Tribe Talks Trade In Many Directions, But Appear to Head Home With Same Roster
Mike Brandyberry | On 06, Dec 2012
If the Indians acquired every player they’ve inquired about at this week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, they’d have a new 25-man roster to field. However, the actual players they’ve acquired would leave Progressive Field as empty as an early December day.
The rumors involving the Indians have become so many, it leaves questions about the direction the team is moving, or even if the team has a direction.
Wednesday’s rumors surrounding the Tribe had them heavily linked to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a trade that could also involve the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. The Diamondbacks seem rather determined to trade for Asdrubal Cabrera and are willing to give up a young starting pitcher, but the Indians want two, young arms for their shortstop. Arizona seems reluctant to meet the Indians’ terms and thus the trade has grown to involve several teams at times with players like Justin Upton and James Shields involved and some of the Rangers top prospects, including Mike Olt.
One of the confusing questions that seems to be overlooked is that allegedly the Indians had a near deal for Cabrera on Monday evening for a Major League pitcher and two high-level minor leaguers. Why are the Indians still squabbling with Arizona on whether they will receive one or two pitchers in return? It seems they pulled the plug on a deal that would have garnered them more three days ago.
Meanwhile the Indians were pursuing potential shortstop replacements for Cabrera. Wednesday the Indians contacted free agent Stephen Drew and were also linked to trade talks with the Los Angeles Dodgers for Dee Gordon.
Gordon is a 24-year old, wiry shortstop who battled through injuries in 2012 to hit .228, but steal 32 bases in only 87 games. With less than two years of big league service time, Gordon appears to be more of a long term solution if Cabrera left Cleveland than a stopgap measure until Francisco Lindor or any of the Indians other minor league prospects are ready for big league action. Gordon would also likely command a decent asking price via trade due to his youth and team control.
Why would the Indians trade players or prospects for a shortstop when they have Cabrera and have prospects on the way?
Cleveland also inquired about Drew, a Scott Boras client, who hit .223, with seven home runs and 28 runs batted in between Arizona and Oakland in 2012. Boras, the shrewdest of agents, stated this week that Drew was not interested in a platoon role with the Yankees when Alex Rodriguez was announced to miss the start of the 2013 season. Boras isn’t one to let his clients sign one-year, small deals early in the winter and he called Cleveland a, “developmental team,” a month ago.
So, why are the Indians considering overpaying for a shortstop with their limited free agent dollars while they have Cabrera under contract and prospects on the way?
Didn’t the Indians acquire Mike Aviles as a utility player, who could be a stopgap at shortstop if the Indians did trade Cabrera for more pitching? Why are they looking for another solution?
While the Indians are currently in the shortstop market, they are also chasing free agents Nick Swisher and Kevin Youkilis. Reportedly the New York Yankees have offered Youkilis a one-year, $12 million contract this morning, but the Indians and new manager Terry Francona have pursued Youkilis for weeks and are willing to commit to a longer term contract. Cleveland would like Youkilis to play first base and designated hitter, while most other teams still see him as a third base option. Youkilis hit .235, with 19 home runs between Boston and Chicago during his second straight injury-riddled season.
After losing out on Shane Victorino on Tuesday, the Indians have turned their sites to the switch-hitting outfielder and first baseman, Swisher. Swisher hit .272, with 24 home runs and 93 runs batted in 2012. The Indians are perceived as a leader for Swisher, along with the Seattle Mariners, while the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies remain on the periphery.
Thursday the Winter Meetings conclude with the Rule 5 Draft and it seems unlikely that the Indians will make a major trade or free agent signing before returning home. What seemed like such an intriguing week on Sunday, now looks to be a lot of talk, without a lot of action. In fairness, after several bad trades over the last few years, General Manager Chris Antonetti needs to take all the time necessary to make sure he hits the mark on his deals this winter.
But for a team promising to have a new look and attitude by Opening Day, it appears the Indians will return home from Nashville with much the same look and attitude they left Cleveland with.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images