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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