No one will argue that Opening Day is the best baseball day of the year, but for me - and other Tribe fans who have played the 'wait-'til-next-year' game all their lives - the start of the off-season trading season brings about almost as much anticipation.
That season got underway officially - and just a touch early today - with the Plain Dealer reporting about talks between the Tribe and Royals involving 3B Mark Teahan.
According to the report by Paul Hoynes, the Royals need a CF. Ben Francisco, Franklin Gutierrez and Trever Crowe were mentioned as possibilities.
With a glut of outfielders at the major and minor league level, and Andy Marte as the only guy with a 3B officially next to his name on the Tribe's current roster, the gut reaction is to say this makes plenty of sense from the Tribe's point of view.
But lets look at a few things before we jump to any conclusions.
Teahan has been in the outfield the past couple of years, but he broke in with the Royals at 3B. He moved to the outfield to make room at 3B for Alex Gordon in KC. He played some 3B, 1B, and all the outfield spots for the Royals in '08, but mostly he played right field. Still, I would have no problems with his defense atr 3B.
He hit only .255 with 15 HRs and 59 RBIs. His OPS, a lackluster .715.
The Indians shed a 3B with better numbers (a certain fellow who ended the season with the Dodgers and who may be seen again in NE Ohio once he officially becomes a free agent shortly after the World Series.) They also have another corner infielder, Ryan Garko, who despite a penchant to hang himself by swinging for the fences, put up numbers that eclipsed Teahan's at least by a little.
Still it is true the Andy Marte is - at the moment - the Tribe's only 3B. And they do have outfielders of a similar quality to one-another coming out of their ears.
Tribe fans, like fans of most teams, tend to overvalue the young, developing players in their organization. Franklin Gutierrez is one of those guys whose ceiling may not be as high as many seem to believe it is. With his lackluster performance at the plate in '08, Gutierrez' star is falling - at least as I view it. That defense and that arm would be hard to part with. But outfield defense - especially with Grady Sizemore roaming center field - is a secondary asset for a corner outfielder. Gutierrez, in my book, is expendable.
Ben Francisco came up a little short of expectations in '08 as well, and in fact his final numbers were not unlike those of Teahan. Francisco tailed off in the second half of the year, which might be attributed to his playing pretty much his first full year in the bigs, and to the pressure of batting third due to the plethora of injuries the Tribe had in the middle of the lineup last season. But, it could also be that the league figured out Francisco and got the better of him in the second half. No way to say for certain if that was the case. Nor is there any way to be sure he will readjust and be a seriously productive hitter. While I'd be less likely to deal Francisco, it's not out of the question.
With the addition of Michael Brantley from Milwaukee in the CC deal, Crowe becomes someone the Tribe could deal as well.
Nabbing Mark Teahan might make some sense, as the Tribe would be dealing from surplus to fill a shortage. But I would wait a while to make a move on this deal, until the Tribe can figure out if the player that would be traded for him might better be used in a package to acquire someone more exciting to play third, or second - or to pitch (starter or reliever).
If the Tribe waits and Teahan is snapped up by someone else (doubtful) then what have we lost really? A younger Casey Blake. If the off-season drags on and no solution at 3B is evident, than maybe you make a deal.
The best part about the Teahan story is that it gets the ball rolling on what will hopefully be an off-season full of rumors and - more importantly - real action.
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