Indians Rumored To Be Shopping Justin Masterson And Asdrubal Cabrera
It appears history might repeat itself with the Cleveland Indians.
The Cleveland Indians are in an interesting position. Less than 12 months ago, they were perceived to be the laughing stock of an emerging American League Central division. Terry Francona and Nick Swisher were brought in to instill leadership and guidance to a squad that has lacked both qualities since the days of Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia (two men, who after carrying the franchise on the backs of consecutive 200+ inning seasons with sub 3 ERAs, were dealt for prospects). Michael Bourn was signed to a reasonable contract, given the production from the previous year, and was to provide gold glove defense, and speed on the base paths to take pressure of Jason Kipnis. Never, did anybody imagine, executives and analysts alike, peg the lowly Cleveland Indians to compete for the divisional crown, and secure a Wild-Card playoff spot.
Many speculate it was leadership in the locker room, or the emergence of Ryan Raburn. Others suggested the successes of the mercurial Ubaldo Jimenez, or rectification of Scott Kazmir. Than of course, there were some who simply proclaimed the Indians had a fluke second half, and were not deserving of their playoff spot. I for one, feel it was a combination of many things. It was due to the emergence of Ubaldo Jimenez, and his Cy-Young caliber second half, where he was amidst the best pitchers in all of baseball. It was the consistency of Jason Kipnis both defensively and offensively, and it was most importantly, Francona’s management of the bullpen, which ranked too, amongst the best in Major League Baseball. The Indians last offseason proved to make the best acquisition of any team by signing Terry Francona. The same man that won 2 World Series rings for an organization that hadn’t won since the Great Bambino was traded. The same man that upon his departure, saw a world-class organization tumultuously crumble due to lack of structure and leadership. Here he is, in Cleveland, alongside a long-time friend in Chris Antonetti pursuing a World Series with an organization that came very close in 2007.
So here the Indians sit, after losing their first playoff game under Francona, with a nearly maxed out payroll (presently sitting at 81.1 million dollars) with limited free-agent signing capabilities. They have watched Scott Kazmir pursue his career further with the Oakland Athletics, and are incumbently waiting for Ubaldo Jimenez to sign on a dotted line elsewhere. So what now? Where do they go from here?
There is reason to believe according to Jon Heyman, a CBS sports writer and MLB insider, that the Indians are looking to trade former All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera and the $10 million remaining on his expiring contract in exchange for immediate Starting Pitching help. This move makes sense in many facets, as it provides immediate salary flexibility for Cleveland, and could potentially warrant a middle-of-the-rotation starter in exchange for a player who has seen his OPS fall in each of the past three seasons, and is a liability at Short defensively. It also helps when you have a prodigious 19-year-old Short Stop with a slick glove and solid bat waiting in the wings, the type of prospect that will be a perennial gold-glove winner.
However, another report by Heyman is far more interesting, and unconventional. There is also speculation that Antonetti is looking to trade Starting Pitcher Justin Masterson, the team’s 26 year old ace, who still has one year of salary arbitration remaining. Why an organization that just watched 40% of its starting rotation depart via Free Agency would want to deal its best player at the position is perplexing. However, upon further investigation, it could be a fruitful move if the deal is right. If Antonetti were to hold out for two quality arms, it would provide the Indians with competent replacements for both Masterson and Jiminez, meaning that only Kazmir’s void would need filling. Danny Salazar’s explosion onto the Major League scene has many fans and executives alike excited, and rightfully so. A plus fastball, routinely gunned at 99MPH, a devastating slider, and fantastic split changeup provide Salazar with the repertoire of a future front of the rotation type starter. So, although subjective the argument can be made that despite a sure inning cap by the Indians in 2014, Salazar is a competent replacement, if not an upgrade of Kazmir.
A potential return of a number 2 or 3 Starting Pitcher, and reliable reliever in return for Cabrera could turn a weakness of the Tribe, into a strength with solid depth; a price that is reasonable given the track record, and the offensive production at a premium position. Indians fans no need to panic, this ship isn’t sinking, and history will not repeat itself. The days of sending bonafide talent away from Cleveland in exchange for the unknown, appear to be over, at least under this regime.