Looking deeper into the Barfield deal, a few things came to light:
When putting together the middle infield wish list a few weeks ago, Barfield wasn’t mentioned because…well…there’s no way that Barfield was thought to be available. Why the Padres would trade a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate with no feasible alternative available is beyond me. Credit Shapiro, once again, for recognizing a team infatuated with one of his players (Coco to Beantown) and filling an organizational need with a highly thought of player under the age of 24 with ML experience.
As someone mentioned on the LGT, the trade illustrates what separates us “armchair GM’s” from the Real McCoy. Probably at some point in the Boone discussion this past season, the Padres asked about K2; Shapiro filed it away under “someday”, asked for the player that he wanted – and got him! As creative as we all think we are, there’s a reason that Shapiro does what he does.
Barfield hits lefties very well (.965 OPS), but struggles against righties (.675 OPS) and batted last year in the 8 hole in San Diego, not seeing a lot of good pitches as he was protected by the pitcher. Now figure in that Sizemore struggles against lefties (.718 OPS) and crushes righties (1.003 OPS). With Hafner being an equal-opportunity masher (1.100 vs. LH, 1.095 vs. RH, which is ridiculous, by the way), Barfield really fits in perfectly in that 2 hole. Teams wouldn’t be able to throw a LHP or a RHP against the top of the order because the LHP to get Sizemore out would be right in Barfield’s wheelhouse. Any time that you can make the other team burn arms in their bullpen, it works to your advantage. The fact that he would hit in front of Pronk and see fastball after fastball would represent quite a change from Barfield's experiences in San Diego. Barfield’s move to the 2 hole may not be immediate as the Indians could want to ease him into the AL, but the change will eventually be made.
The athleticism and speed of this team (two glaring weakness at the beginning of 2006) have been improved vastly with the additions of Barfield and Choo (albeit with an undefined role). The speed of Sizemore, Barfield, Choo, and smart baserunning of Blake give this team a much better presence on the basepaths than the likes of Boone, Belliard, and Luna.
The fact that Barfield, at this point in his career, projects to be mainly a doubles hitter means that the Indians have players with the ability to hit the gaps and leg out extra-base hits. Everyone who thought that Coco Crisp was an exciting player to fit in with this group, in terms of hustle and effort, are going to love Barfield’s approach at the plate, on the basepaths, and in the field.
This move immediately helps not only the offense, but also the defense and, in turn, the pitching staff. With pitchers like Westbrook, Sowers, and Byrd who pitch to contact (mainly with groundball outs), the improved infield defense is a huge plus.
Off the Barfield topic, but still on the Tribe - the lineup in its current incarnation looks like this:
Not too bad, eh?
If Shapiro really wants to add a corner OF bat, it will improve the lineup; but the money and attention should first be spent on LOADING up the bullpen and possibly adding a starter with the idea that Paul Byrd can be moved to fill another need.
Keep in mind, also, that a big bat is easier to add at the trade deadline than a decent arm. Even if the Indians don’t spend all of their allotted money this off-season, remember that players like Bobby Abreu and Shawn Green were acquired (for not a lot) mid-season.
I’d be comfortable with the Indians spending money on pitching and setting some aside for when that bat becomes available.
Finally, while it’s relatively old news, Francisco Liriano is out for the 2007 season. Throw in the fact that Brad Radke is expected to retire and the strong pitching rotation in Minnesota has been reduced to Santana, Silva, Boof Bonser, and prospects.
Though the announcement is tough news for the Twins, it’s great news for the Tribe’s chances in the Central in 2007.
Although it’s only November, things are looking good right now.
What we need, obviously, is for things to look VERY good 11 months from now.