Baseball’s winter meetings begin today in Nashville, Tennessee. This being the holiday season, it’s time to form a “wish-list” for the Cleveland Indians. The only wish should be the Indians do something and not stand pat like the past two years.
Trade rumors abound around the team, yet the Indians always manage to stay out of the limelight when it comes to suspicions on what they will do. This year is no different
The worst kept secret of the off season was the Indians hiring of Terry Francona as manager. Although many didn’t believe it, his name was brought to the forefront almost as soon as the last pitch of the 2012 season was delivered.
The first hope of the off season is the Dolans decide Francona isn’t the free agent acquisition of the year and do nothing else. Francona, with all his attributes, is not the answer for a club that has more holes than a piece of cheese with a rampant mouse running around it.
There is first base, left field, possibly third base and pitching. Let’s not deny this Indians club has talent, but it’s talent that would look better on other teams. The minor league system is devoid of any real major league players for at least two years, probably three. That means the Indians must trade to form any semblance of a competitive ball club in 2013.
Let’s start there. The ideal players to trade would be Shin Soo Choo, Asdrubel Cabrera, Justin Masterson and Chris Perez. These three would and should bring Cleveland not only minor league talent, but also at least one major leaguer in return.
Choo will be traded because he has one year left on his contract, and his agent is Scott Boras. Boras never let’s his clients sign an extension when free agency is on the horizon. Choo is no different. Plus Choo has already made comments he wants to play for a winner, something Cleveland is years away from.
Choo would be a good fit in Texas, where the Rangers are close to losing Josh Hamilton. Choo could take the place of Hamilton in the outfield and in the order. Certainly Choo will not put up the numbers Hamilton did, but he will not be a downgrade as other could be. And he comes to the Rangers at a bargain price for one more year. Then you take your chance. It’s uncertain what the Rangers would offer in return.
The stronger rumor is out of Boston, where the Red Sox would love to have Choo and re-acquire RHP Justin Masterson. These two would be traded to the Red Sox for Jacoby Ellsberry and a Minor Leaguer. The Red Sox have no pitching to spare, so the other player would be a position player.
Ellsberry, coming off an injury-riddled season, has only one season left on his agreement. So the Tribe would be in the same position next winter they are if they keep Choo. It would benefit Cleveland to sign Ellsberry to a long term deal if they are intent on making such a trade.
Asdrubel Cabrera seems to be a good fit in St. Louis. This could be a blockbuster. The Tribe appears to be pitting Arizona against St. Louis for the best package. The Cardinals need a dependable shortstop, and Cabrera fits the bill with a contract for the next two years. RHP Joe Kelly, RHP Lance Lynn and infielder Matt Carpenter are rumored to be coming to Cleveland in that deal. Carpenter could play third and Lonnie Chisenhall could be sent back to Columbus for more seasoning or be traded.
Chris Perez has been productive, yet “talkative’ during his three years with the Indians. Currently a premier closer, the team could demand several prospects or major leaguers. My favorite rumor has Perez going to Cincinnati for LHP Bill Brey, Catcher Devin Mesoraco and SS Zack Cozart. This trade could open the way for Cabrera to be traded and Cozart play short. Brey would be an excellent set up man as Vinnie Pestano would become the closer. Mesoraco is then the catcher with Carlos Santana becoming a full time first baseman.
That leaves one free agent signing. Most probably Kevin Youkilis of the White Sox. This would reunite Youkilis with Francona and could give the Indians the right handed bat they have desired for two seasons. Youkilis could also play first, third or DH. Another rumor circulating is the possibility of signing free agent outfielder Ryan Ludwick out of Cincinnati. Ludwick, who will be 35 next July and plays left, hit .275 last season with 26 homers and 80 RBI’s. Ludwick always seems to pop up in rumors returning to the Indians every year.
If these trades went down, the Indians Lineup could be as follows
CF Jacoby Ellsberry
2B Jason Kipnis
LF Michael Brantley
DH Kevin Youkilis
3B Matt Carpenter
1B Carlos Santana
2B Jason Kipnis
RF Russ Canzler
C Devin Mesoraco
The starting rotation would be….
Jeanmar Gomez and/or Zach McAllister
This would be a team you could buy tickets for. Plus these moves would make the fans know the owners are interested in winning. This progress would give fans hope for the future while the organization develops the farm system, for the third time under the Mark Shapiro regime.
The Author Dave Mitchell co-hosts with Mark Donahue the UST talk show “Ohio Baseball Weekly,” highlighting the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. The Show return in March, 2013.