Indians bolster outfield with Martin from Tigers

Club also receives Minor Leaguer from Detroit in return for prospect Castro

July 31st, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS -- It was not a blockbuster move that stole the spotlight on a hectic Tuesday around the Majors, but it was a trade that made a lot of sense for the Indians.
Prior to Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Tribe reeled in center fielder from the Tigers in exchange for shortstop prospect . Detroit also sent Double-A starter Kyle Dowdy to Cleveland as part of the deal, which was the second Major League move made by the Tribe during the trade season.
The Indians have been trying to patch together an outfield riddled with injuries, and Martin brings plus defense in center field and a bat to help against right-handed pitching. On Monday night, rumors flew that the Indians had inquired with the Nationals about the availability of superstar . Washington elected to stand pat, so Cleveland's talks veered down a more realistic path.
"We explored a lot of alternatives to try to address and improve our outfield," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations. "We were really pleased to be able to acquire Leonys Martin. We think he's a great complement to our roster."
Martin is scheduled to land in Minnesota on Tuesday night and will be officially added to the active roster for Wednesday's game in the Twin Cities.

All-Star has provided the only source of stability in the Indians' outfield, manning left field while center and right have lost players to injury left and right. Center fielder (right shoulder) is out for eight to 12 months. Right fielder (right calf) could be down for the year. Outfielder (stress reaction in his right hip) is on the 10-day DL and will see a specialist later this week.
Martin can take over the bulk of the innings in center, splitting time with veteran , who can get starts against lefties and offer speed off the bench. In 638 1/3 innings in center this season, the 30-year-old Martin had recorded three Defensive Runs Saved. His 13.4 UZR/150 ranks second among qualified MLB center fielders, as do the 8.2 fielding runs above average logged this year.
"We lost Zimmer, we lost Chiz, we lost Naquin," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "So, when it was all said and done, you're like, 'OK, what can really impact us?' A center fielder that complements Raj. I think sometimes people lose track of like, OK, what's your roster? And what complements what?"

Offensively, Martin can slot into the lower third of the lineup and potentially provide an uptick in production for Cleveland's very top-heavy order. Martin has a .251/.321/.409 slash line with nine homers and 27 extra-base hits in 78 games this season. He has hit .275 with a .783 OPS and 113 wRC+ against right-handed pitching, meaning he has been 13 percent above league average in that regard.
Martin has dealt with a left hamstring issue on and off this season, but Antonetti said the Indians are confident that the outfielder is moving past that problem.
"We spent a lot of time on that," Antonetti said. "Also, we had the ability to see him play over the last handful of games to watch and make sure he's healthy. We think he's working his way back to full strength and top speed, but he's getting pretty close to that level."
The Indians always prefer to target players with multiple years of control in trades and Martin fits that description, as well. He is under contract this season for $1.75 million and has one more year of arbitration eligibility remaining. That offers Cleveland a layer of protection in the outfield, given that Zimmer could miss the first half next season and Chisenhall is hitting free agency this winter.
Before landing Martin, the Indians were also linked to outfielders , , , Joey Gallo and , among others, in various reports and rumors. Jones, specifically, had the right to block any trade due to his 10-and-5 rights (at least 10 years of MLB service and at least five years with the current club).
Antonetti said the Indians never reached a point in any talks where a player with veto rights was asked if he would approve a deal.
"We never got to the point of presenting something to a player," Antonetti said. "But there were hundreds of different concepts that we talked about over the last few weeks. We were able to get a couple of them done, but [having some deals collapse] is par for the course as you explore trades."
Dowdy, 25, was a 12th-round selection by Detroit in the 2015 Draft and offers a layer of rotation depth for the Tribe's farm system. Between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo this year, the right-hander was 8-8 with a 4.74 ERA, 92 strikeouts and 32 walks in 95 innings.
The 21-year-old Castro -- ranked eighth overall on the Indians' Top 30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline -- has been heralded for his defensive play throughout the Minors. This past winter, Cleveland even added the young infielder to its 40-man roster to protect him from possible selection in the Rule 5 Draft in December. The presence of made a prospect like Castro (currently at Double-A) expendable.
The Indians also pulled off a Minor League trade with the Cardinals on Tuesday, reeling in outfield prospect for Minor League outfielders Conner Capel and Jhon Torres.
The Martin deal helps Cleveland's need for improvement in the outfield and comes on the heels of the Tribe addressing its need for bullpen reinforcements. On July 19, the Indians shipped their former top prospect, catcher , to the Padres in order to land All-Star closer Brad Hand and sidearmer .
"They did a really good job," Francona said of the front office. "I mean, it's not easy. We have some parameters, which we know are in place. We're not going to be the Dodgers or the Red Sox. But, we don't want that to get in the way of us winning. And I think they've done an unbelievable job of making us better."