Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report's Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.
This week, we talk possible deadline deals for the Tribe, what went wrong with the outfield this season, and how our chances look to be in first place in the Central at both the end of July and the end of the season.
I would like to thank this week's participants Dale Thomas and Jim Piascik for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch your thoughts on the questions we're addressing this week.
Author's Note: Trade related questions in this week's Tribe Talk were posed and answered by panelists before the Indians made the move on Thursday morning to acquire OF Kosuke Fukudome from the Chicago Cubs.
1. Before the season started, the Indians' outfield appeared to be one of (if not the most) solid component of the team. As it stands now at the end of July, it's actually by far the weakest.
Obviously the injuries to Sizemore and Choo are just bad luck, but this is more than that. The replacements in the outfield have been downright awful for a good bit of the season, and Choo struggled tremendously even before he was injured.
Were all of us as well as the Indians wrong when we thought we had plenty of outfield depth entering the season? And more importantly, what do we do now? Tell us what your plan to fix the outfield is. Should we call up Jerad Head? Make a trade? Or just ride it out?
Samantha Bunten: Yes and no. I don't think we were wrong not to see the mess that's occurred with our starters in the outfield ahead of time. No one could have predicted Choo's total meltdown at the plate and subsequent injury. We actually were worried about Sizemore's ability to bounce back from his injury. And Michael Brantley has been just fine.
Where we all missed the boat was on the depth issue. It did look like we had plenty of depth (I remember wondering what we were going to do about the fact that we had five outfielders at one point during Spring Training), but really, considering that depth consisted of Buck, Kearns, and Duncan, we really should have seen the problems coming. Granted we had no idea that injuries would force those guys into starting roles rather than bit parts, but we probably still should have known better.
As for how to fix it, obviously the trade for Fukudome should help. Brantley gets his job done, so that leaves one outfield spot on shaky ground until either Choo or Sizemore returns from injury.
Having acquired Fukudome, I don't see the Indians bringing in another outfielder, so the solution has to be found in-house. I'd call up Jerad Head and see what he can do. Why not? We have nothing to lose. If he's a bust, I think Carrera can do a decent job filling in.
Dale Thomas: Yep, we were all wrong. The stats and bats have been telling us that from the get-go.
Even with Sizemore, Brantley and Choo out there we weren't exactly what you might call "fearsome". In fact, it's been more what you might call 'fragile'...open with care. Package could implode, fall apart and cause public embarrassment.
I'm usually all about riding it out, but with Detroit nipping at our heels and Chicago and Minnesota both posing threats, our approach of calling guys up and moving 'em around just isn't working. We need to go outside and bring people in before it's too late.
Jim Piascik: I think we were wrong to buy into the Austin Kearns/Travis Buck/Shelley Duncan trifecta. Those three aren't worth much of anything. The injuries to Sizemore and Choo have exposed that.
If we think we can make the playoffs and make some noise, I'd make a trade. Otherwise, I'd ride it out. Carrera isn't all that bad and Brantley seems like the real deal. Choo should be back soon, allowing Kearns/Buck to go back to the bench. That's what I'd do.
2. Thus far this season, we've seen a number of rookies called up to help the big club. Top prospects Lonnie Chisenhall, Cord Phelps, Jason Kipnis, and Ezequiel Carrera have all gotten their shot to prove they can help the big club.
Of those prospects who have been called upon to help the Indians so far this season, who do you think has contributed the most? Who has contributed the least? How many of them do you see as viable major leaguers in the future?
Samantha Bunten: Well, none of them have exactly blown anyone's doors off in their respective debuts, but for the most part they've been decent. I think Carrera has done a nice job, especially considering he was probably among those prospects called up who we expected the least from. Chisenhall hasn't been great, but he's done fine considering the circumstances.
I was disappointed in Phelps, but that may just be because my expectations were too high. He's also the one in the group who is the least concerning to me because I'm not sure he really has a long-term future with the Tribe, given that he's in a depth chart log jam at his position. As for Kipnis, I think it's too soon to pass any judgment on what he's done so far. Give him another few weeks and we can start grading his performance.
I actually see all of them as viable major leaguers in the future, though they won't be starters and they won't all be staying with the Indians.
Dale Thomas: Each has done something good. Usually a clutch hit when you least expected it. That's always fun, but not a single one of those guys has shown much for the "day in, day out" performance that sets good players apart from the masses.
I keep hearing people say things like "Chisenhall is better than he looks". Huh? What the heck does that mean?
I do think that they are all viable major leaguers in the future, but they aren't ready to start for a contending team. I think the combined average is something like .229, with a high of .270 and a low of .196. Yikes. Sadly, they still might be almost as good as the vets we shuffle around out there.
Jim Piascik: I think Lonnie Chisenhall has contributed the most (though Kipnis' first hit was a big one), mainly because he's been up and starting regularly for a while now. Cord Phelps isn't a bad player but hurt us quite a bit in his short tenure.
I think Chisenhall and Kipnis are the real deal and Phelps and Carrera will end up being good depth guys. Overall, not too bad for the Tribe.
3. With the trade deadline looming, this is the last week the Indians have to get a non-waiver deal done to help the team with its playoff run. So here's your last chance to make your pitch for a trade or trades you think would help the team.
If you were the Indians, who are you targeting on the trade market? Who is the one player that you think could be the key to helping the Indians stay in contention who is also realistically attainable and why?
And perhaps most importantly, do you think they Indians will actually make a deal before the deadline, or do you predict they'll just stand pat and hope for the best?
Samantha Bunten: The question is unfortunately largely moot after the acquisition of Fukudome this morning, but it's probably still worth discussing what we would have done had this been up to us.
I like the Fukudome trade to a degree, though there are other players (Franocoeur, for one) who I would rather have brought in to bolster our outfield. Still, it was probably not realistic to think he could be had for a reasonable price, so I commend the Indians for doing what they could with what they had to offer and getting Fukudome.
I suppose the bottom line is that it's a good sign that they made a move at all, considering most of us were pretty skeptical that we would even see any action before the deadline.
There is also of course, still a few more days for the Indians to make another move if they're so inclined. I wouldn't count on it, since even the one move that was already made was one more than we were expecting, but perhaps we'll be pleasantly surprised.
At this point the most realistic second move might be for Hiroki Kuroda. That seemed like a long shot at first, but as of this morning the Tribe was reportedly one of five teams who were finalists to acquire him before the deadline.
Dale Thomas: I think the Indians are in a dealing mood this year, and I think they will give it a decent effort. They may even be willing to attempt to sign some guys on for a few years. It looks like Beltran probably won't be making his home in Cleveland, but who really knows?
Going with 'attainable' and realistic', I guess I might go with Ryan Ludwick as a viable candidate. He's been busy knocking a lot of runs in, and we need that badly. He's also been here before. BJ Upton might be do-able too. Again, 52 RBI and 15 dingers. Scary average though.
I don't think M. Young will be a realistic candidate, and Thome wouldn't help us all that much. Josh Willingham would be a decent add. Jeff Francouer might be my first choice with 59 RBI and 13 HR if KC is willing to offer him up.
I'm not all that interested in Coco Crisp coming back, but with that said, he could help the team as a leadoff hitter...but only incrementally.
On the pitching side, I'd hope for a guy like Aaron Harang. He brings a 9-2 record, and seems like a good fit. Given the list I've just rattled off, it's safe to say that it's a good thing I'm not in charge of this for the Indians.
Jim Piascik: I'd love to see us make a splash, but I'm not sure we will. Targeting Coco Crisp/Conor Jackson and Rich Harden from the Athletics seems to be an cheap upgrade to me. Unfortunately, I think B.J. Upton and Ubaldo Jimenez are out of our range.
4. Let's talk about our hated division rival the White Sox. The Indians lost two and had one rain out in the weekend series versus Chicago. Despite the fact that they've done well overall this season, they just can't seem to beat the White Sox. They are now 1-6 against them on the season.
Why is it that the Indians just can't seem to beat this team? Why do you think the Tribe seems to struggle so much more against Chicago than any other division rival?
Samantha Bunten: Sometimes an opponent (especially one who is in your own division and knows you well) just has your number. Unfortunately that seems to be the case for the Indians when it comes to the White Sox this season.
Chicago is also a better team than most people seem to think they are. Their hitters have struggled badly and their management is always, well, questionable, but you can't deny the impressive performance their pitching staff has turned in. These guys have owned most of the AL this season, and they've certainly owned the Indians.
For years, the situation was reversed and the Sox couldn't buy a win against the Tribe, so I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise that eventually they would pay us back in that regard.
Dale Thomas: It's totally Omar's fault. Who wants to beat the best shortstop we (or anybody) ever had? No self respecting Tribe team member, that's who. All you have to do is look at that guy and you just want him to win. Maybe he was out sick for that one game we won? Gotta be...right?
Jim Piascik: I think the White Sox just have really good pitching. Seriously, even without Edwin Jackson, where is the weak point? They've got Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Philip Humber and Jake Peavy. With that depth, they're hard to beat day in and day out.
5. Now a concerning two full games back from Detroit in the Central, the Indians really need a big week to get them back on track. This week, the Tribe will face down the Angels and Royals.
What's your strategy for beating each of these teams? How many games do you realistically think the Tribe can take from the Angels? Do you think they can manage a sweep of the Royals to give themselves a boost?
As for Detroit, they'll play three games against the White Sox this week and then four against the Angels. How do you think the Tigers will fare against those two teams?
And finally, who will be in first place in the Central at the end of July, the Indians or the Tigers?
Samantha Bunten: I was hoping to take two from the Angels and would have settled for one so long as we got a sweep in Kansas City afterward. I certainly wasn't expecting to get no-hit, especially by the likes of Ervin Santana, who a) has never even beaten the Tribe before in his career and b) will probably never throw a no-hitter again. Ah well, what's done is done and we and the Tribe would do well to see it as water under the bridge. There's no sense in getting bogged down in it, as that will only hurt our momentum going forward.
As for the Tigers, they did us a huge favor by playing poorly against Chicago. Hopefully, they'll do the same against the Angels, though we shouldn't ever be counting on our opponent to do our job for us. Even in July, you don't want to be needing help from the team in front of you to get past them in the standings.
With so few games left this month, it's a pretty safe bet that Detroit will close out July in first place. But as Tribe fans, we have to believe that come September, we'll be the ones sitting atop the Central.
Dale Thomas: I think (hope) they'll take two from the Angels. The key? Score three runs. We should be able to sweep KC, but again I'll say we'll take only two. The key? We can't seem to score three runs.
The Tigers will likely take two games from the White Sox. Why? Because the Sox infield is afraid to say "mine" when Jhonny Peralta hits a sure-out bloop fly ball. It'll be a game winner this time. It's purely voodoo...just like Jhonny being on the All Star team. Somebody HAD to stick pins in a doll for that to happen.
Against the Angels? Split. Tigers will be in first place at the end of July, but the Tribe will be in first at the end of September, contingent upon a multi-team 12-player trade at the deadline wherein we get M. Young, Beltran, Willingham, Upton and Harang for Kearns, Buck, and one of Omar's leather jackets.
Okay, maybe that trade won't happen, but we'll still take this division.
Jim Piascik: Seeing as we seem to struggle against AL West teams, just getting one from the Angels seems like an accomplishment. We need to sweep the Royals in a big way now, though. Being 3-3 on the week isn't good enough; we need to start making a move.
I hope the Tigers lose two of three to the White Sox and three of four from the Angels. The AL Central is already mediocre; maybe we can knock the Tigers back down to .500. Come Sunday, I hope the Tribe will be in first place, but I wouldn't bet on it. I'd take the Tigers if I were betting on it, but hopefully the Indians can surprise us all.