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Corner of Carnegie & Ontario: "Clark, we're stuck under a truck"

Corner of Carnegie & Ontario: "Clark, we're stuck under a truck"
July 21, 2012
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Treading water.

Nobody likes when their team is treading water, and that’s just what the Cleveland Indians are doing. Let’s not beat around the bush, the Tribe has been treading water since the beginning of April. Their record stands at 47-46, they are without a true star that can carry the team, and while they certainly have solid players, it’s doubtful that they can make a big run that all eventual playoff teams tend to do.

Think about the Detroit Tigers of 2011.

 On August 10th, the Indians were only two games behind Detroit. They were 58-56, and had beaten the Tigers twice in a row. I distinctly recall several pundits talking about the make-up of the Indians being preferable in “attitude” to the Tigers.

The problem?

The Tigers had a star, or two…or three…that could carry a team, and that’s exactly what happened.

From that point on, the Tigers went 34-12, including a 12-game winning streak at the start of September. The Tigers overall record in September was an incredible 20-6. Justin Verlander went 9-0 in August and September in 10 starts. Newly acquired Doug Fister, who had gone 0-7 in June and July, but with a 3.50 ERA for a bad Seattle team, went 8-1 with an ERA near 2.00. Miguel Cabrera went 80-196 (.408) in August and September, with 23 doubles, eight homers and 37 RBI in 53 games. On Victor Martinez went 69-for-196 for a .352 average, with 15 doubles, six homers and 42 RBI in 52 games during the same stretch. These four guys CARRIED the Tigers.

Is there one player for the Indians that can do that?

I stand by the statement that the Indians potentially have the best top of the order in baseball, with Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera, but are any of those guys players you would expect to be that jackhammer of a bat to completely lead a baseball team during a stretch drive?  All three have shown that ability in spurts, but I’m not sure any have shown the year-to-year, or even month-to-month consistency to be that guy.

Choo, who is rebounding to his former stature, is probably the guy that’s best equipped offensively to do it. He’s limited in the lead-off role, but he’s certainly playing like the guy who in 2008-2010, was the offensive leader of this club. Jason Kipnis will eventually develop into this player. My only critique of Kipnis throughout his career are his offensive lulls. He is a scrappy player, and will have games where he makes things happen while slumping, but he can go through stretches where he’s just not hitting the ball very well. Of course, he tempers that with stretches in which he’s one of the best players in the league. When this evens out, the sky’s the limit for the Indians best player. Asdrubal Cabrera is a nice offensive player at times, but I don’t think I’m the only one that thinks he’s not really a guy who’s going to hit 20 homers a year, and hit over .300. Again, he has his moments, but more often than not, he’s going to end up in that .270-.280 range, with 15 homers.

There was hope that Carlos Santana was this guy, but right now, you could argue that he shouldn’t even be in the big leagues…I’ll get to that in a second.

Travis Hafner WAS this guy, but hasn’t been the same since the injury that ended his 2006 season. Yes, it’s been that long. He’ll likely never hit 20 homers in a season again, and if gets to 60 RBI, I’ll be shocked.

Brantley is an outstanding player, but carry a team offensively? I still say he’ll lead off one day, or be a part of the top three in the order, but for now, he should be in that six or seven hole. If your six or seven guy is carrying your team, management should be fired.

There isn’t ANYONE in the starting rotation at this point. Masterson dominates at times, but his inconsistencies this season showcase that 2011 really was just one season. Ubaldo Jimenez just isn’t an ace, so get over that. He’s more inconsistent than Masterson. Past those two, there really isn’t another starter even on the horizon, and before you mention the then Fausto Carmona’s 2007 season, I remind you of the ten Fausto Carmona’s 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons. Now, he’s not even Fausto Carmona, so hopefully Roberto Hernandez can be a cog, but really, can he be anything more than Masterson and Jimenez?

The easy answer is no.

The Indians can’t, as they are put together right now, sustain a long winning streak. What they can do, is stay competitive, go through the motions of being in “their window,” as I talked about last week, and get ready for their next “window.”

Ubaldo Jimenez was supposed to change that when they traded for him in July of 2011. He was supposed to be a guy to turn the tide, not only in 2011, but in 2012 and 2013 (and please spare me the thinking that 2011 was a lost cause when they dealt for him. They were in 2nd place, and only 1 ½ games out). So far, the guy that was supposed to right the Indians ship has been 12-13, with a 5.18 ERA in 30 starts for the Indians. He’s walked 94 batters, and struck out 146 in 175 1/3 innings pitched.

In essence, he’s been treading water.

That’s not what the Indians need now, nor did they need it then. But, it was a statement made by Chris Antonetti. The Indians would make a move, if they needed to.

Now, they need to.

Some will argue that the Indians should wait for their next window. Those that do think that way should pat themselves squarely on the back. It’s that thinking that the Indians seem to encompass from year-to-year that is partially the reason nobody goes to games. There’s never a hear-and-now unless it was an accident. Nobody thought the Indians would be one game from the World Series in 2007. Nobody thought the Indians would dominate baseball in April and May of 2011. The thinking is, we always have tomorrow…THAT will be the window.

That’s pure folly.

This team needs to make a deal. No, I’m not talking about a deal for a middling pitcher, and sorry, that’s what Jimenez was before they dealt for him, and clearly, that’s what he is now. I’m talking about a big bat, and/or a big arm. The Indians need to get one, or the other…or both. If they don’t, the deal for Ubaldo was a joke, and this team deserves what it gets.

I will argue that this team needs a big bat before anything else. Yes, their starters are questionable at best, but I don’t see a starter out there that is anything other than Ubaldo 2.0. They may be able to catch lightning in a bottle like the Tigers did with Fister. I remember seeing his peripherals with the Mariners and thinking that the Indians could make him a winner.

But the Indians need to start with the bat, and it has to be a bat that’s a difference maker. Who would that player be? I would argue that the one guy out there that they should target is Justin Upton. He’s 24-years old, and signed through the 2015 season to a deal that I think is more than fair. He’s averaged 22 homers a season in his 100+ game seasons. He drives in runs. He gets on base. He plays a decent outfield. He’s young, and signed for three more full seasons. Ignore, for a moment, the no-trade clause. I believe that the Indians could get a deal done, if they really wanted too. They would have to include a guy like Francisco Lindor, who I believe will have a long and healthy major league career, but it would significantly improve this team on offense. If Upton’s no-trade stands firm, well, so be it. There are a couple of other guys the Indians should go after offensively, regardless of what they are doing right now.

Carlos Quentin would fit into this category as well. He can be explosive in the middle of the order, has played in the Central before, and is a consistent 25-homer, 80 RBI guy. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, and I believe he would want to go back to San Diego. I believe San Diego would take him back. Perhaps the Indians could get him a bit cheaper than people think. He’s struggled over the past month though, so either that makes him easier to get, or makes him not worthy of a trade. Nobody said there weren’t risks.

The one other guy in this category for me is Corey Hart. The Brewers say he’s not on the table, but I don’t buy it at all. The 30-year-old is signed through the 2013 season, and is a power bat that the Indians desperately need.

This is where the Indians need to start, but not stop.

The Indians also need to address their pitching situation, and I believe the ONE guy out there that they could acquire, whose peripherals are going in the right direction is Francisco Liriano. His overall numbers are masking a hot June and July, and he would be equivalent of Masterson, Jimenez and even a guy like Hernandez. They’d likely have to give up a guy like McAllister, Gomez, or a couple of their bigger arms in the lower system. Of course, the Twins will ask for Lindor, but they want pitching.

In a perfect world, the Indians will figure out a way to get two big bats, and a starter.

In reality, I’ll be surprised if they get any of them.

Whatever happens, they better do it now, before things get out of hand.

Why? The Tigers have those types of player…remember? The Tigers are 8-2 over their last ten games. The White Sox and Indians are 4-6. The Tigers are ½ game out of first, and 2 ½ in front of the Indians. They are loaded with stars that can carry their team. And…they want to make a move. They are looking at Ryan Dempster and Carlos Quentin. They are looking at Francisco Liriano and Justin Upton. In other words, they want to improve their team, and block the Tribe, and the White Sox.

Yeah, the White Sox have guys that can carry the team, in Jake Peavy and Chris Sale, and Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn. Kenny Williams would sell his own kids for a trade.

The Indians need to make a move, and do it now. If not, it’s the same ole’ “wait until next time’ mentality for a team that can win right now.

The Indians are a contender, and if you figure out a way to put a middle-of-the-order bat with the top of the Tribe’s offense right now, it’s a run producing offense. It takes pressure off a guy like Carlos Santana, who could then rebound. Brantley can move into the seven hole. Damon can be a #9 hitter, where his slappy-at-best offense isn’t a big deal, and Hafner can be, well, Hafner. If they get two bats, the Indians go from a really good offense, to a force.

The rotation is a mixed bag, and it will remain a mixed bag. The hope is that with four similar on-and-off pitchers, you can get at least two on at any stretch. Right now, it’s really a one-and-done sorta system.  Either Masterson pitches well, or Jimenez. Past that, it’s over, with the exception of McAllister, and while I think he’s more of a real deal than some of the other guys we’ve seen, he’s made 12 career major league starts. It’s not perfect, but if a guy like Liriano could catch lightning in a bottle, well, having a true #1 would be outstanding.

Another guy to keep an eye on is Jason Vargas from the Mariners. Vargas is 2-0 in his last three starts, with six walks and 12 K’s. If you take out a June 20th start in which he gave up 10 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings, his stat line would read like this: 127 1/3 IP, 9-6 record, 111 hits, 50 earned runs, 33 walks and 84 K’s. His ERA would be 3.53. At the time of his deal last year, Doug Fister was 3-12 in 146 innings, with 139 hits and 54 earned runs, with 32 walks and 89 K’s. Yeah, I know, pretty comparable.

Noticed I didn’t mention Derek Lowe in the conversation. He’s be gone in this scenario, with a big thanks for carrying the rotation in April. Josh Tomlin would be moved to the bullpen. The rotation would look like this:

  1. Masterson
  2. Liriano/Vargas
  3. Jimenez
  4. Hernandez
  5. McAllister/Gomez

And the bullpen would look like this:

  1. C. Perez
  2. Pestano
  3. R. Perez
  4. J. Smith
  5. Cody Allen
  6. Tomlin

And the lineup would look something like this:

  1. Choo
  2. Kipnis
  3. Cabrera
  4. Quentin (I really think they can get him, and he can play better than his past couple of weeks)
  5. Hafner
  6. Brantley
  7. Santana
  8. Kotchman
  9. Hannahan

I’d actually have Quentin and Hafner sharing time at the DH, and having Quentin split time with Damon in the outfield. His DH days could save his health, and let him focus on swinging more…but that’s for another day.

Are all those guys someone that could carry a club? No, but the potential is there, for sure. The lineup or rotation gets lengthened, or both, if Antonetti can find a way…and through that, so does the pen.

Less pressure would be on the parts that are trying to carry the team now.

It’s not complicated other than, well, actually making the deals. But that’s not my job. I’m just a guy writing articles because I love to write. I don’t make the “big money” to make baseball decisions. That’s for Antonetti to do. He’s proven that he can throw folly out the window and make a deal (see Ubaldo Jimenez). It’s time to do it again.

Make this team a winner…

Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as  the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at

User Comments

July 24, 2012 - 2:28 PM EDT
I have zero problem trading Lindor or any player so long as it is the right trade. Don't trade Lindor for Quentin of someone of that ilk. But if an All Star caliber young player with 2-3 years of control beyond this season is available for him, you absolutely do it. I've seen far too many "sure thing" prospects wash out over the years to know you can never really count on any prospect. Especially young ones in Low-A. If Lindor were in Triple-A and ML ready, I'd be in line at saying he is untouchable (like Kipnis last year). But too much can go wrong over the next 2-3 years for Lindor with injuries or him plateauing at a certain level. More can go wrong than right at this point. So, it would have to be a LEGIT deal for a big time player. Now, those kinds of deals are far and few inbetween, so I expect him not to be traded.
Dennis Nosco
July 24, 2012 - 8:58 AM EDT
Yeah, trade Lindor for a DH who is hitting .202 this month.

Talk about desperate!

The Tigers are MUCH better than us.

Yeah, maybe we should have overpaid for the lumbering Josh Willingham who didn't even hit .250 last year. Yeah, maybe.

But we didn't. Let's not compound that problem by trading for him or someone like him and giving up the future.

Some of you people are products of the '90s where we could spend with the big boys as we filled the then Jake.

Times are different and the vision that the Indians lost in the '90s with the draft of Wil Hartley and Danny Peoples is that you are in Cleveland, you build from within.

This will be a debate for the ages but, even in the '90s, we traded veterans at the deadline to get Alomar, Baerga, etc. and gambled by drafting Belle. THAT is how we got the team of the '90s, not by trading for guys like Quentin or Willingham.

We have "natural" resources. They are called prospects. Don't squander them for instant gratification that you won't even get. Please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
July 23, 2012 - 7:05 PM EDT
Agree on trading Lindor where the Indians still have Paulino, a guy viewed almost as high as Lindor. He is clearly behind Lindor, but he's quickly gonna get mention of 1B soon. Also, there is no way McAllister is an untouchable. For the right deal, I definitely trade him. Guy is probably at peak value right now.
July 22, 2012 - 7:34 PM EDT
good points. Tho too bad Q just signed an extension, is in midst of hitting .202 this month and gets hurt annually.
July 22, 2012 - 3:47 PM EDT
I understand he's just in rookie ball and Lindor is in A-, but If we dealt Lindor we'd still have 17 yr old Paulino who's supposed to be really good too. Lindor is only a year older than him.

July 22, 2012 - 3:21 PM EDT
I completely agree, Cody Allen and Zach McAllister should be untouchables...bc they are useful, controllable and seem sound pieces of the future.
As for Lindor the only way I see him moved is if it's a pkg deal for a Justin Uptin type bat.
July 22, 2012 - 2:46 PM EDT
Liriano, like Ubaldo, has been known to pitch like the worst pitcher in baseball for extended periods of time. If the Indians could get him without giving up anything much, I guess I'd be for it, but there's a very good chance he'll revert to being awful sometime in the next month ( he's going good now, but so was Ubaldo for the 6 weeks before the All Star break). I would also think the Twins (and Indians) would prefer to trade outside the division so just for that reason he's probably not Cleveland-bound.

It will be interesting to see what the Indians can pull off, if anything. Making some small pickup on the order of Fukudome would be completely pointless, the Indians would need a real impact bat and a front-of-the-rotation type pitcher, but at the same time they need to be careful about what they move. They are too thin to move anyone who has use next year. I'd be fine with moving Gomez and Tomlin since I don't think they have much use, but I don't know that those guys have much value in a trade, since other teams probably think the same.

Once again, the Indians look like they should be in better shape next year, and with the way the team's playing now, I'd be hesitant to trade away top prospects for what looks like a lost cause (though in the Indians system, "top" prospects beyond Lindor don't necessarily exist). But xext year, they should have Carrasco back, and Hernandez and Chisenhall, and they can concentrate on filling the 2 gaping holes in LF and 1B. Even this year with how horrible the pitching has been, had they simply signed Willingham they're probably right there with the Tigers right now. But they shouldn't even be thinking about trading someone like Allen or McAllister who can help them win games this year and next year.
July 22, 2012 - 2:39 PM EDT
I dont believe this management will lead us to consistent winning, too many mistakes and misjudgements and I’m just referring to Antonetti not Shapiros past misjudgements.
- Kevin Slowey trade, 1.5 mil and on AAA DL
- Grady Sizemore 5 mil, may not even play this season
- Seeing adding a firstbase as “perk not imperative”
- Weak offseason
- Mishandling of Matt Laporta
- Gambling on the rebound of Ubaldo Jimenez’s career (verdict is still out ill admit)
- not to mention minor mistakes like Jack Hannahan’s 11 or so days of not playing with no DL trip
- Rotating 3 players in Left Field

To me too many errors to build a solid team in my opinion.
July 22, 2012 - 1:59 PM EDT
Im not in on selling but I do believe this club needs to have an eye on both now and next yr. and should look to make several aggressive moves.
The truth is the clock on this club has been pushed forward by the Jimenez trade last yr. I didn't like it then. Although I like the aggressive approach by the front office.
If the tribe can they should buy controllable pieces. The farm system is in place to funnel talent into the big league club, I say buy controllable pieces like Liriano, and Vargas if possible and move aggressively on a guy like Headley.
As a small market club the Tribe has to think outside the box and look even to move big league talent for controllable big league talent.
For instance offering Choo, Arraujo, and RRod as a starting point for Justin Upton or offering something like Tomlin, Moncrief and Joe Colon for Francisco Liriano.
My point is the club can utilize talent on the big club as a means of adding back to need positions while maintaining the window of contention. I believe we will see the club move aggressively as CA did last yr. like it or I give CA credit for his boldness in striking to add Jimenez. It better to try to add to the club than to sit back silently IMO.
July 22, 2012 - 1:11 PM EDT
Starting pitching i mean
July 22, 2012 - 1:10 PM EDT
To me the McAllister deal was good but how i see is that he was hardly a product of the Indians minor league system. He was acquired at AAA, almost all of development came in the yankees system. With that said, i still dont believe in the indians ability to produce good pitching.
Jeremy Rochford
July 22, 2012 - 12:48 PM EDT
I agree totally with this article. The Indians went "all-in" last year when they traded for Jimenez. I liked the trade then and at this moment I still like it. However if the front office does not make another big move this time around the Jimenez trade will be considered an "absolute fail". I do not believe an organization can their sustain fans and their players if they do not stay consistent with what they are trying to do. If the front office really wants to wait for the "next window" then the Jimenez move should have never been made. They should have just kept the young talent and let them succeed or fail.

The trigger was pulled last year and in my opinion it needs to be pulled again. An organization cannot be run on a year to year basis. The teams philosophy needs to be consistent for multiple years to truly be successful. Last year they acted like they wanted to win "now" and not wait for their next "window". The front office should not change from that philosophy this year. If they make some moves and they fail, so be it. At least they tried as hard as they could. If they do not make a LEGIT move then the Jimenez trade becomes worse than the Sabathia and Lee trades. And all the fans are left with is a .500 team with a front office that has no idea what direction it wants to go in..
July 22, 2012 - 8:33 AM EDT
We're a .500 team with a pitching staff ranked 13th in ERA. Unlike those years when we had CC, Lee, and Victor with expiring contracts, we having nothing of real value to sell, certainly not enough to put us on the same level as the elite AL teams like the Yankees and Rangers.

Mortgaging the future to try and sneak into the second wild card spot where we'll be quickly sent packing makes no sense. I know fans are tired of waiting for the "next window", but that's the reality of a small-market team.

Sign Brantley, Kipnis, Chiz, Vinnie, Rage - all the young core players - to contract extensions like they did with Santana and Droobs. Keep developing the farm. There's a lot of high end talent down there; Lindor, Nyquin, Aguilar to name a few. Keep making smart low-profile moves like the ones that got us Zach McAlister for Austin Kearns, and Niles Rogers for $150K.

Draft starting pitching. That's the team's biggest weakness as Pluto pointed out in the PD this morning. If you can make a trade for a Doug Fister type, by all means do it.

That's the only viable plan I can see for a team like the Indians. Then hope it all comes together at the same time like it did in 2007. Well, it almost came together. If Cliff Lee had an average Cliff Lee season in 2007 we'd have won it all.
July 22, 2012 - 2:32 AM EDT
Jim didn't mention it but I believe you have Tony and I completely agree. Justin Masterson is more of a 1A guy or 2 starter in the rotation. In my opinion an ace is on another level, almost seen as non-human and people are shocked on the rare occasion when he falls apart or gets lit up. With that being said more stabilization is needed in the rotation along with depth-and I mean depth. Not Antonetti's "depth" which is just quantity.
July 21, 2012 - 9:54 PM EDT
I would be a seller. This team simply has too many holes and is mediocre. Let's get the best prospect that we can-SP, LF,1B, C. These are the positions of greatest need.
July 21, 2012 - 5:32 PM EDT
Completely agree, Tony pitching wins championships. The Tribe would be wise to try to pk up one of Liriano, Vargas, or Garza (pipe dream).
The Rays want a C, the Tribe could pkg Marson in an attempt to get Shields, Hellickson, Cobb, Davis from them. Doubt theyd do it, and I'm not sure I would myself bc of the play of Santana.
July 21, 2012 - 3:15 PM EDT
If the Indians want to stay in this race....and ultimately win it....they need better starting pitching. A lot of people focus on the black holes at 1B, LF and 3B.....but in all honesty, with a more consistent starting rotation they have a lot more wins. I don't care if they put Miguel Cabrera at 3B and Prince Fielder at 1B....they are in just as bad a shape with the starting efforts they are getting from their pitchers. Absolutely HAVE to get a starting pitcher in a deal (and then supplement it with a good bat as 1B move).
July 21, 2012 - 2:38 PM EDT
Quentin = Sizemore nough said
July 21, 2012 - 2:31 PM EDT
Ive got to say I'm surprised how the starting rotation has really taken a beating Lowes arm apparently fell off about 10 starts ago. Tomlin has been pitching BP during games, and Jimenez and Masterson take turns being off / on. Gomez got sent down, Hernandez was Carmona, and Zach McAllister looks like he could be a solid middle of the rotation SP. What rough road for the starters. Vinnie and CP have been lights out and the rest of the pen has been a crap shoot other than the consistent Joe Smith.
If CA really believes in this team he needs to do something now. Maybe he is taking the wait and see approach bc he sees this club could end up selling off a few pieces...or maybe the prices are still unreasonably high.
Either way, personally I believe this team should be both buying and selling if it can. That sounds a bit double minded but if the Tribe can get controllable players over the next few seasons it should act aggressively to get them.

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