Report: Indians open to trading Lee, Martinez

While it would have to take quite the package(s) to pry them away from Cleveland, the Indians are open to the idea of trading pitcher Cliff Lee and catcher Victor Martinez according to a report by the Plain Dealer.

The Indians could put together a decent rotation next year with Lee, Jake Westbrook, Fausto Carmona, Aaron Laffey, David Huff, Jeremy Sowers, Hector Rondon and others. Without Lee, it could be worse than it is this year.

Replacing Martinez, despite his big bat and strong voice in the clubhouse, wouldn’t be as difficult. The Indians played well in the second half last season while Martinez was recovering from surgery on his right elbow.

They would probably have to sign a veteran catcher to bridge the gap until Carlos Santana is ready in 2011.

The chances of keeping Lee and Martinez beyond 2010 are not good. They’ll both be eligible for free agency after next season.

The Indians gave a hint of where the Lee negotiations are headed when they wouldn’t discuss a contract extension in spring training. Lee’s won-loss record doesn’t show it, but he has pitched like a Cy Young winner this year, which means it’s unlikely he’ll consider a multiyear deal this winter when he’s just a year away from the open market.

The Indians would probably have a better chance of signing Martinez to a multiyear deal, but with the loss in revenues that the Indians and other teams are expected to take this year because of the economy and drop in attendance, that’s probably not going to happen.

Still, 2010 might not be bad if Lee and Martinez return, Westbrook, Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner stay healthy and the bullpen can be repaired. If not, Lee and Martinez can be turned into Sabathia clones and dealt to the highest bidder. The return might be as good as anything Shapiro could get this year.

It’s amazing how far the Tribe have fallen from their run in 2007. The Indians’ core that year was expected to be successful for a long time, but injuries and a drop off in production from players like Carmona sunk them in 2008 and now this season has been an utter disaster.

It might not appease fans, but trading guys like Lee and Martinez now might ensure a winner in 2011 and beyond. No fan wants their team to punt a season in hopes that the future will be brighter, but sometimes that’s the best option. If Lee and Martinez aren’t going to help Cleveland win next year and the club isn’t going to sign them long term, then what’s the point in hanging onto them?

The Tribe front office certainly has a dilemma on its hands.

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