Any Cleveland fan with a decent short-term memory knows that, for the past several seasons, the Tribe has experienced consistent inconsistency at third base.
Since Travis Fryman hung up his cap, the Indians have had a revolving door at the hot corner. The Indians have had four different Opening Day third basemen in the last seven seasons, none of them for more than two years in a row.
No, inconsistency isn't necessarily a bad thing. But when the Indians finished the season with Jhonny Peralta as their best option at third base, it became clear that something needed to change.
Remember how excited we were about Andy Marte? He might not have worked out, but someone in his image—a young, sweet-hitting third base über-prospect—would still be an excellent fit in Cleveland. But where to find such a player?
Enter Mat Gamel.
Gamel, one of the most highly regarded prospects in the Brewers organization, has been compared favorably to other tantalizing youngsters like Matt Laporta and Matt Wieters (Has anyone else noticed a pattern here? Does the name unearth talent, or do the skilled seek out the name?).
Gamel was supposed to dip his feet in the water this year, gradually eating at Bill Hall's playing time and hopefully claiming sole possession of a starting job by season's end.
While Gamel showed flashes of his power potential (five homers in 128 at-bats) and impressive plate discipline (nearly a walk per eight plate appearances) with the big league club, he never really found his groove in Milwaukee.
Many of his struggles could be attributed to the usual adjustment rookies have to make when they get to the majors; it didn't help that he saw inconsistent playing time. The emergence of Casey McGehee pushed him to the back burner, and Gamel did not get the chance to develop as expected.
So will Gamel be shopped? Signs point to yes. McGehee will be the Brewers' Opening Day third baseman in 2010, general manager Doug Melvin said, and Gamel will not be moved to the outfield.
"We've been highly reluctant to trade top prospects in the past, but we might have to do that," said assistant GM Gordon Ash, "There is a risk-reward scenario in play. We're going to probably have to be higher risk taking than we have been in the past."
The Indians have plenty of players they can trade this winter, even discounting a certain big name who I think should go . Many fans would be thrilled to see Jhonny Peralta leave town. Lou Marson and Carlos Santana make catcher Kelly Shoppach expendable—sure, they're a little green behind the ears, but what better way is there to develop prospects than giving them some on-the-job training?
The problem is, the Brewers want pitching. The only Indians pitchers with the track records to fetch a prospect of Gamel's caliber are Jake Westbrook and Kerry Wood, and it's doubtful that Milwaukee would be interested in dealing for them unless the Tribe would eat a large portion of their bloated contracts.
In order to bring Gamel to town, a third team would have to be involved. What team needs a third baseman and a catcher, and could conceivably give up a quality starter?
I think I see Jack Zduriencik's ears perking up!
With Adrian Beltre and Kenji Johjima gone, the Mariners are in search of a backstop and a third baseman. Peralta and Shoppach would fit very nicely in Seattle. Both are coming off mediocre years but have shown offensive prowess in the past; the M's incredible turnaround this year showed that Don Wakamatsu knows how to get the most out of his players.
No, Peralta and Shoppach would not comprise a package good enough to pry Felix Hernandez out of the Mariners' hands. But Ryan Rowland-Smith is probably a realistic target.
Rowland-Smith has emerged as a solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher this season. While his track record as a starter is admittedly small and his strikeout rate could use some improvement, a little more experience and a move from the slugging AL West to the quieter NL Central could spell success for the young southpaw.
Sure, the trade’s a little rough around the edges. But that’s nothing a few throw-ins can’t fix.
Brewers prospect Zack Braddock would be a nice addition to the Tribe’s future rotations. Mariners utility infielder Jack Hannahan would provide some insurance in case McGehee and Alcedis Escobar struggle in their first full seasons. And the Indians can send Jeremy Sowers to Seattle to take Rowland-Smith’s rotation spot—perhaps a change of scenery will reignite his faded star.
So, from the teams’ perspectives, the trade would look like this:
Cleveland trades Jhonny Peralta, Jeremy Sowers, and Kelly Shoppach for Mat Gamel and Zack Braddock.
Milwaukee trades Gamel and Braddock for Ryan Rowland-Smith and Jack Hannahan
Seattle trades Rowland-Smith and Hannahan for Peralta, Sowers, and Shoppach.
It’s win-win-win for everybody. The Indians add an elite prospect while making room for a couple others. The Brewers turn an excess bat into the starter they so desperately need. And while the Mariners lose a good pitcher, they get to fill their lineup’s holes with more than just duct tape.
So come on, Mark Shapiro: let’s turn the Indians into one big happy Gamel-y.
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