We've given much attention, deservedly so, to the implications of trading CC Sabathia. And the final decision to trade Sabathia seemed clear-cut, as the talent, especially if you consider proximity to the majors, the Indians received back from Milwaukee far exceeds the talent the Indians would have gotten from 2009 compensatory draft picks.
But for the Indians' other pending free agents, the trade-offs are murkier.
Casey Blake. I'm assuming that the Indians don't know if they'll make an effort to bring Blake back - if they do, then ignore whatever follows. As much as we like to rag on Blake (though it's really more about how he's been used than his abilities), he's been a nice player for the Indians. You could even make the argument that he's the best signing Mark Shapiro's made in his tenure as General Manager; for roughly $10M, the Indians have gotten six seasons of mostly above-average offense along with positional flexibility. And to top it off, if a couple things fall correctly, the Indians could get two high draft picks to boot.
Based on last year's Elias Rankings, Casey's a good bet to be a Type A free agent; he was rated the top Type B player in his position grouping (2B, SS, 3B) last November. That means if the Indians offer Blake arbitration, he refuses, and then signs with another team, the Indians will be getting a first round pick (with restrictions) and a sandwich pick in next year's draft. What we don't know is whether the Indians want to keep Blake or not, though how Andy Marte does the rest of this year should have a lot to say about that.
But while these internal discussions take place, teams will be interested in trading for Blake, if not as a starting third baseman, then as a first baseman, outfielder, or a combination of the three. Enough value where "giving up" the draft picks may be palatable. The trade would free up third base for Andy Marte the rest of the season, something that should be very high on the Indians' list of goals for the rest of 2008. If the trade value doesn't reach that imaginary tipping point, then the Indians should keep Blake around, but move him to the outfield if need be so that the requisite infield auditions can take place.
Paul Byrd. Byrd looks like a borderline Type B free agent, which means that the Indians would receive a sandwich pick if certain things happen. The Indians probably aren't bringing him back at market rate, so if someone offers Cleveland a decent prospect and picks up his salary, he'll be dealt. Dealing him would make the rotation even shakier, but unfortunately short-term success isn't a priority now.
Jamey Carroll. The Indians have a $2.5M club option on him, which I wouldn't recommend picking up. But the option could be useful to entice someone to give up a low-level prospect for him. At some point the Indians are going to bring back Asdrubal Cabrera, and Josh Barfield should be off the DL sometime in August. Again, unless the Indians think that spending $2.5M on a backup second baseman is a good deal, they should actively try to trade him.
Scott Elarton, Sal Fasano. No trade value.