Despite a modest record and too few runs scored, the Indians remain a contender into July and fans clamor for something (anything) to improve the team. But it takes poker chips to play Trade Roulette in the MLB Casino. Does the Tribe have the chips to make a real trade?

An interesting notion is to approach the situation in reverse and pretend you are the GM for another team. What players would you trade for (offense only, pitching is another post)?

Untouchable

Cabrera      Signed through 2014
Kipnis         2015:  Arb 1 2018:  FA                No replacements

Can be Had

Choo           2014:  FA                                   Expensive in 2013 ($7-8M);
Brantley    2014:  Arb 1  2017:  FA                Maturing player with value
Santana     Signed through 2017                   Reasonable contract but underachiever
Chisenhall   2015:  Arb 1  2018:  FA              The future, maybe; value unclear

Fodder

Kotchman          FA                                            Limited Value
Damon                FA                                          Limited Value
Lopez                  FA                                           Limited Value
Hafner                 FA                                          Not worth outsized club option
Sizemore             FA                                           Sad story, huge gamble

Duncan               2013:  Arb 1                             Role player
Cunningham       2014:  Arb 1                              Mini role plyer
Marson               2013:  Arb 1                             Some value as backup
Hannahan           2013:  Arb 2                             Limited value

LaPorta                                                               AAAA; wrapping paper
Donald                                                                 Limited value

Notes

Hurts a little, doesn’t it? Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

Reasons to Choo:

– Reportedly he’s already rebuffed early efforts at an extension
– Highest trade value (other than Cabrera and Kipnis) so most likely to net highest return
– He will want more than the #10m/yr for Asdrubal
– If he gets it, the team payroll will stair step ever higher
– Signing Masterson long term is a higher priority (and we have Justin 2 more years)
– If he leaves in FA, we get only an extra draft pick in 2014 (a player who might arrive in Cleveland in 2017/2018)

Reasons Not to Choo:

– We have no OF prospects to replace him
– Could be a cornerstone IF he re-signs
– We need to keep our own

10 Comments

  • SeattleStu says:

    i honestly dont consider anyone on our roster untouchable….the only good news is we dont have a cy young winner to give away for peanuts, a core competency of our front office….i seriously think if brian cashman woke up one morning and found himself with our roster he would wonder a) how did i end up in Scranton (AAA team) and b) how do i kill myself quickly?

  • Will McIlroy says:

    Choo is movable because he probably leaves in FA and his value is highest now (but declines as we get closer to FA). He’s also hot right now so the timing is good.

  • powza says:

    I would die a little bit on the inside if they traded Brantley. He is the future of the team.

    You build a team around him, Cabrera and Kipnis.

    Also I would hate to see Choo get traded, but reading the above it almost seems inevitable.

    Santana could be good trade bait, but then once traded, I bet he would just tear it up.

  • Swift says:

    Great analysis Will, really an eye opener, though I notice you didn’t include pitchers. Maybe there are some chips there.

    I understand both sides on Choo. It would be bad to loose him, both for offense and defense. Left field is already a big hole, I hate to make right field another hole.

  • Drew says:

    $7-8M for Choo in 2013 is not expensive considering that Grady’s option for 2012 was $9M and the Indians would have gladly picked up the option if he had been healthy all of these years. Plus he has also come to life as the lead-off hitter. That’s a bargain for a lead-off hitter who has Choo’s defense.

  • Will McIlroy says:

    Choo is currently at 4.9 so 8 M would be a big jump and the first step toward 10+/year. The Indians would likely do it for an extension to keep Choo but it will skew the payroll.

    However, if he plans to walk the analysis is different and his value right now is high. If we could get a good young OF and No. 3 starter, would you do it?

  • Justin says:

    Trading Choo is something I have spoken to my friends about and I think it makes sense to do it now. I really don’t see him returning to us and if he does it is going to make it hard to keep others in the future. Get an outfield prospect and a starting pitcher.

  • powza says:

    Wouldnt we be better off keeping Choo for the next 1.5 years given that we are “contending” at the moment, even if we lose him to FA after that? Yeah, his trade value is at its highest at the moment but thats because he is damn good. He ignites the whole batting lineup from that leadoff spot. Even if we got a decent starter and some outfield prospects in a trade, I see our chances of making the playoffs this season as very low if not non-existant without him both defensively and offensively. He should still have good trade value this time next year if things dont go so well for the team.

    Also Damon, Kotchman and Lopez are all starting to heat up. They have more value to us now than they could ever add to a trade. I am starting to become a Kotchman fan.

    On a lighter note, it was great to see Pronk back at the plate the last 2 games. He is starting to look scary again!

  • Will McIlroy says:

    Whether to trade Choo comes down to both a business decision and a baseball decision and hinges on what we get in return.

    Choos is hot right now and looks like a revelation in the leadoff spot. But keep in mind overall he’s struggled the last 2 years and started this year poorly enough to get dropped in the order.

    If you accept the premise we must make a trade to improve the team, Choo is the most tradeable piece given the FA issue. His value would not be nearly as high next year when he’s 2 months from the highway.

  • Drew says:

    To your points, Will, Scott Boras is Choo’s agent and it does come down to a business decision. If there is a team willing to surrender the next Stephen Strasburg for him, do it in the blink of an eye, but the bar must be held that high. A .300 hitting Lead-off hitters capable of hitting 20 HRs and stealing 20 bases with the defensive range that he has is worth a lot. And he turns 30 years old in 1 week. I think he could make his first all-star appearance next season. He is probably looking at a 5yr/$75M contract in 1.5 years from now. Ideally, I’d like to see him extended, but Scott Boras isn’t infamous for allowing extensions.