It’s time for the Cleveland Indians to start the fire sale
Entering the month of July there was the assumption that the month would be make or break for the Cleveland Indians. The team had a total of 14 games against the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays combined and at the time the division and Wild Card were still well within reach. Now, that seems like a dream and the team is all but out of the playoffs.
With 13 of those games down, the Cleveland Indians are 1-12 against Houston and Tampa Bay in July. That has been the core of a 6-13 record over the course of the month and that includes a sweep over the Kansas City Royals. With all that being said, it’s becoming quite clear that it is officially time for Cleveland to begin the fire sale.
At .500 with a record of 48-48 the Cleveland Indians are starring down potentially the first losing season under Terry Francona. The season could rebound once Aaron Civale and Shane Bieber return, but getting back into contention seems well out of reach. The Tribe trail the Chicago White Sox in the American League Central by nine games now while being 6.5 out of the last Wild Card spot.
With less than a week left before the trade deadline the front office will need to get moving if they want to move any pieces. Majority of Cleveland’s roster is under contract moving forward, but this might be an opportunity to cash in on contracts that will expire at the end of 2021, or even 2022 if they want to optimize trade value in players that are more than rentals.
The player that seems the most appealing to other teams is Cesar Hernandez. He’s putting together a career year in a few different categories and is in a position that the Tribe have rising prospects who could get a look later in the year. With a club option for next year, there could be multiple teams interested in the second baseman.
If there are teams that are more interested in a rental contract, then Eddie Rosario might be a decent suitor. Rosario is having a bit of a down season, but since he is set to become a free agent at the end of the year it wouldn’t make sense for Cleveland to keep him. The trade package coming back might be small compared to what people might expect, but it would be better than nothing.
The one thing standing in the way of a Rosario trade is his injury status. He’s been on the injured list with an abdominal strain for most of July and he hasn’t began a rehab assignment. With that much uncertainty around the deadline, it might be hard to move Rosario.
The other option for expiring contracts that Cleveland could offer other teams will come out of the bullpen. Both Bryan Shaw and Blake Parker are set to become free agents and could draw an offer or two. Shaw is making just $1 million while Parker isn’t making much more at $2.5 million.
Neither have been in the closer role this season, so they won’t draw as big of an offer as, say, Craig Kimbrel. However, they’ve been steady enough that they could each bolster a bullpen down the stretch and into the postseason. Since they are on expiring contracts it really just doesn’t make sense for Cleveland to hold on to them if they are out of contention. If they want them back next year, go sign them again in free agency this coming offseason.
Beyond that handful of players the list of desirable trade assets is rather low for the Cleveland Indians. Roberto Perez has a club option for 2022 at $7 million before his contract expires, but pretty much everyone else is under team control beyond the 2022 season. While Perez could also be on the market, his multiple injuries this season has his value down a bit. Plus, he offers a lot to the pitching staff in baseball IQ.
The good news is that all of the players mentioned are rather replaceable. There isn’t a player the Tribe could trade that would set them back for multiple seasons. Any players on the market could be moved without the team really missing a beat. Sure, Hernandez’s power is nice and the depth of Shaw and Parker in the bullpen is a plus. But the reality is, the organization has prospects ready enough to take over those roles that the moves are feasible.
If the Cleveland Indians really are out of contention, then let’s move pieces who won’t be back down the road and see what talent there is in the minors that hasn’t had a chance yet. Give Nolan Jones and Gabriel Arias a brief audition. If this season is a lost cause, there are still some positives that can be pulled away if some pieces are moved.