Previous Firesale Has Helped Build Contender, Except One
Craig Gifford | On 22, Oct 2011
Over the last several years, the Cleveland Indians management has been ridiculed for trading away All-Stars for unproven talent. From 2008 – 2010, the Tribe traded away top tier players for minor league prospects because those big names were on the verge of making even bigger money. Ownership has been criticized for being “cheap.”
Looking back on all the trades – trades that saw the departures of such names as C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Casey Blake, Jake Westbrook, Victor Martinez and Mark DeRosa – there is only one trade I would take back at this point. All of those trades have made the Indians who they are today and have put the Tribe just a couple moves away from contention in the AL Central Division. All those moves, but one. That is the Cliff Lee trade.
When the Indians shipped off Lee in 2009, it netted them pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp, catcher Lou Marson and utility infielder Jason Donald. Carrasco has been an adequate starter, but is now out all of next season after Tommy John surgery in September. When healthy, though, Carrasco is a number three or four starter, at best. Marson, is a good backup catcher with little chance of being a strong every day player. Donald is a quality utility infielder, but probably not a starter for a contender and Knapp has had arm troubles and remains in the minors with little shot at reaching the big leagues next year.
All-in-all, the best players the Indians have from that trade are career backups and an average starter, when healthy. Not what you want when trading a superstar like Lee.
Now, this is not to say the Indians should have hung onto Lee and given him the $24 million a year he received from the Phillies before this past season. They can not afford that in their market, nor can the have a pitcher taking up what would be a third of next year’s estimated salary. This is to say the Indians could have done much more.
More than two or three years after most of these trades it is fair to judge and the Lee deal is the only one, at this point, that seems to have netted nothing of substance for the Tribe.
Sabathia, who can’t be counted on in the postseason, at least snagged an outfielder in Michael Brantley, who could blossom into an above average player, who would start on a lot of teams. The Martinez deal landed an ace pitcher in Justin Masterson, while Casey Blake turned into Carlos Santana, who is now the Tribe’s best power hitter.
The DeRosa deal was a steal. DeRosa brought in closer Chris Perez, in what was probably the best deal in the flurry of swaps Cleveland went through.
Only Lee failed to bring what you could call a key component to what the Indians are hoping will be a playoff contender in 2012. The crazy thing is, Lee was probably the best player the Indians dealt. Sabathia is also a true ace. However, Lee gets it done in the postseason, on top of his regular season dominance.
If the Indians could take back the Cliff Lee deal, it would be nice. Unfortunately, the can not.
What fans should keep in mind is that in all the moves that angered them, most of them have now turned out to be pretty solid. Thanks to the trades, the Indians did not lose those players for nothing and, in a relatively short time, again have a team with hope.
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