On Monday, CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler reported that the Cleveland Indians “have let teams know they’re willing to trade” Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera. Though the news was hardly shocking, it is significant that Chris Antonetti & Co. have initiated conversations about potential deals.
The news may be a bitter pill for Tribe fans to swallow—Choo and Cabrera are arguably the two most popular players in Cleveland, and dealing them would presumably signal the start of another rebuilding cycle (even if that lingo is outdated). But this news is actually a very good sign about what’s going on in the Indians’ front office.
First off, the fact that Antonetti is willing to trade Choo and Cabrera is a good sign because any GM should be willing to trade any of his players. It may be that the player in question is worth more to his current employer than he would be to another team so a trade would be practically impossible, but that doesn’t mean a GM should consider him untouchable. Closed-mindedness doesn’t help anybody.
Take Mike Trout. He’s about as close as any player in baseball could get right now. But if the Nationals called and offered, say, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Gio Gonzalez for Trout, the Angels would almost certainly pull the trigger. There may not be a realistic possibility of matching up with another team, but a GM has nothing to gain by declaring one of his players to be off-limits.
Less abstractly, this development is a positive because it suggests that Cleveland has finally chosen a direction for the offseason. I’ve already expressed my concerns about the Tribe’s heretofore inaction this winter—standing pat isn’t going to do the organization any good. The Indians have the potential to contend in 2013 if they beef up this winter, but they’re also faced with the reality that the “window of opportunity” isn’t as open as they’d planned and thus might be better off building for the future. Either way is defensible, but both approaches require major action. And Cleveland’s only significant transaction of the offseason so far doesn’t really fit either scenario.
These rumors suggest that the team has chosen a path. Painful though it might be to watch Choo and Cabrera shipped off to greener pastures, it would ostensibly be for the greater good. It’s a mature and reasonable recognition that stars don’t make a difference on a 90-loss team, but the young players they’d bring back will help out in the future. For what it’s worth, the Indians aren’t planning to hold a Marlins-esque fire sale: “They say they’ll keep both players if they can’t get what they want,” Knobbler writes.
It’s hard to call it good news when your favorite team takes steps towards dealing away its two franchise faces, but in this case it probably truly is for the best—there’s no sense in stubbornly refusing to consider trading a player, and if nothing else it’s a sign that the team is taking its need to shake things up seriously. Good to see the front office starting to do what must be done.