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Trade Targets Part 2: The Quest for Help

July 30, 2011
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Aaron Harang (Photo: AP)
Ok it is almost 24 hours until the deadline. The Indians have struck their first deal, and appear to be in on everyone. I missed a few targets and some players have been traded already, so might as well do a quick update and talk about who is still out there.

One other note, as seen by the Indians interest in Beltran and acquiring Fukudome, the front office is showing a big time interest in on-base percentage (OBP). Of all the bats available they had the highest OBP of anyone on the trade block this year. The front office is very stat oriented, and I think this should be taken into account as we look at targets.

Let's start out big and then go down:

Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Rockies

Pros: First half of last year he was the best pitcher in baseball, he is signed for 4 more years all at an extremely favorable amount, has pitched well in Colorado.
Cons: High cost to acquire, has been hurt, velocity is down.
Percent chance: 30%

Commentary: If you look at his numbers, they are what you would be happy to see White or Pomeranz produce so why not get a guy who is ready now? The issue is I can see him costing two of the big four. I for one don't have a problem as his contract is exactly what the Indians need in terms of how cheap it is. He would slot into the top of the rotation and not only stabilize the whole rotation but would allow Cleveland to shop Carmona now or in the offseason or consider trading someone like a Carrasco for a bat. I was listening to Keith Law who talked about how Jimenez is the anti-AJ Burnett because he has such a good head on his shoulders. He did not get messed up pitching in Colorado, so he will be fine anywhere and is not a pitcher you would have to worry about come the playoffs. So why is Colorado moving him?  They have a weak farm system and a lot of holes. They need to help fill those holes on a team that has some age spots and Jimenez is a guy who will net them three to four pieces. One side note, if Jimenez is traded he can void the fourth year of his deal so the Indians would have him for 2.5 years at an amazing rate. In all honestly if I were to pay for anyone it would be Jimenez.

BJ Upton, OF, Rays

Pros: He is locked up though next year, is young, a right-handed bat, and is an athlete.
Cons: He strikes out a lot, has a low and declining batting average, and not much pop.
Percent chance: 5%

Commentary: Tampa is a team that we have traded with in the past and are very familiar with. Upton has the advantage that he would not be a rental and would be back for 2012 as well. He had one great year, one good year and has been okay since then. He can steal some bases but is not the most efficient base stealer, has 12-16 HR pop, will take some walks but it is not enough to make up for his low average. In the last three years he has hit .241 or worse with an OBP of about .315. For a comparison, this year Austin Kearns' OBP is .313, so this year he gets on base just a little less than Upton does for his career. He will be good for 30 doubles, but all in all is a guy who has never quite lived up to his tools. In spite of feeling like he has been around forever he is only 26 years old so should just be hitting his prime now, and he has hit better on the road so getting him out of Tampa Bay might do wonders for him. He is an interesting player just in terms of youth, pedigree, and ability. For a player like Upton it comes down to price, and Tampa Bay needs to make room for former Indians draftee Desmond Jennings. I don't think the cost to acquire him would be super high. The Indians seem to have cooled on Upton, and with the addition of Fukudome I am pretty sure Upton is nearly out of the picture.

Hiroki Kuroda, SP, Dodgers

Pros: Top starting pitcher available, consistent player, if lost to free agency would get compensation picks.
Cons: Has a no trade clause and unlikely to approve a trade to Cleveland.
Percent chance: 0%

Commentary: Kuroda has been linked to the Tribe, and has been a very steady pitcher in the NL. The Indians are one of five teams linked to him. For a smart team that does not have to give up too much you would also end up with draft picks back. If the Indians could trade from depth to get Kuroda they would then be able to turn around and be assured two picks if he left in the offseason. For a team like the Dodgers they need to trade him to get prospects because they won't offer him arbitration and they would save some money, which is pretty huge for them right now. The issue is a full no trade clause, and little desire to come to Cleveland. Besides, if he does just stay with the Dodgers then he could avoid arbitration which is always a bonus for a player when it comes to free agency. In terms of his own pocket book, I am willing to bet Kuroda does not waive his no trade because he won't have to worry about arbitration which would mean more money for him long run.

Josh Willingham, OF, Athletics

Pros: He is a right-handed bat, been on a tear recently, and has a good history.
Cons: He is coming off injury.
Percent chance: 40%

Commentary: Willingham has been a consistent bat in baseball for the last six years. If you look at his numbers he has been a bit underrated as he might only hit .260 but he can take a walk and has a career OBP of .362. He has average power as a 18-22 HR guy. He plays power positions as a corner outfielder and first baseman, so this is why he has bounced around a bit. The thing is in three stops he has hit and played well. By by this point he has really deserved to nail down an everyday gig and might get that in free agency next year. He is considered one the Indians main targets and for good reason as he is a solid right handed bat. He is something this organization lacks and he should not cost a king's ransom to acquire. I would not be shocked to see a deal that could be headlined by a young reliever as Oakland is trading most of theirs. The only roadblock I see is with Beltran and Pence out of the way all the teams chasing outfielders such as the Tigers, Braves, Pirates, Red Sox and Rangers are more interested. The other road block is Oakland is shopping everyone including fellow outfielders David Dejesus and Coco Crisp, which means a lot of deals are being worked on at once.

CoCo Crisp, OF, Athletics

Pros: He is a switch hitter, hits righties well, and should not cost any major prospect to acquire.
Cons: He has had defensive problems since he left Cleveland, has had a significant drop in power and average once he left Cleveland, and he doesn't walk much.
Percent chance: 5%

Commentary: The Indians are highly familiar with Crisp and it turns out they traded him when his value was highest. In a deal full of disappointment on all sides Crisp never seemed to be the same player he was in Cleveland, maybe a return would help him bounce back to more solid numbers. Crisp does not hit lefties at all as his career OPS is over a hundred points lower vs. lefties than righties. Once we added Fukudome he became completely redundant. Unless he was just about free, and the Indians wanted an upgrade for a 4th outfielder, I just don't see a fit.

Jeff Francouer, OF, Royals

Pros: He has good power, a great arm/defender, hits lefties well, and is not a rental.
Cons: KC is inclined to keep him, and he has no clue what a walk is.
Percent chance: 10%

Commentary: I like Francouer, I really do, and he brings a lot to the table in terms of defense and pop. Yet he seems like the antithesis of what the front office looks for. This is a guy who in 630 plate appearances manages 20 walks. I mean Santana does that in a what about 2 weeks. I'm not sure I have ever seen a player less prone to walks, and this means by nature he posts a very low OBP. He is a productive player and has helped KC which is why I doubt he goes anywhere. Unlike Betemit who they gave away, Francouer is signed for another year so they can get another year of production out of him. Why trade him for peanuts and is he worth giving up anything solid for? It's a real catch 22 scenario which leads to Frenchy staying in KC, unless someone over pays. I would take him over Ludwick, but it just seems like a hard deal to make happen.

Aaron Harang, SP, Padres

Pros: He has had a bounce back year and is a solid, cheaper pitcher to acquire.
Cons: He has significant home and away splits, and seemed washed up until he came to the friendly confines of Petco.
Percent chance: 25%

Commentary: I am not sure what Harang really brings to the table even though his numbers are much improved. The question is why is he improved? His WHIP is nearly 0.3 lower than last year. He is walking guys at roughly the same rate yet has give up about 30 less hits this year. The advanced stats don't show him being overly lucky either. Could his rebound just be a matter of going from a great hitters park in Cincinnati to a bad hitters park in San Diego? This seems possible, so I am not sure what value there is in Harang. The combo of leaving Petco and coming to the AL should frighten off most AL teams. He looks like a back of the rotation guy to me. If I were GM, I would be passing for sure on Harang.

Ryan Ludwick, OF, Padres

Pros: He is a right handed bat and is familiar with the city, stadium.
Cons: He had one really good year, is in the midst of a horrible year, and he hits righties better than lefties.
Percent chance: 70%

Commentary: The Indians know Ludwick and have a long trade history with San Diego as the front offices do about a trade every other year. He will not cost a lot to acquire in a deal, but I have to be honest I would much rather than Willingham or Fukudome. Ludwick had one fantastic year where his OPS was 150 points higher than any other year, and his HR total that year was only two worse than his next two best years combined. He has posted two good years and one great year. He doesn't walk, he strikes out a lot, and for his career hits righties better than lefties. Even if you think it's an issue of ballpark his road OPS is still .700. A .725 OPS is considered average, but his .700 OPS would still be an improvement for the Indians so there is logic in adding him. He has been in decline stat wise over the last three years, so I am not sure if he would get the Indians compensation picks or not. At the end of the day Ludwick will be the cheapest bat to acquire in terms of prospects and cash. Add in the history between the Indians and Padres and a deal seems very likely. I would expect the price to be along the lines of what the Indians got last year in trades for Kearns and Westbrook.

Here are a few others who are on the Indians radar:

Jamey Carroll, IF, LA: His acquisition could mean the end for Jack Hannahan or Orlando Cabrera, he always has hit lefties well, and LA seems to want some value for him so I am not sure what you can flip for him.

Wandy Rodriquez, SP, HOU: I see that American League teams aren't interest, though I am not sure why. He has had good numbers in a hitters park, has an excellent WHIP every year, and does not beat himself. The issue is the team who gets him is on the hook for over $25 million over the next two years plus a buy out, so the Astros would surely have to throw in money in a deal.

Any Reliever, any team: Let's put it this way: Zach Putnam would be in the bullpen for two-thirds of the teams in this league and if there was an injury he would probably not even be the first arm up for the Tribe.

I also want to keep my two diamonds in the rough guys out there that I have been tracking that no one else has mentioned. I like to think a bit of outside the box, so I looked for guys who are young, right handed and blocked.

The first guy is Chris Heisey of the Reds. The past two years he has put up solid numbers in a limited role, but the Reds are also looking into outfielders so are not sold on him. In spite of his youth he could be acquired. The Reds biggest need matches up with the Indians biggest strength which is pitching, so I am sure a deal could work. He is playing more since they traded Gomes, so this might not be as plausible.

The player I really like though is Allen Craig of St. Louis. He is coming off a knee injury, but has hit with power on every level. The issue for him is that he is blocked in St. Louis, plus La Russa does not like to play young players. Craig would be the 5th or 6th best prospect in a system which is incredibly deep if he still qualified. The depth on the major league roster is also high, so Craig should be a tradeable asset. The Cardinals need relievers in the worst way as they have managed to contend in spite of leading the majors in blown saves at 17. They cut their closer this year, and their best young arm just got hurt. St. Louis would be a natural match for the Indians to turn some of their many arms into a bat, and in this case one that is right handed with good power. I know one poster talked about him playing second base in AAA to take over for STL, but he has been a butcher there and I still can't see it with La Russa and his dislike of youth. The Rasmus deal showed us they are all in for this year, and word is they do not want to trade their big four. So Craig becomes a real option because the bullpen arms they added in the Rasmus deal were not very good.  The best arm the pen got was pushing McClellan back into the pen.

So there is your updated list of options on the trade front for the Indians. After last night's game it is obvious this team has a lot of holes, so the real question is this year worth saving or should we hang onto the prospects and build for the future? By Sunday evening we will know what the Indians answer to this question is.

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