Trades Are Not an End to Cleveland’s Postseason Hopes
Craig Gifford | On 01, Aug 2014
Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona told the media Wednesday that the club was, “not raising the white flag. That is not an option.”
That was just hours after the Tribe traded away former ace Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals. On Thursday, Cleveland General Manager Chris Antonetti and the rest of the front office remained busy, shipping off former All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to the Washington Nationals.
The deals have seemingly drummed up the lingering feelings Indians fans have toward the Dolan ownership as being, “cheap” and that the team was throwing in the towel on the season.
Those notions, while seemingly correct on the surface, do not quite resonate as completely accurate. Francona said the team was not quitting and that should be believed.
Heading into Thursday night’s action the team was 53-54 and five games out of the American League’s second Wild Card spot. A second straight postseason appearance is certainly within reach.
While the Tribe got rid of decent players, neither Cabrera nor Masterson seemed like they were going to have much of an affect on the team’s Wild Card chances. Masterson, the team’s Opening Day starter and 2013 All-Star, was having a down season. Battling knee pain much of the year, the right hander is currently 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA. Similarly, Cabrera was batting just .246 with nine home runs and 40 RBI.
Masterson’s season has been a shock after seemingly having a breakout campaign a year ago in amassing a 14-10 record with a solid 3. 45 ERA. However, it may not be completely shocking when considering 2011 appeared to be a breakout season for Masty before he again went backward in 2012. He has been wildly inconsistent since joining the Tribe in 2009.
Cabrera has been less than a .250 hitter since his second straight All-Star appearance in 2012. He was not viewed as the future at shortstop, especially with hot prospect Francisco Lindor on the verge of the big leagues. Lindor’s progression may get sped up slightly now, in that he could be up later this year rather than debuting next season.
These moves seem to be generating the same anger that their infamous trades of C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez in the 2008 and 2009 seasons. This year’s wheeling and dealing is vastly different. Masterson and Cabrera are nowhere near the caliber of that previous trio. Those trades truly signaled the Indians were not going to contend in those campaigns, off the heels of a 2007 trip to the ALCS.
Trading Masterson and Cabrera were certainly moves with an eye on the future. The two were going to be free agents at the end of the season and likely were not going to be kept. The Indians turned them into outfielder James Ramsey from the Cardinals and infielder Zach Walters from the Nats. Ramsey has had a good year at Double-A Springfield, will play for Cleveland’s Triple-A Columbus and could be helping the Tribe by next season. Walters has minimal experience in the majors, but the 24-year-old has proven to be a power hitter who can play second base, shortstop and third base in consecutive strong seasons in Syracuse, Washington’s Triple-A affiliate.
While the future was certainly looked at in the deals of the past two days, the Indians have not forgotten about a present that saw the team hoping to make it to the postseason for a second straight year.
Unlike Sabathia and Lee half a decade ago, Cabrera and Masterson were not likely to be the reason the Tribe would work out of its .500-ball ways and get hot over the next two months. If the Indians are to get on a roll and play October baseball it was and will be the guys still on the roster to get them there.
The Indians, unlike those past angst-inspiring trades, still find themselves with their true ace. Corey Kluber has pitched like a No. 1 starter all year. The continued progression of Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar will be more pivotal than anything to the Tribe’s Wild Card dreams.
While it is disappointing to see former all stars go away, it is not the end of the season by a long shot. The core for the Tribe is still here.
Add to that the fact that schedule is about to get a lot easier. The Texas Rangers bring baseball’s worst record to Progressive Field this weekend. Next week the Indians see the regressing Reds for four games, followed by a Yankees team that bought at the trade deadline, but is still not the power team it once was.
The departures of Masterson and Cabrera do not spell the end for the Tribe’s season. The Indians still have the bulk of a playoff contender in tact with a soft schedule coming up over the next couple weeks. The postseason is still in reach and eyes should be on that fact more than an angry eye being on a franchise that made seemingly positive moves in the last 48 hours.
Photo: Colin E. Braley/Associated Press