Cleveland Indians: 3 needs that have to be addressed at the trade deadline
Writing trade deadline material is difficult for a team like the Cleveland Indians. No one can figure out the direction of the team. Dancing around the .500 mark means that each win and they are all in for the division. However, with each loss there’s just as many fans saying it’s time for a fire sale. My optimistic take on the team has me guessing — rather blindly hoping — they’ll be subtle buyers. So, when the end of the month rolls around with the MLB trade deadline, here’s three needs the front office of the Cleveland Indians will have to address.
Cleveland Indians Need#1: Center Field
Bradley Zimmer has started the most games patrolling the central part of the outfield for the Cleveland Indians this season. That means fans have had to endure 36 games worth of a 0.5 WAR, a 74 OPS+ and a 36.1% strikeout rate.
The former first round pick is now 28-years old and hasn’t come close to living up to his prospect hype across 202 big league games since 2017. Other than Zimmer, it’s been an odd plug-and-play platoon of Amed Rosario, Jordan Luplow, Harold Ramirez and Oscar Mercado (and I guess Ben Gamel).
Solidifying a position that has a combined average of .242 could help an outfield that has been searching for stability. Zimmer plays really well defensively — he’s had a perfect fielding percentage over the past two seasons — but someone who occasionally slaps a single and isn’t a huge threat on the base paths anymore really doesn’t evoke confidence.
Any potential center field trade candidate really just needs to be an average hitter. I wouldn’t ask for, or expect, someone with more than a 110 wRC+. That’s fine. But center field is a gaping hole that Zimmer doesn’t come close to filling. The Tribe need to gain a solid MLB player and ease back on the four-man platoon.
Cleveland Indians Need #2: Middle Reliever
As always, the front office has been successful at finding diamonds in the rough to fill up the back end of the bullpen. Where did Phil Maton and Nick Wittgren come from? Wasn’t Bryan Shaw left for dead after his stint in Colorado?
Pitching coach Carl Willis has turned nearly nothing into serviceable players. However, another arm to bridge the gap between starting pitcher and the 7th inning is needed.
Now, relievers have proved to be extremely expensive lately. Top end guys like Raisel Iglesias are sure to bring in a large haul for their former teams. While it would be fantastic, helpful and downright magical to see a three-headed monster in the Tribe’s bullpen, it’s unlikely they’ll give up a ton.
What Cleveland might be able to do is grab a former starter, like Ian Kennedy. The Texas Ranger has a 2.67 ERA and is striking out 9.5 batters per nine innings. Pittsburgh’s Richard Rodríguez is another trade candidate with tons of buzz. He also has two more years of team control.
Cleveland Indians Need #3: First Baseman
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Bobby Bradley could be the first baseman of the future. He’s proved this season that he can make flashy plays in the field and hit nothing but towering home runs, present in his .577 slugging percentage. But behind the powerhouse phenomenon is, well, nothing.
Yu Chang is in Columbus, Josh Naylor is out for the season and Jake Bauers is gone. Even Owen Miller started two games at first. It’s been a position the Indians try to transition fringe players over to in an attempt to give them at-bats, but that approach isn’t sustainable if the goal is to make a playoff push.
Franmil Reyes might find his way to first eventually, but he’s been the starting DH, making it out to the field for just four starts. This might be the most under-the-radar trade, as it would likely be for a player the team doesn’t want to start over Bradley.
C.J. Cron’s $1 million, expiring contract with the Rockies could prove to be cheap enough to entice a minor trade. Regardless of who the player is, playoff-caliber teams don’t have Triple-A players as their backup first basemen.