After an off-season full of trade rumors, the Cleveland Indians and their fans are finally rid of the non-stop chatter. Just kidding.
As the trade deadline approaches, some similar names from the offseason continue to pop up in rumors for the Tribe. Trevor Bauer, Brad Hand, and you’d figure Corey Kluber would be in there as well if he were healthy right now. Unfortunately — or maybe fortunately — for the Indians, Kluber sits on the IL with a fractured right ulna, so he cannot be dealt.
Despite a recent hot stretch of baseball from Cleveland, it’s more than likely they will be active sellers during the trade deadline. They won’t completely blow things up, but they also won’t be the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates who continue to watch Austin Meadows feast in Tampa Bay. With that in mind, there are some ways the Indians could change things up at the trade deadline.
Let the youngsters shine
Highly coveted starter Corey Kluber will sit on the IL until August. Bauer and Hand are healthy, however, and having excellent seasons. Despite a couple of rough outings in May, Bauer still possesses a 5-6 record with a 3.41 ERA. He has also been the workhorse of the Tribe rotation, with the most innings pitched and most batters faced among big league pitchers. Trevor also recorded his first complete game shutout with a ten strikeout effort. Bauer’s future contract situation is also unfriendly towards the Indians, as the hard throwing right-hander has stated he intends to only sign one-year deals from here on out. The emergence of Zach Plesac might help the Indians feel more comfortable with moving on from Bauer. Plesac, 2-2 with an ERA of 2.56, further adds to the Indians starting pitching depth.
Pray the bullpen holds up
Hand has been even better as the Indians closer. His ERA sits at 0.88 with a WAR of 1.9. He gets a lot of swings and misses, with 47 strikeouts in 31.1 innings of work. Hand is also one of the most important things one must be as a closer: clutch. His 20 saves puts him tied for 4th in the bigs in that department, and he hasn’t allowed a run since May 10th. Batters are hitting just .074 so far in the month of June. Hand is far and away the best Indians reliever, however. Guys like A.J. Cole and Tyler Clippard have been inconsistent at times but good enough to help make Cleveland’s bullpen one of the best in the A.L. If the Tribe move on from Hand, they will need others to eat a lot more innings, or make a move for another reliever at the deadline.
Why moving Hand and/or Bauer makes sense
As I said, the Indians certainly don’t lack pitching depth. Jefry Rodriguez (also currently on the IL but will return shortly) and Zach Plesac have been pleasant surprises this year. Mike Clevinger has returned from a back injury. A blood condition has Carlos Carrasco sidelined, but “Cookie”, as the Indians faithful know him, is expected to be back this season with Kluber. Triston McKenzie, their top pitching prospect, is also returning from injury soon. The problem with the 2019 Indians hasn’t been pitching. It’s been the offense (26th in team batting average), and it desperately needs to be addressed.
This name has popped up in all kinds of trade rumors lately, and for good reason. The addition of Edwin Encarnacion to the Yankees meant someone had to be the odd man out in New York. With Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge set to return to the Yankee outfield soon, New York demoted Clint Frazier back down to AAA Scranton.
Frazier was selected fifth overall in the 2013 MLB draft by the Cleveland Indians, but was part of the Andrew Miller trade in 2016. With the fiery-haired outfielder now producing well at the big league level, the Indians could have a chance to bring him back. Frazier is under team control until 2023, a definite plus for the small-market minded Indians. The Yankees are searching for starting pitching, so a move that sends Bauer to New York and Frazier to Cleveland could work for both sides. Cleveland would need another high-level prospect in this trade, if not two.
Elite closers aren’t easy to come by in the MLB, and teams looking to make postseason runs would be well served to have one on the roster. This is where Brad Hand comes into play. If the Indians look to move Hand, they could be looking at a nice prospect haul. Christian Pache of the Braves comes to mind, as the Indians need better talent in the outfield. Pache is hitting .299 this season in AA Mississippi and an .877 OPS. Luke Jackson has been ok for the Braves, but Atlanta lost out on the Craig Kimbrel sweepstake. A move for Hand could give them a good-looking bullpen for the second half.
Speaking of homecomings with the Frazier trade, Cleveland could also send Hand back to San Diego, where they traded for him and Adam Cimber last season. The Padres have flirted with .500 baseball all season, and I don’t think they want to waste any years of Manny Machado. With the contract of second baseman Jason Kipnis up after this season, the Indians could pursue Luis Urias. Urias was called up to the big leagues just under two weeks ago, and could be an upgrade over Kipnis either this season or the next. Urias hasn’t done much to this point with San Diego, but he was the number two prospect in their system for a reason.
One player that seems to be off the radar almost entirely right now is Carlos Santana. Santana spent seven seasons in Cleveland before singing a three year deal with Philadelphia two offseasons ago. The Tribe traded for Santana back last winter, and the power hitting first baseman has excelled in his return. His batting average is finally where Cleveland fans hoped it would be in those first seven years: .292. With his value seemingly at an all-time high, the Indians could make a move with the Houston Astros. Tyler White has been bad at first base, but he’s only playing because of the Carlos Correa injury. Still, Houston would love to add an additional, versatile piece to an already impressive roster. The Astros have two top outfield prospects in Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez, and a package including one of those two might interest the Indians.
What to expect
Expect the Cleveland Indians to sell at the trade deadline. The 2019 MLB All-Star Game in downtown Cleveland will be fun for Indians fans, but this season certainly has not been. With a double-digit deficit to the Twins in the AL Central and a wildcard birth unlikely, the Indians could be without one of, or both, Trevor Bauer and Brad Hand in the second half. So if you are an Indians fan who fears the end of those two’s time in Cleveland on the horizon, I offer you the words of Paul Dolan as condolence. “Enjoy it.”
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