The Cleveland Indians are banking on the future having finally arrived.
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Having dealt former Cy Young Award winners CC Sabathia in July 2008 and Cliff Lee a year later in deals that brought eight prospects in return, the Indians changed directions this year. They shook up baseball’s July trade market, taking the place of the normally active New York Yankees, who found themselves left out of this year’s festivities.
The Indians sent four prospects packing in return for an All-Star pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies, and immediately anointed him as the No. 1 starter in their bid to overtake the Detroit Tigers for an American League Central title. They also attempted to address offensive concerns by acquiring outfielder Kosuke Fukudome from the Chicago Cubs.
The Yankees? They were shut out, left with a rotation built around Sabathia and crossed fingers. The Indians outbid them for Jimenez. Hiroki Kuroda opted to stay with the fast-fading Los Angeles Dodgers instead of waiving his no-trade clause, and the Yankees refused to pick up the bulk of the $38 million remaining on Houston lefty Wandy Rodriguez’s contract.
So the Yankees, having failed to make a deadline deal for the first time since July 1999, head down the stretch counting on the likes of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon to fill rotation spots behind Sabathia, as well as the erratic duo of A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes.
Who was a hit and who missed in deadline deals this year:
These teams stood around with hands in pockets.
30. Yankees: They had their names plastered in headlines wherever a prime player was available. However, they thought they could bluff and wound up going bust.
29. Twins: They have an outside shot in the AL Central and had starter Kevin Slowey to dangle, but they wound up doing nothing because they decided a starter has more value than the reliever they had hoped for in return.
28. Angels: Note to general manager Tony Reagins — check out the play on the field and realize a closer is missing.
27. Marlins: They aren’t going anywhere, except to a new stadium next season, so why worry now?
26. Rays: Patience is a virtue. There’s too much talent within. No sense in dealing just for the sake of making moves.
25. Nationals: Hey, the Nationals thought overspending for Jayson Werth was notable in the offseason, so what can be expected now?
It’s all about eye wash.
24. Reds: They managed to get themselves mentioned in speculation about key additions, but the bottom line is the best they could do was unload Jonny Gomes to open up a spot for former first-round choice Yonder Alonso, who is converting from first to the outfield.
23. Cubs: No sense trying to fool anyone. The idea was to get Kosuke Fukudome out of town, and that was fulfilled.
22. Cardinals: Beware — Edwin Jackson is with his sixth big-league team. Octavio Dotel is 37 and shows it.
21. A’s: Dangled big names but wound up settling for moving reliever Brad Ziegler.
At least they came up with something.
20. Dodgers: Nothing earthshaking, but the Dodgers were able to unload Rafael Furcal, a pending free agent who St. Louis soon will discover has an ability to stay injured.
19. Brewers: Stunner is Milwaukee spends the prospects and money to add starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in the offseason and then grabs Francisco Rodriguez from the Mets but never makes life easier for the new guys by adding an even adequate defensive player. The Brewers passed on the likes of Clint Barmes and Jamey Carroll to step in at second base in favor of journeyman Jerry Hairston.
18. Orioles: Right-hander Koji Uehara is much more useful to Texas than the Orioles, and at least they got a return of serviceable right-handed starter Tommy Hunter and first baseman Chris Davis, who steps into the job opened up by being able to unload Derrek Lee.
17. Tigers: GM Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland are in limbo, so the Tigers didn’t hesitate giving up quality prospects for midline big-leaguers Doug Fister and David Pauley.
16. Red Sox: Boston brought in a starting pitcher, Erik Bedard, and utility infielder, Mike Aviles, but neither is a difference maker.
At least there was an effort.
15. White Sox: The addition was by subtraction. The White Sox did get a quality reliever in Jason Frasor, but the three-team deal with Toronto and St. Louis also provided $8 million in salary savings.
14. Royals: KC gave up two “versatile’’ infielders and, in return, acquired two prospects each from Boston and Detroit.
13. Astros: Owner Drayton McLane sold the team down the road to futility long before selling the franchise. The Astros are looking for strength in numbers. They did not get a blue-chip prospect in deals that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia, Michael Bourn to Atlanta and Jeff Keppinger to San Francisco, but they did get 10 prospects in return.
12. D-backs: GM Kevin Towers has a penchant for pitching and worked to fill needs in the bullpen (Brad Ziegler) and rotation (Jason Marquis) without a significant cost. However, Marquis has a track record that should create concern. He is 67-46 with a 4.29 ERA in the first half in his career compared with 37-51 with a 4.81 ERA in the second half.
11. Pirates: After 18 consecutive losing seasons, filling holes for a title run is something new for the Pirates. They didn’t have to part with much in their effort to beef up the offense, but first baseman Derrek Lee is on the back side of his career and outfielder Ryan Ludwick is an easily pitched-to bat.
2011 hopes died, but these teams built for the future.
10. Blue Jays: As part of a three-team deal with St. Louis and the White Sox, the Jays were able to land run-producing center fielder Colby Rasmus without having to part with a potential impact prospect.
9. Mets: Carlos Beltran wasn’t coming back to the Mets, and he has a contract clause that ensures he won’t be offered arbitration, so there’s no compensation if he’s on the free-agent market. However, the Mets turned Beltran into an asset by shipping him to the Giants for right-hander Zach Wheeler, the sixth player taken in the 2009 draft.
8. Mariners: The M’s would be better off to just flip all the pages on the calendar and pretend this year doesn’t exist, but they continue to look for hope in the future. That’s why they dealt two pitchers whose numbers are skewed by Safeco Park’s pitcher-friendly environment, Doug Fister and David Pauley, to Detroit for four players, including one yet to be identified. That player is believed to be lefty Drew Smyly, who, in his first full season of pro ball, is already at Double-A.
7. Padres: They came up with two quality arms in the Mike Adams trade: Joe Weiland and Robbie Erlin, who have what scouts call big-league pitchability despite their youth. The Padres also were able to move Ryan Ludwick to the Pirates for a player to be determined or money, and the financially strapped Padres can use cash. They saved more than $3 million with the Sunday deals — $2.24 million remaining on Ludwick’s deal and $850,000 for Adams.
6. Rockies: Right-hander Alex White, Cleveland’s No. 1 pick in 2009, and lefty Drew Pomeranz, the fifth player taken in last year’s draft, are being projected to step into the Rockies’ rotation by the start of next season. Jimenez was the team’s bell cow, but what keeps lingering in the back of minds is that since he went 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 18 starts before the 2010 All-Star break, he has gone 10-16 with a 4.18 ERA in 36 starts.
Future is now, and these teams improved their postseason prospects.
5. Braves: Atlanta did a lot of window shopping for an outfielder to provide an offensive jolt and settled for the speed of Houston’s Michael Bourn. It cost the Braves four players, the most hyped of which is lefty Brett Oberholtzer, who projects to be a back-of-the rotation guy.
4. Phillies: Yes, the Phillies gave up four prospects for Hunter Pence, including the power arm of Jarred Cosart and swing of Jonathan Singleton, but Pence is a plus runner, solid defensive player and middle-of-the-lineup bat whom the Phillies control for two additional years. No, they did not address the hole in the rotation, a fifth starter, because they were unable to succeed in a late bid for Aaron Harang, who remained in San Diego.
3. Indians: They landed the expected ace, Jimenez, who also was coveted by the Yankees, Red Sox and Reds, and they have him for at least two more years on a contract that guarantees him less than $10 million. However, the best they could do to spark an offense that is missing Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo was take Kosuke Fukudome off the Cubs’ hands.
2. Giants: Their offense barely ranks ahead of San Diego, which is why the Giants were so desperate to add switch-hitting Carlos Beltran, even though he’s two months from free agency, that they parted with former No. 1 draft Zach Wheeler. They also got the Mets to pick up $4 million of Beltran’s remaining $6 million in salary. Jeff Keppinger and Orlando Cabrera are insurance for a muddled middle infield.
1. Rangers: Despite a deep rotation and explosive offense, the Rangers have a teetering bullpen. Now closer Neftali Feliz has some help with the arrival of right-handers Koji Uehara from Baltimore and Mike Adams from San Diego. Texas’ target was Adams, but it was discussing closer Heath Bell, a free agent in waiting. When San Diego made it clear it had its sights set on Double-A pitchers Robbie Erlin, a lefty, and Joe Wieland, a right-hander, the Rangers were able to extract Adams, who was their preference.