The MLB Winter Meetings take place in one week in Nashville, Tennessee. And during the four-day event some significant trades are bound to go do. And since the Indians entire roster is apparently on the trading block, it seems likely that we’ll have some new faces coming to Cleveland in the near future.

The biggest name likely on his way out is Shin-Soo Choo, who will become a free agent following the 2013 season. Given the unique circumstances of a Shoo trade Рdue to the fact that his agent, Scott Boras, is unlikely to allow him to sign an extension РI thought it would be interesting to look back at other players traded prior to a contract year.

As it turns out, finding other examples proved to be difficult.

The most notable recent example occurred prior to the 2009 season when the Rockies traded Matt Holiday to the A’s. Here’s how the trade broke down:

Athletics receive: Matt Holliday
Rockies receive: Carlos Gonzalez, Greg Smith and Huston Street

At the time of the trade, Holliday was 28 years old and coming off consecutive seasons in which he had posted a WAR over 5.0. Had the Indians traded Choo two years ago, he would have fit that exact description. But now he’s 30 and coming off two seasons in which he’s combined for a total WAR of 4.6.

So while it would be nice to expect a package featuring a franchise player such as CarGo and a solid reliever like Street, the Indians won’t be so lucky.

A slightly more appropriate comparison may be the deal that sent Melky Cabrera to the Giants prior to the 2012 season.

Giants receive: Melky Cabrera
Royals receive: Johnathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo

At the time of the trade Cabrera was 27 years old and coming off a career year with a WAR of 4.1. But he had never posted those numbers previously and there were concerns that he was a one-year wonder (or as we learned later, a ‘roided up one-year wonder).

The Indians could certainly ask for more than a Johnathan Sanchez-type, but it may not be realistic given Choo’s age, injury history and presumed unwillingness to sign an extension. While Sanchez flopped in Kansas City and was traded before completing a full year, he has always shown promise and was expected to be a number-three starter, at worst.

Ideally, the Indians could bring in a younger version of Sanchez to avoid having to throw in the towel after just a few months. But the Indians also need to be sure they bring in some major-league ready talent. Unfortunately the Tribe’s farm system is lacking in the upper levels and they simply can’t afford to dump a cornerstone player like Choo without getting major-league talent in return.

A few potential trade targets…

Red Sox – Ryan Lavarnway or Franklin Morales… Either player would start for the Tribe in 2013, but the Red Sox may not be interested in Choo after signing Jonny Gomes.

Braves – Tyler Pastornicky… Pastornicky is a decent prospect but¬†Andrelton Simmons is the shortstop of the future in Atlanta. If the Indians are interested in trading Asdrubal Cabrera as well, adding Pastornicky might make sense.

Athletics – A.J. Griffin or Brett Anderson… Griffin was great for the A’s down the stretch this year but has never been considered an elite prospect. Anderson is a former top prospect who has battled injuries.

6 Comments

  • Steve Alex says:

    Everybody knows that Choo is a rental because Boras clients don’t sign extensions. So, before I would give Choo away for fringe prospects with warts, I would keep him until the deadline or let him walk in free agency for draft pick compensation. We don’t need any more #5 starters, journeyman 4th outfielders or utility infielders. Get a legitimate prospect or keep him. Same goes for the other guys. Masterson, Perez and Cabrera may not be superstars, but they are good players who are too good to give away, and none of them makes so much money that there needs to be a salary dump. With the farm system barren, acquiring solid prospects for these guys is the only hope for a less-than-five-year rebuild.

  • Justin says:

    Getting Pastornicky is a waste. With Lindor/Ronny Rodriguez/Dorsyss Paulino all highly regarded SS prospects, Pastornicky isn’t even in the same class as Lindor. The Indians will be lucky to net 1 major league player for Choo, likely 2 prospects 1 ML or 3 prospects

    • Ryan McCrystal says:

      Completely agree that Pastornicky isn’t in Lindor’s class. But we’re at least 2 years away from Lindor in Cleveland. So like I said, it may not be a bad idea to pick up a young shortstop like him in order to make Asdrubal expendable.

      If they really want to rebuild, they’re going to have to trade a guy like Masterson or Asdrubal, but I can’t image they’d make that move while Jason Donald is the best available replacement at SS.

  • Chris Burnham says:

    Yeah, I don’t see how Pastornicky would be a viable fit with the shortstop depth we have. Unless there’s a blockbuster being quietly worked on that includes someone like Lindor, that’d be the only way I’d possibly move him. And even then I’d have some pause.

    I have always liked Brett Anderson, but they’d better ask for a few years of bubble wrap to save him from himself. We really can’t assume or afford injury risks at this point.

  • Steve Alex says:

    If we’re looking at a total rebuild, acquiring players like Anderson who already have major league service time doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, either. Rebuilding takes time, and you don’t want the players you trade for approaching free agency before you’re even finished. Now if we’re reloading to win now, that’s a different story. But if it’s a rebuild, you have to go for high-upside prospects with minimal service time.

  • Chris Burnham says:

    That’s the thing: The front office is, publicly, at least, straddling the line of total rebuild and “tweaking.” We just don’t know their plan. We think we have a bead on things, but we don’t. And sometimes I wonder if they do as well.

    To me, that’s the most frustrating thing about this team at this juncture. And it makes it really hard to decide where our expectations should be going forward.