Don’t Give Away The Farm In Deadline Deals

By Craig Gifford

The second half of July provides some of the most exciting off-field moments in Major League Baseball. That is thanks to the July 31 trading deadline.

In the last several years, it has been hard for Indians fans to get too excited, however. Struggling to field a winner the last three seasons, the Tribe has spent those deadlines with an eye on the future. They traded off superstars like C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee for unproven, promising prospects to build for the coming years.

Much to the surprise of many, that future the Indians had been looking to appears to be now. The surprising Indians entered the second half of the season in battle with the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American League Central Division. It appears this year, the team could be making a deal or two for the present.

However, Cleveland does need to be careful with this. While it would be nice to see the Indians pick up a sorely need, right-handed hitter with pop in his bat, they should not get too carried away.

In those three years of trading away their proven guys the Indians acquired quite a bit of talent that is either just starting to produce at the Major League level or within a year of doing so. To turn around and trade off some cornerstones of the future could be unwise.

The reason?

For one, the Indians probably need more than one proven hitter to make a lot of noise in the postseason. That, and if the Tribe gets rid of their stars of tomorrow, now, they may be right back in rebuilding mode within a year or two. It’s not as if the Indians have a wealth of stars right now who can be counted on to carry the team for years to come. The top-shelf talent, even for a first-place team, is few and far between.

The fact the Indians are having a dream year can be looked at as a bit of a mirage. Take Asdrubal Cabrera and Travis Hafner out of the lineup and Cleveland really has nobody producing. They are winning with timely hitting (usually does not carry over into second year) and solid pitching (usually carries over).

Looking ahead, the Indians will soon – maybe by year’s end – be able to plug in such promising players as Lonnie Chisenhall at third base (this is already starting) and Jason Kipnis at second base. They are the future of the batting line up. Representing the best trade bait, the Tribe would be foolish to trade either of them off for a player who may only be around for two months.

Where the Indians could be able to swing a deal is with their depth of pitching. With Josh Tomlin, Justin Masterson and Carlos Carrasco appearing to have three rotation spots locked down for years to come, it leaves a handful of arms to fight for the other two. This is assuming Fausto Carmona does not come back to form any time soon and is gone at the end of the year.

Still, good starting pitching is hard to find and the health of a pitcher’s arm from one year to the next is not a guarantee. To have backup options down the road would not be a bad thing. Same goes for the bullpen, where the Indians are about as strong as any team in baseball. Again there are no guarantees one or two of them will not come down to Earth next year.

That being said, if the Indians are to swing a deal, it will probably be a couple of their young arms involved.

Perhaps this weekend’s fill-in starts for Jeanmar Gomez and Zach McAllister will be auditions for other teams. One of those being the Baltimore Orioles the Indians play the next several days. Of course, those two young arms could also be nice fourth and fifth starters for the Indians this year with Mitch Talbot and Carmona struggling most of the season.

In my opinion, I would package off one of them with promising reliever Josh Judy. If the Indians are smart, they would get an outfielder who is not too old and could be retained after this season, fairly easily. This would represent the type of deal that would both allow the Indians to play for the present and keep the next half-dozen, or so, years looking promising.

There’s no doubt the Indians will, at the very least try, to swing a deal. If they do, they need to walk that fine line of getting a player to keep them in contention this year, while not trading away a future that seems so bright.

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