should the Indians be willing to part with in order to get Lee? They have to be willing to hear out deals for just about anyone in their minor league system with possibly the exception of Francisco Lindor, but I would say even he isn’t untouchable. Remember – this is a front office that was willing to part with two of their top pitching prospects in Drew Pomeranz and Alex White when they obtained Jimenez at the 2011 trade deadline. Using that trade as a barometer, it is logical to think that the Indians would be open to dealing their top prospects if it means having a chance at winning.

If there is one team that knows prospects are not a sure thing, it would be the Indians. In the last five years, players such as White, Pomeranz, Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Jason Knapp and Nick Hagadone have all been involved in trades made by the Indians.

Now I know that the first thing that will be brought up is Lee’s contract situation and the financial obligations for a team to get him. Lee is owed $25 million each season from 2013-2015 (approximately $12.5 million left this season) and has a club option for 2016 worth $27.5 million which carries a $12.5 million buyout if not exercised.

Unfortunately for the Indians, I don’t think they have any choice but to be willing to pay for what they want and need. It was evident in the way that the Indians spent money this past offseason that they want to win and they want to do it soon. When a team makes a commitment to winning by signing guys in the offseason, they do so knowing that the pressure to win will be even greater and that they may need to add pieces later on to help them reach their goal. The Dolans have found out the hard way that if you don’t spend money, you get to watch other teams celebrate championships.

The second thing that will be mentioned is that Lee’s contract contains a no-trade clause to a number of other teams. Even if the Indians are on the no-trade list for Lee, it would be hard to imagine that he doesn’t waive it with the Phillies now sitting in third place – 7.5 games out of first place in the National League East – and 5.5 games behind in the race for one of the National League wild card spots. Especially after the Phillies were 81-81 last season and missed the postseason. Lee will turn 35 this August and has yet to win a World Series, so going to a team that is set up to make a run for the postseason should appeal to him more than staying in Philadelphia and watching October baseball on television like the rest of us.

Even if Lee isn’t willing to come back to Cleveland, the Indians have to at least make every attempt possible to make it happen. At the end of the day, if the decision is up to Lee and he decides to stay in Philadelphia or accept a trade somewhere else, the blame can’t be put on the Indians ownership and front office. Now when was the last time we could say that with confidence?

After an aggressive offseason, the time is now for the Dolans, Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti to keep the pedal to the metal and try to make this team a championship contender. Acquiring Cliff Lee would be a great (and bold) move in that direction.

Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at ryan@morethanafan.net

Thoughts on the Pacers, the Indians, and How They Connect.

Tonight could be epic, so this piece I’m writing is going to be, well, epic… at least in terms of length. (I’m sorry, I like to write, ok!)

Anyways, tonight there are two things on my agenda:

  1. Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees on ESPN at 7:00.
  2. Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat on TNT at 8:30.

I will be flipping vigorously back and forth between games starting at 8:30, and I am more than excited about it.

While the night could potentially end in disaster with both the Heat and Yankees winning, I would CERTAINLY take a win in one and a loss in the other. No way do I believe that the Pacers and the Indians will win tonight. That would just be far too good.

Anyhow, I’m going to take on these two topics, so here goes nothing.

Tonight could be historic in terms of the NBA. The Indiana Pacers, potentially, could defeat the Miami Heat and take their place among the greatest upsets in the history of sports.

Tonight, not only are the Pacers preparing to battle the Miami Heat, they are preparing to battle forces beyond their control as well. No, not the half-empty crowd in the American Airlines Arena at tipoff. Not the “all-white-everything” that has become the motto for the Heat throughout their playoff runs. Not the distraction of a 75,000 dollar fine that was completely unnecessary, (“no homo” simply means, “I’m not gay, though”. If he would’ve put it that way, it would be a non-issue. But, I digress.) No, no, no.

David Stern, the NBA, and the media would all be facing a nightmarish scenario if the Heat lose tonight.

I can assure you, right now, that the NBA is doing everything it can to set up a Miami Heat victory tonight. David Stern is calling up the refs, “reminding” them that “this is a superstar’s league, so call it that way”. They already set up a diversion for Indiana by fining Hibbert. I’m sure if an Indiana Pacer looks at LeBron the wrong way he’ll be given a tech. These things are already in the works, and they are all in the way of an Indiana Pacers NBA Finals appearance.

With San Antonio already in the Finals, the NBA NEEDS a big market team like the Heat competing for a championship so it can bring in some money. If Indiana magically pulls out the win tonight, you might as well kiss the cash goodbye because nobody, (most people now-a-days are front-runners), will watch. Period, end.

Could you imagine a Spurs vs. Pacers NBA Finals? For those of us that enjoy basketball at it’s purest level, it would be glorious. No egos, no attitudes, just plain, solid, fundamental basketball. For the rest of the front-running world, it would be torture.

But it won’t happen, unless the Pacers pull off some sort of miracle.

LeBron will most likely go crazy, a-la last year’s Game 6 in Boston, which is difficult enough to beat by itself. Then, the refs will call ticky-tacky fouls all night long against the Pacers. Finally, close game or not, someone is going to get ejected on the Indiana sideline for something asinine like standing on the court or making an illegal substitution. The Heat will win easily, just like David Stern wanted.

While the Heat have a legitimate chance of getting swept in the Finals by San Antonio, that doesn’t matter. As long as the Heat get there, Stern will make his money and be more than happy.

While the Heat losing in the Finals would provide amazing amounts of hope for LeBron’s 2014 return to Cleveland, which I understand many of you would not enjoy, for reasons beyond my wildest imagination, it would offer so much more hope if they didn’t even have the chance to compete. With Wade losing a step each time he touches the court to Chris Bosh inability to make any sort of physical contact with an opposing player, LeBron is already by himself. Remember that he left Cleveland to have “help” to win an NBA Championship, or “nine”. If they fail this year, things should only get worse next season and LeBron’s 2014 departure will be imminent. And glorious.

The NBA, however, will provide the help that LeBron has always yearned for, so the Pacers challenge awaits them tonight.

Beat the Heat, beat David Stern, beat the front-running world, beat the best player in the world while he’s in “beast mode”, beat the refs, and beat big markets and your in. It’s as difficult as that.

They won’t do it, but it’s always fun to dream right?

Before all of this happens, the Indians game will be on. Nasty Masty will be taking the hill against veteran Andy Pettite in Yankee Stadium. It will be the first return to the Bronx for Nick Swisher since he joined the Indians and will most likely be an emotional night for him.

When thinking about the Indians, I think of something that the infamous Hiram Boyd brought up on a weekly radio show I put together with Jake Dungan for the Indians Baseball Insider Radio Network.

Hiram brought up a trade that the Indians should explore that sends Tribe prospects Francisco Lindor, Danny Salazar, and Shawn Armstrong to Kansas City for James Shields.

While I hate this particular trade for some reason, I think Hiram brings up a valuable point. The Indians need to sacrifice the future in order to win now.

In Cleveland, draft day is one of our favorite days of the year. It brings us hope for a bright future, something that has always alluded our beloved city for so many years.

Finally, I think the Indians have arrived at that future and we’re staring at it so hard, that we’re almost missing it.

The Indians farm system, outside of Lindor, is essentially depleted. The talent simply isn’t where it used to be. I don’t think we’ll be seeing any Vinnie Pestano’s or Carlos Santana’s making their way to Cleveland anytime soon.

The Indians roster is the best it has been since the 90’s, (If you want to argue about 2007, contact me on Twitter @H_Grove. I’ll be glad to tell you that 2007 was a fluke.). The Indians spent money that they have, quite literally, never spent before. They didn’t spend that money for the future. They spent that money for now.

While the Indians are certainly a decent team, I don’t think anyone would consider us legitimate World Series contenders as of right now. The starting rotation has been surprisingly good, the runs come and go in what seems to be a wave-like pattern, but our supposedly “tremendous” bullpen has been lackluster.

The Indians desperately need a good left-handed reliever. They would also benefit greatly from an elite starting pitcher and an added bat.

So my question is this: why not get these pieces and get rid of guys like Lindor, Salazar, and Armstrong?

Francisco Lindor could be a stud elsewhere, but who cares? If the Indians can get a top of the line guy for him and in turn become a legitimate contender, then who cares? Don’t you think that it would be worth it to make a World Series run without Francisco Lindor than to watch Francisco Lindor sit in a lineup of crap a la Jim Thome in 2002?

If you get the right piece, Lindor, Salazar, Paulino, or any other minor league prospect should be dispensable. That’s the nitty gritty of it.

The problem becomes who that missing piece should be. Maybe it’s a bunch of smaller pieces that bring us to contention. Maybe it’s one stud. Who knows, but I know that piece is out there somewhere.

Maybe the Indians should consider bringing back Cliff Lee for a final-go-round as a member of the Cleveland Indians? Maybe Shields is the guy like Hiram said? Maybe, it’s Derek Holland from the Texas Rangers or Matt Moore from the Tampa Bay Rays?

Maybe it’s a couple of hitters, like Aramis Ramirez and Norichika Aoki from the Brewers? Maybe it’s a couple of lefty relievers to fill out the ailing bullpen. Who knows?

The point is that the future should not inhibit the present, especially in this case.

The front office has built this team to compete this year, next year, and maybe the year after. There are key guys that could stick around, like Mark Reynolds and Ubaldo Jimenez, if a couple of moves are made in order to help this team move itself into “legitimate contender” status.

Can you imagine being in October for the next couple of years. It could be magical. This team is like any we’ve seen in Cleveland for a very long time. We have a brilliant, energized, and experienced manager. We have high-profile stars and under-the-radar professionals. We have role players that are making the most of a second chance and formerly overrated guys who are living up to the hype.

It’s time. We can worry about the future when it arrives. Let’s live in the present and seize the opportunity in front of us.

We must sacrifice the future to win now, or we, as a collective Tribe Town, will always regret it.

So as you watch the Tribe and Pacers tonight, give this piece a little thought. Remember that, in both cases, you could be watching the future unfold right in front of you. With a Pacers W, LeBron could be well on his way back to Cleveland. With a couple of moves, the Tribe will be back in World Series contention.

The Pacers might not have a chance, thanks to the greed that is the NBA, but the Tribe certainly does.

In both of these cases, the future is right now.

Ubaldo's First Start Invokes Memories of Trades Past

By Ryan Isley

Newly-acquired Ubaldo Jimenez makes his first start for the Indians tonight after being sent to Cleveland last weekend for Alex White, Matt McBride, Joe Gardner and Drew Pomeranz (PTBNL).

Some (myself included) thought the Indians gave up too much for Jimenez. Sure, he is a proven commodity (somewhat) and the players the Indians gave up were just prospects. The thing that was hard to swallow was that the Indians were giving up their two best pitching prospects in the organization in White and Pomeranz.

Then as people (and by people, I mean me) were shouting that the Indians overpaid and would rue the day that they gave up White and Pomeranz, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! sports wrote this piece on the number of pitching prospects that actually pan out.

That got me thinking. So with Jimenez making his first start as a member of the Indians rotation, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at the last two trades the Indians made when it came to a top of the line starting pitcher to see what the pitching prospects involved in those two deals are up to these days. Of course in those two cases, the Indians were the ones getting the prospects.

You all know the two trades – C.C. Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers and Cliff Lee to the Philadelphia Phillies.

While we all know that the Indians received Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley from Milwaukee in the Sabathia deal, the two forgotten pieces in the trade are the pitching prospects. Along with LaPorta and Brantley, the Indians acquired Zach Jackson and Rob Bryson.

Jackson was with the Indians organization for two seasons, compiling a 9-12 record with a 5.79 ERA in his time between Triple-A stops in Buffalo and Columbus and his time in the Majors with Cleveland. Jackson was granted free agency following the 2009 season and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was 2-3 with a 5.64 ERA for Triple-A Las Vegas last season and is now 9-4 with a 5.86 ERA for Triple-A Round Rock this season, the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.

Rob Bryson is in his fourth season in the Indians organization, where he has pitched no higher than Double-A Akron. The reliever has a 7-4 record and an ERA of 3.28 in 62 combined minor league appearances. Shortly after the trade, Bryson underwent surgery for a tear in his labrum and rotator cuff that forced him to miss the remainder of 2008 and almost the entire 2009 season. Since returning, he has a record of 8-3 with a 2.26 ERA between Single-A affiliates Lake County and Kinston and Double-A Akron.

At the trading deadline of 2009, the Indians sent Lee (who by the way was once a prospect himself when dealt from Montreal to Cleveland in the Bartolo Colon deal) and Ben Francisco to Philadelphia for catcher Lou Marson, infielder Jason Donald and pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp.

Knapp has made 13 starts in his two seasons in the Indians organization since being acquired, not having pitched above Class-A. He is 1-2 with a 3.60 ERA, striking out 59 and walking 20. Knapp was on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis when the trade was made and then made just four appearances after he came back before having season-ending shoulder surgery. Knapp was once again shut down this June with shoulder surgery after not having pitched this season.

Carrasco has probably had the most success (at least the most exposure) for the Indians of any of the four pitchers in the two deals, making 33 starts in the Major Leagues (including Wednesday night at Boston) with a 10-15 record and a 4.88 ERA.

Carrasco earned his time in the Majors by compiling a 15-7 record and 3.67 ERA in his 25 games in the minor leagues. Carrasco, still just 24 years old, has shown flashes of being a good pitcher at times and may still turn out to be a successful starter.

Meanwhile, Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA for Milwaukee down the stretch in the 2008 regular season, even pitching on three days’ rest at times. He helped the Brewers to the playoffs where he was beaten in his only start. Sabathia turned that run into a huge contract from the New York Yankees (7 years/$161 million), where he has gone 56-20 with a 3.07 ERA in his three regular seasons, including a 16-5 record and 2.55 ERA so far this season.

Sabathia has fared better in the postseason for the Yankees than he ever did for the Indians or Brewers, as he is 5-1 with a 3.12 ERA in his eight starts. Sabathia also has a World Series ring that he earned as part of the Yankees championship team in 2009.

Lee has a regular season record of 30-20 with a 3.14 ERA and a postseason record of 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA since the trade. Lee was also traded from Philadelphia to Seattle in a three-team deal that netted the Phillies Roy Halladay and then was traded to the Rangers last season at the trade deadline. Lee signed back in Philadelphia as a free agent this past offseason.

After looking at those two deals and seeing how the prospects that the Indians received are faring, it makes it easier to see why the front office would be willing to part with two prospects if they thought they were getting a true ace in return.

That being said, I still do not have to agree with it or like it.

I just hope Jimenez proves the Indians right and proves me wrong.

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