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Evaluating Mark Shapiro's biggest trades as Cleveland Indians general manager

Between 2001-2009, Mark Shapiro served as general manager of the Cleveland Indians. In that time, he made several trades that helped shape the team, even to this day.

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If five years is the standard time needed to evaluate a trade, now is the perfect time to look back at the trades made while Mark Shapiro was general manager of the Cleveland Indians. Shapiro, who will be taking over as Toronto Blue Jays president following the 2015 season, was the Tribe’s GM from 2001 to 2009. In that span, he won Executive of the Year twice in 2005 and 2007 and made several trades that shaped the Indians during that time. Trades that still have ripples to this day.

These deals are organized solely in ascending chronological order. If you feel that I missed any, feel free to throw them, and your thoughts, in the comments.

2002: Chuck Finley FOR Luis Garcia and PTBNL Coco Crisp

Coco Crisp may have only spent four seasons with the Indians, but two of them put this trade in the win column for Shapiro. The Indians GM traded half a season of starting pitcher Chuck Finley for two excellent seasons of Coco Crisp, who was worth 4.0 fWAR and 5.2 fWAR in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

Crisp’s strength -- particularly in 2005 -- was his defense, but he carried a good enough bat to make him an asset in the lineup as well. In 2004, he got on base at a .344 clip with 15 home runs, and he had a .345 OBP in 2005 along with another 16 home runs.

2002: Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew FOR Lee Stevens, Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, and Grady Sizemore

Oh boy. The highlight of Shapiro’s trades came early on in his GM tenure. This trade alone arguably set the Tribe up for a decade of success, with one of their best pitchers and their best position player coming from a single pitcher closing in on 30 years old. Even Brandon Phillips, who did not do much of anything on the Indians, turned out to be an All-Star second baseman -- just on the Cincinnati Reds.

Grady Sizemore, if you really need to be reminded of this again, had the potential to be one of the best Indians players of the decade, if not all time. Once he got rolling in 2005, it did not seem like he would ever stop. His 5.6 fWAR that year was passed a year later when he was worth 7.9 fWAR, and then he "declined" to 6.4 fWAR and again rose back up in 2008 with a 7.4 fWAR. All the while, he was hitting 20-plus home runs and stealing 20-plus bases while playing excellent defense in center field. A series of devastating injuries cut his peak tragically short, however, and he would never play more than 112 games or be worth more than 2.5 fWAR in an Indians uniform again.

Although Cliff Lee’s peak with the Indians came later and did not last quite as long, he was worth an impressive 6.7 fWAR in 2008 and held only a 2.54 ERA over 31 starts for the Tribe. He was traded midway through the following season.

2002: Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese FOR Travis Hafner and Aaron Myette

Coming early on in the GM years for the Shapiro, this trade would help set the stage for the Cleveland Indians teams that would provide the highest of hopes and the most crushed of dreams in the mid- to late-2000s. Between 2004 and 2006, Hafner was worth 16 fWAR and hit 103 home runs. He, along with Grady Sizemore, helped give the Indians one hell of a playoff run in 2007, where they were one win away from giving the franchise their first World Series trip since 1997.

Einar Diaz, on the other hand, would play only four more seasons in the Majors for four different teams. Between the Texas Rangers, Montreal Expos, St. Louis Cardinals, and Los Angeles Dodgers, he was worth positive fWAR twice -- 0.1 fWAR in 2003 and 0.1 fWAR in 2006.

2006: Eduardo Perez FOR Asdrubal Cabrera

This is another case of the Indians not getting a ton of value until you look at whom they traded. Eduardo Perez was only on the Indians for half a season, but Shapiro was able to parlay him into Asdrubal Cabrera, who would wind up being the Tribe’s starting shortstop for the better part of a decade.

Sure, looking at Cabrera now is painful, given how atrocious his defense got in the latter years of his time in Cleveland, but there was a time when his bat carried his defense. In particular, Asdrubal came up big in 2011, hitting 25 home runs with a wRC+ of 119. His 3.6 fWAR could go down as his career peak season unless he surprises the Tampa Bay Rays (or whatever other season signs him after this season).

While not a trade made while Shapiro was the general manager, Asdrubal was later dealt in 2014 to the Washington Nationals for Zach Walters. The book is still out on Walters, but the Tribe acquired him for one of Cabrera’s worst half-seasons in his career, so the bar is not too high.

2006: Ben Broussard and cash FOR Shin-Soo Choo and PTBNL Shawn Nottingham

Over a three-year span in Cleveland, outfielder Shin-Soo Choo was one of the best table-setters in the league. Hitting mostly from the leadoff spot, Choo was worth 3.2 fWAR in 2008, 5.0 fWAR in 2009, and 6.0 fWAR in 2010. He would trail off in his final two seasons in Cleveland before leaving to play for the Cincinnati Reds, but considering the Indians only traded Ben Broussard (a player who passed 1.0 fWAR only once in his career) and cash, the trade is an easy win for Shapiro.

2008: CC Sabathia FOR Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson, and PTBNL Michael Brantley

For a while, this trade had the potential to be a disaster. Granted, the Indians only gave up half a year of Sabathia, but the return they got looked horrid for several years. The big name of the trade was, of course, Matt LaPorta. It was not long after joining the Indians that LaPorta was unofficially designated an "AAAA" type player; always outperforming the competition in Triple-A, but falling flat on his face in the Majors.

LaPorta was worth -1.4 fWAR over 291 games for the Indians between 2009 and 2012. He never surfaced in the Majors again after 2012, although he spent some time in the Mexican League in 2014 before retiring from baseball entirely.

What appears to make this trade fall on the good sign for Shapiro is some no-name PTBNL that was tacked onto the deal. We now know him as Dr. Smooth himself, Michael Brantley. Even Brantley himself did not look that great of a return at first, being worth -1.2 fWAR over his first two seasons in the Majors. His big breakout season came in 2014 when he hit for a .327/.385/.506 slash with 20 home runs and an fWAR of 6.2. Despite a lingering back injury, he is continuing to produce this year, with his 2015 wRC (145) nearly as good as last year’s wRC (153).

2008: Casey Blake and cash FOR Carlos Santana and Jonathan Meloan

On paper, this trade looks like straight highway robbery. Shapiro was able to trade an aging Casey Blake for a catcher-turned-first-baseman that is capable of hitting 20 home runs and getting on base at a .360 clip in any given season. However, in essence, this is similar to the trade that the Indians made with the San Diego Padres for Corey Kluber. Neither team probably knew what they were dealing with in Kluber or Santana, and they both just clicked at the right time for the Tribe, in both cases.

2009: Cliff Lee FOR Jason Knapp, Lou Marson, Jason Donald, and Carlos Carrasco

Similar to the CC Sabathia trade, the value of this deal did not come from the big names. Pitcher Jason Knapp and catcher Lou Marson were meant as the big potential future pieces, but neither found much success in Cleveland. Marson was a serviceable backup for the Tribe, but nowhere near the replacement for Victor Martinez the team really needed. Jason Knapp wound up being one of the most disappointing players of the decade for the Tribe. The starter never made it past A-ball in the organization, and he left baseball in 2010 before resurfacing for a single minor league season in 2014.

The highlight of this deal is of course Carlos Carrasco, who is now a large part of the Indians "Big four" starting pitchers. Not only does Carrasco have the potential to be a strikeout machine of an ace, but he is also under a very team-friendly contract, which has him on the Indians potentially through 2020. In 2014, Carrasco carried a 2.55 ERA and 9.40 K/9, while this year he has a 3.53 ERA and 9.85 K/9.

Even with every other piece of the trade falling apart, it is hard to see this trade as anything less than at least a wash if Carrasco continues on his current path.

2011: Alex White and Drew Pomeranz FOR Ubaldo Jimenez

This trade is on the fringes of making this list, considering it occurred after Shapiro became team president in 2010. However, it does involve two pieces that Shapiro drafted in White and Pomeranz, and I have to think that he at least had a voice in this trade.

When the Tribe first traded Alex White and Drew Pomeranz for Colorado Rockies starter Ubaldo Jiminez, I hated it. Maybe my hatred was partially fueled by the fact that I got to watch White pitch earlier in the year and I was excited to have two potential young starting pitchers coming, but either way it had bad news written all over it.

Luckily, I am not a baseball general manager, and the move panned out at least for one glorious half-season. In 2013, Ubaldo’s final year on the Indians, he wound up being the driving force behind the Indians playoff push, with his 2.15 ERA, 2.23 FIP, and 10.43 K/9 in the second half -- including six straight starts to close out the season where he allowed two or fewer runs in every single outing.

Meanwhile, Alex White and Drew Pomeranz have not lived up to their starter potential. White made 10 starts with the Rockies in 2012 but has been bounced around in the minors since, while Pomeranz has been mostly relegated to bullpen duties, with the occasional spot start.


The short-term hate for Mark Shapiro seems to exist among some Indians fans, but his long-lasting legacy -- at least as a general manager -- will most likely be that of a GM who made several big trades that helped shaped the Cleveland Indians for a more than a decade. Many deals that put the Tribe in a position to win were made, even if it did not result in a championship every single season. However, if your expectation is a championship every single year, maybe your sights are set a bit too high.

By in large, the trades that Shapiro made as general manager -- and most of the ones made during his time as club president -- have been positive ones, which is a lot more than can be said of most team’s GMs.