CLEVELAND -- The Indians have been staring at a chance to seize the moment. Cleveland did precisely that on Sunday with the acquisition of elite reliever Andrew Miller, shaking off the perception that clinging to prospects takes priority over going all in, and showing that a World Series trophy is
CLEVELAND -- The Indians have been staring at a chance to seize the moment. Cleveland did precisely that on Sunday with the acquisition of elite reliever Andrew Miller, shaking off the perception that clinging to prospects takes priority over going all in, and showing that a World Series trophy is the clear focus now.
Not everything went the Indians' way on Sunday, though. Cleveland thought it had made a pair of bold acquisitions to bolster its roster, but not long after they announced the blockbuster deal with the Yankees to land Miller, an agreement with the Brewers to also net catcher Jonathan Lucroy fell apart after he invoked his no-trade clause to veto the deal.
Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations, had no comment on the Lucroy situation. Instead, he focused on the addition of Miller, who gives Cleveland a formidable one-two punch at the back end of the bullpen, alongside closer Cody Allen.
"We're sitting here today with an opportunity to win," Antonetti said. "We have a team that we feel is capable of competing for a postseason and, if we get there, has a chance to win. I think that's the way we looked at it. We felt Andrew adds to that."
Antonetti added that he expects to remain active in the hours leading up to Monday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline.
For Miller, Cleveland agreed to part with its top prospect, outfielder Clint Frazier, along with pitching prospects Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen. According to MLBPipeline.com, Frazier is the Indians' top-ranked prospect, while Sheffield (No. 5) and Heller (No. 30) also fall within the Tribe's Top 30 list.
That is a large price to pay for the Indians, who lean heavily on development from within rather than free agency in constructing a Major League roster, but Cleveland has been searching for a way to punch the gas. The Tribe entered Sunday's game with a 4 1/2-game lead over the Tigers in the American League Central, and now look like the team to beat -- not only in the division, but in the AL.
"It was a painful trade for us to make," Antonetti said, "because we're giving up guys that are going to have really successful Major League careers."
"You don't get a guy like Andrew Miller without giving up some really good players," Indians manager Terry Francona added. "It's not like you're going to steal Andrew Miller. It's costly. But I think our team deserves the chance."
Miller, who spoke with Francona on Sunday morning, is scheduled to join the team in Cleveland on Monday.
"Whatever they ask me to do, hopefully I'll do it up to the standards that helps that team win," Miller told reporters in St. Petersburg. "They've got a pretty darn good team. They've got some good pieces out in the bullpen, they've got a great lineup and their rotation is full of All-Stars. Whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability."
For Lucroy, the Indians reportedly agreed to ship away their top catching prospect, Francisco Mejia, along with shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang, outfielder Greg Allen and reliever Shawn Armstrong. Mejia (No. 6), Chang (No. 12) and Allen (No. 22) are all on the Indians' Top 30 Prospects list, too.
Lucroy, who would have given Cleveland's catching situation a huge lift, had the Indians among the eight teams on his no-trade list. With catcher Yan Gomes (currently sidelined at least another month with a separated right shoulder) under contract through 2019, Lucroy reportedly had concerns about how often he would catch in 2017, assuming the Indians picked up his $5.25 million team option.
Multiple reports indicated that Cleveland was unwilling to remove the club option from the deal -- a move that surely would have required the Brewers and Tribe to renegotiate the package of prospects. The Indians were also unwilling to compensate the catcher in order to help convince him to accept the move to Cleveland.
"We'll move on," Brewers general manager David Stearns told reporters in Milwaukee. "I think they were disappointed. They were looking forward to acquiring a very talented player that was going to help them make a playoff push."
The 30-year-old Lucroy would have filled what has been an offensive abyss for the Indians this season, but Cleveland still can acquire a hitter before the Deadline.
Gomes, Roberto Pérez and Chris Gimenez -- while providing above-average defense -- have combined for a .167/.215/.286 slash line. That group's 30 Weighted Runs Created Plus, indicating the offensive production has been 70 percent below league average, ranks last in the Major Leagues. Lucroy is not only a highly-rated defender and pitch framer, but posted a .300/.360/.484 slash line through 94 games this year.
Only Wilson Ramos (3.1) and Buster Posey (3.0) have better WARs than Lucroy this year.
The long-term pact with Gomes, who has served as the Indians' starting catcher for the bulk of the past four seasons, includes team options for the 2020 and '21 seasons, too. Given Gomes' struggles at the plate, though, and the uncertainty surrounding his current comeback from injury, adding Lucroy would have helped provide the Indians with some much-needed insurance in the near term.
Looking ahead to next year, Cleveland could have offered plenty of at-bats to Lucroy behind the plate, as well as at first base or designated hitter.
As for Miller, he is owed a little north of $3 million for the rest of this season and is under contract for $9 million for each of the next two years. No cash came to Cleveland as part of the deal, either.
"[Team owner Paul Dolan] has said it multiple times," Antonetti said. "When we have opportunities to win, we're going to do what we can to improve the team. I think he demonstrated that again -- not only with the willingness to trade very good Minor League players, but also to assume the salary."
The 31-year-old Miller posted a 1.39 ERA with 77 strikeouts against seven walks in 44 appearances for the Yankees this season. The lefty, who has a 2.21 ERA over his past five seasons, is currently enjoying career-best rates in strikeouts per nine innings (15.3) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (11.0). Over the past three years, only Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman have posted a higher WAR than Miller (6.1, per Fangraphs.com).
Antonetti noted that the extra years of control were critical in Cleveland's approach to the deal.
"We looked at this as not only a move that will help us this year, but for years to come," Antonetti said. "This is a guy that will impact our team in so many ways -- not only this year as we try to make a run for the postseason, but hopefully for the next couple seasons as well. We would not have parted with the talent we did had there not been additional years of team control."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
By adding Miller (1.39 ERA, 0.77 WHIP in 2016) to a bullpen that already includes experienced closer Allen (2.58 ERA, 20 saves in 2016), the Indians have multiple options to handle the ninth inning. With Francona having yet to tip his hand regarding his plans for the relief corps, fantasy owners will likely be in a holding pattern on this situation for a few days. Both Miller and Allen should be in the active lineup in virtually all leagues next week. As for the Yankees, dominant righty Betances (career 1.94 ERA, 0.96 WHIP) receives a big value boost by becoming a top-tier fantasy closer for the remainder of the 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 listen to his podcast.