Shin Soo Choo is arbitration eligible after this season
The Cleveland Indians are doing it again. After getting our hopes up in the first half of the season they once again have shown that they cannot sustain success throughout an entire season. This is in large part to some very questionable decisions made in the offseason.
The first was to bring back the injury-prone Grady Sizemore. Now, I understand the sentimental value of giving Sizemore one more year in Cleveland to try and rebound, but he should have been brought back as a fourth outfielder, not someone who was being counted on to be in the starting lineup every day.
And for $5 million? Come on man, that is crazy. For $2 million more a year we could have had a serviceable starter like Josh Willingham. Instead they brought back Sizemore. Willingham, a right-handed hitting left fielder, signed with Minnesota and has hit 23 homers to date. Let’s just say that this has not been one of GM Chris Antonetti’s best moves.
Next, to fill our huge void at first base we bring in Casey Kotchman. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kotchman and he is a great fielder, but on a team deprived of hitting you cannot waste the first base position on someone who can’t hit for power.
For most of this season many thought that the Tribe would be buyers during this trade deadline. However, after a devastating series against Baltimore this past weekend which has put them 4.5 games behind Detroit for first place, the Indians have now found themselves slowly slipping out of contention.
With the turn in events Tribe fans must now brace themselves for the impact of becoming sellers instead of buyers. Lucky enough for the Tribe they do have one or two pieces that could bring back some valuable return for now and for the future. Let’s look at some potential trade scenarios.
Shin-Soo Choo, RF
I have to admit Choo is one of my favorite players currently on this club, outside of Jason Kipnis, but with his being arbitration eligible after this season and being a Boras client his future money demands may be more than the Indians are able to swallow and as Ken Rosenthal from Fox Sports reported, the possibility is out there.
A bat like his would not come cheap however and the Indians must make out like kings in order to justify it to the fan base. I could see the Boston Red Sox making a run at Choo, Boston has been struggling to date so far this year and at the moment they are running a platoon in right field.
If Boston wants the fans to get back on board this could be the way to do it. The Red Sox have a nice variety of offensive prospects to offer. I think Choo to Boston for C Ryan Lavarnway, OF Bryce Brentz, and P Miguel Celestino would be a nice return package.
Lavarnway is one of the best young catching prospects in the game, the guy is a beast (6'4" 225 lbs) and can absolutely crush the ball (batting .300 with eight HR in the International League).
Unfortunately for him, there is a logjam at catcher at the MLB level for the Sox with Saltalamacchia and Shoppach. With this being the case, Lavarnway becomes expendable.
Lavarnway could potentially replace Carlos Santana behind the plate and allow him to move to either first base or DH. Lavarnway could find himself being the DH replacing Travis Hafner after this season.
Outfielder Bryce Brentz has a nice compact swing and could take Choo’s place in right field in 2012. He is 6'0'', 190 lbs with a cannon arm, similar to Choo, and the ability to provide some power from the left side of the plate. Brentz has the potential to be a more than adequate prospect for Choo.
Celestino could be a nice projection arm in the minors for the Indians to develop. He is still young, 22, and has an excellent frame (6'6" 205 lbs). He has a good mix of three pitches which include a mid-90s fastball along with a curve and a changeup.
While it is hard to lose Choo this would be a fantastic package to receive in return.
Chris could be waving goodbye to Cleveland sooner rather than later.
Chris Perez, Closer
Perez has been absolutely lights out this season with only having two blown saves. As great as that has been for the Indians, he is completely expendable for multiple reasons.
First, he is arbitration-eligible after this season and will be due a very large pay day. Normally I would say a guy like this is worth giving money to. In this case though, I have to say no as Perez has made multiple comments towards the fan base of Cleveland and just doesn’t seem like he wants to be in C-Town.
Relief pitching is one of the team's deepest positions. If Perez is moved, Vinnie Pestano could more than likely fill the gap and do it pretty admirably, at a much cheaper price. Also for the Tribe, closers are a hot commodity this trade deadline.
One team in particular I see as being a very favorable trade partner is the New York Mets. The Mets' bullpen has been about as bad as the Indians' left field production. Speaking of left field that is a major hole for the Indians, and ironically the Mets have plenty of outfield depth.
I could see a trade of Perez to the Mets in exchange for Jordany Valdespin/Krik Nieuwenhuis, Wilmer Flores, and Jenrry Mejia or Jeurys Familia. This trade gives the Mets the lockdown closer that they so desperately need without completely gutting their farm system and gives Cleveland three prospects who could see the big leagues within a year.
Valdespin has spent a little time in left field for the Mets and has shown some potential at the big league level with the bat. He can’t be worse than the Duncan/Damon/Cunningham trio they currently have. Through the playing time he has received this year in New York, he has proven to be a spark in the lineup with a little pop in his bat.
Nieuwenhuis would also be a nice addition to left field, he has the range, grit, and bat to be a serious young upgrade over anyone currently in that platoon in left field.
Flores gives the Indians another young infield prospect whom can play third base or shortstop. He seems to be about a year away and already proves he can hit for average, has patience, and should develop the rest of his power along the way. With Lonnie Chisenhall still an unknown, another big league ready third base prospect would be a great addition.
Finally Mejia or Familia would bring back another bullpen arm for the Indians. Mejia would seem to be a little more realistic as he could provide a great spark in the pen as a setup man or a situational pitcher.
At one point Mejia was considered the Mets' top prospect but after his injury he has gotten less publicity. Familia would be a great addition as he has the potential to become a top-flight closer in the league with the ability to maybe translate to a starter.
It would be tough to imagine the Mets to be willing to part with Familia but if they get Perez in return they may be willing to take the ‘”what if” of the future for the for sure known of now.
Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis should give Tribe fans hope about the future.
It is one of my favorite sayings and I feel like we Indians fans will have to use it again this year, "There's always next year."
With the staggering play of late, the Indians have begun their fall out of contention yet again. With the help of trades similar to these though the Tribe might find themselves in great position with a solid young core to compete next season.
Possible Starting Lineup:
C: Ryan Lavarnway
1B: Carlos Santana
2B: Jason Kipnis
3B: Jack Hannahan/ Wilmer Flores
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera
LF: Jordany Valdespin/Kirk Nieuwenhuis
CF: Michael Brantley
RF: Bryce Brentz
This lineup doesn't include any huge names, but there is a lot of high-upside talent there that should get Tribe fans excited.
1. Justin Masterson
2. Ubaldo Jiminez
3. Zach McAllister
4. Josh Tomlin
5. Jeanmar Gomez
With the salaries of Chris Perez, Travis Hafner, and Shin-Soo Choo being coming off the books, hopefully management would find it somewhere in the bottom of their hearts to spend some money and bring in a free agent or two to bolster the bullpen and potentially bring in another starting pitcher or hitter.
All we can do now is hope for the best this year and wait for next year. Go Tribe!