Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It Takes Two to Tango

With CM Wang out until September and the rumors flying fast and furious regarding the effect that a broken foot by a Yankee could have on the next month for our beloved Indians (and one in particular), I thought it was finally time to address this whole C.C. thing before it spirals away too quickly.

Now, by no means do I think that trading C.C. today, tomorrow, or next week is a good idea as I think I’ve been pretty clear that the AL Central remains a very winnable division, that the Indians’ offense is showing signs of life just as they approach a very winnable stretch of games, and that the Indians with C.C. are certainly more likely to get back into the AL Central race (not that 6.5 games behind means they’re out of it) than they are without him.

If, however, the Indians fall out of this thing in the range of eight to ten games out by the middle of July or so (and news that Hafner is going to see famous orthopedic surgeon James Andrews in Birmingham and that Carmona’s feeling hip pain is not good news), there’s no question that C.C. is the biggest chip to play…but only if the right package is coming back, and that’s what I think bears addressing.

As soon as the Indians had fallen off the pace earlier in the season, the doom-and-gloomers came to the immediate assumption that C.C. would head to New York as the Yankees are “the only team that can afford to keep him in Free Agency”, so why not get something for the Hefty Lefty before he makes the assumed trip to the Bronx? Now with Wang out until September and the Yankees’ already thin pitching rotation looking anorexic, there are certainly some fascinating perspectives emerging on the “C.C. to the Bronx to replace Wang” firestorm that seems to be descending over the East Coast. While so many of the national media have almost reached the “foregone conclusion” stage that Sabathia is gonzo to don some pinstripes, take a look at these thoughts from the other side of the ledger from Joel Sherman of the NY Post and Tyler Kepner of the NY Times.

Sherman points out that these are not the Yankees that you think you know, no longer the team simply using the rest of MLB as their farm system, dipping into the trade market as soon as a need arises, mainly because GM Brian Cashman has realized the value of young talent and its importance in building a perennial winner:
“The only major in-season deal the Yanks have made since 2005 was for Bobby Abreu. And Cashman waited two months, until the price dropped from Phil Hughes to a bunch of non-entities and the Phillies agreed to throw in Cory Lidle, too. Last year, despite a yearning need for a set-up man to Mariano Rivera, the Yanks refused the Rangers' requests for Melky Cabrera and Ian Kennedy although it meant Eric Gagne would go to Boston.

In the old days, Steinbrenner simply would have overruled his GM and Gagne would have been a Yankee.

The Gagne non-deal is instructive to how the Yanks are likely to act now. Like Gagne last year, Sabathia is in his walk year. The asking price for a top, one-inning reliever - even in his walk year - was Cabrera and Kennedy. So anybody dreaming up trades should recognize how much greater the demand is going to be for the defending Cy Young winner.”

Let me point out also that the Gagne deal was done when Ian Kennedy still had quite a bit of shine on his apple and before the struggles of his 2008 season.

Kepner echoes many of the same views as Sherman, analyzing the situation from all angles:
“Cashman will surely consider the downside of a Sabathia deal: he trades valued young players, Sabathia proves to be a bad fit in New York, and the Yankees let him walk after the season. The upside there is that the Yankees would get two high draft picks in return, replacing some of the talent they would lose in the trade.

Another potential downside is this: the Yankees sign Sabathia to a rich contract extension (six or seven years, $19 million or so per year) and he breaks down physically like Mike Hampton or Kevin Brown, or turns into a 2-10 pitcher like Barry Zito. Cashman understands the horrible track record of pitchers who sign $100 million deals. But the upside is alluring. If the Yankees trade for Sabathia, who is a very large man but has no injury history, they instantly replace one ace with another for 2008 and continue the business of contending for a playoff spot.

They would get a three-month trial run with the best pitcher on the free-agent market, and then they could re-sign him and enter the new ballpark with three ace-type pitchers – Sabathia, Wang and Chamberlain – born in the 1980s…”

Interesting that Kepner points out the value of the two high draft picks that would come as compensation for the YANKEES losing Sabathia if they were unable to re-sign him or deemed it to be too risky.

I find these thoughts fascinating because it illustrates the point that it’s going to take two to tango if C.C. does hit the block (and, AGAIN, it is far too early to make that determination), rather than the Indians simply naming their price for the Yankees, or any interested team, to fetch the youngest, most talented players that they find to their liking.

It goes hand-in-hand with a conversation that I had with my future brother-in-law (who is an enormous Cubs fan who pores over the denizens of Wrigley Field as I do our Erie Warriors) over the weekend. As we settled in to watch the Twins crush the Brewers in Miller Park on Friday night, I asked him to make me an offer (on behalf of the Cubs) to add a LH stud to the Cubs’ rotation. His answer surprised me as he said, “I can’t do it”.
Wait…WHAT!?! He wouldn’t want the reigning Cy Young Award winner to pair with Zambrano and do just about anything to make it happen?

He clarified to say that he’d love to have C.C. pulling a Cubs’ hat on cockeyed, but that the Cubs simply didn’t have what it would take to compel the Tribe to make a trade. I pressed him on it, saying that they were set at so many positions with young talent (namely C, 1B, 3B, LF) that there surely must be a guy ready to break out, blocked by Lee or Ramirez. He told me that they didn’t, although they did have a number of middle-to-back of the rotation starters (Sean Gallagher and Sean Marshall), a glut of middling middle infielders (Mark DeRosa and Ronny Cedeno), a platoon OF (Matt Murton) and some prospects that were thought to be studs-in-waiting (Felix Pie and Rich Hill) who are now entering what he called “Corey Patterson Territory” in that he thought that both were more highly regarded than they should be who could be bundled in some sort of trade to acquire C.C.

His best offer to pry C.C. out of the North Coast was to throw in A LOT of quantity without a lot of quality…but even he knew that a package of roster filler, without an impact centerpiece, would be unacceptable. Hearing a package of what would equate to guys like Sowers, Barfield, and Marte in the Indians’ system, I broached the one name that would make me think long and hard about a trip to the NL Central for the Crooked Cap…Carlos Marmol. After he picked himself off the floor essentially saying, “we’re going to destroy our bullpen for 2008, a strength this year after it has sabotaged so many seasons, by giving you a stud 25-year-old reliever who could anchor the 9th inning for us for the next 6 years…for 3 months of Sabathia and PRAY that we win a World Series with him?”, he politely passed on the idea of creating a hole to fill a hole.

And I guess those two examples underscore where this whole C.C. thing lies for me:
How many teams are willing to give up that most valuable commodity in MLB these days (which are young, club-controlled, inexpensive, impact players) for a 3-month rental of C.C. in the hopes that he can bring them home a ring?
And how many teams even HAVE that type of talent close to the Bigs that could be deemed fungible by their current team?

Look at it this way - do the Indians want to trade C.C. for the marginal MLB players or low-level prospects that the Cubs would be throwing on the table? How about a team like the Phillies, with the scorched Earth of their farm system, and the fact that (much like the Cubs or anyone else for that matter) they’re not going to create one or two holes on their roster to fill one hole at the top of their rotation. Is a return of Shane Victorino and a few mid-to-low level prospects something you might be interested in?
Me neither.

Additionally, if you think that the Indians are going to net a player who is contributing for a contender this year, without that team having a viable 2nd option ready and able, you’re fooling yourself. So hold off on the deals that center on Geovany Soto and Chase Utley for a moment and realize how this thing (if it were to happen) figures to go down. That is, the Indians need to find a trade partner that has a player that is a bona-fide impact player either in MLB or MLB-ready that is essentially blocked by a player currently on the parent club…and is willing to deal them, which is not a certainty anymore given the landscape of how GM’s are approaching roster construction.

To me, the most intriguing matches from teams that could be interested (as per Gammons) would come from the Red Sox, the Dodgers, and the Rangers. Boston fits the mold with their pitching depth (although Theo Epstein seems to subscribe to the same magazine that Shapiro does called “Waves of Arms”) and the fact that some of their recent drafts have started to bear fruit. But it’s important to remember that the only regulars in the lineup under the age of 32 are Youkilis (29), Pedroia (24), Crisp (28), and Ellsbury (24) and they’ll be looking to reload from within in the very near future. Just as an aside, Casey Blake (34) and David Dellucci (34) are the only Indians’ position players OVER the age of 32.

The Dodgers have a good deal of young talent that has been bandied about ad nauseum in these discussions before (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, James Loney, Andy LaRoche, Chad Billingsley, Jonathon Broxton, etc.), have a GM in Ned Colletti with a tendency to go with veterans over youngsters (with a history in SF as the Assistant GM before he got to Chavez Ravine) and a manager in Joe Torre who doesn’t figure to be interested in growing with a young team and would likely prefer to win right now. I suppose if Colletti and Torre are shortsighted enough to part with some of the best young talent in MLB, rather than watch them mature into the perennial contender that they look poised to become WITH all of that young talent, there’s no question that Shapiro and the boys should burn up the lines to La-La Land. However, the Dodgers’ issue this year has not been their pitching (even considering that Brad Penny just hit the DL), as they rank 4th in the NL in team ERA. Rather, their issue is scoring runs (295 runs in 70 games) and short of them making another trade for a bat ALONG with netting C.C., I don’t see how adding Sabathia solves their problems, regardless of Cy Cy’s pedigree and his ability to shift the balance of power in any division he would join.

The Rangers, or the “Dark Horse”, are the Wild Card as they have a history of irrational, short-sighted moves when they sit anywhere close to the top of the division (acquiring Carlos Lee on July 28, 2006 with a losing record and 3 GB in the AL West with hitting being the least of their problems at the time springs to mind) and a glut of attractive players. If the Rangers think that C.C. is that “one missing piece” for a prolonged run at the division (and he isn’t, given their pitching as a whole…which one person won’t fix) and are willing to part with a player like Ian Kinsler because Hank Blalock gets healthy and Ramon Vazquez can slide over to 2B without their obscenely loaded offense suffering too greatly, I'd take the 26-year old Kinsler with open arms. But, to a rational person, it’s the same principle as the Soto or Utley dreams as the Rangers would be giving up their table-setter for a top-of-the-rotation starter for all of 3 months, while trying to run down the A’s…THEN the Angels.

If we get closer to the Trading Deadline and the Indians have not been able to right the ship, I’ll get much more into possible destinations and packages (trust me, this is not in detail); but I think that this idea that the Indians are going to fill their holes at 2B and 3B while adding another starter and a reliever for Sabathia (all at the ML level) is ignorant to a certain point when you consider the potential trading partners and their limitations in terms of available talent or their organizational philosophies. If they can find that sucker out there willing to part with young impact players for a look at it this year, a deal should be done if the determination is made that the 2008 season is lost.

Interestingly, consider where these teams that are “allegedly” interested in C.C. all reside in the standings and how it relates to the Tribe, as not all of the teams linked to the Crooked Cap are division leaders:
Dodgers – 4.5 GB
Yankees – 5.5 GB
Rangers – 7.0 GB

Indians – 6.5 GB

Obviously, the mounting injuries (and the longer stays on the shelf for the principals already residing there) play a huge role in the difference of being a “buyer” and a “seller”, but let’s continue to take a wait-and-see approach on this thing. If the Indians can get hot at the right time, they could catapult themselves right into the thick of the AL Central race. If they don’t, however, and C.C.’s leaving on a jet plane, the Indians need to make sure that the return that they’re netting is more than just roster filler or lower-level prospects and include that impact player (or, better yet, two of them) because they only have one chance to do this (if it comes to that)...and I’m not so sure that perfect deal is out there.


sonofgeronimo said...

What about the M's shedding veteran payroll, what do you think it takes to get an Ibanez to make a run at this division?

Paul Cousineau said...

I like the way you think - looking to add pieces, rather than shedding them - but I think I'd look for a reliever before trying to get an OF as Francisco and Chootierrez are doing pretty well.

I suppose if the news on Hafner is that he's done, a DH could certainly help (particularly a LH one) and Ibanez would be an upgrade over Dellucci in that regard.

Now that Bavasi's gone (as GM's around baseball weep), I have no clue what the new regime is looking to do or what they'd be looking for.

csusi said...

i like the cc to philly talks. the funniest part is phillies fans reactions to the idea. i admit that if i was gonna pull for an NL team, it might be the phils, but im not sure if they're brightest over there.

alot of the talk stems from the idea of us working out a cc for ryan howard deal. which, i wont get into, but just seeing that proposal/idea makes me laugh out loud. the thing is though, alot of phillies fans say they wouldnt do it. one guy labeled cc as a heart-attack waiting to happen. and alot of them feel that howard is in a slump. somebody might want to inform them that not doing anything for the past 7 months, going back to last year, surpasses the idea of a slump.

then one guy chimes in with a comical remark saying that "howards a moron. he wants a-rod money cause he thinks he's a 5 tool player like a-rod". " so, if any of you guys run into him, remind him that he's not a 5 tool player, just a tool".

anyways, in other news. are you guys at the point where when you see byrd as the given starter for the night, you go ahead and chalk up the loss? i have to admit, i might be. with everybody else, i go into the game with the mindset that if we hit the ball we will win. not so much with byrdie. i love him, but he's getting shelled on a seemingly consistent basis. im thinking he's the one that we need to be saying goodbye to.

Halifax said...

I'm in the camp that says CC is gone, the division title is iffy at best, and this team is not as good (or as bad as right now) as we think it is.

I would deal CC right now if possible to get the best return. IF you can land the right package (i.e. Broxton/Kemp from the Dodgers or Hughes/Cano from the Yankees) I shake hands immediately. If not, keep plugging along to the deadline and line em up. This team is not healthy and is not going anywhere. Last year was the year the Tribe was resilient, overcoming every obstacle that came its way. This season they are overcoming nothing, and all seems to be going wrong. These things are cyclical and not what fills the season of champions.

Once CC is gone (and I would deal Byrd regardless, as long as you can get something useful in return) you let the young guys perform and fill the gaps. Francisco and Chootierrez have done very well. Remember how Grady got his break? They have to start playing sometime, and a CC move would infuse some much-needed young BLUEBLOOD into this lineup.

There WILL BE great interest in acquiring a LH reigning Cy Young winner that throws 97 MPH before the trading deadline. Shapiro and his scouts better do their homework. We'll see how this hand plays out within a few weeks.

csusi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
csusi said...

dude, i mean this in the nicest of ways possible, but hughes and cano? seriously?

Brandon Heikoop said...

i think even a hot streak which puts the indians in the thick of the playoff race should not 'scare' them from trading carsten's. fact is, he is gone next season. with the fact that so many of the teams prospects have begun to fall off the map or underachieve, retooling with some major league talent cannot be ignored, no matter the standings.

that said, i would not count out the red sox, angels, diamondbacks, and mets as teams that will put in strong offers to the indians in the coming weeks. i think acquiring a player like cc will surpass the 'need' factor.

Halifax said...

csusi -- at least Hughes and a good AAA outfielder. And yes, I was. That was made to point out that if you get overwhelmed (apparently YOU were) you deal him now, if not keep working on it and at the deadline things will heat up.

The Indians are going nowhere this year fellas.

Oh, and thanks, Suzy, for the due respect. For a minute I thought you thought me was ignerant.

Halifax said...

CSUSI -- I would guess any deal with a pitcher and Cano for CC would involve Josh Barfield going the other way.

Halifax said...

BTW -- The Cubs, who already lust after CC, just had Zambrano leave a game with "shoulder tightness" . . .

too bad they got nothing to give.

Matt Murton and Felix Pie won't really get it done will it?

csusi said...

halifax my temptation is to rip on you. mainly because of your attempt at the tough guy mentality via blog. but, im gonna leave it alone.

ill be the first to say that the 7.5 looks alot worse for some reason than the 6.5 games back. but, im for sure not laying back and acknowledging this season as one thats over.

oh and the "suzy" comment you tossed my way. hilarious. really.

keep your head in the game halifax and lets keep it clean. we're in this together.

nothing but love to ya bud.

Halifax said...

ok, my bad -- it was uncalled for.
No problem here, forgiven?

csusi said...

done deal

Halifax said...

C -- what do you think they'd get for him? I just believe that there's a team out there that will pay big to get him. It's different than the off-season (Santana) because teams are in position to really go for it and feel that a pitcher of CC's status can put them over the top.

Like I said, though, I'd guess anyhting involving Cano would (have) also involved Josh Barfield.

People made fun of me too when I said I'd deal CC in the off-season straight up for Phil Hughes. One, CC is not a great big game pitcher; two, a healthy Hughes would be decently-effective every fifth day in CC's stead; and three, although you'd get publicly criticized for making that deal, I'd rather have Hughes anchoring the lineup for 4-6 more years than have CC for one. That's why I think the straight up deal made sense. I also think Hughes is a solid #2 and would be a knockout tandem with Fausto at the top then followed by Lee, Laffey and Sowers you have a real solid staff.

I'd still do that deal straight up right now.

Baltimoran said...

Terry Pluto threw the towel in...hard to argue with the injuries

Halifax said...

Seeing as the Sox swept their interleague series, the Twins swept their interleague series and the Tribe WAS SWEPT by the scraping Rockies in their interleague series I think the towel throwing is a very appropriate gesture.

Let's work on leaving CC at Dodger Stadium this weekend . . . looking at Kemp and Broxton and we'll send over whatever we have to to close the deal.

Speaking of which -- anyone remember the David Letterman film Festival about 15-20 years back when the video "Dress Cool" debuted and Michael Keaton's short film featured Clint Howard as a fishhead-dumping loser who ends up finishing off a commercial as a crazy salesman saying, "I'll bite the head off any rodent to close the deal!"?

Put on that bib, Mark . . . what's your preference? Rats, squirrel, lemming?

rodells said...

Gotta love CC throwing in LA. Go get em Big Guy!

Sal Fasano. 'Nough said.

As we've been talking about the Yankees...I proposed a question to some crazy Yankee fans (like we are with the Tribe) that have good knowledge of things. What would they give for CC? Just to have some fun around here, here are some of their packages:

One said they'd give Hughes, Kennedy and Tabata (plus at least 1other b-level prospect). Some thought that was too much. I also think that would never happen.

Tabata, Kennedy, Melky/Jackson was another response. More likely than the first, although I would not want Melky.

Somebody mentioned Hughes and Cano, but said that was too much. I don't see this, even if we're giving them Barfield (whatever that's worth).

rodells said...

Bachs, gonna be in DC Sunday for the PJ show. Travelling down with the Rhode-Man...Guz will be down there too. You should go...

csusi said...

we're 2 games in front of the royals.

we're 8 1/2 games out of first.

what THE HELL is going on!?!?!?!


not giving up, but getting sad.

Rockdawg said...

OK, last September, we had a full glass of water. In the first part of this season, I was looking at a glass that was 50% filled up with water, and I continuosly pronounced it "half-full", much like PTC, just trying to remain optimistic. Now the glass is only 25% filled with water, and it's getting real hard to pronounce it "A quarter full." Anyone getting this analogy? My key/towel might be turned/thrown in if something doesn't happen REAL SOON.

Halifax said...

Tabata, Kennedy, Jackson would be decent, maybe good enough -- maybe.

Hughes/Cano would be a no-brainer, I don't think they'd ever do that either.

Hughes, Kennedy and Tabata (plus at least 1other b-level prospect) -- never happen, but what a steal that would be. That's way better than what they stole in the Colon deal.

I do think that there's someone out there that'll give up quite a bit for him, especially if the right teams are talking.

-Mike said...

Paul's right here. There is no way Cashman gives up the talent you are listing /c he loves his young players now. But something I wanted to put out there, this is just a rumor, but LA is shopping Kemp around. What about some deal with Kemp, and say Ohio boy Billingsley for CC? Just an idea.