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Tribe Happenings: Indians have more to trade than you think

Tribe Happenings: Indians have more to trade than you think
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Note: The audio you are hearing as you open and read this page is from the imbedded video I have included at the bottom of this article. Please take a moment to check out the video and consider donating to my team that is participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-day Walk for the Cure. More details on all of that at the bottom of this article.

Some news, notes, and thoughts from my Indians notebook…

Looking at the Indians trade chips

Today is the first day of July, which means that the trading season has reached its peak time as the July 31st non-waiver trading deadline is now less than a month away.  Over the next few weeks the Indians are expected to be very involved in trade talks not just for bats, but pitching as well.

A lot of the focus to date has been placed on who the Indians might be able to acquire, but at this point that picture is way too fuzzy and hard to determine as there are dozens upon dozens of possible players they could land. But not much attention has been paid to who the Indians may part with or what kind of trade currency they have in the organization to make a few deals to get the pieces they very much need.

The Indians have a lot of interesting players throughout the organization that they can piece together to make a quality offer for just about any player that is expected to be available in the trade market this July.  At the moment the Indians do not have any high level prospects in the upper levels of their system like they did last year with left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz, right-handed pitcher Alex White, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, and second baseman Jason Kipnis.  But the quality of players expected to be available in a trade are not the kind that the Indians would trade a Grade-A prospect for anyway, so it is not that important.

Most of the players expected to be available in trades are going to be older veteran players past their prime or straight up salary dumps, which means it will be more about how much risk in money a team is willing to take on versus the cost of prospects they have to give up.

All that having been said, the Indians have the ammo to make a deal this July. And they should make any player in their system available – in the right deal. There are no untouchables in the system. For as much as I love the potential of shortstop Francisco Lindor, if he brings back a bona fide bat or arm that is young and under control for several more years, then you absolutely trade him. But then again, the expectation is that such a player will not be available this July.

When looking at who the Indians can depart with, you have to look beyond the current 25-man roster as the Indians lack few if any players they can afford to part with. The pieces of value like Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Brantley, Justin Masterson, Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Ubaldo Jimenez and Carlos Santana are core pieces to the team and are not being traded. There are other players like Josh Tomlin, Zach McAllister, and maybe even Shin-Soo Choo (because he is nearing free agency) who could be packaged in a deal for a need, but even they are probably unlikely to be dealt.

If the Indians crash and burn the next few weeks and fall way out of the AL Central race, they would not be interested in having a fire sale. They control all of the important pieces on the team for 2013 and they expect to contend next year no matter what happens this season.  There are some free-agents-to-be that they could part with like Derek Lowe, Johnny Damon, Jose Lopez, and Casey Kotchman as none of them are expected to be brought back next season, but really, outside of Lowe, the Indians would not get much in return for any of those players.

So when it comes to making a trade with another team, the Indians are going to have to pull from their depth at Triple-A Columbus and Double-A Akron. They lack any “sexy” prospects at either place, but there are a lot of intriguing and valuable pieces that could be packaged to get a deal done for almost any player.

Most of the Indians best talent lies in Single-A and below, but those players are so raw and such a long projection that outside of Lindor it would be hard to trade any of them as the center piece of a deal. So when it comes time to make a deal with another team, the Indians are probably going to have to pull from the talent they have at Columbus and Akron.

Here is a rundown of the top ten most valuable players at Columbus and Akron that could have some value in a trade:

1. Jeanmar Gomez (RHP, Columbus): He got off to a great start with the Indians this year as he was 3-2 with a 3.19 ERA in his first eight starts, but fell apart over the last month as he was 1-5 with a 7.92 ERA in six starts since then. He is still only 24-years old with upside and many feel he can be a good middle of the rotation pitcher for a long time. He may have the most value of any Indians player that could be available, and to be traded would probably require a significant bat in return.

2. Cody Allen (RHP, Columbus): He has huge value right now in the industry, but he is a reliever and at this point the Indians are not going to get nearly enough in a return to offset the value he has to them in the present and long term. He has backend bullpen potential and could be an arm that is added to the Major League bullpen in the second half that helps solidify it, and would almost be like a trade acquisition in itself.

3. Scott Barnes (LHP, Columbus): He can start or relieve, is left-handed, creates some deception, and has some good stuff. There is lots of value in that. He has the potential to be a good second left-hander in a Major League bullpen or a solid back of the rotation starting pitcher, so he could be a top target of teams.

4. Giovanni Soto (LHP, Akron): When it comes to upside, Soto may have the most of all of the Indians’ prospects currently at the Double-A level and above. He is 21-years old, left-handed, and having a very good season this year for Akron. A lot of people think he could at least be a Rafael Perez-like dominating left-handed reliever in the big leagues, but he has an unbelievable cutter and good three pitch mix that could still allow him to start in the big leagues too.

5. Corey Kluber (RHP, Columbus): There are lots of reports coming out of Columbus that after Cody Allen, that Kluber has been the most impressive pitcher on the Columbus staff this season. Statistically, he is in the top ten in the league in starts and innings pitched and his 98 strikeouts lead the league.  He has been more consistent in the zone and is getting a lot of swing and miss action on his pitches this season, and there is a growing belief that he will be a strong middle of the rotation big league pitcher.

6. Cord Phelps (2B, Columbus): With Jason Kipnis fully entrenched as the Indians’ second baseman for the next half decade or so (assuming he stays healthy), a guy like Phelps is blocked. He lacks the versatility to play another infield position at the Major League level, so second base has to be where he makes his mark and that is not going to happen with the Indians.  He has the tools to be a solid second division infielder that switch hits, has some pop in his bat, gets on base, and is athletic, so he could be a good fill in second baseman for a lot of teams.

7. Matt LaPorta (1B/OF, Columbus): The way LaPorta has been handled this year suggests that the Indians are looking to move on from him and that his days with the organization are numbered. His future may be limited as a big leaguer, but he continues to be an elite performer at the Triple-A level and there are always teams out there that look for guys that are undervalued by an organization and maybe just need a change of scenery.

8. David Huff (LHP, Columbus): Huff is the pitching version of LaPorta; a high end prospect that has just never materialized as hoped in Cleveland. Some of that is due to his own inconsistency, some due to injuries, and some due to some questionable handling of him the past few years.  With him out of options next year and down in the pecking order, the Indians are likely going to move on from him sooner rather than later. He still has some value, and a change of scenery could be all he needs.

9. Steven Wright (RHP, Akron): With every start R.A. Dickey makes, it only increases the value and intrigue in a knuckleball pitcher. The Indians have one in Wright, although he is still probably a year away from contributing at the Major League level. But his knuckleball is very good and he has the potential to be a weapon in a starting rotation for a long time if he becomes more consistent with the pitch.

10. T.J. McFarland (LHP, Columbus): McFarland is not a guy that is going to blow hitters away as his fastball sits in the upper 80s and low 90s, but as a left-handed sinker baller that consistently gets outs and performs, there is value in that. He has low upside and may not be more than a long man or a fifth starter in the big leagues, but sometimes adding some quality pitching depth is all a team is looking for and he could be a good fit.

Others that could have value in a trade include left-handed pitchers Eric Berger (Columbus) and T.J. House (Akron), right-handed pitchers Frank Herrmann (Columbus), Matt Langwell (Columbus), Bryce Stowell (Akron), and Tyler Sturdevant (Akron), outfielders Tim Fedroff (Columbus), Trevor Crowe (Columbus), Russ Canzler (Columbus), and Jared Goedert (Columbus), and first baseman Chun Chen (Akron). These players all have limited value in a deal and would be more as complementary pieces in any deal unless it is a straight salary dump.

The names of the prospects rumored to be included in a trade rarely are ever noted as it is always the Major League player that gets the attention, so we will likely never know if any of these players are ever talked about in a trade. But you can bet that most – if not all – of these players are offered up or asked for in numerous trade proposals over the next several weeks.

Chisenhall, Indians get tough break

Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall left the game in the fifth inning on Friday night after he was hit in the right forearm by a pitch. From the moment it happened it did not look (or sound) good, and he was promptly removed from the game to get x-rays. Unfortunately for he and the Indians, the x-rays revealed that he had a fractured right ulna bone.

Chisenhall had surgery on Saturday to repair the fracture by renowned surgeon Dr. Tom Graham at the Cleveland Clinic.  With the time needed to heal and then rehab, he is expected to be out four to six weeks.

The injury came at a bad time as the Indians can ill afford to lose any players with any offensive firepower, and Chisenhall of late was starting to settle in and get comfortable at the plate as in his last ten games he was hitting .367 with 1 HR, 6 RBI, and 1.006 OPS.  He is still struggling against lefties as he was 0-for-12 with four strikeouts against lefties at the big league level this year, but he thrived against right-handed pitching as he was hitting .333 with 3 HR, 9 RBI, and .894 OPS.

The Indians wasted no time on Saturday placing Chisenhall on the 15-day disabled list and calling up infielder Jason Donald from Triple-A Columbus.  From the sounds of it, it seems like Donald is more than just a short term callup for them and that when designated hitter Travis Hafner is activated this coming week someone else on the 25-man roster may be let go (Aaron Cunningham?).

Santana expected back today

The Indians rested catcher Carlos Santana the last three days, and he is expected to be back in the starting lineup as the designated hitter in their road trip finale today in Baltimore.

Santana, 26, has not played since being taken out of the game on Wednesday in New York because of tightness in his back and side. The Indians gave him two complete days away from all baseball activities on Thursday and Friday, and then on Saturday had him do some hitting and throwing.

Santana has not been the same hitter as he was last season, something that I discussed in this space two weeks ago. But since coming back from the disabled list on June 5th from his concussion, he has really not been the same player. The Indians say he has not suffered from any post-concussion symptoms since returning from the disabled list, but since coming back he is hitting just .162 with 0 HR, 5 RBI and .505 OPS. Among qualified players, his .162 average since June 5th is the second worst mark in the American League during that period.

Prior to the concussion Santana was not much better as he was hitting .245 with 5 HR, 24 RBI and .747 OPS at the time of the injury, but that was solid production and much better than what he is doing right now. Hopefully the three day respite has allowed him to shake any lingering issues both mentally and physically and he can finish strong this last week before the All Star break so he has something to build on for the start of the second half of the season.

Parting shots

Earlier in the week the Indians claimed outfielder/first baseman Vinny Rottino off waivers from the Mets and designated right-handed pitcher Chris Schwinden for assignment (he was claimed off waivers by the Yankees). … Designated hitter Travis Hafner will play in another minor league rehab game today in Columbus, and if all goes well the expectation is that he will be activated from the disabled list tomorrow. … Today the All Star reserves will be announced, and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and closer Chris Perez are expected to be named to the team. Second baseman Jason Kipnis and setup man Vinnie Pestano have an outside shot, but are not expected to be named to the team. … Outfielder Grady Sizemore is expected to continue a running program this week and left-handed reliever Rafael Perez will continue his throwing program. There is still no ETA on their return and both are at least several weeks away from any such return.

3-day walk for the cure

I know this is not Indians related, but this is something very important to me so I wanted to note it.

I’ll be participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-day walk for the cure in Cleveland from August 3-5th. I myself am not walking the 60-mile journey due to a bum left knee, but I am one of the attendants that will be hauling gear and setting up the tents for all the walkers. I’ll be sleeping in a tent each night with all of the walkers and crew, and will be a part of the event from start to finish.

My mother and some family members are actually walking the event, and we are looking for more donations to the cause and sponsors for our journey. I have had several of my own family members affected by breast cancer, and for a lot of you readers you all know my own scare I had last year when I was diagnosed with kidney cancer and am now a cancer survivor.

If anyone is interested in supporting us and donating to this incredible cause, please click on this link. If the link does not work or you want to send a donation by US Mail or another way, please feel free to contact me at tlastoria@indiansprospectinsider.com.  We appreciate your support. Join us, because together we can erase breast cancer for all.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

Tony
July 2, 2012 - 10:33 AM EDT
Norm, I left off Hafner simply because I think he is untradeable and also because I think he is brought back next year at a reduced cost. Also, it would be a bad PR hit to a team trying to build positive PR among their fans. Even though a lot of people know Hafner is at the end of his days in Cleveland, there are still a lot of people that are fans of him since he has been here 10 years and has so much history with the team.
Norm
July 2, 2012 - 5:13 AM EDT
I think you are right about Cunningham being DFA for Hafner. I am not sure Donald defends CF all that well or will hit RHP much better but he is more advanced "prospect" at this time than Cunningham and much more versatile.

I wonder why you omitted Hafner from your bailout selloff group. He would be at the top of mine just for the financial benefit. I don't think trade prospects are particularly but I didn't expect them to pull off the trade for Jminez last year. None of th dumps look very appealing to me and I would not be shocked that Antonetti was being candid.
Seth
July 1, 2012 - 2:25 PM EDT
I've never understood the calls from many fans who want to move Santana to 1b, since it would downgrade them defensively, kill a lot of Santana's value to the team, and mean Lou Marson was in the lineup. With Marson looking horrible the first 6 weeks, it made even less sense. But now, out of nowhere, Lou's suddenly performing like the player he was marketed: no power, but hitting for a solid average and drawing walks, his 14.6% walk rate is Santana-esque. With Carlos's injuries, and Lou's sudden hitting prowess, and Hafner coming off the DL, perhaps the solution to 1b isn't a trade, and would be inserting Santana as the starting 1b, have Kotchman on the bench (or get rid of him and call up Laporta or Canzler), and keep Marson catching. If Lou reverts to his .240-hitting, low-OBP ways, and Santana gets his health and swing back, they could always move Marson back to his bench role, but it at least seems smart to ride the hot hand and leave him in the lineup for now.

I'd be fine with them trading Jeanmar Gomez for an outfield bat, but I can't see them trading someone like Cody Allen or Barnes. Their bullpen has been a mess. You could actually make an argument that they need bullpen and (good) starting pitching help more than they need a bat right now, with the afore-mentioned Marson, and Damon not totally sucking in left.




Jim
July 1, 2012 - 8:26 AM EDT
I'll be donating Tony...I'm also running in a melanoma 5K in two weeks, and I'll get that information up as well. Cancer has touched all of our lives...let's do our part...
Jim
July 1, 2012 - 8:24 AM EDT
Tony...great piece as always...and agree that there are definitely potential bats to be had. Every team will initially ask for Lindor, of that, there is no doubt. I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see the Indians going after a name not being talked about for a guy like Lindor. There are definitely teams out there that would look at Lindor as a guy they could move quickly through a system, so you might be able to pry a part away from a team...like Carlos Gonzalez or Dexter Fowler from the Rockies (just an example)...by including Lindor...

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