MLB: Were the Cleveland Indians Too Quiet at the MLB Trade Deadline?
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Lars Anderson. Brent Lillibridge. That is it.
Those are the players Cleveland acquired in the month of July, prior to the non-waiver trade deadline.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers acquired Omar Infante to play second base and Anibal Sanchez to shore up their rotation, and the Chicago White Sox snagged Brett Myers for their bullpen and Francisco Liriano for further rotation depth.
Did the Indians do enough at the trade deadline? That is an easy question to answer. No.
Brent Lillibridge was acquired from the Boston Red Sox on July 24. He can play all over the field. In 11 games for the Tribe, he has already played second, third, short, left and center. He has also hit a robust .300/.300/.467 in 30 plate appearances for Cleveland, going into Sunday. That is about his norm, as he can't take a walk and he shows solid power for a 5'11", 185 pound utility player.
However, his .217/.280/.357 line over 630 career plate appearances has a lot to do with the reason why he is now in his fourth organization in five years. Lillibridge will be 29 years old in September and he is eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2013 after making $500,000 in 2012.
Lillibridge was acquired for a little (5'9", 175 pound) relief pitcher named Jose De La Torre. The right-hander will be 27 years old in October. De La Torre had a tough road ahead of him due to his size, but his results were not small. In 208 games, he compiled a 2.82 ERA in 329 innings with a 343:129 K:BB and 1.25 WHIP. For a team desperate for relief pitching this season, even with his vertical limitations, De La Torre probably deserved a look.
Lars Anderson was also acquired from the Boston Red Sox on July 31. Anderson was once one of the top prospects in baseball, but he saw his star fade with his power once the 2009 season came around. Anderson hit just .233/.328/.345 as a 21-year-old in Double-A, but he did so well there in a 133 at-bat sample in 2008—.316/.436/.526—that his 2009 season was considered a total failure. Anderson mashed in 2010 in just 17 games in Double-A before being moved up to Triple-A, where he has spent the last 2.5 seasons, while getting all of 48 at-bats with the Red Sox.
The Indians gave up right-handed starter Steven Wright for Anderson. A lot of Tribe fans were upset when Wright was dealt because he was 9-6 with a 2.49 ERA over 20 starts in Double-A. He throws in the low-90s and has a knuckleball, so, immediately, he is just as good as New York Mets Cy Young candidate R.A. Dickey, right?
Not so fast.
Wright will be turning 28 years old at the end of August and R.A. Dickey did not become R.A. Dickey until 2010 when the Mets signed him. He was 35 years old. Wright may never become Dickey and he may be another in the long line of knuckleballers that the Red Sox have acquired, hoping to find the next Tim Wakefield.
The issue with the moves at the deadline is that these moves were as minor as they come. These are the types of organizational depth moves that legitimate contenders make every day of the season, but that is what separates the Cleveland Indians from those teams.
After the Cleveland Indians held onto Johnny Damon, Derek Lowe, Shin-Soo Choo, Chris Perez and Justin Masterson, all players who were mentioned in potential deals at the deadline, the Indians made no attempts to acquire talent to boost the team's playoff hopes.
From the All-Star break to the trade deadline, the Indians went 6-12, losing three games in the standings, and finished the month of July six games back in the AL Central. The Indians started the month of August with seven straight losses, running their losing streak to 11 games.
Once August 1 came along, ownership and management decided that that was the time to decide what they were doing. Derek Lowe was designated for assignment on August 2. Johnny Damon was designated for assignment on August 3. Jeremy Accardo was designated for assignment on August 5. Jose Lopez was designated for assignment on August 7. All four of those players were released, without receiving another breathing human being in return, between August 9 and August 12.
What should the Indians do now?
Outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, right-handed pitchers Frank Herrmann and Corey Kluber and left-handed pitcher Chris Seddon were called up to replace the four released players. With Travis Hafner gone due to his back injury, Lillibridge has taken on Lopez's utility role, while Carrera is taking the at-bats in left field against right-handed pitching. Herrmann is pitching out of the bullpen; Kluber and Seddon do not have fantastic results in their five combined starts and the bullpen continues to be a weakness.
The Indians did not do enough at the trade deadline because they did not do anything. The club needed to decide which direction they wanted to go with their roster; instead, they stood pat...for two days...they then decided that what they had was not working.
As a baseball fan, it is maddening to sit back and watch ownership put a stranglehold on their payroll and limit the ability of management to do what it takes to help their clubs compete year-in and year-out.
Jeff Loria, owner of the Miami Marlins, and the Dolan family, owner of the Cleveland Indians, continue to make choices that boggle my mind. If you are going to win for several years, you cannot give away Hanley Ramirez for a mid-rotation starter like Nate Eovaldi, as the Marlins did prior to the deadline. The Indians gave Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia away for packages of prospects. Why not build around their option years on their contracts and make a run for it?
The Cleveland Indians were indecisive. It isn't that they didn't do enough at the trade deadline, it's that they did nothing at the trade deadline. That makes the team what they are now and what they will continue to be—the pack. They are and will continue to be a team in the pack of clubs who will not be competing for the playoffs every year. That is and was their choice.
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