The Indians have almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to starting pitching. Their rotation is probably the envy of any team in the major league – which is why the team’s not being shy about shopping around starting pitching to bolster other holes in the lineup.
Were it not for a fateful trade 10 years ago this week, they might have even more.
The Indians came into the 2008 season with high expectations, having come one win away from advancing to their first World Series in a decade the season before. But the team stumbled out of the gate and started dealing away players, including defending American League Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia and third baseman Casey Blake, who went to the Dodgers in August for a catching prospect named Carlos Santana, in a move that reaped dividends for the Indians for the better part of the next decade. (Blake signed a three-year deal with the Dodgers following the season, and finished out that contract before latching on with the Rockies for 2012 spring training, but got cut and then retired.)
Blake’s trade meant the Indians were in the market for a third baseman, so they traded for Cubs infielder Mark DeRosa in a deal finalized on New Year’s Eve 2008. He had one year left on his current contract, and the Indians wanted him to play third base instead of potentially moving Jhonny Peralta over to third and sliding Asdrubal Cabrera to shortstop. He didn’t even last the year for the Indians, who flipped him to St. Louis for Jess Todd and Chris Perez, who filled in capably if not tumultuously as the Indians closer from 2010 to 2013.
To get DeRosa, the Indians dealt three pitchers: Jeff Stevens (who came to Cleveland from Cincinnati for Brandon Phillips), John Gaub and Chris Archer, who’d been drafted in the fifth round by the Indians in 2006. Stevens was the only pitcher who’d been on the Indians’ 40-man roster. Gaub and Archer both spent most of the 2008 season in Lake County. “Maybe they’ll pitch in the big leagues eventually,” Terry Pluto wrote four days after the deal. “But it won’t be soon.”
Stevens appeared in a total of 33 games in a three-year career before joining the Orioles in 2014 as a scout. He’s been with several teams in the same capacity since. Gaub’s Major League career consisted of four games in 2011. He’s returned to his native Minnesota, where he’s an assistant baseball coach at Concordia University, St. Paul.
Archer, of course, remains in the major leagues. The Cubs didn’t hold on to him either, dealing him to Tampa Bay as part of an eight-player trade before the 2011 season. Archer made his major league debut for the Rays a year later. He was a mainstay of the Rays rotation with three straight years of at least 233 strikeouts, before being sidelined by injury last season and ultimately being traded to the Pirates.
It’s easy to wonder what Archer’s fate might have been had he stayed in Cleveland. Would his pitching have put the Indians past the Cubs in 2016? Would it have helped put the hammer down against the Yankees in 2017? Would he have benefitted from the steady hands of Mickey Callaway and Terry Francona? Or would he have followed the same trajectory of a hard thrower who hasn’t quite reached his full potential?
Either way, if he was on the Indians’ roster right now, he might be up for a trade, too – or make it easier for the Indians to turn loose one of the guys at the top of the rotation, should that come to pass.
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