These eight players should be on Indians' radar at trade deadline

The Indians need to add more power to their lineup

James Rapien
July 19, 2019 - 12:24 am
Jun 2, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox designated hitter Jose Abreu (79) hits a double during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Indians have won 16 of their last 19 games, including five straight and enter Friday’s series against Kansas City with a 55-40 record.

The July 31 trade deadline is 12 days away, which means the Indians have to decide if they're going to be buyers, sellers or stand pat at the deadline?

This team has shown enough over the past six weeks to be buyers. That could mean flipping Trevor Bauer for a position player that can help the team in 2019 and prospects that can solidify their future. They could part with a prospect to bring a right-handed bat to Cleveland. President Chris Antonetti is going to have some tough decisions to make over the next few weeks.

There are plenty of position players who could be had at the deadline that would add power to the Indians’ lineup. Here are eight players to watch and why they would fit in with the Tribe:

Whit Merrifield – Trading for Merrifield would be a dream scenario for the Indians. The 30-year-old is extremely versatile. His natural position is second base, but he’s played first base, center field and right field this season. The Royals reportedly have to be “blown away” by an offer, to actually pull the trigger on a Merrifield trade.

He has a .316 batting average, 12 home runs and 48 RBI on the year. As good as Merrifield is, his contract is even better. He’s under contract through the 2022 season, with a $6.5 million club option in 2023. He’ll make $5 million in 2020, $6.7 million in 2021 and 2.95 million in 2022.

His versatility and team friendly contract make him an attractive piece to any contending club. If the Indians were going to go after him, they’d likely need to make the Royals part of a three-way deal that sent prospects to Kansas City as part of a Trevor Bauer deal. If they didn’t go that route, the Royals would probably ask for Triston McKenzie or Nolan Jones, who are two of the top prospects in the Indians organization and outfielder Daniel Johnson in a deal for Merrifield. He fits with the Indians perfectly, but it’s hard to envision Chris Antonetti being willing to give up the assets it would take to get a deal done. 

A lineup with that began with Francisco Lindor, Oscar Mercado, Carlos Santana, José Ramírez and Merrifield would make the Indians legitimate contenders in the American League. 

Domingo Santana – Santana is a more realistic, less versatile version of Merrifield. He’s only making $1.95 million this season and is under team control through 2021. The 26-year-old can play right field, but would fit in perfectly in the heart of the Indians’ lineup as a designated hitter. He’s right-handed, which is something they lack in their current lineup. He also has plenty of power in his bat – 19 home runs and 64 RBI entering Thursday.

Santana will cost prospects, but it won’t take the haul that the Royals want for Merrifield. He's posted a .277/.343/.484 slash line this season. This is an ideal candidate for the front office to go after. He can help over the next few seasons and he’s in the middle of his prime. Santana could hit cleanup for the Indians, which would make their lineup more dangerous than it’s been at any point this season.

The Indians could keep Bauer, add power to their roster and strap in for another playoff run.

Yasiel Puig – Some hate Puig because he licks his bat and plays the game his way, but it’s hard to argue with the results. He’s hitting .261 with 22 homers and 57 RBI for the Reds this season. He’s an ideal target for the Indians because he could play right field and hit cleanup.

Puig will be a free agent at the end of the season. The Reds could be torn on whether or not they should sell at the deadline, but if they end up selling, they’ll almost certainly trade Puig. They were interested in Bauer last winter. Would Puig and outfielder Taylor Trammell be enough to get a deal done? Trammell played in the Future’s Game at Progressive Field earlier this month. He’s considered the Reds top prospect and is the #7 prospect in all of minor league baseball according to FanGraphs.

It's hard to envision the Reds being serious suitors for Bauer since he only has one year of control left. The Indians may hesitate to offer McKenzie, who's battled injuries this season, in a deal for Puig, but that's what it could take to bring him to Cleveland. 

José Abreu  – Abreu is another player who will hit free agency this offseason. He can play first base, but it’s more likely the Indians would use him as their designated hitter. He’s a right-hander, who has 21 home runs and 68 RBI this season. He's posted a .275/.310/.499 slash line in 93 games. Abreu was an All-Star in each of the past two seasons and would be a plug-and-play cleanup hitter in-between Carlos Santana and José Ramírez.

The White Sox aren’t in contention and while there have been some calling for the organization to extend Abreu; it doesn’t seem likely at this point. He’s one of the many sluggers who the Indians should consider adding prior to the deadline.

The first four players on this list would fit right in baseball wise and could be a big part of an Indians’ playoff run. These next four players could still be positive additions, but aren’t as appealing from a baseball standpoint. They still have something left in the tank, but wouldn’t be the plug-and-play cleanup hitter than Puig, Abreu or Santana would be. Instead, they’d play a role and help balance out the Indians’ lefty-heavy lineup.

Hunter Pence – Pence has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2019 season. The 36-year-old posted a .226 batting average and four home runs last season for San Francisco.

He signed a one-year, $2 million deal with Texas in the offseason and he looks like a completely different player. Pence has a .287 batting average with 15 home runs and 48 RBI in 202 at-bats this season.

The Rangers are still in the hunt for a Wild Card spot in the American League, but they're reportedly open to trading pitcher Mike Minor, which likely means Pence could be had too. He won't cost a lot prospect wise and he certainly won’t be in the Indians’ long-term plans, but he's a veteran who could help them down the stretch.

Todd Frazier – Frazier, like most of the players on this list, is a right-handed bat that would bring some pop to the Indians’ lineup. He can play first and third base or be the designated hitter.

The two-time All-Star isn’t what he once was, but he can still help a playoff contender like the Indians. He has a .244 average, 12 home runs and 36 RBI in 71 games this season.

Nick Castellanos – The veteran outfielder will be a free agent this offseason. He can play third base and right field. He doesn’t have the power that some of the other players on this list have, but he could still help the Indians.

Castellanos has a .283 batting average, 10 home runs and 35 RBI this season. The Tigers are dreadful, which means they’ll look to trade him at the deadline. He isn’t a big name and he won’t excite the fan base, but he could be an upgrade to a lineup that needs it, if it wants to win a fourth straight division championship.

Justin Smoak – The 32-year-old slugger will be a free agent this offseason. He’s a switch-hitter, whose average is down (.217), but he still has power in his bat. He has 15 home runs and 40 RBI this season. He won’t cost a lot to acquire (prospect wise), which could make him attractive to the Indians.