Welcome to Tribe Talk, where our panel of Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.
This week, after having some time to see our new acquisitions on the field, we grade each of the deadline deals the Tribe made.
I would like to thank this week's participant Lewie Pollis for his contribution. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch your thoughts on the questions we're addressing this week.
Trade deadline report card time! Please discuss and give a grade to each of the following trades made by the Tribe at the deadline:
1. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies) to the Indians for RHP Alex White, RHP Joe Gardner, OF Matt McBride and a player to be named later (Drew Pomeranz)
Lewie Pollis: When I first heard about this deal, I was livid. Can you say "mortgaging the future?" But it grew on me. Given Jimenez's skill, the length and cheapness of his contract and the unreliability of pitching prospects—even ones as good as White and soon-to-be-named PTBNL Drew Pomeranz—I now think the deal was worth it.
But while this deal may be a win, even the most optimistic analyst would have to call this a Phyrric victory. That I could easily play devil's advocate against this trade shows that it's not a slam dunk.
The pros outweigh the cons, but the cons are still convincing. I give it a B.
Samantha Bunten: Whenever you move top of the line prospects for a much sought trade deadline target, the stakes go through the roof. And unless the newly acquired player really blows everyone's doors off, it's tough to tell who the winner was in the trade until the prospects pan out for the team that received them, which can take years.
That of course makes the Jimenez trade very tough to assign a grade to. The Indians get a lot of points just for the fact that they were FINALLY willing to take a chance and give up some prospects in exchange for a chance to win right now. That said, when I lobbied for the Indians to move prospects to get a piece that could help them contend, a move like this wasn't exactly what I had in mind.
It isn't that I don't like the Jimenez acquisition, but rather that unless he's a huge difference maker for the Tribe this season and in coming years, the price was just too high. Of course, if White and Pomeranz don't ever amount to anything, then the trade is a win even if Jimenez isn't a total game changer for us. But we can't know that now.
And what's most concerning is why Colorado was willing to part with this guy. Maybe they just saw too good a deal to pass up, but we all have to wonder, with a player like Jimenez who won 19 games last season and is signed to a very team-friendly contract, why were they willing to let him go? The answer has to be that either we gave up too much, or there's something wrong with him.
Let's hope it's the former, and thus the lesser of two evils. If he gets the job done, it doesn't matter if we overpaid. If there's something wrong with him though, that means we just sold our future for nothing. So I'll give this trade a very skeptical B- and hope that I have to eat my words and amend that grade for the better at a later date.
2. OF Kosuke Fukudome (Cubs) to the Indians for minor leaguers RF Abner Abreu and RHP Carlton Smith
Lewie Pollis: Two weeks before this deal went down, I speculated that Fukudome would be a good trade target for the Indians—he'd be a somewhat worthwhile improvement, and since Jim Hendry wouldn't have the leverage to demand elite prospects, he'd be worth Cleveland's while if the Cubs paid a significant chunk of his salary. Hold your applause.
At any rate, the Indians got something for basically nothing, so I could see giving them an "A" for this ideal, but I feel odd assigning a top mark for the acquisition of a non-impact player. As I said right after the news broke: B+.
Samantha Bunten: It's a little tough to get too excited about a trade for a player who isn't going to make or break the season, or even have all that much of an impact on it. But as we discussed in this column before the deadline, the deals that make a difference for a team's playoff chances are often not the big blockbusters, but the smaller, role-playing acquisitions.
Honestly even with that caveat, I can't see a player like Fukudome, who has little power and is a very average contact hitter, being the catalyst for the Tribe's success in the pennant race. However, it's tough to argue with a deal that brought in a useful, everyday player for two lower-end prospects.
Even if Fukudome doesn't contribute much, you won't miss the prospects the Indians gave up. So it's sort of a low-risk, medium reward situation. It seems strange to give a high grade to a trade for a player who won't make much difference for the team, but when we've given up so little, well, what the heck? I'll give it an A-.
3. OF Thomas Neal (Giants) to the Indians for INF Orlando Cabrera
Lewie Pollis: This was the lowest-profile deal the Indians made, but it might have still been the best. Cabrera should have lost his starting job two months ago, but Manny Acta continued to put him in the lineup long after a viable replacement had emerged.
I'm not happy that he's off the team, but it's a great thing that he's now out of the lineup for good. Beyond that, did anyone else realize that we got a guy who's one year removed from being a Baseball America Top 100 prospect in exchange for a below-replacement-level player?
Sure, the Giants were desperate for infield help, and Neal probably doesn't project as a real impact player down the road, but we got a useful part for a man with -0.6 WAR. Grade: A-.
Samantha Bunten: When this deal first came through, I absolutely hated it. Not because I would particularly miss Orlando Cabrera's play, but because trading your club house and veteran leader in the midst of a pennant race has potentially disastrous implications for a young team with a very fragile sense of self confidence.
However, as I started to think more about the deal, it grew on me. I'll never be totally in favor of moving a veteran leader right in the thick of things, but maybe it's time to see if the youngsters can stand on their own. They were going to have to do so eventually anyway, and if Cabrera did his job as well as I'm told he did of helping these kids along, then they should already be to the point where they can get out there and ride without the training wheels.
When you look at it that way, it just becomes Orlando Cabrera the player rather than Orlando Cabrera the leader for Thomas Neal. And in that sense, this trade is a win. Look at it this way, would you want Cabrera on the field now that you have the option to have Kipnis at second instead? We were able to upgrade at second all on our own by calling up Kipnis, and by moving Cabrera, we essentially got a good outfield prospect in Thomas Neal for little cost. That's an A- in my book.
4. With the flurry of deadline trades made by the Indians, space had to be made on the roster for the new players. As a result, Mitch Talbot and Travis Buck were designated for assignment.
How do you feel about the departure of Talbot and Buck from the major league roster? Do you think we'll see either with the Indians again in the future?
Is there anyone else who you would have preferred the Indians DFA instead of one or both of these players?
Lewie Pollis: I'm certainly not popping champagne for someone getting kicked off the team, but I think the team made the right choices.
Talbot isn't going to amount to anything until he learns to miss bats and control the walks, and with Fukudome and Ezequiel Carrera now on the team, Buck was the worst of four left-handed outfielders (and that's before Choo and Sizemore come back).
If not for his handedness, I would have rather cut Austin Kearns than Buck, and if he wasn't injured, I think we'd have been able to get something for Talbot in a trade, but given the circumstances, I'd say they made the right choice.
Samantha Bunten: I can't say I'll miss either Talbot or Buck much, but I'm also not in the habit of hoping for players to get DFA'd unless you're talking about Andy Marte circa last year. Or the year before. Or the year before that. But I digress.
The point is, somebody had to go, and the Indians chose who to ax correctly. Talbot cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A, so if there's some shred of potential left in him, we've still got a chance to capitalize on that. As for Buck, our outfield was overcrowded with mediocre to poor left-handed hitters. No one is going to miss a guy for whom we have a whole passel of comparable players still on the roster.
5. With the Indians right on their heels in the AL Central race, the Detroit Tigers had to make a few deadline deals of their own to keep pace.
What do you think of the moves Detroit made? How would you grade their deadline deals?
Do you think they made enough moves and moves of good enough quality to keep pace with the what the Indians did at the deadline? Which team will would you declare the deadline deal "winner"?
And finally, will the moves either team made be a deciding factor in who wins the AL Central in 2011?
Lewie Pollis: The Indians did better than the Tigers at the trade deadline, but Detroit quietly upgraded, too. I don't know enough about the prospects the Tigers traded to offer specific grades, but Doug Fister, Wilson Betemit and David Pauley all make the team better. So yes, Cleveland was the "winner," but not by as much as you might think.
If the Indians remain incapable of putting together a winning streak, then neither team's deals will matter for the division race. However, if Cleveland makes a comeback, I think it's fair to say that Jimenez and Fukudome will have something to do with it. And, crazy as it sounds, if the Tigers end up winning by a game or two, Fister and Betemit could end up being the kingmakers in the AL Central.
Samantha Bunten: The Indians were the winners in terms of what they acquired for certain, but it just isn't that simple. Obviously to call either Doug Fister or Wilson Betemit a difference maker in a pennant race is almost laughable, but you have to consider that the Tigers probably needed less help than the Indians did going into the deadline.
The Tribe made better upgrades, but they had to do that in order to keep pace with the Tigers, who have unfortunately started to slowly pull away in the race for ht AL Central pennant. At the end of the day, both teams did what they needed to do. The Indians may have made the bigger move, but the race is still neck and neck. I think both teams took the appropriate amount of action. Now we just have to see who has what it takes to come out on top at the end.