Monday, July 27, 2009

Bodies on the move, as the Tribe's future hangs in the balance


Went away for a few days - down to Virginia to help my brother-in-law celebrate a milestone birthday.

And while I was away sampling pulled pork in like seven different varieties of barbecue sauce - and darting from car air conditioner, to home air conditioner, to hotel air conditioner - the Tribe was plenty busy on the field and off.

As I was packing my bags to go, so was Raffie Betancourt. And just about the time I was pulling into the driveway this evening - souvenir ham and peanuts in tow - Ryan Garko was being given an all-expense-paid trip Frisco.

To add to all that, the Tribe also announced the PTBNL in the Mark DeRosa trade of a few weeks ago.

As the dust settled, the Tribe found itself with two high-ceiling, class-A starting pitchers and two candidates for the back end of the bullpen for this year and beyond (including Chris Perez who is already with the club).

Meanwhile, while I was away from my satellite dish, the Tribe had its best weekend of the season on the field, winning three times in Seattle and putting up 31 runs in the process - and getting good pitching to boot.

Perhaps the biggest news of all was the fact that Jeremy Sowers got past the fifth inning with his head still intact on Saturday night.

On Sunday the Tribe announced they picked up reliever Jess Todd - 24 saves and 2.20 ERA at Memphis - from St. Louis to complete the DeRosa deal. Todd should come up (I would hope sooner than later) and get his feet wet on the big club some time this year. With Chris Perez getting his act together in his last five outings or so, it looks like the Tribe got a decent haul for DeRosa and has taken a first couple of steps to repair the bullpen for next year.

From the Rockies, in return for Betancourt, the Tribe got Class A right-handed starter Connor Graham. He's at Class A, so who who knows. But he's got 87 Ks in 80 innings this year. At 6'-7" though, he has control trouble - having walked one batter every two innings. He'll remain a starter this year, but with only a two-pitch arsenal he could be considered for a bullpen role as well. But not if the walks keep up at their current pace.

Which brings us to tonight's deal - Garko for Class A lefty starter Scott Barnes. Again, he's Class A so we've only got numbers to go on and a lot can go wrong as he moves up the ladder. But Barnes this season is 12-3 with a 2.85 ERA.

As distasteful as it is to keep sending major leaguers away for guys who may never see Progressive Field, to this point I'm on board.

That is, I was on board as I made the obvious assumption that last-year's big name acquisition in the CC Sabathia deal - Matt LaPorta - would be heading to the coast to join the Tribe in Disneyland.

What's that you say? Andy Marte is going to be making that trip instead of LaPorta? Good one! Oh, you're not kidding.

While I, in recent weeks, have advocated giving Marte one last shot with the Tribe in this lost season, 1B is not what I had in mind. I realize Jhonny Peralta has been smashing the ball during my four-day hiatus, but what is the point of playing Marte at first?

Makes you wonder if Shapiro and crew have seen something that makes them a lot less excited about LaPorta than they were a year ago at this time.

This would seem to be the perfect time to bring him up, and it does beg the question - just what is the front office's hesitation with LaPorta?

Apparently while I was away, there were also rumors of a blockbuster deal that would send Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee to the Dodgers, with names like Clayton Kershaw and James Loney tossed around as being among those players who would be coming this way.

The Dodgers have flat out denied the rumors - started by FOX sports - and's Rhett Bollinger reported Sunday that the fantasy-baseball-like deal appears to be just that.

Still the New York Post's Joel Sherman reports the vultures continue to circle above the carcass that is the 2009 Cleveland Indians hoping to come away with Victor, or Lee - or both.

Sherman quotes one MLB exec (unidentified) who says deals for Victor and Lee are likely - and will be forced by the Tribe's need to cut payroll nearly in half next season because of all the empty seats at the home ballpark.

One club executive said he would bet "1,000 percent" that Cleveland moves Lee and Martinez because of financial reasons. This executive said that the economy has hurt the Indians as bad as any club and noted that the three players who make the most for the Indians next year are Travis Hafner ($11 million), Jake Westbrook ($11 million) and Kerry Wood ($10.5 million).

"That is $33 million for three players they can't trade and know are going to be part of their team next year when they will probably have to lower their payroll into the $50 million range," the executive said. "How do they get to that number with Lee ($8 million in 2010) and Martinez ($7 million) on the team, also?"

If it is true that a payroll cut of that magnitude is in the offing for the Tribe next year, and with the fan base as bitter as it is already, questions about the viability of the franchise would be the next thing to swirl above the heads of the Tribe.


Anonymous said...

No way the Tribe payroll goes down to $50M, or needs to. It's bad this year....but not over $30M bad (our payroll was over $80M to start the year). That's flat out ridiculous that guy said that.

I'm not suprised at all about LaPorta not getting the call. I'm actually glad. He's actually in a bit of a funk right now and wouldn't get the playing time he needs.

I am a bit suprised that Jordan Brown wasn't the one promoted. He's actually got a higher Batting Average than Marte and has been hitting over .400 the last 2 weeks or so.

Plays 1B/LF/RF....just like Garko.

Actually was hoping BOTH MArte and Brown were called up (we had a freakin ONE MAN bench last night!! Are you kidding me?).

Mike Gosling has pitched FOUR TIMES this ENTIRE month!!!! I seriously feel like I'm trapped in a Twilight Zone Wedge still thinks it "makes more sense to have an extra bullpen arm" is beyond comprehension.

Even Pavano went 6 innings last night when he didn't have his best stuff. We CLEARLY do NOT need 8 men in the pen. Abreu got suspended for 3, really? Like he was ever gonna see the field in those 3 days.

I really like Shapiro, he's clearly one of the 3-4 best GMs in the game....but keeping Wedge is a mistake that really can not be overlooked. I'm been on Shap's side all year....but he NEEDS to step up and force Wedge to add another bench guy. RIDICULOUS!

ugh, sorry about the rant......

Anonymous said...

What is the point of bringing up Marte to play first? To find out if he can finally hit major league pitching now that he has mastered AAA pitching. There is no question that he can play first or third so it does not matter at all which he plays and he probably will play both. Just more AB available at first right now.

Marte has a decision due NOW on him. LaPorta as much as it upsets people can wait until next year if necessary.

Indians have decisions to make on what their team will look like and Garko was not being considered in their future nor should he have been. So why anyone would be shocked he is gone or upset at him being gone is a bit of a surprise.

Indians have done a nice job of adding pitching talent that should help next year or the year after and giving up NOBODY that was going to be here next year. Garko was not going to be here, we have several better. DeRosa was not going to be here too expensive. And Betancourt could return for a lessor contract than his option.

All shedding extra weight for potential. Good moves.

By the way if your blogging gets you access to any major league GM or managers ask any of them if they would just dump Peralta as you suggest, let us know. NOBODY would do what you think makes sense.

Bob said...

The other consideration: if Marte finally performs well enough to stay on the roster and avoid free agency, it is ultimate vindication for Shapiro in making what has been a controversial trade.

Anonymous said...

Matt LaPorta is 23, in need of further development, slumping lately and under team control for several years.

Andy Marte is 25 and will be a minor league free agent at the end of the season. The Indians have one last chance to see if can be part of their future.

Not really a difficult decision.

Anonymous said...

Matt LaPorta is 24 actually....born January 1985.....

Again, I don't have a problem with bring up Marte (I like the decision)....having only 3 bench players is unacceptable.

Of the 30 teams in baseball...we are the ONLY team with a 3-man bench.....

Ron Vallo said...

To the writer of the second comment, I never advocated in this post or any other that they "just dump Peralta." So please don't put words in my mouth.

But given the current situation, and his pouting attitude all season about switching positions, why can't they just bench the guy in favor of Marte?

Why make Marte learn a new position while he is also shouldering the pressure of his "last chance" with the Tribe?

I have no problem with bringing up Marte, as I said in this post. I would just rather have him playing 3B. Haven't we seen enough guys moved all over the diamond this season?

My fondest wish is for Marte to finally prove himself - at 3B - and send Peralta packing over the winter. I'd say the chances of that are about 25/75, but I'd like to see an attempt at making that happen.

With Marte trying to prove himself at the plate, you only complicate the situation by having him play a new position. True he has played some 1B in recent weeks, but he's been a 3B for his career.

So, are we really seeing Marte in an optimum situation if he is trying to both prove himself at the plate and learn a new position?

If he fails there will always be that doubt about whether he might have done better with just one challenge laid on him, not two.

Anonymous said...


Marte has played 1B as far back as spring training 2008. It's not exactly a new position for him, no more than 3B is for Peralta.

And why send Peralta packing evne if Marte proves himself? (I was the first poster, not the 2nd) People forget how good Peralta was at the plate the last 2 years. AND that he's only 1.5 years older than Marte.

As far as Peralta's pouting....I really can't blame him. Either the Indians should have moved him in spring training permanently to 3B or not at all this year. He really didn't show that much issue with it over the winter. he actually played 3B in winter ball after the Indians asked him too. He didn't get really upset til they tried moving him during the year. He was in the middle of a huge slump at the time. That's tough for anyone to do.

Plus he's playing for Eric Wedge...that alone has to be extremely frustrating, lol.

I have way, WAY more confidence in Peralta being a 20HR-100 RBI guy next year at 3B than Marte......

But we shall see.....

Ron Vallo said...

True, we have to wait and see. But if we have Marte at 1B and Peralta at 3B for next year, that leaves only LF for LaPorta. And really no place for Victor other than catcher (assuming he's not gone in the next few days.) And I really don't think he should catch 140 games anymore.

If Marte proves something (as I said about 25/75, Peralta could be used to get some pitching. Still, I think Marte will likely proves himself to be a 4-A player again and moving Peralta will be moot.

Anonymous said...

Another thing to remember mention Marte not playing a lot of 1B...but neither has LaPorta.

Yes, LaPorta did play a good amount of 1B in college, but prior to this year, had fewer than 10 games at 1B in the pros.

He is TERRIBLE at 1B right now. Like scary bad. He needs to work on his defense there before being brought up. Marte is a solid defensive 3B, which makes 1B a much easier position for him. It's a lot easier staying at a corner infield position than moving from the OF to 1B.

I also think LaPorta should play LF almost exclusively when he is finally brought back up. We don't have a true LFer for next year. We don't really have a 1B now either....but if we don't trade Victor, we just might. Don't be suprised if Victor is then starting 130-140 games at 1B next year with Toregas getting a good look behind the plate.

Toregas is the 'forgotten' catcher in the minors....but was named the AAA All-Star starter (Marte was our other starter in Columbus and Brown was a reserve). He's hitting around .290 and has some pop.

He's also by far our best defensive catcher. He threw out over 50% of basestealers one season at Akron. Dude has a heck of an arm.

He probably will never hit well enough to be a starter....but he would be a great compliment to Santana in a year or two. Great guy that can start 1-2 days a week behind the plate and not embarass you.

I will be VERY disappointed if he doesn't get at least a September callup this season (this is his 2nd year on the 40-man roster).

Anonymous said...

I still think Martinez has a 130 game stint in him as a catcher....but only 1 maybe 2 years max.

I don't see Marte as an everyday player next year, so if he starts 3 days a week at 1B and Victor the others I could live with that.

Personally (and I've said this since November), I'd love to see Marte get some reps at 2B and the OF this winter, like we did with BArfield this past year.

Marte could turn into a nice super-utility player. He has the arm to play the OF and could become a Blake-like player (2B may be a bit of a stretch for him, but could be an emergency fill-in there at times).

Not saying do it this year, but send him to winter ball (provided we still have him) and see how he responds.

If Garko can play 'ok' in the OF, I'd think Marte could too.

I was the one too calling for Aubrey to play some OF (He was a college pitcher)....we never did though.....but in a month with the O's he's already started a game in RF for their AAA team.....

I hope we don't lose out on Marte cause we didn't want to try him in the OF too....

Anonymous said...

One thing that hasn't been discussed.....

If Marte does proves he's a legit MLer and he's found his stroke that everyone thought he had 3 years ago.....

Do you consider moving Peratla back to his natural SS spot, AC back to 2B, and starting Marte at 3B??

I know most will stream "NO!" just hearing the idea of moving Peratla back to SS, but when you really break it may not be the worst least to try later this year....

Marte has always been touted as having a great glove at 3B. Did struggle at times as a youngster, but has played GG caliber D this year in AAA.

AC could win a GG right now at 2B. There were many scouts in the minors that thought he'd be a better fit at 2B than SS anyways. He was voted as the best defensive 2B in his league once....despite playing more games at SS that year. Not saying I don't like AC at SS or that Peralta is better there (he's clearly not)....but you are losing some D at 2B by moving AC from there.

Brings us to Valbuena. He has made HUGE strides defensively in just over a year. 2 years ago he was actually very bad at 2B and couldn't even handle SS. Now he looks like a natural at 2B and handles himself just fine at SS. That said, he's not as solid as AC at 2B even now. Range still isn't the greatest.

And finally....Peralta.

He's made some great strides in a short time at 3B. Always has had a very good arm (better than AC's for sure). Has pretty soft hands for how big he is and makes all the plays that he can get to at SS (and now at 3B). Big knock on him....range. He does lack ideal range at SS and no getting around that.....but just how bad is it?

It's vastly overblown by the Cleveland media and their fans. He's pretty league average in fact at SS. Sometimes slightly below, sometimes slightly above. Will never win a gold glove (or at least shouldn't), but there are far worse SS's in the league.

So something that needs to be weighed by the Indians (and since we're at online)....

Is it better/more valuable to have a SS capable of hitting 20-25 HRs at SS (Peralta) flanked by a GG-caliber 2B (AC) and a very good defensive 3B (Marte, who is far better than Blake).....

Or is it better to go with Peralta at 3B and lose some of his offensive value, with AC at SS, and Valbuena at 2B....where you could very well lose a lot of offense....


Peralta's trade value will only go up as a SS as well....and as he's showing now, he's heating up as usual in the 2nd half.......

Just some food for thought.....