Mar 20, 2014; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) throws the ball against the Seattle Mariners at Cubs Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

How Does the Jeff Samardzija Trade Affect the Indians?

On Friday night, the first major dominoes of this year’s trade season fell.

The Cubs traded starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel — two headliners of this year’s available starting pitchers — to the A’s in exchange for shortstop Addison Russell, outfielder Billy McKinney, starter Dan Straily, and a player to be named later or cash.

On the surface, this is a bold move by both teams. The A’s are now officially going all-in this season, and if they weren’t already the favorites in the American League this season, they probably are now. Their rotation has a collective 3.30 ERA (which is 5th in the majors), but there were questions about some of Oakland’s starters either being able to sustain their success, or to continue staying healthy. In terms of talent, their pitching staff should be fine now. And don’t get me started on their offense. It’s pretty good.

Meanwhile, the Cubs continue to stockpile impressive young players. I still can’t wrap my head around the potential lineup the Cubs could have in the future. The Cubs already have the talented Starlin Castro at shortstop, but they also have two of the top 4 shortstop prospects in baseball: Russell and Javier Baez. I’m not an expert on the Cubs, but Russell could potentially move to second base, while Baez could move to third. But the Cubs also have Kris Bryant — another elite prospect — at third base. Bryant also played the outfield in college, so he could move there. But the Cubs also have a few really good outfield prospects: Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, McKinney, and others. Chicago has plenty of other really nice offensive prospects as well (and Anthony Rizzo playing first base in the majors), but I won’t mention all of them because that would take a really long time.

Straily is an interesting pitcher, and reminds me a little bit of Jake Arrieta, a pitcher the Cubs acquired last year. Like Arrieta, Straily was somewhat highly-regarded and showed spurts of success in the majors with his former team. But both also struggled, and the Cubs were able to buy low on each. It’s worked so far with Arrieta, who has been dominant with Chicago this season and has posted a 1.81 ERA (1.96 FIP) in 11 starts and 64 2/3 innings for the Cubs in 2014. The Cubs hope they can pull of something similar with Straily, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. Pitching coach Chris Bosio is one of the better coaches in baseball that nobody is talking about.

All of this brings me back to the main question: how does all of this affect the Indians?

Well, that’s the problem. Two of the better available starters are no longer on the market.

The starters that still are available just became that much more expensive to acquire, since their current teams gained the leverage of there not being many other viable alternatives.

Teams like the Rays — who have David Price — can now shoot for the moon in trade negotiations, because they know other teams are desperate.

Kennedy would be a great addition to the Indians’ rotation. (Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

The Padres have a starter of their own who could get a lot of attention in the coming weeks: Ian Kennedy. Kennedy’s price tag has most likely increased as well, though he still won’t be nearly as expensive as Price. (I’m a huge fan of Kennedy, and I think he’d be a great fit on the Indians. The fact that he’ll be cheaper than Price helps too, but the Indians make the deals and I don’t.) San Diego also has Andrew Cashner, but I don’t see them trading him.

The trade market has other alternatives, but it’s debatable whether those options (the names John Danks, Kyle Kendrick, Brandon McCarthy, Jorge De La Rosa, and Bartolo Colon immediately come to mind) would be big upgrades for the Indians. Each of these pitchers have their own strengths, each belong in a major league rotation, and I’d be fine if the Indians added any of these guys — if the price was right. But would it really be worth it for the Indians to trade legitimate prospects for these guys if they don’t seem to be much better than what they already have? There isn’t much sense in adding a starter just for the sake of doing it.

The trade market could also have other starters such as Cliff Lee and Jon Lester. But I have no clue what the Phillies are ever thinking, and they’re probably too stubborn to trade him anyway. Then there’s his contract, and the fact that he’s missed time due to injuries.

Lester would be a great addition to the Indians, but the Red Sox obviously want him back long-term, and it would be weird to picture him anywhere but Boston. I would be surprised if the Red Sox dealt him, but he’d fetch a nice return if they did.

All of this leaves the Indians in somewhat of an awkward situation. The starters that would be upgrades for them now appear to be more expensive, and the cheaper starters might not be much better than what they already have. The Tribe would definitely benefit from another starting pitcher, but they can’t afford to overpay for someone they might not need.

Salazar could impact the Tribe this season like in 2013, but it’s a risky gamble. (Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)

It doesn’t seem out of the question that Justin Masterson could return to form, that Zach McAllister could pitch well when he returns to Cleveland, or that Danny Salazar could still provide an impact down the stretch like he did last season. All three are completely capable of returning to form, and they’ve each shown the ability to be really good when they’re at their best.

It would be somewhat understandable for the Indians to stand pat, because it seems reasonable that one or more of Masterson, McAllister, and Salazar could fix things and stabilize the team’s rotation. But that’s a risky strategy, and it would be difficult for fans to accept the Tribe not making a move.

However, the Indians’ front office has proven that it knows what it’s doing, and fans should go along with whatever plans GM Chris Antonetti has.

There’s no doubt that Antonetti is doing whatever he can in an effort to make the Indians better. Even if it doesn’t result in a deal, it won’t be for a lack of trying. He knows that the Indians probably need another starting pitcher, and if the price is right, he’ll pounce.

The trade deadline is still over three weeks away, and there’s plenty of time for the Indians to make a move.

It’s just become a lot more difficult to figure out what they’ll do.



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Tags: 2014 Trade Deadline Cleveland Indians

  • Sufferfortribe

    However, the Indians’ front office has proven that it knows what it’s
    doing, and fans should go along with whatever plans GM Chris Antonetti
    Really? The only thing this FO has proven is that it doesn’t have a clue. And, go along with whatever Shaponetti has in mind? I think I’d rather pull off all my toenails first.

    • Michael Chaney

      You read what I wrote correctly. If you look past the fact that the Indians won’t have a $200 million payroll, their front office knows what it’s doing. Every team makes mistakes, and it’s crazy to only look at those instead of looking at what good they’ve done too.

      But thanks for commenting, and I welcome your perspective. How do you think the front office has proven it doesn’t have a clue?

    • Sufferfortribe

      OK, Michael, how about I just do it by the numbers?
      1) Signing Nick “Vogue” Swisher for too long, for too much, after his prime years.
      2) Signing Michael Bourn to be our lead-off, get on base, steal bases guy–after his prime years.
      3) Wasting a roster spot on Jason Giambi.
      4) Choosing Carrasco and Salazar over Harang and Kazmir, who should have been re-signed.
      5) Not trading ACab when he actually had some value.
      6) Signing John Axford, the possessor of the straightest fastball in the majors.
      7) Not bringing our beloved Omar Visquel into the Tribe family in some capacity.
      There are many more things I could list, but most true fans already know them.
      I have been following the Tribe since the 60′s, so I do have some idea what I’m talking about.

    • Michael Chaney

      1) Swisher originally wanted 7 years and $126 million, and signing him for his current contract was considered a huge win. He has a strong and consistent track record over his career, and although he hasn’t been worth the money he’s making, he’s not worthless like some people say he is. He’s showed spurts of success, and although that alone isn’t worth his salary, anyone suggesting the Indians dump him is being ridiculous. And I have a feeling that you were excited about the Swisher signing at the time (the vast majority of Indians fans were), so you can’t tell me that it was a bad decision if you were fine with it at the time. Hindsight is 20/20, and there’s no such thing as a team that doesn’t make mistakes.
      2) Bourn is in a similar situation as Swisher: they got a huge discount as compared to what Bourn’s contract demands originally were, and while he hasn’t lived up to the expectations (fans expected Bourn and Swisher to be practically elite, which is unreasonable), he’s still been useful. Everyone was excited about signing him at the time, and I’m sure you were too. Don’t lie to yourself.
      3) Giambi’s value comes from pinch-hitting and leadership. Everyone knows that. Also, you apparently haven’t been paying attention to the fact that the Indians are pretty much making up injuries to Giambi so that they can use his roster spot elsewhere.
      4) I wasn’t completely on board with Carrasco in the rotation (I preferred Tomlin), but he’s out of options and it didn’t make sense to give up on someone that talented in the rotation so early. Salazar was completely dominant last year, so the Indians would have been crazy to not put him in the rotation at the beginning of this year. He was being labeled as a future ace, and those aren’t the kinds of guys you just throw to the side. He’s struggled, but again, hindsight is 20/20. Nobody saw him struggling, and it was a complete no-brainer to put him in the rotation. Harang looked decent in spring, but any team counting on a 36-year old with mediocre career numbers to suddenly have a resurgence is crazy. If the Braves hadn’t been eaten up by injuries in their rotation, they wouldn’t have even signed him. Kazmir was decent last year, but his awful few seasons prior and his injury history made it understandable that the Indians didn’t bring him back. He has talent (obviously), but it was way too much risk for them to re-sign him at $11 million a year.
      5) I like Aviles, but not as an everyday player. Asdrubal hasn’t had trade value in about two years (though he has more this season, negating your point), and at that time, they had recently signed him to an extension and Lindor wasn’t even close to being ready for the majors. Asdrubal was (by far) the best option they had at short.
      6) Axford has had issues, but he was an elite closer just a few years ago, is still under team control through arbitration, and the Indians noticed believed slight mechanical adjustments (i.e. no longer tipping his pitches) would help him return to his prior form. For $4.5 million, it’s pretty difficult to blame the Indians for making that move.
      7) I agree with you on this one (I LOVE Vizquel, and I doubt anyone doesn’t), but you also can’t bring guys aboard just for sentimental reasons. That’s not a mistake by the front office, and they wouldn’t have been able to give him the opportunity he has now with the Tigers. I hate seeing him in Detroit, but it’s his decision to be there.

      And I’m not doubting that you know what you’re talking about, but there’s a lot more to a team’s decisions than what meets the eye. That’s all I’m trying to say.

      But nonetheless, I appreciate your perspective. Thanks for reading, and thanks for commenting.

    • Sufferfortribe

      Here’s my responses:
      1) I was NOT excited about the Swisher signing, and $14MM a year for ‘spurts of success’ is overpaying.
      2) Nobody else wanted Bourn, which is why he lasted so long on the free-agent market. And we really didn’t need him, seeing as we already had Brantley in CF.
      3) Giambi is worthless to the Tribe. Bring up Aguilar.
      4) Carlos should have started out in the bullpen, where he had shown success the past season.
      5) Negating my point? ACab will not fetch much as trade bait this season, especially since his contract expires at season’s end.
      6) Axford is not worth $4.5 MM……..period.
      7) Can you imagine what Omar could do as far as our IF defense, considering how bad it’s been? He should have been brought in just for that.

      In talking to you, two phrases come to mind: Rose-colored glasses, and Drinking the Kool-Aid. And while it seems you are a true Tribe fan, learn to question what ownership, the FO, and Francona are doing. Because until all 3 are gone, true success will not occur.

      Thank you for letting me share my opinion. Have a great day, and GO TRIBE!!