It had been, and might still continue to be for a while, a fine time to feign sympathy for the plight of the Cleveland Indians. After being emboldened by their 80-win 2011 and a fast start to 2012, The Tribe was too disoriented by the all-consuming blaze that destroyed their season to have a proper sale based off the conflagration.
They entered the off-season probably needing to consider a rebuild, but in an odd place where their movable pieces were diminished in value, and they weren’t sure what to do with the primes of Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana. Once attractive veterans like Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore are not only gone, but relatively devoid of value. Sure, there was still Shin-Soo Choo, but the Indians only had one year of control to shop around, and his comeback season was still a bit short of his ultimate peak. It’s fair to think that Choo could fetch some help, but not a bounty.
Trevor Bauer, the lauded pitching prospect the Indians received as part of Tuesday’s three-team trade with the Reds and Diamondbacks that also brought them CF Drew Stubbs, may not be that bounty. Over the course of 2012, Bauer made a somewhat curious journey from a top 20 prospect to out of favor with his own team, but still represents a high-ceiling arm with six years of control falling into Cleveland’s lap, in exchange for a veteran outfielder they had to move or lose.
They also get Drew Stubbs, which gives them a flier actually worth taking in the outfield. If nothing else, their outfield defense will improve, even if Stubbs’ Lillibridgian issues at the plate continue.
This trade doesn’t make the Indians a contender–in fact, it pretty much cements that they are completely out of the running–but it provides a young pitcher to center their rotation around, when nothing besides back-end starters were particularly close to graduating their farm system. Bauer’s development gives a purpose to the 2013 season, where there might otherwise have been listlessness.
Speaking of listlessness, last seasons’ ticket out of mediocrity–Kevin Youkilis–is officially out of the 2013 plans, and gone to the New York Yankees for one year, $12 million. That’s a very high annual amount, and obviously more than the Sox were willing to pay, since they declined his option and all.
But it is surprising that the awful market for 3rd basemen never pushed the demand for Youkilis past a single-season. The White Sox certainly needed a stop-gap at the position–they’re settling for Keppinger there, after all–so it’s questionable how much they ever were interested in Youkilis beyond an unreasonable discount, if they didn’t stay on to compete in the bidding when it never accelerated. There’s obviously risk in Youkilis breaking down and being financially committed to him for a year after he’s become ineffective and cannot play, but the Sox being unwilling to overpay to boost the offense even in the immediate short-term reflects a total lack of interest in the player, adherence to their budget, or the transitional purpose of this season.
Obviously, that’s not really nailing it down, but I would imagine it’s a combination of the last two. The White Sox probably shouldn’t pay $20 million to bring back the 2012 team, and it’s more important to move the organization forward than recreate another puncher’s chance at the division title.
Or again, Youkilis could be circling the drain. Knees should not bark, after all.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan