Judging by how fans are talking and how we’re writing here on Wahoo’s on First, it seems the Indians are on the brink of some sort of rebuild mode. Sure, it would be great to pull it all together and have a brilliant 2013 and win a world championship, but with the core of players the Indians have coming back next year, the likely dearth of spending expected to happen and the hints of big trades on the horizon, that doesn’t have a big chance of happening. Impact players, more Detroit-type Miguel Cabrera than Cleveland-type Asdrubal Cabrera, are what’s necessary to build a consistent contender and the Tribe doesn’t have it. So it’s time for novel ideas, because when you don’t have the resources, you have to be creative.
I say we trade Terry Francona to the Toronto Blue Jays.
I didn’t say it was a normal idea. It’s a bit of a huge move, especially since he hasn’t even managed a game and has barely had time to talk to players. But the Blue Jays are a true contending team now with that they’ve added Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and Melky Cabrera. They didn’t seem to want to rehire new (is he new?) John Gibbons, and it’s been regarded as a strange hire. They wanted someone who knows how to handle a crazy variety of egos and attitudes and how to navigate the postseason, and since Cito Gaston retired Francona is about the list.
Francona is surely a wonderful manager, you don’t win two World Series with a formerly snakebitten franchise without knowledge, grit and a little bit of luck and he’s got all that. You have to wonder what the Jays might give up for him. This isn’t a case like the White Sox having to unload a manager that’s become a cancer. This is more along the lines of what the Red Sox gave up for John Farrell, but moreso because the Jays want to win so badly after over a decade of irrelevance. Francona brings a legitimacy that the .500-career-record Gibbons doesn’t.
I figure a little extra work could get the Tribe Brett Lawrie. Insane, you say? Impossible? After all, he’s the cornerstone of the future in Toronto. But what if the trade included Francona and Chris Perez and maybe Nick Hagadone, or even Lonnie Chisenhall. Lonnie would be the second big piece in that trade, he’s younger than Lawrie with a ton of upside and an evolving glove. It’s a bit much to give up, an All-Star closer and a young and talented third baseman. But Perez doesn’t want to be in Cleveland anymore and is replaceable with Vinnie Pestano and Lonnie is an unknown at the Major League level.
Lawrie meanwhile led the AL in WAR for a time this past season, even after the league adjusted to him and his hitting fell off. His defense is off the charts, plain and simple, and he plays so hard it’s just infectious throughout the team. Plus, he’s got a great attitude, competitiveness-wise. A little fiery at times that gets him in trouble, but I’d rather that than an emotionless pile of socks. The intensity makes one recall Grady Sizemore or Chase Utley, two guys whose aggressive style of play shortened their careers. But since Lawrie is still a young gun and plays a (slightly) less defensively strenuous position, I can live with that possibility. The Indians just need to pad the cement in the stands near third.
Heck, you could even package Shin-Soo Choo with Francona and get their manager back. He’s obviously qualified or Alex Anthopoulos wouldn’t have hired him. That and a couple kind words could definitely snag Lawrie. If not him that top prospect of theirs, Travis D’Arnaud (.415 wOBA in 2012), the one the Marlins couldn’t get. That trade wouldn’t include Choo because that would be a ludicrous waste of trade pieces by Antonetti. The point is, whether it’s D’Arnaud or Lawrie or a young pitcher like Aaron Sanchez (9.7 K/9, 3.41 FIP last year) for planning down the road or whoever, the Jays are stacked in the minors and the Tribe should get after that.
It’s time to forge a new path, even if it means unloading a really new piece of the long-term puzzle. Crazy isn’t a good policy, but every now and then the ordered, obvious path needs to be walked away from. Moving Terry Francona might just be crazy enough to work.