A Big Trade Could Do More Harm Than Good For Tribe
Craig Gifford | On 27, Dec 2013
Ever since the Major League Baseball offseason began, and perhaps even before it did, the Tampa Bay Rays have been dangling superstar pitcher David Price as possible trade bait. So, too, have the Chicago Cubs with excellent starter Jeff Samardzija.
The Indians, reportedly, spoke to the Rays about what it would take to land Price. There has been little connection for the Tribe to Samardzija.
A good number of Cleveland fans, naturally, would love to see their favorite team land either one of these starting pitchers. With the loss of Scott Kazmir and expected departure of Ubaldo Jimenez, the Indians need starting pitching. Price and Samardzija are better than any arm on the free agent market.
While acquiring either one of those two hurlers would be great, it really is not feasible for the Indians. Any deal would involve Cleveland handing over something close to a king’s ransom and leave the Tribe bare in other areas.
That, right there, is exactly why trades happen so infrequently in the offseason. Trading a superstar requires three main ingredients. One is a desperate team in contention. Another is the team letting go of its top-notch player being happy with the player or players taking his place. The final, and most important need for such a trade to happen, is that the team getting it new big-name guy has plenty of depth to cover its losses.
On the desperate team front, the winter is not a time a lot of teams feel desperate enough to pull the trigger on headline swap. That is more likely to happen during the season when a squad realizes it may be one piece away from contention with a trade-deadline deal.
For the team trading away its star player, it is easy to find a list of names it would like in return.
The issue is with the team getting the superstar. It is hard to part with a talented player or multiple talented players, any time. That is especially so if there is no one behind them to capably fill in. Not many teams have a wealth of depth, which is why we will like enter 2014 with Price and Samardzija not yet changing uniforms.
Look at Cleveland’s case. Rumors had the Rays asking the Tribe for Carlos Santana, Danny Salazar and Francisco Lindor. In reality, that’s a pretty fair deal. Price is a three-time all-star, 2012 Cy Young award winner and runner-up for the Cy in 2010. He is a proven 20-game winner, would be an ace on any team other than perhaps the Mariners, with Felix Hernanez.
The problem is, losing players the ilk of Santana, Salazar and Lindor could potentially damage the Tribe more than getting Price.
Price is under team control, being eligible for arbitration for the next two years. He stands to make a lot of money, perhaps in the $15 million range, each year. After that, he will hit the free agent market and could well become the richest starting pitcher in the history of the game. The Indians, thanks to baseball’s poor economic structure, would not be able to keep him.
Meanwhile, Lindor is the team’s future at short stop. Current shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera has been mired in a slump for the better part of the last season and a half. He is a free agent after the 2014 campaign and not likely to be back. Lindor, who just turned 20, was promoted to Double-A, Akron near the end of last season. Through two full years in the Cleveland organization, the eighth overall pick of the 2011 draft, has shown no signs of not being the real deal. The Indians will need him and likely will as soon as 2015.
Salazar, 2013’s rookie sensation, will be 24 in January and appears to have a bright future ahead of him. He and Lindor are under team control for a lot more than two years and will earn a lot less, combined, than Price. Salazar is no Price or Samardzija, for that matter. However, he could be a very good pitcher, very soon.
Santana is, arguably, Cleveland’s best hitter. He is the Tribe’s best power source and cleanup hitter. With Yan Gomes set to take over the full-time catching duties next season, Santana could be even more dangerous at the plate. No longer will Santana have the wear and tear of catching every day. He will bide his time mostly as a designated hitter, first baseman and possibly third baseman. He will have less to think about that does not involve hitting now that he is set to be a part-time backstop. He is signed for 2016, with a team option for 2017.
So, in review, trading for Price would cost the team its best hitter, its future shortstop and possible future top-of-the-rotation starter. While the starting pitching staff would be immediately improved, it would be hurt in the long-run. The offense would also take a big hit. In the end, while a fair deal, it would not benefit the Tribe to make that kind of trade. The Indians would be hurt, overall, by it.
Getting Samardzija would not demand as much from the Indians. However, giving up anything of note for a guy who had a somewhat disappointing 4.34 ERA in 2013, would be too much for the Indians. Salazar, Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister all have the potential to post better numbers than Samardzija. Samardzija’s ERA in 2012, was a decent 3.81, while it was sterling 2.97 in 2011. He’s a risk that only a team with money to make up for mistakes should take.
Making a trade, in any sport, is never easy. That is especially true for any team, like the Indians, who can not go out and simply spend money on Major League replacements for whatever players they give up. More teams than not are in Cleveland’s situation.
While Price or Samardzija would certainly look good in an Indians uniform, the guys whom the Tribe would be shipping off would look all the worse wearing someone else’s laundry.
Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images