Cleveland and Kansas City match up for their fourth series of the season. The Royals are 4-5 overall, winning the last two series after dumping the dreadful home opening series.
To get an update on the Tribe, I exchanged some questions with Lewie Pollis, the editor of Wahoo’s On First, FanSided’s Cleveland Indians site:
The Indians are in that awkward spot where they’re close enough to make a move and try to hang in the race, but could also read the writing on the wall and start selling. What do you want them to do?
The best trade the Indians could make right now would be one that improves their chances of winning now but is also focused on 2013 and 2014. Just based on the state of the roster and the high demand for premium closers, it would make a lot of sense to trade Chris Perez for a young, cost-controlled outfielder or first baseman (my first choice is Peter Bourjos).
We don’t have any desirable spare parts whose losses wouldn’t haunt us next year and we’re not really in a position to make a big upgrade. So really it’s more a matter of finding a team whose strengths and weaknesses match up with ours than of “buying” or “selling.”
There had been rumors of Justin Masterson being on the block as well as Chris Perez and even Shin Soo-Choo. What return would the Indians be after to reload the system’s talent pool?
For Perez, it would be a young, cost-controlled hitter who we can plug into our lineup right now. I don’t have a specific deal in mind for Choo or Masterson, but I would demand a package of high-ceiling MLB-ready impact talent. Even if we’re punting 2012, we’re still supposed to contend in 2013; it’s hard to imagine us making a serious run at the playoffs without our ace, and even if Choo wasn’t a star (which he is) we have no one else who can play right field every day.
Perez? If you can find a good deal, go ahead and pull the trigger. Vinnie Pestano can step in for the ninth inning. But selling off guys like Choo and Masterson doesn’t make sense. Unless we’re totally blowing it up and starting another rebuilding cycle, they’re probably worth more to us than they would be to another team.
What’s the organization saying about the path of Francisco Lindor and are fans hoping to see him rise quickly or to demonstrate he’s mastered each level before being bumped up?
They’re in no hurry. Asdrubal Cabrera is signed through 2014 so there’s no immediate need for a shortstop, and Lindor is only 18 years old. I’m not exactly sure how they’ll handle things as he rises through the minors—a lot can happen between Single-A and The Show, and that will probably become clearer in the next year or two. Most Tribe fans seem happy just salivating over his potential and aren’t too worried about rushing him through the system.
The Royals have been able to score some runs in their three series against Cleveland this year. Who do you want the staff to pitch around most?
Billy Butler. You guys have a lot of promising young bats, but none of them scare me like Butler. Any chance he can come down with a completely benign and painless injury that will keep him out of action until the end of the series?
On that note, who’s taking the mound this series, and what do you think they’ll do this time around?
First up is Derek Lowe (5.09 ERA, 4.69 SIERA), and I don’t think many Tribe fans are looking forward to that one. He doesn’t strike anyone out (seriously, he has a 3.1 K/9 rate) so he depends on inducing weak grounders with his sinker. It worked out great for the first month or so, but he’s been rocked to the tune of an 8.07 ERA in his last 11 starts (you read that right—this is a long slump). Much as I hate to say it, he hasn’t given us any reason to expect an improvement this time out.
Next is Zach McAllister (3.18 ERA, 3.62 SIERA), who (with apologies to Masterson) has been the Tribe’s best pitcher this year. After taking more of a pitch-to-contact approach in the minors he’s suddenly remembered how to strike batters out. He tends to be fairly homer prone (he gives up a lot of fly balls) and for what it’s worth he’s already allowed 10 unearned runs in 62.1 innings, but he’s the closest thing we have to a stopper right now. Pencil the Tribe in for a win when he pitches.
In the series finale you’ll draw Josh Tomlin (5.87 ERA, 4.59 SIERA). He’s what I like to call inherently inconsistent: he’s a soft-tossing pitch-to-contact hurler who gives up a ton of fly balls. Sometimes he makes it work, but since his success is based on so many things going right it’s very easy for his outings to end poorly. Get ready to swing because you’re not going to walk (he’s given up only one free pass in July), but the plus side for Kansas City is that you can swing for the fences. A bunch of good young hitters like the Royals will probably be able to tee off.