Cleveland Indians: What if the Tribe do nothing at the trade deadline?

Cleveland Indians, Bradley Zimmer

Bradley Zimmer #4 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

What if the Cleveland Indians do nothing at the trade deadline?

The trade deadline for Major League Baseball is drawing close with a little over a week remaining for trades to be made. However, at this point, we have little to no idea where the Cleveland Indians stand in the whole process. They are still in contention enough that being buyers would make sense, but they are also far enough out that selling can’t be ruled out either.

If you look at the Tribe’s schedule it doesn’t provide any more answers. The two losses to Houston seemed to put the writing on the wall, but then the team avoided the sweep and we’re left questioning again if maybe buying is back on the table. But what if all this speculation is for not and the Cleveland Indians do absolutely nothing at the trade deadline?

From the perspective of the club’s front office this year might have been experimental to begin with and any sort of success if just icing on the cake. The front office trimmed down the team’s payroll to be the lowest in baseball according to spotrac.com at just under $53 million.

It’s the first time since 2016 that the payroll has been lower than $100 million. In fact, the last time that the Tribe had a payroll this low was during the 2011 season, a year that saw the team finish 80-82, the best season of the Manny Acta era.

With payroll so low and the owners unwilling to pay up to compete, the odds of making an addition at the deadline seem slim. Oftentimes deadlines deals revolve around players with expiring contracts, meaning moving assets for basically three months of production at best. For a team set on saving money, that doesn’t seem like the right formula.

However, selling also doesn’t seem like the path of this team. Cleveland is still in contention and the few players that could harness trade value are key components to the team’s success. Moving away pieces could effectively diminish any small chance the Tribe have at making the postseason.

That brings us to the idea that the Cleveland Indians stay put and do nothing at the trade deadline. Buying would cost too much and selling doesn’t make sense, so they stick with what they have and see how it plays out. Luckily, the roster is starting to click a bit better, making this route a bit more appealing.

The two biggest needs for Cleveland at the deadline was/is starting pitching and outfield, two positions that were weaknesses at the beginning of the year and then were hit hard by injuries. Now, both positions are seeing prospects emerge.

In the outfield, Bradley Zimmer has slowly started to find his swing. Over the last 14 days, Zimmer is slashing an improved .313/.371/.500 with two home runs. The boost has been enough for Terry Francona to slot him in as leadoff, a spot where he’s been doing rather well.

If Zimmer can keep it going, that would give Cleveland three strong outfielders down the stretch with Harold Ramirez and a healthy Eddie Rosario. A depth outfielder would be needed, but between Jordan Luplow, Oscar Mercado and Daniel Johnson that role can be filled internally.

As for the starting rotation there has also been an improvement from the unit. Zach Plesac is healthy and playing with Aaron Civale and Shane Bieber on their way back. That would still leave two spots up for grabs and the prospects in the majors are feeling the heat to prove themselves and stay on the roster.

Of the unit, Cal Quantrill has been the most improved, being 2-0 in his last two starts. Over those two games he’s pitched 11 innings and has maintained a 3.27 ERA while walking just three batters. If that can be sustained he should easily slot in as the club’s fourth starting pitching.

As for the fifth spot in the rotation there’s been enough of a sample size to pick a player. J.C. Mejia and Eli Morgan have shown flashes and Triston McKenzie still has potential. Between those three, one would be able to fill the void throughout the rest of the season.

So when it comes down to it at the trade deadline, the front office might decide to just ride out this group. If anything the chemistry grows for a young team and more players get extending playing time at the big league level. There’s worse ways for a season to go.