The Indians open up a four game series against the Red Sox as a very different team than the one that opened up the series against the Blue Jays. Austin Kearns and Kerry Wood were traded to the Yankees in separate deals on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Indians stalwart Jake Westbrook was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in a three team deal, and the Indians received their only tangible player from these deals in RHP Corey Kulber from the San Diego Padres (who received former Indian Ryan Ludwick from the Cards).
So now that the dust has settled, let’s take a look at the deals and see how they affect the Tribe going forward.
Tribe trades RHP Jake Westbrook to St. Louis
Indians receive: RHP Corey Kulber (San Diego)
Padres receive: OF Ryan Ludwick
I’m going to ignore the St.Louis – San Diego aspect of this trade (although it appears that San Diego is the big winner of this deal), and instead focus on what the Indians gave up, and what they potentially received.
On a non-baseball level, it’s hard to see Jake Westbrook go. No, he never lived up to the contract he signed, injured for 2 of the 3 year deal, but he was always the consummate professional. He tried to put the Indians on his back in Game 7 of that fateful 2007 ALCS with one of the gutsiest performances I can remember, however futile it may have ended up being. Even in leaving Jake was a class act, taking less money that he was rightfully due in a trade bonus to help facilitate the trade and net the Indians a better prospect, because he felt “it was the right thing to do” because he didn’t feel he fulfilled his end of the contract.
But the reality of this situation is that Westbrook simply didn’t fit into the Indians plans anymore, and he simply hadn’t been as effective of a pitcher this season. Granted, he could still be recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the Indians couldn’t wait on him, not with him being a free agent in the middle of a rebuilding project. Westbrook had a 4.65 ERA, it’s not like the Indians staff was relying on him. What he is now, is a solid #3-4 starter that is probably better suited for the National League anyways. I’m curious to see how St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan handles Westbrook (Jake figures to be right up Duncan’s alley as a pitcher), but the fact of the matter is that Jake was simply taking innings away from the young pitchers the Indians need to see.
At first glance, Kulber seems like a fantastic net for Westbrook. A fourth-round selection in the 2007 draft, he’s a strikeout machine; 159 K’s in 2009, tied for seventh in minor league baseball. He has a 3.45 ERA (122.2IP, 121H, 59R/47ER, 40BB, 136K, .259 avg) in 22 games/21 starts. His 136 Ks lead the Texas League.
Unfortunately, Kulber is also 24 and only at AA. He’ll never project as an ace-type pitcher, but could be a good back end starter; in other words, we got a younger version of exactly what we gave up.
But it’s hard to see Jake go. I wish him nothing but the best. Glad he’s going someplace where I can root for him, unlike the next two on this list.
Tribe trades OF Austin Kearns to New York Yankees
Indians recieve: PTBNL
Not much to say about this one, yet. The trade will be completed on or before August 20th, and Mark Shapiro has only said it “will be a player we like and who has major league value.” Sweet.
Regardless it’s a good return for Kearns, who came in on a non-guaranteed minor league contract and won a starting job with his play. He had really started to drop off though, and is probably better suited for a platoon role (which he will have with the Yankees, sharing time with Lance Berkman). For a guy we got for nothing, getting anything is a good return.
Tribe um, “trades” RHP Kerry Wood to Yankees
Indians receive: PTBNL or $500,000.
A pure salary dump. The Indians have until Oct. 15 to decide what they want, but according to Anthony Castrovince of Indians.com, “they are required to send the Yankees $2,172,131 in cash, with New York set to pay the remaining $1.5 million of the $3,672,131 remaining on Wood’s $10.5 million salary this year.”
So the Indians could potentially be saving $2 million here, which doesn’t sound like a bunch, but coupled with the money the Indians saved from trading Westbrook, that’s potentially #1 draft pick Drew Pomeranz’s signing bonus. I expect the Indians to take the cash, because the player they could receive will probably be insignificant, because, well, Kerry Wood sucked.
Wood expressed some remorse for his performance the past year and a half:
“Obviously disappointed in my performance this year and my time here in Cleveland, what we did as a team the last couple of years. Mostly last year, got off to a rough start. That’s part of the game though, that’s kind of the way it goes.
“[I] would have liked to hold up my end of the deal better than I did, but in the end — it is what it is.”
Three trades, three players gone, one tangible player coming back. At first glance it appears the Indians don’t even care. But for what the Indians gave up, which honestly wasn’t that much in terms of production, they gained a ton of salary relief, which can help with signing bonuses or other things. Obviously, a lot of my grade for the Indians depends on what they get for Austin Kearns, and while I’m a bit disappointed they didn’t land a bit more for Westbrook, all in all, the value the Indians received was fair. I realize this is hard for fans to watch, but this was set in motion about a year ago, with the trades of Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez. This isn’t a new fire sale, it’s simply finishing off the last one. This was to be expected, and honestly, it went much, much better than I thought (I thought the Tribe would never get rid of Wood, or Jhonny Peralta for that matter).
Don’t fret over this Indians fans. Better days are ahead. We just have to get through the night.