Sunday, November 04, 2007

Marte-nizing on a Lazy Sunday

Since the DiaperTribe is failing to grasp the Daylight Savings Concept of “gaining an hour” of sleep, it’s an early Lazy Sunday at the Tepee with naps on the docket, particularly with the Browns not kicking off until 4 PM.

Plenty to get to (despite a lack of ink being used on the Erie Warriors this fine Autumn morning), so let’s give it a go:
Terry Pluto (the only consistently excellent Cleveland writer who writes consistently on the Indians…beat writers included) touches on some Tribe topics in his weekly trip around Cleveland sports. Pluto sees the Tribe picking up Byrd’s option with the Indians starting the 2008 season with Lee and Sowers in Buffalo as the 6th and 7th starters. To me, the Byrd option is a given and I still see Lee as possible trade bait; however, the negotiations with C.C. and the readiness of Atom Miller will play just as big of a role in whether Lee is still in the organization come Opening Day 2008 as the depth of starting pitching is something that the Tribe believes very strongly in.

Pluto also lays out the Tribe infield with Peralta and Blake (though he throws in the caveat that “one trade can change anything” reiterating, subtly, his belief that Peralta should be moved) manning the left side of the diamond. But Pluto, perhaps inadvertently, points out EXACTLY why the Indians shouldn’t be so quick to move Peralta as he points out that Josh Barfield’s 2007 remains a mystery meaning that he is no sure thing going into 2008. If the Indians moved Peralta, it would leave Barfield at 2B and Cabrera (who was impressive…but only has 159 career AB in the Majors) at SS with few viable “in-house” options if one of them struggles or gets hurt. If Andy Marte forces himself into the discussion, the Indians will have completely overhauled an infield that made it to the ALCS with young, largely unproven, players.

As much as a lot of people would like to throw Jhonny under the bus, or out the window, he should remain the Tribe SS for next year until the 2B situation sorts itself out, allowing perhaps Peralta to end up in LF or, eventually, sliding over to 3B.

Speaking of potential options for LF, if Blake is, in fact, the Tribe 3B for 2008 – where does Andy Marte go…to LF? The Indians have gone on record to say that Marte will have to play some 1B to make the team out of Winter Haven next year (he is out of options…in case you forgot), but what about LF?

The Braves, prior to dealing Marte to Boston, thought about giving Marte a shot in LF before he was moved in the Edgar Renteria deal. Though he’s never played there, could he be an option for platooning in LF with the left handed Dellucci (assuming he’s still around), who should NEVER face a LHP?
Consider Marte’s minor league splits:
2007 – Buffalo (AAA)
.827 OPS vs. LH
.748 OPS vs. RH

2006 – Buffalo (AAA)
.894 OPS vs. LH
.730 OPS vs. RH

2005 – Richmond (AAA)
.936 OPS vs. LH
.848 OPS vs. RH
Position changes, particularly from the infield to the outfield (ahem, Ben Broussard) are never quick or seamless; but if Marte can get some regular AB against LHP to improve his confidence and play a decent LF, it may be his ticket onto the Indians next year as a quasi-super-utility player. If he adapts well to LF and takes some plate appearances away from Dellucci, so be it.

If a position change is deemed to be too drastic for the youngster, what about some sort of convoluted platoon of LF and 3B to ease Marte into the Majors while facing only LHP? Against LHP, Marte would play 3B and Blake would play LF while against RHP, Blake would move into 3B and Dellucci would play LF. Blake would remain in the everyday lineup and Marte could transition onto the 25-man roster while playing 3B and facing only LHP. Again, if at some point, Marte takes AB’s away from Dellucci and Blake ends up in LF full-time (isn’t his versatility outstanding), let it be.

The odd man out in the situation is Michaels, who may be dealt back to the NL for a reliever at some point anyways. Wouldn’t seeing what the Indians have in Marte be preferred over what we already know about Michaels?

Instead of Blake and Dellichaels guarding the LF line, it would simply be Blarte and Blakucci (don’t say that out loud…it sounds dirty) – and is that really such a bad thing to keep Marte on the roster?

It’s important to remember that Marte is still only 24 and the numbers he put up in Richmond (splits above while compiling an overall .275 BA / .372 OBP / .506 SLG / .878 OPS) as a 21-year-old in AAA, so the talent is there.

Does anyone else remember a player that struggled in Buffalo after being sent down in 2006?
Garko (AAA - Age 25 in 2006) - .248 BA / .353 OBP / .421 SLG / .775 OPS
Marte (AAA - Age 23 in 2007) - .270 BA / .312 OBP / .461 SLG / .773 OPS
While Marte’s career OBP causes some concern, giving up on him because of some (allegedly) down years in Buffalo would be astonishingly short-sighted.

Outside of the internal debates regarding the makeup of the roster for next year, how nice is to not be following the absurdity of the Free Agent market and the talk coming from the South Side and the Bronx of all of the trade options and “what-ifs”?

A bullpen arm? Sure, we’ll take one…perhaps a different flavor of CoCo?
Want a starter? What are you offering?

For a change, the Indians have a roster that is pretty much set in November and can sit back, explore a few trade options, and not be forced into making an unnecessary deal unless a terrific opportunity falls into their collective lap. It’s a good feeling to have the stability and organizational depth to fill holes from within and not participate in an increasingly inefficient Free Agent market.

This week, I’ll try to touch on Chris Antonetti staying in Cleveland and why it may be the biggest (and best) off-season move that the Tribe makes all season. The “Season in Review” is still on the table and the 1986 Tribe’s season kicks off against the Orioles in Memorial Stadium with Tom Candiotti squaring off with Mike Flanagan.


Voltaire said...

Great as usual, blah blah blah. ;)

Thanks for pointing out Garko's "failure" at AAA in '06 - I'd completely forgotten about it! That certainly does put Marte's struggles in perspective, although I agree that the OBP is troubling.

Anonymous said...

For all the Indians' talk of position changes last season, only Victor spent any significant time out of position in 2007. I'm wondering if that experiment has been written off, particularly for young players. It's interesting that you mention Garko: He changed positions not to maximize the team's offensive potential, but because he had no choice.

I'm especially distraught at the idea of getting Casey Blake more ABs at Andy Marte's expense. Casey Blake's OPS+ in 2007 was 101, but I think that, taken alone, that might lead to an overestimation of his season. Casey's OBP dropped 47 points to .313 in the second half, and his SLG fell even more dramatically: .479 to .384, including just 4 HR. I don't see how to sugarcoat this. Casey making weaker, more inconsistent contact and walking less often.

Call me crazy. If Andy Marte can come back strong enough to manage at least a mid-.700 OPS -- no guarantee, I'll grant you -- I think you give him the spot and let it ride. Casey, God bless him, will be 34, four years removed from his career season.

Finally, re: Peralta and left field. I'd rather watch Hangin' with Mr. Cooper re-runs than Jhonny Peralta trying to cut off a potential double to the gap. And I just don't see that Jhonny's got the bat to justify switching to a position where the effects of his lack of range will be magnified. I know his HR totals are gaudy for a shortstop, but let's put that in perspective. Franklin Gutierrez, one year younger and coming off some minor injuries and a massive swing re-tooling, out-slugged Jhonny by 40 points. That's no knock on Jhonny, but a good-hitting shortstop does not (necessarily) a left fielder make.

t-bone said...

Skinner not going to Pittsburgh...