Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Wick is Out

The dominoes have started to fall and the Tribe started with Fats Domino (that’s said with love, Bobby). Wickman was dealt to the Braves, a team in desperate need of bullpen help.

Here’s the official release to the press:
The Cleveland Indians today announced the club has completed atrade with the Atlanta Braves, sending RHP BOB WICKMAN to Atlanta in exchangefor C MAX RAMIREZ.

Ramirez, 21, has spent the entire 2006 season with the Class A Rome Braves where he has hit .285 (76-267) with 17 doubles, 9 homers & 37 RBI in 80 games and was selected to the 2006 South Atlantic League All-Star Game. He has also scored 50 runs and walked 54 times in 80 games. The 5-11 right-handed hitter ishitting .396 (36-91) with 3HR & 13RBI off left-handed pitching and has appeared in 53 games batting in the clean-up position.

In 2005 he was named the Co-Most Valuable Player of the Appalachian League after hitting .347 (83-239) with 19 doubles, 8 homers and 47RBI in 63 games. He led the Appy League in hits, was 2nd in the league in average and was 3rd in RBI, doubles and total bases (126). He was named to the Post-Season All-Star Team and after the season was ranked by Baseball America as the 5th best prospect in the entire Appy League.

The native of Venezuela was signed by the Braves as anon-drafted free agent in October of 2002. He spent the 2003 campaign at the club's academy in the Dominican Republic and 2004 in the Gulf Coast League where he was named the GCL Most Valuable Player by the Braves organization.

Wickman has compiled a record of 1-4 with 15 saves and a 4.18ERA in 29 appearances for the Indians (28.0IP, 29H, 13ER, 11BB, 17K). He departs the Indians after parts of 7 seasons and is the club's all-time career saves leader with 138.

It’s true that we would have liked to see the Indians get a little more for their closer, but Wickman is not exactly a lights-out, slam-the-door closer and he’s truly a 2 month rental as there’s no chance he’s going to stick around in Atlanta (or anywhere else) next year.

Because Sticky is a 10-5 guy, he could’ve vetoed the deal, so give the Big Fella credit for accepting a trade that allowed the Indians to get a prospect.

Ahhhh, the prospect.
After the Nationals fleeced the Reds for two middling middle relievers, anything less than a ML-ready player was going to be a disappointment. But a Single-A Catcher?

Realizing that the organization is devoid of catching prospects after Kelly Shoppach, who’s still an unknown quantity, it makes sense to get a catcher. Ramirez is rated the Braves 6th best prospect by John Sickels, has proven that he can hit if he’s not too flexible in the field, and will report to Lake County – so he’s not some middle-of-the-road prospect.

Prospects are prospects – there’s no way to predict the future for anybody, but Ramirez looks like a solid prospect with ML-potential. But that’s all it is right now: potential. We’ll see in 2 years where Max Ramirez is at (add MaxRam to AstroCab as in-season acquisitions over the last month), so like any other deal it’s too early to really judge.

You would think that more pressing needs existed (MI, OF), but only the Indians’ Front Office knows what players were offered for Wickman.

The Reds-Nats deal set the bar too high for any trade that’s going to happen for the rest of the season, which is unfortunate for all other GM’s on the selling side of things because the inevitable “the Nationals got 2 starters for middle relievers” card will be played until August 31st.

Another factor in the decision has to do with the 40-man roster and the off-season decisions facing the Indians. It’s a complicated scenario, but the Indians have to add players like Kevin Kouzmanoff to the 40-man roster at the end of the season or they are exposed to the Rule 5 draft. By acquiring a younger prospect, the Indians avoid another difficult 40-man decision. Still think it’s easy to be a GM with cut-and-dry decisions?

More moves are coming, but right now this means that Carmona will be given an opportunity to close for the rest of the year. Who pitches the 8th and how the rest of the bullpen shakes out will be an interesting development to keep your eye on.

For now, we bid a fond adieu to the Indians’ All-Time Saves Leader – a man who seemed more likely to be sitting in the stands sipping a tall frosty one than actually trotting out of the bullpen with the game in the balance since 2000. It won’t stop me from sporting the Wickmans’ Warriors at the Jake for years to come.

Who’s next? Boone…to San Diego (or the waiver wire)? Broussard…to San Francisco? Hollandsworth…to New York? Mota…to…who knows?

The trade winds have started blowing. Just sit back, open a cold beverage, and let the breeze take you away…perhaps to a happier place.


t-bone said...

Urgh, Giants got Hillenbrat.

In good news, Bennett Builders softball got their first win since May tonight.

Cy Slapnicka said...

Boy, how far Aaron Boone has fallen. I read in paper that he got booed after he hit a double in the 7th last night! Can anyone confirm?

If he was a horse, I'd shoot him.

One impressive note. On the turnpike yesterday I saw an amazing amount of Twinkies fans. I was quite impressed they were making the haul for the weekend series.

t-bone said...

Gray facemasks, oldschool uni's, black shoes = heaven.

check it.

Paul Cousineau said...

That is great stuff and phenomenal that they're embracing their past as opposed to trying to make sleeker, more modern uniforms that always look horrible.

If the Indians did something similar, would they bring back the 1948 unis (which are pretty similar to today's, outside of the dreadful Sunday Unis)?

What are everyone's favorite Tribe unis of yesteryear?

t-bone said...

from espninsider... Baseball

Friday, July 21, 2006
Updated: July 22, 1:37 PM ET
Sometimes it takes some shaking up

By Jerry Crasnick
ESPN Insider

Of all the scenarios that Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro envisioned in spring training, falling 20 games out of first place in the American League Central by mid-July wasn't prominent on the list.
Yet here it is, about a week before the non-waiver deadline, and Shapiro leads Kansas City's Dayton Moore and Pittsburgh's Dave Littlefield 2-0 in white-flag deals. He sent Eduardo Perez to Seattle for minor league infielder Asdrubal Cabrera and helped Atlanta plug its closer hole by sending Bob Wickman to the Braves for a minor league catcher.

The Red Sox have Manny Ramirez. The Indians have former Braves prospect Max Ramirez, and an unwelcome wait-until-next-year mentality.

After a breakout season in 2005, Jhonny Peralta has struggled mightily this year.
Shapiro and assistant general manager Chris Antonetti are two of the sharpest minds in the business, and they're strapped to explain why Cleveland is this bad. The Indians are 42-53 even though they've outscored the opposition 522-496 and rank third in the league in runs scored.

"This year has been a very large disappointment," Shapiro said. "We're bitter about it, and we still have to figure out why. But we haven't been able to put our finger on one thing."

Maybe it's because there are so many things. The Indians lack team speed and are prone to baserunning gaffes. They rank next to last in the American League in fielding percentage, and their offseason moves simply haven't panned out.

Last winter, while coping with the usual financial constraints and being spurned by Brian Giles, Kevin Millwood and Trevor Hoffman, among others, Shapiro signed starters Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson, acquired Jason Michaels from Philadelphia to play left field, and added Guillermo Mota to replace Bob Howry as his main set-up guy.

Cleveland's rotation, which finished in a tie for the league lead with a 3.61 ERA last year, currently ranks 11th at 4.81. The Indians' left fielders are last in the majors with a .693 combined on-base slugging percentage. The bullpen has been a disaster, with Mota at the top of the offender's list. When a guy has nearly twice as many home runs allowed as "holds," you know he's had problems.

As an NL executive observed, the Indians might just be enduring some growing pains as their young players cope with the burden of a higher profile. "Maybe some guys aren't as good as you thought they were, or maybe they start pressing because of the expectations," the front office man said. "Sometimes it takes some shaking up."

Shapiro will confine his trade deadline activity to players on the verge of free agency. Starting pitchers Cliff Lee or Jake Westbrook are pretty much off limits, and he doesn't expect to move Casey Blake, Rafael Betancourt or Byrd unless he's overwhelmed.

Westbrook and Byrd are signed for a combined $12.6 million next year, so it makes no sense for Shapiro to dump one if he has to dive into a mediocre free-agent market and invest those same dollars in a Ted Lilly, Gil Meche or Jason Marquis. Vicente Padilla might be spiraling out of his price range.

On the flip side, the Indians would like to move Aaron Boone to create a spot at third for Andy Marte. They'll deal Mota -- gladly -- and trade Ronnie Belliard if they can acquire something decent in return.

Some of the focus for this season's debacle has fallen on shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who has been underwhelming offensively (.258 batting average, .399 slugging percentage) while committing 13 errors. A scout said that Peralta seems to be taking his offensive problems into the field with him.

"He's flat-footed," the scout said. "It just doesn't look like he's seeing the ball very well off the bat."

While it's possible the Indians could move Peralta to second base eventually, that's not in the short-term plans. They also have no immediate plans to move Victor Martinez from catcher, even though he's thrown out 7 of 69 base stealers this season.

"I'm not in New York or Boston," Shapiro said. "I can't just bump guys out of positions. I have to have other alternatives."

Shapiro concedes that manager Eric Wedge has been a "lightning rod" for local fan discontent, but he thinks everyone needs to be held accountable for the way the team has underachieved. Barring a major surprise, you can eliminate Wedge from the Dusty Baker, Charlie Manuel, who's-going-to-be-fired-first sweepstakes.

"I'm not satisfied with anyone's performance, starting with me and all the way down," Shapiro said. "But I'm not at all concerned about Wedgy's long-term future and what he can mean to us as manager. I look at him as a guy who is going to help us figure out how to get out of this."