Indians continuing multi-year approach in trade talks

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Alex Hooper
July 01, 2018 - 11:24 am

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Indians have a single goal in 2018, one that is known to everybody. In their attempts to achieve that goal, there is an intent, though not a hard-and-fast rule, to elongate their championship window.

Chasing a championship in 2018 and chasing a championship in future years are not mutually exclusive.

The screams of a window closing on fans were not made without good reason. With each passing season, players instrumental to the last campaign find greener pastures, as was the case following 2017.

In 2018, the threat of a depleting bullpen has been a matter at hand as soon as the contracts of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen hit the 365 day mark. As the bullpen has struggled mid-season, the cries from fans have focused on a closing window in 2018, not beyond.

Those cries became a shrill yell for some as soon as the likes of the Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals jumped at the market in trades for Alex Colome of the Tampa Bay Rays and Kelvin Herrera of the Kansas City Royals, respectively.

There was a stark contrast between the two pitchers dealt, as one made sense for aforementioned window, and it was Colome, a closer with two years of arbitration following the year.

When asked about Herrera, Indians team President Chris Antonetti would not speak to any specific players, but answer to why the closer did not wind up in Cleveland was abundantly clear.

“As we always approach opportunities to acquire players we try to take a multi-year approach,” Antonetti said. “It was evident in our trades in 2016. We targeted players that could have an impact beyond just that season.”

The deals made in 2016 were vastly different than in 2017, however. Andrew Miller and Jonathan Lucroy, famously not a Cleveland Indian, remained under control for one more year, or two in the case of Miller. Both players acquired at the non-waiver and waiver trade deadline in 2017 signed lucrative deals in the off-season that the Indians could not afford.

Antonetti did say that the team will explore trading for impending free agents again in 2018, but hinted that it would be secondary to those with control.

“Now sometimes those players aren’t available and you can’t align on value and you end up trading for guys like we did last year with Joe Smith or getting Jay Bruce late,” he said. “That’s just the opportunity that was available to us.”

Though controllable, Colome was far from the best reliever available on the market, perhaps removing the sense of urgency for a move in the bullpen. The righty was also packaged with outfielder Denard Span, another need for the Mariners, making the deal more equitable for the two sides.

Consider these names for the bullpen instead: Darren O’Day – now on the 60-day DL - and Mychal Givens (BAL), Nate Jones (CHI-AL), Raisel Iglesias and Amir Garrett (CIN), Shane Greene (DET), Kyle Barraclough (MIA), Robert Gsellman (NYM), Blake Treinen (OAK), Brad Hand, Craig Stammen and Kirby Yates (SDP); Keone Kela (TEX), or Ryan Tepera (TOR).

Those are just the names on multi-year deals, from teams who are not expected to compete any time soon. There are plenty of non-controllable names on those teams as well, in case none of those other 14 do not work out.

With a less-pressing need among infielders, it becomes more likely that the Indians pay a lower price for a rental. Thus the Manny Machado conversations.

The main points of emphasis for the Indians offensively would be in the infield where Jason Kipnis has struggled all season, but any move would likely have to involve the former All-Star because of his salary.

Antonetti also mentioned that he hoped for more ‘consistency’ out of center and right field, but if healthy, Tyler Naquin and the platoon of Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer would be tough to upgrade upon for a decent value.

Andrew McCutchen is likely the best outfielder on the market, and the only rental that makes sense as an upgrade for the Indians. Other contenders with bigger outfield needs and more salary flexibility would likely outbid Cleveland.

Baltimore’s Adam Jones could be had, but is a liability in center field at 32 and has not played right field since 2007.

Within the division, Kansas City’s Jorge Soler is a solid potential replacement for Lonnie Chisenhall in right, should the lefty’s calf issues continue or if he leaves in free agency. The 26-year-old is owed $4.7 million through 2020. Detroit’s Nick Castellanos is controllable for 2019, as well, though both AL Central outfielders could carry a heavier value trading within the division.

Cincinnati’s Scott Schebler would be a considerable upgrade, and is controllable through 2022, making it less likely the Reds would deal him.