Sunday, July 15, 2007

A modest proposal

The Indians are in an AL Central Division pennant race with the very tough Detroit Tigers. If they don't win the division, they'll be in a dog-fight for the wild card.

For the big push, the Indians need some help. They could use another good, strong bullpen arm and a left-handed bat. The Texas Rangers can help with both. They could send Akinori Otsuka and Kenny Lofton to the Tribe for a good minor leaguer or two.

Otsuka would be a great right-handed set-up man and could handle the closer's duties if Borowski goes through a cold streak. He's 2-1 with 4 saves as Eric Gagne's set-up man. Opposing batters are hitting .218 against him. Only the Indians' two Raffy's---Betancourt and Perez have better batting averages against. Otsuka's been shut down for a couple of week due to a sore forearm, but he's supposed to be ready to go.

Old friend, Kenny Lofton, is also available. He's hitting .309 with a .391 on-base percent and has 20 stolen bases. He could play left field and lead off, which would let Wedge drop Sizemore to the three hole. Admittedly, that's a bit risky in that Wedge probably doesn't want to screw around with the top of his order, but it doesn't make sense to have Lofton and Sizemore back-to-back in the order. They're both left-handers. Kenny's only hitting .224 against lefties, and Sizemore's average against them is 30 points lower than his average against righties. The Brewers are supposedly sniffing around Lofton too. So, it's up to Shapiro to put together a nice package and to do it quickly.

Because they're the Rangers, they always need pitching, and this year is no exception. Of course they'd want Adam Miller, but he's too valuable for one year of Lofton and Otsuka. Chuck Lofgren (LHP) might be enough if paired with another minor leaguer. He's better than anyone the Rangers could get elsewhere and would give the Rangers a hard throwing lefthander who's not too far away from the majors. The other guy that the Rangers would really love would really test the Tribe's player personnel guys---Andy Marte. Texas would kill for a young thirdbaseman with some power. That sounds like what Marte is supposed to be but isn't yet. The Tribe's personnel people would have to decide what Marte's upside is and whether or not they'd be willing to part with him for a stretch run. I don't think the Indians have to give up Lofgren and Marte together. Each is a valuable guy, who could be paired with a solid but not great minor leaguer to get Otsuka and Lofton.


Both Lofgren and Marte are acceptable losses. I like them both. I'd like to keep them around to see what they could become, but I'd also like to see the Tribe win the World Series. Now, I'm not saying that Otsuka and Lofton get this team to the promised land, but it's a better team with them. On the other hand, standing pat could be fatal to any post-season dreams. The Red Sox and the Tigers are both great teams with strong pitching and formidable hitting. The Indians have to commit to winning it all, and they have to go get the pieces that give them a fighting chance to get out of the AL.

4 comments:

Hornless Rhino said...

According to this item from MLB.com, Otsuka has been on the Tribe's radar screen for at least a couple of weeks.  Unfortunately, quite a few other teams are interested as well.

Otsuka isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2009 season, so you can see why he's sparking quite a bit of interest.

Michael Beckwith said...

As someone who typically hates to give up young pitching, I would jump on that trade in a heartbeat.

Even if Marte somehow figures it out and takes advantage of that Texas humidity in that park and hits 35 hr's a year, I would rather see some stability in the pen.

Who would you rather see...Otsuka or Lidge?

Erik said...

Unfortunately, the Rangers are in full-on sell mode, which means they want to drive the price as high as they can. I can't see the Indians landing Otsuka. They play it extremely close to the vest with prospects, as well they should, and other teams (bigger-market teams who aren't as reliant on their farm system to compete) will pay more.

The odds are majorly stacked against any Tribe deadline deal working out well in the long term. Acquiring a bullpen arm is always an especially-high risk because guys fall in and out of bullpen roles all the time. This year's stud is next year's cautionary tale.

All you have to do is look at the Orioles relief corps to see that the road to the bullpen from hell is paved with good intentions.

I know none of us want to wait for next year, because next year has never come for 43 years around here. But if the Indians make a short-term move, giving up long-term talent in the process, and the Indians don't win the World Series this fall, it's a bust any way you slice it.

That's not to say the Indians definitely shouldn't make a move, but because so much is riding on every prospect the Indians produce, they need to proceed with extreme caution. These aren't the John Hart Indians, which means prospects are more than just fun-money to spend at the trade deadline.

Vinny said...

Michael, I'd rather have Otsuka. Head problems worry me. Just ask Rick Ankiel (who apparently is poised to come back as a slugging outfielder).

Erik, your points are valid, but the crux of your proposition leads to sitting still. Larry Dolan doesn't need any encouragement for that. Otsuka's a luxury the Rangers don't need to have around. Lofton's gone for sure. He's on a one-year deal.
Lofgren's the Tribe's second-best pitching prospect. Marte may be their best hitting prospect, or he may be their fifth best.

Griffey is supposedly on the block, and for the first time, he's amenable to waiving his no-trade clause. Did someone say the Tribe needs a left-handed bat?
That one's too far-fetched, even for a guy like Geoff Sindelar, who would salivate over the most ridiculous trades some nitwit proposed.

The bottom line is the Tribe can use the help. It's out there. Now Shapiro has to determine what it's worth.