PEORIA, Ariz. -- Ryan Garko hadn't been gone long. But even he had trouble keeping up with the new faces on the Indians' roster at the tail end of the 2009 season. "I saw an Indians game on TV in September," Garko said, "and I didn't know anybody who was playing." Garko doesn't have to look far to see where some of his old buddies went. They're right alongside him in the Mariners' clubhouse.
The Indians made the short trip to the Peoria Sports Complex on Tuesday to face the Mariners, and Garko and Franklin Gutierrez, two regular position players on the '07 Tribe team that fell a win shy of the World Series, were both in the opposing lineup. Cliff Lee, who won 22 games and a Cy Young Award for the Indians in '08, joins Garko and Gutierrez on the Seattle roster, having been dealt from the Phillies club that acquired him from the Tribe last July. Even former Tribe pitching coach Carl Willis has landed with the Mariners as a Minor League pitching coordinator. "It was only [three years ago] that all those guys were there [in Cleveland]," said Garko, who was dealt to the Giants last July and signed with the Mariners over the winter. "We thought we would be together a long time. We were all young, and the team controlled all of us for at least a couple more years." But what's happened with the Indians in the time since is illustrative of a larger trend in the game. A small-market team has a very limited window to contend with a young core before the dollars and cents that come with arbitration and free-agent eligibility begin to lead to some difficult decisions. For the Indians, the decision was made, piece by piece, to trade talent nearing the next big pay day for younger players with more contractual control.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.