Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Mat Gamel recently aggravated his surgically repaired right knee and will miss the entire 2013 season. Gamel’s name was one mentioned in 2008 in connection to the CC Sabathia trade, but we all know that the Indians ended up acquiring Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Rob Bryson and Zack Jackson for the left-hander. The Brewers (at least for now) are saying that they will try to find a solution internally to replace Gamel. They may end up looking outside of the organization though; Mike Carp, recently designated by Seattle, was one person they were supposedly considering before he went to the Red Sox. (Carp was actually involved in the 2008 trade that sent Franklin Gutierrez to Seattle and brought Joe Smith and Luis Valbuena to Cleveland; he and Ezequiel Carrera were two of the players that went from the Mets to Seattle). The Indians will have a number of first baseman in camp this spring that will probably be blocked by Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher. With the signing of Bourn, there may not be much room on the roster for an extra first baseman. A utility player that can play around the infield (and possibly the outfield) will be a much more logical choice. Could the Brewers and the Indians match up on a trade for one of these spare first basemen?
The Indians still have Matt LaPorta, who is no longer on the 40-man roster and was out of options anyway. They also have Mike McDade, acquired from Toronto after the Tribe claimed him off waivers, and Chris McGuiness, who was a Rule 5 pick from the Texas Rangers. They also have Jesus Aguilar in the pipeline, although he is probably not major league-ready at this point and would not be of immediate assistance to the Brewers. With the Indians’ offseason additions, their most immediate need is obviously starting pitching. Unfortunately, I don’t really see a way they could match up with the Brewers in a way that would provide a significant upgrade. The Brewers had their own pitching struggles last season; their staff ranked 13th in the National League in ERA and runs allowed and their bullpen had the worst ERA in the NL. They may end up relying on young, inexperienced starters to fill out their rotation themselves; any surplus they may have may not be better than some of the Indians’ internal options. The more talented arms may come at a cost much greater than a McDade or a McGuiness. It’s too bad (for the Brewers) that the Russ Canzler musical chairs game stopped as soon as it did.
There is one other option that wouldn’t necessarily benefit the Indians that much, but may be nice to see. Work out a way for Matt LaPorta to return to Milwaukee, the organization that drafted him. It’s obvious that he’s not going anywhere in Cleveland; that was solidified by all of the Indians’ offseason acquisitions. Let him fill in for Gamel, his teammate on the 2008 Double-A Huntsville Stars. LaPorta’s OBP is usually pretty atrocious, but he does have some power and could probably hit for a somewhat respectable average. He’s one of those people that I’ve always wanted to see succeed; not just because he was the centerpiece for the Sabathia deal, but because he seems like a good guy. It has to be disappointing to go from the seventh pick overall in the draft, to someone who is not even on a 40-man roster anymore. He’d be a cost-effective option for the Brewers, and it would give him one final chance with the organization that drafted him. I really can’t bear to see him bat in an Indians uniform at this point, but I’ve always hoped that maybe he could stick somewhere else. Even though the Indians and Brewers may not match up in a trade, there is still a solution that may benefit multiple parties.