2012 Trade Deadline: Potential bats
By Jeff Ellis
July 2, 2012
It has become increasingly obvious as the season has progressed that the Cleveland Indians need to acquire a bat. This need became even more pressing after Lonnie Chisenhall broke his wrist on Friday and will miss a projected 6-8 weeks. This leaves Matt Laporta and maybe Russ Canzler as the only young bats the Indians could call up and expect to be an everyday player. This leads me to think the Indians have to and will acquire a bat before the deadline this year.
The problem for the Indians in trying to acquire a bat is that the system still has major depth problems. In a trade with any organization, most teams would prefer to get a player from the AA or AAA level as the main piece of a deal, and depending on the haul, as supporting pieces as well. Teams generally don't want to have to wait four years to see their trade come to fruition, because it's likely a GM and a manager won't last that long. The depth of the Indians system is all in the lower levels. This makes approaching any team with a deal a much harder proposition then it was over the past few years.
Many fans were upset when the team that the Indians are chasing in the A.L. Central, the Chicago White Sox, acquired Boston infielder Kevin Youkilis. While many did not like it because of his bad second half numbers (.199/.314/.246/.660), that was in only 37 games which is the very definition of a small sample size. The reason I wanted no part of Youk was the fact he was worthless last year outside of Fenway, with a line of .191/.317/.349/.667. This shows me that even when Youkilis was healthy, he was not performing.
The question becomes who the Indians should target. A lot of fans have talked about Chase Headley, who can play third base and outfield for the San Diego Padres. The problem here is that he will cost a ton to trade for. The team that does is betting that he can hit better outside of Petco, where he has been above average but not great, and he has shown very little power at all. The best thing about Headley is that has really balanced left and right handed splits. The cost to acquire Headley still scares me off when it comes to a player who part of his cost to acquire seems to be based on the assumption he will improve his power when he goes to a new park. Add this with his high cost, and he seems an unlikely target.
Another player who is often brought up is Alfonso Soriano. The biggest issue is that he is still owed 26 million dollars over the next two years, and that right there is why he is an unlikely to join the Indians. It’s time to get creative and look for players who are not being talked about and trying to find a hidden gem who might be on the block. The Houston Astros infielder Jed Lowrie was a potential talking point here, but there seems to be an impending deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers that could also include Carlos Lee.
Seth Smith: OF, Oakland A's
Pro: Smith has a cheap salary at 2.42 million, and doesn't become a free agent until 2015. He has put up solid numbers for the past two years and can play all outfields spots. Smith would be more than a rental.
Cons: He's a lefty, and has never hit more than 17 homers.
Seth Smith has long been a favorite of mine. He is a great athlete who was Eli Manning’s back up at Ole Miss. Each of the past two years he has posted OPS over .800. While some might worry that playing in Coors Field is hte reason for Smith's offense, it should be noted his road OPS last year was .830 in Colorado, and is currently .806 this season in Oakland. He makes only 2.42 million, and still has arbitration years left. He is currently tied with Prince Fielder for the 27th best OPS in baseball. I know he would be yet another lefty, but no doubt he would be a better bat then what the Indians have. As a bonus, he would also be a major upgrade defensively over Damon in the outfield who could still find time at 1B/DH. Oakland acquired him for a pair of lesser pen arms. He will cost a bit more then that now, but still strikes me as an underrated player, who can get on base, and who the Indians have the pieces to acquire.
Carlos Ruiz: C, Philadelphia Phillies
Pro: Ruiz is an infamous righthanded bat, comes with a cheap salary, has a low strike out rate with amazing production.
Cons: He has no power numbers to speak of,and as an older catcher, likely has fluky numbers this year.
If I asked you who had the 6th best OPS in all of baseball and the 3rd best on base percentage, would you know it was Carlos Ruiz? Over the last three years, he has been putting up solid numbers and finding ways to get on base. He even received MVP votes the previous two years. He has been unreal this year, but that is partially due to a BABIP of .367, which is 72 points above his career norm. This means that he won’t be able to sustain his .356 average, but he can still hit in the .290-.300 range. The interesting thing about his numbers this year has been his power surge. The last two years combined he hit 14 total homeruns, while this year he has 11 already. This year has the signs of one of those career type years. Yet Ruiz is exactly what the Indians need, a right-handed bat that is going to get on base. Santana has been lost this year, and he is swinging so hard, he managed to injure himself. It might do him good to have to focus less on catching, With Philadelphia’s money problems, they might want to let go of a 33-year old catcher who is going to make five million next year.
Shane Victorino: OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Pro: Victorino is a righty who is having a fluky down year. He can play all three outfield positions, and can kill left-handed pitching.
Cons: Victorino is having a down year and has never hit more than eighteen homers.
Shane Victorino is in the last year of his deal with the Phillies. It is unfortunate for him that he is also having one of the worst years of his career. On the bright side, even in his worst year, he is still killing left handed pitching.Iit should also be pointed out that his BABIP is about 30 point below his typical rate, which shows he has been incredibly unlucky this year as well. The Phillies year seems done, and by trading Victorino it might give them a chance to finally see what Dominic Brown can do with an extended look. It's believed that the outfielder is asking for a five-year deal from the Phillies, and there's just no way the Phillies, or potentially anyone but a team like the Yankees or the Angels would give Victorinio that many years, making him extremely tradable right now. Victorino would fill need as a versatile right handed bat, which would help diversify the Indians bat ordering.
Marco Scutaro: Infielder, Colorado Rockies
Pro: He's a right-handed stick who can play just about anywhere. While this season, he's only played second and short, he has played some outfield in the past as well.
Cons: While he hits for average, the 36-year-old has never hit more than 12 dingers in a season.
I started out looking at Colorado and trying to figure out if they might move 26-year old centerfielder, Dexter Fowler. They won’t move Carlos Gonzalez, and I realized that they likely would not move Fowler either, as he is only 26. While looking at their roster, I noticed Scutaro, and realized he could be a better Jose Lopez. In his career, Scutaro had played every position other than catcher and centerfield. He would not be an exciting pick up, but he would be a guy who could play all over, and would pretty much be free to acquire. Plus, he had an OPS over .900 vs. lefties last year, and as a former Indians' farm hand it would be a bit of a home coming.
Norichika Aoki: OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Pro: This "kid" rarely strikes out, can steal bases, comes with a cheap salary, is a good defender in all three outfield spots, and is not a rental
Cons: He's a lefty, has absolutely no power, and isn't proven over time in the majors, as this is his first year in the majors.
Until Mat Gamel was done for the year, Aoki was relegated to being a 4th outfielder. Milwaukee was able to sign him to great contract after a bad season in Japan last year. He signed a two-year deal worth 2.5 million. He has shown himself to be a bit of a steal thus far, hitting 290 and striking out only once every ten at bats. He walks at about the same rate, and is on pace to steal 25 bases. His speed and hitting should also allow him to hit close to 30 doubles this year as well, providing some extra base ability. The question is could he be moveable? Milwaukee will be a seller this year, and a player like Aoki is a luxury for a team in that scenario. It should also be noted that he is only 30, and could easily have a few solid years left.
Carlos Quentin: OF, San Diego Padres
Pro: Quentin is the known commodity here, has a right-handed power bat that doesn't strike out much, and isn't owed a ton of money. The Indians could also sign this guy to a long-term deal that is similar to Josh Willingham's, should they want to go that route.
Cons: He's injury prone
It feels like Quentin has been around forever, but he is still just 29. He would be the number one target on my list, but he has been unable to stay healthy ever in his career. In six seasons he managed to play in over 100 games only 3 times, and it looks like he might not this year either. He has never played in more than 131 games, and has only played in more than 130 twice. If he could ever stay healthy he would be good for 30-35 HR’s with the same amount of doubles, while not striking out a ton. He would be exactly what the Indians need, yet he has played only 26 games this year, because his season did not begin till May 28. Honestly, if the Indians did acquire him I would think about making him a full time DH. There is a very real chance you could trade for Quentin, give up majors pieces and he could get hurt. Giants did the same thing when they traded for Carlos Beltran and gave up Zach Wheeler, a deal they now regret.
As I went through statistics trying to find players who might help the Indians, what struck me is how few players are available right now. There are very few teams out of the race, and the players on those teams are often young players who those teams would not have an interest in moving them. It really looks like it might be a seller’s market, which is the worst thing for the Tribe, a team that does lack assets. Yet there is hope that by looking a bit deeper they could find pieces that could help them in their fight for the division.
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Plus, one guy is not going to help this team get over the "hump" they're lacking in about three spots in the order right now and in the rotation.
What does that mean?
That unless the Indians can pry away a guy like Hunter Pence for the outfield, who's controlled for another full season, you pretty much have to leave the outfield alone. Victorino is a defensive help, but offensively, which is the real need, he's not the answer. You take him if you can get him relatively cheap, but just don't see his bat being the answer. I like Quentin on the offensive side of things, but again, only if you can get him cheap. He's NEVER played in more than 131 games, and only played above 130 twice. With that said, he's an impact bat from the right side of the plate, and when he's in the line-up, just crushes the ball. I wouldn't give up more than one top ten prospect for him though, but would deal for him if the price was right, because he COULD be a guy the Indians could sign to a two-year deal if they wanted to (or three). Again, the injuries and market would curtail any deal on my end. I wouldn't deal for any of these other guys.
If the Indians really want to get an outfielder, Lindor has to be on the table. Then you go after a guy like Pence, or even better, a guy like Carlos Gonzalez. The problem there is that both are not likely on the block, or ever will be...especially CarGo, who just signed a big deal through 2017 at 10 mil per. So no, I don't see the Indians making a big deal for an outfielder.
I do see the Indians getting a starter or reliever, and likely nothing big. At the top end, Ryan Dempster could be a guy they look at with most teams wanting Garza. The catch with any player from the Cubs is they'll be looking to dump Soriano, and I'm just not a big fan, unless the Cubs pay his entire salary (which could happen).
Bill Bray is a guy I'd love to have...as a lefty reliever, who just doesn't have a home anymore in Cincinnati. Jair Jurrjens may be a guy to look at at Atlanta, who just returned from a stint in the minors, and would be signed through the end of 2013. Hell, if you can get Bart Colon cheap for the back end of the rotation, I'd think about that as well, although he just came off the DL with an oblique strain...and lord knows he's got a lot of oblique...
I think I agree that Victorino makes the most sense and would improve all OF positions defensively but he is a pure rental, as is Quentin, who may be one of the few ML players who actually defends more ineffectively than Damon and Duncan. Healthwise, he is remarkably similar to Hafner and Sizemore. Be careful what we wish for, we might get it.