CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland Indians are looking to make a deal. I hear most of their targets are hitters.
But unless something drastic happens, they won’t be trading any of their premier prospects.
I’m talking about players such as Francisco Mejia, Bobby Bradley or Triston McKenzie.
This is not like 2016 when the Indians targeted Andrew Miller. They knew he’d give them an elite bullpen. He also was signed through the 2018 season.
Furthermore, they had two top outfield prospects: Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer. They were willing to trade one as part of a package for Miller.
They also included Mejia in a deal for Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy. But that fell apart when Lucroy used his no-trade clause.
Here is the thinking:
1. This team still could put it together, win the AL Central Division and advance deep into the playoffs. But the 2017 Tribe certainly is not playing at the same level as the 2016 model.
2. Tribe catchers are batting only .206 (.622 OPS) with 7 HR and 37 RBI. The 21-year-old Mejia is batting .320 (.893 OPS) with 10 HR and 35 RBI for Class AA Akron.
3. Mejia is a switch-hitter. He batted .342 in Class A in 2016. He could be promoted to the Tribe in September to help as an extra hitter off the bench. He could be catching a lot with the Tribe in 2018.
4. Carlos Santana is a free agent after the season. A 21-year-old first baseman, Bradley could be a replacement at some point. Bradley is batting .253 (.816 OPS) with 16 HR and 63 RBI at Akron. Edwin Encarnacion is under contract through 2019. He can play some first base, but his best spot is DH.
5. McKenzie is 8-4 with a 2.89 ERA at Class A Lynchburg. He is only 19. The righthander has struck out 124 in 97 innings. In his minor league career, he is 15-10 with a 2.20 ERA. He is a big-time pitching prospect.
6. The Indians still want to improve their team. They made offers for J.D. Martinez, the Detroit outfielder who was traded to Arizona. He is a free agent at the end of the season.
7. The Indians know that to remain contenders in the next few seasons, they need the farm system to keep producing. They can’t ship off the best prospects every year at the trading deadline.
This is my list, not the Tribe’s.
But it’s not hard to figure out who could have some value to other teams but not leave key parts of the farm system empty. I’m only looking at prospects from Class AAA and Class AA.
1. At Class AAA, Shawn Morimando is 10-5 with a 3.56 ERA. Lefty Ryan Merritt is 7-5 with a 3.36 ERA. The Indians would probably trade one of these guys because they have two starters close to being Major League ready.
2. Tyler Naquin is 26 years old. He showed real value a year ago playing against right-handed pitching. Naquin was only 5-for-25 (.200) with the Tribe this season. A healthy Michael Brantley and the rise of Zimmer took two outfield spots away from Naquin. At Class AAA, Naquin is batting .321 (.906 OPS) with 6 HR and 20 RBI.
3. Yu Chang is a 21-year-old shortstop at Akron, where he’s batting .224 (.789 OPS) with 19 HR and 51 RBI. He was part of the Lucroy deal that collapsed. The Yankees wanted him in the trade for Andrew Miller. The Indians like his power. But they have a lot of middle infielders with Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez and Erik Gonzalez. The power makes Chang very appealing.
4. Yandy Diaz is batting .338 (.894 OPS) with 4 HR and 22 RBI at Class AAA. The Indians really like the right-handed hitter, but they do wish he’d show more power. Diaz will be 26 on August 8.
5. Greg Allen has had a difficult season because of a major hand injury. He is just coming back now with Akron, where he is batting .245 (.683 OPS) with 1 HR and 11 RBI. The Indians consider the 24-year-old to be a Gold Glove caliber center fielder. But he has Zimmer ahead of him in Cleveland.
ABOUT THE INDIANS
1. I doubt the Indians will trade for a starting pitcher. Mike Clevinger has grabbed a rotation spot with a 5-3 record and 2.73 ERA. Opponents are batting only .180 against him. With Danny Salazar back, the Indians already have six possible starters. Someone will head to the bullpen.
2. I heard some talk of Yu Darvish to the Tribe. A few things:
- He has several teams where he can veto a trade, including Cleveland.
- He is a free agent at the end of the year.
- He is represented by Scott Boras, one of the best and toughest agents in all of sports.
3. Names such as Eduardo Nunez and Asdrubal Cabrera seem more realistic. The Indians would like to add a veteran utility man who can hit. A former Indian, Cabrera is batting .250 (.732 OPS) with 9 HR and 29 RBI for the Mets. He is only 31. I thought he was older. He first came to the Tribe in 2007.
4. Cabrera is under contract for $8.2 million in 2017. It’s $8.5 million ($2 million guaranteed) in 2018. I would expect the Indians to ask the Mets to pick up some cash if they deal for Cabrera.
5. Nunez is making $4.2 million and he’s a free agent after the season. He is batting .300 (.735 OPS) with 4 HR, 27 RBI and 17 steals for the Giants.
6. It seems the Indians have been linked forever to Jay Bruce when it comes to rumors. He’s on the last season of a $13 million contract with the Mets. The lefty hitter is having a good season, batting .266 (.860 OPS) with 24 HR and 63 RBI. He has played mostly right field, where the Indians would use him.
7. The Indians would not give up much for Bruce and they’d probably want the Mets to pick up a lot of the remaining contract. I’m not sure the team is willing to add a lot more payroll.