The Indians haven't been making much noise in the Winter Meetings thus far, at least nothing concrete.
They're waiting on Santana. They've talked with Austin Jackson. They signed Alexi Ogando I suppose — he was good once. But the main chatter has been around the idea of trading building blocks of their current greatness. First, Jason Kipnis to the Mets, which I wrote about earlier this week, to this Danny Salazar chatter. I totally understand the Indians being open to trades. But these two in particular, they make no sense.
With the economic situation Cleveland maintains, there is literally no trade they can't at least entertain for a moment or two. The most depressing part about pro sports (and even moreso things like college football) is the treating of human beings as assets, as resources to be exploited. Though I guess everyone in a large company is that anyway, that's why there's a Human Resources department. Extracting surplus value from workers is the essence of capitalism. Even in as rich a world as pro sports, teams like the Indians can't afford to get romantic over players. Not like the Yankees, who can hand out “thank you” contracts for farewell tours. Fan favorites exist because they're good, but the club itself can't get tied up in that. If a good enough offer came across for Corey Kluber or even Francisco Lindor, the Tribe would have to take it. Those don't actually exist, but in a strange hypothetical world, you can almost imagine it. .
Which is why both these trade rumors confuse me. Cleveland wants to get value for their under-control players, bring something back that can help down the line. Several vital pieces of the 102 win team we just watched came through deft moves and hoodwinks. As I wrote the other day, it's hard to hoodwink someone with a near-replacement performing player who just lost his own position. So too with Salazar. He basically lost his rotation spot to Mike Clevinger and Josh Tomlin because he can't stay on the field consistently. This past year when he was able to pitch he was all over the place. Yes, he throws nearly 100, and his split-change makes batters spin themselves into a crater. But he simply wasn't that effective in 2017. Steve Dalkowski could throw a ball through a brick wall, but that alone didn't make him a major leaguer.
The Indians could point to those qualities the best version of Salazar has and use that to trade him. If that's the case, and it actually works, you'd expect a team like the Cubs to come back with Ian Happ or Kyle Schwarber. These teams are dealing from pretty even hands, information-wise. It's hard to think the Cubs at this point have some kind of secret trove of information or method of pitcher saving that the Indians don't. They did turn Jake Arrieta into a Cy Young winner, though how much of that was simply escaping the starter's hell of Baltimore, who knows. They know what the Indians know though, less even since they don’t get to see Salazar every day. They can see the massive difference in FIP and ERA, the elevated BABIP, and of course the insane strikeout numbers and whatever Statcast-y metrics teams don’t let the public see. But also the health, the wildness, home run-prone stints. For all the potential, there's a lot of ugly.
That's why a trade of him makes no sense unless the Indians want to bring back some mid-grade prospects. Selling low is exactly what they shouldn't be doing. So why would they trade two of their better players now, when they have less value? Just because they need roster space? Salazar wants to build his value as much as the Indians want him to. Instead of moving him, maybe now is the time to have htat reliever conversation. Surely he's seen the money thrown at shutdown guys in free agency. He knows his arm has a clock on it, why not stretch that out by moving to the 'pen?
This could all be colored by the glimmer of my own fandom, that I’d rather see these players I’ve grown accustomed to turn it around. But in a realistic sense, it makes none to trade guys in Kipnis’ or Salazar’s case. The Indians would enter every conversation at a disadvantage. That alone should preclude any decisions. That and, again, 100 miles an hour with a silly changeup. Let these guys rebuild their value and contribute on the cheap to the Tribe. There are moves they could make — before Marcell Ozuna got traded I imagined something involving him and Bradley Zimmer and other bits that didn’t scare me too much, or something similar with Zimmer and Christian Yelich — but dumping dinged up players at pennies on the dollar when there’s still meat on thebone isn’t one of them. I’d think my esteem of the Indians front office isn’t too misplaced. But dumber trades have happened.