- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Executives cling to highly talented young pitchers these days like family heirlooms, precious and almost irreplaceable. Big-market teams like the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees sometimes struggle to gain access to those types of pitchers because of draft position, and for small- and middle-market teams, the pitchers are lifeblood. The Tampa Bay Rays have been who they are because of their ability to draft and develop young pitchers, and the Minnesota Twins were successful for a decade because of their homegrown pitching.
When this offseason began, it was the Cleveland Indians' mission to get young pitching talent, and they had been willing to talk about everybody from Asdrubal Cabrera to the ghost of Tris Speaker to make that happen. This is why it is stunning to folks in the industry that the Indians were able to land Trevor Bauer in a nine-player, three-team deal just 18 months after Bauer was the third player taken in the 2011 draft.
At the roots of the deal, the Indians gave up Shin-Soo Choo, who is headed to free agency next fall and is destined to be a one-year rental in 2013. "Incredible value," mused an AL general manager.
This could be a big step forward for the Indians, and for Bauer, who gets an opportunity to reset after a rough major league debut in 2012. Because the Indians accomplished their goal of getting a big arm without having to deal Cabrera, Cleveland will go into the next season with an interesting lineup under new manager Terry Francona. It's still a work in progress:
2B Jason Kipnis
LF Drew Stubbs
The Indians are still negotiating with Nick Swisher, so perhaps he could be the guy who lands in the middle of their lineup.
The fact that Cleveland achieved its top objective, upgrading its pitching, could buy the Indians some time -- to wait and see if the team gets off to a good start in 2013; to wait and see if Cabrera plays better than he did in the second half of 2012 and increases his value, as pennant-race needs develop; to wait for Justin Masterson and Chris Perez to re-establish some trade value. Because of this trade, this offseason represents a step forward, no matter what else happens.
The Indians feel that they've gotten players who will impact them for years to come, says GM Chris Antonetti. Bauer faced shortstop Didi Gregorius last season; Gregorius was the key acquisition for the Arizona Diamondbacks in this deal.
The trade generated lots of ripples throughout the sport:
Cincy got very little out of the leadoff spot in 2012.