A parent club rarely makes the kind of off-season additions to its major league club that the Indians have this winter without having to dip deep into their pool of minor league prospects.
Yet, with Tribe general manager Mark Shapiro admitting he’s likely done dealing with players set to begin reporting to spring training next month, much-needed additions such as closer Kerry Wood, third baseman Mark DeRosa, starting pitcher Carl Pavano and reliever Joe Smith may have cost the club a wad of cash, but little by way of bodies.
In fact, the Indians traded just one significant minor leaguer in sending right-hander Jeff Stevens to the Chicago Cubs in the DeRosa package, while throwing in two unproven low-level pitchers in right-hander Chris Archer and lefty John Gaub.
Stevens, 25, was the player-to-be-named in the Tribe’s knee-jerk 2006 trade that sent shortstop Brandon Phillips to Cincinnati. Between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Buffalo last season, Stevens went 5-4 with six saves with a 3.24 ERA in 36 games. He also participated for Team USA in the Beijing Olympic Games.
But Stevens – who will likely make his major league debut in the Cubs bullpen sometime this upcoming season – isn’t even among Baseball America’s Indians Top Ten Prospects.
And while the Indians recent addition of Yankee’s four-year flop Pavano meant having to designate for assignment former No. 1 pick (11th overall in 2003) Michael Aubrey to clear room on the 40-man roster, it was a move that make sense long term.
“When he’s healthy, he hits,” Shapiro said of Aubrey, who finally made his major league debut last season after missing large chucks of nearly every season battling one injury after another since turning pro.
“He’s undergone a lot of injuries over a lot of time. It was a tough call emotionally. But from a standpoint of looking at it objectively and with the depth that we have at first base, it made the most sense.”
While every club’s goal is to nurture their own home-grown players in hopes they will become the foundation of future major league teams, dipping into the farm system to make necessary trades is a part of the game.
Some organizations walk that fine line without much care, too preoccupied with the player they’re getting as opposed to those they’re forced to give up in return. This off-season, Shapiro and his staff have handled that delicate balance better than most.