With a new “ace” added to our staff, the thought of Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson anchoring our rotation in top form must scare the rest of the weak AL Central. To be fair, it scares me even more.
Jimenez is actually under control for just TWO seasons beyond 2011. That leaves little time for the Indians to reshape their roster because our window of contention is likely to shut once Ubaldo moves on after 2013 (or maybe luckily 2014).
The root of this bold and disastrous decision is that the Indians falsely think they are a contender this season most likely because of a very lucky 30-15 start. Since that start the Indians have been one of the worst teams in MLB at just 23-36.
The means of our market give us just short windows to contend before we must turn the roster over again and build it back up again.
With the numerous trades made in the past few years to bring back hordes of prospects behind us, the years of waiting for those boys to make it to Cleveland was finally beginning to happen.
After those trades were made, a new cycle hit us Indian fans. We now had to wait as the team was built down with the trades as the prospects acquired built up our Farm System. Those prospects are important to a small market club. They matter so much because they are controlled so cheaply for a long time. And with baseball being a game where a single player isn’t able to make a gigantic impact on his team compared to some other sports like football or basketball, it makes sense for the Tribe to build a large group of “numbers” down on the Farm.
The organization is still going to be in flux while this process of contention is supposedly going to happen. Asdrubal Cabrera is a star. Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore, who have 1 and 0/1 years left with the team are not really likely to be part of the future. Chisenhall, Santana, Kipnis, Brantley, LaPorta and Donald/Phelps are all still relatively raw and not yet close to being able to carry the meat of the lineup without proven veterans around them.
With question marks surrounding the future of Hafner, Sizemore and potentially even Shin-Soo Choo I find it hard to see a monster batting order developing. Over half of our starting position players for 2012 (Santana, Brantley, Kip, Chis, LaPorta) are unproven youngsters still, although Santana is still going to get himself figured out. Those guys will be in the lineup going forward next year and beyond. That group doesn’t really inspire me to plan on booking trips to Cleveland in October. And with those men still developing, the Indians still are going to have to develop multiple players to get looks in Center and DH in the near future.
The strength of a legitimate contending Indians team will be our strength in numbers with a consistent 1-9 lineup lacking of mega-stars such as Adrian Gonzalez or Jose Reyes type players. I struggle to see a group of players going forward that I know can form a core in the lineup. I’d bet on Asdrubal, Santana and (probably) Choo at the moment. What is Lonnie’s legitimate ceiling, .280 with 15 bombs? How about Kipnis? Where is our young 30+ home run potential prospect?
Someone tell me.. Anyone?
Our roster must be built by a group of inexpensive youngsters mixed in with some low priced veterans who are overlooked and on short contracts. Sure, Jimenez is cheap but his time here gives us just a short window where we need so much to go well. Realistically, Sizemore and Hafner are probably two of our four best hitters when healthy. And let’s not forget our offense is pretty timid with those guys in the Starting 9.
Basically, the Indians are in the middle of a building project. They are an average American League team at best with an average future ahead of them in the short and long term.
I must admit, an article by noted Royals lover Rany Jazayerli on Grantland.com brought an important point to mind.
The key to our franchise is the ability to develop talent. As Rany points out, our roster is pretty much made up of players plucked from other teams by route of trade. We haven’t developed a keeper of a first round pick since CC Sabathia although I hope Chisenhall changes that. Finally in 2009 and 2010 picks Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, we
are were looking at the first backbone of an Indians developed pitching staff since…. the 50′s?
Ubaldo Jimenez is not a sure thing as an ace. White and Pomeranz are even farther from being top-tier starters. But, the contractual control over those two star arms, to me, outweighs the TWO plus years we acquired Jimenez for.
Our business model for winning should be all about developing cheap young talent. It pains fans to trade away players such as Sabathia, Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee. It should hurt a ton, we loved those guys. But, the smart way thing for the franchise to do is develop stars and then turn them around for pieces the minute somebody overvalues them and thus overpays.
We should not be buying stars. We need to work harder than other clubs to develop stars so we get them on the cheap. When they grow older and expensive let’s get a haul for them.
The Indians aren’t that close to serious contention. Sure, we’re close to contention right now. But, does anyone really buy 53-52 with our 25 becoming a force for the forseeable future?
The Indians flaws run long and deep. Ubaldo Jimenez can’t fix the giant problem himself.
Carrasco. Masterson. Hurricane Perez. Tomlin. Santana. Marson. Asdrubal. Lonnie. Kipnis. LaPorta. Brantley. Fukudome. Choo. Sizemore. Hafner. Carmona.
We developed just Tomlin, Lonnie, Kipnis and Carmona. Every other major contributor to the roster has been traded to the team. Could our team dominate the AL Central if we could develop players as well as we could trade for them? ABSOLUTELY
In the long run, the Tribe’s lack of internal player development is going to cause them to stay in the bottom half of the American League since we can’t consistently build this model and win.
Whether White and Pomeranz would have lived up to billing isn’t the whole point. The Indians are better off with a little less quality (say Pomeranz is a number 3 and White is an 8th inning guy – which are both their floor’s) but having more quantity instead of more quality (say Jimenez is an ace – which is debatable) and less quantity.
GM Chris Antonetti and President Mark Shapiro should continue to try and develop stars like Sabathia, line up his replacement in house, and then ship him out for a bounty. No matter how financial savvy it is to add Jimenez, we aren’t going to be able to keep up if we adopt the model of forgoing player development in favor of making blockbuster trades where we get the star and relying on winning all of our trades to build the roster.
If the star pitcher we gave up our two best arms for was more of a sure thing such as Justin Verlander or Felix Hernandez (and no, neither was available and neither should have been) then I’m all for it. Jimenez just doesn’t yet have the background to prove it was worth it to make this rash of a decision.
I find the logic behind the notion of the Indians being a “contender” completely irrational right now. With Sizemore, Hafner and LaPorta (get real people LaPorta fans, he is nothing more than Ryan Garko) likely not a part of the next contention cycle we have a long ways to go before we win.
The core of the next AL Central Champion Indian clubs likely needs to be some home grown talent. Every team who wins a division with our budget has to do business that way. It’s the nature of the game.
The Indians aren’t close to a 3 in 5 year Central Division title run. Jimenez doesn’t change that. White or Pomeranz may not have either, but they gave us a better window to accomplish it.
The misconceptions about fans who are for this trade lie in this:
1) the Indians are contenders
2) our young hitters are going to carry us
3) Jimenez is staying in Cleveland beyond 2013 (or 14 at best)
I would really have loved the trade if we were actually closer to contention. And I don’t mean contention like the Twins the past few seasons. I meant actual contention for the whole thing. I also would have been in favor should we have had control through 2015 or if we had included perhaps either Kipnis/Chis plus White/Drew.
We are closer to building a team through pitching than hitting, in my humble opinion. With Masterson, Carrasco, Tomlin joined by these youngsters I felt a safer future. We need an identity and I was hoping to see this one through. The pen could have consisted of Hurricane, Pestano, Sipp, Smith, Rafael. Toss White and Drew into the picture and I liked that mix. Plus, the group at Buffalo is pretty legit.
If Jimenez lives up to his early 2010 form of course this will be a great day for Indians fans.
Ultimately though, I see the trade as neither costing the Indians a ring or getting them one as the flaws of the roster around either Jimenez or White/Pomeranz will end up being too gaping.