Save Jake Westbrook! Actually…

As Bob pointed out in a previous post, the Indians are reportedly talking to the Reds once again about an Austin Kearns/Jake Westbrook trade. At first glance, it’s easy to say, as Bob did:

I think that Mr. Dolan needs to understand that keeping a nucleus together is critical for success, even if it means spending money.

But then I read this:

Losing Westbrook would leave a giant hole in Cleveland’s rotation. According to a rival team, Shapiro has been in recent discussions with free-agent right-hander Jeff Weaver (14-11, 4.22 ERA for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005). Weaver, 29, made $9.5 million last season, but the market for him has been thin, and he might be willing to take at least $1 million less on a one-year contract. The cost of his salary would be offset by the departure of Rhodes ($3.7 million) and Westbrook ($4.25 million). Michaels will make $1.5 million this season.

Now, there’s no way you can trade Jake Westbrook without getting a competent replacement for him. I agree wholeheartedly. But Weaver is Jake Westbrook, or a damn fine clone:

Weaver
2005: 14-11, 4.22 ERA, 157 Ks, 220 IP
2004: 13-13, 4.01 ERA, 153 Ks, 224 IP

Westbrook
2005: 15-15, 4.49 ERA, 119 Ks, 216 IP
2004: 14-9, 3.38 ERA, 116 Ks, 211 IP

You may be tempted to say that Weaver’s older, and he is, but only by one year (29-28). So if Shapiro’s able to land a power-hitting outfielder, albeit one with some issues but one with a lot of potential too, without losing anything in terms of starting pitching, would that be such a bad thing?

Everybody likes Westbrook, just like everybody loves Coco, but again, Westbrook’s not a great pitcher, nor will he ever be one. He was so erratic last season that he often wasn’t even a very good pitcher. Granted, you’re not getting someone with Andy Marte’s potential in return, but Kearns is still just 25 (younger than Coco, by the way) and he’s got GOBS of power. And by trading Westbrook, Dolan would then open up his wallet for Weaver, which is what we all want to see him do, right? Start spending. Well, he may do just that soon.

And for everyone accusing the Indians of not trying to compete, think again. Shapiro’s gearing this team up for a playoff run, but in the process he’s also solidified the future of the franchise. Without question, we’re talking about one of the best general managers in baseball. It’s a shame so many Cleveland fans don’t recognize it yet. But they will soon.

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