OK, everyone...stop Googling George Kokinis for a moment, stop trying to become his "Facebook" friend, and join me in a little jaunt lovingly referred to as "Lazy Sunday". Without further introduction or ado, let's get it on: Starting at the top, Terry Pluto hits all of the high points of the DeRosa trade, many of which were addressed in the New Year's Day post here, but laid out very nicely by Pluto. Interestingly, Pluto's comment regarding the lower level prospects in the online piece to, "check Tony Lastoria's excellent farm system blog at http://www.indiansprospectinsider.com/" ended up on the cutting room floor for the print edition. As a quick aside in something else that Terry gets into in his Sunday column having little to do with the Indians on the surface, isn't it interesting how Browns' fans are clamoring for Randy Lerner to hire a strong GM who establishes an organizational identity, then to give that GM the authority to hire a Head Coach who shares his philosophies? After Savage and Romeo parted on messy terms, it seems that everyone wants a GM and Head Coach on the same page to cultivate that organizational philosophy. Sounds good, right? Just a quick question - isn't this what the Indians have? And isn't it that arrangement that causes a segment of the fan base to complain about how Shapiro and Wedge are "joined at the hip" and "finish each other's sentences like they're reading from a script"? Ever hear the term "Wedgiro"? Which is it Cleveland - if it's good for the goose, doesn't it stand to be good for the gander? But I digress. From a national perspective, Buster Olney has a bit on DeRosa, and his importance to the 2008 Chicago team, in a piece about how the Cubs are headed in the wrong direction with the moves they've made so far this off-season: "One of those evaluators made the argument that DeRosa may have been the Cubs' best player last season. He finished third among the everyday players in on-base percentage, at .376, and was fourth in slugging percentage, at .481. He finished the season with a club-high 103 runs scored, partly because he's such a good baserunner. What he may have done best, however, was provide the Cubs average-to-above average defense at four different positions: second base, third base, left field and right field (he also played a game at first base and another at shortstop). If Aramis Ramirez came up sore, DeRosa could step in, and when Alfonso Soriano got hurt, DeRosa provided Lou Piniella flexibility to better cope with the problem, allowing him to shift DeRosa to the outfield and play somebody else in the infield. The Cubs are going to miss DeRosa in a big way next season." Here's Baseball America's take on the deal, calling DeRosa one of the top 2B in MLB and versatile enough to play multiple positions, while pointing out the possibility of netting the Indians a 1st Round draft pick when he leaves after 2009, depending upon whether he's deemed to be a Type A or Type B Free Agent after the season. From the Chicago perspective of the deal, Cubs' GM Jim Hendry is saying that DeRosa was traded because he wanted "three, four, potentially five [left-handed hitters] on the field at the same time, then second base was an area we felt like we possibly could make a change." I'm not sure I get that from the sense that adding Aaron Miles as a switch hitter or giving more time to LH Mike Fontenot to replace the RH DeRosa makes the team better for 2009, but there's the answer. From the other paper in town, Gordon Wittenmyer isn't buying that logic as a reason to make the deal and also thinks that DeRosa will be missed by the Cubs for 2009 more than they think. Wittenmyer thinks that between his versatility in the field (including the line "playing an exceptional third base" in the piece), his on-base ability, and his clubhouse presence, the loss of DeRosa will have a greater impact on the Cubs' 2009 season than their Front Office thinks. Interestingly, a lot of people see DeRosa's departure from Chicago as a way for the Cubs to free up payroll to add Milton Bradley. Let's see...getting rid of (quoting Wittenmyer here from the linked piece above) "one of the steadiest, most positive clubhouse influences in a room full of good chemistry, pro-attitude guys - with one of his greatest contributions being his willingness to draw the pregame media mobs off the shoulders of teammates on a regular basis in the cramped home clubhouse" to add...um, this guy? Good luck with that Sweet Lou. Finally from the Chicago perspective on the deal, is anyone else sick of seeing "DeRo" as the accepted nickname for DeRosa? Jim Hendry even refers to him by that unimaginative nickname...it's kind of embarrassing. Back to the reaction on the North Coast, in case you were hoping for another channeling of my inner Ken Tremendous again to put Sheldon Ocker in his place for suggesting that the Indians were going to be an incomplete team on Christmas Day, only to see the DeRosa trade happen 6 days later, let's just say that this article on the DeRosa acquisition represents the last time that Ocker's going to make an appearance on this page. He leads with "the Indians snagged their third baseman today, and never mind that he has played mostly second base the past two seasons" and I didn't make it much past that. If you did, you're not aware of better beat writers that cover the Tribe. In the vein of "better beat writers", here's Anthony Castrovince's recap of the DeRosa deal as well as a "Season Preview" from him at the Official Site, which lays out (pretty accurately) what has happened and what it means for 2009. It's still awfully early for this kind of preview piece (though it simply looks like one of a series that MLB.com is running for each team), but it effectively examines how much of the heavy lifting was done in the bullpen and why it was needed there the most. Speaking of looking ahead to 2009, Tim Kurkjian of ESPN has a similar piece pegging the Indians as a potential team to watch in the coming year as he says, "they spent most of their money on Wood. But if he can be the healthy closer he was in Chicago all last year (the last pitch he threw was clocked at 97 mph), Carmona has a bounce-back season, they find another infielder and another starting pitcher, corner outfielders Ben Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo continue to progress and Martinez and Hafner produce like they're supposed to, that hot finish by the Indians last season could be followed by a hot start in 2009." Infielder was checked off...now let's spend the next 5 or so weeks trying to find that starting pitcher. Elsewhere on these Interwebs, there's a nice exchange regarding the 2009 Indians from Jay Levin of the LGT and Vince Grzegorek of Cleveland Scene Magazine, in which they cover topics from "Valbarfield" (an entity that looks unlikely now to be unleashed upon us) to whether or not Vince is on crack to expect a good season out of Anthony Reyes. Good stuff from two good writers. On a programming note, Tony and I were happy to be joined by Michael Brantley's agent Josh Kusnick, followed by minor-league RH starter Ryan Morris in this past week's Monday edition of "Smoke Signals" (audio link here). Kusnick relayed a funny story about running into Shapiro at the Winter Meetings after the announcement of the Frank Gutz deal as Kusnick (who represents a number of Brewers' minor leaguers) has a relationship with new Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik, whose previous job was the Brewers' scouting director, who acquired Frank the Tank in the deal. Kusnick said that Shapiro raved about how highly Michael Brantley was considered in the organization and that the Indians were very excited to have Brantley in the system. From an agent's standpoint, Kusnick was thrilled with the Gutierrez deal as it removes a player in front of Brantley in the pecking order for the Indians' OF and Kusnick re-asserted his position that Brantley would make it to Cleveland in 2009. Seeing as how Kusnick is Brantley's agent, it's not a surprising assertion; but the tone that Shapiro took with Kusnick (according to him) when discussing Brantley seem to indicate that Brantley figures very prominently into the Indians' plans going forward. In addition to Kusnick, we were joined by RH starter Ryan Morris, who figures to begin the 2009 season in the Kinston rotation at the tender age of 21. He provided some insight into the development of a pitcher through the lower levels of the minors, as adjustments and new pitches are the norm as players (who often were BMOC's in High School or College) begin to trust their coaches and attempt to evolve as players to realize their MLB dream. On the topic of the radio show, here's the link from our conversation with the since-departed Jeff Stevens at the end of October. One of the funny things about the interview is that we (OK...I) threw in the standard Brandon Phillips question there at the end of the interview, with Stevens obliging me with a response - regardless of how many times he's been asked that question. Now, with Stevens on the North Side of Chicago, the B-Phil question may be in his rearview mirror, but the question about being the principal in a trade for another 2B that not a lot of fans were happy to see leave may be in his future. Regardless, all the best to Stevens as he takes his MLB dreams north with him to Wrigleyville. Finally on the radio show, Tony has lined up interviews with all three of the minor-league players involved in the DeRosa deal (Stevens, Archer, and Gaub) for our next show this Thursday. Stay tuned for that as talking to these young guys always sheds quite a bit of light on the business of baseball. In an unrelated programming note, The MLB Network debuted on Thursday and is airing Ken Burns' Baseball documentary every Tuesday at 8 PM if you're looking for something to set your DVR for. The MLB Network looks pretty strong to date, pushing ESPN further into the background for me when it comes to quenching my thirst for baseball. Now if only Time Warner would update their programming guide so I knew what was on MLB Network or what was to come instead of the "NO DATA AVAILABLE" that keeps showing up.
For now, Viva DeRosa...yeah, I know it needs work.