July 2009

The neighborhood ain't what it used to be, in case you ain't looked lately

vicbanner.jpgWow. It’s been a long week.

Over the coming months — and, I guess, years — we’ll dissect and hopefully make some sense out of all that transpired in the last eight days.

But for now, if you’re looking for Victor Martinez’s reaction to today’s trade, you can read all about it here. If you’re looking for some info on the pitchers acquired, you can read that here. And in case you missed it yesterday, here is the rundown on the seven players acquired in the trades involving Cliff Lee, Ben Francisco, Ryan Garko and Rafael Betancourt.

There are, of course, plenty other notes to peruse, as well. Here’s the rundown…

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • The Indians took $16 million off the books for 2010 by trading Cliff Lee and Martinez and their options for next season. None of the other players traded had guaranteed contracts for next year. Shapiro said the money saved on Lee and Martinez could factor into the club’s offseason spending, which, prior to the most recent moves, was going to be non-existent. “We haven’t been told anything explicitly as to where our payroll will be this winter,” Shapiro said, “but I think what we looked at it in our conversations with Paul Dolan is that this would create an opportunity for us to be opportunistic. I wouldn’t mention this in this context if I didn’t think it was a possibility.”
  • And that ability to be opportunistic had Shapiro speaking in more optimistic tones about 2010. Obviously, the Indians will still be a longshot. But… “I think in a division that’s not perfect, with no real powerhouse team, it will take all things firing right, but I think [contention] next year is not out of the question,” Shapiro said. “I think what’s more important is that we have a multi-year opportunity to have a good team.”
  • Regarding the fate of Eric Wedge and his coaching staff in the wake of these trades, some might assume the Indians will make big changes to bring in new faces to work with all these new bodies. And maybe that is, indeed, the case. But Shapiro, for whatever it’s worth, said, “I don’t see any correlation between those two things.”
  • Shapiro also said he wouldn’t define what’s taken place over the last eight days as “sweeping changes.” It’s all semantics, of course, but when you trade away your staff ace, your best player and three other guys in the span of eight days, those are major changes. Maybe Shapiro felt they weren’t “sweeping” changes because no members of the Progressive Field cleaning crew were sent packing.
  • Fans, bloggers, writers and radio hosts alike all expressed frustration over the Lee trade and the fact that the Indians did not get Kyle Drabek or J.A. Happ, among others. Some will be upset that the Indians didn’t get Clay Buchholz in the V-Mart trade. Shapiro had a pretty rational response to all that: “All of the names you guys have thrown at me, none of those guys got traded. We feel very good about the group of players we did get.” In other words, the Indians didn’t get those guys because they weren’t available, plain and simple.
  • With Martinez gone, the obvious question is, when will we see Carlos Santana? “He can hit [up here] now,” Shapiro said. “He’s right where he should be [in Double-A]. His bat is far advanced from other components of his game. With another year at Triple-A, we feel he’ll be ready for the Major Leagues.” So, 2011, basically.
  • Surprisingly (to me, at least), Shapiro made it sound as though he expects Carlos Carrasco to be in the rotation by season’s end.
  • I hope none of you rushed out and bought an Andy Marte jersey when he got called up Tuesday, because he changed numbers today. He’s now No. 25, which he wore at Columbus, after wearing No. 15 for a few days. And Wyatt Toregas, called up to be the backup catcher, is now wearing Marte’s old number.
  • Sandy Alomar, by the way, used to wear No. 15.
  • Speaking of Alomar, there was a certain symmetry to him being here for his Tribe Hall of Fame press conference on the day Martinez was traded. I’m pretty certain we’ll someday see V-Mart back here for a similar presser.
  • A scoring change was made from Wednesday’s game, as the two Angels runs in the first innings have been ruled unearned. Aaron Laffey’s line is now seven runs (four earned) allowed on seven hits over four innings, and his season ERA drops from 4.40 to 4.08.
  • As of the second inning tonight, there were 30,000 fans in the house tonight, including 4,200 walkups. The pre-Deadline purge will undoubtedly affect attendance, but not on Tom Hamilton Fireworks Night. Will be interesting to see how many people come out tomorrow night for that Victor Martinez bobblehead, which is instantly a collector’s item.

~AC

UPDATE: No player I talked to in the Indians’ clubhouse took the Victor news harder than Kelly Shoppach.

To some, that might sound strange, as the two essentially competed for playing time behind the plate. But these guys became very close over the last four seasons, and Martinez was a tremendous help to Shoppach getting his big-league career going. While Shoppach and Lee were a tandem on the field, Shoppach and Martinez were the real tandem off it.

Shoppach had some interesting things to say about the Martinez trade, including some pointed words about the direction this organization is taking. I’ll lay it all out in a preview of Saturday’s game that should be up on the Indians.com site late tonight, so check it out. 

Martinez to the Red Sox

The trade is official, with Victor Martinez heading to the Red Sox for Major League right-hander Justin Masterson and two prospects, left-hander Nick Hagadone and right-hander Bryan Price.

The story, with quick info on the pitchers acquired, is here.

I’m headed down to Mark Shapiro’s press conference, and I’ll share his take on the haul in a little bit. My initial reaction, contrary to my blog posting yesterday, is that it’s an impressive one. Especially after watching Masterson in the postseason last year.

This is a very, very emotional goodbye for Victor. He sat in front of his locker, with his son, Victor Jose, in his lap and sobbed after getting the news. He spoke to reporters with black sunglasses hiding his red eyes.

“This is my house,” he said. “I’m leaving my house.”

UPDATE: First off, Wyatt Toregas will get his first call to the Majors to take Martinez’s roster spot and serve as the third catcher, with Kelly Shoppach and Chris Gimenez in the mix.

The Indians will have to make a roster move tomorrow to get Masterson on the big league club. Initially, he’ll be in the bullpen, but the Indians will stretch him out to transition to the rotation. No exact timetable on that transition, but Masterson will be in the rotation this season.

And suddenly, Mark Shapiro is talking much more optimistically about 2010. Masterson plays a big factor in that, as he’s a legit rotation option going forward. As is, of course, Carlos Carrasco, who was acquired in the Cliff Lee trade.

On top of that, Shapiro implied that because of the $16 million saved on the 2010 options for Lee and Martinez that he should have some — probably not $16 million, but some — money to spend this offseason.

Read all about it tonight on Indians.com.

UPDATE No. 2: For those wondering, Victor Martinez bobblehead night will go on as planned tomorrow.  

Returns for Victor might be spoiled

According to the Boston Herald, the Red Sox rejected a one-for-one proposal of Victor Martinez for Clay Buchholz last week, which is not terribly surprising, and not just because Buchholz is so highly regarded.

I hate to burst the bubble of anyone hoping that a trade involving V-Mart will bring in another promising haul of prospects and somehow sweeten the Cliff Lee situation and the club’s earnest efforts to reload for 2011. But there are a few things to keep in mind about Martinez:

  • He turns 31 this offseason and has an injury history.
  • He’s never been highly regarded for his skills behind the plate in controlling the running game.
  • Yes, he can be moved to first base, but his offensive numbers as a catcher are much more valuable than his offensive numbers as a first baseman.
  • And regarding those offensive numbers, the guy has hit .193 since May 22 and .149 since June 20.
  • Last but certainly not least, Martinez will make $7.6 million next season if he’s traded (I had listed it at $7.5 million yesterday but forgot that Martinez earned an additional $100,000 for his All-Star selection). That’s a significant amount of money for a team to be taking on for his services, especially in this economic climate.

The Lee deal — or at least the Lou Marson portion of it — makes a heck of a lot more sense if Martinez is moved. But the Indians have basically made it clear to the rest of the league that they are slashing payroll for 2010, and that would be the prime motivation for moving Martinez. The returns for him won’t be anywhere near what they were for Lee, and the returns for Lee have already drawn scrutiny in the industry.

~AC

UPDATE: Just got word that Fausto Carmona will make his return to the rotation tomorrow night against the Tigers. Jeremy Sowers gets bumped from Friday to Saturday. 

Strike another match, go start anew

About 91,682 words later (you can check out all that work at Indians.com), my brain is very near the point of being fried, as I get ready for a, sure enough, delayed red-eye flight back home this evening.

But I’ve got a few more quick thoughts about today’s news.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Just throwing this out there, but I wonder what this trade, and the overall decision to look more toward 2011 than 2010, means for Eric Wedge. If anything, I would think it improves his chances of remaining with this club next year. For one, the Indians are clearly in player development mode for the next 14 months, and that eases the emphasis on poor April starts and the struggle to perform under weighty expectations — the biggest knocks on Wedge. And then there’s the financial issue, which is, of course, no small issue right now. Wedge is under contract for next season for at least $1 million. Would the already cash-strapped Indians really be willing to pay that price and hire a new manager next year? I can’t help but doubt it. I’m not saying Wedge and his staff are secure, as the Indians obviously want to see some legit development over the next two months. But the “reload” philosophy, I would imagine, helps Wedge’s standing here.
  • Worth noting that if Victor Martinez gets traded, his base salary for ’09 increases from $5.7 million to $6.2 million, and his 2010 option increases from $7 million to $7.5 million.
  • But will Martinez get traded? The Indians aren’t going to just give him away. And if the Red Sox are as highly motivated to acquire him as some people have suggested, you would think the framework of a deal would be in place by now. Martinez certainly hasn’t helped his trade stock by batting .144 since June 20. 
  • Former high school, Minor League and Major League teammates Ryan Garko and Ben Francisco get shipped off, within two days of each other and in their shared hometown of Anaheim, no less. What are the odds of that?
  • And here’s further coincidence: Francisco and Garko will be reunited this weekend, as the Phillies and Giants are squaring off in San Francisco.
  • Fausto Carmona will start either Friday or Saturday against the Tigers. That was not yet determined. Trevor Crowe gets the call over Matt LaPorta because he can back up Grady Sizemore in CF.
  • We’ll give the final word today to the centerpiece of the deal, Clifton Phifer Lee: “Losing one Cy Young winner one year and another the very next year is probably hard for a fan to swallow. It’s the nature of the game. It’s something you’re really going to have to talk to Shapiro about, as far as his outlook and his intent with the whole deal. Obviously, he feels he’s making the team better with those deals. It’s not my job to grade it. It’s my job to pitch.”

~AC

The front office perspective on the Lee deal

Following GM Mark Shapiro’s conference call with reporters, allow me to try to sum up the front office’s stance on the Cliff Lee trade in 100  250 words or less:

The Indians decided that even with Lee on board, they had little chance of contending next season. That’s because ownership told the front office that it will not commit any significant dollars to club construction in the offseason.

Knowing this, the Tribe explored all offers for Lee and accepted a package that includes three players who have the potential to impact the Major League club in 2010 and one 18-year-old with enormous upside. The Indians feel Carlos Carrasco is very close to Major League ready, Lou Marson can be, at worst, an average everyday catcher in the big leagues, and Jason Donald complements Asdrubal Cabrera and Luis Valbuena well up the middle. Donald will likely compete with Valbuena for the second base job next spring. As for Jason Knapp, the Indians are enamored with his big, strong body and his raw stuff.

With Lee and his $9 million 2010 option off the books, the Indians might have some money to commit to offseason construction, but Shapiro said he has no idea how much. The Indians are not ruling out a miraculous run at contention next year, but with the depth of talent from Double-A up to the big leagues, they feel they can put together a sustained run of contention starting in 2011.

That’s the gist of it, from Shapiro’s perspective. And though Martinez wouldn’t comment on Victor Martinez directly, this trade makes a lot more sense if he’s on deck on the trading block.

Obviously, there’s a lot more where that came from, including comments from Shapiro, Lee, Francisco, Martinez and others, as well as the news that Fausto Carmona is rejoining the rotation and Trevor Crowe, not Matt LaPorta, is taking Francisco’s spot in the outfield. You can find all that information and analysis at Indians.com in the coming hours.

About the returns…

As we await the inevitable announcement that Clifton Phifer Lee and Ben Francisco are Philly-bound (that announcement appears likely to come some time after the conclusion of today’s game), we might as well explore the prospect returns the Indians will no doubt be touting.

The Indians were looking for pitching, pitching and more pitching. In this trade, they’d be getting pitching, pitching and a couple position players, one of which is a catcher, fueling speculation that Victor Martinez will be next on the block before Friday’s 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline.

Here’s a rundown of the four players, with recent comments from Phillies assistant GM Chuck LaMar, courtesy of MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.

RHP JASON KNAPP

knapp.jpg18 years old, 6-foot-5, 215 pounds

It would appear Knapp is the key to the deal, from the Indians’ perspective (well, that, and cutting costs, but that’s another topic for another blog entry).

Knapp doesn’t turn 19 until Aug. 31, and he’s struck out 111 batters in 85 1/3 innings in the South Atlantic League. By all accounts, he’s a competitive, confident kid with electric stuff (his fastball has been clocked at 98 mph).

But Knapp hasn’t pitched since July 11 because of right shoulder soreness. It’s not considered serious, but it’s still a bit of a red flag at this early stage of his development.

“His right shoulder seemed tired,” LaMar said. “We took all precautions, but he got an immediate, clean bill of health. No problems. He started to throw [Sunday]. No problems. Somewhere in that first week in August, he’ll be back on the mound pitching for Lakewood. When you have that kind of talent at 18, we just didn’t want to take any chances. But safe to say, the way he’s thrown, stuff-wise, he has to be one of the better young Minor League pitching prospects in baseball.”

Kyle Drabek was the prospect that apparently stood in the way of Roy Halladay to the Phillies. The Blue Jays wanted him, and the Phillies wouldn’t part with him. Knapp might even be a more promising prospect than Drabek, but it’s way too soon to tell. If nothing else, Knapp is bigger than the 6-foot, 185-pound Drabek.

“Kyle Drabek is not a real big guy,” LaMar said. “And Jason has thrown many outings this year up to 98 [mph]. And he won’t be 19 until August. To catch a Kyle Drabek, his secondary pitches will have to improve, and they have. They’re two different guys. Jason is a power, power arm going through the learning process. Kyle is more of a complete package right now. But both of them are what you’re looking for.”

It’s been speculated that Knapp’s future might be in the back end of a bullpen.


carrasco.jpgRHP CARLOS CARRASCO
22 years old, 6-foot-3, 215 pounds

The line on Carrasco is that his stock has dropped this season. He went a combined 9-9 with a 3.69 ERA in 26 appearances between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year. This year, he’s 6-9 with a 5.18 ERA at Lehigh Valley. He’s struck out 112 and walked 38 in 114 2/3 innings.

LaMar, for one, disputed the dropped stock notion Monday, though obviously he made the following remarks at a time when the Phillies were shopping the right-hander.

“We like Carlos Carrasco better right now than we did at any time last year,” LaMar said. “He moved up to Triple-A [last year] and pitched well, and this year he got off to a really slow start. But some of that was self-induced by us. There were certain things Carlos needed to do to become a good Major League pitcher. Start to learn to throw more inside. We introduced a slider to him. He’s gone through some growing pains. To be a good Major League pitcher, Carlos is making progress. We’re glad he’s taken to the changes. Carlos gets it. We could have called Carlos Carrasco to the Majors several times this year, but we thought it would impede his development.”

C LOU MARSON

marson.jpg23 years old, 6-foot-1, 200 pounds

All right, here’s where it gets tricky. The Indians have no need for a catcher, at the moment. They have Victor Martinez under contract through 2010, Kelly Shoppach backing him up, and Chris Gimenez as a third catcher. And that’s just the big-league level. The Tribe is also high on Wyatt Toregas, as he’s put together a strong year at Triple-A Columbus, and Double-A Akron’s Carlos Santana is considered one of the top catching prospects in all of baseball.

The only way Marson’s acquisition makes sense – and, again, I’m writing this before the deal is official and before the Indians’ front office has had any chance to explain their rationale behind this trade – is if Martinez or Shoppach are moved. Or maybe Marson gets flipped. At this point, anything is possible, but obviously, if the Indians are trading Lee, they are looking more toward 2011 than 2010, and one would assume they’re open to the possibility of trading V-Mart.

Anyway, about Marson… He got off to a slow start at Lehigh Valley this year. He’s rebounded over the last couple months and is now batting .294 with a .751 OPS. As far as intangibles are concerned, he spent all of September with the Phillies last year and traveled with them during their World Series run. If nothing else, that experience had to be helpful.


donald.jpgSS JASON DONALD
24 years old, 6-foot-1, 195 pounds

Again, this one’s going to have to be explained to me. The Indians have what appears to be the makings of a set middle infield in Asdrubal Cabrera and Luis Valbuena, who they are clearly fond of. And Donald doesn’t have the bat to move to third.

Donald is batting .236 with a .629 OPS at Triple-A this year. He just returned to action this week after missing more than a month following knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

“He can be an everyday player,” LaMar said. “Like anyone with his skill set, he’s got to prove it at every level. Some young men get the opportunity to be starters just because they run faster, throw harder, bigger, stronger, more power. In this game we have a tendency to give those people all the opportunity. Jason has to prove it at every level. But what Jason has done is prove it at every level. I don’t think there’s anybody I talked to, baseball people from outside our organization, that is betting against him.”

~AC

7/29: Indians at Angels

Oh, by the way. There’s a game today. It’s at 3:35 p.m. ET. Ben Francisco’s not in the lineup, for some strange reason…


cle7.gifINDIANS (42-59):
CF Grady Sizemore, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 1B Victor Martinez, 3B Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner, LF Chris Gimenez, 2B Luis Valbuena, C Kelly Shoppach. LHP Aaron Laffey (4-2, 3.71).

 

 


ana3.gifANGELS (59-40):
3B Chone Figgins, SS Maicer Izturis, RF Bobby Abreu, DH Juan Rivera, 1B Kendry Morales, 2B Howie Kendrick, CF Gary Matthews, C Jeff Mathis, LF Reggie Willits. RHP John Lackey (6-4, 4.22).

Lee, Francisco to the Phillies

Nothing confirmed yet from the Indians’ end, but MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki is reporting that the Indians and Phillies have worked out a trade involving reigning Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee.

According to the report, the Indians would send Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco to the Phillies in exchange for a package of four prospects: Class A right-hander Jason Knapp and Triple-A right-hander Carlos Carrasco, shortstop Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson.

More info as I hear it.

UPDATE: Knapp is 18 years old and has a fastball that can reach 98 mph, but he hasn’t pitched since July 11 because of shoulder soreness. Carrasco was one of the players the Indians discussed during the CC Sabathia talks last summer. Donald just came back from knee surgery. Marson is a premier catching prospect. Not sure if his inclusion signals that another deal is on the horizon.

It appears this deal is done, pending physicals, but as of this writing the Indians still have not confirmed. That could change at any moment. Follow me here for the latest.

I'd like to dream my troubles all away on a bed of California stars

Twitter is either bringing us all together in ways one thought unimaginable or completely ruining what little fabric remains in our society.

Six of one/half a dozen of the other, right?

Well, for those of you in tune with the tweets who enjoyed the Twitter element to MLB.com’s Gameday pitch-by-pitch application during the All-Star Game, it appears it will now be a regular component to Gameday for all games. And tonight, you can follow the Indians-Angels game online while tweeting to your heart’s content and enjoying the musings from such luminaries as Angels.com writer Lyle Spencer, Tribe PR director Bart Swain and, to a much lesser degree, yours truly.

Twitter has made an already ridiculous Trade Deadline season all the more ridiculous, as some reporters with quick trigger fingers have used it to share every inane and unfounded observation and rumor they can come up with. And today, a Twitter account was used to post a completely bogus report about Cliff Lee going to the Red Sox.

So, when you stack it against those examples, maybe Matt LaPorta’s long-ago Fruity Pebbles tweet wasn’t so bad, after all.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Cliff Lee’s gut tells him he’ll still be with the Indians at week’s end. Some others I’ve talked to in the front office have the same gut feeling about Lee and Victor Martinez, but that’s not to say that the trade talk about both of those guys isn’t very real. Obviously, something could happen in the coming days. For now, here’s what Lee has to say about his situation.
  • Don’t forget you can follow trade news and rumors from around the league at MLB.com’s Trade Talk blog.
  • I never imagined a scenario in which Andy Marte would again be with the Indians this year (or any year, for that matter). It’s a credit to him that he’s back and in the starting lineup tonight.
  • Marte also found this day difficult to imagine back in March. “My mind was going crazy at that time,” he said. “I thought I was done. But I’ve got a family to take care of. The only thing I know how to do is play baseball. That’s why I didn’t stop.”
  • Marte might see some time at third on days Jhonny Peralta is off, but, for all intents and purposes, he’s a first baseman on this club.
  • Grady Sizemore is still out of the lineup after getting sick on the team’s flight from Seattle on Sunday night. He’s lost about seven pounds, as he had trouble keeping even fluids down. But he was feeling better today and is expected to be eligible off the bench tonight. Eric Wedge said he’s hopeful Sizemore will be ready to return to the lineup for Wednesday’s series finale.
  • With Sizemore out, Hafner getting one of his routine off days, Ryan Garko traded, the Indians basically had no bench last night. “We’re loaded tonight,” Wedge said, “compared to last night.”
  • Here’s one for the “Datz Awesome” sign-holders: The Indians are 3-1 in games in which Jeff Datz takes over for a departed Wedge this season.
  • Peralta is 13-for-27 with two homers and 11 RBIs over his last six games. He’s tied for second in the AL in second-half RBIs, with 12.
  • The Indians are hitting .342 as a team with 8.8 runs per game over this five-game winning streak. The starting pitching staff has a 3.12 ERA.
  • The Tribe has four wins when trailing after eight innings.
  • According to an Associated Press report, leaders of Maine’s Penobscot Indian Nation are trying to drum up some love and attention for Louis Sockalexis, the first known American Indian to play professional baseball. He played, as you well know, for the Cleveland Spiders. Read more about this here.
  • The Indians have been in sell mode all month. But they have a sale on Friday – the day of the Trade Deadline, fittingly enough – that might be of particular interest to you. It’s a one-day sale from 6 a.m. to midnight featuring special discounted offers covering “the full array of Indians baseball product offerings.” What’s more, there will be no online fees for the purchase of Indians tickets and hosted events. Visit this site for the complete details.

~AC

7/28: Indians at Angels

Tonight’s 10:05 p.m. ET game at Angel Stadium will be broadcast on STO and WTAM.

Grady Sizemore, who was under the weather last night, remains out of the lineup.

Andy Marte’s contract is purchased, and he’s immediately inserted into the lineup.


cle3.gifINDIANS (42-58):
SS Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B Luis Valbuena, RF Shin-Soo Choo, C Victor Martinez, 3B Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner, CF Ben Francisco, LF Chris Gimenez, 1B Andy Marte. LHP David Huff (5-4, 6.39).

 

 


ana2.gifANGELS (58-40):
3B Chone Figgins, SS Erick Aybar, DH Bobby Abreu, RF Juan Rivera, C Mike Napoli, 2B Howie Kendrick, 1B Kendry Morales, CF Gary Matthews, LF Robb Quinlan. RHP Jered Weaver (10-3, 3.57).

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