Four thoughts on the Indians, including Brad Hand's future, Mike Clevinger and more

Here are four thoughts on the Tribe

James Rapien
June 12, 2019 - 8:21 pm
May 4, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) and relief pitcher Brad Hand (33) celebrate after the Indians beat the Seattle Mariners at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Indians finished 5-3 on their home stand that included series wins over the Twins and Yankees. They also split a two-game set against the Reds.

They’re 34-33 and could be 11.5 games out of first place if Minnesota Seattle on Thursday night.

There are plenty of questions surrounding the Indians. Will they be sellers at the deadline? Should they trade Trevor Bauer or Brad Hand? Why isn’t Bobby Bradley in the big leagues?

Here are four thoughts on the Indians’ roster and what could be next for the Tribe:

The 2019 Season Isn’t Over – Plenty of people think the Indians should mail it in, but there is plenty of time left to make a run. The Texas Rangers are the only team with a winning record on their schedule between now and the All-Star break. Cleveland has shown signs of life, but they've been inconsistent all season. 

They need to make a run and the schedule gives them a chance to do that.

They have 21 games between now and the All-Star break. This is their opportunity to make up some ground in the division and prove they can be consistent for the first time all season. Winning the division is a long shot, but everything has gone the Twins’ way so far this season. Is it unreasonable to think the Indians could win 70 percent of their games before the break? If they can feast on teams like the Tigers, Orioles and Royals, then everyone could feel differently about them three weeks from now. 

It’s Sunny at ‘The Jake’ – Mike ‘Sunshine’ Clevinger will be on the mound for game one of the Indians’ series against Texas on Monday. The 28-year-old has been out since April 7 with a back strain.

If the Indians are going to make a playoff run, they’re going to need Clevinger to play at a high-level.

“I definitely think I’m ready,” he said. “I’m getting more and more in sync and kind of picking up where I left off and each time I get back on the bump, I just feel more like me.”

As good as Trevor Bauer was at the beginning of the season, no Indians’ starter was as dominant as Clevinger. He pitched 12 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits in his first two starts.

Clevinger’s velocity was as high as it’s ever been. He hit 97 mph five times in his last start for the Indians back in April. He was clocked at 99 mph on Tuesday night in his rehab start for Double-A Akron. Is he better now than he was prior to the injury?

“I think it's just getting warmer weather, and this is kind of what'd happen to my velocity regardless,” Clevinger said. “First two starts back, it was still up, but it was a little bit down from what I had going at the end of the spring. I think with the warmer weather coming in, yeah, it's going to tick up a bit when I get back.”

If Clevinger can be the guy he was prior to the injury, then the Indians will get a big boost to help them make a run prior to the All-Star break. 

Need a Hand? – There’s been plenty of talk about trading Brad Hand, who’s been one of the best closers in baseball. He has a 0.39 ERA in his last 23 appearances with 35 strikeouts. He’s allowed one run since April 15.

It’s easy for people to say the Indians should trade the two-time All-Star. Every contender in baseball could use a closer like Hand. He's been unflappable in big situations all season long for the Tribe.

The Indians should take calls from teams who are interested in dealing for him, but the price should be steep. He’s under contract through 2021. The Indians are scheduled to pay him $7 million in 2020. Hand has a $10 million team option in 2021.

An organization with salary constraints like the Indians needs to take advantage of below-market deals like this one. Hand is a bargain, which means Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff will get plenty of calls about him prior to the deadline, but that doesn’t mean they have to make a deal.

Will the Indians be better over the next few seasons if they trade Hand? Dealing him for quality young players makes sense, but there’s a reason they’re called prospects. There’s no guarantee they end up working out in the big leagues. The Indians could get a haul in return for Hand, but young players will have their ups and downs as they get acclimated to Major League Baseball. Most organizations don’t normally prioritize the closer position until their team doesn’t have one.

If the Indians are giving up a sure thing in Hand, they better get the moon and a few stars in return.

Bradley’s Time – Most Indians fans are asking the same question about Bobby Bradley: when will he get promoted to the big league roster?

Bradley has a .278/.343/.578 slash line for the Columbus Clippers this season. He entered play on Thursday second in the International League with 17 home runs and third with 46 RBI. He was great in the month of May, but has come back to earth over the past week.

Unless the Indians are willing to move on from Leonys Martin or send Jake Bauers to Triple-A, then there isn't space on the roster for Bradley.

Martin provides a veteran presence in the locker room, but his .206/.283/.346 slash line says it all. Moving on from him would free up more at-bats for Jordan Luplow, Oscar Mercado, Tyler Naquin and Bauers.

Bauers, 23, has brought some power to the plate this season, but he’s also had his struggles. It’s easy to wonder if sending him to Columbus to get everyday at-bats would help him long-term? It worked with Luplow, who was sent down after struggling earlier this season. The Indians value Bauers and believe he’s a big part of their future. That’s probably why they’ve kept him in the big leagues.

As of now, the front office has stuck with Bauers and Martin. Fans were clamoring for Oscar Mercado to be promoted when he was having success in Columbus, but it didn’t happen until Naquin injured his calf. Bradley could get the same treatment, especially since he’s cooled off in recent weeks.