Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mitch Talbot makes sense for the Cleveland Indians

Sure, I could start this off by bringing up what went wrong with regards to the Indians acquiring Mitch Talbot as the PTBNL from the Rays. I'd start with why the Indians should have dealt Kelly Shoppach after the 2008 season. I'd follow up with the abundance of teams that needed catchers THIS offseason. I'd mention that Talbot doesn't have any waivers left, so he'd have to stick with the roster all last season. I'd end by discussing how Talbot has been nothing but a quad-A starter. All would be valid points. It's not the only way to view this trade.

First and foremost, hindsight is 20/20 with regards to Kelly Shoppach. Was it really smart to trade Shoppach with Victor Martinez coming off a lost season and entering the catching age when most catcher's production begins dropping off (age 30)? Of course, now, sitting in the warmth of your home after one of the worst seasons in recent Cleveland Indians memory, it's easy to say yeah, it was a good move. It's also easy to throw out the I told you so's. The decision wasn't so easy at the end of last season with the Indians still believing they could compete. Victor turned in a solid season, and was dealt to the Red Sox when it was apparent that the Indians were finished for the year, and Shoppach had a sub-par season.

Enter this offseason, with several teams looking for catchers and the Indians sitting with one available in Kelly Shoppach. The biggest factor in dealing Shoppach was the common knowledge that the Tribe was going to non-tender the catcher to save the Indians from having to pay his likely $3 million dollar contract thanks to arbitration. Sure, you'd like to think that if teams are signing Ivan Rodriguez, Gregg Zaun and Jason Kendall, that there would be a market for Shoppach. Even if there was, what would anyone expect in return? Perhaps if you're lucky, you can nab a low-level, high-ceiling prospect, but that's assuming there were several suitors for the slugging catcher. I don't buy that there was anything more than curiousity, and a willngness for teams to wait and see if the Tribe non-tendered Shoppach, since there are several other similar middling catcher options.

The Indians end up acquiring Mitch Talbot, who was a former top prospect for the DRays, in an organization full of prospects. He struggled last season with injuries, only making 15 total starts in triple A and rehab assignments. Prior to that, Talbot was a solid triple A performer for the Durham Bulls, going 26-18 in two complete years. He has a low-90's fastball that can top out at 93 or so, and has one of the best changeups in the minors when healthy. He is out of options, which means that he'll have to make the team out of camp, or be exposed to waivers.

Combine Talbot with Hector Ambriz and Jeremy Sowers, who are also out of options, and you have three middling pitchers who must stick with the team or be likely lost either through waivers or the rule V draft. I see it as a positive under the circumstances. The Indians need to bring in starters to fill out the 2010 roster. Sure, in a perfect world, you'd like to bring your youth in to see what you have with regards to a run at a pennant in 2011. Will Hector Rondon and Carlos Carrasco have an opportunity to show their wares in 2010? If they earn it, I firmly believe they will.

Look at the Mitch Talbot trade, as well as the Hector Ambriz signing as cheaper alternatives to free-agent signings. No, these guys don't waltz into camp with any kind of pedigree, but they also don't bring in the large salary that a free-agent would command. You could even make the case that Talbot and Ambriz have more upside than bringing in a guy like Kelvim Escobar, who hasn't pitched in two years, and a better value. The bonus is that you don't overcommit to someone who won't figure into the Indians plans in 2011.

What's the worst case scenario? Talbot doesn't make the team and they have to put him through the waiver process. So what. He either won't get taken and the Indians send him to triple A, or he gets picked up by another team. Again, so what. Remember, Shoppach was going to be non-tendered anyways, and if we'd have kept Shoppach, was he going to lead us to the promised land?

So welcome Mitch Talbot, ye of middling ability. Such is the life of the 2010 Indians. As fans we can either fight it, or embrace 2010 for what it's likely to become...another lost season.

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