Shin-Soo Choo of the Cleveland Indians leads off first base during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
They're still technically within range of a playoff spot, but should the Indians be working on a move to bolster their pennant chances, or instead thinking about 2013 and beyond?
Before this season, I was the only person on Earth who didn't predict that the Detroit Tigers would win the American League Central this season.
This might be something to crow about. Except I didn't have the White Sox beating out the Tigers. No, the Indians were my first-place team. Which looked pretty smart in May, because the Indians spent nearly all of May in first place. Since then, not so much. Still, Cleveland's still within hailing distance of the first-place White Sox and the second-place Tigers, which leads to passages like this (via northern Ohio's Morning Journal):
So will the Indians be buyers or sellers? It could go either way, and Tribe general manager Chris Antonetti has until the trade deadline at 4 p.m. Tuesday to decide.
It seems more likely they will be buyers, or bystanders, instead of sellers, but there will be a lot of jockeying and poker playing between and among rival teams and general managers.
Now, this was first published Saturday; a.m. or p.m., I'm not sure. The Indians lost Saturday, and they lost again Sunday to finish getting swept by the Twins. They've lost eight of their last 11 games, and now sit 5½ games out of first place. Which isn't a terribly discouraging deficit ... except they're behind two teams, oh and also the Indians are tied with the Royals for the second-worst run differential (-66) in the American League.
And the hope for improving their run differential would come from where, exactly?
I figured Derek Lowe would be decent this season, and Ubaldo Jimenez good. Instead they've both been terrible, and there's no reason to think that's going to change. We're nearly four months into the season, and it looks like my (and management's) faith in both was terribly misplaced.
The Indians have probably been somewhat unlucky when it comes to scoring and allowing runs, but they've been somewhat lucky when it comes to winning and losing games. On balance, their 50-52 record neatly summarizes how well they've played and, more to our point on Trade Deadline Eve, how well they're going to play.
Which is, not well enough to contend. Certainly not well enough to justify trading a prospect for a veteran, or even to justify being bystanders. Considering where they are in the standings and how we'll they're likely to play down the stretch, the Indians should sell sell sell.
There's been talk about Shin-Soo Choo, who's probably going to become a free agent after next season, but the Indians do have to weigh his value to their potential efforts next season; he is, after all, their best player.
If the Indians can't get enough for Choo, though, they can still trade ... Oh. Now I get it. The Indians don't really have anyone who's a) too expensive for them to keep and b) has much trade value. The only expensive player on the club is Travis Hafner, and nobody would take him unless the Indians ate most of his remaining salary for this season (the last on his current contract). The Indians' highest-paid player is Derek Lowe, who's got no trade value at all. Hafner's their second highest-paid player. And No. 3 is Grady Sizemore, who's making only $5 million this season and hasn't played a single game this season.
Aside from Choo, the only Indians worth dealing might be their three good relief pitchers: Chris Perez, Joe Smith, and Vinnie Pestano. Oh, and Esmil Rogers has pitched exceptionally well since the Indians bought him from the Rockies last month. So yes, the club might be able to turn one of those guys into a Grade B prospect or something.
Maybe the Cleveland Indians should be bystanders. Unless someone blows them away with an offer for Shin-Soo Choo, maybe it's best to keep plugging along, and let the fans keep dreaming their postseason dreams for at least another few weeks.