After undergoing Tommy John surgery in June of 2008, Indians righty Jake Westbrook is finally healthy again. It'd be reasonable for the last-place Tribe to move the veteran, so let's take a closer look.
Westbrook signed a three-year, $33MM extension in April of 2007, and he has $4.54MM in base salary remaining. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that Westbrook also gets a $2MM lump sum and a pro-rated $1MM salary increase if traded. If dealt today, Westbrook would be owed about $6.95MM. This is clearly a major impediment to a deal. As far as draft pick compensation, forget about it – Westbrook is nowhere close to Type B status.
Westbrook, 33 in September, has a 4.67 ERA, 5.3 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9 in 113.6 innings this year. His 52.2% groundball rate ranks sixth in the American League among those with 80 innings, according to FanGraphs. Interestingly, Westbrook's teammates Justin Masterson and Fausto Carmona are among the five hurlers ranked ahead of him. The Indians rank 25th in baseball in defensive efficiency according to Baseball Prospectus, so any potential trade partner will probably be good for Westbrook.
The Indians "would trade Westbrook in a minute for a mid-level prospect if the Mets would pick up most of what's left on his contract this season," wrote John Harper of the New York Daily News. Indians writers have presented a different view. On July 4th, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote that the Indians "are sending out messages that they don't simply intend to dump Westbrook's salary," and will have to be compelled to move him. In June, Pluto's colleague Paul Hoynes wrote that Westbrook is "one of the least likely to be moved" on the team. Hoynes said the Indians have a good relationship with Westbrook and may try to re-sign him after the season. The fact that Westbrook had significant trade incentives built into his contract shows his inclination to stay put.
- Mets: Harper says Mets officials are divided on whether to acquire Westbrook. Indeed, reports over the last month have conflicted over the team's level of interest.
- Dodgers: They've inquired, reports Yahoo's Tim Brown. You may recall the Casey Blake trade of two years ago, where the Indians paid the freight and were able to acquire Carlos Santana as a result.
- Padres: They've discussed him, reports Tom Krasovic of AOL FanHouse. The Padres are known to be prioritizing starting pitching.
- Yankees: The idea of a reunion has been broached by beat writers in a more speculative sense. However, GM Brian Cashman told Peter Botte of the New York Daily News yesterday that "Cliff Lee was a special case" and Sergio Mitre would be in most teams' rotations.
- We haven't seen the Tigers, Twins, Angels, Phillies, Cardinals, or Rockies linked to Westbrook, but those contenders may be looking for pitching.