With the MLB Trade Deadline just days away, the 52-53 Cleveland Indians find themselves in an intriguing situation at this juncture of the season. Though the team is 6.5 games behind Detroit in the Central, they are right in the mix for one of the two Wild Card spots—just four games back.
After making the playoffs last season as a Wild Card, the Cleveland Indians front office has plenty of pressure on it from ownership and the fans to produce a winner this season as well. This is where things get interesting for the Indians, as they will find themselves tip-toeing the line between being a buyer and a seller in the coming days.
Reports have surfaced that, “The Cleveland Indians are ‘very willing’ to trade starting pitcher Justin Masterson.” Once rumored to be in talks to receive an extension in the neighborhood of $14-17 million a season from the Indians prior to the season, the former All-Star has fallen from grace this season—checking in at 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA. Out since the beginning of July with an injury, as the deadline approaches Indians fans may have seen Masterson in a Tribe uniform for the last time.
But does it benefit the Indians to trade Masterson at this time?
That is the difficult question here, especially since he is a free agent at the end of the season. Had the Indians traded him prior to the season—like some wanted after they could not come to an agreement on an extension—the package would have been much more significant. Now, some are wondering if the Indians could even get a decent AAA prospect in return for him.
With many wondering the fate of Masterson, another report surfaced regarding an Indians starter—shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted, “Whatever interest #BlueJays had in Rios was fleeting, sources say. Jays monitoring market; #Indians’ Cabrera an option.”
A career .270 hitter, the 28-year old Cabrera has taken a turn for the worse over the course of the last two seasons. In 2013, he hit .242 with 14 home runs, 64 RBI and his second highest strikeout total of his career, 114. With many expecting him to bounce back in 2014, Cabrera has done little to show a glimmer of hope—batting .249 with 9 home runs and 40 RBI.
To make matters worse, Cabrera’s defensive numbers have fallen as well, as he already has 14 errors this season. If he continues at his current rate, he will finish much higher than the 19-error season he had back in 2012. With two young prospects behind him in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez who are better defenders, moving Cabrera may actually end up being addition by subtraction for the Indians offense.
However, the Blue Jays are currently ahead of the Indians in the playoff hunt and may question themselves when it comes to potentially helping out another contender. But if I am the Indians, if Toronto is offering a package that can provide them with a starting pitcher or starting outfielder, it may be worth the risk.
With two well-known players potentially on the market, it could appear to some that the Indians are going the “seller” route at the deadline. However, finding a deal for both of these players at the deadline, coupled with another move or two, could actually be a blessing in disguise for a Tribe team in desperate need of an infusion of some hitting, pitching and defensive help for the stretch run.