As dark as it seems, all three once-great baseball towns have hope.
“The Royals and Pirates have done what small-market teams should do with
their revenue-sharing money,” says one big-market general manager. “The
last couple of years they’ve gone over slot on Draft choices, they’ve
spent heavily in the international market and really worked hard rather
than waste revenues on mediocre veteran players.”
The Indians are probably the closest to getting back to
competitiveness. “We’ve looked back at where we started in the
rebuilding process in 2002,” says Antonetti. That season, they traded
Bartolo Colon to the Expos for Sizemore, Lee and Brandon Phillips, a
rebuilding trade rivaled only by the Mark Teixeira deal between Texas
and Atlanta, which sent five good players, including Neftali Feliz and
Elvis Andrus, to the Rangers.
“Looking at what we had then and what we have now, I think we’re probably deeper [than we’ve been in a long] time.”
This kind of rah-rah is not news coming from general managers. And in the Indians case it’s not new coming from outsiders inasmuch as they’ve done a couple of successful rebuilds since either Pittsburgh or Kansas City has been competitive.
Does it mean anything? Is it smoke? I’ve liked a lot of what all three of these teams have done in trades over the past couple of years. I’ll say, though, that the idea of timing that window — as is discussed at length in the article — just so with no hope whatsoever of holding on to a single big money free agent ups the difficulty by orders of magnitude.
The Royals, Indians and Pirates are never going to sign guys like the Yankees can. But they have to be able to keep some people around longer than the four or so years before that trade-them-or-lose-them imperative sets in. Otherwise, all of this is just vain hope.