Ways the Indians Could Stop the Slide
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The Cleveland Indians are in a spot where they need to decide what their next step is. Are they going to contend or are they going to be sellers? Are they going to take the steps necessary to get things going, or assume that they can tread water with their current roster?
With some devastating injuries, the Indians have slid to a 1-5 record in the last week.
While the Tribe was losing games, the White Sox have gone 6-0 in the last week, including the three-game sweep of the Indians last weekend, and have won 12 of their last 13.
These are the ways the Indians can improve their roster right now.
Trade Derek Lowe
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Sure, Derek Lowe has been one of the better starters for the Indians. Sure, Lowe brings some stability to the rotation as a veteran starter. But what exactly is Lowe for the Indians?
Lowe has made ten starts and has a 3.25 ERA over 61 innings, posting a 6-3 record. Lowe's statistics show that he really hasn't been as good as his results, as his FIP is 4.01 and his xFIP is 4.37. His K:BB is 18:18, and his strikeout rate is the lowest of his career.
With that being said, Lowe's home runs per nine innings is the lowest it has been since 1998, when he was the swing-starter for the Red Sox.
Lowe's ground ball rate is 65.6%, the highest it has been since he was 16-8 with the Dodgers in 2006. We also can't forget his BABIP is .319 while the league average is typically .300, so he has been unlucky while also being very lucky.
Lowe is a product of the defense behind him and his own abilities.
However, Lowe turns 39 today, June 1, and the Indians are going to win or lose games with or without him due to the other members of the Indians rotation.
Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez both have ERAs over five, and Jeanmar Gomez seems to be heading in that direction, as his ERA has climbed from 2.35 on April 28 to its current 4.42.
Trade Lowe to a contender looking for pitching and hope that you can get a solid prospect for him by eating some of the $15 million that he was due in 2012. An example of a solid trade would be to send Lowe to the New York Mets for LHP Darin Gorski and OF Juan Lagares.
Gorski would provide minor league depth, though the 24-year-old has a good changeup and has posted solid results, even without an overwhelming fastball. Lagares is a right-handed bat. He doesn't do any one thing great, but he would be a solid fourth outfielder with the potential for more, with some speed and gap power. At 23, he is what he is.
Both are in Double-A, so they are nearly ready mid-level prospects, a solid return for an aging starter, even if you have to eat a majority of Lowe's contract.
Put Zach McAllister in the Rotation
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If or when Derek Lowe is moved, Zach McAllister would move into the rotation, where he should be anyway.
McAllister is a monster at 6'6", 240 pounds, and he has mid-rotation starter written all over him. In seven seasons in the minors, he has a 54-39 record and a 3.44 ERA over 722.2 innings.
McAllister was acquired from the Yankees for Austin Kearns.
He has had mixed results in his eight starts in the majors, going 1-2 with a 4.85 ERA, but his FIP is 2.86, so he has done pretty well. While he doesn't have the recognizable veteran name, he will be a cheaper, younger option, and the Indians need to see what they have with him.
The 24-year-old deserves a long look.
Trade Lonnie Chisenhall and Francisco Lindor
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Now you think I am crazy. Why would you trade two building blocks if you are rebuilding?
Lonnie Chisenhall is the 23-year-old "third baseman of the future" and Francisco Lindor is the 18-year-old "shortstop of the future." How does this make sense?
Well, the Indians have waited and been patient with prospects in the past.
Adam Miller, Michael Aubrey, Jeremy Sowers, Trevor Crowe, David Huff, and Beau Mills are all top picks and top prospects for the Indians who haven't reached expectations. While the Tribe had success with some prospects in the 1990's, it hasn't been the same in the last decade.
Why trust management at this point with prospects? Do they even know what they're doing? Why not trade young guys, coveted players and cheap alternatives to another organization for proven talent?
Trade Chisenhall and Francisco Lindor to the Cincinnati Reds for Chris Heisey, a right-handed bat with pop, Homer Bailey, an improving young arm, and Tony Cingrani, a powerful left-handed arm that is dominating in the hitter-friendly California League.
The Reds need help on the left side of the infield, even with Billy Hamilton, their top prospect, considered a middle infielder.
The Indians get immediate help in the outfield, as Heisey can play all over the outfield and produce with some power, and the addition of Bailey gives the Tribe a potential power arm in the midst of their glut of ground-ball pitchers. Cingrani is a college arm from Rice who could be a top of the rotation starter if he continues showing the kind of dominance that he has to this point in his minor league career.
The Indians have Jack Hannahan at third and Jose Lopez to spell him in 2012, so Chisenhall doesn't have much of a role. While Lindor is considered a fantastic prospect, he isn't going to play shortstop or second base with Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis around, so unless the Indians moved him to center, they don't have a spot for him.
This, of course, is factoring on the Indians keeping Cabrera when he hits free agency after the 2014 season.
Improve the team now and potentially in the future. The organization is weak in the pitcher category, so the addition of two live arms is necessary. The fact that Tony Wolters and Ronny Rodriguez are also solid shortstop prospects for the Indians makes this a sensible idea.
Give LaPorta a Shot at DH
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Travis Hafner is out for several weeks due to surgery on his right knee. While he is out, the Indians could put Johnny Damon at DH and keep his weak arm and weaker range out of the outfield, or they could give Matt LaPorta a role in Cleveland playing left or DH.
I'm a big advocate of LaPorta and have been. While he has posted very pedestrian, Ryan Garko-like numbers in his 909 major league at bats, LaPorta was the primary piece in the C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee deal, and the Tribe needs to have something good come of that.
While Michael Brantley was also acquired in that deal, LaPorta was the ultimate prize at the time, so give him a shot to thrive.
His minor league splits this season are very extreme. LaPorta has dominated in Columbus, posting a 1.283 OPS and 12 home runs in 86 at bats at home, but has only a .710 OPS and two home runs in 80 road at bats.
However, LaPorta has a 1.004 OPS against right-handed pitchers and a 1.014 OPS against left-handed pitchers.
The primary reason that LaPorta needs to be called up is the fact that he is a right-handed bat.
The Indians do not have a right-handed bat in the every day lineup, with just Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera switch-hitting in the midst of Shin-Soo Choo, Johnny Damon, Jack Hannahan, Jason Kipnis, Casey Kotchman, and Michael Brantley.
While there aren't many tough lefties in the AL Central beyond Bruce Chen (if you can consider him one), John Danks (if he is healthy), and Drew Smyly (who may or may not have an innings limit later in the postseason push), the Indians need to be prepared for the Yankees with Andy Pettitte and Sabathia if they were to make the postseason in 2012.
Fire Manny Acta
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I'm not one to ask for people to lose their jobs and I hate reading comments about how awful Manny Acta is, but something needs to change in management, and it isn't going to be Mark Shapiro as President or Chris Antonetti as General Manager.
The issue with firing a manager is that they are only able to work with what they have.
Acta hasn't done anything absolutely terrible with the lineup or the starting rotation. He seems to have handled the bullpen well, though no one is perfect.
This move needs to be made to light a fire under the Indians butts. Acta has a weak 334-450 career record (.426) as a manager, but that is taking into account the time that he was the Washington Nationals manager during their worst years. He has led the Indians to a 176-198 record (.471) in his three seasons in Cleveland.
There really aren't any managers who could do much better with what the Indians have, and the 43-year-old Acta seems to be well-liked by his players. The move could jump-start the Tribe, though, which is necessary during the current losing streak, where motivation seems to look as responsible for struggles as the multiple injuries.