Are Adam Frazier and Tyler Anderson potential targets for the Cleveland Indians?
Fresh off a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, the Cleveland Indians travel to the Steel City to face the Pirates. Pittsburgh currently has the third-fewest wins in the MLB, and may be more focused on the Jack Leiter sweepstakes than winning — or doing anything smart on a baseball diamond — in 2021. So with the trade deadline around a month and a half away, the Tribe can utilize their weekend trip across the Pennsylvania border to scout two key Pirates players.
Second baseman Adam Frazier and lefty starter Tyler Anderson combine for a 2.2 WAR. Could they be the missing 2.2 wins Chris Antonetti, Mike Chernoff and company believe will help the Indians in 2021 and beyond? Let’s take a peek into the plausibility of Frazier and Anderson donning Cleveland attire when July 31 flips to August 1. These two moves, of course, would come under the assumption that the Tribe are buyers at the deadline.
Starting pitching quickly went from Cleveland’s biggest strength to a massive headache in the span of one Mandy Bell tweet. Since then, Terry Francona has been forced to piece together a starting rotation like a puzzle chewed up by a dog. The schedule has somewhat bailed out Francona, allowing him to run “starters” such as Cal Quantrill, J.C. Mejía and Eli Morgan behind defacto ace Aaron Civale.
Clearly, this pieced-together rotation doesn’t last. Spread out over a full season, Francona would run his relief pitchers into the ground, leading to late-inning losses and plenty of blown leads. He knows that. The front office definitely sees it. So now we land on Anderson, a 31-year old starter who’ll be a free agent after this season.
Now with his third team, Anderson — a former first round pick — is almost certain to be a priority for the Pirates to move. His numbers (ERA+, Hits/9, FIP) are all up from previous seasons, making him a much harder piece to move.
However, while those stats, and percentages such as walk, exit velocity and hard-hit are up, he could be an intriguing addition to the Indians’ rotation. Cleveland could find just enough for him to be a desirable add for the homestretch of games.
He boasts an 81% chase rate, and the spin on his fastball — a pitch he throws 36.4% of the time — is better than it has ever been. The Baseball Savant heat map shows he tends to locate it in the same lower left quadrant as his cutter and changeup. That has the potential to be a deadly approach when he’s on, and one Carl Willis might be able to hone.
Recent trade rumblings show Cleveland wouldn’t have to give up one of their young pieces for the lefty. They could part ways with middle infielders such as Milan Tolentino (No. 28) or Richard Palacios (No. 29), both of whom have ETAs of 2024. The Pirates could get greedy and ask for someone like Gabriel Rodriguez.
Regardless, this past month should demonstrate to the front office that starting pitching — especially Anderson’s 5.6 innings per start — is vital if they want to make a postseason run.
The Pirates made Frazier a sixth-round pick in 2013 out of Mississippi State. Since then, he has played in 576 games over six seasons amassing a slash line of .280/.343/.419. He’s a 9.2 career win player and has had an average-to-above average OPS+ in all but his 2020 season.
But the real story of Frazier, and the real reason why he’s garnering so much attention as the trade deadline approaches, lie in the breakout performance he’s put on in the first three months of this season.
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He leads all of MLB with 23 doubles — eight more than Jose Ramirez. In fact, he’d instantly become the team leader in hits, average, on-base percentage, and be behind only Ramirez for OPS. The stats define Frazier as an offensive weapon, a much-needed addition to a Cleveland lineup slashing a combined .227/.298/.387. It’s clear he’s the type of bat that fans have wanted Cleveland to acquire for years.
Now, if you’re in love with Cesar Hernandez, Frazier may not be for you. He’d easily slide into Hernandez’s spot in the starting lineup, pushing the veteran toward the bench, or into another trade or DFA. But that’s a different topic for a different day.
Bringing in the Georgia native is most likely too pricey for the Indians’ liking, however, which may ultimately kill rumblings of the trade. He has one more year of arbitration, and should his impressive season continue, would likely become one of the Tribe’s most expensive players. All for a year and a half (and they may flip him again next season.)
The Indians have said they’re “retooling” the team, hoping to extend what little chances they have at an open window that may have already closed. The Pirates could ask for almost any prospect they want, too. How comfortable would Cleveland be parting with Bo Naylor, George Valera or Gabriel Arias? A one-for-one trade could feature marquee names such as those.
But if Cleveland believes they can make a realistic postseason push at the time of the deadline, Frazier is a must-get.