Could a Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves Trade Happen This Season?

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Maybin could fix CF in Cleveland. Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Indians Would Say Yes

The Indians interest in Chris Johnson is a bit perplexing on the surface. He’s owed about $20M between now and the end of the 2017 season. That’s a ton for a guy that’s hitting .252/.294/.333 with just one HR this year.  Johnson is also a natural third baseman that can play some first base bas well. However, Urshela is much better defensively and if the Indians wanted Johnson’s offense they could just turn to Lonnie Chisenhall.  Johnson does bring one unique skill set though, he can hit left-handed pitching pretty well.

The right-handed Johnson is hitting .362/.388/.468 against left-handed pitching this year and .316/.352/.445 against them in his career.  The Indians actually have been hitting left-handed pitching quite well this year with a 106 wRC+ against them, good for fourth-best in all of baseball. However, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use more help versus lefties. Mike Aviles is currently starting in left field against left-handed pitching and Johnson would be an upgrade over him. Ryan Raburn could move back to left field and Johnson at designated hitter (the spot Swisher figures to get whenever he comes off the disabled list).

Cameron Maybin has been enjoying a heck of a season after coming over from the San Diego Padres in the Craig Kimbrel trade.  Maybin is batting .289/.356/.418 with 8 home runs, 15 stolen bases, and a 117 wRC+.  He’s a center fielder though according to most metrics he’s struggled defensively there this year. However, for his career he’s rated out as average to slightly above average out there, so it may just be a matter of small sample size this season.  In any case, there’s no denying that Maybin is putting much better offensively numbers than current Indians center fielder Michael Bourn. Maybin is also several years younger and provides more speed. He also has a very reasonable contract for the next year and half plus an option for 2017.

Losing Bourn wouldn’t really be much of a loss at all. He’s hitting a mere .222/294/.268 with no homeruns, seven stolen bases, and a 63 wRC+. He’s got a -0.7 fWAR at the moment as well.  The Indians are still on the hook for the remainder of his $13.5M salary this year plus $14M in 2016 and a vesting option in 2017 (though there is no chance any team let’s that option vest).  The Tribe owes him about $20M left then (similar to Johnson) so any chance to move it and the Indians would be crazy not to at least consider it.

To get a guy like Maybin the Indians will need to give up some value, be it prospects or perhaps backup catcher Roberto Perez.  The Indians have several prospects that are just outside that “top prospect” range that could be enticing for the Braves in regards to Maybin, but Perez could be just as intriguing to them. Either way, the Indians will need to give up some value in this trade but they have depth to deal from areas and would be worth it for a guy like Maybin. 

Next: Why the Braves Would Say Yes