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The enigmatic Indians at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Could the Indians deal Lindor to improve their team?

The enigmatic Indians at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario
May 1, 2013
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 As we enter the month of May for this 2013 Major League Baseball season here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, you will forgive me if I seem a bit confused about my expectations for this baseball team. The team made a variety of moves over the offseason that I have discussed ad nauseum in this column, and improved the core of this team substantially.

But what have we really got here?

Offensively, the team is a Jeckyl and Hyde right now, having scored three runs or less in 14 of their 23 ballgames and having scored 13 or more runs three different times.

There are players that have underwhelmed overall at the plate Jason Kipnis is hitting .200, and that’s after picking things up over the last couple of days. His average bounced up .37 points over the past five ballgames, and he’s now hitting a whopping .200.

Lonnie Chisenhall is only hitting .222, and continues to struggle mightily against left-handed pitching. He’s 2-for-21 (.095) against lefties, and looks completely lost after a spring that gave hope that he may have figured things out.

Asdrubal Cabrera has also struggled early in the 2013 season. Like Kipnis, he’s picked things up, but he was really, really bad during the first couple of the weeks of the season. On April 7, he was hitting .083 on the year. His average is up to .225 right now, and his bat has really picked up to get there. He’s currently on a nine-game hit streak, and prior to the Tuesday night game, had a three-game, multi-hit streak.

On the other side of the fence have been a few guys playing well over their heads.

Mark Reynolds, who is a career .237 hitter and who hit .221 last year, exploded in April, hitting .301, with eight homers (tied for third in the majors) and 22 RBI (tied for fifth).

Ryan Raburn, who entered Monday night’s ballgame hitting .214, has gone 7-for-8 over the last two games, with four home runs and seven RBI. His four homers are tied for third on the team.

Then there is Carlos Santana, who I’ve been throwing the term MVP around over the past few days. Sure, I’ve been joking around (April), but his numbers are certainly worthy of taking notice. His slash line is .389/.476/.722. He’s leading the league in average, second in OBP (Shin-Soo Choo is leading the league) and third in slugging, and his 1.198 OPS is also tops.

Michael Bourn was playing really well offensively as well, then went down with injury, helping compliment this feast or famine start for many of the Indians.

The starting pitching has been similarly up and down. They’ve allowed three runs or less 11 times so far this season, and allowed ten or more runs three different times.

Brett Myers was the lone free agent signing that was a lock to start off in the rotation, but started off the year with an 0-3 record, an 8.02 ERA, and is now on the DL, with questions about his return abound.

Scott Kazmir looked promising in his last start, but started off the season with a rough outing. His 8.64 ERA is down from 16.2. It’s hard to feel confident when Kazmir is coming off a two year hiatus from the game.

Ubaldo Jimenez continues to be a head scratcher. He’s had two outstanding performances, that have bookended some of his worst outings since joining the Indians. He’s lowered his ERA from 11.25 after his third start to its current 7.13, but it’s hard to feel that the erratic righty has fixed everything.

You could even throw in Carlos Carrasco, who returned after a near-two-year stint on the DL and imploded in a 3 2/3 inning stint that ended when he was tossed from a game for hitting a batter…again. He gave up seven runs in 3 2/3 innings.

On the flip-side of the coin has been Justin Masterson, who has gone six or more innings in five of his six starts, and has looked more like his 2011 self than his 2012 self.

Then there’s Zach McAllister, who’s ERA hasn’t been below 2.19 or above 3.52, which is exactly what the Indians needed out of the gate from their big right-hander. The 25-year old is looking more and more like a guy that’s going to be around for years to come.

This team is one of extremes right now, and it really is hard to gauge where they are going to end up as we start the month of May. What happens when they are all finally healthy offensively, which may finally happen by the end of the week, when Michael Bourn comes back.

Can their pitching find some sort of balance, or will they end up being a bunch of have and have nots?

And when things are all balanced out, how good will this team be?

This team has flaws, and the truth of the matter is that it could go either way. If the team stays constructed as is, there will be really good weeks and really bad weeks. There will be really good days and really bad days. There will be really good innings and really bad innings. When your entire rotation is a question mark, that’s just the way it is. When your team strikes out a lot, it’s the nature of the beast.

This team will have runs of really good play, and runs of really bad play. It’s a living and breathing enigma.

The problem with enigmatic teams is that they depend on health, stability and sustaining good runs longer than bad runs. They also need others to help out. With the Tigers playing fairly well right now, that just might not be good enough.

Now, the Indians could go out and make some moves, but all of that will depend on whether or not they can maintain .500 baseball. If they do, the Indians could conceivably bring in a pitcher or a bat to help them out down the road. The question there though is, what would that cost? Do you deal a guy like Asdrubal Cabrera, who’s solid offensive play seems to mirror their latest upswing during their three-game win streak? I firmly believe that Cabrera is the backbone in a lot of ways for this team. He’s quiet, but there is a leadership quality that I’ve always felt was similar to Derek Jeter.

No, I don’t think he’s Derek Jeter, but I think his presence and play is a centerpiece of the team.

While dealing him would make sense, and while this team now has others to lead them forward, losing Cabrera is a detriment.

If you don’t trade Cabrera, what kind of pitcher are you going to get? If you deal Chris Perez, can he bring you what you need? Not by himself. What about Vinnie Pestano? The prize in return goes up, but what happens to your pen? Do you trade Drew Stubbs, who has been valuable in replacing Michael Bourn? He isn’t going to bring back the type of player that the Indians want either. Do you deal a package of those players? That’s likely, but even then, I’m not sure you’re talking about the type of player that the Indians will need to get them into the playoffs.

Then, of course, there’s adding the holy grail to the package. If the Indians believe they can win, do you discuss moving Francisco Lindor? Lindor, with other pieces already mentioned, wouldn’t certainly make things interesting. The question is, would it then be worth it?

Trading Lindor means the Indians think they can win the World Series. It’s that simple. I understand the mentality that prospects aren’t major league players, and I agree with it. Here’s the thing. You just need to take one look at Lindor to realize how good he is. You just need to take one look at Lindor to realize the value that he could bring in. He’s a final piece kinda player. If you trade him, you need a guy who will stick with the club for a bit, and you need a guy that will be a major factor. Lindor wouldn’t be enough by himself, but he should be the piece that allows them to move that direction.

I just don’t think they are there yet.

They are just to enigmatic.

There hasn’t been a whole lot of discussion about the Indians bullpen, but they’ve been one of the best in baseball. In 23 ballgames so far, the pen is 3-0 with a 2.82 ERA, and has been every bit as good as advertised. If you take out the Brett Myers implosion in relief of Carlos Carrasco, that ERA drops right down to 2.00. Sure, you can’t pick and choose statistics, but it’s easy to overlook that game, since Myers wasn’t considered a reliever, and was only making an appearance that night because of Carrasco’s struggles.

The point here is that the pen is the one legitimate strength that this team has, and depth to boot.

Joe Smith hasn’t given up a run yet.

Bryan Shaw has given up one earned run in 10 1/3 innings.

Chris Perez has given up one earned run in eight innings.

Vinnie Pestano has given up two earned runs in eight innings.

Cody Allen has given up three earned runs in 11 1/3 innings.

Nick Hagadone has given up two earned runs in 7 1/3 innings.

Matt Albers has given up three earned runs in 7 2/3 innings.

Rich Hill has given up two earned runs in 4 2/3 innings.

There isn’t a true reliever in the pen right now with an ERA above four, and while some of these guys aren’t quite as good as their numbers suggest, there aren’t any that are completely worthless.

The guys that need to go, or if there are injuries, have replacements readily available in Columbus. Scott Barnes, Matt Langwell, David Huff, Jerry Gill and Preston Guilmet are all legitimate options that could move up today. In Akron, Austin Adams, Shawn Armstrong, Trey Haley and Bryce Stowell are all waiting in the wings as well.

There are other starters, like Danny Salazar and T.J. House who may eventually find their way to the pen as well.

In other words, the pen is stacked.

We just have to make sure the starters don’t shred it.

Rearviewmirror…

Steve Orbanek nailed what Zach McAllister is to this team, a bona-fide starter that will be a major factor to this team. I agree wholeheartedly. I hear Jake Westbrook mentioned a lot where McAllister is concerned. I think that’s his floor. His ceiling? Cliff Lee. He likely won’t reach that pinnacle, few do, but I do believe that he could. McAllister will be the backbone of this team’s rotation for the next five or six seasons.

Carlos Carrasco made a start last night. He didn’t fare all that well, but it really cracks me up to think about some of the reports that were out there. I received an e-mail that said, “I saw it, and his arm was hanging by tendons.” It just goes to show you that you really need to be patient when you hear stuff, especially with twitter and folks trying to be “in the know.” The injury clearly looked bad, but wow…perspective people. You have to give Carrasco credit…he didn’t miss a start. Perhaps he knows he has to earn his way back. I think he’ll be back with the club, but I am guessing that if they can wait until June or July, that’s what they’ll do.

Francisco Lindor will move up a level this year. I’m not in the know, and I don’t have any information that would lead me to believe it…other than my eyes, and my head. Lindor is ready for Double A now. If he’s still in Carolina in July, I’d be shocked. Lindor will be in Columbus in 2014, and will be a hot topic next year for a call-up. He’s not far away, and I don’t think they are as concerned about development with him as they were last year. Defensively, he’s ready now. Offensively, he still has a ways to go, but he has a patience that you can’t teach, and that speed…is better than people think.

I really think Bauer is ready now as well. I really don’t see how more Triple A time helps him at this point. I know the Indians believe time in Triple A is the way to go, but there comes a point when Triple A is a low hum. I’m hoping Bauer forces the issues with tonight’s start.

If he does, bye-bye Brett Myers. I really don’t see Myers factoring into the rotation much going forward. Here’s the real question. Do you want him in the pen?

Ahhhh…it’s a beautiful day for baseball…everybody…

Jim is currently the co-site editor, the ATF/Carolina Mudcats/Indians/General Site Columnist, and the co-host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IPI, or contact him via e-mail at jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

 

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 jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

User Comments

Carl
May 2, 2013 - 3:01 PM EDT
I must admit even being under .500 right now, I am still excited about Tribe. They had a very tough April schedule and a few injuries . The hitting, bullpen and defense look to be very good, and the starting pitching is starting to come into place. You can already see the improved bench and Tito making a difference. If Phillies struggle would they trade us Cliff Lee. He is signed through 2015 at very high price. Maybe cost would not be as high as Lindor, or if it is they might throw in cash. I can't see a team trading a young cheap very talented starter, at least one that is somewhat established. You just can't do that.
Tony
May 2, 2013 - 8:36 AM EDT
It is amazing how once the Indians are about to start playing regularly and the weather is better, the bats wake up. They are still missing their A-lineup as Swisher was out the last two games and Bourn has been out for almost three weeks. I think once Bourn gets back this offense will take off and be a little more consistent. I'm not worried about the offense aside from getting Kipnis and Chisenhall going. Might need to make a change at some point there.

As for trading Lindor, the only....the ONLY way I trade him is if a proven no doubt good, young Major League starting pitching under control for three-plus years can be acquired. That's it. And the chances of that are pretty much nil, so there's that....although you never know.
Rich
May 2, 2013 - 8:32 AM EDT
Hard to believe but the Tribe is now 5th in the AL in runs scored, ahead of the Yankees and Rangers.

Raburn, Reynolds, and Santana will soon cool off and revert to the mean, but Kipnis and Chiz should heat up, so hopefully it will be a wash and the Indians will continue to be an above average offensive team.

I just wish they did a better job of distributing the runs, rather than scoring 13 one day and getting shut out the next. Or like the last doubleheader when they were shut out in the first game and scored 10 in the second.

I vote "No" on trading Lindor under any circumstances. Do we really want another Pom/White for Ubaldo deal this July?
Homer
May 1, 2013 - 10:14 PM EDT
I think they have to try to move ACab looking at the big picture. This is working with the assumption they try to lock up Masterson long term. Either way they go I think they need to try to lock up a few core pieces and influx the system with young talented controllable SP.

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