by Ryan Isley
As the Major League Baseball trade deadline passed last week, the only thing that fans of the Cleveland Indians wanted to talk about were the trades that the Indians didn’t make and who they should have been able to get. They talked about wanting to replace President Mark Shapiro and General Manager Chris Antonetti because they felt that the team’s front office just wasn’t doing their job to make the Indians a contender. What they didn’t mention is that there were deals that weren’t made that just may end up being positive for the Indians.
As I wrote last week, I was fine with the Indians not making a huge deal at the deadline. While there were trades to be made leading up to the deadline, it was two deals that the Indians didn’t make that should be feathers in the cap of Shapiro and Antonetti.
The first deal was actually in June, when the Indians didn’t acquire Kevin Youkilis from the Boston Red Sox. When it was announced that the Chicago White Sox – the Indians’ rival in the division – had reached a deal with the Red Sox to send Youkilis to the Windy City, Indians fans were beside themselves and angry with the Indians front office for allowing Youkilis to land within the division.
Some of us – including More Than A Fan’s own Josh Flagner in his Yahoo! Sports column – didn’t think the Indians trading for Youkilis would be a good idea, as he had been on a decline in Boston and was hitting just .233 with four homeruns in 42 games for the Red Sox before the trade.
Youkilis started off hot for the White Sox – hitting .400 with three homeruns in 13 games before the All-Star break after the trade – making it look like the Indians front office may have dropped the ball. Since the All-Star break, however, Youkilis has shown flashes of why the Red Sox were not hesitant to trade one of the fan favorites in Boston. In his last 22 games, Youkilis has hit six homeruns but is hitting just .207 – including a stretch in which he went 4-for-37 (.108) in the last 11 games of July.
In the end, Youkilis was exactly what we thought he was – a player on the decline who would not have been the answer for what ailed the Indians.
The other deal that I have heard fans on sports radio and on Twitter say they wanted the Indians to make was one that would have brought Hunter Pence to the Indians from the Philadelphia Phillies. Instead, the Phillies sent Pence to the west coast in a deal with the San Francisco Giants.
While I was all for the Indians trying to get Pence from the Houston Astros at the trade deadline last season – trading Alex White and Drew Pomeranz for the outfielder instead of to Colorado for Ubaldo Jimenez – making the deal this year would not have made sense for the Indians this season or in the future.
At first look, it might seem that acquiring Pence would be a great deal, because he was hitting .271 with 17 homeruns and 59 RBIs for the Phillies this season. But upon further review, it seems that Pence was tailing off drastically as the deadline approached, as he hit just .217 with one homerun and 12 RBIs in July. In seven games for the Giants, Pence has just four hits in 30 at-bats (.133), has yet to hit a homerun and has just five RBIs.
Besides the fact that Pence’s numbers have steadily declined in the last six weeks, the other reason for the Indians to be tentative about making the deal would have been what it would have cost to bring Pence to Cleveland. The Giants traded a Major League outfielder (Nate Schierholtz), their No.2 overall prospect (catcher Tommy Joseph), minor league pitcher Seth Rosin and cash to the Phillies to acquire Pence.
The Indians were willing to part with two of their top prospects last season in Pomeranz and White when they made the deal for Jimenez, so it would have been a stretch for them to trade yet another top prospect this season. Plus the Indians would have had to give up a Major League ready player plus cash to get the deal done. For a team who was more than one player away from contention, the price would have just been too much.
Even if Pence would have been enough to keep the Indians in the race in the American League Central, it may not have been worth the cost if the Indians didn’t ultimately win the World Series, as Pence is making $10.4 million this year and is arbitration eligible after this season and has been projected to make upwards of $14 million in 2013 – or roughly twice what Shin-Soo Choo is expected to make.
You know what they say – some of the best deals are the ones not made. When all is said and done, the Indians just may come out as winners in these two deals that didn’t happen.
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