Scott discussed this yesterday, but its getting some legs. For those of you who didn’t think trading Victor Martinez was a realistic option (me for one), think again. ESPN’s Peter Gammons, arguably the most trusted member of the baseball media reported last night that the Red Sox turned down an offer of RHP Clay Buckholz for Martinez. Instead, they went for Pirates first baseman Adam Laroche, a non-tender candidate after the season that cost the Sox must less than their top pitching prospect.
The real story here is that it was the Red Sox who turned down the Indians, and not vise versa. This now proves that Mark Shapiro and his crew are willing to send their best player (sorry, its not you, Grady) packing right now rather then waiting until next season, the way they did with CC Sabathia.
On Tuesday SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported that now the Indians will indeed listen to offers for both Vic the Stik and Cliff Lee. Per Heyman:
“Something apparently happened in recent days to change their thinking and make them slightly more receptive to a trade, though it’s unclear exactly what.”
I’ll tell you what that “thing” is – attendance. This year’s team payroll is just north of $80 million, which was based solely on contending and reaching 2.2 million fans for the season. Right now, out of 30 teams, the Indians rank 27th in attendance, averaging just 22,240 per game. Keep in mind, the Yankees and Red Sox – the two biggest draws by far – do not visit Progressive Field again this season. Interleague play, another big drawing card, is also done. If and only if, things stay at the 22k plus average (which they won’t), the season attendance will be just over 1.80 million.
On top of that, the economy in regards to advertising sales is at 20 year lows, particularly in this city. The STO rating are way down, which means advertising sales are down, which means more revenues are down. STO’s programming in year three is still laughable. I mean, why would you want to advertise on a channel which essentially has four shows: Tribe games, All Bets are Off, The Outdoors Show with D’Arcy Egan and Joe Thomas, and their latest “gem,” Beer Money? Sure, the Browns nightly show will start when Training Camp starts next weekend, but the channel can’t possibly be making any money, can it?
In regards to the “stretched” payroll – that’s a direct quote from Tribe President Paul Dolan before the season started – dumping Mark DeRosa as early as they did helped shed some of his $5.5 million salary. Rumors are swirling that the Angels and Rockies are looking at reliever Rafael Betancourt, who is scheduled to get a raise to $5 million in 2010. You think the Indians want to pay that salary on a rebuilding team? Carl Pavano has reached his $5.5 million incentives and the team would love to deal him. I don’t think they would be able to get out from under Kerry Wood’s $20 million over the next two years. I can’t see anyone interested in a non-hitting third baseman like Jhonny Peralta or a singles hitting first basemen in Ryan Garko.
Which brings us back to Victor and Cliff. On Monday, I didn’t think it would be possible for either or both to be dealt. But if you take a step back, from a business standpoint, Mark Shapiro may have no choice. See, this is why you need a billionaire owner like Dan Gilbert, and not a millionaire owner like Larry Dolan who completely overpaid for the team and will never be able to re-coup his money for even $.50 on the dollar.
The Red Sox have scouts in Toronto for the Tribe series to watch both Cliff and Victor. They have to come away impressed with both. The Phillies may turn their attention to Lee now that a Roy Halladay deal may be put on the shelve because they don’t want to include top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek in any deal. The Dodgers interest in Cliff has been out there for months.
As for Victor, his contract is very manageable and is up at the end of 2010, so he’d be a perfect addition to a contender. The Red Sox still love him but according to ESPN’s Buster Olney (insider only) “they would have to overpay to get him; they would have to give up their most valued asset, young pitching.”
With the money issues the team has to be having in the face of dropping attendance, trading Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee for a major haul of prospects may be the best long term move for this organization.