The “Worst 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 worst trades Shapiro has made as GM.

1. The End of An Era

Former Indian Roberto Alomar

Details: Cleveland Indians trade second baseman Roberto Alomar, pitcher Mike Bacsik and infielder Danny Peoples to the New York Mets for outfielders Matt Lawton, Alex Escobar, pitcher Jerrod Riggan and two players to be named later.

The Analysis: More so than just the horrendous return on the investment in the Alomar trade, this swap will always be the worst in fans eyes prior to 2009 because of what it signified. It was the end of an era in Cleveland that featured two World Series trips and several American League Central titles, which led to memorable October moments.

Alomar had one of his worst seasons in New York following the deal, but it did not help to ease the suffering that Indians fans felt after the blockbuster trade. Lawton never lived up to his Minnesota Twins form, Riggan was nothing short of terrible in the Indians bullpen, and lastly Escobar went from boom to bust over night. The transition while contending that Shapiro preached quickly became a full-on rebuild later that season.

2. The Phillips Mistake

Details: Cleveland Indians trade second baseman Brandon Phillips to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Jeff Stevens.

The Analysis: Despite the fact that Phillips did not live up to his immediate billing in Cleveland, the real reason he was sent away has been highly publicized. Phillips’ skill on the field was never in question, but clearly he had a butting of heads with ex-Indians skipper Eric Wedge. Due to this lack of eye-to-eye contact, Shapiro was forced to deal Phillips to the Reds for a minor league hurler.

Since that point, Phillips has been a mainstay in the Reds’ infield including an all-star appearance, a gold glove, and a career average in Cincinnati of .274, with 100 homeruns, 115 stolen bases and 375 runs batted in. Stevens on the other hand, is no long with the Indians organization. The Tribe is still searching for a second baseman.

3. The San Diego Swap

Details: Cleveland Indians deal third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and pitcher Andrew Brown to the San Diego Padres for infielder Josh Barfield.

The Analysis: At the time, Kouzmanoff was in a cluster of Indians prospects making him expendable. The Tribe was in need of an everyday second baseman, and Barfield had a great rookie season with the Padres. Kouzmanoff was a bit slow in his development but now has begun to come on in his career as a solid young third baseman. Barfield on the other hand had a horrible first year with the Indians, and was quickly replaced by Asdrubal Cabrera.

While in present day, neither is with the same organization, Kouzmanoff would be a great fit in the otherwise vacant Indians hot-corner. Jhonny Peralta is not expected to be brought back next year, and prospect Lonnie Chisenhall is still a year or two away.

4. The Boston Tear Party

Details: Cleveland Indians trade catcher Josh Bard, outfielder Coco Crisp, and pitcher David Riske to the Boston Red Sox for infielder Andy Marte, catcher Kelly Shoppach, and pitcher Guillermo Mota.

The Analysis: The trade that brought Marte to Cleveland should probably be higher on this list, but the Indians did later trade Shoppach for pitcher Mitch Talbot, who has looked like a very pleasant surprise for the Tribe.

Looking back at this deal however, Marte was expected to be the third baseman of the future, and the Tribe was willing to give up Crisp, who had been a sparkplug to the Indians offense. However, with a young outfielder named Grady Sizemore on the rise, Crisp became very expendable. Mota was a gas can out of the Indians bullpen and continued the theme of poor relief pitching being acquired in trades by the Indians

5. The Rhode to Mediocrity

Details: Cleveland Indians trade pitcher Arthur Rhodes to the Philadelphia Phillies for outfielder Jason Michaels.

The Analysis: So Rhodes was not exactly giving up the farm, but for what the Indians were hoping for, this trade definitely goes down in the poor trade hall-of-fame. While the Tribe has been continuously searching for reliable bullpen help, Rhodes was dealt in part to end the platoon of Indians left fielders. In a twist of fate, Michaels ended up being the ring leader of yet another Indians left field platoon circus.

Michaels proved that he was nothing but a fourth outfielder despite the organization feeling otherwise, and limited the growth of young outfielders Franklin Gutierrez and Ben Francisco. Gutierrez on the other hand has become one of the best defensive centerfielders in the American League, and his bat has developed as well in Seattle.

Notable Mentions: Indians trade outfielder Franklin Gutierrez to the Seattle Mariners as part of a three team deal that netted the Tribe infielder Luis Valbuena and pitcher Joe Smith. Indians trade infielder Maicer Izturis and outfielder Ryan Church to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Scott Stewart.

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter: @TJZuppe


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