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Cleveland Indians

Trading away the Tribe

By jcfortun Published: May 18, 2009

Plenty of rumors have already swirled this season as the Indians carry the worst record in the American League and the second worst in all of baseball.

If the Indians continue their downward slide who might be traded away for top of the line (pitching) prospects?

We have already heard the Cliff Lee rumors plenty of times this season, now by SI's John Heyman.   

There are arguments on both sides.

Despite the horrific start, the Indians are not  yet out of the race in a weak central division. If Lee were traded he would bring more in the offseason where there is a weak group of starting pitchers in free agency.  

Lee's contract is a still a bargain at five million this season and 8 million the next.

Who really wants to trade top of the rotation lefties in back-to-back seasons?

Lee is a viable option to be traded if the Indians go that way and Fox sports Ken Rosenthal points out another: Victor Martinez. 

The Indians are not looking to move either player. They would gauge interest only if they fell completely out of contention. And even then, they doubt that any club would offer enough value in return.

Among rival clubs, however, there is a growing expectation that the Indians soon might explore the market for Martinez, a switch-hitter who leads the majors with a .401 batting average.

At least one club — the Red Sox — already has been in contact with the Indians about Martinez, according to two major-league sources.

Dealing Martinez would make more sense than trading Lee, but the Indians are steadfast, for right now at least, in building the team around Martinez.

Why would trading Martinez make more sense? The Indians have a decent amount of depth behind Martinez at catcher with Kelly Shoppach and Carlos Santana, who is the team's top prospect according to Baseball America.

As a first baseman and designated hitter, Martinez is in a talent pool that is just as crowded. Ryan Garko, Matt LaPorta, Travis Hafner and Double A prospect Beau Mills all provide plenty of depth at the position.

As a first baseman or designated hitter, Martinez does lose some value.

As of right now Martinez demands top value as a premium offensive catcher, especially since he is currently leading all of baseball in batting average. As a trade chip Martinez could get the Indians  a top of the line prospect and a few other high value players. 

As evidenced this year, the Indians are not deep in pitching throughout the organization. Any trade would have to come with top-shelf pitching prospects.

Could the Indians afford to part with the leadership skills Martinez brings?

Another rumor that has been floated around this season is trading Mark DeRosa, who many teams would value because of his versatility and because his contract ends this offseason. I always think of DeRosa as a better version of Casey Blake

To think Blake netted Santana and Jon Meloan from the Dodgers last year, DeRosa may be able to bring in a quality prospect or two as well.  

And while I haven't read any rumors on this myself, I'll throw this name out there too: Jhonny Peralta

This is all speculation on my part and I am writing this to more or less spark a debate, but the shortstop turned third baseman, who could move back to shortstop (Who really knows with this team right now?) will see his value diminish as a third baseman for the same reasons as Martinez: Peralta is at an offensive premium as a shortstop, his numbers become more ordinary at third. Although he hasn't hit as well this season yet.

If Asdrubal Cabrera continues to hit as well as he has this season, He is a virtual lock to stay at shortstop as he is a much better defender than Peralta.

Would Peralta press the Indians to trade him to a team that still values him as a shortstop? Would the Indians be inclined to trade Peralta before he is a permanent lock at third base, thus keeping his value high as a premium shortstop? 

The Indians do have alternatives at third base as DeRosa can play all over and started the season at third. Jamey Carroll is versatile as well.

Triple A third baseman Wes Hodges, who is currently on the disabled list, may not be ready to produce at the major league level, but that could be a moot point as former first round pick Lonnie Chisenhall (currently play at Single A Kinston) may be the future at the position. 

I am not completely sure what Peralta could fetch in the trade market, as his defensive skill set is worrisome. Offensively, Peralta is a middle infielder with a right-handed power bat. A lot of teams could covet that. It would depend on how the Indians leverage his trade value. A permanent move to third may hurt that value.  

Contract wise, Peralta would be fairly easy to move. 

Here is how Peralta's contract breaks down for the rest of his contract, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts:

2009: $3.4M
2010: $4.6M
2011: $7M 2011 club option ($0.25M buyout)

What do you think?

Will the Indians trade anyone?

Should they trade anyone?

If so, who?

[poll id="6"]

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