I have to admit I go from thinking the Indians should be sellers to buyers from day to day. But the trade (non-waiver) deadline is upcoming, and Mark Shapiro has a major decision to make. He has to not only make decisions based on the players involved, he has to consider the PR implications as well, like it or not; if the Indians deal Kevin Millwood or Bob Wickman for guys the average Joe doesn’t know, then the team will take a PR hit. Of course, the team could be absolutely correct in making that move, but that’s the way professional sports seems to be heading. If the Indians land a “name” player for the rest of the season, more fans might start to believe in what the Indians are doing; of course, in doing so, they might have to give up a Brad Snyder or a Jake Dittler in order to do so, which would tick off the die-hards, who would bring up Richie Sexson and Brian Giles. Or they could just stand pat, which would anger a whole other class of fans.
Here’s what I would do if I were GM of the Indians for a day:
(1) Deal Bob Wickman if you can shore up an area of weakness. Since there aren’t that many true sellers out there, see if you can trade Wickman to another buyer for a player that can fill a need. Baltimore could be a possibility, as would Florida, Texas (if they still think they’re in it), or Boston. Since Bob doesn’t know if he’s going to pitch next year, there’s no guarantee that you’d get draft pick compensation, so you might as well deal him now. Wickman for Juan Encarnacion plus a prospect would seem a nice fit, but I’m sure there’s other possible deals out there. Bob Howry would probably move up to closer, and David Riske could take his place as primary set-up man. Once Matt Miller comes back, you’d have a bullpen of:
(2) Keep Kevin Millwood unless you get blown away. Millwood’s been the best pitcher on the staff, and although you figure he’s not going to be back, he’s going to fetch some compensation via the draft. Keep in mind that Jim Thome’s departure to Philadelphia netted the Indians Brad Snyder and Adam Miller, so you can get some pretty good prospects if you draft right. But if a team that loses out on AJ Burnett offers you a great package of players, you jump on it. Possibilities include Texas, both New York teams, Baltimore, and the Cubs. Again, deal Millwood only if someone makes you an offer you can’t refuse.
(3) Get Adam Dunn. I don’t care if he hits left-handed. I don’t care if he strikes out a lot. The guy is one of the best hitters in baseball, and he’s 25 years old. And you can have him under your control through 2007. The Reds are paying Ken Griffey, Jr a lot of money, and Dunn is probably going to get $7M+ in arbitration, so I would think he’s the outfielder the Reds would deal. He isn’t going to come cheap; the Indians would probably have to give up at least two of their better pitching prospects or a major-league pitcher to get him. But if you park him in right field and hit him fifth in the order behind Hafner and Martinez, he consolidates your offense.
(4) Deal Jose Hernandez if you can get a decent return. He can be replaced by either Ryan Garko or Jason Dubois. Again, you deal from your strength in order to shore up an area of weakness.
It is possible for a team to be a buyer and a seller at the same time. In this year’s market, it looks like the only way to fix a hole is to do both; there are a lot of teams still in contention, and the teams that are out it don’t have much that the Indians would want. I do admit that making the above deals is more difficult than I make it seem, but creativity in deals seems to be one way to make both trading parties happy.
I invite you to play GM for a day: what would you do (within reason) between now and the deadline? Oh, please use the comments on the left (Blogger); I’m phasing out HaloScan over the next two weeks.