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Depending on what you read or believe, the Indians are either telling teams they are unlikely to move Cliff Lee before next week’s Trade Deadline or are engaged in increasingly serious discussions with the likes of the Phillies, Rays, Dodgers and Brewers about the reigning Cy Young winner.
When it comes to the latter reports, those are, by and large, generated from outside the organization, as the Indians are notoriously tight-lipped on such matters. It can certainly be frustrating for those of us on the beat when national reports surface quoting a “source” or a person “familiar with the Indians’ thinking” (which could be the guy cleaning the bathroom stalls at Progressive Field), but that’s just part of the job in this 24/7 news environment.
The latest, for what it’s worth, is a report from Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com, who cites a Major League source in reporting that the Indians and Rays have discussed a trade for Lee, with the Rays balking at the Indians’ wishes for right-handed prospect Wade Davis to be included.
Morosi is well-sourced and an excellent reporter, so I wouldn’t discount the validity of the report. But I’d encourage Indians fans to keep in mind that teams discuss many trade scenarios this time of year, very few of which actually amount to anything substantive. It’s possible this is just one such scenario that happened to leak, and it doesn’t mean anything is imminent.
I know you’d like to see in this space some reports you can really seek your teeth into. The fact of the matter, however, is that the Indians entered this summer trading season reluctant to deal Lee. Only recently, as the Roy Halladay sweepstakes drags on and teams get more desperate to add a No. 1 starter, have the rumblings that they might be swayed from that stance heated up, and there’s obviously confusion in the industry as to just how available Lee really is.
The Indians, clearly, would be looking for top-end pitching in return for Lee, and it’s a difficult equation for both sides. Few teams can fulfill the Tribe’s wishes for a substantial return in exchange for the ace of the staff (the Rays, for example, don’t have much to offer beyond Davis). And those that could have to ask themselves if less than a year and a half of Lee is worth such demands in a time when prospects are more highly prized than ever, given the economic climate.
On the other side of the equation, the Indians have to know that trading Lee now would be an advertisement to the fan base that not only have the 2008 and ’09 seasons been disappointments, but another year out of contention is on the horizon in 2010. That wouldn’t be the cheeriest winter Press Tour you’ve ever seen.
The Indians are in a really difficult spot here, because you don’t have to be a Baseball America guru to know the farm system has very little to offer in the way of top-flight starting rotation help. It’s Hector Rondon, and then a bunch of question marks. If you keep Lee, you might be able to piece together a quality rotation for 2010 if Rondon is for real, if Jake Westbrook rebounds from Tommy John and if the Fausto Carmona experiment is successful. From a marketing and immediate contention standpoint, keeping Lee for his affordable $9 million option is a no-brainer.
Looking beyond 2010, however, keeping Lee only to lose him in free agency doesn’t make a lick of sense. If you trade Lee now, you have no ace for 2010, but you might get some arms that make 2011 (when Lee will undoubtedly be long gone) and beyond much more encouraging.
Toss in the Victor Martinez trade speculation, and you’ve got an intriguing basis for debate in the Tribe front office. Keep Lee and Martinez for 2010, and you’re giving your best effort to contend but embracing the possibility of losing one or both players to free agency at season’s end. Trade one or both of them now or over the winter, and you’re essentially announcing a rebuild, however short-term it may be.
I think some fans would understand the latter scenario, but the most vocal fans would undoubtedly rant and rave over a club trading Cy Young winners in consecutive years and/or dealing away the closest thing this club has to a captain. It’s times like these when I’m thankful that I just write about the Indians, rather than making the decisions for them.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- Chris Gimenez is collecting big-league service time, but he’s not seeing much in the way of playing time. Gimenez, however, is in the lineup today, for the second straight day. And his sixth start since his May 31 promotion to the Majors is his first behind the plate, catching David Huff. “It’s exciting,” he said. “I haven’t been back there in a while. I think I’ve caught three innings since I’ve been here, but we’ve had no shortage of simulated games.”
- You might assume Gimenez would be better off playing on an everyday basis at the Triple-A level, rather than getting all this bench time up here. But Wedge, for one, doesn’t think this is time wasted for Gimenez. “He’s the type of person who’s going to get better by watching the baseball game,” Wedge said. “He’s always getting better, always learning. If I didn’t think that, we wouldn’t have him up here.” Wedge thinks Gimenez has the potential to be a backup catcher in the big leagues, “and more than that.”
- Chris Perez has held the opponent scoreless in his last four appearances, tossing four innings and allowing no hits with one walk and four strikeouts. That’s the guy the Indians traded for.
- Who’s going to go when the Indians recall Jeremy Sowers on Saturday? With Tomo Ohka headed to the bullpen, one of these Hall of Famers on the relief corps will have to step aside. The recently acquired Winston Abreu (six runs allowed in 1 1/3 innings over two appearances) and Jose Veras (eight runs allowed in eight innings over eight appearances) are the most obvious candidates.
- Asdrubal Cabrera is batting .317 (13-for-41) with three doubles and three RBIs in his last 11 games.
- Trade bait Ryan Garko has hit in 15 of his last 17 games, batting .367 (22-for-60) with two homers and five RBIs.
- The trip to the Great White North always presents some travel complications, and one Tribe player somehow lost his U.S. passport in the three days since the Indians arrived here. He was in straight panic mode pregame today and is likely to endure extra scrutiny before boarding the team charter to Seattle tonight. Perhaps he should just bring the Indians’ media guide with him and show the customs officials his bio page.
- Our old friend Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News is in attendance this afternoon. He’s still covering the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, who are now an affiliate of the Mets. And the Bisons are flailing with a 35-58 record and dwindling attendance in the wake of the Indians’ era. An average of about 1,700 fewer fans are attending each game at Dunn Tire Park, compared to last year, according to Harrington. The Bisons, therefore, are on pace for their lowest attendance mark in the history of the ballpark.
- Speaking of the Mets’ Minor League system, former Indians player Tony Bernazard, now the Mets’ vice president of player development, is in the news, for all the wrong reasons. The Mets are investigating Bernazard’s conduct in the wake of reports that he challenged the entire Double-A Binghamton team to a fight.
- When the Indians get to Seattle on Friday, it will be Franklin Gutierrez bobblehead night. Gutierrez is still a little wobbly after slamming into the wall at Comerica Park on Tuesday night.
- Lastly, it’s our last day in Toronto, and I can’t leave without wishing the best of luck to MLB.com Blue Jays scribe, Jordan Bastian, and his wife, Kelly, who is set to give birth to the couple’s first child sometime in the next five or six weeks. The Bastians are Chicago natives, and they have a doctor here in Toronto and another in the States. The American doctor gave them an Aug. 31 due date, while the Canadian doctor is predicting it will arrive Sept. 9. Must have something to do with the exchange rate.
UPDATE: Should the Indians make a trade in the next few days, the blog will be up and running. But I won’t be with the club in Seattle. We’ll continue with the lineups and minutia in Anaheim on Monday.
UPDATE No. 2: OK, it was Chris Gimenez who lost his passport. I feel more comfortable telling you this now that he announced it when talking to reporters postgame. Maybe the Indians can smuggle him into Seattle with the luggage.