Well, anyone who ever said the Indians won't go for it when they have a chance is now shut up...for good.
For those of you who don't want to read the detailed analysis below let me summarize here: I am OK with the Lucroy trade but the Miller trade is not needed nor does it address the holes in our lineup. I think we could have used the prospects we used to get Miller and gotten Ryan Braun and Will Allen from the Brewers...and maybe saved a prospect or two as, in my opinion, trading great prospects to one team for essentially two trades (Lucroy and then Braun/Allen) would be cheaper than trading prospects to two different teams where each team had to justify what they were giving up. Getting Miller was great but it was like collecting duplicates of baseball cards. Yeah, it's nice to have them but it doesn't really complete your collection, does it? Unless the Indians KNOW that Brantley is going to come back 100% by the playoffs (and with all the crap going on how COULD they know this) they have spent a lot of prospects and haven't completed what I would consider a Cavaliers-like roster, one so good that it was impossible to keep it out of the Series and, unlike the NBA, with no Golden State-like roster waiting for them in the AL playoffs or World Series. We gave up a lot, not enough to kill our farm system and we certainly sold high on ALL of the prospects (Sheffield, Frazier, Greg Allen, Feyereisen, Heller, Chang and Mejia), we gave up but for that price we should have finalized our WS lineup with Brantley becoming just icing on the cake instead of a necessary piece like he is now. [BTW, google the longest hit streaks in the history of the minor leagues and see how all of those players ended up...just sayin').
We made ourselves better but I don't think it was enough to keep any of us from sweating the last two months of the season. I don't even think we separated ourselves significantly from Detroit who could leapfrog over us if they make a daring trade or two before Monday afternoon.\
Now for that deatailed analysis I was talking about:
So assuming the Lucroy trade goes through, let's examine these two trades from both the perspective of what the Indians got and what they gave away. But let's begin with what the Indians needed going into the deadline.
What the Indians needed: Look, every team has it weaknesses. Looking at the Yankees lineup I was saying to myself how could this team compete? The fact is they can't, even with their lights out bullpen. Using the Cavaliers as an example, they had five stud players, 4 of whom are used to playing with the ball. To win two of those other two guys (Love and Smith) had to change their roles totally. Still, they were/are 5 very good players who almost every team in the league would have as starters. There were no holes there.
Coming into this deadline the Indians had 4 needs: situational lefty, outfielder with power if Brantley didn't make it back and a quality third baseman and quality catcher.
What the Indians got: The Indians filled one gaping hole in their lineup with Lucroy. With luck and health he will make a huge difference in their offensive production and how the lineup will set up. They still have a gaping hole at third base and, frankly, could use a power hitting outfielder. By not acquiring someone (Ryan Braun, for example) they are essentially counting on Brantley to come back at close to 100% of his ability before the playoffs. If he is not back or back at 85%, we might as well not have him because an 85% player in the playoffs is much like a 60% player in the regular season. Not very effective. Getting Lucroy doesn't help if we have to play Almonte or Uribe. If either of them are on the playoff roster, let alone getting playing time in the playoffs, I think we are totally screwed.
As far as Miller, getting him was overkill. We were looking for a situational lefty. Miller is NOT a situational lefty and at his salary and the cost to get him, he better be our closer. But we had a closer and an 8th inning guy. So we paid a steep price to get a guy who was more than what we needed. We'll talk below about the farm system but the thing to think about here is that we not only lost prospects but we also diminished the role of McAllister, Otero and Manship, who have been good enough over the past two years that we were able to dump the serviceable Chamberlin this year. Not that Joba was great but on teams without as much bullpen depth as we have, he was a decent piece to a bullpen puzzle. One thing for sure, Francona LOVES this move as it keeps him from EVER having to pitch a rookie or near-rookie again this season. Plus it puts the three veterans above in a situation that, if they accept their roles, they become like the Cavalier bench players were: guys who produce when called upon but who are not called upon much.
What we gave up - OK, let's begin by saying that the Indians paid deadline prices for players. For all of you who have jousted with me over the years about the Sabathia trade and the Cliff Lee trade where we traded defending Cy Young award winners for pittance, we gave away MUCH more in these trades than we ever got back in those two. Yeah, we got Brantley back who was not even good enough to be in the original group of players for Sabathia. He was an add on as the PTBNL in that deal. Plus, while Carrasco was a good prospect he was enigmatic for the Phils and they were not that unhappy to be rid of him. On paper, both of those trades sucked.
In the Lucroy trade we gave up 3 solid prospects. I will say that we sold high on Mejia and I am pretty sure we sold high on both Chiang and Allen, too. However, on paper it looks like the Brewers got 3 of our top 30 prospects and maybe two (Chiang and Mejia) of our top 15. A pretty good haul for a catcher who we only control for about 1.3 seasons.
In the Miller trade we gave up our best prospect in Frazier and another top 10 prospect in Sheffield. I will say that I think we sold high on Frazier and I am thinking Sheffield will be a year-to-year guy, meaning he will only advance a level each season and I think it will take him until 2020 before he stays on a big league roster for a full season. As far as Feyereisen and Heller, these are guys who could turn into Bryan Shaw types or could just be Armstrong/Adams types who never establish themselves. Clearly the Yankees are more willing to give opportunities to these guys than to the Francona-led Indians.
Final Summary - I think we gave up A LOT in these trades. Will it kill our farm system? No. I think the guys we gave up will only become real contributors about the time the current window is closing in 2019 or 2020. At the same time, we did not do enough to make this a favorite to make the World Series. For me, I would have given up the talent we gave up for Miller to get Will Allen and Ryan Braun in addition to Lucroy. That trade would have given us a place in the World Series. The two trades we made did not do that. When you trade away that many prospects you ought to guarantee getting to the WS. We didn't do that here and I think, down the road, it may cause us to come up a little short.
In summary, let's take a look at our lineup now and what it would have been with Braun and Allen:
Davis - LF
Kipnis - 2B
Lindor - SS
Braun - RF
Santana - DH
Lucroy - C
Napoli - 1B
Ramirez - 3B
Naquin - CF
If you substitute Brantley for Braun you are OK. However, without either this lineup comes up a little short. With Brantley AND Braun, even with Davis and Naquin platooning, this lineup is the best in the majors, top to bottom. To go with the best rotation in the majors and solid, if not spectacular relief (basically substituting Will Allen for Crockett and getting a healthy McAllister back, we would be a WS team.
Looking at our lineup now we have:
...or worse if Naquin isn't in the lineup. That lineup, without Brantley, is not good enough to get to the WS and especially not to win it.