Friday, November 25, 2005

Trade Thoughts

With the trade market taking off (Delgado, Thome, Beckett, etc.), expect the Indians to join the festivities shortly, either via FA or trade. Some thoughts on recent happenings:

The White Sox acquisition of Thome puzzles me. Granted they got $22M of the $43.5M owed over his last 3 years, but the timing of it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Thome is essentially a DH, whose contract makes him attractive to very few AL teams (meaning that they weren't bidding against a ton of teams). Yet the White Sox jump at the chance to get Thome, before the Konerko situation is even resolved. He’s essentially the replacement for Frank Thomas, and insurance for 1B if Konerko moves on. But that’s assuming that his back is healthy enough to play the field. The White Sox were pushing hard to make this happen, but couldn’t they have waited until the asking price came down a little?
That being said, it was a great trade for Philly, whose lineup looks pretty tough for next year (Howard, Utley, Rollins, Abreu, Burrell, Rowand).

Even more curious is what the White Sox gave up to get Thome. Last offseason, Chicago traded Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednik which seemed to set the tone for the season, as it moved the focus of the team from Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em to pitching, speed, and defense. It worked pretty well, obviously. So, the first move they make after winning a championship is to trade a Gold Glove caliber CF, and a grinder who epitomized their philosophy for … a slugger, capable of the big HR, but also the big K.
Brian Anderson is a nice OF prospect, but he remains just that. For every Grady Sizemore that emerges, there are a lot more Alex Escobars and Ryan Ludwicks.
I can’t tell if my personal feelings for Thome (that he always said all the right things, until he jumped town for “a better shot at the playoffs”) is influencing my thoughts on the trade, but it will certainly be intriguing to hear the reaction that Thome steps to the plate for the first time at the Jake.

You want a rival for the Indians, there’s your rival. Complete with a former teammate becoming the face of your nemesis, with Jim Thome in the Jack Parkman role from Major League II. Bad reference and a bad movie, but the similarities are just too eerie.

Now, the Philadelphia media is reporting that the Thome sweepstakes came down to the White Sox and the Tribe, with the Indians offering David Riske and Coco Crisp for Thome and Jason Michaels. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, or if it was “leaked” to give Tribe ownership some credence that “they went hard after Thome”. That trade would only be made if Thome’s back was guaranteed to be healthy enough to play the field, and the Phillies threw in a similar financial package. The Tribe was hesitant to give Thome these last 3 years when originally negotiating with him, so why suddenly would they want him for ONLY these 3 years?

The interesting aspect of the trade rumor is the names that came up in it for the Tribe. I don’t think that there’s any question that Shapiro is trying to deal Riske, seeing as how he just had a good year (stats-wise), even as he fell out of favor with Wedge. Shapiro will almost certainly try to move him in a package for a bat.
Coco’s name is more surprising, until you look at the big picture. Coco was always seen as a 4th OF as he progressed through the organization, fighting his way into the picture. After a solid year, Coco’s value may be at its peak and the fact that he doesn’t fit the mold of a corner outfielder (he’s really a CF/leadoff hitter, which we’re set on) leads me to believe that if Brian Giles becomes an Indian, Coco’s days may be numbered. Even if Giles doesn't join the Indians, when either Brad Snyder of Franklin Gutierrez is ready for the bigs, expect Coco (assuming he’s still around) to be the odd man out. With that being said, Coco’s stuck around a lot longer than other more ballyhooed prospects, so he may retire an Indian at this rate.

Coco would draw some interest in the trade market as he's a prototypical leadoff hitter (in some people's eyes who look only at his speed) and a good defensive OF (despite a weak throwing arm). He could always be packaged with Brandon Phillips and some arms for a starter (Javier Vazquez, Barry Zito) at some point to solve the hole in the rotation, rather than giving Millwood the 5-year deal that he is almost assured of getting somewhere.

Back to the Giles front, it seems that Giles may be willing to return to the place it all started, as he’s ruled out the Yankees. The Padres, the Cardinals, and the Cubs remain the other suitors, but Giles seems like the kind of guy who takes comfort and environment into consideration more than most. I would imagine that his personality would fit in well to the loose clubhouse where Hafner walks around in Battista T-shirts (from the WWE, for the uninformed), but is he willing to leave the San Diego sun or more money on the table for a return to the Jake?

It seems like the Indians are more concerned about locking up a bat and bullpen help as opposed to locking up the rotation, from the reports of who they are courting. B.J. Ryan is reported to be very interested in signing with the Tribe because he wants to close for a winner. Take the Yankees (set-up role), the Orioles (losers), and the Blue Jays (losers) off of the list. It seems that the loser of the Billy Wagner Sweepstakes (Mets or Phillies) will make a hard push for Ryan, which is why Shapiro is working hard to stage a pre-emptive strike. Unfortunately, since Wagner’s contract will set the market, you can’t have it both ways.

The next week or so should set up for some action coming from the Indians’ offices, as the there may be more money to spend, and moves are now being made, so the precedent is set.

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