Desperation is a tender trap

The Indians, staying true to company form, are mum on whether or not Cliff Lee is on the block. But if what Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said today is true, and Roy Halladay is, indeed, “unlikely” to be traded, that would only serve to make Lee all the more valuable to contending clubs.

Several of those clubs, including the Phillies and Dodgers, had scouts at tonight’s game at the Rogers Centre to watch Lee, and they saw the reigning AL Cy Young winner turn in a complete-game gem against the Blue Jays. Lee improved to 6-9 with a 3.17 ERA in a season in which his record is no indication of how well he’s pitched.

The contenders know this, and the Indians have to know their odds of keeping Lee beyond his 2010 option year, in which he’d make $9 million, are slim to none. Trading Lee in advance of that option year, with no top-of-the-rotation starters in the system or on the horizon, would surely be a major blow to any hopes of the Tribe contending next season. But trading Lee with a little less than a year and a half left on his contract would allow the Indians to pull in maximum value for the left-hander.

Teams get desperate for starting help this time of year, and it’s not every day that a club can land a bona fide No. 1 of Lee’s ilk. If Halladay is pulled from the block, as Ricciardi hints, then the desperation to land Lee only rises — and with it rises the temptation for the Tribe to pull the trigger on a trade.

13 Comments

I can’t foresee a situation in which trading Cliff Lee is a good idea. We’d be pulling the plug on this era of the Indians.

Should be an interesting next week and a half or so. I really didn’t expect Lee or Victor to get moved, but maybe a team will make an offer to good to refuse. I just hope it can work out half as good as the trade that got us Lee in the first place.

Yeah, I can’t imagine any package of players that would be worth dealing Lee or Martinez. Sure, I know their value will drop if we wait until the trade line next year to deal them, but, as was clear with C.C. last year, there will always be interest, particularly for teams desperate to make the post-season.
The difference between a package now and a package a year from now would have to compensate for writing off an entire season…again. And that’s a lot to ask for.
Besides, what do any of us Tribe fans have besides our hopes for next year?

while I would be severely reluctant to trade Cliff Lee, there has to be a certain amount of reality of desperation that exists among top contenders that will lose out on Halladay.

So lets be honest. If the L.A. Dodgers offered a package revolving around Clayton Kershaw for Lee and Betancourt I would seriously consider it to the point where I accepted it without hesitation. What about the Phillies offering a package around J.A. Happ for Lee? Now, I am not suggesting that those teams WOULD make those offers for Lee or Halladay. But I am trying to demonstrate the reality of the situation. Like how the NYM dealt Scott Kazmir to the Rays for Victor Zambrano.

Let me pose the question this way: accepting the financial constraints of a small-to-mid market franchise, would you deal Cliff Lee for the certainty of acquiring a future Cy Young Award winner, and two positional All Stars (a recreation of the Bartolo Colon trade)? My answer is YES. It makes the near future quite dim, but provides our franchise with a legitimate window to win long term.

The thing I don’t get is, why would a team like the Dodgers or Phillies trade a major league starting pitcher, for a major league starting pitcher. Is Cliff Lee better than those guys? Probably, but is it worth giving up years of having them around for a year and a couple months of Lee?

Now, with like Boston, and Clay Buchholz, I get, because he has been in the minors a lot this year, but Kershaw and Happ are in their rotations right now. So I am just not sure I would be willing to sell the future to take one or two years of a shot at winning the World Series. Of course, a team like the Dodgers could probably sign Lee to an extension, so that might make it easier for them to stomach, and I really think Lee is showing this year that last year was no fluke, and he should be a top-notch pitcher for at least a few more years to come.

christopherw, you present a good argument, one that many top executives think about no doubt. But it takes quality to get quality. The financial decisions and consequences are one that typically rule these transactions. Is a reasonably priced Cliff Lee for 2009 and 2010 (and perhaps a possible extension beyond) worth the upside and pre-arbitration control of a guy like Kershaw for very reasonable money? The same thing applies to a guy like Happ.

Last year at this time the guy that was the Phillies big bargaining chip was Carlos Carrasco. He was mentioned as the pitcher the Phillies might have or did offer for Sabathia. One year later and his status hasn’t improved but you can make the argument it has actually decreased because of no significant development. Young players have fickled developments despite the successes of guys like Braun and Longoria. They are the exception, not the rule.

My best explanation to your question is there are some teams that will forgo the future for a chance to win NOW. Something Mark Shapiro has never accustomed to doing. And with that statement I can EASILY say that Cliff Lee is better than J.A. Happ, Clayton Kershaw, or any other ML ready prospect or ML rookie.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind: the teams that keep coming up with regards to Lee are teams that can and (most likely) will make the post-season regardless. They’d be adding Lee to win the World Series. We got what we got for Sabathia because the Brewers NEEDED to make the post-season last year — they were desperate for it. The Dodgers and the Phillies are going to win their divisions whether they deal for Lee or not. They’re less desperate.
Honestly, at this point, I can’t imagine the Red Sox dealing Buckholtz for anything. Their rotation isn’t what it used to be and they’ve basically gotten this far because of their bullpen.
I truly doubt we’ll get a Colon-like return for Lee. I just don’t see that being offered. I think we’re better off holding out for a potential, overly hopeful rotation of Lee, Carmona, Westbrook, Laffey, and Rondon (or Lewis) next year.

I’m a lot less confident now that holding this “core” group of guys together is going to get us to the promised land than I was last year. I think it’s time to re-tool. If trading Lee and/or Martinez gets us anything close to a Colon-type haul, I’m all for it. I think significant roster turnover needs to occur to make room for younger and more promising players and that means parting company with the likes of Garko, Shoppach, Francisco and Peralta. Those guys aren’t going to fetch much in the trade market but they’re worth something and we need to make room for LaPorta, Brantley, Santana and, “gasp” dare I say it?, Andy Marte. Maybe it’s even time to give Jordan Brown a shot at the big time. All I know is that what we have isn’t working.

Remember that when the Colon trade was made, Lee was in AA and Grady in single A. So while the probability of the prospects succeeding are higher for ML and AAA prospects, Shapiro’s strength is getting slightly lower level guys that turn out well. Crisp, Hafner, Choo, Cabrera, etc.

I will reiterate that I do no think a Colon-type of return for Lee will happen. I was just throwing a scenario out there for when I would find it acceptable to trade Lee. It was good conversation though.

steppassociates, I agree with your assessment that we can lose some dead weight (Shoppach and Peralta). However, there are those of us that view Francisco as the 4th outfielder for 2010. And although I do not consider Garko to be dead weight the reality of the situation is that there isn’t a place on this team for him in the future with guys like Martinez, LaPorta and even Jordan Brown or Beau Mills.

LACF, if you talk about pure NEED of a starting pitcher to get into the playoffs then Texas is your team. If you had a big bat to give up then it’s the Giants. Unless the division race is tight like in the NL Central, then maximum value for desperation should be targeting by the wildcard fringe teams.

Well, I don’t think Halladay is really off the market. In fact, I won’t be suprised if he still does get traded. I could be wrong. But, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a club so anxious to trade off their ace.
I’m not completely sold on the current market anyway. Those teams that could use some pitching are either well in front of their division (Philadelphia) or couldn’t really afford another prospect dump (Milwaukee). Perhaps the Angels…..who knows. I do know that this market seems to barely have room for one ace, nevermind two.

Maybe JP is flapping his gums hoping other teams will pony up the farm in return for Halladay.

Is it just a simple case of irony that the Indians are holding their one day sale on July 31, same day as the trade deadline?

Coming soon to an Indians Team Shop near you…discounted Victor Martinez, Cliff Lee, and Carl Pavano jerseys. At least I hope. At this rate, we can’t do much this year, and the core that once looked solid now seems fragile and overpaid. Find a new core. I’m young, I have a lot of years to give. I can wait three for another rebuild.

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