Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tribe trades Lee, Francisco; Pulls plug on this year and next

(Updated at 10:39 PM EDT with Shapiro comments)

"We had some lack of conviction with the team's ability to be a definitive contender next year. If felt we could contend with zero additions, we definitively would not have made this deal."

And so we hear from the man himself.

Tribe GM Mark Shapiro - at a news conference officially announcing the trade of Cliff Lee to Philadelphia - essentially said the front office has no illusions that the team it created will contend in 2010, so key pieces of "now" are being shipped for possible pieces of "future."

Even more depressing for the fan base, Shapiro said at the press conference that he's been told by the Dolans that they will not pony up for additions to the roster over the winter. So, having determined that without experienced reinforcements the team will go nowhere again next season, the fire sale's biggest piece of merchandise was moved, with an equally big piece about to be shipped.

Now it's wait until 2011 - at least.

But if you've followed this team long enough, you know that tomorrow (in this case 2011 or 2012) never comes.

It is awful as a fan to always be on the butt end of these kinds of trades - where you get the prospects and watch one of your team's guys go off and help fulfill some other fan's dreams.

But it's even harder in cases like this one, where the deal fails to bring in return even the promise of something better down the road.

Shapiro, as you might guess, thinks he got a pretty good haul in this deal.

"The value was compelling. It had to be compelling. We received three players who can contribute [soon] in a meaningful way, as well as one player with high upside."

I suppose he couldn't say, "Look, the Dolans are pulling the plug on this thing and I had to get something for Lee."

But how else can you explain what Shapiro settled for?

At face value, the Tribe got four of the Phillies top 10 prospects.

They got an 18-year-old pitcher who throws in the high 90's in Jason Knapp.

The other pitcher coming to the Tribe in the deal, 22-year-old Carlos Carrasco, was seen by many as the soon-to-be-No. 2 man in the Phillies rotation.

So Shapiro got what he was looking for, right? Pitching, pitching and more pitching.

Well, maybe not so much.

Knapp, the 18-year-old supposed center piece of the deal from the Tribe's standpoint, has been on the DL since July 11 with a "tired" shoulder. Arm troubles already - at age 18

As for Carrasco, he was considered the No. 1 or No. 2 pitching prospect in the Phils' organization before this year began. But this season Carrasco is 6-9 with a 5.18 ERA at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He's struck out 112 and walked 38 in 114 2/3 innings. Quickly doing the math that's pretty much exactly one walk every three innings. Carrasco was a guy the Tribe was offered last year when they were peddling CC Sabathia, and they didn't bite. And given his numbers, Carrasco's stock has dropped around the MLB this season, except maybe in one front office where a salarly dump is the main objective.

The two position players in the deal - catcher Lou Marson and SS Jason Donald - leave me equally underwhelmed.

The SS, Donald, is hitting .236 at Triple-A this year, and just got back from a stint of several weeks on the DL after knee surgery.

And Donald appears to be a utility infielder in the making.

Keep in mind these words about Donald - quoted by - are coming from Phillies assistant GM Chuck LaMar, the guy doing the selling:

"He can be an everyday player. Like anyone with his skill set, he's got to prove it at every level."

Talk about your feint praise.

"Like anyone with his skill set, he's got to prove it at every level." Translation: He doesn't have terrific tools but he's a grinder who may find his way to a big-league bench through hustle and determination. Can anyone say Jamey Carroll?

And what does the Tribe need with another SS prospect anyway? They seem to have a young middle-infield combo they are happy with right now in Luis Valbuena and Asdrubal Cabrera. I'm not sold on Valbuena - at least at the plate - but Wedgie seems to love him to death (which, of course, may not mean anything come October).

Then there's the catcher coming the Tribe's way - Lou Marson. His numbers for the season at Triple-A: .294 BA, .370 SLG, a pedestrian .751 OPS and 1 dinger. Exciting. Especially in an organization that already has about six viable catchers (soon to be one less).

You have to assume Marson's arrival will be followed by someone's departure. With the Dolans edict on offseason spending and Shapiro's conclusion that next year is already a super long-shot, that somebody will be Victor Martinez.

Shapiro's take on Marson? Well he doesn't suck, or words to that effect:

"We're really impressed with his receiving, game-calling and leadership skills. Combined with his bat, he could be at least an average everyday Major League catcher."

(While he may or may not think it, I sure am glad my boss never called me "average.")

What's not to get excited about there? We get an "average" catcher in this deal.

The Blue Jays pulled out of talks with the Phillies because they couldn't get minor leaguer Kyle Drabek - the No. 1 MiLB pitching prospect in the Philadelphia system - or AJ Happ, already doing well for himself in the bigs. In fact, the Tribe didn't get any of four players the Jays were targeting.

The Jays walked away.

Maybe the Tribe should have done the same, unless of course the chief objective was to gut the payroll and at least get something for Lee.

Earlier this week I did a post that picked up a quote from an annonymous MLB executive who said he expected the Tribe to cut its payroll down into the 50s next season - a mammoth jump from this season.

A couple of you questioned whether the Dolans would ever think of cutting that much, and I have to admit I had my doubts too.

But the quickness with which this trade was made, and the seemingly poor return, does make it appear that the chief objective was to get Lee's salary off of the books for next season. And that the same priority will prevail in the now-very-likely Victor Martinez deal.

If the Dolans think Regressive Field is too empty now, let me use a phrase that we Cleveland fans have heard a lot from the guys who have run our sports teams over the years.

Wait 'til next year.

Oh, and just one other thing before I go.

Wasn't Andy Marte brought up to play every day in a do-or-die final audition with the Tribe? I know I must have just glossed over it, but I didn't see his name in today's lineup - only the second game played since his recall.


Anonymous said...

shapiro says in news conference

"not a salary dump and these are the guys we wanted"

they have ruined this team - very simply if you put a winner on the filed the people come and spend money. We werern't the ones to bring in Delucci, Micheals, kobayashi, etc...

dont think pavano will be going - who wants him.

I know my entertainment $ is going elsewher

Tribe in Columbus said...

Deja boo.

Anonymous said...

I like all the guys we got in the Lee deal, more than probably most....

However, I do feel we should have gotten Taylor instead of one of Donald/Marson.

Donald very well could be better than Valbuena at 2B. Was rated a top 100 prospect by Keith Law this winter (as was Marson I believe).

Marson is a mystery to me....even if we deal Victor.....does Marson start over Shoppach? And does he get the call over Toregas who is having a better year at AAA both offensively and defensively. Consider both guys played in the IL (same AAA leauge)....and it was Toregas, not Marson who was named the All-Star starter behind the plate.

PLUS Gimenez, and of course Santana who should be ready no later than opening day 2011.

One thing I've been talking about with my brother......I wouldn't be shocked if one of donald/Marson (or both) are flipped in another deal this year or even this winter.

The Red Sox have made no secret of the fact they want a catcher to replace Varitek. They tried for one of the Texas ones and Montero (sp?) of the D'backs but didn't like the asking price.

The Sox also inquired on Marson who was just as highly rated as the Texas guys at the time and were told he was unavailable by the Phillies.

Could he be sent to the Sox?

The Sox ALSO expressed heavy interest in Jason Donald as a SS option as recently as this May. Lugo is gone....Nick Green is over 30 and struggling defensively. Is Jed Lowrie there guy once healthy? eh...maybe....but Donald has a higher ceiling offensively.

I could see one or both traded to the Red Sox in the near future.....

It seems the Tribe added in areas of strenght right now.....but they DID add high value I feel some sort of minor league trade could be in the works...

Though a Victor trade to boston is still a possibility.....though it makes zero sense to me. Varitek has hit as well as Vic this year. They just got LaRoche.....where is Vic gonna play/hit?

Ron Vallo said...

ya the Marson thing is puzzling, though I would take a high-average hitter over an all-or-nothing K machine like Shoppach any day. All brawn and no brains at the plate.

Still, you have Torregas and then Santana, (not sure how much stock to put into Gimenez) so yet another catcher opens the door to more questions, and as you say, more trades.

I think people will settle down a bit about the guys we got, but I think it is the idea that this is yet another complete re-do (with rumors of a huge salary cut this winter) that has people so ticked.

I don't know of too many businesses that charge you first for inferior merchandise than promise you they'll start making better widgets if you keep buying the crappy ones they're selling now.

The viscous cycle downward is well under way. The owner wont pay for players because the fans aren't coming and even fewer fans will come now because the owner wont pay for players.

The question is how long will this spiral go before we start hearing rumors about moving to New Orleans (well maybe not New Orleans these days) or playing half of our home games elsewhere - stuff we heard in the late 60s early 70s.

Fans wont pay for crap. The owner either has to be willing to invest in capital (players) and take some financial lumps until the team starts winning and the fans show up in hordes, or the owner has to get the hell out and let someone with real money take over.

They say you have to spend money to make money. And it is so true.

Anonymous said...

I wish Dolan would sell the team, and Shapiro and Wedge to just go away. We're done for the next how many years... Yeah- we suck all because of Dolan, Shapiro and Wedge. Dolan especially needs to rot..... Nothing but pure hate for that piece of.....

Anonymous said...

Again, people are going overboard.

This team isn't in ANY danger of moving.

The had the 14th highest payroll in the game this year. That's the top half of the league.

Yet we're the 4th smallest market!

Dolan actually HAS spent money.

Tribe payroll was only at $61M in 2007 when we nearly made the World Series.

It's sitting right around that for next year even if we deal Martinez.

This isn't the end of baseball in Cleveland, not even close. 2002-2004 were WAY worse years since we had a terrible system when we were adding guys.

We had a top 10 system going into this season.....we may have the best system in baseball now.

We have FIVE top 50 prospects in the game now......only the Rays have as many.

This still look bright for the Tribe.....just have to wait til 2011 likely instead of 2010.

Best thing is, Wedge will be gone by 2011 so he won't be able to screw up these new young guns.

Anonymous said...

Giminez is not a catcher. He is a utility guy that can catch if needed. Not a candidate to catch regularly.

Marson was our Olympic catcher, 3rd best catching prospect in baseball and ready to be on a major league roster now. Yes better than Shopach and better than Toregas, not as good as Santana.

Being on a major league roster makes a player better? So when Dellucci was on our roster he had more value than LaPorta because he was in the minors? Carrasco has more potential than Happ and many scouts think he will be better than Drabek.

Stop acting like a scout or organization rates these guys makes them better. It is a guess. It is totally subjective. And they give bonus points to being closer to the majors. So Sowers being in the majors rates higher than a top level prospect who is in the minors. So will team ask us for Sowers in a trade?

Donald was a top middle infield prospect who had some injuries this year that he will get over. Did Grady become worthless because he was hurt?

Carasco and Knapp are power pitchers. Both throw harder than Drabek who is a curve guy. There is nothing written in granite which of the three will have the best career. Knapp has the best arm but is the youngest. Carasco was rated over Drabek but stumbled a bit in AAA going from 21 to 22. Lee stumbled 2 years ago at what 27? Did that make him worthless? Lee hit AAA at what 24? Carasco is still 22 and has moved up the organization fast because stats do not mean that much in the minors.

All that said, it would have been nice to get another pitcher.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious to read the complete ignorance of a fan saying Wedge will not be here to screw these arms up.

Screw them up like he did CC and Lee? I thought you like Lee?

What dim bulbs you people are.

Wedge does an excellent job with young talent. Now had Shapiro only gotten him more than a player here and a player there.

Do the names, Sizemore, Cabrera, Choo, Victor, Hafner, Peralta ring any bells?

Wedge never was the problem. Take a look at the roster he took to the most wins and nearly a world Series in 07 and then look at all the talent the Cubs gave Peniella last year and did not do as well with far more talent.

But that would require thinking and an ability to be objective and evaluate talent. If you do not see that the problem with this team was the level of talent and not the manager you need a new sport to follow.

Anonymous said...

CC came up BEFORE Wedge was the manager. It was Manual that groomed him to be the pitcher he is today. In fact, it was Manual that pushed Hart to promote him in 2001 when the front office wanted to keep him in the minors.

Lee didn't become the pitcher he was today til he went to the minors.

Same thing with hitters such as Cabrera. They go to the minors, work with THOSE coaches, then come up and play better.

Grady has regressed, Peralta has regressed, even Victor hasn't gotten better under Wedge.

Other than Choo (and maybe you can include Cabrera), not a single hitter has truly blossomed under Wedge.

How'd Marte and Phillips do under Wedge? Or Barfield?

Guys tend to get worse under Wedge, NOT better, period.

Anonymous said...

Gimenez was the opening day catcher for Columbus this year. Toregas was his backup.

He also caught almost exclusively last year.

He can play everywhere, but Catcher is where he's played more than any other position over the past 3 seasons.

Not a ML starting catcher, but would make a good backup. He has a decent enough arm.

He's VERY much like Brandon Inge of the Tigers.

If you needed him to catch 100 games he could. If you needed him to play 130 games at 3B he could. Need him in the OF? Yup, he can do that.

Isn't as good defensively at 3B as Inge....but may have even more power.

Also, Marson is NOT the 3rd best catching prospect in the game...not even close actually.

Carlos Santana was just ranked the 3rd best catching prospect in baseball by Baseball America about a week ago when they did their midseason top 50 prospects.

Jesus Montero of the Yankees was ranked 1st (3rd overall) and Buster Posey of the Giants was ranked 2nd (6th overall).....meanwhile Santana was ranked 7th overall.

There's a few other catchers ranked higher as well.

Not dissing Marson here. He is still a nice prospect, but his star has fallen some.

Has no power and his arm isn't that great. His defense is overrated. Better than anyone's but Toregas in our system, but that's not saying a whole lot.

Toregas actually profiles better as a backup catcher in the long run.

And don't forget that Shoppach was a top 5 catcher in all of the minor leagues at one point. He still has value (though not much trade) and there's no guarantee that Marson will be better overall (though again, he very likely could be).

I do like Donald.....but he is overrated. He wasn't a top prospect til a great year at AA last year and flat out amazing run during the AFL last year.

But he very likely will just be a utility infielder in the MLs. He 'could' hit 20 HRs.....then again, they said the same thing about Josh Rodriguez 2 years ago, now he's stuck in AA (though hurt).

A nice haul for the Tribe.....just wish there was one more big time prospect in there (like Michael Taylor)....