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Corner of Carnegie and Ontario: New Beginnings???

Corner of Carnegie and Ontario: New Beginnings???
August 26, 2012
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I’m not going to lie, there’s a small part of me that’s intrigued with the possibility that the Indians could pass on the club options for Roberto Hernandez and Ubaldo Jimenez, and trade away Justin Masterson, Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez. An outside the box sort of GM could turn those five players into a windfall for any team, and build the future of the club for both now, and for years to come.

These are the types of deals that Billy Beane has become so good at. He’s never afraid to deal players for ones that better fit his “mold.”

The problem with the Indians is that I’m not sure there is a “mold” of player that they are looking for. While the Indians have hit on several smallish deals over the years, they haven’t hit on a big trade of note…and that includes the Shapiro/Sabathia/Lee debacles. The Masterson deal was fine, but they took such a wash in those other two deals that it put the team in a hole of massive proportions for the next couple of seasons. You combine that with the Ubaldo deal, that gave away two priority starters (White was already with the Tribe, and Pomeranz was at Double A, and would have been the talk of the system in 2013), and you have an instant dose of white-out for the minor league system…starting with the starters.

As I was talking about in yesterday’s edition of Corner of Carnegie, I just don’t have any trust in this front office to make the right moves with regards to any of these potential trades, but it’s impossible to believe that this team, in its current capacity, can be any better than this year’s team.

Will a consistently dominant Justin Masterson show up? Will Ubaldo return to his 2010 self? Will Roberto Hernandez return to his 2007 form? Will Matt LaPorta shine during the end of 2012, and return to the fold full-time in 2013? Is Carlos Santana ever going to put all together offensively? Will Lonnie Chisenhall emerge (more on that later)? Will Kipnis rebound (more on THAT later)? Can the Indians find a left fielder? Is Michael Brantley the full-time centerfield option? Is McAllister the real deal, or a flash in a pan? When will Carlos Carrasco come back?

And seriously here folks, those aren’t all the question by a long shot.

I’m fairly certain that Hernandez and Jimenez will be back, for the simple reason that there just aren’t many viable options in Columbus right now. I could see T.J. McFarland being a factor, but he’s never going to be a major option. The two most interesting guys are in Akron right now, in T.J. House and Danny Salazar, and I don’t think either are going to be ready next season.

I’m fairly certain that Chris Perez and Choo will be gone next season. Choo should produce a package of players, or at least one really good prospect, and Perez perhaps a mid-level prospect or a little better, with a GM who has a plan. Cabrera is up in the air now that he’s signed through 2014, but I’m sure the Indians will get feelers from teams in need of a shortstop. While I wouldn’t recommend trading Cabrera, the potential haul for an all-star with two years of control could be big.

The catch with Cabrera is that the Indians actually will have a legit prospect at every level next season that could take his spot. Juan Diaz, my perennial sleeper of the year, has finally woken up, and is sitting in Columbus right now. Behind him next season in Akron will be Ronny Rodriguez, and behind him Francisco Lindor, and behind him Dorssys Paulino. Losing Cabrera would be a hit, but theoretically, not one for very long.

Masterson would be a hit of mammoth proportions, but you can imagine the haul of players that he could bring in with the right GM. Of everyone mentioned other than perhaps Cabrera, Masterson could likely bring a young, major league ready starter who hasn’t broken out yet. Think of the Gio Gonzalez deal last year in which the A’s dealt Gonzalez, and picked up Tommy Milone, A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock, as well as a catcher.

Would I make all those deals, and let those starters go? Likely no, but if there is a house-cleaning at the end of the year, and Antonetti and Acta find themselves with for sale signs in front of their houses, you just never know. It really could be winter and fall cleaning in the Cleveland camp.

It’s no secret that Jason Kipnis is in a slump of major proportions. Offensively, this kid is an absolute mess right now. He has had power shortage since mid-June, as he’s only hit one homer (this week) since June 17th. Past that, he hasn’t hit much of anything else. He hit .250 in July, and is hitting only .197 since the all-star break. Even with back-to-back two hit games this week, his .148 average since July 25th is the worst in baseball.

Kipnis has been altering his stance and swing with the help of hitting coach Bruce Fields to try and help him get around on inside pitches a bit better. There’s also been some talk about his size being an issue, as Kipnis is only 5’11” and 185. The grind of a long season could take its toll.

Looking into that a bit deeper, Kipnis is a natural born leader, and his play can dominate games, and can carry teams. He’s not a massive guy, but when he’s on, his blend of blue collar power and speed can overwhelm opponents, both at the plate and at this point, in the field.

Kipnis is the type of player that every manager wants. He plays hard every game, does everything at 100%, and will do everything that he possibly can to help a team win. While some are worried about Kipnis and this slump, the overall feeling is that this is a temporary setback for a perennial star. Remember, he’s only played 154 major league baseball games, so he hasn’t even played a full year. There is a learning curve here, as all talent needs some time to grow.

It’s been laughable to me to see Kipnis’s name mentioned in the same breath as Mike Trout. Trout is having a once-in-a-lifetime year for a rookie. His numbers are so sublime, that comparing ANYONE to Trout right now would be imbecilic, especially Kipnis. Truth be told, I’d be surprised if anyone could compare Trout’s 2013 statistic to his 2012 season. I’m not saying that he’s a fluke…not by a long shot. I am saying that I’ve been around baseball long enough to know that most players that are having a season like Trout’s show a bit of regression. He COULD be the exception (a la Albert Pujols), but we’ll just have to see. It’s just frustrating watching the freakish players and seasons become the standard bearer for all young players. It’s just ridiculous.

Also keep in mind that Kipnis can and WILL go on runs like Trout’s season in 2012. He may not sustain it over the long haul, but the potential is there, as he’s already done it at every level, including spurts in the majors.

Kipnis has had moments of struggle at different points throughout the career throughout the minors. Clearly there’s been nothing like his current slump, but he has had moments in which he’s pressed too hard.  Let’s be clear…we’re talking about a week here or a week there, as opposed to a month or season-long slump. He’s the type of player that has never minded carrying a team on his shoulders, and it can get him in trouble in a sense that he can try and score ten runs in one at bat. It’s just in his tenacious nature, and you have to be really careful tinkering with it, because the mentality that is causing this slump, is the same mentality that makes him a future all-star.

It’s not hard to see that Kipnis is likely pressing to try and carry this team, and has been for the past couple of months. The Indians are terrible, and it has to frustrate Kipnis, who has stated many times this season that he believes this team has the horses to win. Unfortunately for Kipnis, he could be hitting .400 right now and not really be making a difference…unless he can pitch.

Through his prolonged struggle, Kipnis has maintained a level head, hasn’t made any excuses, and is one of the few players on the team and in the league who can remain impressive while the numbers don’t back that up. He remains upbeat about both his play, and the play of the team overall, and it’s easy to see that if there’s a guy in the clubhouse over the next five or six years that players will turn to, it’s Kipnis. He’s realistic, but if you listen to your interviews, you can see that he has a firm grip on who he is as a player, and what he has to do to break out of the slump.

There have already been signs this week that he was seeing the ball better, and as the pressure of the season continues to lighten as the Indians fall more and more out of contention, my guess is well see Kipnis improve his play as well.

He is going to explode in 2013..

There is one guy out there right now that the Indians should be counting on to show up and improve this offense over the next month, and that’s Lonnie Chisenhall. Chisenhall has more or less been the forgotten piece to the future of the Indians, but a piece that shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s interesting how the pieces to a puzzle fall, as it was just a year and a half ago in which EVERYONE was talking about how Chisenhall was going to get the call-up in mid-summer, and that Kipnis was going to have to wait until 2012 to get his first chance.

We all know how that story played out, and Chisenhall ended up in Columbus to start 2012, and was a long-shot to make the bigs this year. Of course, that should have been the first clue that he WAS going to get the call, and he did. The 23-year old then showed the talent that made him the #1 prospect in the system.

In June, he hit .286, with two homers, eight RBI, nine runs and a walk in 21 games. No, it’s not breakout stuff, but I would certainly love to see a bit of that type of offense at third right now.

Of course, Chisenhall was hit by a pitch and broke his arm, had surgery, and went on the 60-day DL. It was initially believed that he either wouldn’t return at all to Cleveland this season, or that it would only be for a week or two. While that may still be true, Chisenhall is back in the Progressive Field batting cages, and fielding ground balls. According to the Plain Dealer, manager Manny Acta was belting fungoes to Chiz, and that manager Manny Acta feels like he could be ready soon.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chisenhall get into some minor league action before the close of the season over the next two weeks, and perhaps even some at bats with Akron in the playoffs, then play the final three weeks or so in Cleveland. There’s no doubt in my mind that Lonnie Chisenhall will be the starting third baseman in Cleveland in 2013…where he should be.

Sure, he’s another left-handed bat, and he’s atrocious against left-handed hitting, but like Kipnis, there comes a time when you just have to give your young guys their shot. His is now, and I don’t think that Indians fans will be disappointed. I don’t think he’s going to turn into Jim Thome, but I do think you could see several years of Travis Fryman baseball. Fryman was a 20 homer, 80-100 RBI guy for years for the Tigers, and I think that’s the type of hitter that Chisenhall can be. He needs to become more selective at the plate, and has to get better at hitting lefties, but Fryman was a guy that averaged over 100 K’s a year and was extremely productive.

If the Indians actually build a real lineup with right-handed hitters to protect him, his lack of production against the rare left-handed started will be masked quite a bit.

While it’s easy to get down on this team, there are a few options that can help make a difference next season.

Of course, a lot of that will have to do with who exactly is running this team, both in the front office, and on the field.

Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as  the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

User Comments

Andy
August 27, 2012 - 4:55 PM EDT
The most important thing that you wrote in your column, Jim is that you would not trust this front office to trade away players once again. I believe the problems are the ownership and their lack of funds that would allow their general manager room to buy a needed free-agent piece. And the general manager we have and the one who preceeded him who have put together a dismal team. Sure, there are a few good pieces but this puzzle of pieces put together does not make a pretty picture.

I have not been this disappointed and discouraged in many years.

We deserve better.
Seth
August 27, 2012 - 12:46 PM EDT
Joey, you'd really take Beavan over Carrasco? 4.3 k/9 and an ERA of almost 5 while pitching in Seattle? I'd take Carrasco, Tommy John and all, any day. Maybe Carrasco was just 6 weeks of brilliance and then bust, but I'll take that risk over a guy with the ceiling of Josh Tomlin any day.

You wouldn't have gotten Trout, Teixeira is the reason Sabathia netted the Yankees second round pick instead of their 1st rounder. If the Indians routinely turned second round and supplemental picks into quality major leaguers, we wouldn't be having this discussion, and in any case getting a Brantley from that level of picks is fine for any team. Teixeira when he was traded by Texas is not a comparable player to anything the Indians have and that trade was made in a different climate and is one used as an example of why you shouldn't trade prospects for rentals ...and in 2008 when he had a half year of control he was traded for Casey Kotchman and a guy who topped out in AAA.

Choo will not get a package of good young prospects, unless they far from the majors. The Phillies got 1 AA prospect, a low-upside A-ball pitcher and a 28-year-old outfielder for 1.5 years of Hunter Pence. Is that the kind of talent it makes sense to trade for? The Pirates reportedly weren't interested in trading Starling Marte for 1.5 years of Choo either, and I think that would have been a bad trade for, well, both teams.
Joey
August 27, 2012 - 9:54 AM EDT
Blake Beavan: 13-14 4.71 ERA 1.27 WHIP 4.3 K/9
Carlos Carrasco: 10-15 4.93 ERA 1.47 WHIP 6.3 K/9

So far Beavan is slightly better than Carrasco
Joey
August 27, 2012 - 9:35 AM EDT
Well, Mark Teixeria left LA to New York and got mike trout and tyler skaggs, ill take those two over brantley any day
Texas got neftali feliz, elvus andrus, matt harrison and jarrod saltalamacchia for mark teixeria
The red sox 05 draft reeled in a lot of talent they have now,
Its just cleveland cant draft so they use the excuse that drafting is risky so instead they trade
Rich2
August 27, 2012 - 8:52 AM EDT
The Indians had the worst starting pitching in baseball this year. I can't see them trading Masterson and releasing Hernandez and Jimenez, especially with Tomlin out for the year. That would leave them with a rotation of McAlister and a bunch of minor leaguers and Derek Lowes. It would be a guaranteed 100+ loss season. They won't do it.

Choo and Chris Perez need to be traded for young starters and/or right handed bats who can play RF and 1B.

If the Tribe is out of contention by July, they should trade Asdrubal since they would get more in return than waiting until 2014. They also traded Victor with a year-and-a-half left on his deal to maximize the return. Juan Diaz can bridge the gap at SS until Lindor is ready.

Kipnis got three more hits yesterday and was out on a line drive to the pitcher. Nothing to worry about with him. Next year he'll have a better idea of how to pace himself through a long season.



Jaleel White
August 27, 2012 - 8:14 AM EDT
Na Na Na Na Na Na NORM!
Rich
August 26, 2012 - 11:37 PM EDT
Seriously, read what Norm writes. None of it makes any sense. He clearly doesn't read the articles. Didn't the article say that Perez would net a mid-level prospect? And while Jim talks about Choo bringing a "package of players, or one big prospect," that package would then be assumed to be less than one big prospect? Choo WILL certainly bring a top five prospect from any team that the Indians try and deal with, or they won't deal him.

At least Seth mentions metrics. While I don't agree with Metrics by themselves, and don't agree with Seth's assessment as a whole, at least he has some support.

Norm continues his douchebaggery.
James
August 26, 2012 - 11:18 PM EDT
The Indians should package Pestano and Perez together as a sort of bullpen-in-a-box to a team with no 8th and 9th inning guy. True it would gut our bullpen, but bullpen development does seem to be the one thing this group can do, and with Allen, Armstrong, Hagadone we have some depth. If a team could go from no bullpen to lock down 8th and 9th inning, they should be willing to part with some value. More if you can throw in an all-star SS or RF. LA Angels maybe?
Mike Rouse
August 26, 2012 - 11:07 PM EDT
Just a hunch, but I would be willing to wager big money that Norm has hemmorrhoids and hates anyone that does not live in their parent's basement.
Norm
August 26, 2012 - 10:10 PM EDT
Very nicely said Seth! Jim also overlooks the Cleveland factor. It is unlikely Cleveland will sign any FAs in the upper range, including their own. Given Chisenhall at 3B, the Indians really need to improve LF, 1B and DH. If you are going to trade Choo and Gomez, the result has to be ML worthy players and a RF of note as the goal. It is hard for me, just like you, to believe these two players will bring that type of return. Cannot imagine why you would trade Cabrera or Masterson since that would likely be the type of deal Jim says he hates.
Bric
August 26, 2012 - 1:57 PM EDT
We need higher draft choices or major free-agency acquisitions.
Lose or Pay.
Ryan Ludwick would help Cleveland, right now, but it's hard to identify who can hit with power among minor-leaguers.
Pitchers know who can hurt them and who can't.
Most minor leaguers can't, so potential power hitters get nothing but junk; there are many finesse pitchers down there.
When a kid has power potential, and they start pitching around him, you need to move him up before he starts reaching and loses his gift.
Seth
August 26, 2012 - 1:52 PM EDT
The biggest issue with trading those guys you mention is I don't think you'd get much of a return no matter how savvy you are as a GM. The market for trading veterans for prospects has changed, and none of the 4 mentioned (Asdrubal, Choo, Perez and Masterson) would be that much in demand. Perez as a fairly expensive reliever likely has limited value in a trade. Masterson you'd be selling low on, with his poor performance this year, and Choo and Cabrera were ok but not great (2.5 and 2.4 WAR). You can knock the returns for Sabathia, Lee and Martinez, but if you look at similar impending-free-agent deals, it's much the same. The Phillies ended up with a pile of junk when they traded Lee, and the Mariners have acheived negative WAR in Smoak for their end. And Lee is a MUCH more desirable commodity than any of the current Indians crop.

Can you really call the Sabathia/Lee/Martinez deals debacles? Brantley and his tied-for-the-team-lead 2.5 WAR justifies the Sabathia deal right there, despite Laporta's failure. Getting one good player for a half-year rental is the most you can expect these days. The alternative was to let him walk and get a supplemental and second round pick, which last I checked the Brewers turned into 2 guys who were out of baseball. I hated the Lee deal at the time, but in hindsight it looks okay and is still under evaluation with the hopefully impending return of Carrasco. In any case, I'd take Carrasco and Marson over what the Phillies and Mariners got. I think you have somewhat unrealistic expectations for what the current markets gets you for veteran players near free agency. There's been a shift in MLB towards prospect value. The trades that have netted multiple high-end prospects have been for multiple years of control for players who were still affordable ... and were much better than anything the Indians have to offer. Ubaldo had put up 6 WAR each of the last 2 seasons, and so far that's been a lose-lose trade, as Pomeranz and White haven't yet done anything. Gio Gonzalez was solid 3-4 WAR--if Masterson had pitched this year like he had last year, then he would be in Gonzalez territory.

Lisa
August 26, 2012 - 1:06 PM EDT
From 1987-1991 we drafted 3 HOF caliber sluggers, Belle, Thome, Ramirez.. In the same general period we also drafted Sexson who hit over 300 homers in his career.

Somehow we haven't been ablle to come up with anyone like that for some time, Hafner has been closest. We have had 20-27 a year type home run hitters but no 40 homer types.

It just strikes me as curious. Maybe one or two of Paulino, Ronnie R., Moncrief, Aguilar or maybe even Jordan Smith can be big homer types for us. Smith may be a stretch, but Thome was seen much like Smith his first year or so.

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