Should Cleveland Go All In?

The Cleveland Indians’ hot start nearly shocked the baseball world earlier this season. After a strong April and May — during which the team was 32-20 — the Indians have fallen back to earth,┬áposting a 20-29 record in June and July. Despite their recent struggles, the Indians remain only two games behind the Detroit Tigers for the American League Central lead. With the post-season still within reach, Indians’ general manager Chris Antonetti announced that the team is going to be active around the trade deadline. While making the post-season would go a long way towards satisfying a long-suffering fan base, the Indians need to make sure they don’t jeopardize their long-term rebuilding effort for short-term success.

The reason the Indians find themselves in a position to contend in spite of their recent struggles boils down to their terrible competition. The American League Central has easily been the worst division in all of baseball this season; only the White Sox have a positive run differential this season, and they are hanging on by the slimmest of margins. The Tigers may currently lead the division, but they are just as flawed as the Indians and the White Sox.

While the wins haven’t exactly restored attendance back to the days of Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome, the Indians went from having the worst attendance in baseball to 26th this season. Averaging 21,150 fans per game is nothing to get excited about, but it’s the first step towards re-establishing their fan base. With the team so close to contention, making a splash at the trade deadline would prove to fans that the team is serious about contending and getting back to the post-season.

But the Indians also need to be careful not to ruin the long-term goals of the franchise. Making the playoffs would do wonders for the team in the short-term, but the Indians need to make sure they don’t jeopardize their future. The recent additions of Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall, combined with Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera and Alex White, give the Indians a tremendous young core that is expected to lead this team to contention in 2012 and beyond. While it’s unlikely that the Indians would entertain trading any of those players, it’s an important reminder that this team shouldn’t sacrifice too much talent for a shot at glory this season when they already have the pieces to contend in the future.

With that in mind, the Indians probably can’t afford to move any major pieces in a deadline deal unless they were to pull off something really special. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Indians don’t need a superstar to win this division — a spare part might be enough to push the team into the post-season.

Even though the Indians’ perceived weakness is pitching, it might make sense to try and deal Fausto Carmona. He’s not going to factor into the Indians long-term plans, and he’s the most recognizable name the Indians could part with. While he’s struggled this season, Carmona was solid last year, and still carries the shine of winning 19 games in 2007. Once Alex White returns from the disabled list, he could slot into Carmona’s spot in the rotation.

Cord Phelps could be an interesting option for teams looking for help up the middle. His minor leagues stats are solid — and he showed good plate discipline in his brief major league stint this season — so some team might be willing to see what he can do in a full-time role. With Kipnis’ promotion, Phelps doesn’t really have a future with the Indians anymore.

Given the dearth of talent at short, Orlando Cabrera could actually be a decent trade chip for the Indians. Kipnis’ promotion has put Cabrera on the bench, and both the Reds and Brewers could be in the market for a shortstop. Cabrera might not be a huge upgrade over their current options, but at least he still carries a strong defensive reputation at short.

These players won’t bring back much, but the Indians could acquire a useful fourth outfielder to hold them over until Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore return. They might also try to acquire another starter, in case Josh Tomlin turns into a pumpkin in the second half.

Due to the state of the division — and the Indians’ focus on sustained success — they really don’t need to acquire all that much in order to win this division. One or two solid contributors or role players could go a long way in pushing this team toward the post-season — especially if they can tread water until Choo and Sizemore return. If Cleveland can successfully pull that off, they will have satisfied their fans in the short-term while still keeping their eyes on the future.

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Chris is a blogger for He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

13 Responses to “Should Cleveland Go All In?”

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  1. Ryan says:

    Not only are Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago all close to each other in the standings, but the run differential range between these teams is only 9 runs. That’s pretty remarkable. Any of those teams that makes good moves is bound to have an inside track to the division. They would be crazy not to go all in.

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    • MikeS says:

      Except that the Twins, White Sox and Tigers don’t look to get a whole lot better over the next year or two and the Indians have a pretty cost controlled, young team that should improve with minimal tweaking so they might not want to sacrifice that opportunity to win 85 games and get bounced by the Red Sox quickly which is the most likely scenario for any AL Central winner unless they go on some magical run (which happens).

      Granted, nothing is promised for the future, things may not pan out and they may not be this close again for 5 or 10 years which is what makes it such an interesting question.

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      • GiantHusker says:

        I don’t know enough about the Indians to have an opinion on whether they should “go all in,” but the assumption that they have no chance to win once they get to the playoffs because the Red Sox are invincible is clearly not justified.

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      • Matt C says:

        I don’t know how you could say that the Tigers don’t look to get any better. Outside of Ordonez(if you want to count him one) and Martinez, every major contributor on the team is 28 and under(Verlander, Scherzer, Porcello, Avila, Cabrera, Peralta, Jackson, Boesch) and the Tigers biggest weakness right now is a lack of a back end starter and currently they have probably a top 5 or so pitching prospect in Turner so he should help there.. Plus their best positional prospects(one of which is a top 75 prospect according to most scouts) is a 3B, the one position which is the weakest on the field for them. So although I think Cleveland may have the brightest future I think Detroit will be solid for atleast the next 3-5 years.

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  2. JR says:

    Ludwick makes the most sense. Righty with power is one thing this Indians team lacks, and the price should be a C-level spec or two. Coco Crisp doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Kuroda’s a pipe dream, as was Beltran. And no, they don’t go all in with a team that is 2 games over .500 at the deadline, regardless of how poor the division is.

    Jimenez would be a huge deal, but he’s under control for a few more years on the cheap; I’m sure they were making some calls concerning Rasmus, too. Those guys make sense organizationally, as the team is coming off a rebuild, and really a year ahead of schedule at this point.

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  3. TA says:

    The Indians FO partly created this team by dealing middle-of-the-road talent to teams desperate to ‘do something’ at the deadline. That’s how Mark DeRosa, Casey Blake, Eduardo Perez and Ben Broussard turned into Chris Perez, Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo.

    It would be a mistake to do the same thing.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      That’s a very good point.

      My main thought in these discussions are that teams are basically looking toward the future to be in the same situation they’re in right now. For example, with CLE and PIT, they are in contention in part because they are a talented young team playing over their head. But, also in part to the rest of the division stinking. They’re not likely going to get that “perfect storm” in consecutive years. They’re playing for a future chance to win the division (make the playoffs), when their best chance to do so might be RIGHT NOW.

      I think there’s a good argument to be had for “going for it”. There’s also a chance that CLE finishes in last place in the Central next year. CWS and DET are underperforming this year, as is MIN (combined with injuries), and KC will be better next year. I don’t think CLE can inherently look to the future and assume they’ll be in a similar or better situation next year … or the year after … or the year after …

      It would be a huge accomplishment for CLE to win the division. Like I said, there’s a compelling discussion for going for it, rather than playing for a future chance at winning the division.

      I think there are some decent players to be had from out of contention teams while only give up mid level prospects or simply accepting some short-term salary.

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  4. mbples says:

    Trading Carmona makes little sense, I can’t imagine they’d get much in return and he has a 2.25 ERA in his last 4 starts…granted he’ll never be a model of consistency, but he has the ability to go out and shut down an offense on any given night. Plus the team already said that White is going to the bullpen when he comes back. As far as their pitching staff, I’d like them to kick the tires on someone like Marquis, if you take out his 1 horrible start vs PIT (1.1 IP 6 ER) he has a 3.54 ERA.

    Their pen is pretty solid, they’ll be adding White soon and could look into calling up Chen Lee from AAA or even Pomeranz in Sept to maybe fill a David Price sort of role (no I’m not saying he’d be as dominant, but he could be highly effective and get some experience in the bigs)

    As far as the offense, I agree with JR, Ludwick would make sense but I think they should look into Willingham too (although Ludwick would be a lot less of a liability in the field). I don’t think it’d be horrible to try to bring in someone like Aaron Miles or Jamey Carroll either…someone who can come off the bench and actually hit!

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  5. Matt K says:

    sounds like they’re getting fukudome according to mlbtradrumors. high average guy. role player in the OF.

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  6. I’m surprised no one has mentioned trading away Matt LaPorta while other teams think he still has potential. The guy is a total bust, and it’s because of his low baseball iq. He will never be close to the prospect everyone expected, heck he might not even be good enough to play everyday. Other than him and maybe Phelps/Valbuena, I would not let go of anyone else right now. I would also be fine with leaving the team as is. I think this trading deadline is adding a lot of pressure to the club and they will loosen up come Monday even if no trades are made. We have a BRIGHT future.

    LaPorta will never be in the All American Home Run Derby game that I host.

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  7. Eric says:

    I would like to see Cleveland make a move for a solid contributor. I agree that Chisenell, Santana, White, Kipnis, Cabrera are all essentially untouchable, but someone like Phelps makes perfect sense to trade away.

    As an Indians fan, I would love any trade that gets Travis Buck and Orlando Cabrera out of the lineup.

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  8. Ryan says:

    Unfortunately injuries are ruining any momentum from early in the season. Hafner has actually been very good this year but Santana hasn’t done a very a good protecting. 5-9 have been terrible. Fukudome is a welcomed addition but IMO the offense is just too weak. Plus I agree with the above^ that even if they make the playoffs, good luck beating BOS or NYY

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  9. As an Indians fan, I firmly believe our influx of talent has to be from the DL this season, not the trade market. We can’t sacrifice even an above-average prospect (if the names I heard in the Fukudome trade are true, they are not even close) when Choo, Sizemore, and White are a month from returning. Over that month, any rental will be worth at most 1 win more than the player they’d replace. I know the race might come down to 1 win, but I don’t think it’ s a smart gamble for the Indians right now.

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