Tribe gets aggressive with Ubaldo Jimenez deal

Colorado Rockies ace pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez waits throws at Coors Field in Denver on May 26, 2010 in Denver. Jimenez was traded to the Cleveland Indians on July 30, 2011 for LHP Drew Pomeranz, RHP Alex White, 1B Matt McBride and RHP Joe Gardner pending a medical examination. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

The price was staggering. The Indians traded Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Matt McBride and Joe Gardner for a pitcher who can be dominant. Ubaldo Jimenez is in his prime and he has a great contract through 2013.

I hate the idea of trading Alex White, as he looks like the real deal and he’s ready to pitch now. That said, you have to take calculated risks as a mid-market team, and the Indians now can be a force in the playoffs if they manage to get there. That would mean that Shin-Soo Choo comes back and returns to his old self, because the Tribe desperately needs offense.

The Indians were on track to have an excellent pitching staff for years to come. Now they have the chance to have a dominating pitching staff for several years. With a young lineup that can only get better, this might be a winning formula.

We’ll see, but they deserve credit for taking a calculated risk.

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Indians trade for Kosuke Fukudome

Chicago Cubs Kosuke Fukudome of Japan flips his bat after hitting a three-run homer scoring Geovany Soto and Tony Campana during the sixth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field on June 16, 2011 in Chicago. Brian Kersey/UPI

It’s better than nothing, and it’s certainly better than the platoon we have out in right field while Shin-Soo Choo is hurt.

Kosuke Fukudome was signed by the Cubs for years ago for a massive amount of money, and he has underperformed. That said, he’s an excellent outfielder and he has a very good on-base percentage. He gives the Tribe a quality outfielder to help them through this rough spot with the injuries to Sizemore and Choo. Not a bad move, and given the Tribe’s track record of spotting talent on other teams, we might be pleasantly surprised.

Tribe was built through trades

Cleveland Indians Grady Sizemore fails to make a diving catch on a hit by Alex Rodriguez during the ninth inning of the Indians MLB American League baseball game in Cleveland, Ohio July 6, 2011. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Grantland, the new website from ESPN and Bill Simmons, has an article from Rany Jazayerli about how the current Tribe team was built with great trades. This isn’t news to any of us in Cleveland, but it’s still an interesting read.

In June 2006, the Seattle Mariners were looking for some veteran talent and Indians GM Mark Shapiro was happy to provide it. Shapiro shipped Eduardo Perez to the Emerald City, and the platoon first basemen wound up hitting .195 with one homer for the Mariners before retiring. In exchange, the Indians received a minor league shortstop who was hitting .236/.323/.360. That shortstop was just 20 years old and already in Triple-A. Asdrubal Cabrera debuted with Cleveland the following year, and this season he emerged as perhaps the best-hitting shortstop in the American League and made his first All-Star team.

Shapiro wasn’t done toying with the Mariners and their general manager, Bill Bavasi. Seattle’s thirst for platoon first basemen was apparently unquenchable; a month after acquiring Perez they would ask for Ben Broussard, who hit .238 with 8 homers for the Mariners. At least Broussard managed to hang around another season before hanging up his spikes. In return, Cleveland obtained Shin-Soo Choo, a former top prospect who couldn’t crack the Mariners’ lineup despite hitting .323/.394/.499 in Triple-A. Choo became the Indians’ starting right fielder in 2008 and has been one of the best all-around players in baseball ever since.

Seattle finished 78-84 that year, good for last place in the AL West. Bavasi no longer works for the Mariners, and he never did find the droids he was looking for.

Two years later, the Los Angeles Dodgers needed a third baseman at the trade deadline, and once again Shapiro was ready to deal. The Dodgers received Casey Blake, a competent everyday player in the last year of his contract. Competent players with expiring contracts rarely fetch premium talent, but the Indians offered to pick up the remaining salary on Blake’s contract3, which helped them land Carlos Santana. At the time, Santana was already considered one of the game’s best catching prospects; now, he is considered one of the best young catchers, period. While Santana’s career batting average is just .236, this season he has already drawn 102 walks and hit 21 homers, and most scouts think the best is yet to come.

Cabrera, Choo, and Santana — a third of the Indians’ lineup — were all acquired for pocket lint, in deals so lopsided they would have been vetoed by your fantasy league commissioner. Yet all three trades pale in comparison to the great heist of 2002, when the Montreal Expos found themselves five games back in the wild card race at the end of June. Montreal GM Omar Minaya quite sensibly reasoned that since the Expos might not exist for much longer, he might as well sell his farm before the franchise bought the farm. The Indians sent Bartolo Colon to Montreal for Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, and a toolsy teenage outfielder named Grady Sizemore.

The last one was brilliant, but it also hurts, as Shapiro was dumb enough to listen to Eric Wedge and let Brandon Phillips go for nothing. That move alone may have cost them a championship.

Tribe continues to roll

The walkoff grand slam by Carlos Santana was a sight to see last night. The Indians now have the best record in the American League and their stretching their lead over the weak field in the Central Division.

This team is looking good, and they have a swagger about them. With Santana and Chin-Soo Choo starting to heat up, the lineup is looking more formidable as well. Astrubal Cabrera looks great as well.

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