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MLB Trade Rumors: The Jake Westbrook Watch

All eyes will be on Jake Westbrook today as he takes the mound for the Cleveland Indians against the Toronto Blue Jays. Not many people will actually be paying much attention to whether he wins and loses, instead wondering whether or not the Tribe will continue their perennial sell-at-all-costs spiral intooblivion started after the 2007 crash-and-burn against the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS.

With Jhonny Peralta (Detroit) and Austin Kearns (New York Yankees) heading to much greener pastures in recent days, look for Westbrook to get plenty of hits today from several teams looking for pitching.

Topping the list of potential suitors for the veteran righty are the recurrent trading partners for the Indians, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards are looking for a starter that can eat up innings, and Westbrook may just be the guy. He’s already thrown 127 2/3 innings this year, which is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Cardinals.

The only potential road block in a deal with the N.L. Central leaders is Westbrook’s salary. He’s scheduled to make four million dollars over the final two months of the season, and the Indians would likely to have to take on much of that salary. Top that off with a two million dollar bonus that Westbrook would receive if a trade is made, and you may have a deal-breaker.

The Indians faithful shouldn’t expect much for Westbrook in the deal, although as the deadline looms closer, you really never know what the Indians may get. Also take into account that Westbrook is pitching today. Should he put together a solid performance, it could teeter a team on the brink of a move before today’s 4:00 deadline.

Other clubs that may have interest in Westbrook’s services are the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers. While the Yankees seem to be doing what they always do during the deadline, and trade for everything whether they need it or not, I can’t imagine that Westbrook is heading their way, or he likely would have been part of the Kearns deal. The Dodgers, who tend to overpay for players, likely aren’t going to make any big deals with the ownership in the midst of an “As the World Turns” divorce.

In Westbrook’s nine years with the Tribe, he’s gone 69-69, with a 4.29 ERA.

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The Indians Will Get Their 2011 Preview, Whether They Like It or Not

I was thinking back, this fine Fourth of July morning, to the beginning of the Major League season. Things weren’t exactly bright for the Cleveland Indians, but there certainly were bright spots, and you know what they say, hope springs eternal.

The Indians top three offensive players, and likely, their top three defensive players, were Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Shin-Soo Choo. These three, along with a cavalcade of prospects acquired through the years via trade (you know, kinda like Sizemore, Cabrera, and Choo), were going to get together in preparation for a run perhaps as early as 2011. Some even thought, that if everything went perfectly, this team could surprise some this year.

Today, Shin-Soo Choo was placed on the 15-day DL with a right thumb injury. He’ll likely be out for six to eight weeks. For those counting at home, that means that Asdrubal Cabrera (out, but coming back soon), Grady Sizemore (out for the season), and Choo (possibly out until September) will miss considerable time.

Those prospects that were supposed to supplement the stars will now be responsible to carry this team over the next several weeks. The good news is that not much will be expected from this group, since the Indians are already in last place. The bad news? There won’t be much guidance on the field from the veterans, unless you are hoping that Jhonny Peralta is going to become the mentor.

Consider this. In center field, you have Trevor Crowe, a soon-to-be fourth outfielder, who until this year, has only had a cup of coffee in the bigs. In right field, you’ll likely find Michael Brantley, who was called up today to take the place of Choo. If not Brantley, you’ll find Shelley Duncan there. I’m not sure Duncan is good enough to be dealt, but he’s not exactly what many would consider veteran leadership. In right, you have Austin Kearns. Kearns has always been a positive presence in the clubhouse. The problem is that he’ll be gone soon, via trade. Peralta is at third, but you have to believe that someone looking for an infielder, like Philly, might make a call. Jayson Nix is at second base, and I’m not even sure I spelled his name right. Rookie Jason Donald is at short, Matt LaPorta is at first, and Carlos Santana is behind the plate.

That’s a whole lot of youth, surrounded by a whole lot of trade-able assets, and I use the term assets loosely. Does that make Travis Hafner the offensive and veteran leader of the Tribe? It absolutely does. Take that for what it’s worth.

While this is a crazy scenario for the Indians and Manny Acta, in this case, it happens to be the right scenario. These prospects that the Indians dealt their talent for needed to get their chance to prove they can play. The Tribe brass, now with their hand a bit forced, are going to do just that.

What kind of team will we have in 2011? I’m not sure, but we are about to get a head’s up during the second half of 2010.

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From IPI: The Sunday Drive with Some Offensive Fireworks on this 4th of July

I do some writing at the best Minor League site on the planet, Tony Lastoria’s Indians Prospect Insider, where I currently write about the Kinston Indians. While I won’t publish all of my stuff from IPI here, I will on occasion. Here the latest:

While watching the fireworks blast over Lake Benson here in Carolina last night, I couldn’t help but think of the state of the Kinston Indians and their past week. Kinston rolled out a 4-2 record this week as their roster continued to transition into the second half.

Kinston’s offense has struggled to put runs on the board for most of the season, and with most of their offensive weapons moving up the system, things weren’t looking all that good for the second half. Then something funny happened. This week, Kinston found some power, and with continued brilliance from the pitching, there might be a playoff run from the K-Tribe yet. How brilliant is the pitching? While I think there’s been a transfer of power to the bullpen, the overall staff’s ERA is a mind-boggling 2.88, with a 1.26 WHIP. Yeah, not to shabby…

With fireworks and cookouts about to get started, let’s get driving…

Where We Stand in Week 13, with a clean slate:

Overall Record: 41-38 (4-2 this past week)
Second Half Record 5-4 (1/2 game back)

Week 13 Games:

27 vs. Potomac, W 6-4 (WP: T. Turek; LP: J. Estrada; SV: C. Burns)
28 vs. Potomac, W 6-5 (WP: T. McFarland; LP: M. Frias; SV: C. Burns)
29 vs. Potomac, Postponed: Rain
30 @ Myrtle Beach, L 1-2 (WP: A. Paulino; LP: J. Mahalic; SV: L. Avilan)

July (all times local unless noted)

1 @ Myrtle Beach, W 6-4 (WP: B. Grening; LP: R. Delgado; SV: C. Burns)
2 @ Myrtle Beach, L 2-4 (WP: J. Hoover; LP: J. Gardner; SV: B. Oberholtzer)
3 vs. Frederick, W 3-1 (WP: C. Jones; LP: J. Mariotti; SV: C. Burns)

This Week’s Transactions:

07/03/2010 3B Jeremie Tice assigned to Kinston Indians from Lake County Captains.
07/03/2010 1B Chris Kersten assigned to Lake County Captains from Kinston Indians.
07/03/2010 C Chun-Hsiu Chen assigned to Kinston Indians from Lake County Captains.
07/03/2010 OF Tim Palincsar assigned to Lake County Captains from Kinston Indians.
06/30/2010 RHP Marty Popham assigned to Kinston Indians from Akron Aeros.
06/29/2010 RHP Marty Popham assigned to Akron Aeros from Kinston Indians.
06/28/2010 RHP Rob Bryson placed on the 7-Day disabled list. Right Shoulder Strain
06/27/2010 SS Juan Diaz traded to Kinston Indians from Seattle Mariners.

Week 13 Offense:

Kinston finally started showing off some power this week, hitting seven home runs, and scoring 23 runs in six games. They did strike out a bit more, which comes with the territory, but if this team continues to score more runs with this pitching staff, the playoffs are a real possibility. It will be interesting to see this offense continue to develop, with the additions of Bo Greenwell and Juan Diaz. A lot rests on Abner Abreu, who took a step back this week, but to keep kicking this dead horse, if he continues to progress, Kinston could have solid power.

Lucas Montero continues to impress and prove his value to Kinston. He went 10 for 22, with five runs, a homer, two RBI, four walks, five K’s, and two stolen bases. Montero has found a home in center, but has more value than many, because he can play all three outfield positions. His .455 average this week will help his cause in moving up. He is at an advanced age at 25, but could move through the system quickly because of his versatility and speed. It is interesting to see his play improve now that he has a steady job in center.

Bo Greenwell has continued to play well since his call-up last week. In his first full week at Kinston, the left-fielder went 8 for 23, with a team-leading six RBI, two doubles, two RBI, two walks, four K’s and two stolen bases. It’s clear that the 22-year-old is beginning to figure out how to play at the highest levels. He started the year off like a house of fire in Lake County before leveling off. It will be interesting to see if he continues his tear through Carolina league, or if he drops off.

Kyle Bellows had a nice week, going 7 for 21, with four runs, two homers, four RBI, three walks, two K’s and two stolen bases. Bellows had a five-game hitting streak that was broken last night. He continues to show improvement at the plate, and has all the tools that can the Indians are looking for. There still is a belief in the system that the 6’3″, 210-pounder can develop plus power, while hitting for average. He has a cannon for an arm, and continues to improve his plate discipline. Bellows isn’t consistent yet, but he’s at the right stage of his career to begin figuring it all out.

Abner Abreu did hit another homer this week, but also went 5 for 21 for a .238 average. His inconsistency this year has been mind-numbing. Juan Diaz, the shortstop acquired in the Russell Branyan trade, didn’t have a hit in 15 at-bats. This kid does have tools, and I’m not surprised he struggled out of the gate. Everyone can’t be Carlos Santana. There are scouts that see a ton of upside in this kid, so it will be interesting to see what happens to him as the season develops. It’s unfortunate for Ron Rivas, who seemed to finally be picking up his offense enough to overlook his defense. Diaz did play a nice shortstop, not making an error.

Week 13 Bullpen:

The bullpen slowly but surely has become the strength of the pitching staff. Maybe not so slowly. They went 3-0 this week, with four saves and two holds. In 25 2/3 innings, the bullpen only gave up 17 hits and six earned runs. They walked 13 batters, and struck out 38. Yeah, it was that good. It’s funny how a rock solid closer can line up the rest of the staff. Rob Bryson was out this week with a strained shoulder, which should tell you just how good this pen is, since Bryson is one of the better relievers on the K-Tribe roster.

Chris Jones may just be the best reliever in the Carolina League. In two games, Jones went 1-0, giving up a hit and a walk, while striking out eight batters. Overall, Jones is 2-1, with a 0.81 ERA in 15 appearances.

Brian Grening made a resurgence this week in a relief appearance of a struggling T.J. House. He went four strong innings, giving up only one hit, while striking out four in getting the win. Grening has struggled over the past month, so it’s good to see the righty get back on track. Now, if we can just see some consistency.

Travis Turek continued his transformation into one of the better relief pitchers on this team. In two appearances, Turek went 1-0 with a hold. In five innings, he gave up four hits, an earned run, walked five, and struck out three. The run that Turek gave up last Sunday was his first since June first, and hes seen his overall ERA drop to below three, at 2.96. If he continues at this right, he just might find himself in Akron.

Matt Langwell has become the invisible man. He just comes out and does his job. In two appearances, he went four innings, gave up three hits and and earned run, while walking three and striking out five. Langwell has a 1.75 ERA for the season, and has been the stabilizing force in this bullpen all year long. Let’s hope it pays off with a promotion at some point.

I do want to mention Dave Roberts. Yes, he did ride his weekly roller coaster, with both good and bad appearances. His good appearance was just very, very good. He went three innings on Saturday night, giving up only one hit and two walks, while striking out a season high seven batters. Perhaps Roberts can use this appearance to right the ship a bit.

No, I haven’t forgotten about Cory Burns. Alls he did is make four appearances during the week, and saved all four games. He went 4 1/3, giving up three hits, an earned run, a walk, while striking out nine batters. Burns is leading the Carolina League with 15 saves. He has 27 saves combined while at Lake County.

Imagine how good this pen becomes when Bryson returns. Of course, it’s likely that someone will get bumped up…or down.

Week 13 Starters:

The K-Tribe starters continued their walk through the Carolina League park. Overall, the starting staff had a 3.08 ERA in 26 innings pitched. They gave up 30 hits and nine earned runs. They walked 16 batters and struck out 21. They did go 1-2, but they continued with a pristine 3.08 ERA.

T.J. McFarland went 1-0 this week. He went six innings, giving up three hits, two earned runs and three walks, while striking out one. Overall, that brings McFarland to 8-2 (leading the league with eight wins) with a 1.94 ERA (also leading the league). In 78 2/3 innings pitched, he’s struck out only 52, while only walking an impressive 18. This is exactly what the Indians needed to see in McFarland, who has proven to be one of the best pitchers here at Kinston.

Austin Adams pitched two games, and will be utilized with a hand-cuff throughout the season (perhaps Marty Popham, who was briefly called up to Akron and made a fantastic start, before getting called back down). In his two appearances, Adams went 7 2/3, giving up six hits and two earned runs, while walking three and striking out 11. Adams was selected in the fifth round last year, and is certainly on Mark Shapiro’s radar. He was converted to a pitcher during his final year in college, and is still learning the trade, which is why Cleveland is bringing him along slowly. He has big-league heat, averaging out in the mid-90’s, and can touch the upper 90’s. I firmly believe that the Indians have this power arm earmarked for the bullpen. The ONLY reason why they are starting him is to build up consistency and arm strength. It will be interesting to watch him develop.

Joey Mahalic with 5 2/3, giving up eight hits with two earned runs, while walking four and striking out two in his loss. Joe Gardner went six innings, giving up seven hits, three earned runs and three walks, while striking out six batters in his loss. TJ House only went an inning, giving up two hits, three runs, an earned run, while walking three and striking out one. He only lasted an inning, which seems to be because of his struggles, and not because of an injury. If I hear anything more, I’ll make sure to get it out to you.

Week 13 Awards:

Offensive player of the week: Lucas Montero
Relief pitcher of the week: Cory Burns
Staring pitcher of the week: T.J. McFarland

Player of the week: Lucas Montero

Here comes week 14:

4 vs. Frederick, 6:00 PM
5 vs. Frederick, 7:00 PM
7 vs. Salem, 7:00 PM
8 vs. Salem, 7:00 PM
9 vs. Salem, 7:00 PM
10 @ Frederick, 6:00 PM

A Quick Note: Manny Acta reported last week that Jason Knapp is on the mend, and soon to return. As soon as I can get any information on when Knapp will be back, where he’ll be, and what he’ll be doing, I’ll get that up and posted. Also, congrats to Michael Brantley, for getting his much deserved call-up.

The Rearviewmirror: Sorry to move away from baseball for a moment, but am I the only one glad that all this egotistical garbage with LeBron James is over? It’s kind of funny, when you think about it. These guys get together four years ago, and plan to all sign three-year deals. Now, here we are, and we don’t think they haven’t planned this all out? While I can’t prognosticate how this is all going to end, there really is a big part of me that thinks they have pre-destined to converge in Miami.

Why? Was it predetermined all those years ago? No, but I don’t doubt that they didn’t come up with a pact that said they’d all play together at whoever wins a title. What are they doing now? Perhaps they are trying to find a way that they can all play in Chicago at peak money, or perhaps they are all going to end up at home.

Either way, I’m glad the idiotic tours are done. I mean, listening to the programs these teams put up. The Knicks with the Sopranos, and the Cavs with some dumb video. It’s all ridiculous, the hoops these teams are jumping through. Perhaps the Clippers had it right. Show up, let them know how much you want them, and leave. This isn’t my NBA, that’s for sure.

Will LeBron stay? You know, after all the years I’ve put into this team, I don’t think I care. I remember listening to Tate and the Cavs during the Miracle at Richfield, with my dad when I was a wee little one. I remember the shot, but more importantly, all those good Cavs teams in the late 80’s.

Can the Cavs win without James, you bet they can. A friend of mine asked me the other day, what I would do, as a NE Ohio native, if I were as gifted as LeBron, playing for the Cavs. I said to him, “Well, I’m from Ohio, grew up watching the Indians, the Cavs, the Browns and the Buckeyes. The Cavs have offered me more money than anyone else can. We’ve been the the precipice of a title before. My owner has deep pockets, and a willingness to spend. In other words, every scenario that no other Cleveland team or player HAS EVER HAD, and I can stay in my own hometown. I told my friend it was a no-brainer, not only would I have said yes on July 1, but I would have been saying yes all year long.

‘Bron is a card-carrying member of the bandwagon club. He’s a Yankees fan, because he grew up watching them win titles. He’s a Dallas Cowboy’s fan, because he grew up watching them win titles. He’s a Chicago Bulls fan, because he grew up watching the Bulls win titles. Now I want LeBron to stay, and I hope he does, but this fairweather characteristic really makes me wonder. How many friends, who grew up right here in the area, are card carrying Bulls, Cowboys and Yankees fans?

I’m not saying LeBron doesn’t love the area, love his hometown, and love the Cavs…but at his core is a kid who follows the winners. Who can make him a winner the earliest? I don’t know, but I can’t wait until the DECISION is in the rearviewmirror.

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The Justin Masterson Chronicles

Should Justin Masterson start or close?


This has likely been one of the top three questions asked by most Cleveland Indians fast this year, and it’s not one that’s easily answered. Looking at Masterson’s game log is reminiscent of riding any Ceder Point roller coaster, just not as fun.

Masterson came out of the gates at least resembling a decent starter. In his first three starts, Masterson went 0-2, but only gave up five earned runs in 15 innings pitched. Over the next seven starts,including the complete month of May, Masterson would give up 30 runs in 38 2/3 innings. His ERA would balloon to over 6 at one point, and most assumed it was time to move him to the pen, or even to Columbus. AT 0-5 with a 5.87 ERA, something had to be done.

Then Masterson took another turn. He would go 2-0 in his next two starts, including a complete game, two-hit shutout. In 14 2/3 innings, he gave up seven hits and one run, while striking out seven. His ERA would drop a complete run, and Masterson seemed to turn a corner. Why? He did this against the White Sox and the Red Sox.

Masterson would sandwich two bad starts around a decent one over his next three appearances. In the two bad appearances, he would go 0-2 in 12 innings, while giving up 12 runs and 16 hits. In the good appearance, he gave up two runs on five hits, while walking one and striking out seven in a no decision.

Finally, on July 1st, Masterson went 8 1/3 innings, giving up only one run on eight hits. He struck out five without giving up a walk in getting his third win of the year.

Masterson is still terrible at getting lefties out. They are hitting .314 against Masterson this year, and until he figures out how to consistently pitch to left-handed hitters, he won’t be a top-tier starter.

So the question remains, is it worth the ride while we wait for Masterson to figure things out?

Maybe the better question is who is going to take his place? Jeanmar Gomez is 6-7 with a 5.46 ERA. A closer look shows that Gomez is 3-0 over his last four starts, with a stellar 1.03 ERA. Still, do you want to bring up a guy who’s finally figured things out after struggling all season? Yohan Pino is 7-4 with a 5.38 ERA. As hot as Gomez has been, is as cold as Pino is. He has a 6.50 ERA over his last ten games. Carlos Carrasco is 7-3 with a 4.22 ERA. Carrasco also has struggled a bit recently, but the Indians may be antsy in getting a look at the young righty.

The most intriguing of the Columbus starters is Josh Tomlin, who is 7-2 with a 2.66 ERA He’s been solid over his last four starts, and really all season long. Unfortunately for the Indians, and for Tomlin, is the fact that Tomlin was recently charged with assault . I’m not an expert, but I’m guessing that Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti aren’t looking for that kind of press.

So there are your choices. Sure, Masterson may ultimately end up in the bullpen, especially with Alex White, Kelvin De La Cruz and Nick Hagadone on the horizon. But right now, there just aren’t any better options. Top that off with the potential trades of Jake Westbrook and even Fausto Carmona, and you have too many holes with not enough Indians on the reservation to fill them.

So it appears as though we’ll be riding the roller coaster known as Masterson at least until the end of the season, if not longer. And you know what? He just might turn into the next great ride in Northeastern Ohio.

Something tells me the Masterson chronicles are just getting started.

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Choo, LaPorta, Perez, and Santana Show Cleveland That Their Future Is Now

The Cleveland Indians won their fourth straight game tonight by beating the Blue Jays 3-1 at Progressive Field. Sure, you could make a big deal about winning four in a row, but let’s be honest, it’s not like this team is going to make a run for the playoffs. What you can get excited about is that the Indians’ future was on display tonight in neon lights.

Okay, so Shin-Soo Choo isn’t exactly a newbie, but he’s certainly part of the Indians foreseeable future. Choo continued his power streak tonight with a first inning, one-out solo shot, to give the Tribe a 1-0 lead. Over Choo’s last eight games, he has five homers and nine RBI. Overall, Choo leads the Tribe with 13 home runs, and until a recent call-up, was the Indians best offensive player.

Now, Carlos Santana is showcasing his offensive wares, and it’s been pretty “supernatural” since his recent call-up. Santana went two for four tonight, with a run-scoring single. Choo was thrown out at third on the single, or it could have led to an even bigger inning. Santana is currently hitting .345 for the Indians, with eight doubles, four homers and 14 RBI in 17 games. His line is .333/.456/.704, and that 1.160 OPS is impressive, regardless of how few games he’s played. He’s walked 13 times, and struck out a grand total of seven, making him a rarity to the Indians line-up. Defensively, this kid has made only one error, and thrown out six baserunners out of twelve. Yeah, 50% isn’t just good, it’s, well, “supernatural.”

Then there’s Matt LaPorta. Cleveland fans, including myself, have either been ho-humming his performance, or been slamming the Tribe brass for holding him back. Well, the Indians sent him down in early June because of his struggles. He was recalled this past week, thanks to the Russell Branyan deal. In his four games back, he’s gone four for 13, with two home runs, two runs scored, two RBI, two walks and three K’s. Take out his 0 for 4 in his debut-back game, and he’s really streaking…even to the quad. He’s hit two homers in as many games.

Finally, I thought I’d mention Chris Perez. While it would have been nice to see Kerry Wood become Mr. Iron Man, and save his fourth game in as many nights, Perez took over his closer duties, and recorded his seventh save in ten chances. He had a 1, 2, 3 inning, with a K, and even got through a bit of adversity when Andy Marte dropped Aaron Hill’s foul ball. Perez responded by striking Hill out.

Will the Indians youth lead the Tribe to the promised land this season? Not likely, but there’s certainly reason to get excited about 2011 and beyond.

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Kerry Wood puts himself in the trade spotlight with back-to-back saves

Entering Sunday Night’s save opportunity, Kerry Wood’s ERA was a less than modest 7.98.  He was 1-3 with five saves in eight chances.  His ticket out of here, originally thought to be through a trade, was likely heading towards an end of the year release after the Indians refused to trigger the club option on his contract.

Then, something crazy happened.  Maybe it was all this Stephen Strasburg talk, sending Wood back to the days when he was Strasburg.  Maybe it was all the talk about Wood being stuck with the Indians for the rest of the year.  Perhaps he’s just figured something out.  Regardless of what you believe, Wood regained the form that enticed the Indians into signing him nearly two years ago.

Wood threw 17 pitches, 11 of which were strikes.  Wood would strike out the side, and gain his 6th save, while lowering his ERA by half a run, to 7.48.

Tonight, Wood came in and threw 18 balls, 12 of which were strikes.  He would give up a two-out hit, and strike out two in getting save #7.  He lowered his ERA nearly another half run, to 7.02.

What does this mean?  Kerry Wood might be making himself valuable again.  There’s always room for relievers on contending clubs, and Kerry Wood is one of the more enticing ones.  Why?  He still throws in the mid-90’s, and when he’s on, he is one of the better relievers in the league.

The Indians and Mark Shapiro are likely looking at all options as we speak, with Wood’s coals directly in the fire.  Can they get a top prospect for Wood?  Not likely.  But with another couple of shut-down performances, perhaps there is someone with some upside waiting in the wings.

With Chris Perez waiting in the wings (he had a hold in tonight’s game, after giving up two runs last night) as the heir-apparent closer, Wood might just be pitching his way right out of Cleveland.

Where to?  More on that as we get closer to the deadline.

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Matt LaPorta recalled; will it open up the Indians’ prospect logjam?

Did you ever get blamed for something you didn’t do? Matt LaPorta must have felt that way on June 7th, when the Indians sent the former keystone of their CC Sabathia deal two summers ago to Columbus.

What was his response?

LaPorta, who played both first base (7 games), left field (10 games) and DH (1 game) during his ridiculous return to Columbus, had an incredible line of .362/.457/.638.

Yeah, that 1.094 OPS had to have some eyes open in Shapiro’s office. LaPorta had multi-hit games in seven of his 18 games, had a ten game hitting streak at one point, and hit in 14 of the 18 games. It’s also worth noting that LaPorta had less walks (10) than strikeouts (12), and had 16 RBI in 18 games. Not a bad pace. LaPorta also managed an error-free tenure at both fielding positions in 82 chances (70 at first, and 12 in the outfield).

So why the sudden turnaround from his mostly horrific start to the season in Cleveland?

Oh, if you’re Mark Shapiro, you’ll say that when he was sent down, he was more motivated to perform.

Yeah, that’s all fine and good, but I’m sure some of it had to do with the fact that LaPorta got regular at bats. Theoretically, he’ll get that opportunity now in Cleveland. Of course, you never know with this regime.

The Indians idiocy in the upper management never ceases to amaze me (as this piece by Tony Lastoria at Indians Prospect Insider can attest to). This should be the platform piece whenever a discussion needs to be made about how moronic the braintrust can be in Cleveland. Look no further than Matt LaPorta’s situation, as well as the Josh Rodriguez.

Hopefully this initial move of sending Rusty Branyan to Seattle opens the floodgates for the youth movement to begin and be applied at all positions.

LaPorta now will likely be the full-time first baseman. With Valbuena down, Josh Rodriguez or Cord Phelps should find their way to the bigs at second. Jason Donald is a fine candidate to hold the fort down at short, although I wouldn’t at all mind seeing Rodriguez, Phelps and Donald in some sort of rotation while ACabs gets healthy. With a hopeful Jhonny Peralta deal in the future, taking a look at Jared Goedert at third would be ideal with Lonnie Chisenhall knocking on the door by July of next year, if not sooner.

Goedert is currently on a five game hitting streak, with three homers and six RBI during that same span. Overall, he’s hitting .329, with seven homers and 16 RBI in his Columbus tenure, after hitting .329, with seven homers and 32 RBI to start the year in Akron.

In the outfield, with the Austin Kearns tenure about to end (I’m sorry Mr. Pluto, but if Austin Kearns is a long-term answer for the Tribe, than the entire management team should be fired today), it’s time to bring up some of these kids. Let’s see what Jose Costanza brings to the team. Bring up Michael Brantley. Granted, both lack power, but their speed could make things interesting.

Point being, it’s time to see what we’ve got. Enough of the post-ACab/Sizemore charade of trying to compete. It’s over folks, for this year.

But next year could be promising, but only if Mark Shapiro and his seemingly overrated bunch start doing the right thing. Perhaps the Branyan/LaPorta move is the first sign that good things may happen.

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Cleveland Indians Trade Russell Branyan for Two Seattle Mariners Prospects

Russell Branyan was just dealt for two high upside prospects, and from a team out of the playoff chase and nearly as bad as Cleveland? Yeah, right…

The Cleveland Indians have somehow managed to deal Russell Branyan to the Seattle Mariners for two prospects that seem to have some upside.

The Indians acquired outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and SS Juan Diaz today from the Mariners, in exchange for Branyan and either cash, or a player to be named later.

Carrera has hit .268 this season, with 24 runs, six doubles, two triples and 18 RBI. He’s also stolen nine bases in 14 attempts. He doesn’t strike out much (32 times in 64 games, and has a decent OBP.

Carrera was signed in April 2005 by the Mets as an undrafted free agent. After four solid seasons in the low minors for the Mets, he was dealt to Seattle in the J.J. Putz deal. In 91 games with the AA West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, he led the league with a .337 average, while stealing 27 bases.

He played most of his games at centerfield, but also saw time in left as well. He’s not a bad get, when you consider Cleveland only gave up Branyan to get him.

I’m not sure where he fits in the grand scheme of things, but I’d take a case of beer for Branyan. Carrera will likely join Columbus as soon as possible.

The real get may turn out to be Juan Diaz, a 6’3″ shortstop playing for the High Desert Mavericks, the Mariners Advanced A team in the California League.

Over the past two seasons, he’s broken out a bit with raw skills. He’s currently batting .295, with seven homers and 41 RBI in only seven games.

Not only that, but he’s got eight stolen bases in 10 attempts. He doesn’t walk much, but his OBP is .345, so he does find a way to get on base. Last season, splitting his time in rookie ball and High Desert, he hit .317, with five homers and 30 RBI.

Obviously, this kid has some untapped potential. At 6’3″ and only 170 pounds, he’s likely going to fill out, which absolutely will improve his power.

He does have a ways to go defensively, but his offensive potential is clear. He’ll start the season off with High A Kinston.

So, is it me, or does this deal smell an awful lot like the Shin-Soo Choo or Asdrubal Cabrera deal? What are the Mariners freaking thinking?

They don’t have a chance in hell of doing anything this year, and are mulling a potential deal for Cliff Lee, who they just dealt for this year. They are 14 games back and 12 games under .500.

What was Seattle thinking? Give up two prospects for Branyan? Really? That’s almost as bad (or worst) as dealing Cabrera for Eduardo Perez or Choo for Ben Broussard. Could you imagine that deal at once?

Eddie Perez, Ben Broussard, and Russell Branyan for Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Juan Diaz and Ezequiel Carrera. If both those kids are busts, you make that trade 10 times over. I’m not a Shapiro fan by any stretch, but well done.

Yes, the Cleveland Indians may very well be the worst team in baseball when it’s all said and done, but Seattle may have lost their minds.

At least we can go to bed at night knowing that the Indians can steal a prospect or two every couple of years from the Mariners. Yeah, I know, Franklin Gutierrez. Don’t remind me…

Maybe this was Seattle’s way of saying thanks…

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Where has all the Indians offense gone?

The Cleveland Indians are toiling at 9-13 right now, and while their won-lost record isn’t really a surprise, the biggest concern is their lack of offense. With the Indians closing in on a month of games, I really only have one question: Wasn’t the Indians’ offense supposed to be the strength of this baseball team? There wasn’t a lot of doubt that the Indians had some talented sticks heading into the season. Unfortunately, most of those bats haven’t made their way to Cleveland from Goodyear just yet.

As unbelievable as it sounds, Austin Kearns leads the team in batting at .373, with two homers and 11 RBI. You know, the same Austin Kearns that some thought would be out of baseball, and was signed onto this club via a minor league contract, and was competing for an extra outfield job. Shin-Soo Choo continues to excel as well, and may ultimately be the team’s best overall offensive player. He currently leads the team with four homers and 15 RBI. Asdrubal Cabrera continues to bat over .300 as well, and is slowly becoming this team’s leader.

As for the rest of the team, the next highest average after Cabrera’s .300 is Russell “Bad Back” Branyan, who’s hitting at a .250 clip. The only free agent signing of any consequence for the Tribe for his abundance of power currently has a goose-egg for home runs, and a powerhouse two RBI. Jhonny Peralta has gone eight of his last 18, to bring his average up 81 points. Before you get too excited by that, we’re talking a jump from .143 to .224. Matt LaPorta, the supposed juggernaut received by the Tribe in the CC Sabathia deal is hitting a whopping .217, with zero homers and a whole RBI. Pronk is at .208, with two homers and seven RBI. Grady’s at .205, with zero homers and nine RBI. Lou Marson has gone 4-7 over the past two games, to raise his average nearly 100 points, and still below the Mendoza line.

Sure, it’s too early to hammer (probably the wrong term here) the lack of offense. The bats will likely warm up to some extent as the season progresses. I can’t imagine Sizemore to remain close to the Mendoza line, with no power and a low OBP. Matt LaPorta certainly isn’t a guy that’s going to lack power, or shouldn’t. Combine that with Carlos Santana, Wes Hodges, Jason Donald and Michael Brantley mashing in Columbus, there are some bats that could be breathing life into this lifeless offense soon.

While the Tribe pitchers have held it together over the past month, there are signs of trouble on the horizon. Mitch Talbot is currently the only starter with a sub-4.00 ERA, and while I’m happy that the hot stove pick-up is playing well, I’m not exactly sure we can count on a season of Talbot domination. Fausto Carmona isn’t quite there yet, although he’s close. Past Carmona, Justin Masterson is proving to just about everyone that he’s most likely going to end up in the Tribe bullpen. Jake Westbrook’s best days seem far behind him, and David Huff is still trying to find consistency.

How successful this team ultimately is lies directly with the offense. Will the bats warm up with the summer weather and carry this team to a surprise ending, or will they continue to struggle in a lost season? Count on some balance as the year progresses, with the potential for the offense to become dangerous. If it doesn’t, a long year could become a forgotten year.

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