Saturday, July 14, 2007

Making a List...Checking it Twice

The promotion of RHP Jensen Lewis to the Indians and the transference of David Dellucci to the 60-Day DL represents two hints at what the Indians may try to do as they approach the trade deadline in a little over two weeks.

The promotion of Lewis (who, incidentally, was selected with a pick acquired as compensation for losing Omar Vizquel) means that the Indians are going to give their young arms a chance to emerge as the cavalry for an unsettled bullpen. Lewis thrived in his first full season in the bullpen in Akron, then Buffalo and his trip to Cleveland, ahead of Matt Miller or Mike Koplove, gives the impression that the Indians are trying to ride the hot hand or find another Rafael Perez to emerge to fortify the bullpen.

Wedge has been quoted that he will attempt to work Lewis into the mix in a similar manner to the way that Perez was worked in, slowly and in non-crucial game situations at first, with the possibility to graduate to a more meaningful role if he finds success. This strategy does not bode well for Fernando Cabrera, who seems to be falling further and further down the ladder in the bullpen, regardless of past success and promise shown.

Basically, the move shows that the Indians are aware what they have in Matt Miller, Mike Koplove, and Edward Mujica and don’t feel that the troika is going to be able to contribute many meaningful innings going forward. In promoting Lewis over those three, the Indians are showing that they’re willing to take a look at EVERY possibility within the organization before conceding to the fact that help is needed from the outside.

The next promotions to the bullpen could be Atom Miller or even Bubbie Buzachero as the Tribe needs to find out if they have internal options that can help (they can always toss some of the dead weight on the 40-man overboard to do so) stabilize the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings before they make any trades for relievers (which I think will have to eventually happen unless Jensen Lewis and 1 or 2 other youngsters turn out to be MORE than effective).

The bigger move, though, is the fact that David Dellucci has been transferred to the 60-day DL, meaning that in a best-case-scenario, he’s eligible to come off the DL at the end of August. That best-case-scenario, to me, is a pipe dream and the Indians are going to have to start looking for a LH OF, unless they think that the Trotter is good for anything more than a post-game pie in the face (which, frankly, he is not).

The need arises because Michaels is best as a platoon player in LF, facing only LHP and both Francisco and Gutierrez are RH. While The Ben Francisco Treat has nice numbers against RHP this season in Buffalo, there’s some trepidation to allowing him to be ½ of the LF platoon.

While some could argue (and I certainly could) that the Indians could go with Michaels and Francisco in LF, give Gutierrez the full-time gig in RF and allow Nixon to remain the LH bat off of the bench, you have to think that the Indians (now with Dellucci possibly not coming back at all this year) are making their list of available LH OF to either take over RF full-time or serve as ½ of the LF platoon.

Well, if the Indians can make their list, why can’t I?
The criteria would be either a LH or Switch-Hitting OF that would currently reside on a roster out of contention that has good splits against RHP.

First, the list of LH OF, ranked by OPS.
Here they are, ranked by OPS vs. RHP (with more than 25 plate appearances).
Not exactly a list of “Who’s Who”, is it?
How about Switch-Hitting OF, ranked by OPS?
And the Switch-Hitting OF vs. RHP (again, with more than 25 plate appearances).

Without including Ken Griffey, Jr. or Adam Dunn (for whom the asking price would START with Atom Miller and probably include more) or any players obviously on a contending team, the players that jump (relatively speaking) out of the list are:
Chris Duncan – STL
Total - .293 BA / .385 OBP / .552 SLG / .937 OPS / 16 HR / 47 RBI
Vs. RHP - .302 BA / .398 OBP / .599 SLG / .997 OPS / 15 HR / 37 RBI
Duncan certainly has crushed RHP and it’s debatable whether the Cardinals are in “Sell” mode right now, but he could certainly step in as part of the platoon in LF and possibly even project as the everyday RF. He’s only 26 and he’s eminently affordable ($400K this year), so the Cardinals probably aren’t that eager to move him unless they can get some GREAT young pitching in return.

He would cost a lot, but if David Dellucci’s injury is as serious as some think it is and Big League Choo could be headed for Tommy John surgery on his elbow (as is the rumor), the Indians could be interested in making a move for someone that doesn’t represent just a one-year rental.

Kenny Lofton – TEX
Total - .304 BA / .387 OBP / .436 SLG / .823 OPS / 6 HR / 20 RBI
Vs. RHP - .321 BA / .400 OBP / .469 SLG / .869 OPS / 6 HR / 17 RBI
Speaking of one-year rentals, how about K-Love? I’m all for this if only to see that giant gold medallion that Lofton wears (a K surrounded by a gold diamond) flop around as he wails away at a pitch, or see him drop his bat on home plate after Ball 4, just like the good old days. Seriously, without including sentimentality in the conversation, Lofton would be a pretty good complement to Michaels in LF in a platoon and the pair forming a productive platoon is not without precedent. In 2005, the 2 split time in the Phillies CF as Kenny logged a .818 OPS vs. RH and Michaels posted a .853 OPS against LH.

There’s no question that the Rangers are “sellers” on the market and Lofton could be had for the right price. Although he’s not going to light up the box score as he once did, he can still prove to be an effective part of the LF platoon with Michaels and offer the team increased speed and athleticism (which Nixon offers very little…actually, none of).

Ryan Doumit – PIT
Total - .305 BA / .381 OBP / .509 SLG / .7890 OPS / 6 HR / 21 RBI
Vs. RHP - .308 BA / .381 OBP / .546 SLG / .927 OPS / 6 HR / 17 RBI
Doumit has mainly played as a platoon RF for the Pirates, though his splits against LHP (.297 / .381 / .378 / .759) in his limited time could project to the possibility of playing RF full-time. Doumit is truly more of a super-utility player, in the Casey Blake mold (as he plays OF, C, and 1B), and you have to wonder if the Pirates have them in their long-term plans.

On second thought, what are the Pirates’ long-term plans? They’d move a part-time player for some prospects in a second as they’ve shown for the last 10 years.

Ryan Church – WAS
Total - .261 BA / .347 OBP / .422 SLG / .769 OPS / 7 HR / 37 RBI
Vs. RHP - .274 BA / .350 OBP / .453 SLG / .803 OPS / 7 HR / 24 RBI
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Church was an Indians’ farmhand who was traded (along with Maicer Izturis) to the Expos for Scott Stewart. After muscling back down the throw-up that just came up in my mouth a little bit while remembering THAT trade, I looked at the fact that Church is essentially playing in a platoon in Washington, with 88 plate appearances against LHP versus 237 PA against RHP.

His numbers aren’t great, but he would fit the bill of ½ of a LF platoon. Whether he would offer much of an improvement over Francisco remains to be seen, but he at least has more of a track record. He is 28 and would rank somewhere above “meh” on the excitement chart if acquired, but he hits from the right side of the plate and with some success enough to be considered one of the targets.

Luke Scott – HOU
Total - .223 BA / .320 OBP / .441 SLG / .761 OPS / 10 HR / 38 RBI
Vs. RHP - .212 BA / .318 OBP / .423 SLG / .741 OPS / 8 HR / 28 RBI
Another ex-Tribesman dealt away in the Jeriome Robertson deal, his inclusion on the list is only cursory once you see his numbers against RHP. While he has decent power against RHP, his OBP (.318) is something the team would never consider in place of giving The Frisco Kid a chance.

Interestingly, Scott has better overall numbers against LHP as a LH hitter, but most of his power numbers come against RHP. Really, it doesn’t matter, though because (unless he’s coming with Brad Lidge or Chad Qualls) he’s not on his way to the North Coast.

That’s about the best there is to offer, so those looking for a blockbuster move to happen, there’s just too many teams that are still in contention this late in the season and GM’s conducting fire sales ask for the moon and the stars, even for marginal parts (remember that the Reds gave up TWO position players for middle relievers last year). The fact that there just aren’t that many real options out there also plays a part of it.

The last line, though, regarding Scott possibly being part of a package with Lidge or Qualls is what is so interesting about these five players. All would come from teams that also have bullpen help to offer:
STL
Jason Isringhausen
Ryan Franklin (though he did just agree to a 2-year contract extension on July 5th)
Russ Springer

PIT
Salomon Torres (should come off of the DL on Monday)
Matt Capps
Damaso Marte

TEX
Eric Gagne
Akinori Otsuka
Joaquin Benoit
Frank Francisco

WAS
Chad Cordero
Jon Rauch
Saul Rivera
Jesus Colome

HOU
Brad Lidge
Chad Qualls

It’s possible that the Indians could fill a few of their needs from one of these teams and, while the “name factor” isn’t going to cause the switchboard at the Jake to light up like a Christmas tree, these are the players that are available.

Most contenders are going to be shopping for similar needs, so the bidding could get intense and the price could get steep. But the Indians need to determine if Jensen Lewis (or any other internal option) can help shore up the bullpen, if Ben Francisco and Franklin Gutierrez are able to contribute in MLB, and if Trot Nixon will become the Alvaro Espinoza of this team – comic relief in lieu of actual contributions.

If any of the answers to the above questions turn out to be bigger question marks before July 31st, the list is there, the players and the teams are identified - “Let’s Make a Deal”!

7 comments:

Ron Vallo said...

Great analysis. I like the two-fer idea if they could pull it off.

As you have outlined it, the best pitcher/player combination would be St. Louis, with Duncan and any of the three pitchers you mention. This would be very costly, especially if Izzy is included. Also Duncan has nagging injuries, and St. Louis may think they're still in the race.But this is the best bet by far.

The Pirates deal would also make sense, though Doumit is a part-timer.

Scott and Church I don't think we need, but Houston and Washington have some good relievers on your list.

Kenny Lofton would be a feel-good move, but I don't know where we'd hit him. I can't imagine moving Grady out of the leaadoff spot. He is now what Lofton was 10 years ago. The Rangers have lots of relievers to choose from and Lofton is still a useful player. But where do you hit him?

Nye! said...

I like the list, but four of your five are National Leaguers. I think I might be concerned that an adjustment period while learning the AL pitchers might negate any value they'd have.

Also, what do you know about Buffalo farmhand Jonathan Van Every? I can't say I've ever heard of him, and I guess he started the season at Akron, but in 29 games at AAA this season he's gone .304/.402/.489/.891/4 HR/11 RBI. Against RHPs he's .302/.413/.571/.985/4 HR/9 RBI.

I know, I know, not enough AAA at-bats.

In any case, we shouldn't forget that Delluci against RHP this year was .243/.310/.408/.718. It's not like having him back would have been much of a boost. So maybe Shapiro won't be shopping at all.

Voltaire said...

Excellent analysis.

I'm curious why the Indians haven't given Miller or Koplove another shot. I suppose they could say Miller is too injury prone, but what was it Koplove did (or didn't) do in his brief appearance to turn them against him? He's got a top-notch track record, exactly like they need, if he's healthy.

What would we have to give up for Duncan and a pitcher? Probably too much, and I doubt he's even on the block. But it's an intriguing trade.

Pat Tabler said...

I guess I should have said that I listed them in order of desirability.

The StL deal would be great (though Duncan is a butcher in the field), but they're going to look for a LOT to make that move. They'd have to be blown away by the offer.

The TEX move would keep Kenny in the AL, where you bat him either 2nd or down in the order, and bring Otsuka (preferred) or Benoit into the pen.

Doumit, Church, and Scott are desirable in that the relievers on their teams would look great donning the Chief.
If I had a choice of the relievers from PIT, WAS, and HOU, it would probably be Capps, Rauch, Lidge, Qualls, Torres, and Colome.

JVE is an interesting case in Buffalo and will probably enter the fray if the Tribe is unable to make a move for a LH OF and either Francisco or Gutz becomes another team's property or struggles.

Voltaire said...

The Indians broadcasters say that the Indians are looking seriously at Kenny Lofton.

I'd like to see a package of Lofton and Otsuka...but oh the question, what would it cost?

t-bone said...

I too was listening to the Kenny Lofton lovefest Tom Hamilton and Mike Hegan were having while on my way back from the 'Nasti. They were saying you could bat him 8th, Barfield 9th, Barfield would see a lot more fastballs, etc.

He's having a great year, and they too mentioned the fact that he's doing it in the AL and knows AL pitching.

Voltaire said...

I am personally of the mind that unless the perfect or near-perfect trade can be made, the Indians should stand pat and trust the farm system, where they have plenty of bullpen options and some intriguing OFers left (not to mention letting Gut and Ben Fran play more).

Of course, those are all unproven options, hence a trade.

What would it take to get Lofton? Or just Otsuka, for that matter? Or both? Who knows? Maybe Shapiro does.