Tribe Talk: Trade Deadline Special

Samantha Bunten@@samanthabuntenAnalyst IJuly 30, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 16:  Cliff Lee #31 of the Cleveland Indians pitches against the New York Yankees during opening day at the new Yankee Stadium on April 16, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. This is the first regular season MLB game being played at the new venue which replaced the old Yankee Stadium as the Yankees home field.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report's Tribe fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the Indians each week throughout the season.

This week we’ve put together a trade deadline special where we discuss the success of the trades made by the Indians thus far, debate what it would take to convince us to sell Victor Martinez or Cliff Lee (oops! We were a little behind on the latter part of that), and have a little fun proposing imaginary trades of managers, general managers, and owners.

I would like to thank this week's participants Dave Wiley and The Coop for their contributions.

This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we're addressing this week.

Go Tribe!

1. Back on June 29th, the Indians traded Mark DeRosa to the Cardinals for relief pitcher Chris Perez and a player to be named later (which turned out to be pitching prospect Jess Todd).

Now that nearly a month has passed since the trade was made, do you think it was a good move? Who do you think got the better end of the deal, Cleveland or St. Louis?

The Coop: I really like Mark DeRosa for the way he plays. He seems very professional and reliable and his versatility makes him an asset to any team he plays for. The Indians’ acquisition of DeRosa this past offseason was a good move, and if the Indians were in a pennant chase, he would definitely have an important role. So for those reasons, I was personally disappointed to see DeRosa go.

However, in the best interests of the Indians organization, I didn’t really have a problem with it. Given his salary and age and the Indians’ position in the standings, there was no reason to keep him on the roster for any length of time.

I do think the Indians got the better end of the deal with the Cardinals. The Cardinals filled a hole in their lineup, and when teams do that, they generally give up too much. Since I’ve stopped laughing at the irony after Perez got rocked in his Tribe debut, I’ve seen the guy be pretty consistent. I think he’ll be a good fit in the Indians ‘pen down the road (hey, he can’t do any worse!).

I think it’s still way too early for anyone to know anything about Jess Todd, but I like what I’ve read. And, I am relying on the reputation of Cardinals organization as being one of the best scouting organizations in the majors. If they liked him, he’s probably got a chance to be pretty good.

Dave Wiley: Beats me. You say tomato, I say tomato, but neither of us likes vegetables? I don't think either team benefited any more than the other and I don't think either was hurt by the trade. Can you say non-issue?

Give it a year and ask me again. I'll probably say Who? What? DeRosa played for the Indians? Jess Todd plays baseball? This trade was a zit on the face of baseball trades. It was noticeable for about three days.

Samantha Bunten: In the end, it probably shakes out as a pretty fair deal for both sides. Both teams got something small that they needed for a relatively low cost.

You might argue that the Cardinals got the better end of the deal, since DeRosa will likely be more helpful to their team than Perez will be for the Indians. However, in terms of the actual value of the individual players over the long haul, the Indians may have gotten the best of St. Louis, depending how Jess Todd pans out.

St. Louis is a contender and they had a vacancy to fill, so like all other contenders before them, they were bound to overpay for what they needed: in this case a player like Mark DeRosa. Being the seller in this situation means the Indians probably got more than a fair deal when you examine the bigger picture.

Either way, things look better for the Indians than they did the day after this deal went through. At that point it practically looked like a laugher when Perez blew up in his first outing in a Tribe uniform. Luckily, he has since settled into his bullpen role with the Indians nicely and put to rest the worry that the Tribe may have gotten robbed in the deal.

2. Last week the Indians made what may be the first of many pre-trade deadline moves, sending RHP Rafael Betancourt to the Rockies for pitching prospect Connor Graham.

Do you think the move was a good one? Were you happy to see Betancourt go, and do you think Graham will be a significant contributor to the Indians' organization in the future?

The Coop: This one is a little bit of a head-scratcher for me. Now, you might say, “Well, I saw it coming because Rafi-Right had a $5.4 million option next year.” And, of course, you would be right.

However, consider the following: Betancourt was already making $3.35 million this year. So, to keep their best reliever currently on the roster (and, I would argue, the team’s best reliever since 2003), it would have cost them another paltry $2 million?

Meanwhile, the Tribe is paying Travis Hafner around $11 million per year to be a designated hitter??? That’s what is mystifying to me. It just doesn’t compute.

The acquisition of Connor Graham does nothing for me. He’s been pretty average—in Single-A ball. So does anyone really expect him to light it up and make a difference in the near future? I sure don’t.

Incidentally, I have heard that the Indians would be interested in re-signing Betancourt in the offseason, and I would fully support this move.

Dave Wiley: Betancourt could do with a change of scenery. I think he has worn thin on most Indians fans, and generally speaking, it was a political move for the fans. Overall, this season is over. Getting a potential contributor for someone who's future in Cleveland looked like a dead end is a good move even if Mr. Graham does not pan out.

Samantha Bunten: The true winner in this deal wasn't the Indians or the Rockies, but Rafael Betancourt himself. Cleveland was no longer working out for Raffy. He needed a change of venue, which is one of those things that shouldn't make a difference in performance but very frequently does just that.

As someone who has never been fond of Betancourt, I wasn’t too broken up when I heard he was traded, and given his recent decline in effectiveness, I can’t imagine anyone else was either.

As for Graham, he has all the makings of an average pitcher who might someday make it to the show as a mediocre but passable reliever. He's nothing special, but then Betancourt wasn't really pitching such as to command a high price.

I actually think Graham will ultimately be alright and can find a way to contribute. He's a hard thrower and despite some control problems and issuing far too many walks, he is mostly effective and gives up very few long balls.

3. One of the most intriguing deadline rumors in all of MLB involves the possible trade of Victor Martinez. Word on the street is that the Indians rejected an offer from the Red Sox for a trade of Martinez for pitcher Clay Buchholz. Tampa Bay and San Francisco are also rumored to be talking to the Indians about a possible trade for Martinez.

Imagine you are the GM of one of the above-mentioned teams interested in acquiring Victor Martinez. What does your team have to offer that you would you be willing to give up to get him?

The Coop: If I needed another bat, I’d look at Victor Martinez and I’d offer something reasonable. By reasonable, I mean that I would avoid overpaying for Martinez like the Indians’ bullpen avoids getting outs. I certainly wouldn’t pay the Indians’ asking price because that would be extremely too high.

Let me explain. The thing fans need to understand is that the tight-wad Tribe probably won’t pick up Victor’s option at the end of this year, and even if they do, they probably won’t sign him to a long-term deal when his contract is up after 2010. That being the case, the Indians will be in this exact same spot 365 days from now. This makes it a buyer’s market. If the Indians don’t plan on resigning him, they have to trade Martinez eventually, or else they risk losing him to free agency and getting nothing in return. Opposing teams and GMs know that.

Martinez is a very good player, and I’d love for the Indians to hang onto him. But from the viewpoint of someone looking to acquire him, I see a guy who is 30 years old and whose skills behind the plate—not to mention his knees—are deteriorating. Meanwhile, he doesn’t really produce the same amount of offense as the elite first basemen in the majors. Guys like this can be found, and so it’s not worth it to mortgage the future for him—especially since you might only be “renting” him for the next several months.

Dave Wiley: I'm not giving up Martinez, sorry. Martinez, assuming he wants to, has earned the right to a Tribe jersey for the duration of his career. He is a consummate team player.

If I'm the GM, I talk to Martinez one on one and find out what HE wants. If he wants to stay in Cleveland, then he does. He's the true face of the franchise, even if the marketing department keeps covering his face up with Grady Sizemore's.

Samantha Bunten: When I look at Martinez, I see a guy who is an above average singles hitter, a player with mediocre power, a liability on the base paths, an abysmal defensive catcher, and a great guy who is a pleasure to root for, a joy to manage, and a privilege to share a clubhouse with.

What does that all mean? Just that Martinez has been overvalued on the market because he is valuable specifically to the Indians. People see how popular he is in Cleveland and overlook (at least to a degree) the reality of the situation: He is a weak-fielding catcher about to be on the wrong side of 30 whose only truly superior talents are hitting singles and being a likable guy.

Thus he is worth more in Cleveland than elsewhere, where the rapport he has built up with fans, management, and teammates over the years has made him valuable in ways that won't show up on a stat sheet or a scouting report.

To me, this means he's unlikely to be moved because there is a discrepancy between the value he holds for the Indians and the value he would hold for another team and if he is moved.

The only way I see Martinez being traded before the deadline is if Cliff Lee is moved first. Should the dreaded fire sale come to fruition, someone desperate for a bat will no doubt overpay for Martinez. It could easily be Boston that does this, but I don’t believe Buchholz, Manny Delcarmen, Daniel Bard, or any of the Red Sox’ other top prospects will be part of the deal.

4. The other big trade rumor involving the Indians is, of course, the possibility of Cliff Lee being moved. Alleged interested parties include the Brewers, Phillies, Yankees, and Angels.

Now imagine you're a GM for one of the above-mentioned teams and looking to make a trade to get Lee. Who would you be willing to give up to get him?

Further, would your interest in Lee be dependent on what becomes of Roy Halladay? Would you only be interested in Lee if you were unable to acquire Halladay, or do you have reason to believe that going after Lee rather than Halladay in the first place might be the smarter move?

Author’s Note: This question was completed by our panelists before Lee was traded to the Phillies on Wednesday afternoon. The question is now moot of course, but I’ve included the answers anyway so you can see how we fared in our predictions.

The Coop: I view this question quite similarly to the previous one regarding Victor Martinez. However, the exception in this case, obviously, is that Cliff Lee is a dominant left-handed pitcher. That changes everything.

 I would still be careful to not overpay for Lee because of the Indians’ “must-sell” situation. Still, Lee would be an excellent addition to any team’s starting rotation and could be just the guy a team would need to push them over the hump. If I really believed Lee would help my team win it all, I might go the extra mile to get him. I might even try to lock him up to a long-term contract as soon as he arrives in my city.

The question of how Roy Halladay figures in to the equation is quite intriguing. Obviously, Lee is not quite in Halladay’s class. Then again, Lee won’t command the same money in the free agent market as Halladay, so a team that trades for him might have a better chance to sign him long-term. If I had the opportunity to either get Lee without giving up my top minor league prospect or Halladay by giving up my top minor league prospect, well….That’s why GMs are paid the big bucks.

Dave Wiley: If I have my choice between trading for Lee or Halladay, I'm going with Halladay. He is more of a proven commodity over time than Lee. So my first move as a GM is Halladay. Lee is definitely a gem of a pitcher, and should be pursued with similar gusto to Halladay, but with just a smidgen less.

Franchises are built around solid pitching. I think GMs are loopy to give up solid number ones for anything. You just don't get those guys that easily.

As for the teams thinking about the trade, Brewers proved picking up pitching can push you to the next level. They are in this thing for real. Phillies in my opinion do not need to make the trade and it could even backfire. If I'm the Phillies, I like my cards and I stick with them.

The Yankees and Angels each have the payroll depth to trade for Lee and keep him, so hurt or help the team, it would probably benefit both in the grand scheme. If Lee goes, my guess is it’s to the Brewers.

Samantha Bunten: If I'm the Phillies, I see Lee as the solution to all of the problems that have cropped up during the quest for Roy Halladay.

While Lee won't come a whole lot cheaper than Halladay, the Phillies could probably avoid including both Kyle Drabek and JA Happ in the deal, which would not have been the case in a trade for Halladay.

They would still have to give up Jason Knapp plus two or three other top-shelf prospects like Dominic Brown, Michael Taylor, Lou Marson, or Carlos Carrasco, but the cost would still be less than it would be for Halladay, who surely would have gone for no less than both Drabek and Happ PLUS the supplementary players.

Further, there is definitely a reason for the Phillies (or anyone else, for that matter) to pursue Lee instead of Halladay in the first place, rather than just as a consolation prize if they don't land Halladay. That would be because (in addition to the lower price he would command both financially and in terms of prospects), Lee should be easier to keep going forward. While both Halladay and Lee will be expensive free agents, Lee will likely be significantly cheaper, making him a better bet in the long run than Halladay.

5. Fun Question of the Week: Imagine a scenario where you had the power to trade away the Eric Wedge, Mark Shapiro, and Larry Dolan.

Which MLB manager would you most like to swap Eric Wedge for? Which organization's GM would you like to acquire in exchange for Mark Shapiro? And which team's owner would you like to trade for to replace Larry Dolan?

The Coop: I guess it’s assumed in the question that trading the Indians manager, GM, and owner would mean some other team would be getting a horrible deal, but here goes…

Manager: I’d love to trade for Mike Scioscia, Joe Maddon, or Tony LaRussa. These guys strike me as no-nonsense managers who are not outspoken but command respect from their players. They are excellent “baseball men” who treat their players fairly. They don’t come with the glitz and glamour of guys like Lou Piniella, Joe Torre, Ozzie Guillen, etc., but they still win all the same, and really, what’s more important than that?

General Manager: I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for Billy Beane. While he might not have the hardware that some other guys have, very few GMs have done more with less than Beane. He also revolutionized the way player productivity and potential are analyzed and assessed. A lot of people might hold Theo Epstein in high regard, but he is actually a Beane-disciple and his checkbook is infinite. He hasn’t had the restrictions of Beane. Other honorable mentions would go to Walt Jocketty and Andrew Friedman.

Owner: Without question, the best owner of all time is George Steinbrenner. I must qualify that statement by letting you know that I absolutely hate the New York Yankees. Still, there is no owner in history that has demanded excellence—and shelled out the cash to get it. People might hate the concept of the Yankees always out-spending everyone, and I agree that that inequity hurts baseball tremendously. Still, don’t blame the Yankees—they aren’t cheating or breaking any rules. They’re doing exactly what they think it takes to win.

Would you rather have a cheap, indifferent-to-winning owner like Peter Angelos, Ted Lerner, Bob Nutting, or...dare I say it...Larry Dolan? Of course, now that King George has handed over the reins to his sons, I would love to see Arte Moreno if was available. He has spent the money it takes to put a winner on the field, while also taking a truly “fan-friendly” approach off the field and in the stands.

Dave Wiley: Eric Wedge for Joe Torre. This is similar to swapping Rafael Betancourt for Roy Halladay, but hey, this is a fun question so I can do whatever I want. I would love to see Joe Torre in a small/mid-market setting to see what he can do. He certainly has the Los Angeles Dodgers firing on all cylinders even with Manny being Woman Manny.

Mark Shapiro for Gord Ash of the Milwaukee Brewers. I like the "live for today” mentality of the Milwaukee Brewers organization. Anyone who'd go after Sabathia the way the Brewers did is okay in my book. The entire goal of playing in professional sports is to win it all. Gord Ash goes all or nothing. That gamblers attitude is something I would appreciate in Cleveland.

Larry Dolan for Tom Hicks. You have to admit, Hicks is an entertaining owner. The things he does to get Texas to the top is again a gambler’s attitude. Combine him and Ash, my team is either in last place or winning the World Series. I bet on the latter.

Samantha Bunten: My top choice for manager would be Bobby Valentine, so ideally I would be sending Wedge abroad. My apologies to the entire country of Japan for what would be a very, very bad deal for their end.

Domestically, I would love to trade Wedge for Ken Macha, Mike Scioscia, Ron Gardenhire, or Joe Madden. I wouldn’t mind getting Don Wakamatsu either, as the job he’s done in Seattle makes him worthy of the Manager of the Year Award in my book, or Lou Piniella, purely for entertainment value.

Jon Daniels, Andrew Friedman, Doug Melvin, and Bill Smith are at the top of my list for GMs because they have all been able to innovatively skirt the money issues that plague their teams and put together excellent rosters in spite of payroll, rather than because of it.

Mark Attanasio of the Brewers is, in my opinion, the best owner in baseball and thus the one I would most like to trade for. He’s a risk taker who isn’t afraid to bet it all, one of the few owners left in baseball today who truly cares more about winning than about money. Like George Steinbrenner before him, he makes a great owner because he is first and foremost, his team’s biggest fan.


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