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Mark Shapiro's greatest hits and misses

Feb 18, 2010, 5:21 PM EDT

With Mark Shapiro being bumped upstairs by the Indians, here’s a look at his best and worst moves in his nine seasons at the helm in Cleveland:
June 27, 2002 – Indians acquired SS Brandon Phillips, LHP Cliff Lee, OF Grady Sizemore and 1B Lee Stevens from the Expos for RHP Bartolo Colon and RHP Tim Drew.

The greatest haul of the decade. Expos GM Omar Minaya had nothing to lose at the time and gave up arguably his three best prospects in an effort to take his team to the playoffs. As it turned out, all three of youngsters went on to reach their ceilings, though the Indians did give up on one of them too early.
Dec. 6, 2002 – Indians acquired 1B Travis Hafner and RHP Aaron Myette from the Rangers for RHP Ryan Drese and C Einar Diaz.
I still remember seeing this materializing as a rumor and thinking some reporter was dreaming. Hafner was behind Mark Teixeira in Texas, but the team would have had room for both. Instead, new Rangers GM John Hart did a big favor for the youngster who had just replaced him in Cleveland.
June 30, 2006 – Indians acquired INF Asdrubal Cabrera from the Mariners for 1B Eduardo Perez.
July 26, 2006 – Indians acquired OF Shin-Soo Choo and LHP Shawn Nottingham from the Mariners for 1B Ben Broussard and cash.

In the span of a month, Shapiro turned a mediocre first-base platoon into two building blocks. If things look rather bleak for the Indians now, think of how bad it’d be if Bill Bavasi never got the Mariners GM job.
July 26, 2008 – Indians acquired C Carlos Santana and RHP Jonathan Meloan from the Dodgers for 3B Casey Blake and cash.
This one hasn’t paid off yet, but it will, even though Meloan proved to be a bust. Santana is one of the game’s top three prospects, and he could well be a new Victor Martinez for the Indians. It was an awesome return for a decent regular who was two months away from free agency.
March 15, 2006 – Indians signed OF Grady Sizemore to a six-year, $23.45 million contract extension with a club option for 2012.
I’ll give this the fifth spot over the similar Martinez extension (five years, $15.5 million) and the Coco Crisp acquisition (Crisp and 1B Luis Garcia from the Cardinals for a half-season of a soon-to-retire Chuck Finley).

July 11, 2007 – Indians signed DH Travis Hafner to a four-year, $57 million contract extension through 2012.

Hafner had just concluded a three-year run in which he finished second, second and first in the AL in OPS, but the Indians simply didn’t need to make this move, as the designated hitter was already under control for 2008 at the bargain price of $4.75 million. Because of his dramatic decline, the contract was a franchise killer before it even kicked in with the start of the 2009 season.
April 7, 2006 – Indians acquired RHP Jeff Stevens from the Reds for 2B/SS Brandon Phillips.
Phillips was brutal as a regular for the Indians as a 22-year-old in 2003, and he received just 33 major league at-bats over the following two seasons. Out of options in 2006, the team gave him away, and he’s hit .276/.324/.452 in the four seasons since.
Jan. 5, 2004 – Indians acquired LHP Scott Stewart from the Expos for OF Ryan Church and INF Maicer Izturis.
The Indians had a wealth of young position players at the time, and they didn’t see either Church or Izturis turning into regulars for the team. However, both went on to become quality role players. Stewart, on the other hand, lasted less than two months in the Cleveland bullpen and never pitched in the majors after 2004.
June 7, 2004 – Indians selected LHP Jeremy Sowers with the sixth pick in the 2004 draft.
Shapiro had just one top-10 draft pick during his Indians tenure, and he opted to go conservative and use it on the polished Sowers, a Vanderbilt product considered a future No. 3 starter by most.
In truth, not one of Shapiro’s 13 first- and supplemental first-round picks has done much of anything to help the Indians. The last two — Lonnie Chisenhall and Alex White — still offer plenty of promise and David Huff is currently in the rotation, but Michael Aubrey, Trevor Crowe and Beau Mills have all been big disappointments and Jeremy Guthrie didn’t experience any success until leaving the organization.
April 5, 2007 – Indians signed RHP Jake Westbrook to a three-year, $33 million contract extension through 2010.
It was a fair price to retain a very reliable starter, but Westbrook, who looked like a fine bet to stay healthy, was limited to five starts in the first two years of the deal. Obviously, in hindsight, the Indians would have far better off holding back the money and putting it into an offer to retain either CC Sabathia or Lee.

  1. scatterbrian - Feb 18, 2010 at 5:54 PM

    Jonathan Meloan “proved to be a bust?” Dude’s 25 and has just 17.2 IP in the majors (with 20 Ks), and he was a 5th round pick. What exactly were you expecting?

  2. Matthew Pouliot - Feb 18, 2010 at 6:11 PM

    Fair enough. He was a bust for the Indians (the first of four organizations he’s been in since the deal), but there’s still hope for him if his command comes along. It’s not like he’s some big underdog, though. At the time of the trade, he was regarded as one of the top relief prospects in the minors.

  3. scatterbrian - Feb 18, 2010 at 6:41 PM

    “the first of four organizations he’s been in since the deal”
    Also a fair point, having been traded twice and waived twice.

  4. Jay - Feb 18, 2010 at 11:25 PM

    The Westbrook deal may be a “miss,” but I think it’s more appropriately characterized as a “tough error.”
    The idea of saving nickels for Sabathia and Lee doesn’t really make sense. The Indians fell about $66 million short on Sabathia, not $33 million, and that was due to a sensible view of value and risk — not because they lacked the cash. As for Lee, at the time Westbrook’s deal was extended through 2010, Lee was already under club control through 2010.

  5. HankPeters - Feb 18, 2010 at 11:50 PM

    So it’s a bad move to sign a reliable starter to a slightly-below-market deal because you know years later that he happened to get injured after signing it? Hardly Shapiro’s fault there.
    Plus, Westbrook was really starting to hit stride a couple months before his injury:

  6. Matthew Pouliot - Feb 19, 2010 at 12:41 AM

    Yeah, I don’t think Westbrook rates with the others as far as bad moves. But I did want a fifth. And I didn’t think it was a great idea at the time.
    FWIW – Here was my take on the contract when it happened:
    4/13/2007 12:52:00 PM
    Jake Westbrook’s deal with the Indians is worth $33 million over three years.
    We suppose that’s the best the Indians could have hoped for. Given his durability and youth, Westbrook probably wouldn’t have had any trouble getting $48 million for four years or maybe $60 million for five years next winter. Still, we wonder if the Indians should be spending $11 million per year on Westbrook when they have C.C. Sabathia and Travis Hafner to worry about. Those two will likely combine to command $32 million-$35 million per year in their next contracts, and the Indians should have been looking to find a way to keep both, even if it meant doing without their most reliable pitcher.

  7. Matthew Pouliot - Feb 19, 2010 at 12:53 AM

    Also, it turns out that I wasn’t very down on the Hafner deal when it was signed:
    It’s a pretty reasonable deal for Cleveland. Hafner isn’t guaranteed to age well, but it’s hard to imagine him not being at least a $10 million-per-year player in the latter half of the deal. Now it just remains to be seen whether there’s still going to be room in the budget for C.C. Sabathia. Since he may want at least a Barry Zito-type contract, odds are that he’s going to end up leaving as a free agent after 2008.

  8. Joey B - Feb 19, 2010 at 8:48 AM

    “Also, it turns out that I wasn’t very down on the Hafner deal when it was signed:”
    Most of these contracts are done somewhere near market value, so most (not all) seem reasonable at the time they were made. As bad as Wells’ contract is, even that was ~ market value at the time.

  9. Mick - Feb 19, 2010 at 8:57 AM

    The only one of the misses that screamed “bad idea” to me at the time was giving up on Phillips. I don’t think an unforseen injury like Westbrook’s should qualify. I’d replace it with the Luke Scott for Jeriome Robertson deal. Oy!

  10. Matt - Feb 19, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    I think if the idea is to look at the moves that worked out best and the moves that worked out worst, it doesn’t matter if they didn’t work out because Shapiro erred in evaluating a player and/or his value, or because the player got hurt or flamed out, or what. If the idea instead is to gauge whether Shapiro has been good at his job, then you look at whether the moves made sense at the time, or rather whether an astute general manager with more information than anybody else should reasonably have been expected to make the move at the time. Two different discussions. I don’t think a discussion of Shapiro’s effect on the franchise (that is, how good he’s been at his job, which has been to field a consistently contending team) has to go beyond how dismal the drafts have been. Teams with more money to spend can afford to draft crappy, the Indians couldn’t, and did.

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