Inbox: Competing vs. restocking the system
Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers Indians fans' question
Miguel Cabrera deservingly took home the American League MVP trophy. The man put together a historic season, earning the Triple Crown in the process. Did you think you would see that again in your lifetime? I did not. It takes such a blend of skill and poise to achieve that rare feat and that is why I have no problem with Cabrera being honored accordingly.
And I was in the Mike Trout camp.
For reasons I've detailed on my blog, I felt Trout's season contained plenty of historic elements, too. I also felt that -- whether by using advanced sabermetrics or old-fashioned box score columns -- an argument could be made that Trout's performance was superior to Cabrera's production. You don't agree? That is fine with me, and I believe it should be fine with everyone else.
The one thing I hope everyone can agree on is that both Cabrera and Trout turned in special seasons in their own right. Cabrera won the MVP. Good for him. That should not stop anyone from appreciating the historic nature of Trout's season. Let's all take some time to celebrate rather than reprobate.
Here's this week's Inbox ...
All the trade talk over the past few weeks has had me thinking. I completely understand the trade talks about Shin-Soo Choo because of his contract situation, but the Indians just got Terry Francona. With him at the helm, shouldn't that make the Tribe buyers rather than sellers? Also, with the Marlins trying to give their players away, what do you think about the Tribe going after Giancarlo Stanton?
-- Dan B., Akron, Ohio
Let's get your second question out of the way first. Stanton -- a power-hitting, right-handed outfielder -- is exactly what Cleveland needs, but there have been no rumblings about him being available. Stanton is young, has budding star power and is affordable and under control for years. That is the kind of player who fits Miami's apparent mold right now.
As for your first question, I think the Indians are doing what they can right now to identify ways to supplement their young core and restock the upper levels of their farm system to a degree, while at the same time fielding a competitive club for 2013. That is a tall task, but it is why I don't feel the team is on the verge of a complete overhaul.
Players such as Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Masterson, Chris Perez and Carlos Santana have been mentioned as possible trade chips. I could see Cleveland moving one or two of them to net some prospects or near Major League-ready players. I just can't see the Indians parting ways with all of those players, especially considering their respectives ages and some of the contract situations.
Right now, Cleveland has been tied to free agents such as Kevin Youkilis, Melky Cabrera, Jason Bay and Shane Victorino, among others, in various reports. Those sound like players who could be used to supplement the Tribe's young core group of Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Michael Brantley, Vinnie Pestano and Santana. Those free agents represent, to me, potential acquisitions that show a total rebuild is not happening this winter.
In a recent article, you wrote that the Indians' farm system is "barren of impact prospects." This hasn't always been the case and the Tribe has developed good talent in the past. What has changed in the last few years?
-- David T., Hofheim, Germany
A few things have happened over the past several years. Cleveland had a series of poor showings in the First-Year Player Draft, though things have improved under the watch of Brad Grant, the club's director of amateur scouting. His first Draft was 2008, which produced Chisenhall. Kipnis was selected the following year.
The many subpar Drafts left the Minor League cupboard bare. Combine that with the swift rise to the big leagues by players such as Chisenhall, Kipnis and Pestano, along with a few others,and suddenly the Tribe has a young Major League team with few "impact" prospects in the upper tiers of the farm system. The much-criticized returns in the trades for Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia have complicated matters further.
Two pitchers considered to be impact prospects -- Alex White and Drew Pomeranz -- were subsequently dealt to Colorado in order for the Indians to reel in Ubaldo Jimenez in 2011. As a result of these developments, Cleveland's top prospects are mostly in Class A at the moment.
This has put tremendous pressure on the big leaguers over the past few years to stay healthy and perform to their full ability. When there have been setbacks -- health- or performance-wise -- the lack of depth has been exposed. This is an issue that could take a few years to resolve through trades and improved drafting.
The Indians just acquired catcher Yan Gomes from the Blue Jays and he seems to have some promise. Is Lou Marson as good as gone?
-- Josh W., Lancaster, Pa.
Unless Cleveland acquires another big league catcher, Marson will still presumably head into Spring Training as the favorite for the backup role behind Santana. Gomes will come to camp with a chance to compete for the No. 2 job, or as a third catcher with the ability to also play first base, but he is likely destined for Triple-A to start the season.
What do you think of the following scenario: trade Choo for a decent starting pitching prospect, preferably one that could be Major League ready by the end of 2013, and then enlist the services of Bay and Victorino to complement Brantley, while developing Ezequiel Carrera as a fourth outfielder.
-- Chris U., Highland Heights, Ohio
This is an entirely logical line of thinking. That said, I think Cleveland would look to get more for Choo than just one pitching prospect. Victorino has expressed a willingness to move out of center field, which would allow Brantley to stay put. If Bay signed a one-year, incentive-based contract -- or a Minor League deal, for that matter -- it would be a risk worth taking in my book. I think it would be a better risk than the one-year, $5 million contract handed to Grady Sizemore last offseason.
Seeing as how the Indians are stocking up on shortstops and middle infielders in the farm system, and a possible Cabrera trade looming, when will shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor be ready for the MLB?
-- Shane T., Haw River, N.C.
I might be eating my words before this offseason is done, but I do not think the Indians will trade Cabrera this winter. That said, recently-acquired Mike Aviles could play short every day in the event of a Cabrera trade, serving as a stopgap of sorts while Lindor continues to develop. The only issue is Lindor is unlikely to be in the big league picture until 2015. Cabrera is signed through 2014.
What chance do you think Matt LaPorta has of making the 2013 Indians? If the team can't fill all of their holes (first base, left field, designated hitter), don't you believe he deserves one final chance in a Tribe uniform?
-- Alex K., Cleveland
LaPorta will be coming back from another hip surgery this spring and he is out of Minor League options. That combination makes it seem unlikely that he will be on the Opening Day roster, even if the Indians swing and miss on adding a left fielder or first baseman.
What are the chances of the Indians signing Josh Hamilton?
-- Kyle W., Canfield, Ohio
The Indians already have a Hamilton. He's in the radio booth. How about that?