As the July 31 MLB Trade Deadline approaches, many teams are starting to figure out who they are.
One team that has not is the Cleveland Indians.
Are the Tribe the offensive force that they looked like in April, or the pitching-dominated squad that led them in May?
Or, are they the pretenders they seemed to be in in June?
These questions will be figured out come September, but the Cleveland brass cannot afford to wait that long.
The AL Central is wide open and still a tight, four-team race between the Indians, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, and resurgent Minnesota Twins.
The latter three teams all have star power and experience in the playoffs, something the Indians lack for the most part.
So will this force Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti's hand?
One final piece could be just what the doctor ordered to push Cleveland into a deep playoff race, and the Indians have just what other teams want in return—pitching.
Many fans scoff at the idea of trading away some of the Indians' beloved prospects, but why wait for them to develop?
Sure, I myself have drooled at a rotation along the lines of Drew Pomeranz, Jason Knapp, Alex White, Justin Masterson, and Joe Gardner, but the Indians should not wait for all of them to develop when the team has proven they can win now.
And what about all the other quality pitchers that the Tribe posses? Of the five pitchers I mentioned above, only one is currently in the MLB—what about the other four that are already helping the Tribe hold down first place in the AL Central?
Josh Tomlin has proven competent at getting outs with outstanding command, posting a 1.1 BB/9—the best in baseball. Despite Tomlin's measly 5.08 K/9 ratio, his 4.50 K/BB ratio is the sixth best in baseball behind Roy Halladay, Dan Haren, Cole Hamels, David Price, and Cliff Lee.
Tomlin's nine wins ties him for the most in baseball.
Mitch Talbot has proven he can round out a solid rotation, Carlos Carrasco was once a top prospect and has pitched great as of late, and Fausto Carmona was once a Cy Young candidate (remember?).
So, would it really be that bad to have one of these guys for a few years and trade away one of Cleveland's top pitching prospects?
Having Pomeranz instead of Talbot is definitely a more attractive option, but would you rather have Dan Haren and Mitch Talbot?
Top pitching prospects have failed before in the major leagues, and Pomeranz is no exception. Sure, he could turn into a Cy Young candidate in 2015, but why not have Dan Haren, who is a Cy Young candidate in 2011?
Why chase a championship in five years, when you can have one now?
While I'm not suggesting a fire sale of the farm system to get a ton of players on the market—especially considering the trade market is a weaker one in past years (mostly because we are no longer sellers)—but why not sell off our surplus?
Even if we deal our top pitchers, in five years we could still send out a rotation consisting of Tomlin, Carrasco, Kyle Blair, Giovanni Soto, and Kevin De La Cruz at the very worst, and those are still some high-quality arms.
Who knows, if Cleveland is able to acquire someone like a Dan Haren this year, winning a championship could sway him to re-sign and he could be a part of that 2015 rotation.
Don't forget about some of the pitchers the Indians drafted this year, also. Dillon Howard, Dillon Peters, and Jake Sisco are all possible blue-chip prospects and hold ace potential. While only Sisco has signed, I fully expect the Indians to sign one of the Dillons by the August 15 deadline.
While so many in Cleveland want the Indians to hold on to their top prospects, what is the team supposed to do with them when they are all MLB ready? There is no point in holding such a bevy of great pitchers when you can never use all of them.
If the Indians were to make a trade for a true ace in 2011, it would take at the very most two of the Tribe's top four pitchers.
There is plenty of depth in the Indians system—they can afford to lose two prospects.
I would hate to lose a Pomeranz or Knapp and see them become perennial Cy Young candidates, but I could stomach it if the Indians received the final piece needed to win that long-awaited World Series in 2011.