When I was a child, one Christmas I put together a heck of a list for Santa. I wanted a Power Wheels, a Nintendo, a bunch of games, a new radio, and other stuff that I can’t quite remember. My parents had to sit me down and gently explain that Santa operates on a budget. He just couldn’t afford to give me all of that stuff…not when he had to get gifts for all of the children on Earth (at least according to my mom and dad). I persisted, seeming to think that the elves could just work a little harder to get me all of the stuff I wanted. At some point I finally accepted the fact that even though I wanted all of that cool stuff, it just wasn’t going to be mine.
Now that I’m an adult, I figured that this was a feeling I’d never have again. With trade chatter increasing throughout major league baseball, I’ve found myself feeling like I was six years old and making out my list to Santa all over again. The Indians have quite a few needs, and I’d like them all filled with top tier players with very few sacrifices on their end. Even though this time around I know I’m being a bit unrealistic, I can’t help thinking “aren’t there baseball elves somewhere that could just work a little harder to make all of this happen?”
So here are some of my dream scenarios:
The Indians sign Jorge Soler. This is already a moot point, since Soler has reportedly agreed to a deal with the Chicago Cubs. While he wouldn’t be able to help the Indians immediately, the outfielder appears to be a very promising talent. With a lack of top tier outfield prospects that are close to the majors prominent within the system (outside of the recently drafted Tyler Nyquin) Soler could be a top outfielder in Cleveland in the near future. Unfortunately, the Indians don’t have the money to gamble on these types of deals. While a team like Boston may complain about a Daisuke Matsuzaka, the fact remains that the contract didn’t necessarily ruin the team. Larger market teams can better absorb mistakes than a smaller market team. While it was rumored that the Indians had some level of interest in Soler, the fact remains that they just can’t afford to take a big-money risk on an international player.
The Cubs basically give the Indians Alfonso Soriano. The Indians could still use some help in left field. Shin-Soo Choo has settled into the leadoff spot quite nicely, and Michael Brantley is currently in the midst of an 18-game hitting streak. While Johnny Damon has been better as of late, the Indians could still use a left-fielder with some pop. The Cubs, who are on pace for one of the worst seasons in franchise history, are said to be willing to deal any player not named Starlin Castro (and even he may end up being negotiable). The problem with Soriano is that he’s owed $18 million in 2012, $18 million in 2013, and $18 million again in 2014. There is just no way humanly possible that the Indians could (and should) absorb this kind of salary. That’s not to say that Soriano wouldn’t be negotiable; the Cubs have admitted that they’ll probably need to eat a sizable portion of that salary in order to move the outfielder. How much salary they eat, probably depends on the level of prospects they would get in a return deal. I don’t really want to see the Indians surrender any significant prospects, and I know they can’t really take on much salary at this point with attendance so low. At the same time, Soriano is hitting .275/.321/.507 with 12 home runs and would represent the right-handed power bat the Indians crave. The only solution that I like here, is if the Cubs eat most of his salary and basically just hand him over to the Indians. Is this in any way realistic? Absolutely not. It doesn’t mean that I still wouldn’t want to see it.
The Indians manage to acquire Bryan LaHair for virtually no prospects. LaHair has put together quite a nice little season for the absolutely dreadful Chicago Cubs. Christina Kahrl recently included him in a nice piece about journeymen that have achieved stardom so far in 2012. In fact, that may be one of the reasons that a good percentage of this wish list is comprised of Cubs; with the additional wild card and a large number of teams within striking distance, there may not be that many sellers. So LaHair is doing well, the Cubs need to reload on prospects, and the Indians could really use a little extra pop offensively at first. So what should the Indians be willing to offer for LaHair? If you’re Jim Bowden, you suggest the Indians offer Lonnie Chisenhall and Nick Hagadone. (Insider only link – it includes several suggested trades for the Cubs and various teams.) While I doubt you’d be all for this deal (I said the word “no” to my computer about 40 times before I finished reading the story), just in case, let me remind you of Chris Shelton. If you thought to yourself, “who is Chris Shelton?” then my point is pretty much already proven. Chris Shelton was a 33rd round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2001 that was claimed by the Detroit Tigers in the Rule 5 draft in 2003. He made his major league debut in 2004, but didn’t really gain much notice until he hit 9 home runs in the first 13 games of the 2006 season for the Tigers. How could the Pirates have just let this guy walk away, he was a budding superstar?! Where is Chris Shelton these days? I honestly have no idea…by the beginning of the 2011 season the Mets had even released him from their minor league system. To me, I look at Bryan LaHair and see Chris Shelton. I think at some point in the near future the clock will strike midnight and his bat will turn into a pumpkin. While I may covet his non-pumpkin bat at the moment, I’m just not ready to surrender any prospect of significance.
The Padres surrender Carlos Quentin for next to nothing; he remains healthy for the rest of the season. Remember when the White Sox traded for Quentin before the 2008 season? He gave their offense a huge boost and helped vault them into the playoffs that fall. They traded him to the Padres prior to this season, one of several offseason moves by the White Sox that seemed to confuse me. (Rebuilding? Not rebuilding?) Quentin has had trouble with injuries in the past, but since coming off the DL for San Diego has hit .429/.500/.971 with 5 home runs in 40 at-bats over 10 games. His OPS is currently at 1.471…I think I just drooled on my keyboard. (And did I mention that he’s right-handed?) Could you imagine if he came to Cleveland and somehow, someway, helped vault the Indians over the White Sox in the AL Central? That’s kind of a huge slap in the face, after they shipped him out west, to another division and league. (Reminds me of the Angels trading Mike Napoli to Toronto, only to have them trade him to Texas). I still worry about Quentin staying healthy and I’m pretty stingy with prospects. So I’d like for him to promise not to be injured, and for the Indians to not have to surrender much to get him.
The Indians get Carlos Lee for pretty much nothing. This is very similar to the Soriano situation – a good player that happened to be signed to a really long, really expensive, pretty dumb contract. Like the Cubs, the Astros are supposedly willing to eat a bit of Lee’s salary in order to move him. Prior to his DL stint for hamstring strain, the right-handed Lee was hitting .297/.348/.411 with 4 home runs. It sounds as if he’ll be ready to come off the DL within the next week or so, which means he’ll be back to establishing his value well ahead of the trade deadline (barring any additional injury). Pretty much everything I said about Soriano applies to this one as well – it will take money or prospects, likely some combo of both, in order to get Lee in Cleveland. At least he’s familiar with the AL Central, as he started his career with the Chicago White Sox.
Somehow, someway, the Indians obtain Jeff Francoeur. Look, just let me have this one. I promise I’ll take him for walks, and feed him and take really good care of him. You won’t even have to get me anything for Christmas for like, the next three years!