Unless you are a baseball team located in a large market, the farm system has to be the life blood of your organization.
Being able to scout, draft, and sign amateur players and then nurture them into major leaguers allows smaller market teams to be able to compete.
Heck, the main reason the Cleveland Indians have produced just two good teams from 2002-2010 is because of the poor success they’ve had in developing players. How many first round draft picks until Lonnie Chisenhall in 2009 are contributing in the major leagues?
Since C.C. Sabathia was picked in 1998, the only first rounders that made the major leagues were Jeremy Guthrie, Michael Aubrey, Brad Snyder, Jeremy Sowers, and Trevor Crowe. None of those players are anything close to being all-star types.
Over the last three seasons, the farm system has been slowly built into one of the game’s better ones. They don’t have a lot of potential superstar coming up through the ranks, but they are considered to have many major league caliber players at various levels.
After years of a farm system drought, there is finally rain on the horizon. Players such as Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, Adam White, Drew Pomerantz, Cord Phelps, Chun Chen, Zach Putnam, Josh Judy, and others at Kinston and Lake County have given the Tribe depth in the organization.
That’s why it is strange to hear many fans saying the Indians should deal a prime prospect for a hitter or pitcher who might wear a Cleveland uniform for two months.
It just doesn’t make any sense.
Do the Indians need to improve their big league roster? Of course, particularly if they have designs on making the playoffs this season, which they have a legitimate chance to do.
But you can’t start dealing players who should be everyday players or big league rotation starters in a year or two. That’s why Chisenhall, Kipnis, White, and Pomerantz have to be considered off-limits.
There isn’t any question that most scouts consider these four players to be big league ready for next season. Chisenhall is already with the big club, and a lot of people think Kipnis should be in Cleveland.
White already made a handful of starts for the Tribe before spraining a finger on his pitching hand, but showed he can handle getting major league hitters out. And Pomerantz was just moved to Akron, following the same path as White in his first year of professional baseball.
If he continues that path, he’ll be in Cleveland next season.
Large market teams can afford to trade high prospects because they can always fill a hole on their major league roster by signing free agents. Organizations like the Indians cannot do that. They have to fill holes within, or get very lucky that a lower tier free agent makes a quantum leap.
That usually doesn’t happen.
Should the Indians dip into their rich system to get a player who can help them in the stretch drive? Of course. Dealing a player like Phelps, who really is blocked by Kipnis, seems to make sense.
In addition, the Tribe has a lot of serviceable arms at Columbus that a rebuilding team might be interested in. Think about hurlers such as Jeanmar Gomez, Zach McAllister, and David Huff.
Also, there are some live arms at the Class A level, and swapping one of those guys for a useful big league part this year isn’t a huge gamble because those guys may need two or three more years of seasoning.
GM Chris Antonetti understands this. He knows the farm system is of major importance for a franchise like the Indians.
Trading one of the team’s elite prospect for a rent-a-player would be foolhardy. Even dealing for a guy who won’t be a free agent for two years doesn’t make sense.
The elite prospects could be here for six years, not two.
Plus, there is no guarantee that a player like Carlos Beltran or Hunter Pence puts the Indians in the playoffs anyway. It’s a gamble not worth the risk.