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Indians Indians Archive View from the Porch: Special Edition
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

HRPorchViewRumors circulated for the last week that the Indians were in on just about every player whose name was mentioned as a trade candidate and probably some other players whose names were not even mentioned publicly. For the first time since probably the Roberto Alomar trade, the Indians landed the biggest trade target on the market. If there was any question about us being a buyer at this year’s deadline, it was answered loud and clear.

Paul Cousineau has already covered the ins and outs, stats and figures, and everything in between about the trade. That said, because of the nature of the weekly column that I write, I felt it necessary to include more of an op/ed piece that represents the idea that I have and the idea I think everyone else should have about the trade, and the trade deadline as a whole.

Taking a backseat this week are the Kosuke Fukudome and Orlando Cabrera trades. I addressed the Fukudome deal in yesterday’s View from the Porch, but I will look at the OC trade later in this column.

First and foremost, let’s rejoice in the fact that the Indians are a buyer. For the first time since 2007, where our only splash was Kenny Lofton, the Indians were in a position to improve their team for the stretch run. I would say that they did one hell of a job. There were clear and present weaknesses on this team. Fukudome answered the first one, given that Luis Valbuena was playing outfield for the Indians just two weeks ago.

Now, the Indians have a bona fide front/top end middle of the rotation starting pitcher in Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez may have regressed from last season, which was to be expected after such a good 2010 campaign. Rather than examining what might be wrong what Jimenez, which the Indians have done based on their demand to include a physical prior to allowing the deal to be processed, let’s look at what this trade means for the fans, the organization, and the team.

For years, all I heard was “Why don’t the Indians do something?” or “Why is Dolan so cheap?” The Dolan family has repeatedly said that they will spend when the time is right. The Indians added salary in this Jimenez deal and did so by being able to sign Pomeranz and White to very high signing bonuses. The financial commitment of this trade, from the player acquired to the players signed in order for the trade to happen is evident. And it needs to be commended.

Furthermore, we have seen prospect after prospect flame out after being hyped like they were the second coming of Tom Seaver or Mike Schmidt. You cannot keep waiting for lightning in a bottle with an unproven player. The Tampa Bay Rays have amassed years of top ten, or even top five, first round picks. They have one World Series runner-up run to show for it and began selling off pieces last year. The Padres are obviously doing really well with all the high first round talent they’ve compiled. The Royals are doing well, aren't they?

This is what happens in the economics of baseball. You have two choices. You draft and develop and hope it pans out or you draft and trade to make your team better. The Indians have tried the draft and develop gameplan for the last 10 years and it, largely, has not worked. In fact, it has not worked at all when you consider that nearly every member of the everyday lineup was a trade acquisition and most of the pitching staff is plucked from other teams.

antonetti_poloLet’s give credit where credit is due here. Chris Antonetti was mostly viewed as Mark Shapiro Part Deux. Here, you have Antonetti making an enormous splash, the biggest the Indians have made since the Bartolo Colon deal of 2002. In that trade, the Indians were obviously a seller. The Tribe went above and beyond the definition of a buyer and they did so by taking an enormous risk. They mortgaged their top flight prospect talent in exchange for a proven pitcher and confidence in depth guys like Zach McAllister, Mitch Talbot, Jeanmar Gomez, and David Huff.

For that, I love this trade. It is the kind of risk you absolutely must take in this market. Like I said above, you cannot sit idly by and hope that your prospects come through when you get the chance to get a proven pitcher. The Indians traded from a position of relative strength, kept their top young position players, and sent a strong message to the guys who are here that we are contending right now.

Drew Pomeranz sucks to lose. The kid has tremendous upside, top of the rotation stuff, a delivery that lends itself to staying healthy and an out pitch that puts very little strain on his arm and elbow. Alex White is a question mark. Throwing a split fingered fastball is hell on a pitcher’s middle finger and he has already had problems with it at a young age. Matt McBride and Joe Gardner are throw-ins. Gardner might be a decent bullpen arm, but those can be developed easier than top notch starting pitchers.

If, in two years, Alex White can’t stay healthy. Matt McBride is a minor leaguer and Joe Gardner is the fourth bullpen option, would you be thrilled that the Indians traded Ubaldo Jimenez for Drew Pomeranz? That’s the question you have to ask at this point because there is zero certainty with prospects. As Paulie discussed, the scouting acronym of TINSTAAPP, there is no such thing as a pitching prospect, is a legitimate point. If Alex White and Drew Pomeranz stay healthy and develop in to top of the rotation arms, that’s the chance you take. And it’s a chance you take 100 times out of 100 in my mind.

For the organization, it means that their prospect pool takes an enormous hit. Given the draft upgrades of the last couple years, I have full confidence in the Indians to replace Pomeranz and White in their system. Maybe not guys with that kind of ceiling, but definitely solid, projectable rotation arms. It also signals the largest shift in philosophy we have seen in a long time. It slowly began through the draft as the Indians backed off their love of finesse soft tossing pitchers and unathletic 1B/DH and started focusing on hard throwers and athletic players with versatility. It was that shift in ideology that gave the Indians the chance to acquire Jimenez.

Also, it sends a message loud and clear that our competitive window is now. The Indians rotation is under contractual control for through 2013 and we kept ourwalk_off position player prospects that are currently learning on the job. Perhaps, the Jimenez trade also signals the possibility of a major rebuild cycle beginning in 2014 or 2015. The fact that the Indians drafted an 18 year old SS, Francisco Lindor, with a long road to the Show in the first round of the draft this year may have also been evidence of the plan. He is a project and a kid who needs a lot of minor league seasoning, which was forecasted to put him in the Show in three or four years, maybe five. That would be the start of the next potential rebuild. AKA, making Lindor a core player to build around.

Fans used to joke about Mark Shapiro’s talk of “the plan”. His plan was often cloudy and illegible. Chris Antonetti’s plan is anything but. With a revamped scouting staff, a new ideology, and now this Ubaldo Jimenez trade, this plan is clear, in motion, and going well.

For somebody like me, a diehard fan that gone through plenty of ups and downs, this trade excites me to no end. It is the type of risk I have longed to see. I am skeptical of prospects and their minor league statistics. To move unknowns for a well-known is something I have wanted for a long time. That time finally came and I cannot wait to see how it shakes out.


As a bit of a footnote last night, the Indians traded Orlando Cabrera to another playoff team, the San Francisco Giants. Cabrera was instrumental in this team’s early successes, having big hit after big hit in April and being a clubhouse leader and teacher. Since the Phelps call-up coincided with OC’s numbers falling like precipitation in the rainforest, OC became a shell of what he was and became more of a problem maker than a problem solver. The Indians really did OC a favor by sending him to a favorable destination with a manager he seems to respect greatly.

What the Indians got was largely irrelevant, they just needed to trade Cabrera. The biggest benefit was getting OC out of the way to let Jason Kipnis play every day and get Jason Donald to the Show to be the main utility guy. But, what the Indians got could be a pleasant surprise. Thomas Neal has had good minor league career numbers, including one year in High-A ball with a 1.010 OPS. Scouts say he has potential to hit for power and showcases a strong throwing arm. Seeing years of guys that I throw better than from the outfield, I am excited about the idea of Thomas Neal. With the exception of Choo, the Indians lacked any sort of arm to fear for guys going first-to-third, second-to-home, or tagging up on fly balls.

Could it be our next Ben Broussard or Eduardo Perez trade, which brought us Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera? Maybe. I sure hope so.

Overall, what this trade says to me, and says to the team is that you guys are going to grow together. The youth are playing everyday. This is what the voice of the fan wanted. Every year we hear calls of let the kids play. No more veterans. No more retreads. The only ones we will see now are role players. Guys like long relievers and maybe a utility guy or fifth starter. Players who can teach the young guys or accept roles that young players might be slighted by.

This 2011 Trade Deadline has been one of the most telling developments in the recent history of the Indians. And I love every second of it.

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