Thursday, July 28, 2016

Tribe Talk 7.28.16: In Defense Of...The Indians Not Trading Top Prospects

By Alex Hale, @ThatCLESportGuy

As the end of the month approaches for the Cleveland Indians, the Indians have returned home after getting swept by the Orioles in Baltimore.  While a lot of fans hoped for an immediate turnaround, the Indians have continued to look a bit sluggish only splitting the series against Washington, having their only win come in a miraculous comeback in their last at bat.  A lot of Tribe fans, who all came alive during the Indians franchise record 14 game winning streak are now getting restless with a team that looks to be a potential World Series contender.  What this situation has created is these fans that have crawled out of the woodwork making very closed minded takes where the logic is the Indians need to trade off the farm system to win this year.  I proudly stand in the minority on this topic and think of the bigger picture.  That is why I decided to bring back this article called, “In Defense Of…” and today I’m defending Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff for not trading Indians top prospects.

Now for the record, I’m NOT saying the Indians shouldn’t make a move, in fact I endorse getting relief help and another bat for the lineup.  What I’m suggesting is the Indians fanbase needs to understand, there’s a smart, shrewd way to approach the deadline and then there’s desperation.  I understand that the Cleveland fanbase wants to strike while the iron is hot after the Cavs won the NBA Finals and win a World Series.  Understand, I want more than anyone in Cleveland to witness an Indians World Series title.  I’ve said numerous times that I can live without a Browns Super Bowl as long as I see the Indians win a World Series.  That’s how much I would love an Indians World Series title.

But even I think the Indians got to be smart about how they approach the Trade Deadline.  My philosophy when it comes to trades is to be smart and not make a desperate, emotional move that might destroy the franchise.
  We all look at the Aroldis Chapman deal as a, “lost opportunity” but what most Indians fans are oblivious to is the Cubs Top 10 prospects are dominated by the International signing market, a system that favors the “Big Market” teams as the smaller market teams are left to try to convince these International players, who grew up more aware of these bigger market teams because of the investments they’ve made in the International market, it’s hard for the small market teams to sign them.  The Cubs Top 10 is dominated by International guys they’ve signed, the Indians Top 10 prospects is dominated by players the Indians drafted.  For the Cubs, what they traded will be easily replenished in a year when they again dominate the International signing market.  The Indians simply couldn’t afford to pay that kind of a price.

The fans forget that Cleveland is owned by the Dolan family still.  While the Dolan's have made a significant jump in the team’s payroll in 2016, it doesn’t change the fact that the Indians probably won’t have the same resources other teams have when it comes to scouting.  So this requires any trade the Indians might make to be made with an eye on the future.  Fans need to think of prospects as almost the equivalent of the Browns having draft picks to trade to move up.

Now let’s ask a question, what if the Browns traded 3 straight first round picks for an Offensive Lineman?  We’d be livid over that, wouldn’t we?  Well this trade is the equivalent of what fans think the Indians should trade to get an Andrew Miller.  You guys do realize you’re trading a huge price tag for a SETUP MAN.  Whether Miller has multiple years left on his contract or not, Miller is 31 years old.  I got to ask over the next few years will he decline in his abilities?  Just because at 31 he’s pitching great, doesn’t mean he could decline next year.

Indians fans need to remember the 90s Indians as well.  Remember when we had Brian Giles, Richie Sexson, Jeremy Burnitz, and Danny Graves all behind the 90s Indians core of Ramirez, Thome, Lofton, and Vizquel?  I sure do, the Indians traded Burnitz for Kevin Seitzer.  Richie Sexson was dealt for Bob Wickman, Jason Bere, and Steve Woodward.  And we all know about Brian Giles for Ricardo Rincon.  In those 3 trades the Indians traded 908 HRs and 3,002 RBIs away for guys who barely did anything to continue the success of the 90s Indians.  A lot of fans to this day ask, “What if?” and if the Indians of the early 2000s could’ve continued the success.  We’ll never know the answers to those questions, but its important that we look back to the past to see what we can learn from it.

Now while we can look back at the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, until really his 2nd Half dominance in 2013, Indians fans thought the Jimenez deal was a bad deal for the Indians (although Rockies didn’t benefit from it either).  It shows the amazing ability of Indians fans to forget these things.  It goes to show that even when you, “Go for it” it can really backfire on you.

Now there is a time and place for the Indians to trade top prospects and that’s in the case of a bonafide superstar player that is under team control for numerous years down the road.  The Indians did at one point have a chance to build a package around Jaret Wright for Pedro Martinez in 1998 but said no.  What fans FORGET is John Hart last year admitted he had a chance to acquire Randy Johnson in a deal that would send Brian Giles to the Mariners.
  Now those are players you trade prospects for.  While Johnson was going to be a FA after 1998, that’s the definition of, “going for it” and you could only imagine if the 1998 Indians had Randy Johnson, could they have gotten by the 114 win Yankees with a rotation led by Randy Johnson, Bartolo Colon, and Charles Nagy?  Again that’s an answer we’ll never know, but those are scenarios where trading prospects makes sense.

The current market holds some very intriguing names out there, but there really aren’t any guys who drastically will change things come October.  Jonathan Lucroy might be the closest thing to an impact player out there.  But Lucroy has never had more than 82 RBIs in a season (2013) and outside of 2013, has never had more than 70 RBIs.  While he’s a great fit on a team that needs a good defensive catcher with the ability to hit, his resume doesn’t really make him that, “bonafide superstar” you really need to trade top prospects.  

A player that would classify this, “bonafide superstar” is Colorado Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado.  Now most people will say his numbers are inflated because he plays in Colorado, that doesn’t change the fact that he led the NL in HRs and RBIs last year.  On top of that, Nolan Arenado has won the NL 3B Gold Glove EVERY YEAR he’s been playing in Colorado.  It’s not just a bat you’re paying up for, but an outstanding fielder as well.  While the Rockies probably wouldn’t trade him, this is the kind of guy you pay top prospects for.

At the end of the day, prospects are assets for any trade in baseball.  What Indians fans are suggesting is the Indians should burn through all your assets to go for it this year.  But what if they don’t win it and you need to fill another problem area?  You could very well make a major trade for a bonafide superstar in the offseason that changes everything for 2017.  I know this isn’t the popular take for the fanbase, but its the right take.  The Indians can easily maneuver themselves with shrewd trades like acquiring Danny Valencia, Will Smith, and maybe Jonathan Lucroy without having to give up everything.  It’s going to take the Indians to stand firm on their offers and play hardball with teams.  To be a General Manager in Baseball you got to be able to stand your ground and not show your hand.  The Indians Front Office have consistently shown in the past to make shrewd deals that the Indians have benefited from.  I fully expect them to NOT trade Clint Frazier or Bradley Zimmer.  I think the Indians might look to make multiple cheaper moves before the deadline.

Whatever moves the Indians make, understand it won’t be an irrational move that would only hurt the team.  There simply isn’t that difference maker available to really trade for.  The Indians Front Office understands that and won’t let teams swindle them for guys that won’t totally change the game.  While it would be nice to grab an Andrew Miller, he’s not going to drastically change the game since he will be the setup guy and not the closer.  There’s a way to find the players the Indians need to improve the team without having to resort to a desperate, irresponsible trade.  Indians fans also need to learn that if you don’t trade for an impact player this year, you might be able to find someone even better that solidifies a potential dynasty for the next 5 years in the offseason.  At the end of the day, the Front Office needs to make moves that show the fans that they are going to improve the team during the season, but fans must try to understand how building a Baseball franchise works.  It’s not as simple as trading prospects for players, it’s about finding the right guy with the right contract that fits into your payroll that changes the game.

For me, I’m not going to panic over anything because I have full faith in Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff to make the responsible trades that improve the Indians for a potential playoff run.  I suggest that fans try to have the same faith in them as well.  The Indians are in a very enviable situation where the entire league is raving over their farm system.  The Indians if they really wanted to could shock the baseball world with a game changing trade.  It’s all about the bigger picture, we need to stop thinking with a very closed mind and open our eyes up to the bigger picture.  I leave you with this thought, the Tigers had a ton of top prospects and traded those for a future Hall of Famer in Miguel Cabrera, who knows, if the Indians can play it smart at the deadline, they might be able to make a similar trade in the offseason.  Now that would be something all fans can agree on.  GO TRIBE!

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