The 2008 Cleveland Indians- whose next?
The Cleveland Indians began the 2008 season fresh off of their first playoff berth since 2001. Although the American League Championship Series did not end in the favor of the Tribe, the team left Boston full of hope and pressure. Was 2008 going to be a repeat? Could Cleveland finally build a contender? Those questions and more were painfully forced into the mindset of the fans, and more importantly, the organization.
Now that the All-Star break is looming and October baseball is right around the corner, teams have begun to assess the importance of the season. The Indians season? Build a contender for 2009.
The 2008 season, so far, has been a very disappointing one for the city of Cleveland. Injuries, trades, poor playing skills, and more have effected this team enough to put them in the cellar of the AL Central. Now that it is July, more and more speculation will occur on to how this team will build and put contenders on the roster. It's trading month, and the Cleveland Indians have not shied away from doing just that: building a championship calibur team.
Opinions are varied on how the Indians will fare in the trading market, but I feel there is always a time to deal. Do exactly that, deal.
C.C Sabathia- Dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for first baseman Matt LaPorta, right-hander Rob Bryson, left-hander Zach Jackson, and a player to be named later. For my thoughts, read my current article C.C Sabathia: The End of an Era.
Casey Blake- Although he is having a career year in Cleveland, it is time for him to go. The organization NEEDS to play Andy Marte at third base if they want any chance for him to be on the 2009 roster. Eric Wedge and Mark Shapiro have not commented as of yet on the situation, but are firm on keeping Marte. At least play the guy if you want to see him develop. The bench is not where he needs to be right now.
With the possible removal of Casey Blake, this provides a great opportunity in the infield.
Jhonny Peralta- Move him to third for the rest of the season (If Blake is traded, as rumored). His range is not the best, but with practice he can work through the fundamentals. This guy will fight for his position on the team, there is no doubt about it. Plus, he hits well. Don't trade him. As Peralta is moved to third, the great opportunity is back. Asdrubal Cabrera, Savior of the 2007 Cleveland Indians, can and should be called up to play his natural shortstop position. Defensively, he's a gem. Offensively, Triple A Ball is where it is currently. However, as he has re-worked his swing and mechanics at the plate, 2009 should be the year for him. All it took was a re-hash in Buffalo for him to realize that it's not all fun in games in the Majors.
Josh Barfield will be healthy in 3-4 weeks time, and second base is waiting. He is still accustomed to the role of an everyday second baseman, and has not warmed up to the American League as of yet. But, Barfield needs to be played more often for the organization to get any value off of him. Same goes for Marte. Both were part of trades that sent Coco Crisp and Kevin Kouzmanoff away respectively. To see if there was any significant value in these deals, they must have a chance to play.
Now, to pitching and the almighty catcher.
Paul Byrd- As much as I liked the guy in a Cleveland uniform, he is not producing. His numbers are low, he's giving up home-runs left and right, and he's just lost control of his off-speed pitches. I am sure another team will trade for him as reassurance, and the Indians will push away the couple of millions the man is dragging. It is also a shame to see his career shadowed by such a controversial topic, steroids.
Victor Martinez- DO NOT trade him. Rumors have been circulating the past few weeks that the injured All-Star could be traded. That is ridiculous. Enough said there.
As you can see, the Front Office has their work cut out for them. Once the end of July rolls forward, the team will have a somewhat different face. Rest Assured, they did it once, and they can do it again: Develop homegrown talent. 2009 is not far off, and when it comes, the Indians will be ready to compete and contend for their first championship since 1948. Playoffs, here we come.