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 examine the fates of the older players on the Tribe’s roster, from the recent trade of Carl Pavano to the uncertain future of Jamey Carroll. We also discuss the ethical implications of trading within one’s own division, weigh-in on what we’ve seen from the newly-acquired Justin Masterson thus far, and take our best guess at who the 2009 AL Central Division Champions will be.
I would like to thank this week's participants Dave Wiley, Dale Thomas, 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.
1. We would all like to know what the value of the Pavano trade will be for the Indians, but that question cannot be answered until the Tribe receives the promised player to be named later from Minnesota sometime between now and Sept. 1.
The other question sparked by this deal is regarding where one should draw the line on who one makes trades with. Do you have a problem with the Indians trading a player to an AL Central rival, especially one who is in the race for the division title?
Would your opinion be different if the Indians were still in the race, or if the Twins were not?
The Coop: I don’t know how you could expect very much. The Indians pretty much took a flyer on him last offseason and he ended up being pretty mediocre. I mean, I certainly didn’t count on him for nine wins (now 10), but he hasn’t exactly been untouchable. It’s not like another team is going to mortgage their future for him.
He is playing on a one-year contract and is certain to make more money next year, assuming he finishes out well this season. Meanwhile, he’s 33 and has spent more time on the DL than on the field in his career.
Someone will pick him up, but it won’t be the Tribe. Their move was consistent with what they’ve been doing all along, exchanging million-dollar contracts with low-level prospects.
I don’t have a problem with the Tribe trading to a division rival now that they’re finished, regardless of where Minnesota is in the standings. If both teams were in the race, I think it would depend on what the Indians got in return. Obviously, a starting player for a prospect would not seem to make sense.
Dave Wiley: The Indians end up with some beads and other trinkets, and Minnesota and Pavano go on to win the AL Central Division crown. The Indians receive casino building rights in Cleveland on the next ballot.
Samantha Bunten: The idea of trading with a division rival just doesn't sit right with me whether the Indians are out of the race or not, but mostly it just seems like bad business to ever trade within one's own division to a team in contention.
In other words, cutting a deal with the Twins like this is more offensive than the situation would have been if the Indians and the Royals swapped a few players.
The one thing that lessens the blow is that Pavano's contract only runs through the end of the year. He can only help the Twins until the end of a season that is a lost cause for the Indians anyway, so at the very least they have not given a player to a division rival who might help that team down the road when the Indians would truly stand to be hurt by it.
For the Twins, it’s a win/win trade for three reasons:
1. What they will have to give up in the form of the player to be named later will likely be minimal;
2. Pavano's contract will become pricier soon when his incentive clauses kick in ($1.75M plus the $500k remaining owed on his base salary), but he won't be so expensive that he isn't worth taking bit of a gamble on, and;
3. Perhaps most important (and the single reason I'm willing to forgive this inter-division trade just a little), is that Pavano is 3-0 vs. the Tigers this year. This is a good reason for Minnesota to acquire him, and good reason for those of us who don't care much for Detroit to be glad they did.
Dale Thomas: Nostradamus predicts the end of the world as we know it in 2012. NostroTHOMAS predicts that 2012 is the year before we will likely see any value from this trade, presuming it follows the prophetic plan of wild guesses we've seen thus far into this fire sale/giveaway.
Trading with division rivals is just flat-out annoying. That's a bit different than being a totally bad thing or a good family picnic type of thing. It's more like when somebody offers a handshake, only to find out they have one of those buzzer things in their palm. I wouldn't see it any differently if the Tribe were the ones with the buzzer.
2. Jamey Carroll had a couple of clutch hits for the Tribe on Sunday, perhaps putting on a show for would-be trade suitors.
Do you think he will last the season with the Indians, or will he be moved before the waiver trade deadline on Aug. 31? Where do you think he might end up?
Do you think it is better for the Tribe to move Carroll now while they can get something in return? Could he perhaps be valuable enough to the Indians that it would be worth trying to re-sign him as a free agent this offseason, or will his services just be too expensive for the Tribe's meager budget?
The Coop: The Indians are really in the same situation here as they were with Pavano. They’ve got an old guy (Carroll will be 36 next year) who’s not making much ($2.5 million) but could have some above-average value to a team in contention.
I suppose the Indians could try and trade him for a low-level prospect, and they probably will, but that would be boring. Besides, why trade a guy who can play six positions and busts his tail every single day?
At the very least, he can fill in when needed and mentor young players. Hey, if they re-sign him, that’s less money that they have to spend on other utility players!
Dave Wiley: Man, this is a tough question. Jamey Carroll is the Casey Blake of two seasons ago.
I hoped then they'd re-sign Blake, but no such luck. Blake has gone on to be a regular third baseman for the Dodgers and a major contributor to their success. Carroll is also an all around player that adds a lot of value just because of his versatility. They'll trade him, and he'll end up being a large part of someone else's future.
I don't think Carroll will command big dollars in the free agent market, but I also don't think the Indians will resign him.
Samantha Bunten: The rumor mill has been quiet with regard to Carroll lately, perhaps indicating that he could remain an Indian for the rest of the 2009 season after all. There are certainly plenty of teams still in the mix who could use Carroll, but it appears that as of right now, he’s staying put.
While I would certainly consider re-signing Carroll before the 2010 season a worthwhile investment, I wouldn't be entirely opposed to seeing him traded prior to the end of 2009 either—as long as the Indians got something in return.
That said, I would still prefer that the Indians hang onto him, as there is really very little reason to trade him. Not only would he fetch very little in return, but his contract is a modest $2.5 million, he’s the most versatile player on our roster, and he provides a veteran presence that is important to what the Tribe should be focusing on for the remainder of 2009, which is helping this whole litter of youngsters get acclimated to playing in the major leagues.
Dale Thomas: I think the Tribe might like keeping Jamey Carroll through this year since they could probably only get a promising 18-year-old city league ace for him right now.
Would-be trade suitors need guys who step up for post season play...and I think Carroll's career post season average is exactly .000. So I ask myself who would want him?
Jamey has played pretty well this year, hitting .295 with the bulk of his hits going opposite field, but he hasn't been able to string seasons like this back to back. He's 35 and makes enough money to violate the Tribe's temporary employment services’ minimum wage guidelines, so I don't see them re-signing him as a free agent.
3. Justin Masterson turned in a solid performance in his first start for the Indians on Saturday (4.0IP, 4H, 1ER, 1BB, 4K) before the bullpen blew his lead and cost him his first victory in a Tribe uniform.
How happy are you with the acquisition of Masterson so far? Has his performance lessened the blow of losing Martinez at all? Do you prefer him in a starting role or coming out of the pen?
The Coop: It would be hard not to be happy with what he’s done so far, but I’ve seen far too many Indians prospects start well—only to sharply regress—to be sold on him.
Sadly, I think the only thing that would take the sting out of the Martinez trade would be a Cy Young award for Masterson or an eventual World Series Championship for the Tribe.
I can’t say whether I prefer Masterson as a starter or reliever, but I hope that when the Indians decide—hopefully before next season—that they make their decision and stick with it. I definitely do not believe in repeatedly yanking a guy back-and-forth between the starting rotation and bullpen.
Dave Wiley: Martinez has been a great pickup for Boston. Tribe gets the short end of the stick yet again for this year. Masterson will be part of the starting rotation next year and hopefully a valuable contributor in the Tribe's future.
In the long run, trading a catcher for a starter should be a sound trade, but Martinez was a fan favorite and I don't think Cleveland fans will ever see this one as a good acquisition, or even an even-steven.
Samantha Bunten: So far, Masterson is the only piece of the two major trades (Lee and Martinez) who we have actually seen enough of to begin to evaluate. While I still don't predict the trade results will be all flowers and rainbows and wins for the Tribe down the road. At least Masterson looks like a guy we want on our team.
I think Masterson will have to pitch a lot better than he has thus far to make up for the loss of fan favorite Martinez, but he has definitely impressed me to a degree, pitching better than I had expected and solid enough to keep trade critics at least somewhat at bay for the time being.
I prefer Masterson as a starter simply because the Indians desperately, desperately need starting pitching for next season.
I think he would be a waste in the pen in general, but I do agree with the suggestion made by a few scouts that, upon witnessing him hitting between 93 and 97 on the radar gun in his first outing with the Indians, he looks like he might make a pretty decent closer someday.
Dale Thomas: He's the closest thing to a real player we've seen so far, but it doesn't really lessen the blow of losing Martinez because it's still trading down.
Although I'm not impressed at all with his four-plus ERA, I'd really like to see Masterson get a chance to be a starter for the Indians. Call it blind faith, or call it the best we have.
4. Speaking of Masterson, do you see him as a vital part of the Indians' rotation next season?
As of right now, who do you predict will be the five pitchers who make up the Tribe's starting staff in 2010?
The Coop: I think four of the five spots are pretty much set. I’ve got to believe it will be something like: 1. Laffey, 2. Huff, 3. Carmona, 4. Sowers.
I hate to say it, but I don’t believe Jake Westbrook will ever pitch for the Indians again. I really hope I’m wrong, but I certainly don’t see him being with the big-league club next April.
Laffey is a lock to be the Opening Day starter. As far as the other three, I doubt the order will matter too much. I think it will depend on how they finish out this season and how they look next spring. In my eyes, they’re all pretty much the same at this point.
The battle for the fifth spot will be interesting—or at least, as interesting as a battle for the fifth spot can be. I would imagine it will be between Hector Rondon and Justin Masterson, but I have no idea what the front office’s plans are for either guy (starter vs. bullpen).
I say, let the “loser” go to the ‘pen. The Indians can use them both. As an alternative, I could see the Tribe picking up a cheap, veteran, Pavano-esque arm to give the young arms more time to develop.
Dave Wiley: Westbrook, Carmona, Sowers, Huff, and Masterson?
Westbrook and Carmona battle it out for opening day. Sowers slides into a solid three hole, and Huff, Masterson, Sipp and Laffey are questionable for the fourth and fifth spots based on how they close out this year and how they do in spring training.
Hopefully Wedge is no more and the staff fore-goes the spring "dig yourself into a hole" antics of the past two seasons and gives fans hope through the All-Star break.
Samantha Bunten: Absolutely. Masterson ultimately profiles as a fourth starter (maybe third if he really surpasses expectations). In the Indians world, this third or fourth starter label translates to: He will be either our ace or our No. 2 guy. Ah, life with a small market team saddled with a penny-pinching owner.
The rotation likely looks like this: Laffey, Carmona, Masterson, Huff, and a great big ol' question mark occupying the fifth slot in the rotation. Or maybe the first slot. With this group, who really knows?
That last guy could be Westbrook if he's healthy (which is starting to look unlikely given his latest setback), it could be Jeremy Sowers (which is very likely, but also might make me suicidal because I'm sick of watching this guy get hundreds of chances to prove he still sucks), it could be a guy like Hector Rondon or Tony Sipp if either is truly ready, or it could be some poor guy we sign in the offseason on the cheap who will have NO idea what he's in for.
Dale Thomas: Looking at our current active roster, I see Masterson as a key hopeful for next season's rotation. I think a good pitching coach will be more vital than any individual pitcher we currently have.
There is plenty of potential, very little proven worth, but most importantly, it's become clear that the path from the mound to home plate is located smack down the middle of a fault line.
This is why our tectonic home plate keeps shifting and moving creating such an evasive strike zone; after all, it already swallowed up all of our Cy Young winners and spit back the rocks from which our team will grow in a mere few thousand years.
With that understood, here's 2010:
1. Carmona—yes, look for an ERA under three.
2. Huff—he's gonna get a lot of run support because his name is Huff
3. Masterson—Maybe he'll throw 100 pitches?
4. Laffey—umm... yeah.
5. Some guy we've never heard of or maybe several guys we've never heard of since numbers one through four above are all standing smack in the center of that fault line.
5. Fun Question of the Week: We know, we know—you've all seen Major League and still believe the Indians can come back and win the AL Central this season, despite being more than 10 games out.
Let's just, um, assume that won't happen. Given that, who do you think will actually take the AL Central this year? Why?
Who do you actually WANT to win the division?
The Coop: My money would be on the Tigers, but I wouldn’t bet more than a stick of gum. They appear to have the deepest pitching and a quite a few “tough outs” in their lineup.
The White Sox just seem too old and play too streaky for me, and the Twins don’t really seem to have the pitching, as they’ve been hit by the injury bug. Really, it’s a complete toss-up between the three, but Detroit has a three-game lead, so I’ll take them.
However, I would prefer—and love—to see the Twins represent the AL Central. Guys like Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are just awesome to watch. And, call me crazy, but there’s just something cool about watching playoff baseball in a loud-as-hell dome with waving white towels and a garbage bag for an outfield wall.
Dave Wiley: I think the three horse race sounds something like this:
And they're off! TheSputteringRoyals jump out to an early lead. ImaybeaTigerbutIfogotMyCornflakes follows out front. ILikeWearingWhiteSox tucks in along the rail in third, and HerecometheTwins ride along neatly in forth.
IndiansattheGateway forget to set a wake-up call for Wedge and don't break out of the gate until everyone reaches the first turn.
Around the far turn it’s...IMaybeaTigerbutIfogotMyCornflakes, ILikeWearingWhiteSox, HerecometheTwins, IndiansattheGateway, and bringing up the rear, TheSputteringRoyals.
Down the stretch it’s…HereCometheTwins, ILikeWearingWhiteSox, IMaybeaTigerbutIfogotMyCornflakes...it’s HERECOMETHETWINS!
HereCometheTwins lose their next race by four lengths, and the entire AL Central is turned into glue.
Samantha Bunten: The odds are strongly with Detroit, as they've held onto the lead consistently and don't look like they'll be overthrown any time soon.
No one has had any luck doing that so far, so I can't imagine why that would change much halfway through August, especially considering Chicago and Minnesota haven't shown any signs they're making much progress at all in chipping away at the Tigers.
Chicago certainly is making a herculean effort to change this, making two very bold, very high risk moves in trading for Jake Peavy (whose upside is tremendous but is still rehabbing from injury) and claiming Alex Rios off waivers from the Blue Jays (who arrives in Chicago with a hugely back-loaded contract that has $60 million left on it and runs through at least 2014).
If these risks pay off and Chicago can dethrone Detroit, the gamble will have been well worth it, but history has taught us that big moves at or after the trade deadline rarely have a large impact on the ultimate success or failure or a team in the end.
As for who I want to win, uh, can I pick Kansas City?
I guess if I have to pick one of the three contenders, Minnesota gets my vote. They're by far the least offensive of the three teams. While I can't exactly say I like them, I have tremendous respect for the outstanding way they run their organization from top to bottom and I have great admiration for Ron Gardenhire.
So, "Go Twins!"...I guess.
Dale Thomas: I think Detroit will take the division because nobody has shown that they can take the lead away from them, plus my boss insists this will be true.
Since the Tribe has no shot at this, I guess I would pick the Twins as the team I would like to see win it. I like Gardenhire.