I am the last person to give up hope, and especially on a team I put as much into each season as I do the Indians. But at this point I see nothing that would lead me to believe that there is hope for the Indians 2008 season.
Sure the White Sox are winning this division almost by default. Or that’s how it seemed in May, because the Indians and Tigers were awfully underachieving. But now the Indians not only trail the White Sox, but the Twins and Tigers as well.
The Tigers are winning their way back to respectability while the Indians put together three or four straight games and then lost three straight, as a result of scoring little or no runs and of their implosive bullpen.
The Indians have bigger problems than hitting now, and the longer the season goes the more and more it’s going to be harder to figure out. At this point it’s a very, very long laundry list.
But like the old cliché, the Indians had a must win road trip to the West Coast and so far it has been very, very ugly. They lost two of the three to the Rockies and now head to one of the most talented teams on paper, but much like the Indians, disappointing.
The Indians and Dodgers have a lot at common at this point. Both teams were hot picks to go deep into the playoffs and both are sitting well below .500 as we get deeper into the 2008 season. Both teams have their star hitters under-producing and now on the DL.
There are a few differences however. The Dodgers are a reasonable 4.5 games back in mid-June, and the closest team behind them is 4.5 games back. The Diamondbacks were on fire early but are struggling consistently now. The Dodgers still have a handful of young prospects that are developing.
The Indians have developed prospects but are just not producing outside of a short few. Ok enough beating around the bush, the Indians season should be considered over, whether GM Mark Shapiro and manager Eric Wedge want to admit it or not, or any fans including myself for that matter.
Here is priority number one, if and when management decides to play for 2009.
Sure the goal is to sign the big lefty to a contract extension and keep him here, but as far as the season goes, and the season looks like it’s headed more south, that seems out of reason.
There is no point in keeping C.C. in Cleveland just so the Indians can finish around .500.
The Indians will not make a poor decision in this area, out of all the decisions, such as Mike Rouse, Jason Michaels, Jason Johnson, Jorge Julio and Brandon Phillips; this is one thing in which I have full faith in Shapiro.
A trade makes the most sense, and there are plenty of teams already scouting Sabathia, to add him to make a run at the series this year, even if he is just a rent-an-ace.
The problem with trading Sabathia is getting back the proper package of players.
The Indians committed grand larceny the last time they went into this kind of area. The Indians somehow duped then Expos GM Omar Minaya, into trading the Indians minor league studs, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, and Cliff Lee and they threw in Lee Stevens, for former Indians ace Bartolo Colon.
To be fair Colon did win the Cy Young that season, but the Indians acquired Sizemore, who has blossomed into a 30/30/30 guy right before our eyes, Phillips who took a while to get there, but is now an All Star in Cincinnati, and Lee who is on his way this season to earning a spot at the Mid Summer classic.
The Indians will be looking for around the same thing this time, but the problem is that since the Indians made that trade it set off a chain reaction around baseball.
Those kinds of trades just don’t happen anymore, thanks to rising cost in salaries and the effect young players are having in games now.
The best the Indians can hope for it two good prospects, one major league ready, and maybe a marginal big league player. So who would be in the market for a Cy Young winner who is only 27 and has seven years of big league pitching.
Let’s not forget that if a team doesn’t think they can sign him long-term they will be less likely to give up big name prospects.
New York Yankees
The Yankees can definitely sign Sabathia long term and do have plenty of trade-able pieces.
The Indians could ask for any combination of Robinson Cano, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, or Melky Cabrera.
The Indians could ask for Joba Chamberlain but that conversation would end quickly, and it could with Phil Hughes.
There was a supposed rumor that the Yankees would trade Bobby Abreu for Sabathia, but that seems unlikely. If they don’t trade for him they would definitely bid on him this winter.
Boston Red Sox
If the old ‘Evil Empire’ makes a run at the Indians ace the new ‘Evil Empire’ will have to keep up. The Red Sox could land him easily but like it was said before; teams will not give up their best prospects for broke.
Meaning the Indians could ask for any combination of Jed Lowrie, Jon Lester, Justin Masterson, or Jacoby Ellsbury, but Theo Epstein would probably disconnect his phone for that.
The Phillies don’t have much to offer at this point as most of their talent is invested at the big league level. There was a rumor that they would package a few mid-level prospects with OF Shane Victorino, but the Indians wouldn’t bite on that offer.
Tampa Bay Rays
I know it seems unlikely, but think of the rotation they would have, without having to give up serious major league contributors.
Sabathia, Kazmir, Shields, and Garza. The Indians could ask for any minor leaguers in AA or AAA because the Rays minor league system is always tops in the league.
Reid Brignac or Jeff Niemen would be good additions or David Price, so that deal would be off too.
St Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals would be very interested in Sabathia, as they have had numerous injuries to key starters this season.
The Cardinals don’t have too much in the minors.
OF Nick Stavinoha is having a great season in Memphis with 10 home runs and hitting .346.
However his days as a prospect are over, as he is 28 now. The Indians in any case will be looking for position players and the ones the Cardinals have just aren’t enough to dupe the Indians.
Los Angeles Angles
The Angels rotation is already superb but adding Sabathia could really freeze up the Red Sox this post season.
The Indians should ask for LHP Joe Saunders since they would be giving up Sabathia. It would be unlikely the Angels would give up 1B Kendry Morales. The Indians could ask for P Nick Adenhart, but that conversation would end fast too.
Bradley Coon and Terry Evans could be good pickups. One player they should ask for is OF/DH Juan Rivera. He has been injury-prone but is a power hitter with a lot of upside left.
Los Angeles Dodgers
I saved the Dodgers for last because I have a hunch and a hope that if the Indians cannot re-sign C.C. that he would be traded here. We all know Sabathia loves to hit and would love to pitch on the West Coast.
The Dodgers can afford him and have great trading pieces. The Dodgers could ask the Indians for a 72-hour window to sign Sabathia during the trading process. The Indians could ask for a number of players, and get as many as they can.
Obviously the Dodgers won’t be robbed blind as Minaya was. But here are the mouth watering prospects the Indians could land, and just a few of these would be a steal.
There is OF Matt Kemp, who isn’t the best defensively, but looks to be a .300 hitter with at least 20 home runs in his bat and has a great batting eye. 1B James Loney would probably be someone the Indians wouldn’t ask for, because they seem to be set there, but Loney is a potential Gold Glover, also with a good approach and eye at the plate.
OF Andre Either, a left-handed hitter with some speed and a little pop and plays both corner outfield spots well. Blake DeWitt and Delwyn Young are mid-level players that could be thrown in if the Indians couldn’t get two big names.
Also not to be left out are the Dodgers young pitchers. LHP Clayton Kershaw, who started against the Tribe Friday night. Kershaw looks like a young Barry Zito with a little better velocity but with a nice biting curve-ball (check his hook out here: http://ballhype.com/video/kershaw_s_curve_3_9_08/). The Dodgers would be stupid to trade him in any trade.
RHP Jonathan Broxton is a quality set up man that throws very hard and is an intimidating presence on the mound (6’4, 290), who could be a dominant set up man, closer or starter. Also out there is Chad Billingsley, a 24-year-old right-hander with an array of plus pitches.
If the Indians could get two of the big names (Kemp, Loney, Either, Broxton, Kershaw) and maybe get a Billingsley with a Young or DeWitt or even an Andy LaRoche it would be a heist. The Dodgers get my vote if the Indians end up having to trade the love-able lefty.
The Other Problems
Where in the world has Rafael Betancourt gone? Pitching inside doesn’t seem to be happening or working. The Indians won’t go far in any year without the type of pitcher Betancourt was last season.
Rafael Perez has been wildly up and down as well. Jensen Lewis is in Buffalo, and it’s never a good thing when you release two bullpen guys before the All-Star break. The Indians did it last season and were okay, but there has been no Lewis this season, or Perez for that matter.
If the Indians throw the white flag up they could bring in more Asdrubal Cabrera or Shin Soo Choo type players for Casey Blake. Don’t expect much from Joe Borowski who has been good since his return from the DL, but expect more of a Bob Wickman for Max Ramirez type deal.
The Indians need to figure out what in the world is going to happen with Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner. The Indians are okay with Garko, Sizemore, and Francisco at the moment.
Shoppach seems to be doing okay with Martinez out. But Franklyn Gutierrez has been all over the place and you can't expect anything out of Dellucci, whether he remains in Cleveland past July or not. Hafner had a set back with his shoulder and who knows if he can regain any form.
The rumbling from a certain press box says that the Indians have had problems with a former-All Star catcher recently, stating he has had a bad me-first attitude all season. It could lead to a major move in the off season or before the trading deadline, depending on health.
Where did Andy Marte go? Wedge said he’d play more and for a while he played and now he’s not because the Indians can't afford a player like him in their poor hitting lineup.
So why is he on the roster? Play him or trade him soon, because there are players in the minors that the Indians need to look at now, just as in 2006.
Those are a few problems, but most of them at this point. It’s an important weekend for the Indians. Already losing three in Denver and if the Indians come back in worse shape, the fire sale could be on. I’m the eternal optimist, but the C.C. trade watch could be heating up by the All Star break.