Sunday, June 15, 2008

Shapiro not ready to bail on season

Tribe GM Mark Shapiro says the Indians will wait as long as they can before pulling the 'abort-mission' button.

And he says and if the time comes to make 'next-year' trades, we'll be seeing the Tribe reload rather than rebuild.

As for this year, if he determines the division title is still a realistic goal when the trading season heats up, his main concern is the bullpen.

Those are the main points to take away from an in-game interview with Rick Manning and Matt Underwood on SportsTime Ohio on Saturday night.

Those interviews are often more revealing than you'd expect, as Shapiro is about as forthcoming as a GM can be in a situation like that and Manning seems to ask the right questions.

"At no time this year have I thought or will I think about a rebuilding," Shapiro said in response to a question from Underwood. "It's just a question of do you take certain guys who are in the last year of deals. Do you look at, can we bolster next year's club?"

Translation: If the time comes when we don't think we can win this year, we will look only to trade people we may lose to free agency (CC Sabathia, Paul Byrd), or anyone we consider dead wood for next year.

And how do you decide when to fish and when to cut bait?

Shapiro says you have to ask yourself a few questions and answer them honestly.

"It's a mixture of your emotional side and your subjective feelings, but also to objectively ask, Is the team good enough? Is someone in the Central too good to catch? Are we a championship caliber team?"

Which way is he leaning right now?

"Our feeling is we've got some guys that are coming back – (Victor) Martinez and (Travis) Hafner, (Fausto) Carmona – that can bolster this club so we're going to be very careful about when we make that decision."

Translation: We really don't know yet. If the current roster can hang close for a while yet, we just may still keep this team together and go for it.

Complicating the decision, Shapiro says, is the fact that teams are becoming less and less likely to give up what the Tribe would want for Sabathia - young major leaguers, or major-league-ready players who will make next year's team better.

"I can tell you that in general the Bartolo Colon trades just don't get made anymore. ... The going price today for any player is less," Shapiro says. "There's a greater reality across the board in all markets, not just the small and mid markets, that young talent is not only cost effective, but that balance in terms of having the veteran players and the young players is a more effective way to win."

He points to the Boston Red Sox as the prime example of a successful mix of vets and up-and-comers.

And should the Tribe decide to be a buyer instead of a seller as the trade deadline approaches, Shapiro says it's the bullpen that is his biggest worry.

"That's a bigger issue than our offense. You see the offense every minute of the game so you feel that more frequently and when the offense struggles nothing feels worse, nothing feels less energetic than a team that's not hitting. But the reality is that even when we lead in games we're going to have to turn it over to the bullpen at some point."

Shapiro says Raffy Perez and Masa Kobayashi - and Joe Borowski since his return from the DL - are the only three guys in the pen coming close to expectations.

And so what to do there?

"We need to get Raffy Betancourt back to being what he can be. We need to get a few other guys to step up and we even need to get Perez even closer to what he was last year."

And says Shapiro, the injury bug has bitten the bullpen, if indirectly.

"Adam Miller, Brian Slocum have taken themselves out of it because of injuries. We're going to have to continue to look for guys."

To be sure.


Hafner update:'s Anthony Castrovince reports Hafner is not ready to go out on a rehab assignment as it was expected he might as the Tribe heads out of town and out west this week. The report says they'll take another look at the DH when they return home May 23.

During the TV interview Saturday night, Manning asked Shapiro if the Tribe might be targeting the All-Star break (July 18) as a time for Pronk's return. Shapiro says he's still hoping it will be sooner than that. He also said he's hopeful Fausto Carmona will be back in the Tribe's rotation by the end of this month.

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