Now that the Indians have stripped their roster of most of their marketable assets and embarked on a full blown - even if General Manager Mark Shapiro refuses to acknowledge it as such - rebuilding of the roster, what is left for Indians fans, those still inclined to pay attention to the team, to watch for over the remainder of the season?
Unfortunately, most of the key players acquired in the many white flag trades made by the Indians are in the minor leagues. But one who isn't is Justin Masterson, the pitcher acquired from Boston in the Victor Martinez trade. Masterson is currently in the bullpen but the Indians intend to move him into the starting rotation in the not too distant future. Masterson is worth watching, because the Indians are obviously in need of starting pitching for next season, and they hope he can fill one of those spots in the rotation.
Jake Westbrook, speaking of next year, should be activated off the disabled list sometime in the next week or two. Westbrook is over a year removed from Tommy John surgery, and after exeriencing a recent setback in his rehab, he is back pitching again in the minor leagues. Because of his injury the Indians have gotten virtually noting out of Westbrook in the first two years of his three-year $33 million contract. Next year will be the final year of that contract, and the Indians are hopeful that he'll be a productive starter, and they can get some return for that $33million.
Carl Pavano could be pitching his way into a trade to another team by the end of this month or, beyond that, into a multi-year contract this winter. Pavano does not seem to be the kind of pitcher - older, and seeking a multi-year contract - the Indians would bring back next season, but stranger things have happened.
The Matt LaPorta vigil, meanwhile, continues. It remains one of the great mysteries of this lost season that the Indians have refused to recall LaPorta, who cost the Indians CC Sabathia last year, even after Shapiro himself, totally unprompted, told the media on June 27 that LaPorta would be recalled "very soon.''
Should the closer on a contending team get injured this month there is an outside chance that the Indians might get a call inquiring about Kerry Wood. Trades can still be made until the end of the month, with any players acquired still elgibibe for post-season play. But in order for any trade to be made, the player has to first pass through waivers unclaimed.
The Indians will probably, if they haven't already, put Wood's name on waivers, hoping somebody will claim him, so they can get out of the $11 million they owe him next year. That's a lot of money to be paying a closer on a team that doesn't figure to win again until 2011, at the earliest. Any contending team with a serious interest in acquiring Wood wouldn't have to worry about another contending team claiming Wood off waivers to prevent him from getting to the team that really needs him. Because all teams know that if any team puts in a claim on Wood, he's theirs. The Indians would be delighted to get out from under that contract.
So there ARE some plot lines for the last two months of this Indians' season. Unfortunately, however, an attempt to win their division is not one of them.