Monday, October 27, 2008

An honest-to-God Tribe trade rumor

No one will argue that Opening Day is the best baseball day of the year, but for me - and other Tribe fans who have played the 'wait-'til-next-year' game all their lives - the start of the off-season trading season brings about almost as much anticipation.

That season got underway officially - and just a touch early today - with the Plain Dealer reporting about talks between the Tribe and Royals involving 3B Mark Teahen.

According to the report by Paul Hoynes, the Royals need a CF. Ben Francisco, Franklin Gutierrez and Trever Crowe were mentioned as possibilities.

With a glut of outfielders at the major and minor league level, and Andy Marte as the only guy with a 3B officially next to his name on the Tribe's current roster, the gut reaction is to say this makes plenty of sense from the Tribe's point of view.

But lets look at a few things before we jump to any conclusions.

Teahen has been in the outfield the past couple of years, but he broke in with the Royals at 3B. He moved to the outfield to make room at 3B for Alex Gordon in KC. He played some 3B, 1B, and all the outfield spots for the Royals in '08, but mostly he played right field. Still, I would have no problems with his defense at 3B.

He hit only .255 with 15 HRs and 59 RBIs. His OPS, a lackluster .715.

The Indians shed a 3B with better numbers (a certain fellow who ended the season with the Dodgers and who may be seen again in NE Ohio once he officially becomes a free agent shortly after the World Series.) They also have another corner infielder, Ryan Garko, who despite a penchant to hang himself by swinging for the fences, put up numbers that eclipsed Teahen's at least by a little.

Still it is true the Andy Marte is - at the moment - the Tribe's only 3B. And they do have outfielders of a similar quality to one-another coming out of their ears.

Tribe fans, like fans of most teams, tend to overvalue the young, developing players in their organization. Franklin Gutierrez is one of those guys whose ceiling may not be as high as many seem to believe it is. With his lackluster performance at the plate in '08, Gutierrez' star is falling - at least as I view it. That defense and that arm would be hard to part with. But outfield defense - especially with Grady Sizemore roaming center field - is a secondary asset for a corner outfielder. Gutierrez, in my book, is expendable.

Ben Francisco came up a little short of expectations in '08 as well, and in fact his final numbers were not unlike those of Teahen. Francisco tailed off in the second half of the year, which might be attributed to his playing pretty much his first full year in the bigs, and to the pressure of batting third due to the plethora of injuries the Tribe had in the middle of the lineup last season. But, it could also be that the league figured out Francisco and got the better of him in the second half. No way to say for certain if that was the case. Nor is there any way to be sure he will readjust and be a seriously productive hitter. While I'd be less likely to deal Francisco, it's not out of the question.

With the addition of Michael Brantley from Milwaukee in the CC deal, Crowe becomes someone the Tribe could deal as well.

Nabbing Mark Teahen might make some sense, as the Tribe would be dealing from surplus to fill a shortage. But I would wait a while to make a move on this deal, until the Tribe can figure out if the player that would be traded for him might better be used in a package to acquire someone more exciting to play third, or second - or to pitch (starter or reliever).

If the Tribe waits and Teahen is snapped up by someone else (doubtful) then what have we lost really? A younger Casey Blake. If the off-season drags on and no solution at 3B is evident, than maybe you make a deal.

The best part about the Teahen story is that it gets the ball rolling on what will hopefully be an off-season full of rumors and - more importantly - real action.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Isaac gone, problems solved

The off-season ahead is going to require lots of activity by the Tribe's front office if the team is to make a strong run at the Central Division next year.

The moves are already underway. The first one - I must say - is not one I had anticipated.

Bullpen coach Luis Isaac has been whacked. We're going all the way now.

Luis Isaac has been in the Tribe organization for 44 years.

Have we won a championship in those 44 years?

Case closed.

I have no way of knowing what goes on in the Tribe bullpen, in coaches meetings and in the locker room in general.

So perhaps the firing is justifiable.

But Isaac seems to have been able to do whatever job was put before him for four decades.

He's worked for numerous managers and managements. I've never read anything but good things about Isaac.

In a Plain Dealer story about the firing, Isaac took the dismissal in stride, and one of his former charges - possible 2009 closer Jensen Lewis - had good things to say.

"Louie was like a father to all of us in the bullpen. Last year down the stretch and in the playoffs we really leaned on him. He was always steady, always calm. You could ask him anything."

Again there may be reasons why the first move of the off-season was to get rid of the old guy who carries the catchers mitt around in the bullpen.

And Tribe manager Eric Wedge sure gave Isaac every chance to find another job - firing him pretty much the minute the plane touched down on the last flight of the last road trip of the season.

But to me, this move seems rather Yankee-esque.

Someone's head should roll, why not Isaac's?

Speaking of Wedge, he talked of plans for next year with the Plain Dealer. There weren't too many surprises.

He expects another solid year out of Cliff Lee next year and that Fausto Carmona - who never got it together this injury-plagued year - will be back on track next year. The rest of the rotation - in addition to a likely acquisition of a veteran from someplace - will come from the following group: Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers, Scott Lewis, Anthony Reyes, Zach Jackson and David Huff.

The Tribe will look for a closer, but is thinking of Jensen Lewis as a Plan B.

Wedge also said Jhonny Peralta's position will be determined by whether the team is able to get a second baseman or a third basemen during the off-season. Again, no surprise.

The manager also said Josh Barfield will get another shot at 2B, if there's an opening there.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of the interview is the depth to which Ryan Garko apparently is still in the Wedge dog house:

"Instead of saying, 'I had a great year, I tied for the team lead in RBI,' he needs to say, 'I did OK, but I need to do better.' I think he's capable of being a part of this. He can be an everyday player or a role player, depending on which guy shows up. . . . It's nothing I haven't said to him."

Ya think Garko's name will be uttered on the Tribe's end of any trade talks?