It is that time of year again in the Baseball season. All winning teams are looking for a player or two who could put them over the edge and help them in a push for the playoffs. In the past few years the Indians have been a steady provider of such players – much to the heartache of the fans. The team has said goodbye the past few summers to CC Sabathia, Casey Blake, Ryan Garko, Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez due to the team playing disappointing Baseball and the ownership wanting to cut payroll. The list of good and available players the team might trade is much shorter now, but the team will probably look to make a few moves to pick up a few prospects, cut what little payroll is left, and continue to re-stock for the future. No one expects the Indians to pull of any more Blake-for-Carlos Santana level steals, but the team will be looking to turn fortunes around in the next season or two and add to an already long and impressive list of talented, albeit unproven, youngsters. Here is my opinion of who might, or might not be traded this summer.
-Kerry Wood – the most obvious option is the Indians $10 Million dollar reliever. Brought in last year to steady the bullpen and help the team contend, Wood has done pretty much the opposite on his way to an atrocious year and a half in Cleveland. He has yet to make many meaningful appearances this season as he was injured early and has performed poorly since returning, making him even harder for the Indians to trade. His hefty price tag makes him REALLY hard, if not impossible, to move. However, the Indians need to seek trades in order to at least try and get something in return for Wood, to redeem some of what was lost on him. Mark Shapiro and Company cannot expect to get much in return for Wood, but a team with a winning record who needs relief help might be willing to take a chance on Wood in exchange for a low level prospect or two. Who knows…the Indians might be lucky to find a willing organization to deal for Wood and overpay for him based on his once exciting potential as the Indians did prior to the 2009 season.
– Russell Branyan – This is after all, most likely, exactly why the Indians signed him this off season. The “Muscle” started off the season injured, but got hot shortly after his activation from the DL and has had a relatively successful first part of the season. The team made a low-risk investment in the big-bopper who strikes out at a tremendous pace (the reason he never has been a full time player in the majors). His ability to hit the long ball at a high pace when he is not striking out every at bat is what makes him a sell-able asset to the Indians, that and his low salary, so if he keeps hitting home runs and stays healthy, the Indians should be able to trade him to a contender that needs a big bat off the bench as a back up or a pinch hitter. He is one of the most trade-able men on the roster because he could appeal to National League teams as well as AL teams who might need some more pop. Besides, he has a chance to go down in history as the guy to be traded the most times by any single team, it would be about the 5th time the Indians have dealt him if they move him this season.
– Travis Hafner – Pronk is probably about the least likely to be traded because of his albatross contract and a wafer thin market for DH’s this season. I will always love Hafner, but almost any way you look at it, his contract will outweigh any benefits he might have for the Indians. Not many AL contenders need a DH, and not many non-contenders would be willing to pay for one. If he is a potential trade piece, a team might give the Indians a decent return because of his past success (Baseball teams tend to do that a lot) and his bat seems to be coming around nicely after 2 years of mighty struggles due to injury. It is a possible scenario that Pronk is dealt, the team should not hesitate if there are offers for him, but in all honesty, the planets would need to align just right in order for the Indians to be able to trade Pronk’s enormous contract.
– Jake Westbrook – Probably going to be the most asked about man on the Tribe roster. He is having a nice comback season after 2 years off for injuries and setbacks. The #1 starter for the Wahoo’s is a expert at getting ground balls and lasting deep into ball games. He would be a great pickup for a contending team in either league that needs a solid #3, 4 or 5 starter. Because of his ability, consistency and contract, teams will be all over him the next few weeks. The Indians should be able to get a solid return out of trading Jake because of the value that inning-eating veterans hold in baseball. And while his numbers will never really scream out at you and he is not a flashy player, he is consistent and gets the job done. He would also benefit from a team that scores some more runs for him and a team that he won’t have to be facing #1 starters every time out. In the market this season and how good pitching is this season compared to offense, the Indians might be able to get several prospects for Westbrook, I would not say it would be on the level of the Cliff Lee trade last season, but it could be about that.
– Austin Kearns – It is unlikely that Kearns has garnished much attention from around the league, but he has been arguably the Indians best hitter all season long. He would be a good pickup for a contender that needs corner outfield help and depth in either league. Kearns has shown that he is not as washed up as previously thought, and he has good pop, plays solid defense and has a small contract. It would not be a surprise if the Indians do move Kearnsy to try and nab a prospect… Or
– Shelley Duncan – who has absolutely raked since the Indians called him up from AAA Columbus. He has never gotten many opportunities at the big league level, but he is making the most of his chance to fill in for the Tribe due to the injury to Grady Sizemore. There is a very, very slim chance but his power and almost non-existent contract might make him a target for teams looking to add some pop off the bench for the playoff push. Plus he is not a great defender, but has versatility with the ability to play 1st base and outfield.
There are a few long shot possibilities, and when I say long shot I mean really, really long…
– Fausto Carmona – The up and down sinker baller has been resembling his dominant 2007 season alter ego in some ways, but at the same time he has also been mirroring his other pitching persona of the past few seasons. He really has been more good than bad this year with an ERA around 3.23 and a 5-5 record. If the team moves Westbrook than Carmona becomes the #1 starter, which is really not a promising idea for the Indians. This would mean that more often than not, he will be facing the other team’s ace every time out, and while Carmona has ace type stuff he never seems to keep himself together for long stretches any more. Fausto could be a much better pitcher at the 3, 4 or 5 spot in the rotation because he would face less stiff competition on the mound. If anyone wants him for that role, the Indians should make him available and allow guys like Aaron Laffey and Carlos Carrasco to finish the season making starts in the MLB regularly.
– Jhonny Peralta – This season is Jhonny’s walk year, which might be why he is hitting a bit better than last season. But overall, the once offensively promising infielder has fallen far from where the team and fans expected him to be at this point in his career. He will be tough to trade for that reason and his seemingly effortless approach to the game, and not many contenders have holes at 3rd base that Jhonny could fill. The Indians will probably attempt to trade him to at least get a prospect or two, but it will probably be that no one pursues his services until he becomes a free agent this off-season.
Now this next idea is off the wall, and I would never want to see this happen.. but Grady Sizemore’s season has once again been destroyed by injuries, and the tremendous value he once held is all but gone at this point in time. I am not suggesting this, but it could potentially be the case that the Indians listen to offers for him, not at all likely with him injured and struggling when he is playing, but it is possible more so this winter. This next thought is even more horrible, and even less of a possibility. The Indians brass could potentially listen to offers for Shin-Soo Choo. It would be a travesty of Victor Martinez-esque proportions, and it would cause a revolt in the tiny fan base that remains dedicated to the team, but if the team wants to trade someone at the peak of their value for the best possible prospects (if they have indeed given up on winning in the next few seasons), then this is a possibility. The idea of trading Choo or Gradys is insane to even consider for me, and most fans, as they are the pieces that the team and fans expect to be building upon moving forward. All I am saying is that it is a crazy world, and no one really thought that Sabathia and Martinez would no longer reside in Cleveland. Other seemingly impossible trade bait options, that I can’t see actually happening but you never know… Trevor Crowe and Andy Marte might be one some team’s radars, and Crowe might be expendable with Grady, Choo, LaPorta, Michael Brantley and Nick Weglarz all on the 40 man for next season.
All the names mentioned, outside of Choo and Grady, have the potential to be wearing another jersey by the end of July. My only hope is that the organization gets the most it can out of any deals that it does make, and that the Indians do not pull the trigger on horrifying trades like last summer’s dealing of Victory Martinez. But after last season and the ownership’s apparent disregard with what the fans want, it makes absolutely anything possible at this stage in the rebuilding process, and with the Indians having one of the 4 worst records in baseball. Hopefully this trading season is more pleasurable for the franchise and it’s rattled fan base.