What The Cleveland Indians Should Do

Overview

Both the 2008 and 2009 seasons seemed hopeful for Cleveland at the outset (I certainly thought both of those teams would do well), but fell apart rather quickly, with the team trading a homegrown ace (CC Sabathia in 2008 and Cliff Lee in 2009) in both seasons to bolster their farm system. As of this morning, the Indians are at the bottom of the standings, but unlike the previous two seasons, 2010 was acknowledged to be a rebuilding year. The trades of those earlier seasons have significantly added to the team’s young talent, and the real question is how far off Cleveland is from contending after 2010.

Buy or Sell?

The answer is “Sell.” Cleveland may not have the big prizes as in the past, but this is to the organization’s credit, as those prizes have already brought in much of their current hope for the future. Some of their veterans are (realistically speaking) currently untrade-able: Travis Hafner and his contract are in Cleveland to stay, and even if the front office had been inclined to see what they could get back for Grady Sizemore this season (and given his team-friendly contract, it’s not clear that they should), his surgery nixed that option.

He’s not Sabathia or Lee, but Fausto Carmona isn’t a bad trade chip. No one should expect him to return to his 2007 form, but in 2010 he has gotten the walks under control. ZiPS RoS projects a 4.58 FIP for him going forward, and, while not spectacular, that does have value for a contender needing to shore up the middle or back of their rotation. Carmona is only guaranteed the prorated remainder of $4.9 million this season and $6.1 million in 2011, and his contract includes club options for 2012-2014 that could potentially add value to this deal. Worse pitchers go for more money on the free agent market, so if Cleveland feels that a) the young pitching in their system will be ready by next season and/or b) Carmona won’t be good enough to justify his place in the rotation when the club is ready to contend, they can probably get decent value for him on the trade market. He likely wouldn’t bring back a future superstar, but probably something still quite useful.

There are other pieces here, but none that have as much value. Jake Westbrook has similar value on the field to Carmona, but given his past health problems and being owed much more money ($11 million guaranteed in 2010, the last year of his contract), doesn’t have much value on the trade market. While ZiPS has faith in Kerry Wood‘s ability going forward, his past and present health issues, his dreadful performance so far in 2010, and big contract ($10.5 million in 2010) means that he doesn’t have much value, either.

The Indians do have positional role-players that could potentially help teams. Jhonny Peralta isn’t a defensive wizard, and probably has about a league-average bat, but there are teams who could use him, and he has a (you guessed it) very team-friendly contract with a club option for 2011. Smart and inexpensive off-season acquisitions Austin Kearns and Russell Branyan have shown they can both still play, and while they wouldn’t bring much back, Cleveland should at least see what they can get for these two older players who aren’t under contract for next season.

On the Farm

Beyond the Box Score’s pre-season aggregate farm system rankings placed Cleveland’s system at #3 in the majors, and acclaimed catcher prospect Carlos Santana made his debut just this past Friday. Among others, Michael Brantley should be ready to start by next season at the latest, Matt LaPorta should be back at some point this season, and Lonnie Chisenhall is an exciting young third baseman. There is also good reason to think that Justin Masterson won’t be the only young pitcher with promise in the rotation in 2011 or 2012. Prospects fail, of course, and every team could use more depth in the minors, but Cleveland has as much or more talent on the farm than most other teams in the majors.

Budget

Cleveland’s payroll dropped significantly from 2009 to 2010, and probably shouldn’t be expected to go higher in 2011. While there are arbitration raises coming, as well as contractual raises for Hafner, Sizemore, and other players like Carmona (if he is still around), big contracts like those of Westbrook and Wood are coming off the books, so there is a chance that the team might have a bit of money to spend on free agents if they decide that their young talent (potentially supplemented by this season’s trades) is ready to make a run in 2011. Cleveland’s present may be bleak, but the front office has set themselves up well for the future, and it will be interesting to see if that future arrives in 2011 or later.



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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.


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Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
6 years 2 months ago

I’m always a little curious as to why a player being owed a lot of money in the final year of his contract is seen as an impediment to him being traded. The team can either A) pay him to continue to not win for the remainder of the season, and extract no future value from him, or B) pay him to play for another team in exchange for prospects worthy of the talent said player provides the new team. This is basic sunk-cost math, right?

Kenny
Guest
Kenny
6 years 2 months ago

Owners losing millions of dollars in a losing season want to save millions of dollars at least?

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
6 years 2 months ago

I think you misunderstood what I meant. Klaassen was saying nobody would even take those guys off the team’s hands because of what they make. In that circumstance, since the team is paying the player regardless, why not kick in the money and try to get something back for them?

Kenny
Guest
Kenny
6 years 2 months ago

No, I think I understand. You’re saying that you should trade Kerry Wood AND pay his salary. I think the owner would much rather trade Kerry Wood, get no good prospect in return and NOT pay his salary. Because he’s already facing a $10 million dollar loss in 2010, he just wants to move the salary, but nobody wants to take it.

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
6 years 2 months ago

I’m sure the owner would rather not pay his salary, but my point was that, faced with being unable to dump his salary on another team for nothing, why not eat the salary and try and get something? To rephrase, why not eat as much of it as is required to get another team to bite?

Phil
Guest
Phil
6 years 2 months ago

An ideal situation is not the same as a pragmatic situation. I’m sure that some owners might prefer to trade a player to simply dump salary. But I’m also sure that some owners might be reluctant to take on a huge chunk of salary.

In these situations, it makes more sense for an owner to realize that while his ideal option might not exist (salary dump) the alternative option (pay the full salary and get better prospects) is better than the status quo (pay the player to play on your losing team and get nothing in return)

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
6 years 2 months ago

Exactly! Phil gets it.

Mr. Sanchez
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Mr. Sanchez
6 years 2 months ago

But when it’s a guy like Wood, the way he’s performing, would you want him?

I can see your line of thinking with Westbrook, especially if the club was determined to let them walk after the season, but with Wood it takes a team to think he’s worth putting in the bullpen as a trade partner. Another factor in some cases, although probably not here, would be possible compensation picks.

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
6 years 2 months ago

But then the impediment isn’t his salary, it’s his sucktitude, right? My point is that in this type of situation, salary should never stop a trade from happening.

SF 55 for life
Member
SF 55 for life
6 years 2 months ago

im with you kevin, teams need to bite the bullet and pay either a large portion or all of their bad contracts if they want to get something good in return.

davemcgr
Member
6 years 2 months ago

I’ve been advocating a Carmona trade for some time now but I have time determining what his trade value actually is. Frankly it wouldn’t take much for me to move him as the Indian’s would be better served to save the 6.1 million coming to him next season (along with the option years) rather than dedicate one tenth of their payroll to a marginal downgrade during a development year. With that said, I feel like he could net a B level prospect (probably with a C level PTBNL to go along with him), especially if he keeps his ERA in the 3s over the next few weeks. Can anyone confirm if that’s realistic? Also, what teams would be interested? It seems like the Cardinals and Mets would be the most likely suitors but I’m hoping that Reds become frustrated with Homer Bailey’s inflated ERA and nagging injuries and decide to do a young starter swap in hopes of staying atop the NL Central.

Hot Dog
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Hot Dog
6 years 2 months ago

I seriously doubt the Indians are going to trade Carmona. He’s re-established himself as a middle of the rotation guy and has flashed potential (like in his last start) to regain some of his top of the rotation potential (Granted his K/BB is still uninspiring, but his low LD% and high GB% are very encouraging). It’s doubtful the Indians could get anybody with his talent/potential in a trade (they have plenty of B/C prospects as is). With Westbrook ($11 mil), Wood ($10.5) and Peralta (4.6 mil) coming off the books it’s not like they can’t afford him. He’s still only 26 and has a team friendly contract with options through ’14. He could easily be an important cog in Indians success as early as next year.

davemcgr
Member
6 years 2 months ago

Unless Carmona completely changes as a pitcher he doesn’t have FOR potential. He doesn’t have pinpoint control, he isn’t going to strike a lot of guys out and he isn’t even that extreme of a groundball pitcher anymore. It would take some improvements in his raw skills for him to more than a league average starter. Granted he’s relatively young and that is a possibility, plus there is still a good deal of value in a league average starter at market value, but it’s important to put too much stock into a temporarily low ERA or looking too closely at individual good/bad starts.

The question the Indians have to ask themselves is if Carmona is worth more to them than what another will give them for him. Given that there are other teams who have higher payrolls (ie: 6.1 million is a lot of the Indians to spend a on a player but it isn’t that much for ~100 million payroll team) and much more immediate needs for marginal upgrades in terms of starting pitching I’m inclined to think that they should move him. Of course everything depends on what they could actually acquire for him but I’m guessing that it would be more than enough to work out in the long run.

Phil
Guest
Phil
6 years 2 months ago

You act as if the Indians should rush to trade Carmona at the sign of any decent deal. When you control a 26 year old pitcher for three years at an affordable rate, there’s no reason to force a trade.

At worse, Carmona is a 4-5 pitcher. Realistically he’s probably a solid three. This type of pitcher always has trade value. If no one makes a soild trade offer you could always trade him during the offseason. Or next years trade deadline. Or really at any point if you choose. Because you don’t HAVE to trade him.

$6 mil for a middle of the rotation pitcher is a steal. Hell $6 mil for a back end rotation pitcher is still a good price. Even for the Indians.

isavage
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isavage
6 years 2 months ago

I disagree that a pitcher of a certain quality is less valuable to a particular team simply because that team isn’t contending right now. That might be true if he were in the last year of his contract, like Westbrook, but you’re talking about replacing Carmona for not only this year and next at $6.1 million, but also ’12 – ’14 at rates of $7, $9 and $12 million. If you believe that Carmona can be even a league average starter over those years (and there’s certainly reason to believe he can be better than that, his numbers have improved month to month this year, with his K/BB going from 1.07 in April, to 1.50 in May, to 2.00 so far in June, and he was after all a Cy Young candidate 3 years ago), his contract is affordable, and to replace his future production, you’re almost certainly going to end up having to spend MORE money on someone else. It would be one thing if they had numerous pitching prospects waiting in AAA who Carmona was blocking, but it would be difficult for them to replace Westbrook internally, much less Westbrook and Carmona.

Not to mention considerations like burning up your bullpen arms because the pitchers who replaced those guys are pretty much certainly going to get rocked on a regular basis. It’s unrealistic for a team to trade away all of its experienced pitchers, just for some fairly minimal short term savings

isavage
Guest
isavage
6 years 2 months ago

I see no point in trading Carmona. If they legitimately believe they can contend by ’12 and beyond, trading their one sort of known starting pitching commodity doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s not like he has a huge contract.

What would be the point of injecting move B-level prospects into their system? With Laporta, Chisenhall, Brantley, as well as Weglarz, Jordan Brown, Jason Donald and Jason Kipnis they already have prospects at every position of need in the upper levels, and they have a ton of relief pitching prospects throughout the system. Is a Carmona trade going to net them a prospect who grades out significantly above any of those guys? Or who you can be fairly certain will end up better than Carmona himself?

Saving $6 million and not really improving your farm system at the cost of further alienating your fan-base doesn’t seem like a good deal. Right now, I would only want to attend a Cleveland game if Masterson or Carmona were pitching, so I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to think that trading him could lead to more than $6 million in lost revenue this year and next, especially since the upper level starting pitching is very weak: they’d have to replace Carmona with a scrub, not a legitimate prospect.

Shaggychild
Member
Shaggychild
6 years 2 months ago

Red Sox might want Kearns. We can thank Adrian Beltre for that.

Andy S.
Guest
Andy S.
6 years 2 months ago

This article is the only one phrased as a question and it’s seriously bothering me >_>

Jason B
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Jason B
6 years 2 months ago

“I’m Ron Burgundy?”

Mike S
Guest
Mike S
6 years 2 months ago

1) i thought trading players with salaries attached came down to one idea: include money to pay the salary and get a better quality player in return (think Casey Blake/Carlos Santana) and don’t and don’t get the return back. The Indians under the Dolan ownership have shown they are willing to do that but i don’t think its on a 100% across the board basis. (i can’t think of an example off of the top of my head, other then the Indians giving Karim Garcia away, but i know there are examples of the Indians just outright dumping a salary to get it off of the books – Paul Byrd maybe?)

2) When i first read the idea of trading Carmona – i thought it was idiotic, because of his being still a young pitcher under a team friendly contract. But the truth is – that is what makes him valuable in a deal.

i’m still not a big fan of the idea, mainly because of the uncertain status of the Indians pitchers (including the farm) and the probable movement of Westbrook (i read something that suggested the Indians think they might be able to resign Jake should he get traded – i’ll believe that when i see it), but i can at least see the logic of listening to offers (but i would have to be overwhelmed- the Indians don’t NEED to move him due to salary concerns, if the deal isn’t an outright win for the Indians it shouldn’t be done. If its just “B” Level prospects, then Carmona should stay in Cleveland.)

Phil
Guest
Phil
6 years 2 months ago

How is Westbrook more likely to get injured between now and the end of this season than any other pitcher? Throwing a fastball is an unnatural motion for the human body. All pitchers have an inherent injury risk.

Perhaps if Westbrook had a history of nagging injuries you might have a point. But that’s not the case. He had TJ surgery and has clearly recovered. I’m not sure what the number is, but I would be shocked if there were a high number of pitchers who were seriously injured soon after recovering from TJ. If anything, one could make the argument that he’s even less likely to be injured.

Any way you cut it, a prorated $5 million for half a season of a pitcher isn’t a ton of money, especially if you can get the Indians to throw in a few million.

jswede
Guest
jswede
6 years 2 months ago

Carmona’s ERA has dipped to 3.23 (13th in the AL) and his WHIP has dropped to 1.24 (22nd in the AL) and he’s trending in the right direction, posting a 2.72 ERA with 30 K to 18 BB over his last 8 starts.

That makes him a #2, and a 1/2 on the Indians. Worth more than you’d get in return on a trade, and certainly a bargain at $6mil.

(stats quoted from diatribe.com — great update and perspective on the Indians’ recent trades in the Sunday entry: http://clevelandtribeblog.blogspot.com/2010/06/pitching-in-on-lazy-sunday.html )

sonofagun
Guest
sonofagun
6 years 2 months ago

good defense or “good luck”?! LOL, good one Matt!

Carmona is a ground ball pitcher that has Peralta, Valbuena and Branyan in the infield….I don’t see the good defense there. Wait, wait…..no, still don’t see it.

“Good luck”, yeah, that must be it….not talent, since his sinker is absolutely filthy and is one of the best in baseball which is why he’s one of the best at creating GDP’s, but I guess all of that is chalked up to “luck”…..

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
6 years 2 months ago

Actually, no, inducing ground balls is a talent, one that’s covered in tERA, but the fact remains that ground balls and fly balls have approximately the same BABIP, so being a ground ball pitcher, in and of itself, doesn’t make your expected BABIP lower.

davemcgr
Member
6 years 2 months ago

If anything being a GB pitching would lead to a slightly higher BABIP. The biggest thing to notice about Carmona’s BABIP not just that it is low but that it has been timely low. His BABIP with runners on base is 0.202; that isn’t skill based and it has made a huge impact on keeper runners from scoring.

sonofagun
Guest
sonofagun
6 years 2 months ago

I’m glad you could only find one thing in there to try to debate on. The argument isn’t his BABIP, the basis was that Matt said Carmona’s 3.23 ERA is based on good defense or “good luck”. Since it’s clearly not the defense behind him, the “good luck” is a nice easy cop out of an excuse for which he has no argument for since he already has it dead set in his mind that Carmona is not talented enough to keep supporting the talent he’s shown. Try again Kev.

peter
Guest
peter
6 years 2 months ago

You have to be kidding me???…..Trade Carmona???…..At his price and bouce-back he has displayed so far……He is cheap at this price and this market considering they have him through 2014……..Face it….other than Kearns and Branyan……noone on this roster is worth tade bait…..and I wouldn’t trade Kearns at his price and current value to the team….this may have been one of the ore quality cheap signings the Indians have made in 15 yrs…..Not a buyer or seller at this point……sometimes the moves you dont make are the best moves……Keep it as is………..

Stephen Secaur
Guest
Stephen Secaur
6 years 2 months ago

You are an idiot. Trade an effective young pitcher? Can you say C.C. Sabathia or Cliff Lee? Idiot.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
6 years 2 months ago

Well, *that* was a very mature response. Fausto Carmona is no CC Sabathia, nor is he a Cliff Lee. I don’t think even the most rabid Indians homer would disagree with that assessment. (Not saying he’s not good, that he doesn’t ahve value, isn’t a good building block/trade chip, etc, but a projected solid SP3 is no ace/SP1.)

Wimbley
Guest
Wimbley
6 years 2 months ago

I tend to side with those that believe Carmona can be a #2 in the majors. The changes to his approach have been documented as he’s fixed his delivery and changed his approach on the rubber (either moved towards 3rd base or 1st..can’t remember).

I think statistics like xFIP will always “under-project” Carmona. If you ever get a chance to actually watch him you would realize that his sinker not only induces ground balls, but it induces ground balls that are pounded into the dirt. There is a difference. He is also one of the best, if not THE best and inducing double-play ground balls. The defense behind him is bottom 3rd in the league, so I can’t imagine his BABIP has much of a luck factor in it.

I’d venture to say he’s already a solid #3 with potential if he can develop a few of his secondary pitches a bit more while honing his command.

nolan
Guest
nolan
6 years 2 months ago

I don’t really see the Indians doing much during the trade deadline. They really don’t have any assets. Carmona is probably the closest to it, but they have way too much time invested in him. Besides, aren’t they already weak in pitching? Why would they trade their best pitcher for prospects unless they were playing for the #1 draft pick?

Phil
Guest
Phil
6 years 2 months ago

Branyan, Kearns, Westbrook and Carmona IF they wanted to.

…those are pretty good assets if you ask me. If we can get a solid prospect for Ryan Garko and an amazing prospect for Casey Blake, I think we can get something of respectable value for any of those chips above.

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