Tribe Happenings: Did the Indians really miss on Donaldson?
Some news, notes and thoughts from my Indians notebook….
Missed opportunity with Donaldson?
As many saw on Friday, the Athletics dealt Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays in exchange for third baseman Brett Lawrie, shortstop Franklin Barreto, right-handed pitcher Kendall Graveman and right-handed pitcher Sean Nolin.
Like a lot of Indians fans, I came away less than impressed with the haul the Athletics got in return for Donaldson and was disappointed the Indians were not in on the action to land him. As I have opined a few times over the past few months, I have felt that Adrian Beltre, Yoenis Cespedes or Donaldson would be a perfect addition for the Indians as all of them would provide a much needed middle of the order right-handed swinging presence in the lineup and play some good defense to boot.
But Donaldson would have been the perfect addition for the Indians. This is not an older, expensive player like Beltre or a one year rental like Cespedes. In some ways, he is the position player version of Corey Kluber who has seemingly come out of nowhere the last two seasons. This is a player just coming onto the scene as a late bloomer who has four years of club control left before he hits free agency after the 2018 season and would not be overly expensive over those four years. Even if the Indians were to go year to year in arbitration with him, would he cost more than $35-40 million over that time period? If so, that’s a very affordable amount for a small market team to pay a star quality player.
On top of that, Donaldson was a pretty darn good performer the last two seasons. In 2013 he hit .301 with 24 HR, 89 RBI, .883 OPS and 7.7 WAR and then this past season followed that up hitting .255 with 29 HR, 93 RBI, .798 OPS and 6.4 WAR. Sure, his batting average ticked back a little this past season but he also had a significant drop in his balls in play average which shows he was rather unlucky and could be in line for a bump up with his slash line next season – especially with more games away from Oakland Coliseum. He’s also a top notch defender at third base to boot, and that alone would have a huge impact for the Indians the next several seasons.
From a cost and roster control aspect along with the impact he provides offensively and defensively, Donaldson no doubt was a perfect fit for the Indians.
So why didn’t the Indians make a deal for him?
There was talk a few weeks ago that Donaldson might be traded, but that quickly fizzled out. We heard absolutely no rumors about a Donaldson trade in the works up until the announcement of the trade this past weekend. The swiftness with which this trade came about makes you wonder how many other teams were contacted by Athletics GM Billy Beane about Donaldson, how aggressive Beane was in shopping Donaldson and just how many teams even knew he might be available. It really is a strange move when you think about it because so many other teams could have conceivably trumped what the Blue Jays sent in exchange for Donaldson.
What that implies to me is Beane really had his target narrowly set on a few teams - maybe even just Toronto - and he really sees something in Lawrie he likes. So maybe the Indians never really had a chance. I’m not sure I buy that though. I think in the end the Indians just did not have the pieces the Athletics wanted to complete a deal.
The Indians have a third baseman in Lonnie Chisenhall who came up in the minors the same time Lawrie did and was always viewed as the better prospect. While Chisenhall was rated as a Top 25-30 prospect in all of baseball in 2010 and 2011, Lawrie was in the 40-60 range. From a performance perspective in their big league careers, both players have been inconsistent performers. In 345 career games Chisenhall owns a .260/.310/.417 slash line and is a 3.0 WAR player while Lawrie has also played in 345 career games and owns a .265/.323/.426 slash line and is a 7.9 WAR player. They are both very similar offensively, and while Lawrie is the superior defender Chisenhall has been the more durable player. They are close to a wash in terms of value, though I will give Lawrie the slight advantage.
The shortstop prospect Barreto the Athletics got in the deal is an interesting young player. He really played well this past season in High-A at 18-years of age and looks to be the real deal. But the Indians have a plethora of shortstop options and are one of the wealthiest teams in baseball in that area. While including Francisco Lindor in a deal would have probably made it a slam dunk, both Jose Ramirez and Erik Gonzalez have enough prospect momentum in the industry and are closer in proximity to the big leagues where depending on who you talk to they would be enough to consider it a wash for Barreto in terms of value.
Where the deal falls apart for the Indians is the two pitching prospects the Athletics got in return from the Blue Jays as both Nolin and Graveman have a chance to pitch in Oakland this season. Neither of them are probably impact starter material, but both are Major League ready with some upside and also some value as Nolin and Graveman were top 10-20 arms in their system. The Indians don’t have one let alone two arms like that right now in their system.
The closest thing they have to a Major League depth prospect arm is Cody Anderson and he is coming off a bad season and is not a viable Major League option next season. After that there are other interesting arms like Will Roberts, Joseph Colon and Ryan Merritt, but none of them have the prospect pedigree or are considered Major League options at this point. For the Indians to have any shot at completing a deal with the Athletics they probably would have had to include Danny Salazar or Trevor Bauer and still include another arm like Anderson or one of their top five position player prospects not named Lindor.
Does a deal of Chisenhall, Ramirez/Gonzalez, Salazar/Bauer and Cody Anderson get a deal done for Donaldson? Who knows. But if it was possible I would have been all over it. Obviously Donaldson would replace Chisenhall, the Indians could absorb the loss of one of their shortstop prospects and they have some starting pitching depth coming onto the scene to potentially absorb the loss of Anderson. Only the loss of Salazar or Bauer would truly hurt, but I would counter that loss with the signing of Justin Masterson or some other veteran starter or that ilk.
What this shows is that sometimes what is initially perceived as a missed opportunity when your team falls short on acquiring a player is not the case at all. Sometimes when you dig deeper they don’t match up as well as originally thought. And sometimes a GM like Beane makes some bizarre moves that are hard to explain.
The emergence of left-hander Nick Hagadone late last season is a development that I feel has largely gone overlooked. Long tabbed as one of the best prospects in the Indians system and a major piece in the Victor Martinez trade in July of 2009, he struggled with consistency and injuries for several years before seemingly putting it all together last season.
Hagadone, who turns 29 in January, made 35 appearances with the Indians this past season and racked up a 2.70 ERA along with a 2.3 BB/9 and 10/4 K/9 in 23.1 innings. The sample size in innings may be small, but this is a nice trend in the positive direction for him and reveals a pitcher who could be on the verge of a breakout next season. In some ways, he could be a later bloomer in the bullpen for the Indians along the same lines of Corey Kluber in the rotation.
The secret to Hagadone’s change in fortune is rather simple. It was not really anything like a major delivery overhaul or the addition of a pitch, it was just confidence. The Indians really worked with him last offseason and in Triple-A Columbus early last season on a program to build on his foundation and improve his confidence. While he throws 96-97 MPH with ease and has a nice slider, when he lacked consistency with the command of both pitches he would panic and make wholesale changes. They got him to trust his stuff more and be more confident in it, and the end result was a good half season in Cleveland.
Now, Hagadone is a pretty established piece in the Indians bullpen going into next season. He is out of options so he has to open the season in the Indians bullpen if he is healthy. With fellow lefties Kyle Crockett and Marc Rzepczynski, this affords manager Terry Francona three pretty good lefties to use really at any time in a game and not overuse any of them. Francona will obviously probably rely on the veteran Rzepczynski more as he is the more established of the three, but Crockett and Hagadone have really gained the trust of Francona and it would not be a surprise if either overtakes Rzepczynski later in the season as the top lefty option for Francona to turn to.
It is also possible that the Indians could dangle Hagadone, Crockett or Rzepczynski in a trade this offseason. Perhaps they use that left-handed depth to help fill a need in the outfield, but chances are they keep all three because having three good left-handed relievers in a big league pen offers a lot to a manager who loves to mix and match his relievers based on the situation.
Here is something else to think about.
Last season Rzepczynski held lefties to a .180 average and a .441 OPS with a 31-7 strikeout to walk ratio in 100 at bats, while righties touched him up hitting .338 and a .944 OPS with a 15-12 strikeout to walk ratio in 71 at bats. Crockett held lefties to a .200 average and .545 OPS with a 20:3 strikeout to walk ratio in 63 at bats, but righties hit .283 and a .809 OPS with an 8:5 strikeout to walk ratio in 46 at bats.
While Crockett and Rzepczynski had some severe lefty-righty splits and should probably only continue to be used against lefties only whenever possible, Hagadone interestingly has proven to be as successful against righties as lefties. Last season lefties hit .217 and .628 OPS with a 15-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 46 at bats, but he also held righties to a .211 average and .645 OPS with a 12-2 strikeout to walk ratio in 38 at bats.
Hagadone is the rare left-handed pitcher who can pitch against both lefties and righties and can pitch a full inning or even multiple innings if needed. His power stuff and ability to attack both sides of the plate makes him a little tougher on righties than Crockett and Rzepczynski and makes him a very versatile reliever in the Indians bullpen.
While the Indians are looking for someone to step up as a late inning pen arm, perhaps Hagadone is that guy if he continues to gain the trust of Francona early next season. His ability to dominate a lineup, improved command and his ferocious nature on the mound make him quite a nasty matchup for any hitter late in the game. I even think he has closer potential if he continues to progress as he did this past season.
Either way, having three good lefties in the bullpen is hardly a crowd and really creates some interesting matchup opportunities for the Indians late in a game.
Spending is often foolish
I could provide a lengthy list in this space showing all of the mishaps that GMs for teams have made in previous offseasons signing players to some crazy deals, but I think it goes without saying that while spending is fun at this time of the season it is often foolish. While there are a few big money deals that work out, more times than not the player is unable to live up to their contract because of the significantly increased expectations and pressure that comes with it.
We often fall into the trap of judging the success of a team’s upcoming season by the level of activity or the dollars they spend in the offseason. This is so misguided as every team has different needs and different levels of those needs. Some teams have several holes on their roster because of injuries or departing players, so they are more active. Other teams have a large contingent of players returning so their offseason shopping list is much shorter.
Spending in free agency is an awful way to judge what teams are setting themselves up for winning because free agency a lot of times sets teams up for failure. The core pieces to most any team are the pre-free agent players in their prime and also some of the solid second or third level free agents they sign that slipped through the cracks.
Look at the Indians offseason two years ago as an example. The Indians committed $117 million to Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds and Brett Myers. Those were the big moves of their offseason based purely on the dollars spent and which stirred interest wildly among the fan base. But Myers barely pitched in 2013 and was released near the end of the year, Reynolds was released in August that season, Bourn has been inconsistent and struggled with injuries and Swisher has been a major disappointment. That’s not a very strong return on their investment.
Meanwhile, the true impact moves of that offseason came from minor league signings such as Ryan Raburn, Scott Kazmir and even Jason Giambi along with trades for then complementary pieces Yan Gomes, Brian Shaw,Mike Aviles and Drew Stubbs. The emergence of some young pre-free agent players in the system like Michael Brantley, Corey Kluber and others has also been huge.
I just wanted to note that while everyone frets about the Indians lack of activity this offseason. In all honestly, the Indians could do absolutely nothing this offseason, return their entire team that ended last season and they will be a strong favorite to win the AL Central and compete for a World Series championship. They will surely look to tinker with the roster to improve some areas of need, and there is an outside chance for a big move, but this is a good team that is going to improve next season just from a natural maturation of the roster and with a few players surprising and coming out of nowhere to have key seasons.
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I'm in on Ryan Rua. He went to Lake Erie College in Painesville, I was born there. I would suggest, the Tribe could upgrade RF via trade or FA. Then try to work... David Murphy to TX for Rua. Rua is an interesting UTL type with a good RH bat.
I was just suggesting the Astros could have an OF or two available.
As far as spending, The Tribe had a better 2014 record than many of the big spenders (Yanks, Red Sox, Rangers, Blue Jays) whose payrolls were all over $125M. So throwing money around is surely not an automatic solution.
The KC Royals, our AL Central division rival, who just happened to make it to the seventh game of the World Series, spent about 10 percent more than the Indians... Not a lot more, just enough to eke out four more regular season wins.
if you're looking to trade for a role player, then Ryan Rua should be the target. He's a better fit and I'm sure he'd come cheaper than Marisnick because of less prospect hype. This guy is the perfect role player for the Indians next season: RH with power, who owns LHP, can play OF, 3B and 1B. He probably will never be an everyday player since even in his great minors seasons he had significant R/L splits, but he's a perfect corner OF/IF bench player. Of course he has the same value for the Rangers, who reportedly are after Torii Hunter. If they sign Hunter, he could become expendable for a BP arm. I would offer Hagadone or Scrabble
The Astros have plenty options and financial flexibility to resign Fowler. If they can get pitching for him, they'd probably deal Fowler. I think they'd listen on a young OF like Marisnick or Grossman. Grossman doesn't have the talent that Marisnick does, but, I think he could be a nice addition / not THE ANSWER, but a young (25) talented SH OF with multiple yrs a of control remaining. Grossman has never developed the pop some expected, has some speed, but is not great. He's kind of a tweener, but I think he could be a qlty add. I would project Grossman at... 250-260 BA 12 hrs 25 dbls 15 sb. Basically, I'm saying Grossman is a young Murphy. Read: role player.
Marisnick is obviously, the better talent. He will hit, he will get a lot of Ks, but I also believe he's gonna add some power as he matures. If you saw him last yr, you could see he's trending upward at the plate...getting it together. He would be a hard get, but I think he'd be a qlty long term add.
As for Donaldson, I am really curious what we may have offered and what they asked for. Something doesn't seem right about this deal and I wonder if it is Donaldson. Time will tell.
From my understanding about the two SP prospects the A's received. They aren't really ready to help the A's right away either. I think the A's are putting them into the system to develop them so they can develop them so more. They aren't big time prospects nor do they project to be more than back end of the rotation guys
On Chisenhall: Admittedly I'm a big Lonnie fan and I will admit that his defense at the beginning of the year was unacceptable. The thing that irritates me is that ppl forget how bad the defense was from Asdrubal, Swisher and Yan were each an error per day. This by no means is to make an excuse but I did see improved defense from all parties the last 2-3 months of the season. I agree with the Indians in saying that they can live with his defense in that period. BTW, I briefly forgot the failed experiment by Tito in which he gave Santana the 3B job
I think we need to see these guys come to camp and take it day by day instead of making wholesale changes. I think the defense last year at the beginning of the year was contagious, not in a good way. Also, watching the MLB Network Gammons made the comment that the Indians defense improved dramatically when they traded Asdrubal and that the staff ERA improved by one entire run after they put Ramirez in their consistently... this is a big difference. I saw the same thing and think they will build off that. Kipnis coming back in shape and productive will help too.
Overall the defense was an anomaly IMO and I think they will be improved and better than they were in '13
@Martin.. yeah, the L in Love is not the L in Lonnie.. He's under appreciated and still very young.. Seems to me there was a 3B in Cleveland,( my all time favorite player for the Indians, Brook Jacoby..) who never got the love.. but in the Sports Illustrated "Indian Summer" edition of 1987, Jacoby committed the unpardonable "crime" of smacking 32 home runs in a ball park that was better suited for an Olympics than playing baseball.. while driving in a paltry 69 runs.. THE HORROR !!.. Yes.. this example illustrates what is good about Indians Baseball.. and what can truly baffle you.
@ Homer.. Stros trade of a power LHRP for Marisnick would be a good get, but, the Stros are just waiting out the one remaining year for Dexter Fowler before turning over the CF spot to this Bernie Williams clone. Marisnick is going to hit.. play superb defense. and as he matures, will add to his slugging numbers. Good kid.. not a likely trade candidate,though..
@ Homer.. LHRP's & SP's and the markets..Trading with the Yankees is a waste of time. They can only offer untried or "not worth of trying" options for the Indians.. Best guess.. and it's a SWAG, wait until Spring Training is well underway.. and ARod shows he can come back and play. Trade Arod, a prospect currently in the Yankees farm system (anyone or any two ones the Indians choose no protection) and a MACK DUMP TRUCK full of $ 100 Dollar Bills to the Indians for Kipnis & Hope the circus loses its permit shortly after the season starts.. There's not a lot to like about the Yankees and their players.. but.. The Red Sox and Hags are made for each other.. The Red Sox have all the pieces and then some in the minors for whatever ails the Indians or may.. Preference with the Red Sox goes to Eduardo Rodriguez, Trey Ball and Michael Kopech.. The JBJr's and Mookies and who ever else. don't impress.. Middlebrooks can only be considered if Jenny Dell comes with him.. (yeah.. that aint happening).. and some more.. The O's are going to lose Miller..The O's will be a prime target for the Indians to send a bad contract with one of our LHRP's.. Sort of a poison pill / salary reduction deal that returns a wave..maybe Bridwell, who would be DFA'd or Rule V'd otherwise..
How do any of those sound?..
Donaldson would have been a nice acquisition.. Lonnie isn't a bad next choice for THIS TEAM.. we shall see..
seriously? i hope you are right but i don't see it - not even close
The Indians send Chisenhall down to Triple-A and all he does is flat rake, far outhitting anything Urshela has ever done, but people love Urshela and crap on Chisenhall. It's unbelievable to me. You all that hate on Lonnie Chisenhall can piss off...the guy is not a bad player and he's making less than 10% of what Swisher is being paid. It's crazy nonsense this Chisenhall hatred, I'm serious.
Lol, Marisnick is not quite on that level (yet). I would agree he Ks too much, but I would suggest he's improved and improving. Marisnick was only 23 last yr. He was actually quite improved at the plate despite the high(er) K rate.
I had previously stated that I would trade Lindor, Salazar, and Frazier for Donaldson, and I stand by that. Its a bummer we did not have the opportunity.
Maybe Lawrie will resurrect his career in Oakland. Oakland has been a place where so called prospects are able to succeed there.
Another highly touted prospect that has been a bust is Middlebrooks with Red Sox.
in '13. Those are batting champ numbers i may be being a polyanna however that swing of Chiz is as fluid as i have seen in a long time. No one saw Cano come out of nowhere in new york but again look at the classic LH swing he has so it is possible. Donaldson is big time i am not taking that away from him however you trade a possible batting champ for a power hitting 3b just because the power comes from the right side to is all symatics. Lets just see if a real rangy ss (J-Ram or Lindor) takes some of the pressure off Chiz and he becomes a better 3b i know he wasnt very good with a glove in '14 however i do think there was a slight improvement after cabbie left j-ram's range i think allowed chiz to not feel as if he had to cover more ground. Plus i think you have to look at other aspects such as how many ground balls did the base starting rotation give up. As for dealing any of the big 5 no thanks. You are talking big time talent lets reiterate for a minute Kluber (cy young) Carrasco top 20 (all of baseball for 2 seasons as a f armhand for the phil, Bauer the thrid pick in the draft and the golden spikes winner in a very good year for college players and one of his teamates on the mound was the first pic in the draft, Salazar is inconsistent as of now but he just turned 24 and what an arm and good control for that much of a power pitcher he could have a cy young possibly. Last but not least TJ he went in the 16th round with a million dollar signing bonus cause he told everyone he was Tulane bound we took a flyer on him and it paid off. He would been gone in the first round had he indicated he might sign. I love the idea of the camera periferal to see how his ball moves usually it is just a lil nuance that seperates a great pitcher from a good pitcher. You have to have talent to get there and he did get there twice. And he has shown that he will battle back from adversity in his non descript minor league career. None of you other bloggers are old enough to remember Paul Richard and his baby bird pitching staff of the early 60's i can only remember chuch estrada and milt pappas from the 4 but they were all under 24 and jim palmer wasnt one of them. Someone can do the research and find out, howevver i do remember a one for one trade that was made in the 1965 off season Milt Pappas for frank robinson who at the time was in the class of mays clemente and those guys. So lets take a deep breathe and see if Antonelli has his baby papoosses (I know not politically correct) and if he does this could be something special, Maybe the pitching version of the mid 90's offense in the Jake!!!!!
I don't think the Tribe had the chance to acq. Donaldson, that is, few knew he was available.
Looking at potential trade partners Id suggest that the Sstros and Indians might match up. The Astros have numerous OF...8 on the 40 man roster...and plenty of qlty prospects that are nearing the bigs. Two of interest are Robbie Grossman and Jake Marisnick, both have the ability to man any OF position. The Astros are reportedly shopping for BP help. Maybe there's a match.
There are several clubs looking for LH pitching (as always), notably the Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers. Whoever loses out on Andrew Miller might have interest in Scrabble. I would suggest the Indians could possibly get a (young) big league piece in return for Scrabble and save a few million by trading him.
That said, I think there is some serious over valuing of Lawrie going on here. This is not to say Lawrie is not a good player, because he is. But there is not much different between him and Chisenhall as I illustrated in the piece. Chisenhall was always the more highly regarded prospect up until the time they debuted in the bigs in 2011. Since then, both players have been very inconsistent and played (strangely) the exact same number of games (345) and performed almost identical with the bat. As noted in the piece, Lawrie is a better defender so he ultimately gets the nod in terms of value. But when looking at prospect pedigree (Chisenhall), offensive performance to date (wash), defense (Lawrie), durability (Chisenhall) and upside (wash), there is not much of a gap between the two as some seem to think. Chisenhall may also have more athleticism to allow him to play more positions so that is another plus in his corner. But again, as I said, I give the slight advantage to Lawrie.
Gonzalez is a high level prospect for the Indians. I think a lot of Indians fans are missing the boat on that for some strange reason. He's an above average defender with lots of athleticism, versatility and pop and upside to the bat. Baseball America just had Gonzalez 8th and Barreto 5th in their organization Top 10 rankings. So not much difference there at all. I wouldn't say Lawrie-Barreto and Chisenhall-Gonzalez (or Ramirez) are a wash as Lawrie-Barreto is slightly better.....which is why I mentioned the lack of arms for the Indians to include to put the deal over the top and that to make up for the difference that one of Salazar or Bauer probably need to be included. Salazar is better than any of the two pitchers the Athletics got in the deal but the question is who is the fourth player from the Indians?
It is why in the end, I am not sure the Indians missed out on an opportunity for Donaldson. Between Beane seemingly pulling this trade out of nowhere and the Indians not having the pieces to match the Jays, I doesn't look like it would have worked out.
A non tendered player generally isn't someone you could consider an important signing down the line, but there are always a few very interesting guys who get floated out there.
I read the following somewhere, but frankly forgot which site, "AA called Beane acknowledging that he had prior discussions in October, AA said, what if I make it worth while?" Beane was inclined to listen, and obviously they worked out a deal.
Beane reportedly loves Lawrie and viewed him as an undervalued piece, perhaps, a younger Donaldson. Nolin is a big league ready LHSP. Graveman has gotten a TON of prospect helium with the addition of a cutter. He has an excellent cutter, which, obviously, works with his reportoire well. Barreto is a young, talented SS with a high level of talent but a cpl yrs away from the bigs.
Overall, I suspect Beane and AA were the only ones that knew their was ongoing negotiations. Otherwise, I suspect they may have gotten more. However, I would hardly suggest the A's lost on this deal. I think Graveman might be in the back of their rotation, Lawrie their everyday 3/2 baseman, Nolin possibly filling a role in their BP or starting in AAA. Barreto goes on to A ball this yr.
I may be alone on this, but I think the A's made out in that deal. If Lawrie can stay healthy, he might match Donaldson as soon as next season.
Lawrie has struggled, but not for lack of talent, but for lack of health. Rogers Centre wasn't doing him any favors and the Jays got an immediate upgrade in an MVP caliber player. But that player is only a year away from being on the wrong side of 30, and has serious issues with his throws. This is definitely a win-now trade for Toronto, and a move that should keep the A's from completely tanking next year while getting better down the road.
If anything, I think that people are underestimating the wear and tear that the turf in Rogers Centre can cause and selling Lawrie short because of his injuries.
Lawrie and Chisenhall aren't even close to a wash. Lawrie is far superior and has shown that when he's healthy. Although we have some decent SS prospects beyond Lindor, Barreto was the top international prospect just two years ago and probably a top 100 prospect now.
People assume that since the A's haul might've been light that they'd just take out garbage but that's not the case...
While I agree that Gonzalez is an intruiging prospect, it seems like Barretto has a higher ceiling, Bauer has lost some of his polish but could still turn into a solid pitcher, but he too has only four years of control left plus a lack of options, Salazar seems far too steep IMO, and Anderson lost his luster just as he was getting it. I just don't see how the Indians would have topped the Jays on the high end, but certainly the floor from their package would have been higher. I just don't see the Indians getting much of anything of value back from Chisenhall, at least not in the form of a big league star.