The “Best Of” – The Shapiro Trades

By: T.J. Zuppe

With baseball’s trading deadline approaching at the end of the month (July 31st), I thought it would be fun to reflect back on some of the trades that general manager Mark Shapiro has made for the Indians since taking over as GM of the Tribe.

To be fair to Shapiro and the organization, we will only look at trades made during the 2008 season, or prior, so we have a better handle of where the trades went right in some case, or very wrong in others.

In my opinion, these are the top five best trades Shapiro has made as GM.

1. The Bartolo Colon Trade

Former Indian Bartolo Colon

Details: Cleveland Indians trade pitcher Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew to the Montreal Expos for first baseman Lee Stevens, outfielder Grady Sizemore, pitcher Cliff Lee, and infielder Brandon Phillips.

The Analysis: There is no question that this was the feather in the cap of Shapiro in his reign as Indians general manager. In fact, Shapiro has tried many times to replicate the successes of this deal, however it has been with no avail.

The truth is the trade was a perfect storm. The then baseball owned Expos were dangerously close to contraction, and were making a last minute push towards playoff contention to possibly save the franchise. They were willing to mortgage the future in hopes of Colon’s fortifying of the Expos staff would save the organization.

Looking back, it is unbelievable the amount of talent the Indians acquired, but even more unbelievable that only one of the pieces (Sizemore) remain with the franchise. Lee has since moved on with the Rangers after a Cy Young Award in 2008, and Phillips is a perennial all-star in Cincinnati after being dealt by the Tribe for pitcher Jeff Stevens.

2. The Texas Four-Step

Details: Cleveland Indians trade pitcher Ryan Drese, and catcher Einar Diaz to the Texas Rangers for pitcher Aaron Myette and first baseman Travis Hafner.

The Analysis: Okay, so right now Travis Hafner has been reduced to a moderate singles hitter with very little power, but for a three to four year stretch, there were very few hitters more feared in the American League than Hafner. His banner season was 2006, where he smacked 42 homeruns and drove in 117, hitting .308.

Even more impressive for Shapiro, was who he gave up to get Hafner from Texas. Drese fizzled out once he hit the Texas heat, and Diaz became a serviceable backup catcher at best.

3. The Seattle Swap

Details: Cleveland Indians deal first baseman Eduardo Perez to the Seattle Mariners for infielder Asdrubal Cabrera.

The Analysis: Are you kidding? At the time of this trade, it seemed as meaningless as any other trade of a platoon right-handed bat for an unknown minor leaguer, but Cabrera is anything but unknown at the major league level.

Not only did Cabrera help spear-head the 2007 postseason run, but has put his stamp on the position of shortstop for years to come, and given the Tribe their first real defensive presence at the position since Omar Vizquel left the team.

4. The Seattle Swap: The Sequel

Details: Cleveland Indians trade first baseman Ben Broussard to the Seattle Mariners for outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.

The Analysis: Once again, are you kidding me? Broussard has up and down moments as a member of the Tribe, but clear as day was Shapiro’s understanding that Broussard would never be the potential hitter to hold down the offensively driven position. In acquiring Choo, the Indians netted one of the most electric players the team has had this decade. Choo became part of the 20/20 club in 2009 when he hit 20 homeruns and swiped 21 bags.

5. To Catch a Dodger

Details: Cleveland Indians trade third baseman Casey Blake to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Jon Meloan and catcher Carlos Santana.

The Analysis: This deal barely falls into the time-period criteria we set to explore the Shapiro trades, but we cannot ignore the possible magnitude this trade presents. Santana has since been inserted as the Indians everyday starting catcher, and has given us a glimpse into his unlimited potential at the dish.

We will not be able to fully analyze this trade for another couple of years, but if Santana becomes the player we envision, he could challenge the top of this list for one of the greatest trades Shapiro ever made.

Notable Mentions: Indians trade pitcher Chuck Finley to the St. Louis Cardinals for a player to be named later (later became outfielder Coco Crisp). Indians trade pitchers Jeff Stevens, Chris Archer, and John Gaub to the Chicago Cubs for infielder Mark DeRosa. (DeRosa was later traded in 2009 for relief pitcher Chris Perez.)

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter: @TJZuppe

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