The Indians are currently 30-29. They have lost 12 of their last 14 games, and just lost their two All-Stars from a season ago to injury. There are many differing opinions on where the Indians currently stand this season. Some could argue that this is simply a rough stretch, and that the Tribe will recover from their slump. On the other hand, some could argue that this team is finally coming back down to earth after their hot streak, and that their recent play is a sign of what is to come for the rest of the season. Regardless of one’s view, the front office will form an opinion on this roster in the next couple of months that will affect how they approach the trade market. Do they enter the market as aggressive buyers in an effort to add an impact pitcher or hitter? Or do they enter the market as sellers trying to dump off a free-agent-to-be in order to pick up some prospects that will improve the roster long-term?
If the Tribe does go into “buy” mode, I think they will try to acquire a player that will require a significant return. I think they understand that acquiring a pitcher with a moderately high ERA or a hitter with a .250 average isn’t going to propel the Tribe into the playoffs. A player that could possibly push the Tribe into the playoffs is a top of the rotation pitcher, like Cliff Lee or Matt Garza. The exact market for pitchers has yet to be defined, but these two will most likely be on the market due to their contract or team’s performance. A pitcher like this would give the Indians a very strong top of the rotation, and if guys like Jimenez and Kazmir improve, the Tribe could potentially make a strong push for the playoffs if their offense is able to sustain a high output.
With all this being said, I think that fans should be wary of another Ubaldo Jimenez-esque trade. Two years ago, the Indians traded away their top two pitching prospects (Drew Pomeranz and Alex White), Matt McBride, and Joe Gardner for Ubaldo Jimenez. They viewed the trade as an opportunity to add a strong pitcher that had two years left on his contract, who could propel them over the hump and into the playoffs. We all know the current update on this; Ubaldo pitched disastrously, and the Indians were far from reaching the playoffs that year. Although he has shown flashes this year, Jimenez is most likely not in the Tribe’s future plans unless he would agree on a low-priced contract. Granted, Pomeranz and White haven’t quite lived up to their expectations, but at the time it was still a lot to give up. Cleveland has most likely (and hopefully) deemed Francisco Lindor untradeable, but could still set back the roster’s future improvement if the club trades away its other significant prospects in attempt to push them into the playoffs this season.
The Tribe can still be aggressive in the upcoming trade market in the form of trading current players for prospects. Yes, this is the dreaded phrase that everyone hates to read. Fans have been plagued by the memories of trading beloved players for prospects such as C.C. Sabathia, Victor Martinez, or Cliff Lee. These trades have yielded a mixed bag of players, but besides Justin Masterson and Michael Brantley, none have been of high impact quality.
Regardless of fan opinions of trades in the past, the Tribe still has players on this roster that could bring back a solid return. The players that could bring back the most in return have recently been placed on the DL. I’m willing to bet that Chris Perez and his legal/injury battles will prevent a trade, although Asdrubal Cabrera could be different. Even with his stay on the DL, the trade deadline is still nearly two months away. Cabrera could return and make a good enough impression for a contender to make a play for him. Cabrera would be enticing to teams with a plethora of solid young arms and a hole at shortstop, such as the St. Louis Cardinals. Another possible player to be traded is Mark Reynolds. Yes, Reynolds is having a solid year, as he is in the top 10 in the American League in homeruns and RBIs, but he is going to be a free agent after the season, and no, he will not be re-signed. He is currently in a slump, but he is putting up good enough numbers that will earn him a solid payday in the upcoming offseason. If the Indians are in sell mode, why not trade him? A contender in need of a solid hitter who can play 1B, 3B or DH would almost surely give up a solid prospect or two.
There are a few other free-agent-to-be players that have performed decent this season that could be traded, such as Ryan Raburn, Scott Kazmir, and Ubaldo Jimenez. Contenders that need a decent hitter or pitcher could be willing to give up a solid prospect in return. The Indians have executed these types of trades numerous times in the past: Austin Kearns for Zach McAllister, Casey Blake for Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez, and even Ben Broussard for Shin-Soo Choo.
Everyone has their own opinion on what the Tribe should do at the deadline. Like I wrote earlier, some think the Tribe should buy and some think they should sell. It is still very early and a lot of things could change that could impact the front office’s decision. Personally, I believe the Indians have a bright future. I believe their future could be even brighter if they trade some of the aforementioned players to acquire more young pitching. As is stands, the only sure spots in the Tribe’s rotation are Masterson and McAllister. Jimenez, Kazmir, and Myers will all be free agents, and unless there is a drastic turn in performance, they will not be on the team next year. Cleveland needs more young arms. Bauer, Carrasco and Salazar have positive futures, but no one is sure when they will be polished enough for the rotation. The Tribe should sell, and trade some of their assets to strengthen this shaky rotation.