Deadline Deal is Necessary but Not Easy to Make, Spark Has to Come From Within
By Mike Brandyberry
When the Indians crawled out of bed Saturday morning in Toronto they were in second place and tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the second and final wild card spot. As they crawl out of bed this morning in Tampa, losers of their last two games, they are now a third place team and a game back of that wild card spot.
Meanwhile, fans and talk show hosts scream for a trade to ignite the Indians. Some fans act as if a trade will solve the teams’ woes and catapult them to the top of the standings. There’s no doubt the Indians have holes that need filled and a trade could certainly give the life to a team that seems to be struggling to find some out of the All-Star break. However, a trade isn’t as easy fans seem to believe it is.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reported Sunday evening that six teams (San Diego, Colorado, Chicago Cubs, Houston, Seattle, Minnesota) are fielding offers on players and preparing to sell. That means, right or wrong, 24 teams still feel they have a chance to make a push for October. With amazing September runs by St. Louis and Tampa Bay a year ago, teams aren’t so quick to give up on their season. Philadelphia is on pace for a 90-loss season and they haven’t flown the white flag yet.
With six sellers and 24 buyers, it’s tough to make a trade today.
Read any story about a player rumored to be on the trade block, they have at least 3-6 teams interested in their services. Most times the Indians name is one of the teams interested. In a sellers’ market, you can’t fault the sellers for making the buyers compete against each other as long as possible. The sellers are in no rush to make a deal, it isn’t like their place in the standings is being affected.
The greater concern and realization fans have to come to grips with is that no one trade will spring the Indians to the top of the standings. They are in desperate need of a right-handed bat that can hit in the middle of the order, but they also could use a starting pitcher and a left-handed relief pitcher. There is no one player who can solve all the Indians’ ills, regardless of availability or price.
If the Indians are to see the top line of the American League Central Division standings again this season, they need better production from Travis Hafner and Carlos Santana in the middle of the order. They need better output from Casey Kotchman, Jack Hannahan, Johnny Damon and Shelley Duncan. Pluck any hitter off the magic trade tree you’d like and stick them in the middle of the order tonight in Tampa, but if the Indians around them don’t play better, the offense will remain anemic.
Same can be said for the starting rotation and their inconsistencies. Just as Ubaldo Jimenez looks as if he had become a top of the rotation starter, he has his worst outing of the season Saturday, allowing eight runs in two and one-third innings. Despite a quality start from Derek Lowe on Sunday, he’s struggled since the beginning of June. Sometimes Josh Tomlin looks like the consistent pitcher who turned in one quality start after another in 2011, other times hitters seem to hit everything he throws.
Tony Sipp has wandered through a less than inspiring season, with an ERA over 6.00 for most it. He’s been ineffective against right-handers and difficult to be trusted in close games. Rafael Perez has been on the shelf since April 25 with shoulder issues. He finally made a rehab appearance on Saturday, but isn’t expected to join the team soon.
The Indians will make a trade to improve roster by the July 31 trade deadline. The line they drew in the sand last July with the Jimenez trade and the declaration of their window to compete leaves them no choice, but trades take time.
However, one player doesn’t plug all the leaks in the Tribe’s dam. If the Indians are to return to October, the spark will have to come from more consistent and improved play from the players already in the clubhouse, not just the new addition.
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