So the Tribe made not one, but *two* moves today – they signed Jose Lopez and traded Cory Burns for Aaron Cunningham. I’m somewhat indifferent about the Lopez signing, and I’m not that crazy about the Burns for Cunningham deal.
The Indians signed Jose Lopez to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. This wasn’t completely unexpected, as it was reported a few days ago that the Indians had some level of interest in Lopez. I mentioned the possibility in this post, and discussed Lopez’s stats. Even though Lopez really isn’t much of an improvement over internal options, this is clearly the Indians trying to catch lightning in a bottle once again. Lopez was an all-star in 2006, a season in which he hit .282/.319/.405 with 10 home runs. There’s obviously some hope that he could recapture some of the past glory that led to his label as a top prospect with Seattle.
So far this off-season, the Indians are becoming the Island of Misfit Toys for former top prospects. First Felix Pie, now Jose Lopez…it’s too bad they didn’t manage to keep Adam Miller in the organization (he signed a minor league deal with the Yankees about a month ago). Now all they need is Mark Prior, and a convincing case to bring former Yankees prospect Drew Henson out of retirement, and they could have a circa-2004 futures roster.
I’m less pleased about the other move of the day – the Indians traded Double-A Akron pitcher Cory Burns to the San Diego Padres for outfielder Aaron Cunningham. There’s no way you could’ve known this (unless you have some weird telepathic connection with me), but I’ve actually been working on a post that discussed Burns in some detail. I was putting together a post on the Arizona Fall League (that I’ll hopefully finish someday soon); the 24-year-old Burns performed well enough in the AFL, coming off a solid season with Akron. He was even named to the Rising Stars Game, even though he didn’t actually make an appearance. His 2011 stats: 2-1 with 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 12 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched in the AFL; during the regular season with Double-A Akron he was 2-5 with 2.11 ERA and 70 strikeouts. Burns was also named Best Double-A Reliever in the 2011 Minor League Baseball Yearly Awards.
So I’m really starting to feel like a broken record saying this, but yet again, Cunningham is a player with a high upside who has yet to perform to expectations in the Majors. In 87 games with Triple-A Tucson in 2011, Cunningham hit .329/.398/.532 with 9 home runs – a very solid performance. Unfortunately, in 52 games with the Padres in 2011, he hit .178/.257/.367, with 3 home runs. It makes me wonder if Cunningham isn’t the stereotypical Quad-A player; throughout his career (he was a 6th round pick by the White Sox in 2006) he’s performed well in the minors, yet struggled when he got to the Majors. One interesting fact about Cunningham: in 2010 he was traded to the Padres from the Oakland Athletics, along with Scott Hairston. The players that went from San Diego to Oakland were Eric Sogard and former Indian Kevin Kouzmanoff. In his first game with the Padres, Cunningham hit a grand slam. You may remember that in his first Major League at-bat with the Indians, Kouzmanoff hit a grand slam. There’s some weird, useless knowledge for your Friday evening.
I guess I’m disappointed in this trade, because while I feel that Cunningham may have a higher ceiling, I think that Burns, an 8th round pick by the Indians in 2009, has the potential to be a solid bullpen guy in the future. Even though the Indians seem to have a surplus of bullpen-style pitchers, I don’t see Cunningham sticking with the team. I think he’ll eventually end up being designated for assignment, or traded in another minor league deal such as this. Burns could’ve helped the bullpen in the next couple of years, or he could’ve been a trade chip in a better deal.
You can expect a roster move soon, because there’s not enough room for the new additions on the 40-man. I should also add that both Cunningham and Shelley Duncan are out of options, while options remain for Matt LaPorta. That may further inhibit LaPorta’s chances of making the opening day roster (unless he goes on a tear during spring training).
There may be nothing else significant the Indians do this off-season. As Jordan Bastian reported on Twitter today, Chris Antonetti, said (in regards to the current roster), “It could be what we go to camp with, but we’re going to continue to work to … [find] alternatives.”
Additional News: The Indians announced today that Tom Hamilton and Jim Rosenhaus will be the radio broadcasting team for the 2012 season. While I’ll miss Mike Hegan, I think Hamilton and Rosenhaus will continue to do a great job together.