Yes, if the Cleveland Indians really want to win the World Series this year without 'giving up the farm', it can be done.
We have moves that need to be made now! And I am talking about moves that will not drain our farm system. Yes, I am frustrated not just about our first ten games, but that much of what we have seen was predictable before the season began. And the Tribe Brass thought nothing needed fixed.
Another part of my frustration is to look around at the young ex-Indians who are doing so well (Phillips, Kouzmanoff, Barton, etc.) and we have David Dellucci, Jason Michaels, and a young fellow in Andy Marte who can only play third base, but will not be given playing time. I see us performing much like we did in 2006 after a very successful season in 2005.
Some of these suggestions will be unpopular, but are a few places to start.
The first one is a no-brainer, trade/release Dellucci, Michaels, and Marte. It is unbelieveable to me that we have these three on our roster, with two of them starting most games. Bring up Ben Francisco and Andy Gonzalez (to take Marte's spot) from Buffalo.
Gonzalez would give us a utility guy who can actually PLAY a number of positions (3B, 1B, and the OF). It seems to me that manager Eric Wedge is falling for that veteran garbage again by playing Michaels in right field so much and letting Gutierrez sit. I see another young man that may be losing his confidence trying to play for Wedge.
The biggest move, the one that will be controversial—sign Barry Bonds. He has stated numerous times that he would love to play for a team that has a chance to go the World Series. Indications are that he would not require a huge salary contract, and it would be for only one year.
The Tribe could be a perfect fit. The big if, is that he must come on the team as a team player, and not expect to have special perks that could throw off the team chemistry.
Yes, the news media will go crazy, but he could be protected from much of that. Bonds obviously doesn't let the fans' criticism effect his play. Getting away from the west coast may be perfect for him. You can also expect a tremendous rise in the ticket sales for the Indian games.
Then what would we expect from Bonds? He would be in left field about half the games and, Ben Francisco the other half. When he isn't playing, just think of the advantage of having a guy like him to pinch hit late in the close games.
Francisco would also be able to relieve Gutierrez in right field against some of the tougher right-handed pitchers. Francisco has shown that he can hit right-handed pitchers much better that Gutierrez.
Then when Shin-Soo Choo is activated, we could send Gonzalez back down to Buffalo and determine if Choo will be able to get playing time and produce under Wedge. I have a concern that for whatever the reason, Wedge has shown very little faith in playing Choo enough to give him a decent opportunity. I don't see that changing with Wedge being the manager.
I would love to see us include Dellucci, Michaels, and Marte in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles to obtain Brian Roberts. The Orioles are playing well now, but their slide will start soon and then they will be looking to trade Roberts. I would be willing to throw in a Jeremy Sowers/Aaron Laffey, as well as a couple of AA prospects. I may even consider Josh Barfield since I don't believe he is in Wedge's plans anymore.
We need to get a great leadoff hitter like Roberts, and quit playing around and allow Sizemore to bat in the second or third position. Even if it means that we have to overwhelm Baltimore, we still have not even started to give away our farm system.
Just think of the lineup we could have: ROBERTS, SIZEMORE, BONDS, MARTINEZ, HAFNER, PERALTA, GARKO, GUTIERREZ, BLAKE. And then a bench of Jamey Carroll, Francisco, Kelley Shoppach, and Gonzalez/Choo. The lineup the Indians have been using is a joke compared to what we could have. Consider our lineup now: SIZEMORE, CABERA, HAFNER, MARTINEZ, PERALTA, GARKO, DELLUCCI, MICHAELS AND BLAKE. That is not a World Series Championship team.
I believe that the pitching will again be our strength. C.C. Sabathia will eventually get his game straightened around. I expect big seasons out of Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook. Cliff Lee has looked good early, and Paul Byrd is struggling, but I believe he will be adequate for a fifth starter. Our bullpen will again be a strength for us even, if Joe Borowski should falter.
But our offense is what really needs immediate help. We finished the second half of the last season as the 24th ranked team in many of the major offensive categories. Much of that continued in the playoffs, especially against the Red Sox. Most teams have discovered how to pitch to our lineup, and that has carried over into 2008.
Getting Barry Bonds is without a doubt controversial, but how bad do we want to be able to win a World Series. The great managers know how to direct a team with different type of ballplayers and attitudes. We seem to want to produce a team with a good-guy images but that by itself will never bring championships. I truly believe that Bonds could positively effect the team in many ways.
I do have reservations that Wedge would convince his partner, Mark Shapiro not to make this move. Having a strong-willed personality would create major issues in Wedge's confidence. But Wedge needs to become a real major-league manager that is not fearful of specific ball players.
After all, this is a team game and we should be making moves to make this the best team to compete for the World Series!