Looking to future, Tribe acquires young pitcher for Moss
Struggling slugger goes to St. Louis for highly regarded lefty Kaminsky
OAKLAND -- Brandon Moss stood in front of his locker at Progressive Field earlier this week, sounding lost while discussing the Indians' offensive struggles this season. The outfielder was brought to Cleveland to provide power in the heart of the lineup, but inconsistency has plagued his bat.
If Moss is going to find what has been missing over the season's final two months, he will do so wearing a Cardinals uniform. With an eye clearly on the future, the Indians traded Moss to St. Louis on Thursday morning in exchange for highly regarded left-handed pitching prospect Rob Kaminsky.
"It's just been one of those years, man, where you just can't get anything rolling," Moss said on Tuesday. "You're always one step forward, two steps back. It's been a tough one. It's very tough to sit here and be in here and go through it, because I know what we go through and I know how much we all care."
The one-for-one swap with St. Louis is the second trade in the past three days for Cleveland, which dealt outfielder David Murphy to the Angels on Tuesday in exchange for Double-A shortstop Eric Stamets. Both deals illustrate that Indians general manager Chris Antonetti has started planning for 2016 and beyond as Friday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.
Antonetti said the deal with the Cards came to fruition "really, really early" Thursday morning, and the GM made sure to talk things over with Moss before word of the trade went public.
"It was interesting talking to Brandon last night when I told him about the trade," Antonetti said. "He expressed a lot of that -- his frustration -- because I think the thing we've seen with Brandon, we've all seen it firsthand, is just how much he cares and how passionate he was, almost maybe at times too much. He wanted so desperately to be that force in the middle of the lineup."
In the 20-year-old Kaminsky, the Indians are receiving a lefty starter rated by MLBPipeline.com as St. Louis' No. 3 overall prospect and the 10th-best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball. Kaminsky was selected with the 28th overall pick in the 2013 Draft and has posted a 2.15 ERA through his first 43 appearances in three professional seasons.
Through 17 starts this year, Kaminsky had a 2.09 ERA with 79 strikeouts and 28 walks in 94 2/3 innings for High Class A Palm Beach. According to MLBPipeline.com, Kaminsky had "the best curveball in the Cardinals' system," features a changeup and a fastball that sits around 88-92 mph. The young lefty has allowed no home runs this year and only three in his 217 1/3 pro innings.
"Rob's a guy that we've liked actually for quite a while out of the Draft," Antonetti said. "He generates a lot of ground balls, keeps the ball in the ballpark and has a really good complement of secondary pitches. He'll show a plus curveball and a good changeup. In total, we think he has a chance to develop into a solid Major League starting pitcher."
Kaminsky is scheduled to report to Class A Advanced Lynchburg.
To take Moss' spot on the active roster, Lonnie Chisenhall was promoted from Triple-A Columbus. Antonetti noted that Chisenhall -- a third baseman by trade -- could see playing time in the corner outfield spots, along with first base, considering Giovanny Urshela has found a home at the hot corner for the Tribe. He was in the lineup as the designated hitter against the A's on Thursday night.
On the surface, that looks like a solid return for the 31-year-old Moss, who hit .217 with 15 home runs, 17 doubles, 48 RBIs and a .699 OPS in 93 games for Cleveland this season. At the time of his departure, Moss was the Indians' leader in homers and ranked second in RBIs, but his average and on-base percentage (.289) were sources of frustration for the slugger.
Moss was acquired from the A's in December for Minor League infielder Joe Wendle, avoided arbitration by signing a $6.5 million contract for this year and is eligible for arbitration again this offseason. By all accounts, Moss has been healthy, though he did undergo surgery on his right hip in October, correcting an issue that hindered him offensively through most of the '14 campaign.
Dating back to last year's All-Star break, Moss has turned in a .202/.297/.362 slash line in 511 at-bats (151 games). That is a drastic drop-off from the .254/.340/.504 line he turned in overall for Oakland across the 2012-14 seasons, which convinced Cleveland to take a shot on him as a middle-of-the-order bat.
With the Tribe sitting in last place in the American League Central, the club decided it made more sense to continue to look for ways to strengthen its future.
"No one expected to be in the position that we are right now," Antonetti said. "But we've played our way to this point. So we now have to do what we can to make the most of the second half of the season, and that's what we have every intention of doing."
"I don't think it's the front office's fault," Moss said on Tuesday. "They're playing the hand that they've been dealt this year. We've definitely underperformed."