The Indians nearly broke Twitter with a three-team deadline deal involving the Reds and Padres. Here’s how the trade positions the Tribe in 2019.
The Indians sent Bauer to the Cincinnati Reds, which was the extent of exiting pieces on Cleveland’s end. The Reds returned Yasiel Puig to the Indians, along with pitching prospect Scott Moss.
The third team in this triangular deal was the San Diego Padres, who received highly-regarded outfield prospect Taylor Trammell from Cincinnati. In return, San Diego shipped outfielder Franmil Reyes and Logan Allen, a young left-handed pitcher, to the Tribe. Cleveland also received 19-year-old infield prospect Victor Nova from the Padres.
Depending on who you ask, you might get mixed reviews on how the Reds and Padres did for themselves in this deal. But the overwhelming consensus seems to believe the Indians walked away from it looking like O’Shea Jackson, Jr.’s character in Den of Thieves.
The Indians managed to swing two impact bats–one of which is controllable through 2025, and the other of which has been an integral part of two consecutive World Series runs in Los Angeles–and a left-handed starter, and two lottery-ticket prospects, while only giving up one player. Even if that player is Bauer, that’s quite a haul.
Chris Antonetti seems to revel in the high-wire act that is trying to balance the present and future of a small-market baseball franchise with payroll restrictions perpetually hanging over its head. His latest stunt–finding a way to trade a frontline starting pitcher with Cy Young upside in the middle of a pennant race, without enraging the fan base or ruining the team’s chances of winning in 2019–should be a featured chapter in baseball executive textbooks everywhere.
Let’s ignore for the moment that Yasiel Puig was involved in a benches-clearing Falls Count Anywhere Match all of about five minutes after this trade news originally broke. Puig and Franmil Reyes will instantly deepen an Indians lineup that was hit-or-miss at times after its five-hole occupant, Jose Ramirez. Ramirez will now likely be book-ended by the two righties in the batting order.
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Puig rounds out what is suddenly a strong defensive outfield with Tyler Naquin and Oscar Mercado. With Naquin and Puig in the corners, runners will think twice before getting cute on shallow fly balls and base hits.
Reyes becomes the Indians’ everyday designated hitter, and has the ability to spell outfielders from time to time. Of course, his arrival in Cleveland may also call forth the need for some sort of protective barrier on the Home Run Porch. He’s going to hit a handful of balls clear onto Eagle Avenue before it’s all said and done.
Odd Men Out
With two everyday hitters coming over in this trade, the Indians will have to figure out how to handle their bench. Kevin Plawecki and Mike Freeman are presumably locks to remain on the 25-man roster as the only catcher and utility infielder, but it will be interesting to see Terry Francona’s plan for the outfield reserves.
If the Indians go with a three-man bench (eight-man bullpen), they only have room for one such reserve. If that’s Jake Bauers, they keep a left-handed bat with the ability to spell Carlos Santana at first base and occasionally man the outfield when needed.
If it’s Jordan Luplow, the Indians maintain a right-handed bat with a 182 wRC+ in 116 plate appearances against left-handed pitching. Luplow could reasonably be expected to see semi-regular playing time in a platoon with Naquin.
Greg Allen is the only legitimate base-stealing threat the Indians have on their bench, and he also offers the luxury of a switch-hitter. Bauers seems the most likely to be optioned to Columbus, but the choice between Luplow and Allen will force management to sacrifice either an effective right-handed bat or a late-game pinch-runner.
The Indians could also just avoid this by going with a seven-man bullpen and keeping both Luplow and Allen for the time being.
Regarding the prospects Cleveland received, it will be some time before we know that the Indians got in Victor Nova, as the 19-year-old has not yet ascended past rookie ball.
Scott Moss is 24, and has topped out at the Double-A level so far in his professional career. If the Indians are able to mold him into a reliable left-handed reliever or a back-end piece of their future rotations, they’ll take it.
Logan Allen is the most interesting of the three projects the Indians acquired in the deal. He is 22, and falls just inside MLB.com’s top 100 prospect rankings at 98. Considering how well the Indians have developed starting pitchers in recent years, his ceiling could wind up being much higher than that.
Prospects aside, the glaring triumph for the Indians in this trade is found in their ability to strengthen the team’s chances at competing for a World Series in 2019. There weren’t many realistic scenarios in which trading Bauer would have allowed them to do that, and until Tuesday night, even this scenario didn’t seem all that realistic.
Reyes and Puig will join the Indians just in time for an August schedule that has the power to make or break Cleveland’s season. The Tribe’s opponents throughout this stretch now have a far different opinion of the lineup they’ll have to face.