Past Trades Critical to Indians’ 2014 Success

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It is no secret that the Indians have struggled in the past.  Since 2000, the Indians have finished at or above .500 six times.  All those failed seasons have left many fans heart broken.  But they were not in vain.  Those failed seasons have been critical to creating 2014’s winning season.  Those years have forced the Indians into a reality check, and they traded major league talent for prospects.  Some never panned out, but those that did are critical reasons for why the Indians are in a window of contention.  In fact, the three best position and pitching fWARs of the 2014 Tribe have been acquired by trade. These trades are the reason why the Indians are playing well in 2014.  Let’s look at the five best acquisitions by trade for the 2014 Indians.

1. Corey Kluber

Jake Westbrook was traded for a guy who has a 10 K/9, 1.97 BB/9, and a 2.42 ERA in 2014.  Just in this season, Kluber has racked up nearly half of Westbrook’s fWAR in all of his eight years with the Tribe.  What more do I need to say?

Maybe his AL leading 6.5 fWAR and 2nd best 244 strike outs says even more.  You try to strike out 28% of hitters you face while maintaining a 49% ground ball rate.  It’s not easy.  Felix Hernandez is the only other pitcher who can brag that.

And if the Indians didn’t trade for Kluber?

Then they would be lacking an ace.  And as we all know, any team that wants to win a World Series needs a bona fide ace.  And Corey Kluber is just that.

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2. Michael Brantley

Michael Brantley was part of the CC Sabathia trade.  After the original center piece, Matt LaPorta, failed to develop, the trade was considered a bust.  But this season changed everything.  Michael Brantley broke out.  To date, Brantley has slashed .322/.381/.498.  Even more impressive are his wRC+ of 151 and fWAR of 6.1.  He has played a critical role on the 2014 Indians.

But what if the Indians didn’t trade Sabathia?

CC Sabathia would have became a free agent at the end of 2008.  The Indians outfield would include Michael Bourn, David Murphy, and a combination of Ryan Raburn and Drew Stubbs.  Odds are that the Indians would not have traded Stubbs last offseason if they did not have Brantley.  Instead of Brantley’s 6.1 fWAR, the Tribe would have Stubbs’ Coor’s Field inflated 2.3 fWAR.  The Indians would be missing a huge piece of their line up.

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3. Yan Gomes

The Indians traded Esmil Rogers to the Blue Jays for Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes.  Yan Gomes was considered a toss in at the time, but is now a big part of the 2014 Tribe.  He has a wRC+ of 126 and a better than average bat for a catcher.  What makes him special is his defense.  Gomes is one of the best defensive catchers in the American League.  His 29 caught steals is tied for 3rd best in the MLB.  Just as impressive are the amount of runs he has saved by blocking pitches.  FanGraphs ranks him as the 3rd best in the AL with 1.8 runs saved above average.  According to Inside Edge, Gomes makes 13.6% of remote plays, plays with a 1 to 10% chance of being fielded.  That is the second best in the AL.

What if the Indians didn’t trade Esmil Rogers?

Carlos Santana would be the catcher for the 2014 Tribe.  He isn’t a bad catcher, but his defense is nothing compared to the Yanimal.  The Indians would also have a fringe starting pitcher in Rogers.  Odds are that he would not be in the majors due to the Tribes depth of young arms.

Sep 14, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Indians first baseman Carlos Santana (41) hits an RBI double in the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Detroit won 4-6. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

4. Carlos Santana

In 2008, the Tribe dealt third-baseman Casey Blake to the Dodgers for Carlos Santana and another player.  Blake went on to have a productive 2009 followed by two decent seasons before retiring.  Carlos Santana on the other hand has had four successful seasons.  Santana struggled in the start of this season, but turned his performance around.  He has already amassed more fWAR for the Tribe than Blake did for the Dodgers.

Santana played a crucial role in last year’s play off push.  He has been big in this year’s push as well.  If the Indians didn’t trade Blake, who knows what situation we would be in.  There would have been multiple seasons of Lou Marson before he was dumped and a few more of Yan Gomes mixed with fringe major leaguers.  Either that or another player that the front office traded for or signed.  No matter what the outcome, the acquisition of Carlos Santana was huge.

5. Carlos Carrasco

Carlos Carrasco was part of the infamous Cliff Lee deal.  While not being a great trade, the Tribe got more than letting Lee walk to free agency.  Carrasco struggled before being banished to the bullpen.  Ever since he has been a monster.  Last night, he stuck out 12 batters in a two-hit shutout.  This season, he has pitched to a 2.65 ERA while striking out 4.84 batters to every walk.

Despite having only made 12 starts so far this season, Carlos Carrasco has been huge.  If the Indians make the one game Wild Card showdown, Carrasco might just get the nod to start.  And I would have complete confidence in him.

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