06/27/2002 11:55 pm ET
Shapiro looking toward future
Colon trade brings three prospects to Tribe
By Justice B. Hill / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- The Indians sent right-hander Bartolo Colon to the Expos on Thursday in a trade that brought the Tribe three prospects and a veteran infielder.
The deal also represented Phase I in general manager Mark Shapiro's rebuilding of the ballclub. The Colon trade is just the first of many that Shapiro will likely pull off in his effort to rebuild a ballclub that has been a major disappointment in 2002.
Instead of playing for the playoffs this season, he said he is building for the 2004 season and beyond. He looked at the Colon deal as the foundation for the future.
"From the start of the off-season, we stated that if the difficult goal of transitioning and contending was not successful, we would have to enter into a more dramatic and profound rebuilding process," Shapiro said. "That is the juncture we find ourselves today."
In exchange for Colon, Shapiro received infielder Brandon Phillips, left-hander Cliff Lee, outfielder Grady Sizemore and outfielder Lee Stevens. In addition to Colon, the Indians will gave the Expos a player to be named.
Other veteran players are expected to follow Colon to teams around the Majors as Shapiro's "profound rebuilding" continues to unfold.
Assistant GM Neal Huntington said any player who is not tied to the club for the 2004 season is available. With Colon dealt, veteran left-hander Chuck Finley appears to be the most valuable remaining commodity. First baseman Jim Thome has a no-trade clause and has said he is unwilling to waive it, and shortstop Omar Vizquel is a 10-and-5 player, meaning he can't be traded without his consent. He has said he won't give it. Others not signed beyond 2003 include Ricardo Rincon, Ellis Burks, Travis Fryman and Mark Wohlers.
"We believe this trade is a very significant step towards our continued effort to replenish the quality young players in our system."
-- GM Mark Shapiro
From additional trades, the Tribe hopes to pick up more talented young players like Phillips, Lee and Sizemore.
In Phillips, the Tribe acquired an infielder with multiple tools. He runs well, has some power and plays with passion. Scouts have likened Phillips, who turns 21 today, to Reds star Barry Larkin.
Phillips will start at shortstop for the U.S. team in the Futures Game on July 7.
In the 23-year-old Lee, the Tribe is getting a player with as much or more upside than Billy Traber or Brian Tallet, two left-handers in the Tribe's farm system who are considered prime prospects.
At Harrisburg, Lee was 7-2 with a 3.13 ERA in 15 starts. He struck out 105 and allowed 61 hits and 23 walks in 81 1/3 innings.
At Class A Brevard County, Sizemore, 19, was hitting .258 with no home runs and 26 RBIs in 256 at-bats.
As for the 34-year-old Stevens, he has struggled this season, batting .190 with 10 homers and 31 RBIs in 206 at-bats. The veteran is viewed as a fill-in for Thome if he is traded.
But in giving up Colon, the Tribe let go of its No. 1 pitcher. He had posted a 10-4 record with a 2.55 ERA in 16 starts. Colon, 29, had four complete games and two shutouts.
"We believe this trade is a very significant step towards our continued effort to replenish the quality young players in our system," said Shapiro, in his first year as a GM. "In a short period of time, we have fortified our lack of depth among position players with the addition of some exciting young talent."
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer with MLB.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.