Any time a team can get an ace-caliber pitcher in a trade, it is usually a good thing. However, the Cleveland Indians' recent trade to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez is one of the more interesting and head-scratching trades made in the last week.
Judging by the Indians’ recent performance, it would seem as though a trade for more offensive production would have been more beneficial.
Cleveland has not won a series since July 6th after taking two out of three from the Yankees at home. In the three weeks since, much of the Indians’ struggles can be attributed to the fact that their offense, which had been prosperous for the majority of the season prior to the All-Star break, had begun to dry up.
In fact, in the past two weeks, the Indians have only scored 31 runs in 12 games, losing eight of those games. In that time, they have lost their grip on first place to the Detroit Tigers, and suddenly the Chicago White Sox are breathing down their necks as well.
Earlier in the week, Cleveland traded with the Chicago Cubs for Kosuke Fukudome, a move obviously made to help out the struggling offense and to fill the void in the outfield left by Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo. However, an adjustment period is obviously needed, as Fukudome has gone 0-for-7 with just one RBI during his brief time with the Indians.
While Cleveland isn’t necessarily getting a raw deal in the Jimenez trade (Cleveland is reportedly sending pitching prospects Alex White, Joe Gardner, Drew Pomeranz, and first baseman/outfielder Matt McBride to Colorado), it seems to be one in which the Indians are just bolstering the part of their team which is least in need.
Since the beginning of the season, the Indians have been relying on young hitters to carry a sizable portion of the offensive load, experiencing success in the form of several ninth-inning heroics. However, as the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end,” and this situation proves no different. Cleveland couldn’t possibly hope to score just enough runs in the ninth inning all season without hitting a rough patch at a critical point in their schedule.
Then again, maybe Cleveland made the best possible decision and will be the ones laughing all the way to the AL Central Division title. They were never really in the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes, and Hunter Pence was just a name thrown around by the Cleveland faithful with the hope that their club would snatch him up before anyone else did.
Looking at it in that light, Kosuke Fukudome doesn’t sound like such a bad pickup after all.
A small market team like Cleveland doesn’t have the ability to wait forever. Drew Pomeranz was the Indians’ best minor league prospect, but wouldn’t have helped Cleveland this year anyway. It’s been four years since Cleveland made the playoffs, and this year is the best shot they have to qualify again since 2007.
Taking a chance on a pitcher who was lights out in 2010 but has struggled throughout 2011 is rolling the dice. So is a small-market team taking the “wait until next year” approach.
Cleveland will still have to find a way to churn out runs if they want to stay competitive in the AL Central. However, they now have one of the best starting pitching rotations in the American League, and that isn’t something to be taken lightly. If they do manage to make the playoffs, they have set themselves up nicely with the addition of Jimenez.
In the past three years, the Indians have dealt their ace pitcher on two different occasions, with CC Sabathia being the the other. Those pitchers ended up playing in the World Series shortly thereafter. Now Cleveland gets the chance to turn the tables and use an ace for more than trade bait. If everything goes Cleveland’s way, then the majority of baseball fans will be scratching their heads.
Scratching their heads as to how the Indians are still playing in October.