Cleveland Indians: 3 affordable trade targets that could improve the outfield
3 affordable trade targets for the Cleveland Indians that could improve the outfield
Exactly one month remains between now and MLB’s July 30th trade deadline and now, more than ever, the Cleveland Indians need outfield help. Desperately. Josh Naylor is the latest casualty of the Tribe’s injury plague, suffering a broken ankle after a collision with Ernie Clement on a fairly routine pop up in right field in Minnesota on June 27th.
In the very near term, Oscar Mercado was called up from Triple-A Columbus and will be given the first opportunity from within the organization to fill Naylor’s roster spot. Mercado slashed .269/.318/.443 over the course of 115 games in 2019, hitting 25 doubles, 15 home runs and driving in 54 runs.
Should he regain that form the Indians will be ecstatic, but Mercado struggled mightily in a shortened 2020, hitting just .128 before being sent to the team’s alternate training site in August.
Other internal options include Daniel Johnson, who has logged just seven games in the majors over two seasons, and top prospect Nolan Jones, a natural third basemen that the Indians have experimented with as an outfielder.
Jones is currently slashing .222/.355/.405 in his age 23 season through 46 games with Columbus and the caveat that he’s just learning the outfield could be a defensive catastrophe for a team in need of replacement level consistency.
Without promoting a prospect to the majors too soon or attempting to make a player like Yu Chang or Owen Miller play the outfield, the only remaining option for the Indians is to look externally. Cleveland currently owns the third lowest team payroll in baseball and the team’s aversion to large contracts is well documented, so it’s highly unlikely the Tribe would attempt to land a white whale like Starling Marte.
The myriad of injuries all around Cleveland’s roster, not just the outfield, also hamstrings the organization in terms of prospect packages they’re able to part with. At the start of 2021 it would have seemed trivial for the Tribe to trade a starting pitcher from the farm for reinforcements at the deadline had the season gone as planned, but now the Indians have a four-man rotation featuring three starters who didn’t pitch a competitive inning in 2020.
Given Cleveland’s preference for a cheap contract and the organization’s prospects being at a premium, how do the Indians navigate the trade market while finding the right combination of impact bat and respectable defense? It’s a shallow list of outfielders and teams that have what the Indians are looking for, but not lacking in quality.