The Indians are better with Kluber, should improve team in free agency

The Indians could contend in 2019 if they are active in free agency

James Rapien
December 27, 2018 - 5:31 pm
Sep 30, 2018; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles right fielder Adam Jones (10) runs off the field during the eighth inning against the Houston Astros at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

© Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Indians continue to have trade discussions involving Corey Kluber. That won’t be a shock if you’ve paid attention to the moves they’ve made this offseason. They’ve traded veterans like Yan Gomes, Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso.

The Indians could still trade Kluber. If they do, they'll probably address their weaknesses in the outfield and the bullpen. They shouldn’t feel obligated to move him. This team doesn’t need to make another trade to morph itself into a contender in 2019.

Why trade a former Cy Young Award winner and break up the best starting rotation in Major League Baseball? The Indians should add to their roster in free agency, instead of trading a starting pitcher. It’s wise to listen to offers, but there’s no way they should trade Kluber for market value. The Indians should be asking for much more than that. 

A package for Kluber should include multiple Major League-ready players who can play at a high-level next season. A deal should also include multiple prospects who can develop and project to be big league players. If they don’t get the moon for Kluber, then he should be in Cleveland next season.

Why trade him when they can spend the $21.5 million they’ve shed this offseason on free agents who will upgrade their weaknesses? Here are five targets the Indians should consider:

A.J. Pollock – The 31 year old is immensely talented, but has dealt with injuries over the past few seasons. Pollock was an All-Star in 2015, posting a .315/.367/.498 line, while hitting twenty home runs, stealing 39 bases, and providing high-end defense in center. Pollock had a .257 batting average, hit 21 home runs and 65 RBI in last season. He should be open to a one or two-year ‘prove it’ contract. This is the type of low-risk, high-reward signing the Indians should be interested in. A one-year, $12 million contract with a $15-20 million team option for 2020 would make a lot of sense for both sides.

Sergio Romo – Romo struck out 75 in 67 1/3 innings last season. He would give the Indians’ pen a huge boost. Romo, 35, had 25 saves in 2018. The Indians are looking for free agents who are willing to sign short-term contracts. A two-year deal would make sense for both sides. Adding a veteran reliever like Romo to a bullpen that includes Brad Hand is exactly what a contending team would be interested in doing.

Nick Markakis – The Indians want to be competitive in 2019 and in the future. Signing a proven outfielder to a short-term contract would make sense. He’s a proven commodity and someone Cleveland should pursue. Markakis, 35, posted a .297/.366/.440 line last season with 14 home runs and 93 RBI. He’s appeared 155 or more games in six-straight seasons. If the Indians want a reliable veteran who can help stabilize their outfield, then they should be interested in Markakis.

Adam Warren – The former Yankee and Mariner went 3-2 last season, posting a 3.14 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings. Signing him wouldn’t garner many headlines, but he could be an important part of the Indians’ bullpen. They have the money to add multiple relievers – signing the right ones will go a long way in making the 2019 season a successful one.

Adam Jones – Jones isn’t the player he once was, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help the Indians next season. The five-time all star hit .281 with 15 home runs and 63 RBI in 2018. Jones, 33, will likely be looking to sign with a contender. The Indians could get into that mix and clearly could use a player of his caliber, even though he’s declining.

Bonus: Cody Allen – The Indians’ all-time saves leader had an up-and-down 2018 season, but that doesn’t mean he won’t return next year. The reliever market is saturated with options. Allen may want to sign a short-term deal to re-establish his value in hopes of signing for more money in the future. A reunion with the Indians is possible if Allen’s market is as lukewarm as some expect.

The Indians have the salary flexibility to sign two or three relievers and one or two outfielders. Here’s a complete list of the top free agent outfielders and relievers.