You start thinking about the Indians’ needs, who can be had before the trading deadline, the resources you can afford to part with, how much of a burden you can place on the budget, and your head is likely to start spinning like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist.
That was just a movie. This is real. Just ask General Manager Chris Antonetti, whose contact list is filled with numbers of rival GMs, all willing to help sort out this mess if he will only acquiesce to the “reasonable” demands of his potential trading partners.
The first thing Antonetti has to figure out is what kind of player he should be chasing. Shouldn’t that be easy? Look at the numbers.
Does the Tribe need a starting pitcher? Doesn’t every team? How about a reliever or even two? Nobody’s bullpen is perfect. That goes for the offense, inasmuch as at least seven Tribe hitters are on track to strike out more than 100 times and a couple (you know who they are) undoubtedly will push the 200 barrier.
Conventional wisdom holds that the Indians should look for a starting pitcher. After all, there is nobody named Scherzer, Wainright or Harvey on the roster. And these are the kinds of pitchers that teams with postseason aspirations covet.
There are a couple of problems. Aside from the possible exception of Cliff Lee — and the Phillies don’t seem to be peddling him — nobody with the label of “ace” is on the trading block. Even if Lee were to be dealt away, Antonetti would be responsible for paying about $75 million in guaranteed money through 2016.
Maybe the Phillies would help out a little but very little. This is just a guess, but I’m suggesting the Tribe is unwilling to spend that kind of cash on Lee or anyone else.
That doesn’t mean there are no starters who might make a positive impact on the rotation. Among the pitchers said to be available are Matt Garza, Ricky Nolasco, Bud Norris and Jake Peavy.
How much talent would Antonetti be willing to give up for Garza or Nolasco, who can become free agents when the season ends? Probably not a lot. If he acquired Norris, the Tribe could keep him the rest of this season and the next two before free agency became an issue, but the Astros will be looking for at least two prime prospects plus a suspect who has a chance.
The only trouble with Peavy is that he isn’t pitching. He is recovering from a fractured rib and might be ready to come back soon. Will he be ready to show the best of Peavy immediately? Will it take two months to regain an edge? Maybe it will be soon. Big risk.
I’m also thinking that trying to snag a starter isn’t the best course of action for the Indians, anyway. Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister, who should be off the disabled list in couple of weeks, have had their moments.
There is raw ability lurking in the arms of all five starters. Inconsistency, too. And none of these guys has been tested in the postseason, except Kazmir. But what is Antonetti going to do, find five veterans who have been to the World Series?
Considering the options, it might be better if Antonetti goes with what he has and crosses his fingers. That doesn’t cost anything in talent or money. And unless he finds at least a No. 2 starter, adding to the rotation probably isn’t going to be the difference between making the playoffs and going home.
That’s kind of the situation with the lineup, which can be lethal if Mark Reynolds is sending missiles over the fence semi-regularly and Drew Stubbs is making consistent contact.
The lineup is more than serviceable, but it’s far from lethal. Maybe it doesn’t have to be. Several guys can run, and there are some who have the knack for getting timely hits: Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn and Carlos Santana.
There also are not many impact hitters on the market. Or at least not yet, though Justin Morneau might look good in a Wahoo cap. Morneau can be a free agent when the season is over, so that would be a complicating factor, in addition to what the Twins would be willing to take for him.
My thinking might run contrary to Antonetti’s, but isn’t the Tribe’s most pressing need to fortify a bullpen that too often has stumbled?
The relief corps was expected to be the strongest, most unassailable part of the team when the season began, with a lock down closer in Chris Perez; a setup man who almost never fails in Vinnie Pestano, and a seventh-inning specialist in Joe Smith, who came into his own last year in a big way.
Both Perez and Pestano have had too many meltdown moments, at least in part because of injuries. In fact, I keep wondering if pain is keeping them from being at their best. They say no, and I have to take their word for it.
Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw are the next in line to move up the ladder. Both can throw in the mid-90s, but both are in the infancy of their careers and it shows.
At the very least, the club needs protection at the back end of the bullpen. One of Tribe manager Terry Francona’s strengths is manipulating his relievers, getting them all involved without risking fatigue. But no skipper can manage unless he has at least four relievers he can count on.
Jonathan Papelbon has been talked about as a guy who might be moved. That’s all well and good, but he is due $32 million the next two years and has a $13 million vesting option for 2016, so never mind.
Jesse Crain would be a welcome addition to the Tribe bullpen, but he just went on the DL with a shoulder strain. It might not be serious, but it could be one of those nagging kinds of things.
Frankly, I don’t know all the relievers who can be pried loose from their clubs, but Antonetti does. Or at least he will soon. That’s the list I would look at first then make sure my cellphone is fully charged.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.