Cleveland Indians: 5 Moves to Ensure Tribe's Hot Start Doesn't Halt Midseason
It is no secret that the Cleveland Indians have been playing some great baseball in their torrid start to the 2011 season. For the first time in a few years, the Tribe could find themselves in the position in the American League Central standings that they could emerge as 'buyers' at the All-Star Break rather than 'sellers'.
Over the last couple seasons, we have seen C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Rafael Betancourt, Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Garko, among many others, be dealt around the break.
While there is no glaring weak spot on the roster as of yet, there may be some teams come the midpoint of the season who will be looking to clean house. Taking into account the fact that the Cleveland Indians are indeed a smaller-market franchise, these would be trades that would not only make sense on the diamond, but also in the checkbook.
While it is still very early in the season, the Indians could find themselves looking for pieces that could help push them to their first AL Central crown since 2007 and beyond with a deep run in the postseason.
No. 1: SP Jon Garland
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The Los Angeles Dodgers are kind of in a free-fall right now as Commissioner Bud Selig recently took control of the team. Bitter divorce proceedings between owners Frank and Jamie McCourt have begun to take their toll on the finances of the organization.
To make matters worse, the team is floundering a bit, perhaps due to a trickle-down effect from the ownership. This could very well make the Dodgers 'sellers' at the All-Star break.
12-year veteran Jon Garland could be a great acquisition for the team if they are gearing for postseason run. First of all, he is very cost-efficient (currently signed through 2011 for $5 million), and he has some playoff experience. In 2005 while with the Chicago White Sox, he pitched two playoff games, going 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA over 16 innings, including one World Series start.
Although the Tribe's starting rotation has certainly been a strong suit so far this season, it is impossible to tell what the future may hold in injuries, ineffectiveness, etc. I think Garland to the Indians could be a savvy move given his experience in both the regular season and playoffs.
No. 2: 2B/3B/SS Aaron Hill
The Toronto Blue Jays' Aaron Hill has not been able to duplicate the success of his 2009 campaign, where he hit .286 with 36 home runs and 108 runs knocked in. He was named to the All-Star team that season and added a Silver Slugger Award at season's end. In 2010, when he only hit .205, he still belted 26 home runs.
So far this season, Hill is only hitting at a .242 clip, but he has already matched his career-high in stolen bases with six. Is it time for him to experience a change of scenery?
My guess is that the Blue Jays will not be in contention by the All-Star break and will more than likely be 'sellers'. With the New York Yankees holding down first, and the Boston Red Sox beginning to show some life, it is only a matter of time until the Blue Jays begin duking it out with the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays over the last few spots in the tough AL East.
Although Hill is primary a second basemen, he has also logged time at third base and shortstop. He has certainly showed to this point in his career he is solid with the leather. If Orlando Cabrera is injured or the 36-year old vet cannot sustain a full season, Hill may be a good stop-gap until youngsters Jason Kipnis and Cord Phelps are ready to go.
Hill's contract involves team options for 2012-14, and his 2011 salary is $5 million dollars. With a prorated 2011 salary, this could be a good investment for the Indians if they remain in contention in the AL Central.
No. 3: 3B Casey Blake
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This is certainly more ideal than anything, and I am certainly biased since Blake was one of my favorite Indians players of the first decade of the 2000's. But let's think about it for a minute.
As stated before, the Dodgers are a hurting franchise. Despite this, the 37-year old Blake is hitting over .300 and his OBP is sitting at .388. He is still an effective hitter. Blake can play multiple positions, as he showed while with Cleveland, and is certainly a hard-working player.
Blake will be paid $5.25 million this season, depending on what the owners are willing to spend to make a division race push, Blake could still be a viable option to repeat the success he had at Progressive Field. The Indians have gambled on an aging ex-player before (Kenny Lofton in 2007), and it worked. Could bringing in Blake have the same effect?
No. 4: SP James Shields
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It is clear that the Tampa Bay Rays are simply not the team that has competed for (and won in 2008 and 2010) the AL East crown in the past few seasons. They dealt much of their bullpen, the ace of their pitching staff, as well as key starters and role players before this season.
They seem to be committed to a rebuilding process, save the signings of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez. If they fall far enough out of contention with the Yankees and rising Red Sox, they could very well deal the current ace of the staff James Shields at the All-Star break.
Although Shields would be a much pricier option, he has plenty of meaningful second half games under his belt, not to mention a couple really good postseason starts. Like Garland, the addition of postseason experience could be a key to the young Indians team. There is no way of telling with injuries and effectiveness of the current staff, the progress of prospects like Drew Pomeranz and Alex White as well as the calling up players with big league experience like David Huff what the rotation may look like come the midpoint of the season.
Shields could be a good option, adding another veteran arm to the rotation and help anchor the young pitching staff.
No. 5: CF Cameron Maybin
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Yeah I know, our outfield is crowded already. With Grady Sizemore, Michael Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo in the starting ranks, the Tribe has one of the more formidable outfields in Major League Baseball.
With Austin Kearns not having the first half he had last season (currently batting .154), the Indians may be looking at the possibility of adding another outfielder. While Shelley Duncan has been having a productive season, who knows how long he can keep up his pace.
Should Grady Sizemore or Michael Brantley be unable to play, Maybin could fill in nicely. Maybin is an explosive player, with great speed and range in the field (5th among NL outfielders in range). Perhaps Maybin's career numbers would improve if he was not playing half of his games in pitcher-friendly PetCo Park?
Regardless, Maybin is a good talent in the MLB, and he could come to the Tribe at a very good price (he is only due to make $429k this season).