With a new-look offense that includes the likes of Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds, the Cleveland Indians have made their intentions loud and clear to their AL Central rivals: the team is looking to contend in 2013.
So why in the world would they consider trading Asdrubal Cabrera, their power-hitting shortstop who is under contract through 2014?
Well, I suppose they wouldn’t, not while they’re still headed into the season with the intentions of making a run for the playoffs. In other words — not right now.
Which is also to say that there’s no reason why that wouldn’t change as the year progresses either. Tribe fans know well how even the teams’ best-laid plans can go awry, and with a number of significant question marks for on the Indians starting rotation, winning against teams like the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox is going to be easier said than done.
In fact, you might even be able to make the argument that long-time basement dwellers Kansas City Royals now have a superior rotation after their off-season moves.
And if things should go south for the Indians, the outlook of the team can change rather quickly. As Buster Onley of ESPN says, a slow start for Cleveland could quickly see their shortstop being put on the trade block, especially while teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers have a specific need in the left side of the infield.
Making such a move might not exactly qualify as throwing in the towel on the whole project either. While the Indians are undoubtedly better now with Cabrera than without him, the team could have a very good problem on their hands at shortstop in a couple of seasons when top prospects Francisco Lindor and Dorssys Paulino may be close to knocking on the door for a shot at the bigs.
Dealing Cabrera in 2013 while he still has an extra year of team control could get the Indians the established starter they need to anchor the rotation (if Justin Masterson doesn’t end up being the guy), and while Mike Aviles isn’t Asdrubal, he isn’t a total loss either and could reasonably hold the fort down until the prospects arrive.
For now, however, the team is undoubtedly looking to go into the season with just the goal of winning on their mind. Just don’t be surprised if Cabrera is the first to leave if that doesn’t work out, as the team is already well set up for life after the Asdrubal era.