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Corner of Carnegie and Ontario: Treading water edition

Corner of Carnegie and Ontario: Treading water edition
July 7, 2012
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The Fourth of July festivities are behind us, and the All-Star break is staring the Cleveland Indians directly in the face. As the Tribe continues to perform their version of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, it really is hard to figure which direction this team is going.

 If you go back a month, the Indians took two of three from the Tigers and the Cardinals, were swept by the Reds, lost two of three from the Pirates, swept the Reds, lost two of three from the Astros, were swept by the Yankees, took three of four from the Orioles, took two of three from the Angels, and have split their first two games from the Tampa Bay Rays.

During that stretch, the Indians are 15-15.

While I’m not going to talk about the obvious flaws of the White Sox and Tigers, as I did a couple of weeks ago, it’s fairly clear that any of the top three teams are ready to pull away from each other. Over that same stretch of games, the White Sox are 16-14, while the Tigers are 17-13.

I still fear the Tigers, more than the White Sox, but to ignore either team would be a mistake. The Tigers are loaded with offense, led by Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson and Prince Fielder. Their rotation is anchored by the by Justin Verlander, and while the rest of their rotation is struggling, they still have Porcello, Scherzer, Fister and Smyly, who all could turn things around quickly. You also have to know that the Tigers and their 82-year-old billionaire owner will be players in the trade market. They will no doubt be players for all the same players that the Indians will be involved in, to at the very least, drum up the market. It’s doubtful that the Tigers will look the same after the July 30th deadline.

The White Sox also have an interesting offense, after firing the first cannon shot in dealing for the Red Sox Kevin Youkilis. Paul Konerko is just instant offense, and the Alex Rios signing has turned into a brilliant move. Youk has been nothing short of awesome since the trade, and you still have guys like Adam Dunn and A.J. Pierzynski. Their rotation is looking pretty stout as well, with Jake Peavy and Chris Sale both absolutely dominating. Past those two is a mixed bag though. Kenny Williams, though, continues to showcase an ability to make moves unlike any other GM. He doesn’t always make the right moves, but he’s not afraid to take the type of risk to see what sticks. I doubt that the Youkilis move is the only one they make, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go out and grab a starter or two, as well as another bat.

Point being that the White Sox and Tigers are going to be extremely active in the trade market, and they’ll be looking at the same players as the Indians. It’s going to be an extremely interesting month, and one in which the Indians will have to get extremely creative to do anything substantial.

I’m absolutely convinced that they will, as I don’t believe you go out and make a move like they did for Ubaldo Jimenez without then making a follow-up move of some sort. The Indians have a “window” for 2012 and 2013, and whether or not you believe this team is ready to compete in the playoffs, this is the time for them to make a move. Yes, they need more than one piece, and no, I don’t believe the Indians can make more than one SUBSTANTIAL move.

 I absolutely see the Indians going after a bat and an arm. I don’t know if they are going to go after a big arm or a big bat, but whichever they get, I believe they’ll still address the other needs in smaller ways. You can say what you want about Chris Antonetti, but the move for Ubaldo last year proves that he’ll make moves, and that they can be big ones. I wouldn’t expect any less this year.

If he fails to make a substantial move after getting Jimenez, then this “window” is an epic failure, in my opinion. Of course, the Indians could actually do some damage with the team as is, but I just don’t think that both the White Sox and the Tigers are going to play middling baseball for the rest of the season, and even if they do, they have players to better sustain that middling play.

July is going to be an interesting month indeed.

It’s fairly clear that Grady Sizemore is more than a month behind in his rehab, with no clear sign as to when he’ll be back with the Indians, if ever. Chris Antonneti stated that he was hopeful that Sizemore would begin running after the All-Star break, and he’ll be able to return a couple of weeks after that. I can’t even begin to discuss how ridiculous that sounds. Best case scenario is that he starts running after the break, goes to a rehab assignment at some point afterwards for 20 days, and is back, at the earliest, in August. Then, what player do you get? He’s a guy that hasn’t played a game since September, and then, wasn’t playing all that well. For those holding out hope that Sizemore is going to help this team out in the future, it’s time to give that hope up. Sure, I’d rather have Sizemore than Cunningham, but at this point, by how much?

The next week or so will let us all know when, or if, Roberto Hernandez will ever play for the Indians in 2012. There was a bunch of speculation that Hernandez would be in the States by the All-Star break, and that he’s been throwing in the Dominican during that stretch. If he’s back within the next couple of weeks, he’ll start the season in Arizona, then likely be around in Cleveland by the end of July at the earliest. He’s exactly what the Indians need right now, and would absolutely address a major hole in this team. I may be the only person who feels this way, but I think the masquerade of not being Fausto Carmona may be the final piece in the Hernandez puzzle going forward. Perhaps his mind will be much clearer now, going forward.

The biggest internal issue with the Indians has to be Carlos Santana. He hasn’t hit a home run since May 15, which was ten games before the concussion. Since that home run, he’s gone 20-for-114, with five doubles, nine RBI, 18 walks, and 28 K’s. His OPS in May was .505, and in July, .598. That’s down from .659 in May, after he was at an impressive .863 in March. I’m fairly sure that the concussion has something to do with it, but he was playing badly long before that. If the Indians have any shot at contending, Carlos Santana has to do something. With Lou Marson playing so well, you could really make a case that it’s time to sit Santana. While many want Santana at first base, I’m not one of them. You maximize his value as a catcher, and if he’s playing first, his numbers just aren’t the same. Hell, right now, who wants his numbers.

Today’s game is a perfect case in point. Michael Brantley led off the inning with a double, and up came Santana. At worst, Santana needed to get Brantley over to third. He took a called strike with an offspeed pitch, then hits a ground ball to short, keeping Brantley on second. Shelley Duncan then came up and had a beautiful, 10-pitch at bat in which he drew a walk. Marson followed with a double, scoring Brantley, and ultimately the Indians scored three runs in the inning. What do the Indians need to do to get Santana right? Your guess is as good as mine, but he’s not playing at a major league level right now.

No, I’m not suggesting that you send him down, but something has to be done. Pitchers have figured him out a bit, throwing him a bunch of offspeed and benders, and I’m sure his injuries aren’t

The Indians got two well deserving players into the all-star game in Chris Perez and Asdrubal Cabrera. A lot was made of Jason Kipnis not getting into the ballgame, but to be honest, you really can’t fault the choices of Robinson Cano and Ian Kinsler. Cano is the best second baseman in baseball, and had to be the starter. Kipnis is better than Kinsler right now, but Ron Washington wasn’t going to not pick his guy. This pissed off a few people, and I’m not saying I was jumping up and down with joy, but I get it. It’s part of baseball to take your own guys, and I get it. I’m hoping Kipnis gets a late shot, as he would have to be close if someone else goes down.

I have no idea what is going on with Ubaldo Jimenez, but he’s just a different pitcher. I have no problem ever eating crow on a guy, and am really glad that he’s figured things out. He’s really found that splitter again, and while his velocity is nowhere near where it was in 2010, he’s absolutely back in that 1 or 2 slot on any team. This is the guy that Antonetti traded for, and thank goodness. If Jimenez wasn’t pitching well right now, where would this rotation be? Masterson has been ace-like, but had a setback with the Rays yesterday. He’s right, but not the same guy that he was last year. Past those two guys, you have a black hole. I like McAllister a lot, but he’s an unknown commodity. Josh Tomlin is so on-and-off. You can have one guy like that, but with McAllister and Derek Lowe, you don’t want that type of hit-or-miss player. Derek Lowe, like Tomlin, is a guy you love at #5, but he’s are #3 right now.

The starting rotation needs one more quality starter to shake things up, then they need to pick the other two. I’d take McAllister and Lowe, but that’s just me.

I do think that this Cleveland Indians team will win 90 games in their current state. If they get improved play from Santana, and some depth on the bench, as well as figure out that starter situation, I think they can win the division. I really, REALLY think July will prove that the Indians are a player this season, and better players than most are thinking…

Carlos Santana just took a ball the other way for a two-double…and looked good doing it. He clearly made an adjustment. It’s one hit, but he clearly walked up to the plate looking for something, found it, and drilled it. It was the old Santana. Now, let’s get that repetition…right Ubaldo?

It’s a beautiful weekend for baseball…everybody…

Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as  the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

User Comments

Willie
July 8, 2012 - 1:54 PM EDT
I'd love to see the Tribe buy their way to a World Series. They could actually do that by acq. young controllable pieces and drafting aggressively and then turning these minor leaguers into major leaguers through trades.
I'd put Lindor on the table for Justin Upton, and about any star player the Tribe could control for the next 2 & half yrs.
Also, I agree on Pomeranz the only way I'll be satisfied with that deal is if 1. Jimenez pitches well, 2. The Tribe contends for the AL penant / WS, 3. The Tribe extends Jimenez assuming he continues to pitch well.
I seriously believe the Tribe should look to extend their window of contention by trading players like Choo for known commodities like Justin Upton. I realize he may not be enough but he'd be a great starting point.
Jim
July 8, 2012 - 11:21 AM EDT
I don't like the deal, as I think Pomeranz is going to be a #1 starter for years to come. However, if Ubaldo can give us the next year-and-a-half of outstanding pitching, AND Antonetti does something else to help most this team and they actually do something, then I'll be 100% content. I want a world series, and don't really care how they get it. I was talking to a guy a couple weeks ago that was hammering the thought that the Indians could "buy" their way into a title. First off...when is that going to happen, but secondly, if they did...I'd be fine with that. At the end of the day, a world series is a world series...so make the moves they need to make.

Put lindor on the table, if the net gain is someone that is controlled through 2014, and is a PLAYA!!!

I want to win now...and believe the Jimenez move was a win now move...so...if they don't follow that up, IMO, it's the final nail in the coffin for this franchise as far as direction goes...
Willie
July 8, 2012 - 8:12 AM EDT
Jim, I'm right there with you. I'll gladly eat crow on Ubaldo Jimenez, he's pitched really well and to his credit Scott Radinsky has been helpful in getting Jimenez pitching well again. I'm still a little skeptical of Jimenez but I'm quickly warming to the pitcher he has become. His mechanics are definitely better and the extra reps have really paid off for him.
I give CA credit for striking boldly to get Jimenez, this was a move unlike Mark Shapiro would've made. Although I still disagree with throwing both top pitching prospects in the same deal. This deal could really work well for the Tribe if Jimenez continues on this path.
I expect the Tribe to be busy come trade deadline. If the club flounders I don't think CA will sit still. We could see this club move a couple veterans in effort to add depth for a run again next yr. I don't believe we Tribe fans will endure that kind of purge again this yr.
The simple truth is the Tribe has useful pieces that can be pieced together to land talent and the Tribe could add salary to add pieces. I expect a creative use of trades by CA, as the deadline nears.
Hearing the Tribe linked to names like Garza and Headley should tell us fans they are looking for a big addition again, I'm not sure they land a deal the scope of the Jimenez trade was last yr, but the club will certainly make 2/3 moves soon.
It will be a fun summer of baseball. Go Tribe!

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