Are the Cleveland Indians Close to Swapping a Starter for an Outfielder?
The Cleveland Indians need outfield help, and the New York Yankees need starting pitching. The latest whisper, according to Jon Morosi on MLB Network, is that a Brett Gardner trade is being considered – and starters Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar could potentially be exchanged for the veteran outfielder. Is this a wise move for the Tribe?
Gardner is on the wrong side of 30, and he’s got three years and $39.5 million remaining on his contract. Last season, he hit .259, despite posting a .742 OPS. He’s consistently had a very high on-base percentage, and he’s stolen 20 or more stolen bases in each of his last three seasons, but he’s only recently become a “power” hitter.
Previously, his season-high total for home runs was eight, in 2013. In 2014, he hit 17, and last season, he hit 16 homers. Would he be able to replicate those numbers at Progressive Field? It’s worth considering that he might struggle to hit for power outside of Yankee Stadium.
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In return, the Tribe would have to give up a young, controllable arm. If Salazar is on the table, the Indians would be losing a pitcher who isn’t even in arbitration yet, with many more good years left before he departs in free agency. Carrasco isn’t quite as valuable in terms of control, but he’s perhaps the better pitcher of the two, and he’s certainly the Tribe’s best trade chip.
Last season, Carrasco pitched 183.2 innings and struck out 216 batters. He finished the year with just a 3.63 ERA, and a 2.84 FIP. Carrasco is more than just a very good starter – he has the potential to be an ace on another team.
Salazar, meanwhile, had a 3.62 FIP, but a 3.45 ERA. After starting the year in Triple-A Columbus, he pitched 185 innings for the Tribe and struck out 195 hitters. He performed far better than the team expected him to this season, and he’s capable of repeating those results in the future.
Trading either player for Brett Gardner would be a mistake. Haven’t the Indians had enough of aging players who rely on speed for the majority of their game? While he’s not as risky as Michael Bourn was, because Gardner is also capable of hitting for power, it’s still a risk. If that power does go away outside of the confines of Yankee Stadium, suddenly, he’s a 32 year-old who needs speed to be valuable.
Unless the Yankees are absorbing a significant portion of his contract or including a top prospect, it would absolutely not be worth it. Once the Indians trade away one of their starters, they have no room for error. A major injury to Kluber or whomever remains of Carrasco/Salazar would be devastating for the rotation, because there isn’t enough quality depth. As good as the Tribe’s pitching is, there’s still a finite amount of it. If the Tribe wants to trade a pitcher, they have to be confident that whoever they get in return can make up for that loss.
Gardner is just not good enough to guarantee that his presence will be worth more than it would cost the team to use someone like T.J. House in the fifth starter role in the event of an injury. House is a capable starter, but he’s no Carrasco. Unless there’s a lot more to the trade than Gardner-for-a-pitcher, the Tribe would be losing out on a deal like this. They can certainly do better than an aging outfielder in their quest to get the maximum value for their pitchers.