Something happened when the Indians traded for Mike Aviles last week: Asdrubal Cabrera became expendable. I like Asdrubal, but it’s time to think bold, and the way he has tanked in August the past two years has to scare you.
Upton is on track to make $8.5 million next year, so you can add him to the payroll and still sign a pitcher with the rest of the money freed up from Hafner’s departure. Upton has had some off-field issues and the Diamondbacks soured on Bauer last year, but the Indians have to gamble, and the fact that Upton was fourth in the MVP vote just a year ago shows that the upside is definitely there. Besides, Terry Francona managed Manny Ramirez so Upton won’t scare him, and Bauer will be 22 next year, so he has a good chance to figure it out in the next year or two. Meanwhile, Cabrera and Perez would fill Arizona’s two biggest holes, so they will listen—especially when they think hard about having Heath Bell as their closer.
Think of the lineup this would give Cleveland: Michael Brantley, Kevin Youkilis (I’m assuming the Indians could sign him for around two years and $14 million), Shin-Soo Choo, Justin Upton, Carlos Santana, Russ Canzler, Lonnie Chisenhall, Mike Aviles, and Jason Kipnis. Left-right left all the way through. Did you ever think we’d see that in Cleveland again? Five or six guys in that lineup have the potential to hit 20 homers, and an outfield of Brantley, Upton, and Choo would be one of the best in MLB.
Who knows if Bauer will be ready next year, but his upside would be a number three starter at worst. Add him and a free agent to a rotation of Justin Masterson, Zach McAllister, and Ubaldo Jimenez, and it suddenly things are looking up at Progressive Field. And if anyone falters, Carlos Carrasco should be ready to reclaim his rotation spot.
Trading Perez would be a gamble, especially now that Esmil Rogers is gone. It would likely mean that Nick Hagadone or Cody Allen will be pitching in the late innings next year. I can live with that, because it’s a gamble based on real potential, unlike, say, hoping Shelley Duncan can play left field. Plus, it would be worth losing him if it means bringing Upton and Bauer to Northeast Ohio.
If the Indians can swing a deal like this, it makes more sense to go for it in 2013 than to blow it up. With a little luck and a couple complementary parts, this is a contending team. If things go wrong you the rebuilding can start in June, but in the meantime let’s people a reason to buy some tickets in April and May.