On Wednesday evening, Adam wrote about how the Indians signed Mike Napoli to a one-year deal. Before the dust could even settle on that signing, the Indians announced another one-year, veteran addition – outfielder Rajai Davis. The Indians were rumored to have some interest in Davis for a few weeks now, so the signing didn’t completely come out of left field (pun intended!) And speaking of rumors, the Indians were involved in a number of rumors centered around Reds third baseman Todd Frazier over the past few weeks. Frazier was traded on Wednesday, but ended up going to Chicago White Sox in a three-team deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I want to discuss Davis first, but also want to address the Indians missing out on Frazier.
With the likelihood that Michael Brantley could miss time at the beginning of the season, the Indians really needed to make some moves to help the outfield. Even though Abraham Almonte and Lonnie Chisenhall were nice fits at the end of last season, they both have struggled when it comes to playing every day for a full season. Other options were guys like the recently acquired Joey Butler or Collin Cowgill…in other words, not exactly a group of perennial all stars. It’s not like Davis is the answer to all of the outfield’s problems, but he does at least provide the Indians with a solid, veteran option.
Davis has bounced around during his career, but had the most success in 2014 with the Detroit Tigers. As I mentioned on a podcast with Jim Pete and Bob Toth that we taped on Wednesday night, a lot players always seem to find offensive success in Motown. JD Martinez completely turned his career around, while Davis was a solid platoon option for them. I’m not sure if it’s thanks to strong coaching, or just the fact that you’re in a lineup that contains one of the greatest hitters in the game in Miguel Cabrera. I am a bit worried that a 35-year-old outfielder known for his speed, could obviously see a quick decline in his performance (we’re unfortunately all too familiar with that when it comes to Michael Bourn). At the same time, I’d still rather see someone like Davis in the outfield as opposed to Jerry Sands. Plus his contract is reasonable, a reported $5.25 million deal that could climb to $6.475 million with incentives.
Now – the Frazier trade. I have to admit I’m a bit baffled by this deal, at least if the rumors of the past few weeks are to be believed. Supposedly the Reds stood firm on demanding Brad Zimmer, Clint Frazier, and “multiple” others, according to Anthony Castrovince. What the Reds ended up receiving in the deal isn’t terrible, but is fairly underwhelming when you see what they were asking of the Indians (and their supposed high asking prices to other teams as well). Did they just like those prospects more than the “best offers” of other teams in the end? Did Frazier’s mediocre performance during the second half of the 2015 season drive his value down? Or did teams just find the asking price too high for two years of control?
Even though the Reds didn’t exactly clean house on this deal, the White Sox did manage to give up some players of value for Frazier (who ended up with the Dodgers). While you never want to see one of your rivals get a player of Frazier’s caliber, I was pleased to see that it did cost Chicago Trayce Thompson, who hit .295/.363/.533 in 122 at-bats during his rookie season with the White Sox. His numbers in the minors were less thrilling, but in very limited action (18 at-bats) against the Indians, he hit .389/.476/.667. Even with the limited sample size, I fear another one of those players that just punish the Indians every time they play them. Frazier, on the other hand, has subpar numbers against the Tribe throughout his career (.162/.250/.235 with 0 home runs in 68 at-bats), and also has pathetic numbers when playing at Progressive Field (.162/.244/.216 with no home runs in 37 at-bats). Again, the caveat is that these are small sample sizes and may not hold up long term.
While I would’ve liked to see the Indians snag Frazier (in the right deal), I’m not too broken hearted about the fact they missed out on him. There is something that seems odd to me about this – how were the White Sox able to offer significantly less than what the Reds wanted from the Indians, and still land Frazier? The Indians also tried to bring a third team into a potential deal, and it was even rumored that third team was the Dodgers. Yet, Frazier will be heading to the windy city instead of Cleveland. In a weird way, this reminds me of the Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss trades from last offseason. When the Athletics took (what I considered) an underwhelming return from Toronto for Josh Donaldson, I wondered why the Indians weren’t able to find a way to grab him instead of Moss (or even in a deal with Moss). At the time, Chris Antonetti implied that they inquired on Donaldson, but Oakland was firmly against moving him. Yet a short time later, Alex Anthopoulos was able to pry him loose with seemingly little effort. Perhaps the Indians just have no real interest in making these moves, and the deals never get beyond the early discussion phase. Or maybe there’s something going on with the Indians front office where they botch these deals and other teams are able to swoop in and complete the trades while surrendering less.
I don’t think the Indians are done this offseason; I think we may see another move or two before spring training. However, I think they may wait a while to see if some of the asking prices start to drop.