Is it the "Future" yet?


Fresh out of work and bored, I was rummaging through Keith Law’s Top 50 free agents (only for those with ESPN Insider, sorry) and was just about sick. For those who are wondering why the Indians have been awful for two years — there can’t be many of you — look at this: four of the top ten free agents this offseason are former Indians. Cliff Lee (1), Victor Martinez (5), Carl Pavano (7) and Jake Westbrook (10) have all been cast off by the current regime in order to focus on the future, as well as to make sure that Mr. Dolan doesn’t have to touch his dust-covered checkbook, God forbid. So, lets take a look at what the powers-that-be in the front office have parlayed these guys into.

Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco to the Phillies for Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson and Jason Knapp
The first red light here is the fact that you can’t really say who the Indians picked and said, “This trade does not happen without (insert name). Take it or leave it.” Kind of makes you feel like the conversation went more like this:

Mark Shapiro – Hey Ruben, I need to dump Cliff Lee because there’s no way he’s gonna stay here.

Philles GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. – OK, OK. Well I’m sure you’ll start with the usual J.A. Happ/Kyle Drabek/Domonic Brown package everyone else wants, so let’s start there…

MS – Who? Just throw together a couple pitchers and a couple bats and I’m sure they’ll be fine.

RA – Well…are you sure? Lee is pretty good and you know what Ricciardi wanted for Halladay. We’ll at least throw in this 19 year old Knapp kid. He’s a phenom but he’s got some arm trouble…

MS – 19?! We can sell him to the fans for AT LEAST the next four years! Call the commissioner!

Since that day, Cliff Lee has been to two World Series. Carrasco pitched like Rick Vaughn in 2009 before (cross your fingers) showing a lot of progress last year. Jason Donald proved to be nothing more than a utility infielder. Lou Marson? A back-up catcher at best. Ed and I have exhausted their welcome on this blog lately. Jason Knapp seems to be a wild card in this trade. He has been pitching for just two seasons and has never pitched over low-A ball. In his minor-league career he has 208 K in 156.3 innings with a 1.20 WHIP. Those numbers are flat-out filthy, but again, it is low-A ball. On top of that, he pitched only nine games last year due to injury.

So, basically, it appears the Indians got a mid-rotation guy, two back-ups and a 19 year old pitcher with arm trouble who could be the next Curt Schilling or the next Todd Van Poppel. All that for a guy who has been a top-5 pitcher in both leagues since 2008. Also, somehow they swindled Ben Francisco from us, a productive fourth outfielder. How does that make you feel?

Victor Martinez to the Red Sox for Bryan Price, Nick Hagadone and Justin Masterson
Vic was a fan favorite and a guy who (assuming he isn’t a back-stabbing liar like Jim Thome) probably would have made a couple sacrifices to stay in Cleveland. Carlos Santana may have made him somewhat expendable though, so I completely understand that Shapiro was trying to sell high on V-Mart. Overall, I think this could work out. Masterson is another guy who’s future has been beat to death on this blog. He’s either an average started or a dynamite setup man.

Bryan Price looks like nothing more than a project going forward. He’s approaching 24 and pitched 40 games in Akron last year with a 3.25 ERA and a strikeout per inning. Decent numbers, but nothing spectacular. He’ll have to make some progress to get to Cleveland as there is already a long line in the bullpen waiting in Columbus.

Nick Hagadone (another pitcher) has put up some dynamite numbers in the minors (47 starts, 2.89 ERA, 193 K in 165 IP). However — and stop me if you’ve heard this one before — he hasn’t made it past AA ball yet! Surprise! The 2014 starting rotation is going to be awesome! Someone call Dr. Emmett Brown.

Carl Pavano to the Twins for Yohan Pino
I’ll give Mark Shapiro a free pass on this one. Pavano was brought in as a project with a one year deal and really wasn’t that great. When he was traded he had a 5.37 ERA and had allowed more hits than innings pitched, and the fact that the Indians got anything for him is a wonder on the surface. In reality, he had been pitching very well in the month prior to the trade, which was executed after the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

However, Yohan Pino really isn’t very good either. He has had some great years in the minors, but they were all before AA ball which makes you wonder about some of the aforementioned prospects in this post. His ERA through A ball was 2.39, pretty respectable. His ERA in AA and AAA? 4.62, and that is in almost 200 more innings. Like I said, though, we probably would have got nothing out of Pavano past 2009. It looks like we got nothing for him as well.

Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals in a three-way trade for Corey Kluber (Padres)
I’ll sum this one up real quick: traded a semi-fan favorite for a pitcher you’ll never hear of again. It wasn’t even worth it, we gained nothing.

Now, all this being said, I know that baseball is a long-term process. A lot of casual sports fans don’t understand that, especially football and basketball fans where the draft results in instant gratification. My gripe is that, on the surface, it doesn’t look like the Indians got much going forward. Two of the players we got rid of (Lee and Martinez) are All-Star caliber players, and there’s no player they got in return that screams “future All-Star”.

I believe in the future for this team, but how far away is said future? The farm system is loaded with talent. The front office…well, I question the mental make-up of the decision makers. We’re in a new era with Chris Antonetti, but he is a Shapiro clone, so don’t look forward to major changes. The Giants just won a World Championship by developing their young players and making the right veteran moves. I know we have the talent, I wonder if we can make the right decisions to develop it correctly.

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Tags: Bryan Price Carl Pavano Carlos Carrasco Cliff Lee Jake Westbrook Jason Donald Jason Knapp Justin Masterson Lou Marson Nick Hadagone Victor Martinez Yohan Pino