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Tribe Happenings: Carmona is not on the trade block

December 19, 2010
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Carmona is a much needed piece of the
puzzle for the Indians in 2011 and
beyond (Photo: AP).
Some news, notes, and thoughts from my Tribe notebook…

Carmona will pitch for Indians in 2011

There has been some buzz created with reports this week that Cleveland Indians right-handed starting pitcher Fausto Carmona may be on the trade block. However, according to sources, those reports are greatly exaggerated and not true.

It’s the nature of the beast at this time of the year where a lot of rumors are fabricated on the assumption that a player is available or that just because a player may eventually be traded in the future, well, then it means he is available now. A great majority of the rumors at this time of the year are half truths and mere speculation written as fact.

The point is that the Indians have absolutely not shopped Carmona around to other teams nor have they given any hints that he may be available. Simply put: Teams are calling the Indians, they listen, and then they politely decline saying Carmona is not available.

Are teams calling the Indians and asking about Carmona? Absolutely. They get phone calls, e-mails, and texts all the time from other teams asking about their players. This is no different for any other team. The Devil Rays probably get calls on David Price all the time, or the Royals have probably fielded tons of calls on Zack Grienke the past few years.

Listening, however, does not mean a team wants to deal a player. Teams listen to what every team has to say in order to gauge the potential market for players in the event that they someday do want to trade them.

The bogus Carmona rumors have surfaced because of the Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez trades in 2009. The Indians dealt them even though they were not free agents after that season as they both were under the Indians’ control in 2010. As a result, the assumption by other media and fans is that the Indians will now trade anyone with more than a year left on their contract.

That assumption is incorrect as the Lee and Martinez trades were a unique circumstance. The Indians still prefer to only trade players in the last year of their contract that they consider unsignable or that they do not plan to bring back the next season. Deals involving players with another full season of control can happen, but should not be expected unless it is one where they think they are filling an immediate need and can afford to lose the player because of depth at the position (ex. Coco Crisp trade).

The Indians know that in order to become a contender again that they have to develop their own starting pitching. It is why they protected the likes of right-handed pitchers Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister this offseason and added them to the 40-man roster. They need all the options they can find in the rotation and need to work through this upcoming season to find the best fit. Trading someone valuable like Carmona who is under team control for the next four seasons works backwards from that belief.

Carmona is in the final year of the guaranteed portion of his seven year deal he signed with the Indians in 2008. He will make $6.1 million in 2011, an absolute bargain considering what he brings to the table as a top of the rotation starter. The Indians have three club options for the next three years that will pay him $7 million in 2012, $9 million in 2013, and $12 million in 2014.

If Carmona continues to pitch as he has, when you consider the cost of just average starting pitching in free agency, he is a bargain the next four years at just under $35 million total. In addition to that his contract is very team friendly as the Indians are not on the hook for anything long term as they essentially will be going year to year with him the next few seasons. If he suffers a serious injury or a big setback with his performance, they are not tied into his contract and can just choose to decline to pick up his club option the following year thereby voiding the rest of the contract at no cost to them.

Since the Indians control Carmona another four seasons, if they ever do decide to shop him it will very likely not be until he gets closer to free agency. If the Indians pick up all of his option years he will become a free agent after the 2014 season. If at that time they consider that he will be hard to resign, then a potential trade could occur sometime after the midpoint of the 2013 season.

Bottom line, the Indians are desperate for starting pitching. While Carmona has been somewhat inconsistent, when he is on he is one of the better pitchers in the game. Why would they trade an innings eating workhorse who has the stuff to dominate when he is under control the next four years at a bargain? Especially when the plan is to contend again in 2012?

Not to mention if you trade Carmona what little fans remain will jump ship. The organization is already taking on a lot of water and fans are losing interest. A trade involving anyone like Carmona or Shin-Soo Choo for that matter at this point could be the iceberg that sinks them for good.

You can never say never in this game, but Carmona is about as available as David Price in Tampa. Or Tim Lincecum in San Francisco. Unless a king’s ransom is sent for any of those players they are not being dealt.

No matter what the rumors say the only thing that would prevent Carmona from being the opening day starter in 2011 for the Indians would be an injury. Otherwise, expect another year of Carmona pitching for the Cleveland Indians on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

Remembering Feller

The Indians lost a legend on Wednesday night as hall of fame right-handed pitcher Bob Feller passed away. He was 92 years old and had recently been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

Feller started 484 games in his career for the Indians, winning 266 of them, and had a lifetime 3.25 ERA. In his career he threw three no-hitters (including the only Opening Day no-hitter in MLB history on April 16, 1940), 12 one-hitters and 44 career shutouts.

Feller spent all 18 of his seasons in the big leagues with the Indians, something you rarely see anymore in the modern era of sports. He was a key member of the 1948 team which is the last Indian team to win a World Series. Since retiring after the 1956 season he was an ambassador for everything that is Cleveland Indians baseball by participating in the Indians fantasy camp for years and routinely showing up at games during the regular season as well as in spring training.

Feller’s greatest contribution came off the baseball field as the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 he enlisted in the United States Navy and put his Major League playing career on hiatus for four years while he served his country. When asked over the years what his greatest victory was he would always say, “World War II.”

I’ve only been able to see Feller pitch in old movies and highlight reels you see played on TV, but he is unquestionably the greatest Cleveland Indian ever and arguably the greatest right-handed pitcher in the history of the game.

Indians owner Larry Dolan summed it all up best in his statement this week after Feller’s passing: “Bob will be with us always. Not at Opening Day, not at Fantasy Camp, not in the Press Box, but in our hearts. We in Cleveland have been blessed to have had him with us these many years. We will never let his memory pass.”

Kinston sold, moving to Zebulon

In an out of nowhere announcement on Thursday the Cleveland Indians High-A affiliate in Kinston, North Carolina has been sold to the Carolina Mudcats. As part of the sale the old Mudcats team was sold and will move to Pensacola, Florida while Kinston will move to the Mudcats’ home in Zebulon, North Carolina and take Kinston’s spot in the Carolina League beginning in 2012.

The Indians new home in 2012 in Zebulon (suburb of Raleigh) will come with significant improvements to the facilities and fan support they saw in Kinston. Zebulon’s Five County Stadium is a state-of-the-art 6,500 seat ballpark built to Triple-A standards and will become the second largest ballpark in the Carolina League. Kinston averaged just 1,799 fans a game compared to Carolina who averaged 3,811 in 2010.

The sale and move is quite convoluted and complex, but in a nutshell Carolina sold their team because of transportation difficulties while Kinston was sold because of revenue problems.

Carolina currently plays in the Double-A Southern League but have often complained of transportation difficulties because they are the northern most affiliate in the league and are over 500 miles away from over half of the other teams in the league. In contrast, every team in the Carolina League is less than 500 miles away from Carolina, so the travel arrangements work much better for them.

The 2011 season will mark the final season with Kinston as an affiliate for the Cleveland Indians, a partnership which has been in effect since 1987. Kinston reportedly will try and lure another team to play in their town, but the chances of that appear slim. Not only are they the smallest city with affiliated baseball and have an old facility, but so many other variables have to work just right in order for them to land a team. There is talk of possible expansion in 2012, but is still considered a long shot at this stage.

Indians sign Everett

On Thursday the Indians added another option to their infield in 2011 when they signed infielder Adam Everett to a minor league deal with an invite to big league spring training. In his ten year career he owns a .243 batting average with 40 homers and 282 RBI.

Everett, 33, is at the tail end of a career which has been in decline for the past few seasons. He only hit .185 with no home runs and four RBI in 31 games last year for Detroit. He is considered a defensive specialist, which is where his value mostly lies. The Indians will give him a shot this spring to stick with the club as the utility player off the bench and serve as the backup at shortstop to Asdrubal Cabrera.

Parting Shots

Former corner utility player Chris Gimenez has signed a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners. The Indians had removed him from the 40-man roster this offseason thereby making him a free agent. … According to reports, Indians minor league field coordinator Dave Hudgens will be leaving the organization to be the big league hitting coach for the New York Mets. The move is not yet official, though is expected to be announced Monday or Tuesday. … Infielder Jayson Nix has not played out in Puerto Rico since he was hit by a pitch on December 8th. He is day to day and is expected back in the lineup soon. … I am in the middle of completing the 2011 Indians prospect book, my fourth prospect book. I will have a more detailed update after the Holidays, but to those who have been asking (or wondering), expect it to be available sometime in January. … Finally, I want to wish all the loyal readers and Indians fans out there a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @TonyIPI.  His latest book the 2010 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More is also available for purchase on his site for a special year end closeout sale of $10.00 (including shipping and handling stateside).

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