Digesting a Deal: What the deal means for the Indians
The Indians completed a big three-team nine player deal last night with the Reds and Diamondbacks. Here are some thoughts on the deal and what it means going forward:
- The headliner of this deal, at least for the Indians, is right-handed starting pitcher Trevor Bauer. The Indians were after him for weeks, and had really targeted him and other young top of the rotation types after their organizational meetings in Arizona the second week of October. In this deal the Indians were able to acquire a legitimate young front of the rotation kind of arm, something they were in desperate need of to anchor their rotation for the next several years. He may not be an ace right away due to his youth and inexperience and there will likely be some growing pains, but the thought is he could quickly turn into one of the best young starters in the league and he might already be the best starter on the Indians’ staff. Yes, there is a chance that Bauer could be a bust or get hurt – that’s the risk you take with any pitching acquisition be it in a trade or free agency – but he was an arm they had to get to have a chance to compete now and in the future. He has a chance to be special along the lines of Tim Lincecum and other recent young big time hurlers now established in the game.
- After this trade, the Indians starting rotation got a sizable boost not only in the present but the future as Bauer is under team control at least another six seasons and through the 2018 season. If they start him in the minors for about a month – which is a small possibility – they could even push that control out to seven more years. In any case, the Indians now have him and right-hander Zach McAllister to build upon (another starter they control for at least six more years), and they have right-hander Carlos Carrasco returning from Tommy John surgery who is expected to be a big piece in the rotation for years and is under club control for at least four more seasons. The Indians are aggressively pursuing a veteran starting pitcher to add to the mix – their number one target is said to be right-hander Edwin Jackson – so if you add someone like him to the mix for the next three to four years, you have an interesting rotation to build upon with Bauer, McAllister, Carrasco, and whatever free agent they may give that multi-year deal to. This doesn’t even include right-hander Justin Masterson who is under club control for two more years, and of course right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez who had a bad year last season but could be primed for a rebound in his free agent year. Bottom line, the addition of Bauer and possibly a veteran starter really re-shapes the starting rotation now and in the future and could give them a good foundation with which to build upon.
- The opening day rotation setup probably looks something like this right now: Masterson, veteran free agent, Bauer, McAllister, and Jimenez. Carrasco will be in the mix, but one thing a lot of people need to remember is he did not pitch last season since he was recovering from surgery and will have his innings monitored next season. He probably will not be able to throw more than 150 innings – give or take ten innings – and the Indians have a history of monitoring such workload on the front end of the season, so there is a good chance he opens the season in extended spring training and then is an option to join the team in May or June. Right-hander Corey Kluber is also now a solid depth option as a seventh or eighth starter, and the Indians also still have right-hander Jeanmar Gomez and left-hander David Huff, though both are out of options and the Indians will need to get creative to keep both in the fold. They could use Gomez in long relief and Huff as a lefty in the pen, or simply trade one or both. It appears unlikely that either would get through waivers unclaimed, though a poor spring could enhance the chances.
- The loss of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo obviously hurts as he was probably the Indians best and most consistent performer in the lineup. That said, he was gone after next season, so the Indians were very proactive and were able to get back more than they could have ever hoped for him now. He turned down several extensions that the club offered him and as a Boras client was going to test the market, and there is talk that with a good year in 2013 he could command a five or six year deal for close to $80-90 million, maybe even $100 million. That is obviously out of the Indians’ price range, and they did not want his looming free agency status to be a distraction, so they made the right move in trading him. As for the Reds, they get a very good tablesetter at the top of the lineup, but I have to ask, what are they thinking inserting him into center field? That is going to be a disaster. I don’t care how small Great American Ballpark is, they still play 81 games a year at other places, and if they make the playoffs half the games are at other parks too. He was an adventure in right field for the Indians and often took poor angles and routes to balls. The arm is special, but the Reds are going to quickly find out how much of a drop off in defense they are getting going from Stubbs to Choo.
- Outfielder Drew Stubbs is a solid return in the trade and helps them fill one of the two outfield voids they have. He is a plus defender that has speed, steals bases, and has some good pop from the right side of the plate, though he hits for a low average and is prone to strikeouts. In a lot of ways he is a Grady Sizemore-lite kind of player with the defense, speed, pop and excessive strikeouts, though obviously Sizemore was a more impactful hitter and got on-base at a better clip. It is important to note that Stubbs is not viewed as the replacement for Choo, but the replacement for the mess that was in left field last season. Yes, he will probably play center field and Michael Brantley will probably shift to left field, but Stubbs is replacing the likes of Johnny Damon and Shelley Duncan in the lineup. He is an upgrade over both of them and everything else that the Indians threw in the outfield last year alongside Brantley and Choo. Sure, Stubbs’ offensive numbers may not be that much better, but he has a history of solid performance and still has upside as a hitter, but more importantly he adds plus defense and much needed speed, something those other players simply did not have. Also, the Indians could have him in a mini-platoon with left-handed hitting outfielders Ezequiel Carrera or Tim Fedroff to limit his exposure some against right-handed pitching. He is a very good hitter in his career against lefties (.276 AVG, .821 OPS), but has struggled against righties (.228 AVG, .655 OPS).
- The loss of Choo leaves a big gaping hole in right field, but that hole may not last long. The Indians may go the trade route to fill it, but the more likely course is with a free agent as they are aggressively pursuing a veteran outfielder in free agency to come in and play a corner outfield spot. The guy they are really after is outfielder Nick Swisher, though he still appears to be holding out for other teams to enter into the mix to either help boost his chances of meeting his contract demands (reportedly four years $60 million) or give him a landing spot he prefers since he apparently prefers the bright lights of the big city or the West Coast. If the Indians sign Swisher, or even their Plan B who may be outfielder Cody Ross, an outfield of Brantley-Stubbs-Swisher/Ross would be as good and maybe even better than the Damon/Duncan-Brantley-Choo outfield that dominated the lineup last season. They may not end up with Swisher or even Ross, so it will be interesting to see how they fill their corner outfield need if that happens, but in any case, they are going to try and fill the loss of Choo as best as they can.
- The Indians also parted ways with infielder Jason Donald and first baseman Lars Anderson. The loss of Donald is not much as they recently acquired infielder Mike Aviles who right now would be the utility infielder and is a much better option in that role than Donald, plus Donald is out of options and has been a disappointment the past few seasons, so he was more of a throw in anyway. Anderson is a once highly through of first base prospect whose value has plummeted in recent years, and with the Indians picking up first basemen Mike McDade and Chris McGuiness this offseason he became expendable.
- The Indians also received two good Major League right-handed relievers in the deal acquiring Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw. Albers is older and only under control for one more season, but is a solid addition to an already deep bullpen. He has seen a velocity increase in recent years and now sits at 91-93 MPH and touches 96 MPH. Shaw is more interesting because he is under control for at least five more seasons and has a good low-to-mid-90s fastball that touches 97 MPH and has a very good cutter. He could become a staple along with right-handers Vinnie Pestano and Cody Allen in the Indians bullpen for several more years.
- With the addition of Albers and Shaw, the Indians suddenly have a deep mix of right-handed relievers in the bullpen with Chris Perez, Joe Smith, Pestano, Allen, Albers and Shaw. Considering the Indians will probably fill the seventh spot with a long man and they need at least one lefty in the pen, so something has to give as they have too many right-handed arms at the moment. This would seem to imply they will use some of the depth they have in the bullpen to acquire a need, possibly a bat or a left-hander for the bullpen. The obvious name that could be on the block is Perez, but his market is still very cool at the moment. The Indians are targeting Major League players or Major League ready prospects in any deals for Perez, and at the moment they are not getting that in any offers. They will continue to entertain offers for him, but they do not need to trade him. If they do not get an offer they like, they would be perfectly fine with him as the closer and having one of the best bullpens in baseball in 2013. But if Perez is not traded, then someone else is probably dealt, and my guess is one of Smith or Albers could be the one sent away. The Indians just have so much right-handed relief depth as they also have Frank Herrmann and rehabbing pitchers Blake Wood and Chen-Chang Lee that could factor into things later in the year.
- One small problem with the deal is the trade of lefty Tony Sipp leave the Indians with no established lefty in the pen. Sipp was a replaceable lefty arm and not a primary backed lefty, but he was serviceable as a second lefty in the pen. The Indians actually have some solid internal candidates to fill that second lefty void as they have Nick Hagadone, Scott Barnes and maybe even David Huff. I think they are satisfied with all of those options to fill that secondary lefty need, but they probably want to add a primary lefty, and that was probably the case even before trading Sipp. As to how they fill that need, well, they can do what I mentioned above and flip some of their right-handed relief depth for a lefty, or they can go on the free agent market and sign someone – though the options in free agency are not very appealing. I’d look for the Indians to make another trade this offseason or in the spring to fill their primary left-handed setup need.
- So what does all of this mean for shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera? I’m still stunned the Indians were able to acquire a young, upside frontline pitcher like Bauer without trading Cabrera. The Indians could still look to deal Cabrera for even more young pitching help as there are a lot of teams still interested in him, but now they don’t have to deal him. They can go forward with the idea that he is their starting shortstop next season and they are a better team with him and sit back and act upon the desperation of other general managers. That is a great position to be in and it puts the Indians in the driver’s seat on any Cabrera deal.
- Back to the trade, I’m still shocked at the return the Indians received. For one year of Choo and a couple years of Sipp, the Indians got back a top shelf starter in Bauer with six years of control, an outfielder in Stubbs with three years of control, and a good bullpen arm in Shaw with five years of control. Albers is only under control for one year and is probably just a short term fill in the pen or will be flipped for another need. Bottom line, this trade sets the team up well in the present and in the future, something that is rare in any deal.
- As far as payroll goes, the deal did not affect much for the Indians. Four of the players in the deal - Bauer, Donald, Shaw and Anderson - will get Major League minimum deals, and the other four players Choo, Sipp, Stubbs and Albers are up for arbitration. The projected arbitration numbers for the four players are $7.9 million for Choo, $2.9 million for Stubbs, $1.7 million for Albers, and $1.0 million for Sipp. It is important to note that while Bauer signed a four year $4.45 million Major League deal out of the draft that $3.4 million of that was a signing bonus that the Diamondbacks paid up front and the Indians are not responsible for. Bauer will earn $1.325 million if he is in the big leagues, and the Indians also sent $3.5 million to the Reds to offset the salaries for Choo and Stubbs. So in the end, the Indians saved a total of $8.9M (Choo and Sipp), but are spending $9.4 million ($3.5M cash, $2.9M Stubbs, $1.7M Albers, $1.325M Bauer), netting them about a $500K in spending.
- I’ll leave with this final thought: new manager Terry Francona is making his presence felt. He has already been a big influence on the organization and been heavily involved in the decision-making process. He has brought a breath of fresh air to the organization with some new ways of thinking and I really believe he has helped alter the thinking process the organization has had over the past half-decade. He is coming from a very successful organization in Boston, a model franchise in the game because they have a big market mentality with their spending in free agency but also have a small market mentality with the very good way they draft and develop players and often make good trades.
First Francona, now Bauer. So what do the Indians have for an encore? We will probably find out very soon and it looks like the Indians will be busy these next few days leading up to Christmas. Stay tuned.
Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.
If I have one concern with the Indians' organization when it comes to drafting and development, it seems that they jump the gun a bit on turning starting pitching prospects into relievers. I'm sure they have their reasons for doing so, but it seems that's partly why we have an overflow of solid to good relievers, which isn't a bad problem per se, except for the fact that we don't seem to have many impact starting pitching prospects in the system, except A ball (mostly low-A) and lower.
While many organizations struggle to develop FOR starters, we're having trouble developing even a #3 starter. All it seems of late over the last several years have been 4-5 guys, guys like Laffey, McFarland (before he was taken in Rule 5), Packer (hopefully, he's a #3, but probably more 4-5 guy).
That's why I'd like to see the Indians see if guys like Adams, Soto, Barnes, possibly Haley, etc. can remain starters long-term. They seem to have the velocity (Soto bit above-average with the potential for more) and solid-enough command (Haley's the exception, but has turned around enough in the bullpen to perhaps one more look as a starter) to potentially be #3 starters or perhaps evern FOR starters, something this organization could use more of.
After all, we know pretty much that FOR starters are the key for a ballclub to really win consistently, and especially in the postseason, since it's hard to rely on consistent offense against top-flight FOR starters. If you don't have a few to several of your own, your chances of reaching the postseason are low and doing something in the postseason (i.e. winning the World Series) are slim to none without a lot of luck.
5th starter = Carrasco + Bauer
Each goes 3-4 innings
Neither pitches until 5th starter is needed
60 innings = ceiling
2nd half of season:
Both move into rotation
Both are limited to 6-7 innings
160 innings = ceiling for entire year
Both pitch approximately
Do you think it's likely that pitchers like Matt Packer and Giovanni Soto get moved to the bullpen "now" so they enter spring training prepped and ready to go for spot in big league pen and if unsuccessful head to CBus knowing they a call and short drive up I-71 away??
I think Barnes as a lefty reliever is a waste. The Tribe should stretch him out at Columbus as a starter, use Hagadone as the lefty.
Thanks for the clarification on Barnes- wasn't aware that was the reason (sorry- must have missed you mentioning it before- my bad! :-)
Nice to know he might start again, though I can understand why he would be needed in the bullpen right now. Hopefully, they can get a long-term 2nd lefty (or primary lefty, though Hagadone would hopefully begin filling that role in 2013, as he should be able to with his stuff) so that could free up Barnes and give the Indians the chance of moving him back into the rotation long-term sooner rather than later.
Thanks again- keep up the great work!
Also, a $100 million payroll is completely unrealistic. They are not profitable right now. I've heard they have lost anywhere from $10-15M last year. They should have a $50-55M payroll with the attenance and revenues they get. So, with the new deal, I think they could be profitable at around a $75-85M payroll. That would be acceptable to me and realistic.
Keep up the excellent work- love reading your site and your tweets.
One question: Why did the Indians move Barnes to the bullpen? He seemed promising as a starter, and all indications when he was acquired for Garko in 2009 was that Barnes would remain a starter.
He seemed to be thriving in that role up until he was injured coming off the mound at the end of the 2011 season, likely just before he would have been called up by the Indians in September after Columbus' run ended in the playoffs (which turned out to be the first of 2 AAA Championships). When he was shifted to the bullpen to begin 2012, I thought they were doing it initially to ease him back into starting, but somewhere along the way, the Indians had decided to convert him into a reliever full-time.
Why the change? He seems like he would be big enough, strong enough to handle a starting role, listed at 6'4", 200 lbs. according to Baseball-Reference.com. Barnes would be more valuable as a starter, especially a lefty starter, and looked like he could be a 2-3 guy, or at least a 3-4 guy.
I was a bit disappointed by the change and just wondered what caused the Indians to make that change. I take it that there's no plans or possibility that the Indians would entertain Barnes as a starter again? I could understand Hagadone, and think it did wonders with his command and stuff, but to my untrained eye, Barnes didn't have the same problems Hagadone did and looked to be on his way to becoming a promising starter.
I'd appreciate your thoughts- thanks! Keep up the great work!
Also, I read that a couple scouts think Baker will put Choo in right ultimately and they will likely put Bruce in center.