Indians trade deadline: Breaking down potential fits, needs, best targets, trade chips
Let's have a look at the Indians as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline looms
After a bit of a slow start to the season, the Cleveland Indians have grabbed control of the AL Central and are poised to cruise to a third consecutive division title. Their trade deadline activity will be geared toward building the best postseason roster more than fending off AL Central rivals in the second half. With that in mind, let's break down Cleveland's situation heading into the trade deadline.
Bullpen help, first and foremost. Andrew Miller is due to return at some point after the All-Star break but the setup crew still needs up an upgrade because stalwarts like Dan Otero and Zach McAllister have struggled pretty much all year. The Indians could also use another outfielder, preferably a center fielder since Bradley Zimmer has played his way down to the minors. Others like Tyler Naquin, Brandon Guyer, and Greg Allen have been inconsistent at best. The Indians make took for an infield upgrade with Jason Kipnis having a down year. Jose Ramirez's versatility means they could pursue either a second or third baseman.
Best trade targets
For the most part things have been quiet around the Indians up until the last week or so. Here, in alphabetical order, are several possible trade targets for the Tribe.
Gosh, this would be fun, wouldn't it?, while he's no longer the player he was in his prime, he's still an above-average contributor on both sides of the ball. The Indians could put Beltre at third and slide Ramirez to second base, and instantly upgrade both their offense and defense. Beltre is pricey, which could be an issue for the Indians, plus he has a no-trade clause and has indicated he's not really looking to leave Texas. Then again, be might not be able to pass on a chance at his first World Series ring.
The Indians will look to buy bullpen help for both this year and the future at the trade deadline. Both Miller and Cody Allen will be free agents after the season and it's tough to think the Indians will splurge to retain both. Acquiring a controllable late-inning reliever would be ideal, and Marlins high-leverage strikeout machine Kyle Barraclough would be a fit. He's obviously available -- everyone on the Marlins available -- and he's under team control through 2021.
Both Brad Brach and Zach Britton are impending free agents and their names have been bandied about plenty in trade rumors. Both would help the 2018 Indians, for sure, but neither is controllable beyond this season, which is not ideal given Cleveland's future bullpen situation. That said, winning this year should be the priority, so I imagine the Indians consider both Brach and Britton trade targets.
The Padres may very well control the bullpen market at the deadline. Both Brad Hand and Kirby Yates are excellent and they're under control for multiple years, Hand through 2021 and Yates through 2020. . They can help them win now and later. Hard to think of a better set of realistically available teammates who could replace Miller and Allen after the season.
Curtis Granderson can't (or shouldn't, anyway) play center field anymore, and he does need a platoon partner, but he could fit the Indians as a platoon right field bat the rest of the season. Think Jay Bruce last year. The Indians picked Bruce up to strengthen their lineup down the stretch. Granderson still gets on base a bunch and he can still sock some dingers.
Another late-inning bullpen option. Raisel Iglesias has been a lockdown yet unheralded closer the last few seasons and he's signed affordably for another two years beyond this one, which fits wonderfully for the Indians. Iglesias is also versatile enough to pitch in any role. Setup man, closer, multi-inning relief ace, whatever his team needs.
The Orioles are going to make all their impending free agents available and that includes Adam Jones, who's lost a step in center field but is still probably better than the guys the Indians have been running out there. He should come cheap, though absorbing the remainder of his $17.3 million salary may be an issue for the Tribe. They might have to kick in an extra prospect to get the O's to eat some money.
Now we're talking. Manny Machado is very available and the Indians are . One small problem here: Machado is adamant he wants to play shortstop. Would he accept a move to temporary move back to third base? Would the Indians move the defensively superior Lindor to second or third to accommodate Machado? Machado is one of the best players in baseball and he'd make every single team better. There are some logistics to work out, but with the Indians getting oh so close to their first World Series since 1948 two years ago and getting ousted in the ALDS last year, the club could make a big splash and push all their chips to the middle of the table with Machado at the deadline.
A hamstring injury will sideline Leonys Martin until after the All-Star break, which complicates his trade deadline status. He has had a very nice year on both sides of the ball and would really solidify center field for the Indians, at least defensively. The Tigers signed Martin with exactly this in mind. Hope he plays well and flip him to a contender at the trade deadline. The fact these two teams are division rivals shouldn't matter one bit. Why would the Tigers care if Martin helps the Indians win in 2018?
The Royals can offer the Indians a rental infielder or a long-term control infielder. Mike Moustakas is an impending free agent and could take over at third base while Ramirez sliding to second. Whit Merrifield, who is under team control through 2022, is a second baseman who is also versatile enough to play pretty much anywhere. Second, third, the outfield, whatever his team needs. Heck, the Indians could get both Moustakas and Merrifield and put Moustakas at third and Merrifield in the outfield the rest of the season. Kansas City might not want to trade Merrifield to a division rival, however. He could haunt them for years to come.
Will the Indians play their trump card? If they put elite prospect Francisco Mejia on the table, they can get pretty much anyone they want at the trade deadline, including Machado. Mejia is a catcher by trade, but both Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez are signed long-term, which could make him expendable. (The Indians have had Mejia work at other positions in an effort to get him into the lineup going forward.) Cleveland is not blessed with a deep farm system, but others like righty Shane Bieber, third baseman, Nolan Jones, and first baseman Bobby Bradley are possible trade chips as well.
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