By: T.J. Zuppe
The Cleveland Indians swung a deal on Saturday afternoon, landing infielder Mike Aviles and catcher / infielder Yan Gomes from the Toronto Blue Jays. In return, the Tribe dealt middle-reliever Esmil Rogers north of the border.
Connecting the Dots
Honestly, there was only one thought that crossed my mind when learning of the deal between Cleveland and Toronto; could the acquisition of Aviles mean that all-star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is expendable?
While general manager Chris Antonetti was quick to state Cabrera is their everyday shortstop during a conference call with the media (pointing rather to depth and versatility as a reason for the trade) , he did state another key set of words, "right now."
Before making the deal with Toronto, trading Cabrera seemed like a difficult proposition for the Tribe. Though they could sell high on the offensive-minded shortstop - and maybe even land some needed starting pitching in return - the organization was lacking a serious starting option behind him.
With Aviles, 31, now in the mix, having started 128 games at short for the Boston Red Sox in 2012, Cleveland now has a better back-up option than incumbents Jason Donald or Brent Lillibridge.
That could potentially make Cabrera available for the right price.
Top prospect Francisco Lindor is still at least two years away from making an impact at the major league level. If Lindor is ready to make his splash with the big league club in 2015, it would coincide with the first year Aviles is eligible to hit the free-agent market.
Aviles is more affordable than Cabrera and the current Tribe shortstop may never see his value as high as it is now.
Could Aviles keep the position warm until Lindor is ready? What could Cabrera - one of the Tribe's biggest trade pieces - net them in a deal? Enough to entice the Wahoos to swing something?
All interesting propositions that arise with the Aviles pick-up despite Antonetti saying he anticipated Cabrera would be the Indians opening day shortstop in 2013. Consider me just a bit skeptical.
More About Aviles
Aviles hit .250 with the Boston Red Sox last season, spending the majority of the season as their starting shortstop. He had recently been included in the deal that sent John Farrell back to Boston to become their new manager.
The five-year major leaguer has spent time with the Kansas City Royals, in addition to the Red Sox.
He responded decently when given every day at-bats in Boston last season, hitting .250 with 13 home runs and 60 RBI. He swiped 14 bases in 2012.
What might appeal to the Tribe brass most? In addition to his right-handed bat, something the Indians need nearly everywhere, but Aviles hits left-handed pitchers pretty well.
In 2012, the infielder hit .286 against lefties. In his career, he is a .295 hitter against south-paws.
However, the most alarming statistic? His on-base percentage. Last year, Aviles got on at a .282 clip and in his career he is just a shade over .300 in on-base percentage.
Maybe the most shocking stat is his career walk total which currently stands at only 78. Walk this way? Hardly.
If the Tribe ends up holding onto Cabrera, Aviles at least provides some strength to a weak bench and gives Terry Francona - a man somewhat familiar with Aviles - some versatility.
As for Gomes, Antonetti views him primarily as a catcher with the potential to break camp with the big league club next season.
While it will be difficult to completely handicap the deal until we see what other dominos fall, it is unfortunate to lose Rogers. The young reliever showed some promise after being acquired last season from the Colorado Rockies.
He may have found his niche in the pen after struggling as a starter. His lively arm showed some flashes of brilliance in 2012.
While Antonetti viewed trading Rogers as dealing from a position of strength, relief pitching is certainly an area a club loves to have a surplus of depth.
Overall, if the move sets off a chain reaction of other trades, those deals could push the needle more into the positive for the Tribe. Right now, it appears to have weakened one area while improving another.
For now, we wait.
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