Mailbag: The All-C.C. Edition
You can please all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you'll hardly ever please a sports fan.
Such is life, and such is the situation with the Indians' decision to trade homegrown ace and reigning American League Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia.
In the wake of the Tribe's swap with the Brewers, my inbox was flooded with questions, rants, vents and even the occasional thumbs-up. Let's grab a few submissions and see what's on your mind.
Everyone in Cleveland seems to be down on the trade. People are saying that we could have gotten more if we would have waited a little longer. What is your take on the deal, and what else can we look for in the future? -- Aaron H., Bloomingdale, Ohio
As I wrote in last week's mailbag, trading Sabathia was absolutely, positively the right move for this club at this juncture. The Indians had no hope of re-signing Sabathia, no hope of contending in the AL Central and no desire to roll the dice on two compensatory Draft picks.
By all accounts, Matt LaPorta (owner of a .978 OPS at Double-A Huntsville) is a stud. But those are just accounts. I've never seen him play, and, for that matter, neither has Mark Shapiro, though that will change at 7:05 p.m. ET Tuesday, when LaPorta makes his Double-A Akron debut.
And even if we knew LaPorta can and will live up to his potential at the plate, we can't fully analyze whether this was a good trade for the Indians until we find out A. who the mysterious player to be named is and B. if he's going to be a viable big-league candidate. Time will tell, as it always tends to do.
Regarding potential future deals, Shapiro said he has no active conversations going on, but Casey Blake's name could come up in the next three weeks, as he'd be a valuable utilityman to a contender. Paul Byrd would have been an obvious deadline-deal candidate had he not racked up 10 losses already. The Indians might also get creative and test the market for less-obvious candidates like Rafael Betancourt, Franklin Gutierrez or Ryan Garko.
As for the notion that the Indians could have gotten more by waiting for this deal, that's absurd. Sabathia's trade value diminished by the day.
What are the chances that the Indians try to re-sign Sabathia during free agency at the end of this season, essentially charging a renters' fee to the Brewers for his services in the second half? -- Kipp H., Stow, Ohio
Their chances of trying are good. Their chances of landing him are beyond poor.
Sabathia wants a six-year guarantee, beyond this season. The Indians offered him four and would have gone to five. Sabathia didn't budge, nor did he wish to talk contract in-season. The Indians were so far apart from Sabathia and so convinced he didn't want to talk that they didn't even bother approaching him about an extension before the trade was made, contrary to prior reports.
We have no reason to believe Sabathia will be any more willing to negotiate a shorter deal with the Indians this winter than he was last winter. I suppose the only thing that could work in the Tribe's favor is if CC truly misses playing for the Indians in the remaining months of '08. But it's much more likely he'll enjoy stepping up to the plate in the NL every fifth day.
With LaPorta being a natural first baseman, could this be a potential red flag for Garko? -- Andrew Z., Struthers, Ohio
The Indians have already raised the white flag. The red flags come next, followed by the pink slips.
Garko has no reason to feel particularly secure, especially now that this deal has been made. As of this writing, Garko has four extra-base hits since May 16. That's, uh, not many.
For now, the Indians plan to move the 23-year-old LaPorta from right field, his primary position at Double-A Huntsville, to left field, while also having him take grounders at first base. The Indians believe LaPorta is a better defender but -- for now, at least -- they are open to the possibility of him remaining in the corner outfield.
The performances of Shin-Soo Choo, Ben Francisco, Gutierrez and Garko will go a long way toward determining LaPorta's eventual destination.
Speaking of which, it's possible LaPorta will miss much of the second half, as he is one of 60 finalists for the U.S. Olympic team. If he remains stateside, he could get the call to Triple-A Buffalo by the end of the year.
Is it possible that one of the players to be named later in the CC trade could include SS shortstop prospect Alicedes Escobar, so that someday we could look forward to a Alicedes and Asdrubal double-play combo? -- Andrew N., Denver
It is my understanding that the Brewers consider Escobar, who is billed as an incredibly smooth defender, to be untouchable, so his inclusion in the deal would be a shock. It is believed Class A third baseman Taylor Green (who could potentially be moved to second base) is one of the two players the Indians are considering as the "player to be named." Double-A outfielder Michael Brantley might be the other, though his agent refuted that notion.
The Indians have until the end of the Minor League season to make a call. And no, before you ask, Sabathia's performance for the Brewers has no bearing on who the player will be. The Indians are choosing from a list of two, predetermined candidates.
Jeremy Sowers is filling in for CC on Tuesday, so is Jeff Weaver the guy for Saturday, or will someone else get the call? -- Chris W., Columbus, Ohio
Weaver, signed to a Minor League deal a few days ago, is the most obvious candidate for that Saturday start. Shapiro said Dave Huff, the next-most viable option at Buffalo, is not being considered. It is the Indians' hope that they'll only need this fifth starter once or, at most, twice, as Fausto Carmona (left hip strain) could be ready to come off the disabled list shortly after the All-Star break.
And if you think Weaver is some sort of long-term solution for this injury and contractually ravaged rotation, don't.
Since CC didn't want the Indians' $72 Million, will the Indians use the money to go after another starting pitcher this winter? Or will the free-agent pool continue to give the Indians shrinkage. -- Joel, Cleveland
The Indians are saving in excess of $5 million by dealing Sabathia when they did. Shapiro said he expects some of the money that would have gone to Sabathia to be used to build next year's club.
I guess the simplest answer to your question is the Indians will spend some of that money if they feel there are free agents worth pursuing. Generally, that has not been the case the last two winters. But the Indians, by the look of things, will have far more holes to fill this coming offseason than they did in those previous two. At least one of those holes is in the starting rotation.
I will NOT allow this kid to tell me to no longer put periods after each initial. Shame on you C.............C.......... Sabathia! (The extra periods added in defiance!) -- Earl, Cape Coral, Fla.
The no-period thing is ridiculous. Sabathia himself said he really has no preference between "CC" and "C.C." One of his representatives contacted the Brewers and asked that they honor the request for a change, so CC it is, I suppose. At least he's not insisting we refer to him as "Maestro."
Shapiro mentioned that one of the things that made the deal difficult was the short time left on Sabathia's contract. How much better would the package of prospects have been if Sabathia had been traded as soon as he declined the Tribe's offer and halted negotiations before the season began? -- Ernie, Charlotte, N.C.
The closest comparable is the package the Twins pulled in for Johan Santana. That package included center fielder and leadoff man Carlos Gomez, who has been spotty offensively and adventurous in the outfield in his first full season, and three pitching prospects -- Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra.
The Indians' higher-ups were underwhelmed by the Twins' haul in that deal. And they had no intention of dealing Sabathia at that juncture, anyway, given that they expected to contend this season. But it's obvious they would have pulled in a stronger package -- no doubt including at least one Major League-ready player -- had they swapped Sabathia in February, instead of July. Contenders making deadline deals give up prospects, not prime-time talents.
Do you think if/when Sabathia ever does return to pitch at Jacobs Field (personally, I will never refer to it as the P-word) he will receive a Manny Ramirez/Jim Thome chorus of boos or an Omar Vizquel standing ovation? -- Rob D., Ames, Iowa
That's up to you guys. Sabathia said he had every hope of staying here, but, like Thome and Ramirez, he left a lot of money on the table for, presumably, a bigger payday elsewhere. It's my belief that the fans shouldn't begrudge CC, a class act who emerged as a true leader for the Tribe, that opportunity to seek out his worth, but I'm not the one buying a ticket.
The Indians, by the way, hope to never find out the answer to your question. They dealt Sabathia to the NL for a reason.
The mailbag won't run in its usual Monday slot next week, because of our All-Star Game coverage. Look for the next edition after the break, and, in the meantime, keep those questions coming at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to include your name and hometown.