It’s June 27th and the Indians find themselves 1 game back of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central. One game. If on April 1st I had asked you if you’d be happy with the Indians being 1 game back essentially on July 1st you all would have been ecstatic. This is a team that was supposed to be competing for the cellar. Well, they’re not. This team is right there. The division is there for the taking.
The question now is, do the Indians become buyers or sellers with the July 31st trade deadline looming on the horizon. In other words, do the Indians see themselves as a team with a legit shot at taking the division, the team that got off to a hot start going 20-8 out the gate. Or… do the Indians see themselves as the team that has gone 20-28 ever since that hot start, has struggled to get hits in critical situations, and continually shoots themselves in the foot with stupid mental mistakes? One has to believe the real Indians fall somewhere in between. Now it’s just a matter of deciding whether or not that in between can topple the Tigers.
There are a few obstacles standing in the way of the Indians. First off, they are not a team in a market that can afford to either take on massive amounts of salary. Second, the Indians can’t afford to mortgage their future and trade away prospects. They’ve worked so hard in recent years to build back up the farm system that tearing it apart would seem counter intuitive. Lastly, who on the current big league roster could they really get anything of substance in return for? Sizemore may be more untradable than ever, Hafner, while hitting the cover off the ball, makes too much money, and the rest are barely big league level talent (Hannahan, Duncan, Buck, Kearns…. etc). Undoubtedly, any call the Indians make is going to be met with, “We want (Chisenhall, Pomeranz, Kipnis).”
The Indians will have to think long and hard about what they want to do. I don’t think they can afford to give up any of the three. Now, if a team wants to talk about a package of various prospects throughout the organization, then I think the Indians should listen, but under no circumstance should they give up their crown jewels. I think they’re smart enough to know that… at least I hope.
Trades aside, I think the best move the Indians can make at this point is to play the Lonnie Chisenhall card. Cord Phelps hasn’t really worked out how they thought he would to this point, late game heroics aside. Why not bring up Chisenhall. He was just named International League player of the week with 2 homers, 14 RBI, a .429 batting average, and 5 runs scored in 5 games. He couldn’t be any hotter than he is right now. It’s time to call him up. He couldn’t be any worse offensively than Jack Hannahan. Is Adam Everett, or Orlando Cabrera shifting back and forth between second base and third base really a better answer? What are they waiting for?
To make matters worse, Shin-Soo Choo is done for the next six weeks and possibly the rest of the season after getting his thumb blown up by Jonathan Sanchez. Yes, Choo has been battling through a season long slump, but he was finally beginning to show signs of life. There’s no way you can begin to replace the things Choo does in the field and at the plate with a combo of Shelley Duncan and Travis Buck. That’s yet another reason why the Indians need to promote Chisenhall. They know the kid can hit and it’s the biggest need for the Indians right now. Call him up already.
Lastly, under no circumstances should the Indians begin trading away valuable assets and by valuable assets I mean the bullpen. Bobby Valentine and Orel Hershiser suggested that the Indians use some of those pieces in order to being in more talent. Their logic was that since the available starting pitching on the trade market may be less than in years passed, they may be able to acquire substantial quality in return for a few of their arms. I say what good does that do? The bullpen mafia is relatively young. Why trade any of them away and force yourself into a situation where you’re looking to rebuild the pen. Say the Indians acquire a bat in exchange for Pestano and Raphael Perez. What good does that do now that they can’t get the ball to Chris Perez? Completely stupid.
*Completely unrelated note* Why is it that Orel Hershiser was able to figure out Fausto Carmona’s problem after three innings and a little bit of video while Tim Belcher and the rest of the staff continue to treat him like a rubik’s cube? This isn’t meant to be a knock on Belcher. He’s been great as the pitching coach, but why hasn’t someone compared Carmona’s wind up delivery to his stretch delivery side by side? It seems like a few simple tweaks.
Unfortunately, this is the Indians we’re talking about and along with that comes a level of cheapness that is truly unprecedented. So… the Indians will probably be sellers despite the fact their will be bats available for cheap that could help this team down the line. Wouldn’t it be nice to see Vlad Guerrero coming off the bench of DHing? What about prying someone away from the now bankrupt Dodgers for cheap? There are others too. Why not go for it? If they don’t they better have a damn good explanation.