Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday Trade Tree: The Mystery of Mitch Talbot

By The Common Man

Due to his wonky elbow, Mitch Talbot has only had two starts, and has thus not contributed much to the Indians’ suprising success in 2011. But, when healthy, he’s a very usable mid-rotation starter who will easily push Jeannmar Gomez back to the minors or the bullpen, where he’ll do much less damage. Having a healthy Talbot is going to be essential if Cleveland is going to hold on to its early division lead. Talbot is the last in a long line of Indians acquisitions that are left over from the heydays of Alomar, Vizquel, Thome, Nagy and Ramirez. The last vestige of the last Indians dynasty, and hopefully part of the foundation for a new one. A legacy that stretches back for who knows how long, and whose formation is clouded in mystery. Observe:

Click to embiggen

Jose Mesa was a struggling starter in 1992 when he was acquired by the Indians. Cleveland continued to use him as a starter in 1993, but converted him into a fulltime reliever in 1994. As you undoubtedly know, he became their closer (and exhibit A that many closers are made from failed starters, not born) in 1995 and had a domant season right out of the gate, saving 46 games in 62 appearances with a 1.13 ERA, and finished 2nd in the AL Cy Young voting. But success is fickle for relievers, and he lost the job to Mike Jackson in 1997.

The bottom fell out in ’98, and Mesa was dealt to the Giants with two other players for Jacob Cruz and Steve Reed. Reed was a solid reliever, and death to right-handed batters, and was packaged with Steve Karsay in 2001 in a disasterous deal to get John Rocker, who would walk 25 batters in 34.2 innings and post a 5.45 ERA for the Tribe, the beginning of his end.

Cruz, on the other hand, although no better than a 4th outfielder, was used to bring in Josh Bard and Jody Gerut. Gerut satarted his career very strongly, with 22 homers as a rookie rightfielder, but his power quickly dissipated and he was dealt for very little return. Bard, on the other hand, who had had absolutely no success as a catcher, was thrown into a deal with Coco Crisp and David Riske, and sent to the Red Sox for failed prospect Andy Marte, reliever Guillermo Mota, and Kelly Shoppach. Talbot was acquired in the 2009-2010 offseason for Kelly Shoppach, which was a great deal given that the club had catchers to spare and Shoppach was both overvalued and getting expensive.

But let’s go back to the root of this tree, where Joe Table was not the actual seed that got it started. But where did Mesa come from? Mesa was acquired in 1992 from the Orioles for minor league outfielder Kyle Washington, who had killed the ball (.343/.436/.525 with 51 steals) as a 21 year old at class A Columbus in 1991. Washington actually had very little power, and was getting the bat knocked out of his hand at AA Canton when the Orioles made the deal to get Mesa.

So is Washington the seed? Perhaps not. He was originally a 6th round pick of the Mets in 1988, and showed good plate discipline and great speed for three years in the low minors. In the offseason between 1990 and 1991, he became an Indian. What happened? It’s unclear. TCM has uncovered one source that suggests that Washington was acquired in a trade in December of 1990, but the source is unclear who was traded for Washington, only identifying the player as “a minor leaguer.” Who is he? Where did he come from? How long had he been in the Indians’ system? TCM has no idea. But if you know who was traded for Kyle Washington in December of 1990, please contact TCM and let him know and we’ll update the tree above.

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