Here's the Plan: Trying To Fix the Cleveland Indians, Part I

Nino Colla@TheTribeDailySenior Writer IJuly 20, 2009

CLEVELAND - JULY 27:  Andy Marte #15 of the Cleveland Indians throws during the game against the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field on July 27, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

I thought as you grow up, your bedroom was supposed to get a lot cleaner.

At least that was the case for me.

We've all had messy rooms growing up, that's no doubt. Your mother would always come in and yell at you to clean your room because it looked like a pig inhabited it.

Maybe it's the slight OCD in me, but probably since I reached the seventh grade, my room was always nice and clean, and even organized.

Mark Shapiro's room is a bit of a disaster right now.

His room, of course, is the Cleveland Indians entire organization.

And maybe Shapiro has reached the college stage of his executive career. I do know that all that clean, for most people, goes out the window when they enter college and start living on their own.

Maybe it's a matter of the person, but I've seen plenty of college dorm rooms that look like they've had a tornado rip through.

Mark Shapiro basically inherited a mess, cleaned it up, and has now entered college and gone back to the ways that...well let's be honest, they didn't work.

Cleveland has Burger King wrappers overflowing from the trash can, ripped Sports Illustrated magazines scattered amongst the piles of clothes, random items like text books and DVDs, and a bed that hasn't been made in about two and a half weeks all in it's room.

Somewhere hidden in all the mess and clutter though, there's an answer.

Ever lose your remote in that messy room? It's a pain in the backside to find if you've ever searched for it.

That's what it's like finding an answer for the Cleveland Indians.

But the remote is somewhere, and I'm going to find it. Even if I hit my head several times and have to take out the overflowing trash can in the process.

Give Up On 2009

First things first, we need to come to peace that this room is a mess.

Instead of putting off cleaning it, dig in and get the job done.

Wave the white t-shirt and say that we have no chance of competing the rest of the season.

The only way to move forward is to admit you've fallen backwards.

And, oh boy, has this team fallen backwards.

Trade Spare Parts

Once you've given up on 2009, you can come to terms that you need to trade some spare parts.

The Indians don't have a CC Sabathia on this team, someone they need to unload because he isn't going to return next year. So there is no Cliff Lee or Victor Martinez trade going on.

Why throw away a perfectly good pop tart? It's still in its wrapper.

Jamey Carroll would be the first to go. He's a luxury, not a need at this point for the Indians. Championship teams can spend more than a million dollars on a utility player of Carroll's caliber.

While he's a great player to have, he just isn't feasible for the Indians at this point.

I'd also deal Kelly Shoppach along that principle.

Shoppach is going to get a increase in salary next year and that just isn't worth it for a backup catcher that strikes out as much as Shoppach does.

His all-or-nothing approach is fine for a backup, but he's not worth the trouble he gets you in with his slumps and giving away of at-bats.

Add into the fact that his defense has slipped considerably the past few years.

To me, both Shoppach and Carroll are must-deals. You may not get a whole lot for either, but if you take Carroll's salary on for the rest of the year, you might get something decent in return.

That's it though, just two players?

Well just two definitive ones at least.

At this point, I'd trade up to three more players, but not as definitively as I would Shoppach and Carroll.

Start with Carl Pavano, who I believe is probably the most likeliest to get dealt regardless of what I think.

I'd first offer Pavano a short, incentive-based contract based off the year he's had so far.

Maybe two years, $5 million per with challenging, but not un-reachable performance incentives that could push his salary up near $10 million. I'd balance it out to where the contract is front-loaded for next year, but first things first.

If Pavano would go for something like that, I'd re-sign him. It's not out of the question, given the way Pavano basically got his career back by coming to Cleveland. He likes it in Cleveland, he likes the clubhouse and his teammates, and he's pitched well.

Most importantly, Cleveland and its fans like him.

I believe every rotation needs a veteran like Pavano on it's staff. And given the fact that Cliff Lee is the only viable starter under contract for the Indians next year, they need Pavano.

Moving on, I'd keep Rafael Betancourt for the remainder of the season.

Betancourt has an option for 2010 that I wouldn't pick up, but that doesn't mean I would trade him.

For Betancourt, I'd hold onto him, offer him arbitration after declining his option, and watch him either accept and come back for a more reasonable price, or get draft pick compensation for his departure.

A relief pitcher of Betancourt's caliber would be much wanted in the trade deadline, but you could benefit much more with a compensation draft pick than some middle-ground prospect.

Unless of course, someone overpays for him, then I’d ship him out.

The last remaining name that is up for trade consideration is Ryan Garko.

Garko would be a wanted piece for any team looking for a spare bat, especially one as gritty and tested as Garko.

Problem is, his value is down because Wedge pushed it down.

Matt LaPorta is the first baseman of the future of this team. The Indians have made that crystal clear by saying the reason he isn't up right now is because they want him more seasoned at the position.

As a Garko fan, I can come to terms with that. I'm not happy with his treatment, but I'll roll with it. However, I'd probably finish out the season with Garko as the starting first baseman. If anything, to get his value back up as a trade chip.

I also wouldn't be opposed to having him as a bench player. If Wedge can keep David Dellucci around, I can keep Garko.

Benchings All Around

The next step would be to bench a few certain players that deserve a benching, for one reason or another.

The first one would be Jhonny Peralta at third base.

Peralta's lack of fire is another subject for another day. Right now though, Peralta is simply not getting it done at the plate. Peralta is on pace to repeat his 2006 season, which was a let-down compared to what he did the previous year.

Just like 2006, Peralta is flailing in 2009 after having a stellar year before hand.

He's been moved to third base, which is in both his and the Indians best interests. While he's pouted about that, it's hardly the reason for his struggles, because Peralta was even worse with the stick when he was playing at short.

He's numbers have actually improved since moving to third full-time. Four of his six home runs have come when he's played at third base and he's hitting .270 compared to the .242 he hit at short.

It's time for Peralta to ride the pine full-time. He benefits no one playing like this and because the Indians don't have an in-house answer at third for next year, there isn't any trade value to drive up. He's theirs for next year as well, so you might as well bench him.

Why bench him though?

That will be answered rather soon.

The next player I'd bench is Ben Francisco.

With no offense to Francisco as a player, he's just not cut out to be a full-time player at this stage of his career.

He's a fourth outfielder at best and his skill-set and price tag would actually make me say, let him do that next year, too.

It's time for a benching.

The last player I'd bench is center fielder Grady Sizemore.

Wait, what?

Not for playing cruddy or to get someone else a shot, no, Grady has some business to attend to.

At the end of the season, it's a strong possibility that he'll need surgery on his weakened elbow. That elbow that caused him so much grief and a below-standard first half of the season needs fixed sooner rather than later, especially in a lost season.

Get it fixed now and be 100 percent for not just next season, but next spring training.

Call 'Em Up

In order to replace the trades and bench moves, the Indians would have to make some more calls to Columbus to get some players up.

There are two calls that I immediately make.

The first is to bring up Andy Marte to play third base in place of Peralta.

The Indians needs to find out if Marte's rebirth is for real. He's hitting the cover off the ball in Triple-A for the Clippers currently, with a .320 average and a team high 14 home runs.

He also leads the team in runs batted in and shares the lead with teammate Jordan Brown in extra-base hits.

And it's not just the numbers with Marte. His defensive glove at third is still sharp and his attitude has undergone a complete turn-around since even spring training.

Marte was out of shape and believed to be from the school of Jhonny Peralta, but since then, he's taken the fact that 29 teams passed over him in the waiver process and used it as motivation.

Give Marte one more shot for the rest of the season. What could it hurt? If anything, he boosts his stock as a trading piece. At worst, he fizzles back to what he was. He won't gain you much in a trade right now either.

Provided that Kelly Shoppach and Jamey Carroll get traded, I'd recall Josh Barfield. Chris Gimenez can fill the role of back-up catcher and even play some of the corner spots if needed, and Josh Barfield has no business being in Triple-A.

He just has nothing left to prove.

If you trade Carroll, you need to groom Barfield to be his cheap replacement next year.

Because we have Francisco benched and Grady Sizemore on the disabled list getting his surgery, we need to fill a void in center field.

Trevor Crowe might as well get the call. He never really got a consistent shot his second time around, and Crowe has proved that his second tour of duty is always better.

Get him up and start him in center for the rest of the season. If he plays well, I'd say he's opened the door up for a trade or to be the fourth outfielder. Either way, you need to decide between Crowe and Francisco for next season.

We've gone one more call to make and that's to get Jordan Brown up.

Since we've benched Ben Francisco, we have a void in left field.

While I'm eager to get Matt LaPorta up the big leagues, I wouldn't do that until there is a definitive move on Ryan Garko.

Brown can play left field and first base and he's been chomping at the bit to get a shot since he was left off the 40-man roster in the offseason.

Might as well see what he has before he turns into Michael Aubrey and gets dealt for a empty duffel bag.

In order to get Brown on the roster, the Indians would simply release the useless Mike Gosling, who is only on the team because the Indians are carrying way too many bullpen arms.

Looking Toward the Future

That's just the start of cleaning up this mess believe it or not. There is a lot more left to do, but let's take a look at what we have right now.

SS - Asdrubal Cabrera

CF - Trevor Crowe

C - Victor Martinez

RF - Shin-Soo Choo

DH - Travis Hafner

1B - Ryan Garko

3B - Andy Marte

LF - Jordan Brown

2B - Luis Valbuena

I'd also make sure that Fausto Carmona gets back up here in the pitching rotation sooner rather than later.

SP - Cliff Lee

SP - Carl Pavano

SP - Aaron Laffey

SP - Fausto Carmona

SP - David Huff

Eventually the bullpen should look a lot like this as the season starts to end. Some of the clowns the Indians have brought in need to be sent back to the circus.

Bullpen - Betancourt, C. Perez, R. Perez, J. Lewis, Sipp, Smith, Wood

If you are counting at home, Jose Veras, Mike Gosling, and Winston Abreu are all washed up and/or useless and have no business being around past this year; it's time to cut bait.

Don't bring up the likes of Lewis and Perez up immediately, but eventually, by the end of the season at least, I better not see any big red noses or clown shoes walking around.

That pretty much brings us back to the end of the season, which means the start of the offseason, where the plan really kicks into gear. 

With questions answered, or a least made a little bit more clearer, the Indians can now operate with a little more certainty.

However, they'll need to start from the top and work their way down.

Part II Coming Wednesday, July 22: Does Eric Wedge keep his Job? Who survives the roster purge? And how does the bullpen get fixed?


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