“No retreat, no surrender”

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
On Twitter: @Castrovince

Was that the alluring, tonal, British voice of Dido I heard coming out of Terry Francona just now?

“There will be no white flag above my door,” Francona said.

Well, no, he didn’t say or sing that specifically, but he came quite close.

“We will never raise the white flag,” Tito said after the Justin Masterson trade. “That’s not an option. We’re going to play.”

My guess is Francona will have to say something similar very soon, when the Indians do what some would say is the responsible thing and trade Asdrubal Cabrera.

Or maybe he’ll say it after the Indians acquire John Lackey.

mastersonHeck, maybe they’ll make both moves before 4 p.m. ET Thursday.

But whether or not another move is made, Francona is right. This isn’t front-office fluff; this is the way business is done in baseball today. The notion of Trade Deadline “buyers and sellers” is far too black and white for the current competitive climate, as Chris Antonetti artfully explained.

“I think oftentimes people look at it as one or the other,” Antonetti said. “That you’re either buyers or sellers. I think teams may take a more nuanced approach to that. You may have different goals heading into the Deadline. It could be repositioning your roster, taking advantage of a position where you have some depth to supplement another area.”

Did you notice that, at the same time the Indians dealt their former ace pitcher and preached competitiveness, the last-place Cubs traded for Felix Doubront mere weeks after selling off other assets? The Deadline is free-flowing. It is a time for general managers to be opportunistic, because it is a prime time for evaluating rosters, scouting systems and, above all else, prompting action.

Realistically, the Indians’ already faint 2014 postseason hopes (12.7 percent, per Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds) aren’t much – if at all – worse without Masterson than they were with him. And they’re probably not much worse without Cabrera (whose lackluster performance in high-leverage situations I cited earlier) than they are with him.

Sure, that sounds purely pessimistic on a lot of fronts. For one, it’s pessimistic about Masterson, who, for all we know, might have two months of brilliance in him if he’s now mechanically and mentally right after his DL stay.

But the Indians would have paid a handsome price to find out the effects of that retooling period. They would have given up any opportunity to acquire young talent in exchange for Masterson (the qualifying offer wasn’t going to happen at this stage) and, oh by the way, paid the big right-hander another $3 million.

I love what the Indians did here. James Ramsey adds another outfield bat to a system suddenly teeming with them, and the offensive abyss of this era means you can never have enough bats on hand. MLB.com had Ramsey ranked as the Cards’ sixth-best prospect at the outset of the year, and he automatically becomes the Indians’ fifth-highest-rated prospect.

And as I wrote in analyzing Cabrera’s case earlier this week, the $3 million savings is not chump change. Not when 60 percent of your 2015 roster is tied up in seven guys. If they can save another $3 million in moving A-Cab, all the better.

The Indians don’t have a No. 2 starter behind Corey Kluber right now. They just don’t. They have Danny Salazar finally figuring out that he needs to flash his fastball from the very beginning of outings instead of trying to go all 2011-era Justin Verlander on the opposition and ease into things. They’ve got T.J. House, who has shown some flashes. They’ve got Trevor Bauer, who has made giant strides this season. This is, by no means, an overwhelming, overpowering group. But I’d rather keep running the kids out there on a regular basis than pine for something that might never come back again. Besides, no bridges have been burned with Masterson. He remains eminently signable, remains quite fond of the organization, and his price tag has dropped precipitously.

Maybe Masterson would have become that No. 2 (or No. 1) starter again. But he would have had to do it damn quickly to make it worth the Indians’ while, and walking six guys in Columbus the other night was not a great start.

The Indians are in a position where they have to take even the slightest shot at contending seriously. But at the same time, they’re in a spot where they can’t ignore opportunities to capitalize on value. This seller’s market has afforded them a big opportunity. The Cardinals actually bid pretty boldly on Masterson’s two-month potential. The long list of clubs in need of a middle-infield upgrade could lead to a bold bid for Asdrubal.

In this particular area, the Indians were and are in a good spot. They can pounce on those opportunities without waving the white flag.

~AC

8 Comments

Please, who are we kidding? It’s sell time, and our season is toasted. It was fun while it lasted, but we’re mired in mediocrity for this season.

But look out for 2015!!!

Good analysis. Too many fans do not see the big picture, the intricate needs, and the process. The Indians desperately needed to trade for a potential power bat; Ramsey has more power potential at AAA now than the rest of the outfield in Columbus. Bourn is consistently a liability. I love the Dickenson trade…but will he hit for power…and how long can he remain at this level? This was an excellent trade for the indians. Excellent.

If you are expecting big power numbers from this guy I think you will be disappointed. He is mostly a slap hitter with Murphy-like pop. I’d call him a borderline prospect at best but I hope he surprises me.

Ramsey has some power potential, but Moncrief has more than him. Bourn’s only liability is that he is really expensive and suddenly we have lots of cheaper possibly comparable OF options in the minors, but production wise he is doing not bad, definitely better than Swisher. Dickerson trade initially was fine as a stop-gap, it really was nothing more, now he is struggling and Holt needs his chance against more RHP and Francona has to stop going to a strict platoon with him.
Ramsey has shown more power in the minors in two years than Murphy showed in his highest SLG was .443, his highest HR total was 14, second was 11 years in 5 minor league seasons. Ramsey has SLGs of .525 this year and .440 last year over two levels and has already surpassed Murphy’s homer high in his only two full minor league seasons. They really are not comparable at all.

Pitiful….Big Picture….Please….lost a good pitcher and a great guy….same old same old….was excited when Tito came….will not be renewing my tics for “next year”…our yearly Montra …Enjoy St Louis Justin….

Oh, well…if we lost A GREAT GUY… What the hell is that???

Such a great article, I definitely agree with you Anthony. I must admit that I was a little upset when we didn’t give Masty that extension earlier in ST, but now, that decision is making Antonetti look very smart. Not only can that money be allocated to guys like, let me guess, Corey Kluber, but also, I think the young core of starters can benefit from these opportunities.

So glad the Indians dumped some Dead Weight in Masterson. The only thing is i don’t understand why another left handed bat and why an outfielder. It’s not like we’re desperately seeking left handed batting outfielders. My guess would be he’s future trade bait. A possible throw in with someone else!

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