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Indians Trades Made Bottom Line Sense

Still wondering why the Indians traded away the reigning American League Cy Young and their franchise catcher last week before the trade deadline? So were a lot of Indians fans, despite a relatively rich haul of prospects Cleveland got in return.

So, why the deals? It turns out that the answer is a simple one, though it's based much more on the economic bottom line than results on the field.

According to a report from the AP today, Indians owner Tom Dolan admitted that his team will lose approximately $16 million this season based on both plummeting ticket revenues and rising player salaries.

$16 million is a heck of a lot of money, even for the owner of a professional sports franchise. The Indians as an organization have always approached being competition with a full dose of the reality that is being a small market team; the Tribe always knew it had a small window to compete for a World Series, and last week team management decided that window had closed.

Was that closing window sped up by the team's sudden crippling financial concerns? Almost undoubtedly. No team can continue to operate will losing $16 million per season, and there was no way Cleveland could have anticipated the depth of the attendance drop off the team has seen -- current projects hold that 500,000 fewer fans will attend Indians games this year than did last year.

It seems hard to believe that the Indians would be the only team facing such dire financial straits, but they may be the only club willing to be honest about them. Shipping Lee and Martinez's hefty contracts out will save the team close to $11 million on the pitcher (assuming the Phillies exercise Lee's 2010 option) and roughly $10 million on Martinez (again, assuming Boston exercises the catcher's 2010 option). Saving $21 million will go a long way toward stanching the financial bleeding at Jacob's Progressive Field.

Are the Indians betraying their fans by trading away the team's top talent? Or does Dolan have a responsibility to the future of the franchise to keep his team from taking on more economic water? What do you think?

By Cameron Smith  |  August 6, 2009; 3:22 PM ET
Categories:  Indians  | Tags: Cliff Lee, Indians, Phillies, Red Sox, victor martinez  
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Comments

the indians have not betrayed their fans by trading away lee and martinez. yes the two are very good, but fans weren't coming to see the team even with them. as the old saying goes "we can lose with you, we can lose without you." well, the fans won't come see them play with the two, they won't come see them without the two.

by the time the economy turns around enough to significantly boost their attendance (probably 2011 for a team like cleveland), hopefully the prospects will be legit players or dang close to it.

fans don't like to admit it, but the sole reason for a team to exist is to make the owner money. the easiest way for a team to make money is to have a decent number of people attend the game and then to make the playoffs. playoffs are free money. the indians, presently, have no playoff hopes and a lack of attendance. that's not a good combo.

if the indians can improve their playoff odds by acquiring the prospects and getting something for lee and martinez before they depart in free agency, then i say good move dolan.

Posted by: adampschroeder | August 6, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

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