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Armstrong deal adds to Tribe's bullpen needs

Reliever traded to Mariners for $500K in international bonus pool money
MLB.com @MLBastian

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Indians are in the market for bullpen help this winter, and that became even more of a necessity following a trade made on Wednesday at the Winter Meetings.

Cleveland announced that it dealt right-hander Shawn Armstrong to the Mariners in exchange for $500,000 in bonus pool money for the 2017-18 international signing period. Armstrong, who is out of Minor League options, made the Indians' Opening Day bullpen last season, but he never seized control of a spot in the team's relief corps.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Indians are in the market for bullpen help this winter, and that became even more of a necessity following a trade made on Wednesday at the Winter Meetings.

Cleveland announced that it dealt right-hander Shawn Armstrong to the Mariners in exchange for $500,000 in bonus pool money for the 2017-18 international signing period. Armstrong, who is out of Minor League options, made the Indians' Opening Day bullpen last season, but he never seized control of a spot in the team's relief corps.

"It was an opportunity for us to gain some flexibility internationally and try to add to that group of guys," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations. "And with Shawn, obviously we had to weigh the fact that he was out of options going into Spring Training. We still think he's going to go on to be an effective Major League pitcher, but we thought it just made sense for us to get that additional cap space."

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The Indians traded Armstrong one day after free agent Bryan Shaw reportedly agreed to a three-year, $27 million contract with the Rockies. Beyond Shaw, the Tribe also had sidearmer Joe Smith on the free-agent market, but he reached a two-year agreement with the Astros on Wednesday. That leaves plenty of room for the club to bolster its bullpen via trade or free agency.

"We are going to have to add some more guys before we start the season," Indians manager Terry Francona said on Wednesday. "Losing Shaw is a big loss for us -- not just in volume, but in volume and the guy being good. We have guys that can do it. We're not done."

Tweet from @SArmstrong90: I would like to thank the @Indians for giving me the opportunity towards making my baseball dreams come true. Truly a class act organization and I am honored to have played for them! I am looking forward to my opportunity with the @Mariners and what our future holds!

The Indians' bullpen currently projects to include relief ace Andrew Miller, closer Cody Allen, along with right-handers Dan Otero, Zach McAllister and Nick Goody, and lefty Tyler Olson. Cleveland could consider moving one of Mike Clevinger, Josh Tomlin or Danny Salazar to the 'pen, given the team's rotation depth. Beyond that, the Major League depth chart is relatively thin at the moment.

Last season, Armstrong, 27, posted a 4.38 ERA in 21 games for the Indians, with 20 strikeouts against 10 walks in 24 2/3 innings. In parts of the past three years, the hard-throwing righty turned in a 3.53 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings in the big leagues. Over his Minor League career, Armstrong has fashioned a 2.37 ERA with 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 251 appearances.

Cleveland's 40-man roster was trimmed to 39 with the trade, meaning the club could make a selection in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 9 a.m. ET. The Indians could roll the dice on a reliever like they did a year ago. At the Winter Meetings last offseason, they selected lefty Hoby Milner in the Rule 5 Draft, but returned him to the Phillies during Spring Training.

The bonus pool money applies to the current period, which opened with the Indians having $5.75 million available for international signings. The club spent the entirety of that allotment, with its top two signings being shortstop Aaron Bracho ($1.5 million bonus) of Venezuela and outfielder George Valera ($1.3 million) of the Dominican Republic. They rank 28th and 25th, respectively, among the Indians' Top 30 prospects, according to MLBPipeline.com.

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.

 

Cleveland Indians, Shawn Armstrong