Friday, July 31, 2009

Victor to the Red Sox

Proving that nobody is safe from the chopping block, team captain, all-star catcher and clean-up hitter Victor Martinez has been traded to the Boston Red Sox for MLB starter/reliever Justin Masterson, and minor leaguers Bryan Price and Nick Hagadone.

A tough few days for Tribe fans. Will these guys be key components in 2010 and beyond?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Shapiro first GM to trade Cy Young winners in back-to-back season

According to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer, and multiple other sources, the Cleveland Indians And Philadelphia Phillies have agreed in principle to a trade that would send Cliff Lee and Ben Fransisco to the Phillies, in exchange for prospects Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, and Jason Donald.

Donald, a 2B/SS/3B utility guy, and Marson, a catcher, create an overabundance of similar players at the AAA and MLB levels for the Tribe. This may be an indication that the Tribe have another move pending involving some combination of Martinez, Marson, Carrol, or Peralta.

This haul appears to be two average defenders with patient bats, albeit not a ton of power, a low-ceiling but high-floor #3 starter, and a very high ceiling single-A pitcher.

More scouting reports to come! Stay tuned, and this has the looks of being part of a larger deal.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Comings and Goings

As often seems to be the case, it's time for the Tribe's mid-season team evaluation and re-tooling for next season.

Who could be on their way out? What pieces need added? We will be exploring these issues in the coming days.

Our list of players to be moved:

Carl Pavano: Definately. He's pitching well, and he's on a cheap one year deal. He won't be here next year, and a lot of contending teams would like to have him. He might attract some "bargain hunters" who are unwilling to meet the demands for Carl Pavano and Cliff Lee.

Raphy Betancourt: His $5.4 million 2010 option is a bit steep, and numerous contending teams could use back-end bullpen help. The Angels could be a strong possibility.

Kerry Wood: He's signed for $10 million per for both this season and next, and his $11 million 2011 option vests if he makes another 18 appearances this season, or 55 next season. The Tribe would love to move him, but the price tag will probably scare away suitors.

Jamey Carrol: He could easily be moved after the deadline, as he's a good candidate to clear waivers. A versatile defender whose bat will neither win nor lose you games, he'd be a great candidate to fill in for an injured or underperforming infielder on a contending team.

Jhonny Peralta: He's seemed to lose motivation since being moved to third, and has expressed his dislike for his new position. Even if he gets his swing back, a .270/20/80 bat is a lot less appealing at third base than shortstop. With Andy Marte still young, and finally showing his potential in AAA, and Wes Hodges back from injury, the time might be right to free up the "hot corner", and give Peralta a shot at starting over with a new team.

Ryan Garko: A cheap lefty-mashing bat who can be a capable 5 or 6 hitter, and put up a realiable .800 OPS. He's losing playing time to Victor Martinez, and will lose even more with an inevitable Matt LaPorta call-up. With other names like Hodges, Mills, Brown, and Weglarz lurking in the minors, Garko is the very definition of expendable.

Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee: They are both free agents after 2010, and it is unlikely that the Indians can re-sign both. Martinez has expressed a desire to finish his career in Cleveland, but Lee may have more value to the team. Do you trade one or the other, and if so which one? Would that be waiving a white flag for next season as well?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Betancourt: Case Closed?

The Angels are in the market for pitching, and according to the LA Times Tribe set-up man Rafael Betancourt is on their list of targets. While they probably will be reserving their biggest trade chips for a top starter, a mid-range pitcher would not be out of the question. The problem is that the Angels have one of the thinnest farm systems in the league (ranked 25th by Baseball America), after a few seasons of trades and signing Type A and B free agents. They lack any consensus top-50 prospects (not that Betancourt would command such a return).

The Chubby Indian's short list:

1) Jordan Walden. Mid 90s throwing righty with a decent slider. He's currently having control problems at the AA level, with 28 BB to 57 Ks in 60 IP, and needs to work on a third pitch to be an effective starter. That might, however, be something that the Tribe could avoid: he can hit 100 throwing from the pen.

2) Sean O'Sullivan. Righty starter. He's shown great promise this season, getting fast-tracked to the MLB level and putting up a 3.80 ERA in 4 appearances. He doesn't have great stuff, but he has good command over his low 90s fastball, as well as an average curve and change. He throws strikes, and uses all of his pitches.

3) Tyler Chatwood. Another Righty starter. The Angels second round pick last season is only 19, hits the mid 90s with his heat, and has a great curve. His 5.9 BB/9 at the A level shows that he still needs plenty of work, but he has all the tools you could want in a kid who is only a year removed from High School.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tribe Aquires Chris Perez!

The Indians have traded Mark Derosa for Chris Perez.

Perez is one of the top set-up men in the league.

More analysis tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Crunch Time

Pay close attention to the next two games, Tribe fans.

In our opinion, the next two starts (each) by David Huff and Jeremy Sowers will be the major determining factor in Shapiro's decision to buy pitching, or sell for prospects. If these two can continue improving, as they have in their last few starts, the Tribe will have 4 quality starters in their rotation, as well as Westbrook, Laffey, and Scott Lewis all set to return around the end of the month. If they are only able to give 5 4-5 innings per start, the pressure on the bullpen will likely be too much, and the Tribe will find themselves in sell mode as they approach the break.

Both Huff and Sowers have made major strides in the pasat month. In his first two starts, Huff's pitches (particularly his fastball) showed little life or deception, and he had trouble getting them past the batter for strikes. In his four starts since, he has added a couple MPH to his fastball, and more movement to his breaking pitches. Sowers, for the last two seasons, has had a chronic problem getting through the opposing lineup the second time around. This season, he's made great strides in that area, and has finally been able to keep his heat in the low 90s with control.

The key to their success is going to be their efficiency.

Sowers has given up only 5 runs in his last 4 appearances (counting a may 25th appearance when he pitches 5 innings of relief, after Carmona lasted only 1 inning). The flipside is that he only lasted an average of 5.1 innings in those appearances, and had to pitch an average of 83.25 pitches to get that far (if you remove his may 25th appearance, when he was pulled after 57 pitches, it looks a lot worse).

Similarly, Huff has given up only 10 runs in his last four outings, and though he did go 7.1 innings in his last start, it took him 112 pitches to get that far, and he looked pretty shaky at the end.

If these two young starters can pitch consistently, then the Tribe will likely be 3 relief arms away from a solid staff (even before last night's debacle, it should have been obvious to most that Herges, Aquino, and Vizcaino are not playoff-caliber arms). That's not even taking into account the inevitable return of Betancourt. Sowers can possibly fill one of those spots, and Rich Rundles, Vinnie Chulk, and Tony Sipp are waiting in the wings at Huntington Park. The bullpen is fixable. If Huff and Sowers fail to improve, however, there will be simply too many holes for a middle-market team like the Tribe to fill, without mortgaging a large part of their future away.

Keep your eyes on the ball.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Sad Day for Cleveland

Former Tribe owner Dick Jacobs has passed away today, at age 84. Jacobs owned the team from 1986-2001, ended nearly 40 years of bad teams and ushered in the "Era of Champions".

Jacobs goes down as one of the greatest Cleveland sports franchise owners in the city's history.