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Internal errors

Internal errors
July 27, 2012
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No one ever said it was easy to be the general manager of a Major League ball club. Just days before the 2012 MLB trade deadline, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti finds himself the subject of major scrutiny. Are the Indians going to land a coveted right-handed bat? What about an arm? Both questions have likely tormented Antonetti as the deadline draws near.

However, the questions are also quite fair. For weeks, the Tribe’s offense has been stagnant — at times the team just seems to be going through the motions. Even worse, the team’s pitching staff has never been consistent this year. It would be impossible to expect the Indians to ever go on any sort of run given the rotation’s woes. Thus, it’s easy to see why fans have been clamoring for Antonetti to make a move.

I, too, find myself among the contingent of fans eager to see the Tribe make moves, only I long for moves of a different variety: internal moves.

I understand the cost associated with making big trades, and I can sympathize with Antonetti. Big time trades cost big time prospects, and it might not be worth the gamble, especially considering how last year’s Ubaldo Jimenez trade has turned out so far. But while I can understand Antonetti’s unwillingness to pull the trigger on a big time deal, I cannot understand how he has seemed to totally disregard internal moves when it comes to improving the ball club. On numerous occasions, he has said that he is always looking for ways to improve the Indians, but I am going to go ahead and call his bluff.

Internal moves aren’t always sexy; they won’t immediately translate into wins. Still, the Indians are a .500 team, and it seems as if management has put absolutely zero effort into possibly promoting players from the minor league clubs. Would internal moves like this help the club? Maybe. Certainly, they couldn’t hurt. After all, the team just got rid of a guy who hit .175 in 72 games. The Indians allowed Aaron Cunningham to perform poorly for 72 games before showing him the door. Isn’t that a decision that could have been reached after, say, 30 games?

Much has been said about the Tribe’s lack of impact talent at the upper levels of the farm system, but even still, there are players at the upper levels who could come in and bolster the 25-man roster. For months, the team has carried essentially dead weight (Shelley Duncan, Aaron Cunningham). Every player counts, and it seems like that notion has been forgotten.

So, with that being said, what internal moves can be made or could have been made to improve the Indians? Also, how have the internal moves that the Indians did make this season work out? Take a look.

Jared Goedert, OF/3B, right-handed hitter, Columbus: The 27-year-old Goedert has been on a tear this year and owns a .346/.409/.552 line between Akron and Columbus to go along with 14 home runs and 60 RBI. I understand the criticisms with Goedert. Scouts question his athleticism, and he seems destined to be labeled as organizational filler. He very well could be the next Jordan Brown or Jared Head, but what if he’s not? And how will the Indians ever know unless they give him a try? He certainly seems as if he is ready to graduate from the minor leagues. Plus, at the very least, could he be any worse than Duncan? He also provides a bit more versatility as well considering he could probably play third base in a pinch if needed. His glove has not been rated highly at the hot corner, but it’s not as if Jose Lopez is a defensive wizard either. Goedert should get a Major League look sometime, and it probably should have happened already.

Ezequiel Carrera, OF, left-handed hitter, Columbus: Sine June 3, Carrera has been on an International League tear. His average is up to .291, and he has also shown some unlikely power as he has tallied six home runs on the season. Plain and simple, Carrera should have been promoted to the Indians toward the end of June when he was really catching fire. With Carrera, what you see is what you get: a fourth outfielder type who provides some speed and can slap the ball to all areas of the field at times. Also, his main position is center field. All season long, the Indians have said that Aaron Cunningham remained on the team because of his ability to play center and spell Michael Brantley on occasion. Why could Carrera not have done that? In 68 games last season, he hit .243 and drove in 14 runs for the Indians. That small sampling still offers a drastic improvement from what Cunningham gave us this year. Like Carrera, with Cunningam, what you see is what you get: a player who had no business being on a Major League roster for as long as he was. In 109 plate appearances and 97 at-bats, Cunningham recorded 17 hits this year. Carrera would almost have certainly performed better given the same number of plate appearances and at-bats. Would that have led to more wins? Perhaps not. But it would have allowed the Indians to have more opportunities to win as Carrera would not be the automatic out that Cunningham essentially was. Every out counts, and the front office seemed to ignore that fact.

Jason Donald, UT, right-handed hitter, Columbus: This is another one that perplexes me. We have just seen the Indians make a trade for Brent Lillibridge. It’s confusing because it’s hard to see what he offers that Donald doesn’t. At Columbus so far this season, Donald has played games at shortstop, third base, second base, center field and left field. It’s true that he has only ever played one game in the outfield in the Major Leagues, and it came in relief, but a guy has to get his feet wet sometime. In reality, Donald probably should have been back in the Majors a long time ago, and he definitely deserved a spot on the team over Cunningham.

Scott Barnes, RP, left-hander, Columbus: This is one internal move that we did see the Indians explore this season, and it unfortunately was also one I was opposed to. Because of a lack bullpen options, Barnes was converted into a reliever in the short term. It seemed to have good results at first until his implosion against the Cincinnati Reds where he was shelled for five runs in 1/3 of an inning. Tribe manager Manny Acta did not even seem to lift a finger and just let the kid stay in there to get pounded on. I like Barnes. He has a deceptive delivery and is left-handed, which is always a good thing. But I like him as a starter, and I was heavily opposed to his move to the bullpen. By all accounts, Barnes is, or at least was, a promising starting prospect. Why tinker with his development and move him to the pen? Plus, he never seemed the same after that rough outing against the Reds. Instead, I would have considered promoting David Huff to Cleveland in a relief role and then had Barnes take Huff’s spot in the Columbus rotation. David Huff’s days as a starter in the Major Leagues could very well be over. Why not try him in a relief role? The move could have extended Huff’s Major League career and also helped protect Barnes and his development.

Matt LaPorta, 1B/OF, right-handed hitter, Columbus: Technically, Matt LaPorta did earn a promotion to Cleveland this season, if you can call it that. For three games and 11 at-bats, LaPorta was able to call himself the Tribe’s 2012 starting first baseman. It can be argued that the Indians should have given LaPorta more time, but this is one instance where I support the team’s top brass. LaPorta has had opportunity after opportunity with the team, and he has squandered every one of them. Now three games can hardly be called an opportunity, but at the same time, the Indians owe LaPorta nothing at this point.

Russ Canzler, 1B/OF, right-handed hitter, Columbus: In 98 games with the Clippers, Canzler owns a .274/.340/.477 line to go along with 15 home runs and 58 RBI. He has also walked just 37 times and struck out an enormous 98 times.  Canzler certainly should not be the first player to get the call to Cleveland, but again, he cannot possibly be a worse option than Duncan, who has shown a tendency to go into mammoth slumps despite hitting better as of late. Also, like Goedert, Canzler has played third base and offers more versatility than Duncan. Canzler has been a very impressive player for two years at the Triple-A level, and he eventually deserves a look. It’s all about strengthening the 25-man roster from No. 1 all the way through No. 25, and right now I would definitely take Canzler over Duncan.

Steve can be reached via email at

User Comments

July 29, 2012 - 9:26 PM EDT
please stop going to the home games.dolan will not do anything to improve this team so why go!
roger f
July 28, 2012 - 1:24 PM EDT
as for making a trade i would if the right fit came along 'howeve that being said we add innings eater on august 10 even with his warts rob hernandez (fausto) is good for about 80%' 'quality starts' which is as good as anyone we can add via trade without costing us prospects. miracles happen maybe grady will' ' 'find out '''where centerfield is in progressive field. 'and not sure but most infielders make pretty decent outfielders and goedert is a converted 3b and with his numbers maybe he could stay hot and have a september like duncan did last year. and we arent likely to be without half of our club due to injuries, so sitting pat may not be the worst thing to do.
July 28, 2012 - 1:37 AM EDT
When a player sits too long at one level, he rots.
Pitchers pitch around him; he never gets a good pitch.
Aguilar should be in AA, Weglarz in AAA, Neal in AAA,
Fedroff in Cleveland, and Rottino, Huffman, maybe LaPorta, should be sent out.
Look at Columbus's roster.
There are very few prospects and way too many "insurance" policy players stacked up to fill in an emergency.
July 27, 2012 - 11:11 PM EDT
A small market team has little room for errors in judgement, but the Indians brass makes many.... thus not maximizing the little money the Dolan's make available to them. What is most perplexing is the Dolan's don't hold the people in charge accountable for their terrible decisions. They are simply far to loyal to people that haven't earned that loyalty with their performances in their jobs. IN FACT, the Dolan's have shown that they will promote you after years of failure. I'm one that doesn't get on the Dolan's for the lack of money they spend. I blame them more for their lack of accountability when evaluating the job performances of people like Shapiro, Mirabelli, Wedge ..etc ...
July 27, 2012 - 8:12 PM EDT
Even if the Indians don't highly value these guys, there is still no reason to plug the upper levels with the guys like Huffman, Rotino, LaRoche (I know he's gone now)... Neal should be in AAA and Huffman could go to Akron. Also, the time to promote Carrera was 2 or 3 weeks ago. By the time he gets called up, he'll have cooled off and they'll use that as proof he's a AAAA
July 27, 2012 - 5:35 PM EDT

Several of Columbus's players would be starting in majors somewhere else. Fedroff should be given a chance at some point. They do have quite a bit of money tied up with him when he was drafted.
July 27, 2012 - 5:05 PM EDT
Phil, I understand your point that at last we know what we're getting with Duncan, but that's also why I long for a replacement. What if say a Goedert or Canzler did offer more than Duncan? Either one could not possibly be any worse. Plus Goedert does have more versatility than Duncan.

Also, didn't mean to leave out the higher profile names when referencing the team's offensive woes. I just focused on Cunningham and Duncan because those are guys that the Indians might actually considering moving. There is no other offensive player on the roster in my opinion that I could see being sent down. Maybe Lopez if he really starts to struggle mightily, but even that's a stretch.

p.s. You caught me. I was a big Jerad Head fan lol
July 27, 2012 - 4:50 PM EDT
I just think Fedroff should get a shot. The rest of these guys have all had good and bad streaks which makes me suspect them of being AAAA players. But Fedroff just hits day in and day out. He is a consistent high average guy. Seems to me like the Indians could use that. Obviously Damon is blocking him and you don't cut Damon and promote a rookie right now, but I would love (and expect) to see him as a September call-up.
July 27, 2012 - 4:21 PM EDT
The Indians are in the playoff race. They aren't going to trot out a whole bunch of rookies to feel themselves out at the big league level and see who sticks, who would do that? Damon has been hitting well over the last month and a half so we're going to get our panties in a bunch over some bench bats? I'm not.

Goedert doesn't do anything that Duncan doesn't already and at least we know what we're getting with Dunk. Carrera should be in the bigs, i'll give you that, but I understand that the Tribe wants him to be playing everyday, developing, and not sitting on the bench. You criticize the Indians front office for labeling some of these guys as "fillers" yet you're willing to delegate Carrera as a 4 OF. I don't get your reasoning there, just as i don't understand how you can tag Duncan and Cunningham as reasons for the stagnant offense without mentioning the higher profile guys that haven't lived up to their expectations thus far. Seems a little shortsighted, in my opinion, especially with your criticism of Antonetti.

With that said, Donald fell outta favor with Acta very early, which says a lot because Donald was an Acta favorite last year. Barnes didn't perform in the MLB so he's back in AAA, what's the problem? You don't like how he's been made into a temporary reliever? Well, the White Sox did the same thing with Chris Sale and that seemed to workout just fine, however, the sole reason the Indians converted Barnes into a reliever this season was because of his injury and protecting his arm while rehabilitating. Canzler? See Goedert. Shoot, i'm surprised you haven't drilled Antonetti yet for letting Jerad Head go........
July 27, 2012 - 3:08 PM EDT
I agree that Fedroff should be included in this list. With the year the Indians are having in LF and the struggles offensively, you would think they would at least give him and others a shot. But it in turn shows the value these players have to the org at the major league level.

As for Donald vs Lillibridge, I think it comes down to defense. Donald is still learning the outfield where Lillibridge has experience out there already. Also, Donald is not a very good defensive player at the ML level. That's the difference if you ask me. It really looks like acta and his staff lost faith in him with his earlier struggles defensively in the beginning of the season.
July 27, 2012 - 3:04 PM EDT
After seeing Donald play this year, I don't know why you'd want him anywhere near Cleveland. He can't play short, where he routinely turns simple ground balls into infield hits because he's so slow on his throws to first. He can't play 3b, just about every throw's off line or in the dirt and an adventure for Kotchman. And he didn't hit. at any position I used to like Donald, not sure what happened to him, but I would agree completely with the Indians treatment of him this year, because he's been terrible in the majors.

Carrera is the biggest mystery. Even if he did hit only .175 like Cunningham and Lillibridge, his speed would be useful. Right now the Indians pinch-running speedster is their backup catcher.

Goedert, I don't know, I think there's a good chance he would do worse than Duncan. Duncan is also a AAA monster, mores than Goedert. I don't see them sacrificing a well-liked player such as Duncan for an inexperienced similar player who will probably struggle at least as much. If they're out of the race in Sept. it would be a good time to give Goedert a chance to prove someone wrong.
July 27, 2012 - 3:02 PM EDT
tim fedroff will hit .300 as an everyday outfielder for another major league club in the near future, he would start on many teams in this league...he is better than damon, duncan and lillibridge...its a shame because its just not going to happen with cleveland, but theyll be sorry one day
July 27, 2012 - 2:07 PM EDT
It has to be demoralizing for some of these guys at Columbus to be blocked by inferior talent at the major league level. I love that some of them are written off as "filler" before they even get the opportunity. Handling of AA and AAA players has been a problem for years. I would love to see Sarbaugh as the skipper next year and for Antonetti and Shapiro to be working at Subway.
July 27, 2012 - 1:15 PM EDT
There's a left fielder in Columbus currently hitting .381 that seems to have been overlooked on this list.
July 27, 2012 - 12:41 PM EDT
The best I could figure the Tribe liked Lillibridges versatility, with the ability to play all but C and P. Plus Lillibridge has played in the AL central and had decent numbers last yr...but so did Donald.
July 27, 2012 - 12:24 PM EDT
I agree the Lillibridge deal is puzzling and there appears to be several better options in Columbus. Is the front office afraid of moving someone up because it will keep the Clippers from making the International League playoffs?

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