Yes (insert reader name here), I understand that it is not even Opening Day yet; However, trades can be funny things. One day you have cash, the next day you have Jairo Asencio for instance. Trades are an integral part of a team’s success in any sport, but it shows the most in baseball. The ability to add that missing piece, or trade your franchise player for three or four blue chip prospects is something that occurs several times during each baseball season. By writing this post, I am not hinting or suggesting that the Indians will be sellers at the trading deadline, which is over 4 months away. I am simply attempting to show who the league thinks are the Indians most valuable players. It is my hope that all of these ten players remain in an Indians uniform for their entire careers, but it is 2012, and those sort of situations do not occur as often as they used to. I will countdown from 10 to 1, stopping with some mini-analysis for each player.
10.) Dillon Howard- RHP
Contract- N/A due to service time
I know what you may be thinking: Who is this kid? Well, I thought the same thing until I did some viewing and reading. Understand that MLB.com rated Howard as the 18th best prospect going into the 2011 MLB amateur draft, and he luckily fell to the Indians at 67 due to signing concerns. Cleveland did end up having to pay the big bucks to get him (1.85 Million signing bonus, much higher than his slot suggested), but at 6’4, 210 lbs, he brings a mid-90′s fastball and two plus pitches to the Indians farm system. It will be interesting to see how Howard develops this season, as he is now the clear cut top arm the Indians have in the lower portion of the farm system. I placed him here at number 10 because he has not thrown a pitch in an official minor league game yet, but definitely has value as a trade chip this season and beyond. He is an intriguing prospect, and someone I hope the Indians hold onto for the long haul.
9.) Grady Sizemore- OF
Contract- Free Agent in 2013
I debated this position for Sizemore quite a bit. After all, his skills have taken a significant hit due to his lengthy injury history; however, it is important to keep in mind that during this past off-season Sizemore generated plenty of interest around baseball. The Rockies, Rangers, and Red Sox all appeared to have interest, among other teams. One could make a case for him being left off of this list entirely due to his back injury during spring training, but it seems as if he may be coming back quicker than first indicated. If this indeed happens, his performance is a coin flip. I do not think he will ever return to his 2008 form, but if he comes out and hits a bit in May and June, he may become a valuable trade chip that I think many teams would overpay for.
8.) Chris Perez- CL
Contract- Locked up through 2014
Chris is a product of one of Cleveland’s trades in the past several seasons. If you need a refresher, it is the one that sent Mark DeRosa to the Cardinals. Since that deal, Perez has turned out to be one of the games better closer’s over the past two seasons. Understand however that at least someone hinted at Perez being dealt during this past off-season, and perhaps a deal could bring Cleveland an everyday outfielder or starting pitcher. With Vinnie Pestano showing signs of being a future closer, now could be the time to capitalize on Perez’s All-Star selection. The injury he suffered during spring training has hurt his value quite a bit, but a few outings similar to his first half performance in 2011 would go a long way to making him a viable trade chip again.
7.) Lonnie Chisenhall-3B and Jason Kipnis 2B
Contract- Both N/A due to service time
Okay, I lied. This list is supposed to be ten players. Yeah, yeah I get it. I just could not decide to put here. Initially, I had decided that I would place Kipnis at 7, and Chisenhall would be left off of the list. While attempting to explain that ranking to one of my good friends at college, I was basically shunned. I attempted to convey that the Indians really did not have any options at 2B besides an underachieving Cord Phelps, and that the Indians have gotten by at third with weak hitting Jack Hannahan because of his excellent defense; however, after looking over the numbers quite a bit more, I understood that Kipnis and Chisenhall are equal on terms of trade value. Both of them hit similar for Cleveland last season, both strike out a lot (if you expand their small sample sizes to a full season, both would have struck out 140+ times), and both seem to be in the thick of the top prospects in their respective positions. I would be very angry if Cleveland decided to deal either of these guys, but understand that if either one of them comes out flat for Cleveland in 2012, it would not be unheard of for them to be involved in a deal in 2013. Cue the Brandon Phillips evil laugh now.
6.) Francisco Lindor- SS
Contract- N/A due to service time- 2.9 Million signing bonus
Yes, this kid is more valuable than Kipnis AND Chisenhall. Whenever you make a list such as this, you have to have at least one bold selection or ranking. This is it. Lindor, the 8th selection in the 2011 MLB amateur draft, brings a lot of excitement to the Indians. Although he does not have any serious power or speed that jumps out at you, he is a plus defensive shortstop who has the capability to play there for his entire career. A scouting report found here compares him to Erick Aybar or a young Orlando Cabrera, but personally I see him as more of an Elvis Andrus with less speed, but a bit more power. At first glance, it may not seem as if Lindor has much trade value. Consider however the number of teams around the league that have a solid defensive shortstop who hits above .280, and you will soon realize his value is quite a bit more than what you think.
5.) Asdrubal Cabrera- SS
Contract- Hits Free Agency in 2014
Do I hear back to back shortstops? Anyone? Well, this ranking may be surprising considering his great 2011 season, but consider reading Will’s great article summarizing Cabrera’s possible contract extension here. Cabrera never hit more than six home runs in any season until his 25 last year, and never had more than 70 RBI’s until last years 92. I just feel as if Cabrera needs to prove he is for real to move up in these rankings this season. It is also worth noting that Cabrera has not put up a positive “defensive wins above replacement” since 2008, meaning that his defense has hurt Cleveland’s chances to win ballgames. With Lindor looming in the farm system and his contract ending soon, I feel as if Asdrubal has as good of a chance to be traded by the Indians as anyone on this list. The 2012 season will be a key in determining Cabrera’s long term value in Cleveland, and perhaps beyond.
EDIT-Cabrera just signed a 2 year extension, keeping him under contract until after the 2014 season
As of this morning, it has been reported that Cabrera has just signed a two year contract extension. Personally, I think that this was an excellent deal for both Cabrera and the Indians. The deal only extends his time in Cleveland for one more year, and gives him a sizable raise for the next two seasons.It is important to note that a true “long term” contact was not signed, and I see Cleveland’s point of wanting to see if Asdrubal can continue to build on his 2011 season. A contact extension of this nature allows the Indians to reap the rewards of Cabrera for a longer period of time, yet lower the risk by avoiding paying him big time money off of one breakout season.
4.) Justin Masterson- RHP
Contract- Locked up through 2014
After looking like sort of a bust in 2010 (Bust as in value received in return for Victor Martinez) Masterson has looked to have turned the corner and become a front of the rotation starter. He has been able to eliminate his control issues by walking 8 less batters in 2011 than 2010 despite throwing 36 more innings. I would not consider Masterson as a legitimate ace, but I definitely feel he locks in as an above average number two starter. It is my hope that the Indians decide to lock-up Justin with an extension this season, but understand that if the Indians were put in a position to deal him in 2013, they would receive quite a bit more than you may think in return.
3.) Shin Soo Choo- OF
Contract- Under Contract through the conclusion of 2013
2011 was a fluke, or so I would like to think. Although Choo had a lot of issues come his way in 2011, he still is one of the game’s best defensive corner outfielders. Also, take a look at Choo’s statistics from 2008-2010. What you will see is a consistent .300 hitter who is good for 20 home runs, 85RBI, and 15 or more steals. Shin Soo does need to get back on track in order to shake his 2011 campaign, but I still think he is an extremely valuable trade chip. There are only a handful of outfielders who have his blend of defensive, speed, and hitting abilities. A team who would be after Choo would definitely be giving up an arm, a leg, and a dinner to get him.
2.) Ubaldo Jimenez- RHP
Contract- Here through 2014
This may be a little bold as well, but considering the Indians gave up Drew Pomeranz and Alex White to get him, he has to be considered among the most valuable players on the Indians roster. In case you may have missed it, a rather long and boring article written by me about Jimenez’s 2010 and 2011 seasons can be found here. The article does an excellent job at summarizing Jimenez’s past two seasons, and what he needs to do to return to form in 2012. A return to form in 2012 would definitely make him one of the most desirable starting pitchers in baseball.
1.) Carlos Santana- C/1B
Contract-An Indian he will be through 2016
Okay, my “bromance” with his guy has to stop sometime, right? Well, I am sure it will, but for now Santana is in my opinion the most valuable trade chip the Cleveland Indians have to offer. One of the top young players in the game, Santana’s ability to combine power with patience (he finished second in both Walk and Home run rate last season) makes him especially desirable. Again, I have some supplemental reading if you so choose: here is an article I have written on Santana’s struggles on switch hitting. Even if Santana turns out to be a .260-.265 hitter, his 25+ home run power and potential for 100+ walks makes him the most valuable offensive catcher in the game aside from Texas’s Mike Napoli. Over anyone, it is my hope that the Indians can lock up Santana as he enters the prime of his career.
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