No one ever said it was easy to be the general manager of a Major League ball club. Just days before the 2012 MLB trade deadline, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti finds himself the subject of major scrutiny. Are the Indians going to land a coveted right-handed bat? What about an arm? Both questions have likely tormented Antonetti as the deadline draws near.
However, the questions are also quite fair. For weeks, the Tribe’s offense has been stagnant — at times the team just seems to be going through the motions. Even worse, the team’s pitching staff has never been consistent this year. It would be impossible to expect the Indians to ever go on any sort of run given the rotation’s woes. Thus, it’s easy to see why fans have been clamoring for Antonetti to make a move.
I, too, find myself among the contingent of fans eager to see the Tribe make moves, only I long for moves of a different variety: internal moves.
I understand the cost associated with making big trades, and I can sympathize with Antonetti. Big time trades cost big time prospects, and it might not be worth the gamble, especially considering how last year’s Ubaldo Jimenez trade has turned out so far. But while I can understand Antonetti’s unwillingness to pull the trigger on a big time deal, I cannot understand how he has seemed to totally disregard internal moves when it comes to improving the ball club. On numerous occasions, he has said that he is always looking for ways to improve the Indians, but I am going to go ahead and call his bluff.
Internal moves aren’t always sexy; they won’t immediately translate into wins. Still, the Indians are a .500 team, and it seems as if management has put absolutely zero effort into possibly promoting players from the minor league clubs. Would internal moves like this help the club? Maybe. Certainly, they couldn’t hurt. After all, the team just got rid of a guy who hit .175 in 72 games. The Indians allowed Aaron Cunningham to perform poorly for 72 games before showing him the door. Isn’t that a decision that could have been reached after, say, 30 games?
Much has been said about the Tribe’s lack of impact talent at the upper levels of the farm system, but even still, there are players at the upper levels who could come in and bolster the 25-man roster. For months, the team has carried essentially dead weight (Shelley Duncan, Aaron Cunningham). Every player counts, and it seems like that notion has been forgotten.
So, with that being said, what internal moves can be made or could have been made to improve the Indians? Also, how have the internal moves that the Indians did make this season work out? Take a look.
Jared Goedert, OF/3B, right-handed hitter, Columbus: The 27-year-old Goedert has been on a tear this year and owns a .346/.409/.552 line between Akron and Columbus to go along with 14 home runs and 60 RBI. I understand the criticisms with Goedert. Scouts question his athleticism, and he seems destined to be labeled as organizational filler. He very well could be the next Jordan Brown or Jared Head, but what if he’s not? And how will the Indians ever know unless they give him a try? He certainly seems as if he is ready to graduate from the minor leagues. Plus, at the very least, could he be any worse than Duncan? He also provides a bit more versatility as well considering he could probably play third base in a pinch if needed. His glove has not been rated highly at the hot corner, but it’s not as if Jose Lopez is a defensive wizard either. Goedert should get a Major League look sometime, and it probably should have happened already.
Ezequiel Carrera, OF, left-handed hitter, Columbus: Sine June 3, Carrera has been on an International League tear. His average is up to .291, and he has also shown some unlikely power as he has tallied six home runs on the season. Plain and simple, Carrera should have been promoted to the Indians toward the end of June when he was really catching fire. With Carrera, what you see is what you get: a fourth outfielder type who provides some speed and can slap the ball to all areas of the field at times. Also, his main position is center field. All season long, the Indians have said that Aaron Cunningham remained on the team because of his ability to play center and spell Michael Brantley on occasion. Why could Carrera not have done that? In 68 games last season, he hit .243 and drove in 14 runs for the Indians. That small sampling still offers a drastic improvement from what Cunningham gave us this year. Like Carrera, with Cunningam, what you see is what you get: a player who had no business being on a Major League roster for as long as he was. In 109 plate appearances and 97 at-bats, Cunningham recorded 17 hits this year. Carrera would almost have certainly performed better given the same number of plate appearances and at-bats. Would that have led to more wins? Perhaps not. But it would have allowed the Indians to have more opportunities to win as Carrera would not be the automatic out that Cunningham essentially was. Every out counts, and the front office seemed to ignore that fact.
Jason Donald, UT, right-handed hitter, Columbus: This is another one that perplexes me. We have just seen the Indians make a trade for Brent Lillibridge. It’s confusing because it’s hard to see what he offers that Donald doesn’t. At Columbus so far this season, Donald has played games at shortstop, third base, second base, center field and left field. It’s true that he has only ever played one game in the outfield in the Major Leagues, and it came in relief, but a guy has to get his feet wet sometime. In reality, Donald probably should have been back in the Majors a long time ago, and he definitely deserved a spot on the team over Cunningham.
Scott Barnes, RP, left-hander, Columbus: This is one internal move that we did see the Indians explore this season, and it unfortunately was also one I was opposed to. Because of a lack bullpen options, Barnes was converted into a reliever in the short term. It seemed to have good results at first until his implosion against the Cincinnati Reds where he was shelled for five runs in 1/3 of an inning. Tribe manager Manny Acta did not even seem to lift a finger and just let the kid stay in there to get pounded on. I like Barnes. He has a deceptive delivery and is left-handed, which is always a good thing. But I like him as a starter, and I was heavily opposed to his move to the bullpen. By all accounts, Barnes is, or at least was, a promising starting prospect. Why tinker with his development and move him to the pen? Plus, he never seemed the same after that rough outing against the Reds. Instead, I would have considered promoting David Huff to Cleveland in a relief role and then had Barnes take Huff’s spot in the Columbus rotation. David Huff’s days as a starter in the Major Leagues could very well be over. Why not try him in a relief role? The move could have extended Huff’s Major League career and also helped protect Barnes and his development.
Matt LaPorta, 1B/OF, right-handed hitter, Columbus: Technically, Matt LaPorta did earn a promotion to Cleveland this season, if you can call it that. For three games and 11 at-bats, LaPorta was able to call himself the Tribe’s 2012 starting first baseman. It can be argued that the Indians should have given LaPorta more time, but this is one instance where I support the team’s top brass. LaPorta has had opportunity after opportunity with the team, and he has squandered every one of them. Now three games can hardly be called an opportunity, but at the same time, the Indians owe LaPorta nothing at this point.
Russ Canzler, 1B/OF, right-handed hitter, Columbus: In 98 games with the Clippers, Canzler owns a .274/.340/.477 line to go along with 15 home runs and 58 RBI. He has also walked just 37 times and struck out an enormous 98 times. Canzler certainly should not be the first player to get the call to Cleveland, but again, he cannot possibly be a worse option than Duncan, who has shown a tendency to go into mammoth slumps despite hitting better as of late. Also, like Goedert, Canzler has played third base and offers more versatility than Duncan. Canzler has been a very impressive player for two years at the Triple-A level, and he eventually deserves a look. It’s all about strengthening the 25-man roster from No. 1 all the way through No. 25, and right now I would definitely take Canzler over Duncan.