Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Tomahawks Cutting Through the Gossamer

The Trading Deadline (the first one at least) has come and gone and the Indians’ roster on Tuesday night looks like the Indians’ roster of Monday night and while the rumors flew as sports-talk radio (and much of the silk of the Interwebs) spewed nonsense and vitriol, the Indians were ultimately neither buyers or sellers.  So while the gossamer (fancy name for spider silk) flew the last couple of days regarding whether Choo would still be an Indian or if Masterson was really on the block (with Castrovince nailing the schizophrenic frenzy of this time of year), I often remember what the editor of “The New Yorker” said to Elaine Benes – in a classic episode of “Seinfeld”, when asked to explain a particularly vexing cartoon from his magazine – when he said, “one doesn’t dissect gossamer”.  

But that’s exactly what we do – dissect “gossamer” – for the course of days, weeks, and (now seemingly) months as the MLB Trading Deadline has somehow become the pre-packaged equivalent of the NFL Draft, where very sharp lines are drawn as to what an organization is doing (or not doing) on a random day at the end of July, with a little less than 40% of the season still in front of us?  We take these “whispers” from sources and track all of the movement (or non-movement) on the “bottom line” because a 4-letter word that emanates from Bristol tells baseball fans that THIS is the most important day of the baseball season…you know, just like the NFL Draft has grown from a cottage industry into a year-round corporation.

Could the Tribe have gotten this guy…
What were the packages offered for that guy…
Were some of the Tribe veterans on the Trade Block…
What exactly are they doing down there…

And when the Trading Deadline passes, “winners” and “losers” are immediately pointed to and teams are criticized for sitting on their hands or are lauded for their aggressiveness, we all know (all too sharply, after the Ubaldo trade last year) that the games are played on the field and not in the “Transactions” page in late July.

So while that answer from the editor of “The New Yorker” that “one doesn’t dissect gossamer” was as infuriatingly incomplete to Elaine as it is to all of us today as we sit wondering where this organization thinks it is heading and what kind of “window of contention” we’re actually talking about, let’s attempt to make some sense of the last couple of days.  Because as much fun as it is to guess and play these games about which player would look good in a Tribe uniform or as horrifying as it is to think about the day when Choo moves on from Cleveland – and I think that’s coming this Winter – at the end of the day, the Indians are sitting essentially where they were prior to the Deadline. 

Yes, they picked up Lars Anderson from Boston for Akron knuckleballer (and my TCF colleague Brian McPeek had a great line about how the move would immediately spun by some as trading the “next RA Dickey” for the “next Matt LaPorta”…which it has been), but it’s a move that I don’t have much of an issue with.  Unless you think that LaPorta/Canzler/Weglarz are more than Minor-League fodder, Anderson (who, it should be noted is 3 years younger than LaPorta and Canzler) represents a potential option at 1B past 2012.  Don’t take that to mean that I think that Lars Anderson is the answer the way that LaPorta (who was the same age as Anderson when he was acquired by the Tribe, with Anderson already having spent some time in AAA and MLB) was once thought to be, but it’s a low-risk move that could benefit Anderson and the Tribe.

Certainly, most fans wanted more than a “low-risk move” and wanted a grand pronouncement of which direction the Indians’ organization were heading on a random afternoon in late July, but I think it’s been articulated in this space pretty well for the past couple of weeks that the Indians’ offense is young and full of promise and potential and that the pitching is what was needed – for longer than just a couple of months – with the Indians lacking the ammo (in terms of prospects) to make an impact move. 

That’s not to say that I think that there were missed opportunities, because I’ll get to that, as soon as I get some of these Tomahawks in the air…

While not specifically related to the Indians, there were some really interesting pieces from Baseball Prospectus this past week (and I’ll plug spending any $ that you pay to ESPN and re-directing to B-Pro if you’re a baseball fan that enjoys “steak” more than “sizzle”) and the most interesting article came from Dan Evans, a former MLB GM, who provides an inside look at the week or so leading up to the Trade Deadline

The whole thing is unquestionably worth a read, but this is what I found to be the most pertinent part as it relates to what we saw happen with the Tribe from last Friday through 4 PM on Tuesday:
In many organizations, deciding where the team stands at the deadline is the most difficult part of the process. There are 17 teams within five games of a playoff berth today, and herein lies the tough call. Are we a buyer or a seller? This conversation isn't comfortable, as it requires a sit-down with ownership about where you are as a franchise. This is a critical phase, since you need to come clean and then find out what direction ownership wants to take. If you are the general manager, it also is a job review of sorts, since your work is under inspection. This chat requires some preparation, because you have to go into the meeting with a plan. For some GMs in fragile stages of their contracts, it can be the beginning of the end of their employment.

Everyone likes to talk about what you're looking to add as a contender, but the other path is the much more difficult one. If you are one of the 13 or so clubs who woke up today with little or no chance to play in the postseason, you have to evaluate who is part of your nucleus for the following year and beyond and whom you might consider moving to try to contend in the future. This is where your scouts and minor-league staff become critical decision makers if you're doing it right. If they can evaluate well and are realistic about your personnel, you can make shrewd moves. If not, two years later you'll still be waiting for guys to get out of Double-A. It is extremely tough to communicate with your staff if you are going to change course, but if there is a distinct plan, they will be part of the solution, not the problem.

Evans gets a little into the difficulty in adding a pitcher around this time – which I think is VERY relevant, particularly when you look at what it took to net some of these arms on the trade market – but I think that this Trading Deadline forced the Indians to ask some very difficult questions about their own players and where they stand as an organization.  It’s been well-documented (here and elsewhere) that the Ubaldo deal signaled – or at least was supposed to signal – the “opening” of this “window of contention”, but the Indians have muddled around the .500 mark since that trade and to look at their “window” leads us to another great piece from B-Pro about the A’s – who traded away Gio Gonzalez in the off-season – and how they’re suddenly staring into a window of contention, and what these “windows” exactly mean, particularly to small-market teams like the Tribe and the A’s.

Contained within THAT piece is a link to a seminal article written by Nate Silver (some 6+ years ago) on how teams should approach the Trading Deadline, dividing them into “categories” based on the likelihood/unlikelihood of making the playoffs and the coming years.  In part, his definitions of those “categories” are what makes the piece so intriguing for the Tribe…and remember this was written after the 2005 season:
Category I. Rebuilding: 82 projected wins or fewer.
Optimal Strategy: Sell

Ordinarily, the teams in this group will be happy to trade what veteran talent they have if they can get favorable prospects or cash flow in return; a playoff appearance is just too unlikely.

However, the clubs toward the right-hand edge of Category I might consider becoming buyers if at least a couple of the following circumstances coalesce:
- The team has a handful of good young players who might be capable of a breakout season;
- The team plays in a weak division;
- It looks to be a good buyers' market;
- The team can build without compromising its future--that is, without trading good prospects, and without making long-term contract commitments to veterans.
- There are external, economic factors that would tend to reward aggressive behavior, such as the negotiation of a TV contract or stadium deal.

A team like last year's Indians, for example, merited an exception to the rule. The Indians were a young club playing in what looked to be a weak division, and weren't too far from Category II status, coming off an 80-win season. They were able to sign Kevin Millwood to a reasonable, one-year contract. It almost worked, but they still missed the playoffs by two games, and finished third from the bottom in American League attendance. Over the long run, this strategy is going to miss a lot more often than it hits.
Category II. Fringe Contender: 82-87 projected wins.
Optimal Strategy: Buy or Sell

Teams in this group have a natural tendency to stand pat. The thinking seems to be: we're fielding a reasonable baseball club, and we think we can contend with a couple of good breaks. Look what happened to the White Sox last year. We certainly aren't about to break the bank.

In fact, however, standing pat is the worst alternative for these clubs. Whether to buy or sell is conditioned on some of the same factors that we've described above, but either strategy is superior to holding. Buying is likely to produce a reasonably good return; although a team with 85-win talent will make the playoffs occasionally, a team with 90-win talent will make the playoffs more often than not. On the other hand, if buying isn't feasible, then selling needs to be considered. Going from 85 wins to 80 doesn't hurt as much as going from 85 to 90 helps, and there is nothing worse for a baseball team than to be caught in the 84-78 netherworld.

This is fascinating stuff to think about in the context of where the Indians sit right now and while Silver wrote the piece as it pertains to decisions to be made in July, I think that the performance of this club down the stretch – and particularly Masterson and Ubaldo – are going to force some very difficult decisions about which “category” the Indians fall into this off-season even more so than in the past week.  While arguments were made over the last couple of days to clear the decks (and some of the “arguments” were pretty compelling), to see the Indians send out feelers on Choo, Perez, and even Masterson leads me to believe that they’re gauging the market for each with the idea that one or two (I don’t think all three) could be moved in the off-season as the Indians attempt to load up with an eye towards 2013.

Then again, we all thought that eye was focused on 2012 when the Ubaldo deal was made this time last year…

While the Indians essentially decided to stand pat – or at least put off a large organizational decision until the off-season – that doesn’t mean that there weren’t some deals that were consummated over the course of the last week that didn’t raise some eyebrows in terms of players that the Indians had (or at least should have) targeted and what kind of package it took to pry those players loose.

Most notable was the trade between the Cubs and the Braves that sent LHP Paul Maholm (under club control through next year) and 4th OF/LHP masher Reed Johnson to Atlanta, as those two players would have filled the Indians’ needs – short-term and long-term – pretty neatly by adding to the rotation for today and tomorrow and by upgrading from the troika currently roaming around LF.  And while the cost for the Braves looks like a couple of Minor-League arms (and one injured one at that), let’s realize that Atlanta gave up a 21-year-old RHPin Aroldys Vizcaino that throws in the upper-90s that ranked #62 on Kevin Goldstein’s pre-2011 prospect list who had already made it to MLB as a 20-year-old last year.  Though Vizcaino may end up in the bullpen and while I realize that he’s been hurt and doesn’t figure to contribute until next year…yeah, that young, fireballing arm is still something that the Indians don’t have unless you’re talking about them giving up a Carlos Carrasco (who is 4 years older than Vizcaino and not under club control for as long) for that duo. 

Remember the idea that the Indians lacked the ammo (in terms of prospects) to make the additions that they may have felt were necessary?

Yeah, that even applies to a package that could have netted them Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson…

That’s not to say that there still weren’t other deals that looked attractive that I would have liked to have seen the Indians in on, although most fall into that “buy-low”, “low-risk” column of the ledger in that they could have helped the team past this year.  Most notable among those was Travis Snider being dealt from the Blue Jays to the Pirates for RP Brad Lincoln.  Over at SI’s Hit and Run, Jay Jaffe had an interesting perspective on the move, invoking some names that are going to look familiar…particularly over the last couple of weeks:
The Pirates brought up Starling Marte for a look on Thursday, and had been discussing him as the key player in a potential trade for the Indians’ Shin-Soo Choo. The acquisition of Snider won’t necessarily stop that from going down, but note the contrast: Marte is 23, with two-thirds of a season at Triple-A and 22 big league plate appearances under his belt, while Snider is just eight months older, with a ton more upper-level experience. Because of his yo-yoing, he won’t even be arbitration eligible until after the 2013 season, making him somebody who should have a reasonable shot of becoming a lineup staple.

Snider was a classic “change-of-scenery” player and though he had stalled in Toronto will be interesting to see if the Pirates just found a long-term answer in one of their corner OF spots in Snider.  To acquire him, they gave the Blue Jays a useful bullpen piece in Brad Lincoln, who was another stalled former 1st Round Pick, who found some success in the Pirates’ bullpen this year and is under Toronto’s control through 2017, but likely profiles as more of a middle/middling reliever than anything close to a back-end-of-the-bullpen option.

The Pirates continued their buy-low day by netting Gaby Sanchez (a now-regrettable “target” in these parts in the off-season…for Chris Perez, no less) for a 4th OF and a throw-in arm.  Despite Sanchez absolutely cratering this year, he’s still a RH bat that posted a cumulative .783 OPS over the 2010 and 2011 seasons and he’s still under club control through the 2015 season (though it may be longer now since he spent some time in AAA this year), so he might have represented a long-term option for the Tribe at 1B, or even a RH platoon option at 1B going forward.

While both of those players probably would have “earned” the same snickers that accompanied the Lars Anderson deal, the Indians had some opportunity to augment their club past 2012 with either and whether they were “outbid” by their former co-worker in Neal Huntington or if they simply didn’t have the interest in either, we’ll never know.
Because we’re just dissecting gossamer over here…

As for what the Indians – who are in a tailspin right now thanks to their…surprise, PITCHING – do now, it would seem that some of the moves are already being made.  Corey Kluber will take Josh Tomlin’s spot in the rotation (finally) and it remains to be seen if Derek Lowe will make another start or two before giving way to Fauxberto (who got shelled in AAA) or if we’ll have a Chris Seddon sighting in the next couple of weeks.

Lowe and Damon will probably make their way out of town as the parade of Klubers and Fedroffs take their place in the hopes that the Indians can glean something from the final two months of performance from players that are/were on the cusp of the 25-man and the 40-man roster.  Most important for the Indians is to have Masterson and Ubaldo gain some level of consistency at the top of the rotation, to have the engine that has driven the offense (Choo, Cabrera, Santana, Kipnis, and Brantley) to continue to produce and for all components that figure into next year (most notably that 8th inning man/future closer) to stay healthy down the stretch.

The difficult decisions that were heaped upon the Tribe brass after the meltdown in Minnesota to those moribund Twins are still going to exist when the season ends and, with what looks to be the second “fade” in the division in full swing, it’s going to be a semi-interesting final couple of months leading into what could be one of the most important off-seasons in the history of the franchise.


Halifax said...

Release LOWE and DAMON immediately.
Bring up JEANMAR and LaPORTA.

Down the road give PRONK his walking papers, let ANDERSON play first and SANTANA DH with MARSON catching.

Marson is hitting better than half the team, including Santana. As much as you like to rip on LaPorta, he hit .247 with 11 HRs and 53 RBI last year in 350 ABs, that's good for middle of the pack on this sorry offensive team. He'll run into enough accidental HRs to make it worth it.

And I'm pretty sure Anderson could scuffle along at Kotchman's .220, while getting enough ABs to see what you have in him.

MTF said...

1. Reviewing the front office is something else that needs to be done this winter. Repeating an earlier comment "Lowe, Hafner, Sizemore, Kotchman and Slowey absorb nearly $29 million in salary in 2012. That's a below replacement level pitcher, a part time DH, a full time IR player, a below replacement level first baseman and a minor league pitcher." These decisions didn't work out for us.

2. We'll have at least four 25 man roster spots available to players not now on the team in the winter (Hafner, Kotchman, Damon and Lowe), and some money to spend. I'd rather spend money on a pitcher first.

3. If the right offer comes along, trade Choo obviously. What's the right offer? The Indians seem interested only if there are at least two players coming back who can help the major league team right away, one of whom is a starter, and are under team control for at least two seasons.

Adam said...

In my opinion the front office has simply "swung and missed" on this season. And while we all can acknowledge how difficult it is being a small market team in the water with the "big money" teams and cry about payroll disparity and TV revenue, teams like Oakland have made all the right moves and are fully in contention, while teams like the Indians have made all the worng ones.

As a resident of Oakland, I've watched right before my eyes a team that figured to be in a total rebuild this year and probably the next few, turn themselves into a legit contender all on the strength of the orgination's unbelieveable trades, signings, talent evaluations, etc.

Meanwhile you see a team like the Indians who figured to be a legit contender, take a nosedive and you start to see the difference between a good front office and a bad one. Now, I think it'd be a mistake to say that every move Cleveland's front office has made has been a bad one, but over the last few years most of the trades we've made and free agent signings have been unqualified disasters. To have 2 pitchers like Lee and Sabathia I think you have to get more than Brantley, Laporta, Marson, Carrasco and a bunch of minor leaguers. The Jimenez trade I think can also be qualified as a failure. In addition the veteran signings of Lowe, Kotchman, Damon, Slowey and Hannahan have been awful as well.

Whereas Oakland got unbeleiveable value for Cahill and Gonzalez (2 pitchers not even close to the pedigree of Lee and CC), reeling in an awesome warchest in Parker, Milone, Norris, Cook (already an All-Star) and has totally built a contender in a very short amount of time. All this to say that while I do totally acknowledge the disparity of the "haves and have nots" in MLB and the whole "windows of contention" idea, teams like Oakland remind us that you can succeed without a "window of Contention" behind the merits of your front office and prudent decision making.

MTF said...

CP Lee seems to be trade dross for everyone. Unverified, but on another site one commenter claims he added up all the WAR brought to teams in trades for Lee and it totalled .8

Still, Oakland's success trading pitchers is a contrast worth discussing.

Halifax said...

Deal for Lee and cash. The Phillies are stripping.

for Lee and $39M

Tribe gets Lee for three years at $13M per season, but while they still have Brantley, Choo, Cabrera, Kipnis, Chiz, Santana, Marson -- they actually would have a decent rotation in Lee, Masterson, Ubaldo, Fuasto, Carrasco, McAllister...

They obviously would have some extra cash in losing the above-mentioned guys, almost $30M, then go out and get yourself a hitter or two.

Unknown said...

@Adam: Whining about the returns on the Sabathia and Lee trades is revisionist in the extreme.

Find me a single recognized commentator who predicted at the time of the trade -- straight-up PREDICTED, not "on the other hand"ed -- that LaPorta would be injury-prone and lack big-league-quality pitch recognition. The Brewers were the perfect trade partner -- desperate and position-player prospect-rich -- and we swiped the jewel of their system. As far as we know, everybody was right and LaPorta's toe and hip injuries ruined him. It happens.

And the Lee trade, are you kidding me? Carrasco was, and frankly still may be, a legit, mature, high-level power arm, cost-controlled, under club control for years. The man's elbow blew up. Again: the Indians identified the team willing to pay the most and extracted its best prospect. (Yes, "best". Unless you're still arguing that Dom Brown and Michael Taylor and that kid Toronto got are more valuable, irrespective of the fact that none of them can stay on a 25-man even when they're not rehabbing.) And, again: injuries occur.

There are plenty of valid criticisms of this front office. Yours, however, boils down to: Shaponetti didn't use a crystal ball to know that their primo trade targets would get hurt. You can't chalk up their successes -- McCallister, Masterson, Perez, the Seattle trades -- to dumb luck, and then not recognize luck as a factor when it comes to exploding elbow tendons and hip sockets.

The question you're not asking is, why were they so dependent on those trades' working out?

One last thought: you'll never, ever trade a Cy Young winner and get equal value. Not even when you cover the rest of his salary. Prospects, even good ones, are ultimately a commodity item; the best ~10 starting pitchers on the planet are not.

Michael Curry said...

The Indians have scored 11 runs in the five-game losing streak. Let's agree that no pitching addition would have created a situation where they would expect to be successful while averaging 2.2 runs per game.

Halifax said...

Check out the Rays last ten games and say that again.

Their hitting is atrocious...pitching, not so much.

Adam said...

@Unknown: I’m not sure how you could call evaluating a trade a few years down the road revisionist. The thing about trading for prospects is that it takes them a few years to pan out, ascend through the minors, and ultimately reach their full potential. I’m not saying the front office has been a total failure, but ultimately Beane and Oakland do not swing and miss on trades. I’m not sure what Euclidian geometry has to do with Mashed Potatoes. I’m not sure what Laporta’s injured toe has to do with him never being able to hit a curveball. That’s where scouting comes in (a huge part of the front office’s role). And while Brantley is a fine player, I can concretely say that the haul was not enough, to get one decent major leaguer for a hall of famer is just not enough. As far as the Lee trade, you seem to be very high on Carrasco until the horrible unpredictable injury reared its head. But remember, Carrasco was not even the best prospect in Philly and Antonetti was criticized nationally for not getting Drabek. Assuming Carrasco is the next coming of Juan Marichal (and I think he’s a number 3 starter) at best, all they got for Lee is Marson (a career backup catcher) and Donald (a career minor league infielder), and Knapp who had arm troubles when we traded for him and still does. Compare this to the huge haul that Beane got for Bailey, Gonzalez, and Cahill (Parker – a front line starter, Milone-- a solid lefty maybe number 3 or 4 career starter, Reddick – 22 homers All-Star this year, Cook – lights out closer All-star this year, Norris—solid backup catcher) and these are just the guys at the major league level already, not including any of the other prospects and you realize that Oakland and Beane are outclassing the Indians (and most other small market teams) by a ton. Oh, and let’s not forget who signed Cespedes (currently hitting about .310 with 15 homers) and who passed on him. Blame injuries, blame the weather, etc. Bottom line is a quick rebuild without a “window is possible” and the over/under on the A’s wins this year in Vegas was a paltry 73, while the Indians total was 84.
All this goes to say that, while the Indians front office has certainly made some good moves, you really can’t afford to miss on any big time trades. And I count Lee, Sababthia, and Jimenez as unqualified abortions, which in my opinion goes a long way to point to why this team is out of it with 2 months to go.

Nate said...

What is apparent reading the various comments is the utter exasperation of fans at the state of the club...the Ubaldo move has set back the window of contention by several years. We'll never know what White and Pomeranz could have done in Cleveland. Personally, I thought Asdrubal should have been shopped at the deadline. He won't be here when the window reopens...the A's were looking for a shortstop and might still be this offseason. They have a glut of talented arms...the Tribe lacks starting pitching prospects that have true front of the rotation stuff. Let's tear it down and try to get back in the conversation in 2014 or 2015.

Unknown said...

@Adam ... I'm positing that the real reason the big-ticket Indians trades have disappointed is injuries.

LaPorta's hip and toe stuff, in his formative MLB season, was quite serious. Brantley has only this year managed to stay on the field for any length of time. Carrasco's elbow exploded.

I'm not saying, don't evaluate trades based on their outcomes, and I'm certainly not saying, this front office has been above reproach. I'm saying, don't pretend anybody can reliably predict injuries -- and but for the injuries to those three players, this team, and those trades, would almost certainly be viewed more favorably.

Re: Carrasco vs. whatsisface, check the archives.

Re: Oakland .... every small-market team is making moves like that, nearly every season -- including, for the half-decade of .500ish finishes leading up to this year, Oakland itself.

And now in one terrific season, a couple of them worked out, simultaneously, quickly, for the A's. Nobody's going to argue that Billy Beane isn't good at his job, but the exception doesn't prove the rule.

Unknown said...

Oh, and to no one in particular, about Ubaldo: Get back to me when Pomeranz and White (1) stay on a 25-man for any length of time, and (2) learn a third pitch. Jiminez is a mess, but to date what we gave up has hardly been worth worrying about.

Hyde said...

@Unknown: Your comment regarding revisionist history on the LaPorta trade is of a genre I've seen before from folks who want to stand up for bad ideas--the "It was a good idea, but it just didn't work out" genre. The problem is that in practice, there's no difference at all between "a good idea that didn't work out" and a bad idea. Put it this way: if a Mariners fan was to tell you that the trade of Asdrubal Cabrera for the last 1% of Eduardo Perez's career was "a good idea that just didn't work out," you and me would both laugh in his face. But what's the difference? A bad trade is a bad trade.

There were questions about LaPorta at the time of the trade, and of course, there was no rule saying Sabathia had to be dealt to the Brewers. At the time of the deal, I for one was wondering what the rush was, with so much time left before the trade deadline. They hardly could have done worse by waiting.

The Lee trade was obviously indefensible all along: a transparent salary dump that has netted the team one decent season from Carrasco (hopefully there will be others) and a potentially interesting trade piece in Marson. Again, not good enough. And again, you keep implying that the teams we did trade with were the only teams we could have possibly traded with.

My feeling on the buyers vs. sellers argument is that without knowing what potential trades were out there, we probably did the right thing. We had nothing useful to sell except players we control for at least next year, and considering we are looking at our fifth straight losing season, I would not endorse any trades "for the future" that figure to weaken us for 2013 and make it six straight, leaving aside that I do not trust the current front office to be able to pull off such trades.

So yeah, I disagree with Nate re giving up on next season already. Five years of losing is too many as it is.

Unknown said...

@Hyde: I think you're actually making my point.

Asdrubal for Perez? The entire career of a ridiculously young switch-hitting middle-infielder for half a season of a 54-year-old first baseman? To use your word: indefensible.

Sabathia for prospects? Half a season of a top-ten starter that wasn't going to re-sign, in a losing season, for the entire careers of a legit upper-division power prospect and some other well-regarded guys? It's cringe-inducing knowing what we know now, sure, but I don't think we can pretend in good faith that the consensus was LaPorta would struggle the way that he has. "Wrong, in retrospect" ain't "indefensible."

The Lee trade's a more interesting conversation, that I'll grant you. I feel people tend to elide Lee's extensive injury history -- and the fact that he's spent a lot of time on the DL since. It both hurt his value and served as an incentive for the Indians to move him while he was healthy. See, I just mounted a defense of that trade: the return has been stuck in the surgery ward, but that's not what "indefensible" means in this context.

I'm not "implying that there weren't other teams to deal with" so much as I'm giving the Indians the benefit of the doubt that they struck deals with the teams they could bend farthest over the barrel. I hope I'm inflecting enough nuance here: I wish they'd got good players who also stayed healthy -- I just don't see, as others do, that the Lee and Sabathia deals are evidence of the front office's ludicrous incompetence. Good judgment can yield bad results. You can even lose your job for exercising good judgment. But that doesn't make it bad judgment.

Mostly I disagree with the assertion that this front office is clueless on player evaluation in trades. How can we square that with their successes in supposedly minor trades -- Chris Perez being the most relevant example? If you're calling that blind squirrels finding a nut, then you're acknowledging how great a factor luck is in trades. And, again, I guess that leaves open the possibility that their talent evaluation is okay and they're just lousy negotiators. I don't see it, but, hey, maybe.

Which brings me back to my other point -- it's next to impossible to get equal return on trading a Sabathia. There are maybe eight pitchers that good and durable in baseball. The likelihood that even the most prospectiest prospect of all the prospects will be anything remotely like Sabathia is minuscule. So, yeah, by that logic, they're all salary dumps, and I don't see what the alternative is when you can't extend the player. Life's unfair.

Spills said...

I generally agree with your analysis Anon, but I think the Ubaldo trade may fall into an indefensible trade.

If you use the same reasoning that the tribe could not have seen into the crystal ball and foreseen the injuries, dumbassness, and lack of development for White and Pomeranz over the last year, you are left with the evaluation of Ubaldo's talent.

They believed they could fix his delivery, his personality, and his mental approach, and that he was worth two highly regarded first round picks. I would argue that they may have found the answer to the first problem, but the other two have not been fixable. Even if we assume that Pomz and White develop exactly how they have for the Rockies had they stayed in Cleveland, then the argument should be made that the Tribe should have received better value for them while trading them at their peak value.

That trade, and the terrible drafting of the past decade, has completely ruined what should have been the next window of opportunity after the one that the 2007 squad failed to cash in on. That, and the complete regression of the pitching staff this year, is the most frustrating part of watching the wasted value of the prime years of Choo, Cabrera, and Kip. Santanna should be on that list, but he has regressed so far as to have me seriously worried about him going forward.