Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Tribe on a treadmill

Well, ‘that time of year again’ has come a few weeks early this year.

It’s the time of year when we as Tribe fans are supposed to get all excited because we ‘stole' one of somebody’s best prospects.

And we’ll probably be doing it again sometime over the next five weeks.

And isn’t it wonderful that we now have this great big bundle of potential under our control for X number of years minus 1, the ‘minus 1’ being this soon-to-be superstar’s ‘walk’ year.

Or since he’s with the Tribe, his ‘trade’ year, since the team knows if they don’t deal him when that time comes he is sure to walk a few months later.

At the right time, we can always deal him for a couple of more big bundles of potential that will be under the team’s control for x -1 years, until they too get peddled in yet another use-it-or-lose-it trade.

Anybody think this is like watching your nutcase dog chasing his tail?

Mark DeRosa was around long enough to impress as a hitter, a hustler and a good teammate, though his “super utility” tag seems to me to be a bit misleading since he was underwhelming at four different positions in the field for the Tribe.

His bat and his presence will be missed, though his trade to St. Louis doesn’t have any emotional sting, unlike many similar trades in the past, because DeRosa wasn’t around here long enough for the fans to get attached to him.

The only emotion it stirs with me is anger, and not because I think it was a bad move. I am just sick and tired of being on the “prospect” end of these deals year after year after year. Just once I’d like to be sending a few of these ‘can’t miss’ guys to some other team for a sure-thing veteran to help the team in its quest for the post season.

The last trade we made that even resembled that was the Kenny Lofton deal two years ago. And he was a difference-maker, right up until one member of the current brain trust held him up at 3B.

Prior to that I can’t remember when the Tribe was on the seasoned-veteran end of one of those deals, but it goes all the way back to when Charlie Manual – that old fart baseball guy who just couldn’t get into the sabermetrics thing (but did manage to win a World Series last year) - was still managing the team.

Looking at the DeRosa deal at face value it’s hard to argue with.

DeRosa is free to sign anywhere this winter, and even if the Tribe were to be inclined to spend some money this offseason I doubt it will be on a bat. It certainly won’t be on a super utility guy with some pretty good pop and a clanky glove. DeRosa would be nice to have around, but any money the Dolan’s pony up this year will be sorely needed to fix the mess on that bump in the middle of the infield.

Chris Perez is the first “off-season” move made to fix that ugly situation. He has struck out 30 hitters in 23.2 innings this year, but he’s also walked 15, which is somewhere between 4 and 5 per 9 innings. His numbers from last season pretty much follow the same pattern. He throws in the mid-90s, but his strikeouts are said to come on his wicked slider. But, like so many Tribe players, there’s not much of a track record and since even those pitchers on this team who had decent resumes have all regressed alarmingly, I’ll wait more than a little while before I get excited.

As I look over the Tribe’s roster, it’s hard to say who may be the next Tribesman to head out of town for a piece of promise. Only Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez fit the classic mould of a difference-maker being sent packing for prospects. But they are not in their walk years until next year and to trade either one of them would send the message that the situation is too hopeless right now to even consider next season to be a possible success. It would kill off what little flicker of fan interest that remains.

There’s talk that the Tribe would trade Lee if they are overwhelmed, and the package includes a young, major-league-ready, potentially top-of-the-rotation starter. But why would anybody trade a guy like that for Lee? And even if somebody does, that word “potential” is still part of the above description. Once again the Tribe would be chasing two birds in the bush for the one they have in hand.

As far as Victor goes, I think the Indians brain trust would be killing off baseball interest altogether in Cleveland if they trade Martinez, even next year. Every team has to have at least one guy that the city can rally around – to call their own. Victor may be the guy the Dolan’s will have to pony up for if they want to keep the flicker of interest in the Tribe burning.

The rest of the veterans, I would presume, are not guys that there is a clamor for.

Somebody might bite on Ryan Garko. But please don’t offer him around as a part-time left fielder. It’s stretching it a little bit to say he’s a first baseman.

Peralta seems to have some value as a 3B, and no doubt Eric Wedge would like to see him gone. But how much would you get for him based on his performance this season and his slacker reputation?

Travis Hafner is damaged goods with a big contract. He is untradeable.

Jamey Carroll would seem to be about the most appealing bit of trade bait on the club right now.

Except for Lee, there’s almost no one who is of any interest on the pitching staff.

Any trade of Kerry Wood would fit into the same giving-up-on-next-year category that Lee and Martinez are in. I continue to believe that Woods’ problems would disappear if he were pitching on a team that presented him with a save situation more than once every 10 days or so.

So we will spend the next five weeks combing the Internet for trade rumors, hoping for the Tribe to find several diamonds in the rough. But I really wonder how effective we can expect that strategy to be.

In the ‘90s, the Tribe grew enough of its own players (Thome, Nagy, Ramirez, Belle to name a few) that the addition of prospects from other teams (Mesa, S. Alomar, Omar, Lofton) were enough to provide a team full of talent for several years. So the misses on people like Reggie Jefferson and Glenallen Hill were less consequential.

With the farm system producing next to nothing on its own over the past several years, every trade for prospects has to hit pay dirt for the team to have enough talent to win. While Grady Sizemore, Lee, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-soo Choo can be considered successes, there’s not enough talent coming from within to overcome the trade market misses (Jesse Barfield, Andy Marte, and Anthony Reyes to name a recent few).

With such a failure to develop home grown talent, or to properly develop that talent, pretty much every player acquired in these veteran-for-prospects deals has to pan out for there to be enough talent in the organization to field a playoff-potential team.

Without a highly extraordinary success rate on these deals, they amount to little more than the aforementioned tail chasing.

So excuse me if I fail to get to overly excited about another selloff of veterans in the next few weeks.

It’s just that time of year in what has become just another part of the schedule for the Tribe.

Wake me when enough of these prospects come together at the same time, with something important on the line and live up to their acquisition-day billing.

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