On The Upcoming Offseason Fire Sale

Asdrubal Cabrera

When was the last time I was able to write something positive regarding our baseball team? Im seriously at a loss, or should I say several losses, because that’s all the Indians seem to do these days. They look like a team asleep at the wheel, looking forward to the day the season is over. The slump has worn down everyone. The pitching has been horrific. The offense never came around and the at-bats are looking weaker and weaker.

Its easy to point fingers at the front office’s brutal job during the winter in terms of acquiring bats. They never solved any problems they had going in (signing Grady Sizemore, Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon don’t count as solutions). Lonnie Chisenhall’s ascent never was able to come to fruition because of his broken forearm. His rocket shot homer in his first game back Monday made me sad more than anything. Lonnie missed two big months of big league development.

So we are in September and are forced to look at lineups which like last night’s which had a four through nine of Russ Canzler, Matt LaPorta, Brent Lillibridge, Jason Donald, Thomas Neal, and Zeke Carrera.

Of the guys you see above, Canzler maybe makes the roster next year as the Shelley Duncan replacement, while Lillibridge will battle Donald for one roster spot, and Carrera could be the fourth outfielder. The saddest thing is the majority of the names you see are the best the organization had to bring up in September. Yet Manny Acta is the one who will most likely lose his job. Was he in charge of overseeing the top tier levels of the minors and watching them become a laughing stock?

GM Chris Antonetti is on the road with the Tribe in Texas for this series. He should be embarrassed by what he sees when he looks at his team’s lineup card. He is directly responsible for it as well. Which brings me to the upcoming offseason.

We all need to come to grips with the fact that the Dolan’s aren’t going to sell the team as much as we would love to see them do so. We are stuck with them for the immediate future and probably longer. They love stability so it wouldn’t shock me one bit if Antonetti continued to be the GM of this team in 2013 (which I am COMPLETELY against by the way). He has a major problem on his hands.

It’s not just the fact that his owner is never going to spend on free agency, it’s that he has no fruit to pick from Akron or Columbus. There is only one way to solve a barren minor league system – trade your veterans and hope the prospects you get are hits. We were put in this position in the first place because of years of bad drafting and the trades of Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia, back to back AL Cy Young award winners, essentially produced Michael Brantley and a backup catcher in Lou Marson. I can’t count Jason Donald because he still has yet to prove he is a big leaguer. Carlos Carrasco is coming off of Tommy John surgery.

Antonetti or whoever the GM is this winter must look at 2013 for what it is; a chance to restock the farm system. That “window of contention” is as big of a joke as calling the late 90’s “the era of champions.” I mean, how many World Series championships did it produce besides zero? The window that Antonetti talked about when he sold off his best two pitching prospects to Colorado for fifth starter Ubaldo Jimenez doesn’t exist. This team has more holes than a golf course. 2013 will be no different than 2012. So the time to unload your veterans has once again arrived, sooner than we all had hoped unfortunately.

You would think  it is more than obvious that closer Chris Perez will be sent packing as soon as possible. He will make somewhere between $6.5 and $8 million in arbitration for 2013 based on his performance on the field. That is way too rich for the Indians blood for a closer when you have a ready-made, inexpensive closer in waiting (Vinnie Pestano) on the roster already. However, Perez’s on-going commentary about the state of the franchise essentially decreases his trade value. It also would show any player in the organization that he can talk his way right out of town should he choose to do so.

RF Shin-Soo Choo has rebuffed the Indians extension offers for the last two years. Or should we say super-agent Don Buckwald Scott Boras has rebuffed extension offers from the Tribe. Dealing Choo this winter should be at the top of the list. He clearly has one foot out the door already, has no chance of coming back, and to be honest, I really don’t think he is a winning player. He was terrific for about two months and average the rest of the season. However, if you are the Indians GM, you sell his rocket arm, his decent speed, and the fact that he had close to no help in the lineup outside of three/four players tops.

The name Justin Masterson has been bandied about as well. In late July, three contenders at the time (Texas, Boston, and Pittsburgh) sent scouts to watch Justin’s last pre-deadline start in Minnesota (I was there as well). He put up one of his many clunkers (nine of his 30 starts this season, Masterson has allowed at least six earned runs) and nobody bit. We all love the big right-hander’s personality. He is one of the most popular guys in the clubhouse with his teammates and with the media. But look at his results ; Masterson is starting to resemble another starting pitcher who had one big year and then was expected to be the future ace of the staff before falling off – Fausto Carmona, now known as Roberto Hernandez.

Now I am not saying that J Mast will have the drop in performance that Fauxberto did, but this season has been a mechanical roller coaster. When Masterson is able to find his arm slot, he has looked great. Then at other times he is getting completely rocked. With the Indians so bereft of starting pitching depth, I’m not sure trading Masterson is prudent. There will most likely be a new pitching coach in 2013, and hopefully whoever that is can help turn Justin back into the guy we saw in 2011.

That said, everyone on this team not named Vinnie Pestano, Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis should be for sale. If you can get the right package for Masterson, then trade him.

This brings me to Asdrubal Cabrera.

Asdrubal Cabrera? Really?

The Indians All-Star shortstop came off the best season of his career and signed a two-year extension which keeps him in Cleveland through the 2014 season. Then he showed up in Goodyear, Arizona looking beefy. Acta stepped forward to say nothing was wrong, but it was clear Asdrubal was out of shape. However when the season started, Asdrubal’s bat was right there. He was terrific again, earning his second straight appearance in the mid-summer classic.

Then just like last season, he has completely worn down while the team around him completely collapsed. Hat tip here to friend of the site and beat writer extraordinaire Jordan Bastian on these stats, but they tell the Asdrubal story:

Through the first 69 games: .300/.379/.495/.874, 11 HR, 40 RBI
Over the next 59 games: .228/.281/.321/.602, 3 HR, 16 RBI

Defensively, the extra weight he was carrying showed with shrinking range and sloppy play. While he got himself back in shape, Cabrera has made a career-high 17 errors, which is the most for any AL shortstop. Ironically, the player with the least amount of errors in the AL? Jhonny Peralta. Then again, its tough to make errors when you can’t get to anything!

So to recap – Asdrubal has worn down in both of the last two seasons after the All-Star break (arguably because he was so responsible for carrying the offense) and he is having the worst defensive season of his career. However, he is on a relatively club friendly contract, under control for two more seasons after this one and there is no doubt when he is on, the man can hit.

So I ask you this question – why not open up Cabrera to the trade market and get as many quality prospects as you can for him? He’s only 26 years old, played a vital role for the Indians as a rookie in the 2007 playoffs and is among the best hitting shortstops in the game. Don’t forget he can also move over to second base if need as he did with the Tribe in ’07 when good ole’ Jhonny was roaming position number six.

I know the Indians have no shortstop ready to take over. #1 prospect Francisco Lindor is still at least two years away. But remember that 2013 is going to be about restocking the farm system and developing young players (sorry, I refuse to believe this team contends with this pitching staff). By the time the Indians roll back around into contention, Asdrubal will be ready for free agency, where he will walk. Give Donald the shortstop position for one season and give him enough rope to either save or hang himself.

Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, this offseason is going to be as interesting as we have seen in years. Changes are afoot. How sweeping they will be is still very much up in the air.

  • nullster

    The worst part about talking about who we should trade, is that we still have those who put us in this position to talk about who to ship out still pulling the strings. Nothing like talking to an arsonist about how your house could be burnt down faster.

  • Bulldogs 3

    Santana? buy or sell?

  • EyesAbove

    Wouldnt hurt to gauge his value, we need all the help we can get.

  • boomhauertjs

    I agree about trading Drubs. I would sign a good glove, no hit type to play short instead of Donald. He’s yet another AAAA player that Shaponetti is so good at acquiring. At least have a strong defensive player at a defensive position (which is exactly the opposite of the Shaponetti philosophy).
    Great point about Choo not being “a winning player”. His stats look good, but I can’t recall very many clutch hits during his time with the Tribe.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Great point and those same people have shown an inability to get back talent, at any level, repeatedly when trading the best player in the deal. Looks like another five year plan where one time in those five years do you contend. But by contend I mean you are in first or near first for 2/3 of the season but fail to make the playoffs. That’s Shapironese or Antonettinese whichever you prefer.

  • mgbode

    “When was the last time I was able to write something positive regarding our baseball team?”

    July 26th.

    I guess the problem with continuing to mark all their calendars as April in May and June was that they flipped directly to November afterwards and thought the season was done.

  • AMC

    I’m in favor of a total fire sale with the exception of Pestano, Kipniz and Chiz. You mention Brantley in that group, but I wouldn’t make him untouchable – I like him but he’s not a franchise cornerstone type player. The problem as nullster rightly point out, is that if Antonetti isn’t canned then he’s the one in charge of getting the right return for the assets. We already have seen with the CC and Lee deals how far back key misses during a firesale can set back a franchise. Antonetti doesn’t deserve a second chance.

  • mgbode

    and, as far as who to gauge trade value, anyone that isn’t signed past 2014 should be on the market. doesn’t mean you trade them, but if you think you are getting good value, then you pull the trigger.

    and hopefully Antonetti isn’t the one guaging that value.

  • Harv 21

    “RF Shin-Soo Choo has rebuffed the Indians extension offers for the last two years. Or should we say super-agent Don Buckwald Scott Boras has rebuffed extension offers from the Tribe”

    Ugh, my pet peeve. TD, this is not only patronizing to Choo but a demonization of the player-agent relationship that the front offices promote and fans grab on to so that they can keep liking the player. Boras does his thing. He didn’t hypnotize Choo with a watch to sign him up, Choo changed agents so Boras could do his thing for him: jack the bids and sign with the highest. Boras didn’t chloroform Choo and stuff him in a closet when the Indians came calling with extension offer. Say it: Choo rebuffed the extension offer. Drew Rosenhaus didn’t exert a pernicious influence over Winslow. Say it: Winslow is pernicious and signed with Rosenhaus so Rosenhaus would do his Rosenhaus thing for Winslow. And Bob LeMonte – ha-ha! LeMonte Controls All of Berea Funny Joke! – has a book of clients only because of Mike Holmgren. He owes his career to Holmgren. Holms may like doing favors for his old friend, but it’s not the other way around.

  • EyesAbove

    Well stated, agents take their marching orders from the players, not the other way around.

  • JRS19

    Santana should be moved to 1B. Sign a veteran FA catcher like Torrelba or Martin to steady the pitching staff. Remember, a big part of a pitching staff’s success is working comfortably with the catcher. I have a feeling Santana isn’t fully invested back there.

  • EyesAbove

    Small sample size (19 games and 75 PA) but Santana does have an 1.114 OPS as a 1st baseman this year. I too have wondered if playing 1st would help him stay healthy and be more productive at the plate.

  • Bob

    It’s a shame we didn’t dump Perez at the break. I think that’s when his value was highest. I’m not big on getting rid of Choo at all but if we can’t extend the contract we’re gonna have to. I’d probably wait on that one til the deadline next year, I don’t really see an advantage to doing it this winter.

  • mgbode

    more teams bidding in winter vs. deadline

  • clevefan4life

    The player’s union is far more powerful that you believe. Ask Jim Thome.

  • nj0

    Brantley is younger than Kipnis and has been as valuable. If you believe one should go, so should the other.


    Start over. Everyone is expendable. Scrap 2013, 2014, 2015. Plan to compete in three+ years. I know people don’t want to hear it, but a total reboot is the way to go.

  • nj0

    for a drama-queen closer who loves being a distraction?

  • JK

    How could we have possibly justified trading him while in 1st place?

  • nj0

    What I find funny is when people buy into the evil agent storyline all it means is that the agent is doing exactly what he’s paid to: shielding the player from the fan’s scorn.

    Thome would be much more beloved if he had hired Boras and let him do the talking.

  • Jeff D

    Santana needs to be added to the “no sale” list. .276/.379/.495 with 10 HR since the ASB. If he hadn’t gotten beaned in the head, he’d be having a fantastic year.

  • nj0

    I know people hate WAR, but fWAR has Jamey Carroll at 2.0 vs. ACab’s 2.3. That’s what defense can (supposedly) do for you.

  • mgbode

    SF Giants maybe? They once had Kent & Bonds on the same team at the same time!

    current closer-by-committee cannot work forever, right?

  • mgbode

    I think it’s the negative backlash still from being associated with the CC trade (and being considered the 2nd best prospect in that deal to LaPorta)

    anyone not signed/controlled after 2014 is who I would put up on the block. that includes:

    Masterson – worried 2010 doesn’t fit all other season profile
    Ubaldo – just fishing – likely hold and hope to sell higher next July
    Raffy / Joe Smith – wouldn’t get much for RP though
    Hannahan / Duncan – not that we’d get much or anything

  • Harv 21

    Sure, let’s ask Thome whether the union forced him to choose the contract that gave him an extra year with $14m more guaranteed. Golly, he was good as re-signed til that slimy union threatened to step on his big ol’ country neck. Or maybe it was that gold-digging shrew of a wife. But not my Jimbo, he’s decent and half-dense and salt of the earth. Like Manny and Peyton.

  • matt underwood

    don buckwald – awesome reference

  • nj0

    Just considering how weak our minors supposedly are, I don’t see us being ready to compete that soon. But I’ll admit I don’t know much.

    I just don’t see this being easily and/or quickly patched.

  • nj0

    Why not? And who cares if it doesn’t if we’re shooting for 2015+?

  • Harv 21

    Hate to be that guy, but we’re about to lose 90 games for the third time in 4 years. The farm system is devoid of exciting players and we’re concerned about keeping a single-A teenage shortstop who might be a star or might be a guy, apparently because he’s the only promising position player at any level. We can’t re-sign any quality players because there’s insufficient funds. Really, in 2012 does it matter who we trade?

    The only way out I can see is:

    – all resources into the farm system until there is real player competition at positions and competent player development. Until then, any team you throw out there can lose 90 games. The fans here no longer have more than a passing interest in a player they know is leaving soon. There isn’t a critical mass of good players to overcome that sense of imminent loss.

    – minority investors providing the needed capital for this and holding out in the city until the product starts coming off the assembly lines again. Paul Dolan did recently say he was open to minority investment. OK, the Mark Cubans aren’t interested in throwing a billion at a losing hand, but I’m talking tens of milions, enough to get the farm system humming again as Jacobs did under Hank Peters’s oversight.

    That’s all I got.

  • mgbode

    I meant the Giants closer-by-committee status. Brian Wilson had his 2nd TJ and is over 30yo. Decent chance SF wants to hedge the bet he comes back 100%.

  • mgbode

    oh, and they could use an OFer as well with Melky likely being jettisoned. and they seem to have a plethora of good, young pitchers.

    package deal w/ Choo?

  • Caleb

    Is that a joke? Santana just started hitting because there is no pressure on him to do so. The Indians have been out of the race for the past 2 months, thus eliminating all pressure. He has shown no ability to go to opposite way and refuses to make adjustments at the plate.

  • Natedawg86

    I could see Ubaldo starting strong for us next season with the ability to put him somewhere else for some prospects.

  • mgbode

    2015 is a long ways off. it depends on what we do from here, but we should be able to rebuild by then.

    we’ll have our low minor league guys (the ones the scouts seem to love from Bud Grant’s drafts) hitting the majors along with Brantley, Santana, Kipnis, and Chisenhall hitting their primes (and still controlled).

    the pitching is still the elephant in the room. either we need to draft better, develop better, trade better, coach better, or do all of those better than what we have been doing.

  • mgbode

    fingers are crossed.