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Making Sense of Indians Rumors From First Day of the Winter Meetings

Making Sense of Indians Rumors From First Day of the Winter Meetings

| On 04, Dec 2012

The first day of the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee did not produce any movement for the Cleveland Indians, but it created a lot of rumors and speculation. With rumors and speculation comes everyone’s opinion about the moves potentially at the Indians’ doorstep.

The biggest rumor—and the one having the largest impact upon the team—is the report from the Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes that the Indians are actively shopping Asdrubal Cabrera, but looking for a large package of Major League ready players in return. Hoynes reported that an unnamed team was ready to offer a Major League starting pitcher and two high-level prospects, but the deal fell through when the Indians asked for a third prospect.

“He’s the best guy out there at that position,” said a scout in Hoynes’ story. “They’re going to get something good for him, but they’re asking for a lot.”

It isn’t surprising that the Indians are looking for a king’s ransom for Cabrera. The shortstop has been an All-Star the previous two seasons and has hit 41 home runs and driven in 160 runs during that span. Considering Cabrera has two years remaining on his contract for a combined $16.5 million, and the Tribe’s abundance of shortstop prospects in the minor leagues, he is certainly the most valuable trade piece the Indians possess.

If General Manager Chris Antonetti is going to make a trade similar to Mark Shapiro’s Bartolo Colon for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips deal, it will have to involve Cabrera. The Indians continue to remain adamant that they are not in a full rebuilding mode, while still shopping many of their key, cornerstone players. If Antonetti and the rest of the front office is passionate about trading players near free agency, yet still competing in the Central Division in 2013, they have to get a big package of Major League ready players in return for Cabrera.

It was revealed that Cabrera has a six-team, no-trade clause that restricts deals to the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Nationals, Giants and Mets. However, players often have small trade clauses in their contract to big market teams as a bargaining chip to gain a bigger contract if they are dealt there. It is believed if Cabrera were traded, he would waive his no-trade clause if it were necessary.

Meanwhile, several reports had the Indians linked as one of two or three teams pursuing outfielder Shane Victorino. Victorino hit .255, with 11 home runs and 55 runs batted in between Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012. The 32-year old, switch hitter could be a center field or left field option if the Tribe signed him via free agency. The Red Sox and Giants were rumored to be pursuing him also.

What’s concerning is the speculation that Victorino is searching for a three year contract, worth roughly $10 million per season. Committing three years to an aging outfielder, while being apprehensive about signing or extending core players like Chris Perez, Shin-Soo Choo or Cabrera past the contracts they are currently on, seems to send two different messages. If the Indians are intending to build a young core around Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall, to go with trade pieces possibly acquired this week, Victorino doesn’t seem to fit that plan.

Finally, Hoynes slides a rumor into the end of his story worth noting. Apparently the San Diego Padres have inquired about the availability of Ubaldo Jimenez. San Diego is looking for a durable innings-eater type pitcher to help stabilize a rotation that had 18 different starters in 2012.

While I understand why the Indians picked up Jimenez’s $5.75 million option for 2013, if another team is willing to give the Indians anything, the only negotiation should be what time he can be on a flight to their town.

Jimenez has struggled for two and a half seasons since his 15-1 All-Star start in 2010 and has shown very few signs of finding his the dominance he had for three months. He could be as much to blame as anyone for the Tribe’s second half slide and collapse in the rotation. If Cleveland were able to make a deal involving Cabrera for a couple young starting pitchers that were ready to even compete for a rotation spot, the Tribe should move Jimenez to any team willing to take him.

The deal that brought Jimenez to Cleveland in July 2011 has been a failure so far on all angles, but clearly for the Indians. He has  never demonstrated the ability to be a front of the rotation starter, and like how the organization seems to have cut ties with Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore and Roberto Hernandez, it may be time to give up on Jimenez if someone else is willing to make him their problem.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images