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Indians Indians Archive A Lazy Sunday With Some Action Taken
Written by Paul Cousineau

Paul Cousineau
Paulie C has been all over the newest Indian Chris Perez, invoking his name for several weeks now when talking about the players he's like to see come to Cleveland in a potential Mark DeRosa trade. In this week's Lazy Sunday, Paulie fills us in on Chris Perez, talks about the return the Tribe got for DeRosa, and also hits on the "Wedge Watch" and what it would likely take for the Indians to entertain dealing Clifton Phifer Lee.

Remember the whole "at this point, play the waiting game - if Cards won't part with Chris Perez and Mets won't trade Bobby Parnell right now...wait for them to become desperate enough to be willing to part with a young impact arm for a few months of DeRosa" from Thursday's piece?  
That took about a day and a half as news that Mark DeRosa has, in fact, been traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Perez and a PTBNL (which will handled in a manner similar to way that Mike Brantley was selected by the Indians off of a list of possibilities at the conclusion of the MiLB seasons) as the Indians decided that the time was now to cash in their biggest trading chip and add the young, MLB-ready arm that they are so badly in need of.  
DeRosa's departure brings a quick end to his tenure as an Indian, one in which he found himself traded for bullpen prospects and netted the team (at least) one bullpen prospect with the time in between spent patrolling 3B, 1B, LF, and RF all while providing the steady contributions that the Indians thought they were acquiring last New Year's Eve.  
His departure, however, also trumpets the arrival of Chris Perez, a RHP power reliever who has worked his fastball and slider mix into a quick trip to MLB after being a 1st round pick in 2006. After signing with the Cards, he spent the remainder of the 2006 season in A ball, striking out 32 batters in 29 1/3 IP (while also walking 19), then spent 2007 in AA and AAA, compiling an ERA of 2.96, a WHIP of 1.17 and striking out 77 batters in 54 1/3 IP.  
Last year, Perez started the season with the Cards' AAA affiliate and earned a shot to contribute to the parent club at the age of 22 by dominating in Memphis, with a WHIP of 1.18 and striking out 38 batters in just 25 1/3 IP. He arrived in St. Louis in mid-May and worked his way up the Cardinals' bullpen ladder, finishing 23 of the 41 games that he pitched in and notching 7 saves in the season as his gaudy K numbers continued (42 K in 41 2/3 IP), but the control issues that hampered him somewhat in his MiLB career raised a bit of a red flag, with 22 BB in those 41 2/3 IP. This year, after a brief stint in AAA Memphis to start the season, he re-emerged in St. Louis as a back-end option with the same devastating K numbers (30 K in 23 2/3 IP), but the same inconsistency in terms of allowing walks (15 BB in those 23 2/3 IP).  
Perez's ability to miss bats is his strength, as his high K numbers suggest as does the fact that MLB hitters have posted a .195 BA against him this season; but his inability to throw strikes at times presents the downside with a young arm like Perez. That, however, should not be taken to be a downer in the acquisition, though, as Perez brings a repertoire of a fastball and a slider that the Indians simply do not possess among their home-grown relievers and the fact that he is so young certainly portends good things.  
How young is he?  

He'll turn 24 on July 1st and has already logged 65 1/3 IP over the last two seasons in MLB.  

How does that age rank in terms of Indians' pitchers?  

He's immediately the youngest pitcher for the Indians and is older than only Chuck Lofgren (by 7 months) among pitchers in Columbus.  

If you were looking for a young, MLB-ready, impact arm for the Indians bullpen as a return for DeRosa, Perez is about as good a fit as you're going to find.  
But, the Indians got "only" a reliever for DeRosa when the market was reported to be so hot for him?  

I suppose if you want to look at it that way, you certainly can - but the Indians are desperately in need of young, talented arms that can contribute from Day 1 in the rotation or in the bullpen and will remain under club control for the foreseeable future. With a not-yet-24-year-old RH reliever who can touch 99 MPH on the gun (and usually sits in the mid-90s with the fastball) with a complementary wicked slider who has 7 career saves with over 65 IP to date on his resume, Perez fits that bill. Throw in the fact that the earliest he MAY be eligible for arbitration is after next year and you begin to see that Perez is about as close as the Indians were going to come in terms of maximizing their return for a couple of months for DeRosa, particularly when you look at how Perez fills their needs.  
Obviously, acquiring Perez is not a panacea for the bullpen and obtaining a high-ceiling reliever is certainly not without risks (as his high BB rate can attest), but the Indians find themselves in a position where they need impact arms now and they need those impact arms in the bullpen most of all. If what Baseball Prospectus' 2009 Annual said about Perez before the season that "the Cardinals' closer of the future has a classic plus-fastball/plus-slider combination; he's only a modicum of improved control away from being elite" is even close to true (they had Perez as their 66th best prospect in all of MLB coming into the season), then any risk associated with Perez is easy to accept, particularly when the player that the Indians give up to net him is essentially a rent-a-player for the Cards.  
The other factor that will be interesting to watch in the DeRosa deal is how this PTBNL shakes out because you almost have to assume that it's going to be another arm, given what the Tribe is targeting. According to
Castro, "GM Mark Shapiro said the PTBN component is an important one, akin to the Coco Crisp and Michael Brantley acquisitions in the past" which means that DeRosa-for-Perez straight up is not the whole deal and, according to Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (or at least his Twitter account), "the quality of the player to be named later is tied into whether the Cardinals sign DeRosa to stay beyond this season."  

So throw that log on the fire.  
All told, obviously passing judgment on a deal less than 12 hours after said deal is consummated is obviously wildly premature. But if the thought was out there that DeRosa was the best chip to upgrade the talent in the organization in terms of bringing an impact arm, and one that was either MLB-tested or MLB-ready, Perez is a pretty good net result in what the
boys at Viva El Birdos feel will be "four years from now this will be remembered as the Chris Perez trade."  
Moving on from DeRosa (though certainly not done with it), let's roll right into a Lazy Sunday because...well, it's Sunday:  
On the topic of what's gone wrong with the Indians, Jay Levin of the LGT espouses some theories in a piece called
"However Beautiful the Strategy" that really gets to the crux of where the Indians find themselves and how they got there. Unsurprisingly from Levin, it's a well-thought out, insightful piece that breaks down all of the potential "this went wrong" ideas clearly and lays out very specifically what aspects of the organization may have failed and how each may have done so.  

Set aside some time to read this and don't simply click the link, see that it's a long piece, scan it quickly, and move, read it even if it takes a while because it's absolutely worth your time.  
As for the "Wedge Watch", for an interesting look at whether changing a manager mid-season has, historically, resulted in a "bump" in terms of performance on the field, The Hardball Times has
a comprehensive analysis of that very question. At this point, I think a "bump" that could put the Indians back into contention for 2009 isn't happening here, regardless of who comes in, if only because it would take everything that has gone so horribly wrong for the team to simply turn on a dime and go so unbelievably right...and that just isn't going to happen.  
As for whether that move for a new manager will happen this year, it certainly sounds as if Shapiro is stepping in front of his manager, ready to take a bullet even if, as
Jon Heymann reports:  

One person with ties to the Indians claims things have gotten "stale," and perhaps a change wouldn't be such a bad thing. At 30-43, they are surely one of baseball's most underachieving teams. "Maybe they need a new voice," that person said.  
Shapiro disagrees: "I don't think a new voice is going to change the bullpen's performance."  

Maybe so, and Wedge should be safe as long as Shapiro continues to believe Wedge isn't the problem. And even if Shapiro's bosses don't share that sentiment, the club-owning Dolans do believe in their GM, who is expected to eventually be promoted to club president. So it would be something of a surprise if they overruled Shapiro now.
Anyone else following this thing, while the voice in your head says,
"like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives..."  
Switching gears to the obligatory "Will the Indians trade Cliff Lee" stack,
Ken Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers have inquired about Clifton Phifer (no surprise there) and that the Indians have said that they will entertain moving him "if they are offered a potential top-of-the-rotation starter at the level of the Braves' Tommy Hanson or Red Sox's Clay Buchholz."  
Truthfully, I'm not sure that a return like a Tommy Hanson or a Clay Buchholz justifies trading a year and a half of wildly affordable innings from a LH Cy Young Award winner. Hanson and Buchholz, between them, have 22 MLB starts with simply not enough time to draw legitimate opinions about either. The 22-year-old Hanson just emerged from AAA and while early reports are positive, they are just that - early reports. Meanwhile, the 23-year-old Buchholz is constantly put forth as this wildly hyped prospect, but in 18 games in MLB, he's posted a 5.56 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP with a 1.84 K/BB ratio.  
What would it really take?  

Well, if the Dodgers are interested, guys who are young and have proven themselves in MLB like Clayton Kershaw (a 21-year-old with a career 4.05 ERA and a career 1.43 WHIP over 35 starts) or Chad Billingsley (a 24-year-old with a career 3.24 ERA and a career 1.38 WHIP over 83 career starts) are exactly who would fit the bill.  
But (
back to Rosenthal), "the Dodgers' best young starting pitchers, right-hander Chad Billingsley and lefty Clayton Kershaw, are part of the major-league rotation and all but untouchable" so there's that answer or if Jayson Stark is to be believed on the topic, "What the Indians have told those teams is that they'd "have to be overwhelmed" to deal Lee. But given the lack of top-of-the-rotation alternatives, is it possible that somebody could succeed in overwhelming them? Sure, theoretically -- especially if the overwhelming offer included a future No. 1-type starter. But the Brewers aren't trading Yovani Gallardo. The Dodgers aren't trading Clayton Kershaw. The Phillies aren't trading Cole Hamels, or even Kyle Drabek. So it's doubtful any of those deals can happen."  
While that may be true, that kind of return is what the Indians should be targeting, if they do move a season and a half of Lee if you take a look at what the team trading for Lee would be netting. That return would be a LH pitcher scheduled to make a little less than $12M over the next SEASON AND A HALF (less than $3M still owed to him in 2009 and $9M owed to him in 2010) who is currently
sitting on the 3rd highest VORP in MLB a year after posting the highest VORP.  
Seeing what
other pitchers are providing this year for a little more money this year over ONE year, it's not a stretch to hear the Indians ask for more than just a AAA "can‘t miss" prospect at this point due to the amount of time that Lee would be pitching and the affordability of his deal. Oh, and another reason that the Indians should ask for the"moon and the stars" if they did to decide to move Lee can again be best seen here in Joel Sherman's piece from last week that the Indians are nothing without Lee in 2010 and the events of the past week haven't changed that, making Sherman's argument as relevant as ever.  
Changes are afoot and the first domino has fallen in the DeRosa deal...what next?

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