Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indian fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

This week, we discuss the beginning of the annual Tribe fire sale, wonder what to do with players behaving badly, and come clean about which bandwagon we may be jumping on in the second half of the season.

I would like to thank this week’s participants Dale Thomas, Scott Miles, and new Tribe Talk panelist Dan Tylicki for their contributions. A big special thanks is also in order for guest panelist M.T. Robinson, a Padres writer here to give us a little outside perspective. You can find his work at sd72degrees.com.

This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.

Go Tribe!

1. Let the fire sale begin!

Last weekend Russell Branyan was traded back to his old team, the Mariners, for a couple of prospects, the first to go in what will likely be a number of players moved by the Indians before the trade deadline this season. 

Do you think the Indians will completely clean house before the deadline and trade away everyone they can who isn’t part of their long term plans? 

Who do you think will be the next to go, and who are all of the players you see as likely to be moved by July 31st?

Are there any players frequently discussed as trade candidates who you DON’T think will be going anywhere this season?

Samantha Bunten: Death, taxes, and the Indians’ annual fire sale. The yearly salary dump has become as predictable as Manny Ramirez developing a mysterious hamstring injury whenever he so much as hears the word “Boston.” 

I’ll be sorry to see Kearns go, even now that his average has plummeted back to earth. He will absolutely be gone by the deadline.

Obviously, we all hope Kerry Wood gets moved, but I can’t see anyone taking him off our hands unless we eat 70-80 percent of his salary, which would sort of defeat the purpose. 

Much as it saddens me, I don’t see Peralta going anywhere. No one wants a third baseman who can’t hit, can’t catch, can’t throw, and gives about 40 percent effort on the base paths. Unless the Mets or the Mariners are out scavenging for junk like they often do, Peralta is going to be the last item left on the lawn at the yard sale, wearing a cardboard sign that says “free to good home.” 

Dale Thomas: I’ve been trying to figure out what the heck this “long term plan” is. The Indians have already cleaned house. They did that last year. Now they are cleaning out the garage, trading the guy they just got. I guess Branyan’s rust was staining the garage floor or something. Next I suppose we’ll clean the bathrooms, closets, and attic. 

So what does “long term plan” mean? The only viable plan that will work for the Tribe is to trade away ownership. 

As far as the last part of this question, it seems as if every last member of this team is trade bait except, of course, Trevor Crowe. We need him here to blame things on.

Scott Miles: You know, maybe Mark Shapiro is some kind of evil genius, signing Branyan and Austin Kearns with the intent of flipping them for multiple prospects to bolster the farm system. (OK, maybe not, but at least I’ll tell that to myself now.) 

I’d say the Indians are in full spring cleaning mode, it’s just a matter of what options are available. Kearns’ snap back to reality has probably killed his market and at this point, I don’t even know if the Tribe could get back what they did for Branyan

I don’t think Peralta will get traded…who wants a third baseman with little power and no glove? Wood, with his salary, would need to save about 20 more games in a row before anyone would take him on, though he is off to a nice start this week with that. Westbrook, behind Kearns, is probably the next likely to go, especially with the talk of bringing Carlos Carrasco up.

Dan Tylicki: I can see quite a few players leaving as they try and open more room to our farm system, mainly on the position player side, where things seem pretty good. 

I think Kearns is almost guaranteed to be traded for a couple pitching prospects. Shelley Duncan could be a potential trading piece, but I can’t think that we would really get anything for him. 

On the pitching end, if anyone wants Kerry Wood near the deadline, he’ll be gone. I don’t see too many of the pitchers leaving; I think Fausto Carmona will stay on the Tribe, as will Mitch Talbot. Jake Westbrook I have no clue on, for some reason. I can’t see him leaving or staying, though I think the Tribe can get a few good pieces for him. He would be a reliable fourth or fifth starter in pennant-race rotations.

M.T. Robinson: Looking at the Indians from afar, clearly the most attractive player currently on the Indians roster is outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. At 28, Choo is still in his prime, but his 30th B-day is just around the corner. Choo could fetch a nice load of prospects, and his trade value may never be higher. If Choo is not part of the overall plan to rebuild with youth, he could see his ticket punched to the Yankees or even Boston, both of whom have done business with Cleveland before. 

Next on my short list is pitcher Fausto Carmona, who’s 3.68 ERA is stellar in the American League. Carmona would excel in facing the weak bats and wide strike zones of the National League, and he is exactly the kind of player a team like the Dodgers or Phillies like to add for the stretch run. 

After that, the Indians hand gets weaker, although pitchers Jake Westbrook and Mitch Talbot might bring a few prospects. Below those four guys, the Indians’ major league roster is not very enticing to look at. Perhaps Grady Sizemore would have some value even while rehabbing on the DL.

2. Let’s take a minute to discuss the specifics of the Branyan trade. Many people were baffled by the details of the move:

Seattle, 14 games back in the AL West, seemed to have little reason to want to reacquire Branyan. Why would the Mariners give up prospects for a player with mediocre-at-best skills, especially considering they aren’t looking like contenders in their division and they just let this same guy go a couple of months ago?

The move makes more sense for the Indians,who were clearly just trying to open up playing time for Matt LaPorta at first base. Still, they didn’t get much in return for him in terms of quality prospects, and seem to have sold oddly early on Branyan when they might have gotten more for him closer to the deadline from a team in contention desperate for a power bat.

What do you think of the move? Did the Indians get anything of real value in return for Branyan, or was the only purpose to get more at-bats to LaPorta at first? Should they have held out a little longer before trading him in order to get a better yield in return? And the most baffling part: What on earth was Seattle thinking?

Samantha Bunten: Seattle runs the best preseason con game in baseball. Every offseason the Mariners make all kinds of big moves, spend all kinds of money, fool us all into picking them to win their division, and then promptly run out of gas sometime around the first of May. 

Seattle has a history of making terrible, terrible moves all season long as well (recall how we got Asdrubal Cabrera and Choo), so I’m not surprised by the Branyan trade, even though I’m baffled by it. Really, why on earth would you give up prospects for a guy who generally gets about one hit per 50 strikeouts who you just let go a couple of months ago? 

The Mariners seem to be perpetually swapping deck chairs on the Titanic. They also seem to put a lot of faith in overrated, expensive players with nothing left in the tank. Exhibit A: Eric Bedard. Last I heard, he was pitching in A-ball. 

As for the Indians, I would have preferred they hang on to Branyan to see if they could get more for him once some contender got desperate for a power bat down the stretch. From what I know of the two prospects we got from Seattle for him, I’m really not impressed. 

Dale Thomas: This move makes little to no sense for the Indians. They still have the bulk of his salary, got nothing in return, and lost a guy with some savvy and experience to share with our younger players…plus he’s a nice guy. 

For Seattle? Hey maybe it’s because they get a decent bat for about 500 grand. Other than that, I can’t imagine why they would do this. They are totally out of any kind of contention for anything, and Branyan has showcased himself as a defensive nightmare, with average hitting. Go figure. The whole deal is eerily weird.

Scott Miles: I think the Indians got pretty good value for him considering he’s a one-trick pony. They were able to sell him about as high as they could because none of the contenders would have wanted him for that price. I think it’s a win-win-win. 

One, you get him off the team (Tribe is 9-5 this year I believe now without him, through Wednesday). Two, you get LaPorta those at-bats. And three, you get two players who have a better chance of playing with the Indians in a few years than Branyan did. 

As for what Seattle was thinking, I don’t even want to speculate because I might say something I can’t take back later.

Dan Tylicki: I was surprised when I heard it, like most others. The Mariners have no real need for him, and we don’t have much need for the prospects we were given. 

Getting LaPorta playing time at first is a must. We have to know if he can play in the majors day in and day out, so might as well do it now. 

In terms of holding out, we could have, but we probably would have gotten the same amount. Players like Branyan are pretty easy to find when one looks, and Adam Dunn would be the first one everyone would be after. 

As for what Seattle was thinking…they’re not. Only thing I can think of is the Mariners are that desperate for any power on their roster. They have a good pitching staff, so maybe if their hitting clicks something will happen. Or maybe as I said, they are just not thinking. 

M.T. Robinson: Let’s face it, the Mariners are not world renowned for their brilliant sports acumen. 

Branyan still can blast the long ball, but I don’t see how he will be around in three seasons, while who knows how OF Eziquiel Carrera and SS Juan Diaz will be doing in their development? Carrera has shown a solid glove combined with a quick bat and feet during his first five seasons in the minors, and at 23 may not be far away from The Show. 

Carrera is now stashed at Triple-A Columbus, but look for a September call up. SS Juan Diaz is hitting .295 this season for Double-A High Desert, hitting seven home runs with 41 RBI, which are nice numbers. 

Diaz could be in the Indians’ starting lineup by 2012, if not sooner if he continues to hit. I give the Indians the edge on this trade in the long term, and I am looking at the Mariners scratching my head.

3. We spend a lot of time heaping criticism on the Indians woeful pitching staff. While they may well deserve it, it also would be nice to be able to occasionally say something positive about one of our hurlers.

One of the few candidates on our staff for such a distinction this season? Mitch Talbot.

While Talbot’s numbers don’t exactly jump off the page in any statistical category, he has posted a solid 8-6 record so far this season with a 3.88 ERA overall and an impressive 2.39 ERA on the road.

What were you expecting out of Talbot going into the season? Have you been pleasantly surprised by his performance? Do you now consider the trade of Kelly Shoppach that brought him here to have been a good deal for the Indians?

Where would you rank Talbot among the current Tribe starters? How do you see him fitting into the Tribe’s long term plans?

Samantha Bunten: Initially, I didn’t expect much out of Talbot. I had originally thought Tampa Bay was just pawning its junk off on us, but now it looks more like Talbot may have just been a roster casualty there.

I liked Kelly Shoppach, but the Indians really didn’t have a place for him. Suffering through Lou Marson for a couple of months B.C. (Before Carlos) was worth it in retrospect, since trading Shop netted us a guy who has turned out to be a pretty darn good pitcher. 

I think Talbot is a great fit for the long term plan. I see him moving comfortably into the No. 2 slot behind Carmona next year after Westbrook is gone, and eventually, if guys like Masterson and Carrasco pan out as advertised, landing in the fourth spot in the rotation. 

Dale Thomas: I didn’t expect much from Talbot coming to the Tribe with his 11-plus ERA after a whopping three games pitched with his former team. It looked like one of those nothing-for-nothing trades. 

It was an easy trade to stomach because we weren’t really giving up anything we needed, and we got someone at least claiming to be a pitcher…and looking at our staff at the time, each and every one of them was only someone claiming to be a pitcher. Carmona coming off a dismal season, Westbrook coming off a dismal surgery, the largely unknown Huff, and that guy Masterson. Talbot seemed like one of the gang already! 

Fact is, Carmona has pitched better than I thought he would. So has Jake. Huff was far worse than expected and Masterson did exactly what I expected him to do. So yes, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Talbot thus far, and I actually think he’s got potential to improve from where he stands today. 

Right now I’d have him ranked number three. Yes indeed, I think he should be in the Tribe’s long term plan…whatever that is. This has been one of very few good moves in the last few years where we actually traded up.

Scott Miles: I liked Talbot through spring training, knowing he was a victim of a numbers game within the Rays organization (wow, 10 years ago, I never thought I’d write that sentence). 

He just seems to be the type of pitcher who “gets it.” He is not overwhelming with his stuff, but he knows how to pitch and what to throw in the right situations. 

It will be interesting to see how he adjusts his second and third time through the league, but even though he is a rookie, he’s also 26 years old, so he has some experience and innings behind him.

Dan Tylicki: Right now, I would put Talbot second behind Carmona. He’s been surprisingly solid, and while he isn’t amazing, he’s played well enough that he’s at least someone we don’t have to worry about. 

I was not expecting much when he started, but I have been impressed, and I now consider the Shoppach trade a good one, especially because, where would we put Shoppach now? 

Talbot is only 26, so I would be for trying to sign him long-term as he reaches his peak. He won’t be an ace, but we can use a reliable number three pitcher, which is what he would likely be.

M.T. Robinson: As I said before, from afar, the Indians starting pitchers’ numbers do not look that bad. Three starters with ERAs under 4.00 in the AL is nothing to sneeze at. 

Talbot has scratched out his eight wins and a 3.88 ERA pitching uphill this season for a sub .500 Indians team that is one step away from cashing their chips in for 2010. On the value side, Talbot turns 27 after this season, which is considered the maturation age for Major League players. Talbot also may never be worth more than he is now. 

It’s a close call here; he could be dealt, he could be in the rotation for the next six years if he can stay healthy.

4. Last week, three Indians’ minor leaguers were arrested for allegedly assaulting a bar bouncer in Akron.

Pro athletes engaging in criminal activity is certainly nothing new, but until now players in the Indians organization have largely avoided running afoul of the law.

What’s your take on this incident? Do you think the Indians or MLB should punish the players?

What’s your opinion on athletes’ legal offenses in general? Do you think athletes who get in trouble with the law should be punished by their team or league, or do you think off-field issues should stay off the field? Does it depend on the severity of the offense?

Samantha Bunten: I can totally understand the reasoning behind getting in a “fair fight.” Someone steals your woman or your dog or your roster spot, I can see why you might clock the guy. But that is absolutely not what happened here. There is NO possible justification for three guys jumping one guy on the street and beating him until he needs to be hospitalized just because apparently, they didn’t really like the guy.

There’s also something about getting in bar fights while you’re stuck in the minors that’s akin to shooting yourself in the foot. Maybe if these guys spent more time swinging bats and less time swinging their fists, they wouldn’t be stuck in Double-A. 

The Indians and MLB need to throw the book at these guys. Do you want your kid running around in a Beau Mills jersey after this? I didn’t think so. 

Dale Thomas: My take on the incident is that it’s been brewing for a long time. It starts with a bunch of good ol’ rednecks in a bar that were probably totally out of line. So the bouncer does his job, which is to bounce rowdy hounds before things get out of hand. 

That said, I’m guessing the bouncer made a big mistake by engaging in arguments with these guys in the bar, and doing it more than once. That brings a lot of emotion and resentment to the table over and above the bounce itself. So the guys learn to hate the bouncer and want vengeance. Boys will be boys or something like that. 

So they randomly cross paths outside the bar and the players start a fight. What’s up with that? 

The problem is that these players represent the town they play for. They have to step away from the idiocy of drunken contests like this and hold to their commitment to their team, their city, and their sport.

I think the team/league should impose penalties, as these guys represent them. Besides…three on one? C’mon guys, how impressive is that? It’s like smashing your hamster with an SUV, then claiming self defense.

Dan Tylicki: I think there’s no question that the Indians have to dole out some sort of punishment if MLB doesn’t. These minor league players should be honing their skills rather than getting in bar fights. If they’re spending their time like that then no wonder they’re still down there. 

Maybe I’m sounding harsh, but if they’re running afoul of the law, they need sanctions from their team or the league. They are role models for kids across America whether they like it or not. 

As a side note, I’m about ready to consider Beau Mills a bust. He should be in Triple-A, ready to hit the majors this year. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh since he’s still just 23.

M.T. Robinson: Here is the quick version of the incident, which I had not read about until now. Akron Aeros players Jerad Head and Beau Mills, who was Cleveland’s first-round pick in 2007, along with Josh Tomlin of the Columbus Clippers took on Theodore Zeman, the bouncer at Whiskey Dicks in Akron, Ohio. 

My first impression, trouble at Whiskey Dicks? Say it ain’t so…”Well, we were on our way to the YMCA, and one thing led to another…” 

Allegedly, the three players were verbally ripping Zeman, telling him he was soft and ‘roided up, then they started in on Zeman’s woman, always a mistake. The three beat Zeman into submission,when he tried to take matters into his own hands, resulting in broken ribs and a punctured lung for him. 

It’s Matt Bush all over again. Bush was the Padres number one a few years ago. Bush got in a fight with a bar bouncer the day he was drafted, and flamed out of baseball like a meteor. 

I think all three of these guys will be suspended for a year, and should face criminal charges, like any of the rest of us would.

5. Fun Question of the Week: With the first half of the season coming to a close and the Indians well out of contention, it’s time to start thinking about your backup plan for who you’ll be rooting for down the stretch to make the playoffs.

Who are the AL and NL teams you’ll be rooting for this year as your backup plan? In other words, which bandwagons will you be jumping on for the 2010 season? Why?

Samantha Bunten: I’m backing Texas in the AL, but I’d even root for the Twins or Tigers if they were in a position to get rid of New York or Boston. Mostly though, I’m an Indians-Or-Bust type of gal, so I prefer to focus my attention on an NL team in the big dance. 

Regarding the NL, I’m going Reds all the way. You have to love how they’ve built their team from the ground up, reminiscent of what the Indians did in the early 1990s. You also have to like the Padres for their incredible turnaround between last year and this year. 

I’m also a big fan of the Brewers. I like Atlanta because they’re the classiest, most well-run organization in baseball,l and I like the Dodgers because they’re the new home of many of my favorite former Indians. But really, I’ll support any NL team but the Mets. 

Dale Thomas: For the NL, I’m going to root for the Reds. It’s a lot like rooting for the Indians. Does this mean I’ll need a backup to my backup plan? Of course it does! When the Reds go down I’ll root for the Dodgers. When they go down I’ll root for St. Louis. 

On the AL side, I predicted the Twins would win the division, and they raced out of the blocks like they could easily go all the way. Now all of a sudden they’re battling Detroit for first, and if things keep going as they have, they’ll be battling the White Sox too. 

Next, the division will go down in a small insignificant puff of smoke and I’ll be rooting for…the Yankees? Haha…ain’t gonna happen. Go Tribe!

Scott Miles: In the AL, it would have to be the Rays and/or the Twins. The Rays for obvious reasons (unseating the Yankees and Red Sox), and while I don’t like the Twins, damn it I respect them and their organization. 

In the NL, it’s tough to say, but probably the Cardinals, because like the Twins they just seem like a classy organization that does things the right way. I would include the Padres in there but I can’t name more than three players on their team so I will refrain.

Dan Tylicki: On the AL side, I haven’t thought much about it. I’m a Yankee hater, so as long as someone beats them in the playoffs I’m good. I’m an AL Central guy at heart, so I’ll support Minnesota and Detroit in their endeavors. 

NL-wise, I’m leaning towards either the Reds or the Padres to root for, since they seem unappreciated. In general I root for the small-market teams, just because the large markets sicken me, buying a championship rather than winning it through hard work and smart planning.

M.T. Robinson: I’m rooting for the Padres of course, and we have a shot this season. San Diego needs to add two bats to make a serious run, but may take it right to the wire anyway with baseball’s best pitching staff. More than likely though, Philadelphia will get hot again and take the NL pennant. 

In the AL, I like Toronto’s bats, but as always, no one really has a chance but Boston and New York. Tampa Bay is also still in the hunt, but I feel that the Rangers will get wiped off the field in the playoffs. Go Tribe!!!






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