CLEVELAND -- The Indians have made it through their stretch of 17 games in 17 days, going 10-7. In each of those contests, the pitching staff has managed to hold its opponents to four runs or fewer, the rotation posted the best ERA in the Majors and the offense accumulated an MLB-worst .196 average.
Through this stretch, plenty of questions have emerged. Let’s try to get to some answers in this week’s Inbox.
When is the MLB Trade Deadline, and do you think the Indians should give up a low-end SP (Civale/Plesac) for a bat to boost the order?
This year’s Trade Deadline is Aug. 31, and there’s no hiding the Tribe’s need for an impact bat in the order -- especially while their top hitters are still trying to heat up. However, Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac aren’t going to be the pitchers Cleveland dangles on the market. The way the two 25-year-old righties thrived in their rookie seasons and only have shown improvements in their sophomore campaigns is more than enough to lock them into the rotation for at least the immediate future.
Now, the depth that Plesac and Civale give the Indians may free up some of their other starters to be dealt. Someone like Adam Plutko, who’s currently in the bullpen but struggling to find his role, or Jefry Rodriguez, who’s at the Indians’ alternate training site in Lake County, may be more likely arms to be moved.
What are your thoughts on getting Puig again? I believe he’s still a F/A and he’d be a great batting OF. If not Puig, how about trading Plutko for an OF?
The Yasiel Puig ship seems to have sailed for the Indians. The team had a two-month stint with Puig on its roster last season and had the chance to attempt to re-sign him over the offseason, but it opted not to. Puig had negotiated a deal with the Braves that fell through after he tested positive for COVID-19 in July. At this point, the Tribe would likely consider other outfield options and will soon be getting Tyler Naquin back from the injured list.
Timetable on Roberto and Naquin?
The Indians haven’t set a specific timetable for Roberto Pérez (right shoulder strain) or Naquin (right big toe fracture), but the indication is that Naquin could be ready in the next couple of days. Pérez is expected to join the team shortly after Naquin.
When Tyler Naquin returns from the injured list, how will that affect playing time for the other outfielders? Could they platoon Naquin/Jordan Luplow at one outfield spot like last year, or could we see them both get everyday opportunities?
Oscar Mercado, Delino DeShields, Jordan Luplow, Franmil Reyes, Domingo Santana and Bradley Zimmer are all already on the Tribe’s 28-man roster. When Naquin arrives, Zimmer may end up being the odd man out and get sent to Lake County.
It seems likely that Naquin and Luplow could platoon in a corner like they did last year at least within the first week or two after Naquin rejoins the club. But if one gets hot at the plate, the Indians have said they aren’t afraid to ride the hot hand, especially when the offensive has collectively been struggling.
Who actually decides the starting lineup? Alomar, Sarbaugh or Tito?
Because manager Terry Francona has been away from the team with a minor gastrointestinal condition, first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. has been handling the heavy lifting with the day-to-day decisions. He checks in every day with Francona, who still has the final say and weighs in on lineups and other situations. However, it has ended up being a collaborative effort between Francona, Alomar and third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh to put the lineup together. Francona is expected to return to managing Tuesday at home against the Cubs.
Is it time to shake up the top of the order and put Lindor back at leadoff?
If the Indians didn’t love Cesar Hernandez in the leadoff spot as much as they do, it would be easier to see this as a viable option. Alomar and Francona have both made remarks about how impressive Hernandez has been in his short time with the Tribe and it doesn’t seem like they’re ready to move him.
With a club that is desperately looking for consistency at the plate, Hernandez has provided it with a team-leading .305 average and an .804 OPS. Although Francisco Lindor hasn’t found his stride yet, the Tribe remains confident that he’ll be able to heat up no matter where he is in the order. But when they have someone who’s been hitting like Hernandez, shifting him around in the lineup probably won’t be their first choice.
With the recent offensive struggles, what are the chances the Indians decide to give Nolan Jones an opportunity?
There’s so much excitement when it comes to third baseman Nolan Jones, the Indians’ No. 1 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline. The team added him to their 60-man player pool to make sure that he wouldn’t lose a year of development without the Minor Leagues this season. But just because he’s in Lake County doesn’t mean he’ll get the call up at some point this year.
Cleveland has José Ramírez at third, with Mike Freeman and Yu Chang as backup options. Jones doesn’t quite fit in the picture just yet and in a year where he’s only relying on simulated games to keep him ready and each game of the 60-game sprint feels like a must-win, it may not be the time for them to experiment. The chances to see Jones this season are low, but stranger things have certainly happened.
What happens with the foul balls that land in the stands? I feel they should pass out to local kids or have online drawings of some sort ...
While the majority of the balls are recycled for batting practice, Plutko has taken it upon himself to donate some foul balls to local children. With his charitable organization Plutko Family Partners, the right-hander has been collecting some of the foul balls in the stands, autographing them and shipping them off to kids in the area who need some inspiration.