With the the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaching, Indians fans are wondering what kind of moves the club might make to get stronger down the stretch.Let's take a look at some of those questions in the latest Inbox.
With the the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaching, Indians fans are wondering what kind of moves the club might make to get stronger down the stretch.
Let's take a look at some of those questions in the latest Inbox.
No prospect is untouchable. If the right deal came along, I believe the Indians would consider any of their young players as part of the package. Cleveland is a realistic World Series contender, and an impact addition or two could greatly increases the team's October odds.
There was a point in time when Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield were thought to be "untouchable," and the Indians sent them to the Yankees in a four-player deal to get Andrew Miller two years ago. Back in 2011, Cleveland stunned people when it dealt Thomas Pomeranz and Alex White -- believed to be future pitching cornerstones at the time -- in a trade for Ubaldo Jimenez.
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By now, no one should count out anything, given the transaction history of Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff.
At the same time, it would take a lot to convince the Indians to part with the likes of Francisco Mejia, Triston McKenzie or Shane Bieber, who are Nos. 1-3, respectively, on the Indians' Top 30 Prospects list as ranked by MLB Pipeline, given the team's inability to outspend big-market clubs in free agency.
Of those three, I would list Bieber as least likely to be dealt. Cleveland has a strong Major League rotation, but the depth behind the group is thin, and Bieber has already climbed a few pegs to reach the big league starting staff. To me, Bieber is more critical to the Tribe's 2018 success than Mejia (currently with Triple-A Columbus), and certainly more so than McKenzie (pitching for Double-A Akron).
Mejia is blocked by Major League catchers Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, and McKenzie is young, coming off a preseason injury and likely has a couple years of development to go. They both could be important core pieces of the future, but I wouldn't call either "untouchable" if Cleveland is going to explore a blockbuster addition before the Trade Deadline.
Adam Jones does not look like a fit to me. He is 32 years old, under contract for $17 million this year, would be a rental acquisition and is in decline, especially defensively. Through 629 1/3 innings in center this season, Jones has minus-18 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-4.2 UZR/150. Cleveland could use outfield help, especially on the offensive side, and center or right would make the most sense. Jones has been slightly above league average (107 weighted Runs Created Plus) as a hitter, but I don't see that out-weighing the other factors.
Ignoring the composition of Cleveland's roster for a moment, Adam Duvall is the kind of player the Indians might target. What I mean by that is he comes with multiple years of control (three more after 2018) and has a cost-effective contract. Duvall, specifically, does not look like a fit, however. He has played left field and first base in his career, and the Indians have no room at those spots. Michael Brantley is locked in for left and Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso split time between first and designated hitter.
Now, if the Indians decided Duvall could handle right field -- a position he played during six games in 2016 -- then he could be an intriguing partner for a platoon scenario with Lonnie Chisenhall. Right now, Brandon Guyer fills that role, and he's endured his share of troubles this year. Then again, so has Duvall, who has an .870 OPS off lefties, but has an 82 wRC+ through 78 games for the Reds.
I am a fan of Jason Kipnis and I know he is a real clubhouse presence, but is it just me who sees Erik Gonzalez as a player with a high ceiling that's maybe next in line for second base? In looking for help at the Deadline, does Kipnis have a market?
Matt L., via e-mail
The Indians explored trading Kipnis last offseason and came close to a deal with the Mets, but ultimately they did not find a match. It is hard to imagine there being much of a market for the second baseman right now, given his subpar play in the first half (.214/.294/.343 slash line in 73 games). Kipnis, 31, is earning $13.7 million this year and has a $14.7 million salary in 2019 with a $16.5 team option (or $2.5 million buyout) for '20. If the Indians do find a trade partner, they would likely need to pay for the bulk of that deal.
I don't think you're necessarily wrong in thinking that Gonzalez could handle second on an everyday basis, but manager Terry Francona is giving Kipnis every chance to pull out of his slump. There have been positive strides in recent weeks, too. Gonzalez, on the other hand, could possibly be trade bait.
In the offseason, when the Indians were quiet in terms of major transactions, there was already a sense that in-season additions were more realistic. Much like in 2016 and '17, I'd expect Cleveland to be aggressive in pursuing help via trade for both the bullpen and potentially the outfield. Now, being "aggressive" doesn't always equal taking on large contracts. I wouldn't anticipate the Indians to target big-contract players, especially when the team has been open about its current payroll limitations. Standing pat throughout the July and August trade periods does not seem like an option, though.
Third baseman Jose Ramirez is a virtual lock for his second straight All-Star appearance and the latest fan balloting results have him in the starting lineup. Ace Corey Kluber looks like a safe bet, but Trevor Bauer is deserving, too. Shortstop Francisco Lindor should be included and Gomes has a strong case, especially with Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez sidelined due to injury. It would be surprising to me if Cleveland had fewer than three All-Stars this year.
While I don't know specific dates, that would be something to look for at some point during the second half this season.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.