Playing GM is a mini article series, in which I, Alex Peters, play out my wildest dreams and (hypothetically) place myself in the beautiful golden throne that is the Boston Red Sox General Manager chair. Helping me will be another Baseball Correspondent at iSportsWeb, representing their team, as we hash out potential trades both small and mega, with the Winter Meetings rapidly approaching. Think of it as Model UN but with a luxury tax.
This time, representing the Cleveland Indians: Brian Vamos
Alex: Alright Brian, here’s the deal. The Red Sox have done a good job of filling all the bigger holes in their lineup at center field, catcher, and first base. There’s one missing piece, however; they desperately need a veteran utility infielder, with the Sox planning on starting Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts.
And the Indians have such a utility infielder and a former Red Sock to boot: Mike Aviles. Aviles is basically the Jabar Gaffney of the MLB in terms of my absolutely irrational love for him, but in this case he fills a great need. Aviles can play every infield position if needed to.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. What do the Indians think of their infielders, namely Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, and Lonnie Chisenhall?
Brian: I have to admit, Alex, as the reigning champs, I was a bit surprised to see the Sox generating so much buzz early in the offseason. I felt it was the right move to let Ellsbury walk (even if he is now set to suit up in pinstripes for the Evil Empire), and the rest of the club’s recent moves should keep them in contention.
The Tribe, on the other hand, have been relatively quiet since making an early exit from the 2013 postseason. The signing of David Murphy signaled the end of any possible difference-making bat in right to join the offensively-challenged Drew Stubbs. Additions must be made to help bolster both the starting rotation and the bullpen, as the losses of guys like Scott Kazmir, Joe Smith, and Ubaldo Jimenez to free agency certainly present an obvious need for pitching help.
Things get are a little tricky with the Indians’ infield. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera had a mediocre 2013 season, to say the least, and many are under the assumption that his best playing days are now behind him. I’m not sure that is fully the case, but I’m not expecting a total reversal of fortunes next year, either.
A vast majority of fans have lost their patience with third basemen Lonnie Chisenhall, who has been a major disappointment both at the dish and in the field up to this point in his young career. The front office still claims it boasts a great deal of optimism for the 25-year-old, with the recently signed David Cooper (a former Toronto prospect) providing depth.
But enough about them…Aviles seems to be your target here.
Alex: Ugh don’t even mention David Murphy, who the Sox traded for Eric Freakin’ Gagne and immediately turned into a viable hitter. Wish we could have that one back.
As for Cabrera, I agree that he seems to be the iffiest player on the Indians’ infield. But I know the Indians are super-high on Francisco Lindor, and that Cabrera is really just a place-holder at this point for the uber-talented 20-year-old.
Which is why I think the Indians might be alright giving up Aviles, and why a deal with the Red Sox might be a good deal. It’s not an earth-shattering trade on the level of bringing in Matt Kemp or another huge-upside slugger, but Aviles is the perfect plug-and-play infielder to help this Red Sox team.
My question is, what would the Indians be looking for in return? Obviously, with Terry Francona helming the Indians, they’ll have a bit more insight on the Red Sox prospects than other teams. Or would they be looking for a more established, major-league ready player?
Brian: Eric Gagne…Talk about a guy who fell off the face of the Earth.
Anyways, you’re spot-on with Lindor. The kid has a big-league ready glove, and his offensive game appears to be just on the cusp, as well. Tito & Co. are not oblivious to this. Remember, the club nearly traded Cabrera to St. Louis during the Winter Meetings last December (at least that’s what was tossed around the rumor mill).
And while Cabrera – who has the skills necessary to bounce back at least a little bit from his dismal 2013 season - seems to have a higher ceiling than Aviles, I wouldn’t call it certain. Given the apparent timetable of Lindor’s track to the big leagues, it looks as if the Tribe will really only need Cabrera for about one more year, anyway, making the role of a veteran fill-in, such as Aviles, that much more important down the road. Keep in mind that he is signed through next season, with a club option in 2015.
That’s why I believe the asking price for Aviles would be a bit higher than one might anticipate. Pitching is the name of the game, and the Indians are seeking some help in both the rotation and the ‘pen. I’m thinking a young bullpen/future middle-to-back of the rotation arm who may be a year or two away from truly impacting a big league ball club.
The Sox are loaded with pitching prospects, and they’ll definitely be reluctant to unload any of them – and I don’t blame them. Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Trey Ball…the list goes on and on. While all three of those guys warrant a return greater than that of just Aviles, there’s got to be another young arm that they’d be willing to trade.
Alex: Unfortunately Brian, while it is true that the Red Sox have a wealth of pitching prospects, they’re going to be really reluctant to let any of them go. Looking at what pitchers like Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana are asking for on the open market, a homegrown, club-controlled ace is the most prized commodity in baseball.
For Aviles, the Red Sox are never going to give up any of the pitchers you mentioned, and same goes for Henry Owens, Allen Webster, Brandon Workman, or Rubby De La Rosa. However, there are a few possible options.
One pitcher who may or may not be of use to the Indians is Franklin Morales. The 27-year-old Morales struggled a bit with injuries last year, but was extremely useful in 2012 as a spot starter/long reliever and lefty specialist. At this point, Morales has fallen behind Craig Breslow and Andrew Miller on the southpaw depth chart and may appreciate a change of scenery.
A quick digression: the Indians seem to be more comfortable with Carlos Santana at 1B/DH, which I’m guessing means that Yan Gomes will be the starter. Could the Indians be interested in Ryan Lavarnway as a potential backup?
Brian: Couldn’t have said it better myself. I knew those names I mentioned previously were pretty much out of the question, but I like the idea of bringing in Morales. Left-handed relief pitching was a major weakness for the Tribe last season, and though Morales is no sure thing, I feel that he could make a solid impact on the big league roster immediately as a long-relief specialist.
His value is also boosted by the fact that he can fill in for a spot start every now and then, a trait that could come in handy as a flurry of young hurlers will surely battle it out for the team’s final rotation spot for the early part of the season.
The Indians do plan to use Santana at both first base and DH quite often this upcoming season, especially considering Francona has announced that Gomes will be the club’s starting catcher in 2014. Santana will still likely get some time behind the dish, but long-time backup Lou Marson – who battled all sorts of injuries last season – is no longer a member of the team. So, bringing in Lavarnway makes sense, but only at the right price.
Alex: Alright then, Brian. Here’s my offer:
Boston receives IF Mike Aviles
Cleveland receives LHP Franklin Morales
What do you think of that?
Brian: Unfortunately, I believe the front office and – more importantly – the club’s skipper value the versatility of Aviles a bit too much to pull the trigger on this one. If Chisenhall were to prove that he’s really turned a corner at third base early in the season, though, this would be a trade discussion that could certainly be picked up again in May or June.
Another thought: What would the Sox want in return for Lavarnway?
Alex: Oof you’re driving a hard bargain, Brian. If I’m the Sox brass, Lavarnway and Morales for just Aviles is really tough to swallow. Even if he’s not highly touted in the Sox system, he still hit hit .299 with 8 XBH in his 25-game stint in the majors, and is an easy replacement should one of the Old Dogs go need a break.
Say the bare bones of this deal is Lavarnway and Morales for Aviles. Is there anything the Indians can do to sweeten the pot a bit?
Brian: The Indians lack depth in their farm system, though the middle infield positions are well-represented throughout all levels of the minors. The one guy who may now be on the outside looking in with the recent re-signing of former Blue Jay first-round pick David is 23-year-old Jesus Aguilar, who showed great power potential in Double-A last season.
However, adding him would also require a bit more in return. And given the club’s non-dire need for a backup catcher, considering Santana’s ability to provide rest for Gomes when needed, Lavarnway is probably not someone the Indians would really covet at this point.
What about Boston lefty Chris Hernandez? He’s 24, has a little bit of ‘pen experience, and could reach the big leagues in the upcoming season. He doesn’t seem to be in too many discussions as far as young hurlers that the Red Sox seriously covet at this point, so I’m curious…
Boston gets Aviles.
Cleveland gets pitchers Franklin Morales and Chris Hernandez.
Alex: Damnit, Brian.
Chris Hernandez has definitely flown a bit under the radar, especially next to the rapidly ascending trio of Barnes/Ranaudo/Owens. But even if he doesn’t project as a starter (which is hard to believe considering his tremendous success at Miami), Hernandez could be the next young lefty specialist in the Sox pen.
But…as I said before, there’s a crowded line waiting to be next up in the Red Sox rotation. It sucks to see a young talent like Hernandez go, but I’d so much rather have a player like Mike Aviles than more expensive/iffy options like Michael Young, etc.
It’s a tough one, but deal accepted.
But what do you think? Is this a good deal for the Sox? A steal for the Indians? Leave your suggested deals in the comments, or any suggestions for other players across the league the Sox should pursue.
You can read more of Brian Vamos here at iSportsWeb. Keep an eye out for the final installment of Playing GM on Thursday morning.