The Cleveland Indians offseason plans abruptly changed when their All-Star Left fielder, Michael Brantley, underwent right shoulder surgery on a torn labrum. Brantley will reportedly need five to six months to recover from the procedure and is likely to miss the first month of the season. The clubs hopes they can start putting their best player’s name on the lineup card when the calendar turns to May, but the time table for his return is somewhat fluid.
New Indians general manager, Mike Chernoff, must now adjust his focus towards the outfield, as the team is already in need of a center fielder. With Brantley’s situation uncertain, they absolutely have to address this situation.
If the team is looking for something to use to fill these holes, Chernoff does have six young starting pitchers to use in doing so.
I don’t think you can can trade Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar. They are not on the table if it were up to me. They make up the core of the Indians staff, are coming off very good seasons and all are under club control for the near future at bargain pricing.
- Kluber is signed through 2019 with team options for 2020 and 2021. He’s 29-years old.
- Carrasco is signed through 2018 with team options for 2019 and 2020. He’s 28-years old.
- Salazar isn’t signed long-term. But the 25-year old right-hander is not eligible for free agency until 2021.
For me, Trevor Bauer is the guy to be shopped in hope of landing an impact outfielder. Bauer fits the mold of what teams are looking for when they say they want a young major league ready starter. He has all the potential in the world and can help a contender right away.
- Bauer is 24-years old and already has two season of experience in the bigs. He was 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA, while striking out 170 batters in 2015.
Bauer has always been a bit on the eccentric side with his pregame preparations and self claimed 14-pitch repertoire. There were times last season when he would get banged around the yard and then “get smart” in his postgame interview, stating his stuff was good despite the outcome.
In September, Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes reported on Bauer’s refusal to take responsibility for an outing against Toronto, when he only managed an 1 1/3 innings while giving up five runs on six hits over 44 pitches. After claiming his stuff was quality and he had thrown good pitches that were just hit where someone wasn’t, Indians manager Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Calloway contradicted his account, citing an inability to keep the ball down and to follow the game plan. Bauer, however insisted that his stuff was on point.
With all of this in mind, the Indians starting pitcher that carries significant value and doesn’t quite fit is Bauer. He should be the guy that the Indians look to leverage into the impact outfielder they need. The rumors have already been swirling around the Indians, as they have reportedly been fielding offers for one of their young starters since the winter meetings.
Breaking Down the Rumors
According to major leagues sources, the New York Yankees are interested in sending OF Brett Gardner the Tribe’s way, in exchange for a starting pitcher. The Indians should shut down this proposal immediately. Gardner is 32-years old, and finished his 2015 campaign batting .255 (.742 OPS) with 16 HR, 66 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He is set to make $38 Million over the next three years of his existing contract.
Gardner has no appeal to me, he is on the back end of his career and provides nowhere near the offensive prowess that the Indians should command in return. Even if the Yankees agreed to pay a portion of his deal and threw in a prospect, the Indians need to be aggressive in a market where young pitching is at a premium, so this deal does not make sense.
The same sources reported that the Los Angeles Dodgers have reached out to the Indians in regard to OF Yasiel Puig. Puig posted a batting average of .255 (.758 OPS) with 11 HR and 38 RBI last season. He is not wanted in the Los Angeles club house any longer and appears to be a classic case of great uniform-bad helmet. Puig also has a bad hamstring and attitude. No thanks.
Sources also have speculated possible trade scenarios between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Indians. You know, where former Indians president Mark Shapiro has taken over in Toronto and has obvious relationships with the Indians front office.
The Jays need young pitching and Kevin Pillar‘s name has been thrown around. Pillar is a premier center fielder defensively and he is solid offensively. He hit .268 (.713 OPS) with 12 HR, 56 RBI and 25 stolen bases. He came on during the Jays run to the playoffs, proving he is a force at the dish. Pillar is just 26-years old and coming into the prime of his career. Toronto is also high on Pillar’s backup, CF Dalton Pompey, so it seems like an excellent situation for both parties.
Another option that could make sense for the Indians involves Miami Marlins center fielder, Marcell Ozuna.
The Marlins are actively shopping him and are looking for young pitching in return. Ozuna has loads of potential and would provide the Indians with an immensely talented young center fielder through 2019. Ozuna had a nice 2014, slashing .269/.317/.455. In 2015, He batted .259 while hitting 10 HR and driving in 44 RBI over 123 games. The major upside along with his potential in this deal is that he would be under club control, so the Indians could pursue another impact outfielder along with Ozuna. This is a deal I would do.
I worry about the Indians front office being gun shy after the Swisher and Bourn signings. I realize there is a benefit to signing veteran players to low risk, high reward contracts, but the Indians window with their current core of pitching and talent in their prime isn’t everlasting. They have to do more than what has been labeled as “the usual” in Cleveland, aka signing the usual suspects to minor league deals, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Chris Antonetti has done a terrific job signing the Tribe’s young talent to long-term deals that now look like bargains. But at some point you gotta play your hand, so look for things to heat up even more at December’s winter meetings.