After two consecutive years of starting off the season well and tanking down the stretch, the Cleveland Indians have decided to start over. Although Terry Francona has been brought in as manager, the Indians have all but announced that players such as Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Justin Masterson, and Chris Perez are available for trade. The caveat? The Indians, much like every team looking to trade their players, are looking to receive young starting pitching.
Naturally, the Tampa Bay Rays, one of the few teams with a possible surplus of young arms, would seem to be a potential trade partner. The Rays offensive woes in 2012 have been well chronicled, and the bats being made available would make an immediate impact upon the lineup. The Rays stable of young arms has been much discussed in trade rumours, and would likely generate plenty of interest should they become available.
While both players would likely be an upgrade over the presently constructed lineup, Caberea may not make a lot of sense for the Rays. Tampa tentatively has Ben Zobrist ready to man shortstop, which makes sense considering his excellent play there down the stretch. Second, one of the Rays top prospects happens to be Hak-Ju Lee, who may be ready to man the shortstop position by 2014. While Cabrera’s ability to play second as well as short would be greatly appreciated on a team like the Rays, he has not played second since 2009.
Meanwhile, Choo is entering his final arbitration year. After an injury marred 2011, he bounced back in a big way, batting .283/.373/.441 with 43 doubles, 16 home runs, and 21 stolen bases. After making $4.9Million last season, Choo is expected to earn approximately $8Million this season. While that number would be high for the Rays, it would fill the payroll spot formerly held by Carlos Pena, so it may not be prohibitive.
Choo would likely provide another impact bat in the lineup. His power and speed combination would play directly into the Rays ideals for their hitters, and he could even potentially slot in as a number two hitter behind Desmond Jennings. With Jennings and Choo at the top of their lineup, the Rays may have a much better opportunity to score runs than last season. Choo has also been an excellent defensive player over the years, as he has consistently ranked amongst the league leaders in range factor, fielding percentage, and outfield assists.
Of the potential outfielders available in trade, Shin-Soo Choo may be one of the top players on the block. Plugging Choo into the lineup would likely help solidify the Rays both offensively and defensively, and may be a key piece in the Rays returning to the playoffs.