“I can’t tell my courage from my desperation”
On Twitter: @Castrovince
The most daring trade I ever made came in second grade. This skinny squirt named Mike (I’ll leave out his last name because he eventually ended up in jail and could be out on parole now, for all I know) offered me the opportunity to be in the Cool Kids Club (he had a laminated ID and everything) in exchange for a package of cinnamon-flavored Tic Tacs.
Mike was a wily one, I’ll give him that. He had obviously been in the bedroom I shared with my older brother Joe and seen the gift basket given to Joe by his seventh-grade girlfriend. The Tic Tacs were located therein, and Mike preyed upon my gullibility and hunger for acceptance in order to fulfill his hunger for those tiny, rigid mints.
Well, naturally, I gave in, swiped the Tic Tacs when my brother wasn’t looking and met Mike’s demands. And naturally, my brother noticed their absence, reported it to my mother and all heck broke loose. I would have been grounded, except… I was in second grade… where was I going to go? Instead, I had to apologize to my brother, which was embarrassing enough, and I had to get the Tic Tacs back. What’s worse, I never did my Cool Kids Club membership card, which likely explains future failures in the pursuit of popularity.
The point, I think, is that positive trades are difficult to execute. And all across the baseball land, the 30 Major League GMs all did their darndest to pull one off. Nobody, though, sent quite the shockwave through the system quite like Chris Antonetti, he of the unbelievably brave Ubaldo barter.
What better place to recap the Tribe’s wild weekend than right here in CastroTurf? Go ahead, pop in some Tic Tacs, and let’s talk it through.
EXCRUCIATING TRADE DEADLINE MINUTIAE…
- The Trade Deadline was at 4 p.m. ET. As of 3:30 p.m., the Indians, who talked about upwards of 75 players over the course of the dealing season, still had six active trade talks on the table, in addition to the finalization of the Jimenez physical. A hectic period, to be sure, though obviously none of those final six discussions bore fruit.
- Regarding the finalization of that physical, Jimenez was pulled from his start against the Padres after one inning Saturday night and informed of the trade. He then jumped in a car and made the five-hour drive on I-8 to Arizona, where he had a physical exam in Goodyear that began at 7:30 a.m. The Indians didn’t get the final results until 3:30, hence the delay in the announcement that the deal was, indeed, done. Jimenez then headed back to Colorado to pack up his stuff, and he’ll have up to 72 hours to report to the Tribe in Boston. Between the physical stress of this travel schedule and the mental stress of the rumor mill, the Indians decided Jimenez won’t pitch for them until next weekend in Texas.
- Why didn’t the Indians add an impact bat (with all apologies to Kosuke Fukudome and his family)? By all accounts, the Tribe was pretty far along with the Padres in talks for former farmhand Ryan Ludwick, but the Pirates scooped him up just before the Deadline with an offer of a player to be named or cash. We don’t yet know the value of the list of prospects the Padres will have to choose from, though it would certainly be interesting to see how the offers of the Tribe and the Buccos differed. Personally, I was never a fan of the idea of bringing in Ludwick, perhaps remembering too well what little value he brought to the Padres at the tail end of 2010, but after showing so much aggression in adding Jimenez, it was definitely surprising not to see the Indians bring in some sort of offensive presence, beyond Fukudome’s on-base ability. There is, however, always the chance of a waiver trade before the end of August.
- So the attention on the rehab processes of Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore is amplified all the more in the wake of Sunday’s inaction. Choo will be on the road trip and could take batting practice by week’s end, so he’s certainly ahead of his initial timetable. Sizemore has not yet begun any form of baseball activity.
- The 23-year-old Thomas Neal could be a nice pickup in the Orlando Cabrera trade with the Giants, given the strength of his arm and the potential power in his bat. He was on the disabled list with a hand injury suffered on a slide into second base, but he should be activated by Triple-A Columbus any day now.
- But what of the cosmic Cabrera karma that has aided so many past playoff teams and seemed to be aiding the Indians? Gone. Cabrera was a hugely impactful presence in this clubhouse and this dugout, and he’ll be missed for those reasons. There is something to be said for experience, and the Indians are now awfully inexperienced at second base with Kipnis and Jason Donald. But Cabrera’s .217 average and .542 OPS since May 5 speak for themselves. I’m also not sure if comments like the ones he made to the Akron Beacon Journal’s Stephanie Storm the other day — “My logic is, if we’re in a pennant race, is it a good time to do this?” he said, talking about the Cord Phelps and Jason Kipnis callups — pair particularly well with the “role model” label. By and large, though, Cabrera was an excellent teammate.
- All right, a little more about Ubaldo. We all know how much the Indians value the “high-character” component of a player’s makeup, and Jimenez fits the mold wonderfully. Acta knows him fairly well and called him a “Class A human being,” while Antonetti called him “very bright” and a “good, stable person.” When you’re making a trade of this magnitude, you certainly don’t want to inherit any headaches or head cases. If nothing else, the Indians don’t have to worry about that.
- As you might expect, the Indians place a great deal of value on Jimenez’s home/road splits. Ubaldo was 3-5 with a 5.55 ERA, a .310 average against, an .885 OPS against, 51 strikeouts, 25 walks and nine homers allowed in 61 2/3 innings in Coors Field this season. Elsewhere, he was 3-4 with a 3.38 ERA, a .183 average against, a .561 OPS against, 67 strikeouts, 26 walks and just one homer allowed in 61 1/3 innings. Huge, huge difference, and the Indians think he’ll benefit from leaving the high altitude for the humidity.
- The Indians also note that Jimenez’s overall numbers this year are tainted by his slow start, which they attribute to the hip flexor/groin issue he took into the season proper. Jimenez skipped winter ball over the offseason to instead take a trip to Europe — a decision he would later claim to regret — and that impacted his preparedness. He’s certainly been a different pitcher since June 1 (6-4 record, 3.03 ERA in the 11 starts that preceded Saturday’s short outing) than he was beforehand (6.75 ERA in April, 5.45 ERA in May).
- As for Ubaldo’s drop in velocity (Fangraphs.com has his fastball averaging 93.4 mph after a 96.1 mark in 2009 and ’10), the Indians had him clocked up to 98 and hitting 93-94 consistently. They still he feel he has above-average velocity.
- The move to the American League will undoubtedly affect Ubaldo, though to what degree is anybody’s guess. (How’s that for insight?) He’s only had 12 starts against AL clubs in his career, going 6-4 with a 4.08 ERA and .271 average against, if that matters to you at all… and it probably shouldn’t.
- For what it’s worth, I asked an AL scout very familiar with the Indians’ system for his take on the Ubaldo trade: “They took on a lot of risk between decreased velocity, questionable delivery, and the two top level prospects they gave up,” he said. “However, Ubaldo has a quality makeup and a great contract, so it’s not hard to see why they took the chance… Probably the kind of deal that hurts a little to pull the trigger on, but in the long run works for both sides. Assuming, of course, that they can win some games now, because there’s a good chance Pomeranz and White are pitching for the Rox for a while.”
- How long will Ubaldo be pitching with the Indians? Well, they have affordable contractual control through 2013. The 2014 proposition is cloudy. Ubaldo has the option of voiding the $8 million club option for that season. When I asked Antonetti what Jimenez’s deadline is for deciding (can he wait until 2013 to make the call?), Antonetti said the contract language is “ambiguous.” Obviously, if Jimenez has the ability to wait that long and performs anywhere near his capabilities, he’ll be worth way more than $8 million and wouldn’t dare give the Indians that option. Until this is all cleared up, bet on Jimenez remaining with the Tribe through 2013, unless they work out some longer extension along the way or they dangle him on the trade market at some later juncture.
- I’m still shocked that the Rockies allowed Jimenez to make that start Saturday night. Antonetti said there was a “high level of anxiety” watching him, which likely translates to, “I was not pleased.” The Indians scratched Drew Pomeranz and Alex White well in advance of the final particulars of the deal getting nailed down. It was up to the Rockies to decide what to do with Ubaldo.
- Hopefully you read my initial take on the trade. I suppose it’s a credit to the strong PR work the Indians have done in promoting their prospects that so many fans (not all, by any means, but definitely more than a few) have moaned about this deal. It really is a hard trade to love, simply because the Indians had so much of their future invested in Alex White and Drew Pomeranz. Yes, I’m quite familiar with the TINSTAPP (There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect) proposition and am obviously quite familiar with the past examples of Jaret Wright and Adam Miller (guys the Indians refused to dangle and later wished they had). But I also know that There Is Such A Thing As CC Sabathia. Sometimes these guys you groom come as advertised. Trading your two most prominent pitching prospects, unproven as they are, for a proven ace? Not a bad notion, in theory. But just how proven is Ubaldo Jimenez? He’s shown he can dominate at this level, but not over a truly sustained stretch. In the final analysis, if I were an Indians fan, I’d be encouraged by the home/road splits, the contractual control and the fact that Jimenez will be placed in Tim Belcher’s capable hands. And I’d be awfully intrigued by this window of opportunity the Indians have expanded for themselves through 2013 and awfully hopeful that they got this one right. It’s high-risk, high-reward at its height.