If the Indians shop Kipnis, here are four deals to consider
I have written about a few trade offers this year and my next article was going to be on the idea of acquiring Yasiel Puig. The problem was I knew it would be not well received when I pointed out the only player who could headline such a deal was Francisco Lindor.
I feel the need to make a few quick points before I jump head long into this article. I worry that fans are going to be upset when Lindor makes it to the majors. I feel like the hype has gotten a bit out of control with him. He has all the tools to be an excellent player but will lack the power to be a star type guy in the league. He could end up offensively being similar to Omar who for all the fond memories ended up with an OPS over .800 only once in his career. Again, Lindor should be very good, but the hype train with prospects always scares me.
The second point is I wrote this as one article, but once it got to over 4000 words I realized it was time to split it up. Since I wrote about an even number of trades it is an easy and natural spilt.
Moving on, if we assume Lindor is an untouchable it limits a bit what the Indians can do this winter. For all the depth in the Indians minors the vast majority of their top 20 prospects from the start of the year had a down year or injury issues. I counted only seven players from Tony’s start of the year top 10 who didn’t fit my previous conditions. This limits the players the Indians can headline a deal with. When I was working on my own top 20 I ended up with five guys in the top 11 who joined the team since June. This shows some problems.
I love the Indians 2014 draft, and I am not alone in that at all. Baseball America just rated it the best class in the entire draft. These picks will help deepen the system, but none of them can be traded until next June so they are all off limits. On top of this, rarely can a team make a package around a Low-A player anyway as most teams want the main piece to be closer to the majors.
So if we look past the minors and try and find redundant depth in the majors, well, then one player jumps to the forefront in my mind and that player is Jason Kipnis.
I could write about how numbers have shown Kipnis to have been basically an average player outside of one month of his entire Major League career. Frankly the numbers show without that month that Kipnis has been frankly nothing more than mediocre at best for his career.
In spite of those numbers Kipnis still is a 27 year old former All Star at a positon where it is extremely hard to find decent bats. Kipnis has a career OPS of .736 which would have been the 8th best among all second basemen in the majors this season. There is risk, but by next season he is only 28 and signed with a team option through his age 33 year. A team can roll the dice that the money is never horrible and if the bat rebounds he is a top five player at his position.
I on the other hand have never been a full believer in Kipnis. I look at the numbers, especially the second half numbers, and realize he has never played a complete season. Kipnis is only good for half a year and then he seems to collapse the minute August comes along. When you add in bad defense which has gotten worse, I wonder if it’s not time to move on. Jose Ramirez could never hope to put up the numbers that Kipnis put up a year ago, yet thanks to his defense he could still be a top 15 guy at second base even with a limited bat.
We are already reading all the articles about how Kipnis was too beefed up and it hurt his flexibility, which in turn caused his injury and lead to his loss of production. This feels to me like another Casey Kotchman got Lasik surgery or John Axford was just tipping pitches story. In other words, it will be propagated, mentioned and used as an excuse, but really means nothing.
That being siad, knowing what we know, the question then is what teams would even have a need and the ability to take on a player such as Kipnis?
Well there were four teams that came to my mind pretty quickly that could be actual options. In most cases, I think they would prefer to move him out of the AL entirely. While I think the Yankees would make a ton of sense I decided to not write about them or the Blue Jays because the potential blowback would be too much for the front office. If they do move him, I think the idea would be to make sure he is out of site and out of mind. Just a year ago he was the face of the franchise after all.
This is all dependent on the Nationals not exercising their option on Adam LaRoche. LaRoche had a good bonus back year and they will owe him two million no matter what, so the question is he worth the other $13 million. I think he is worth that much just based on the power and OPS (25 home runs and an .811 OPS). The problem is the Nationals are in a bit of a hard place salary wise.
LaRoche has a very good contract for a first baseman. I think they should exercise the option then look to flip LaRoche who should have trade value at $15 million a year. The reason they can’t keep him is that Ryan Zimmerman is breaking down and looks to need to move to first base. Zimmerman is signed for the next five years so it is time to start the transition now. This also opens the door to keep Rendon at third base which is his best position.
The Nationals made a trade for Asdrubal Cabrera to be a stop gap at second, but he was just that as he is not expected to be retained. I know Indians fans are not big fans of Asdrubal but with the limited market and the huge demand, I think people will be surprised by what he gets paid this offseason. The Nationals don’t have a built in replacement in the minors or the majors. Danny Espinosa is the best option which means they don’t really have one.
So what would the Indians look for in such a deal? A year ago I would have wanted AJ Cole. I would still go in asking for him but settle for a deal revolving around Michael Taylor. Taylor was a force in the Eastern League this year showing massive power from the right side. Everything I said about the Indians and the minors holds true for the Nationals. If you want to get talent you need to trade talent. The Nationals have three major prospects, and it would cost one of them to get Kipnis.
I would personally try and get Sammy Solis, hoping he can stay healthy. Before the injuries he looked like a safe bet backend lefty starter, but in general the Nationals system is not super deep so the lesser pieces would not be big pieces. The question would come down to how much you like Michael Taylor, and what his addition would do to the depth in the Indians systems. To me it would clearly open up some outfield arms to move for help.
This is not my favorite deal as it doesn’t really help the Indians until 2016, and their window is clearly now.
The Braves just named John Hart their president which basically makes him the general manager. He is the one who is going to be making all the decisions for the team. This could be good news for the Indians.
Fans often give Hart all the credit for the 90’s Indians but he inherited the entire core outside of Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel. He made some of the worst trades in Indians history and could not draft to save his life. He got in win now mode and really under-estimated prospects. I think he will be in win now mode for the Braves. His window is small and a championship has constantly eluded him.
Atlanta is a hot mess at third base and second base. They are paying Chris Johnson $7 million a year to basically be a replacement level player and the mess at second base is even worse. How many readers knew Tommy La Stella was the starter at the end of the year?
The Braves minors is such a mess they have a guy in their MLB.com top 15 prospects who was born in the 80’s and was originally signed by the Expos. Just think about it. The guy will turn 28 next year and he is 13th in the entire system. If that is not a sign of draft failure I don’t know what is.
Hart will be in win now mode, so what could the Indians get in such a deal with a team lacking much to offer in the minors? The Braves do have three prospects I like a lot in Jose Peraza, Btaxton Davidson and Lucas Sims, but all of them would be hard to get. What about instead of a prospect the Indians get flexibility? If the Indians were willing to take back Johnson I think it could work.
Chris Johnson is an average player, but the upside is he is a right-handed bat who plays okay defense. Compared to Lonnie Chisenhall though he would look like a Gold Glover. So here is my perceived deal.
I would try and get Sims, but I can’t see it happening. This might seem like a horrible deal for the Braves, but Johnson and Heyward will combine for over $15 million this year in salary. Bourn had his best year as a Brave and Hart gets two bat upgrades who are more than mere rentals. The Indians get massive defensive upgrades and a young arm with some upside.
Hursh was a first rounder two years ago and should move quickly. He would be a depth arm as a starter as early as next season. Jason Heyward was arguably the best defensive outfielder in baseball last year. He is going to be a free agent, so for the Braves it could be a guy they shop now if they think they can’t resign him. If you’re the Indians you take a risk he will have a break out year and plan to offer the qualifying offer no matter what. The bigger thing is getting a ton of salary off the books which could open things up for the Indians to go in a lot of directions. Hey, if you’re lucky, maybe Hart gets over anxious and you manage to get Sims.
For the Braves it is about flipping your bad contract and an underachiever for another team’s bad contract and two possible position upgrades. Yes, it’s a lot of cash, but then again they are moving to a new stadium and already play in a large market.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants are currently starting Joe Panik who had a great year and is a former first rounder so there are a lot of reasons the Giants might be comfortable sticking with him. On the other hand, Panik has never been well thought of by scouts and his BABIP is sitting at .343 which is high.
The Giants minors are basically one player deep and that guy is Kyle Crick. Tyler Beede is an interesting arm as well, but can’t be traded until after next year’s draft. After that I am not sure there is another guy in the system that would be a lock for the Indians top 10 prospect listing.
Now it might seem crazy that the Giants would trade Crick for Kipnis. I would then remind them that this is the same team who traded Zach Wheeler for a half a season rental of Carlos Beltran. They seem to draft players in order to deal them later, or draft guys who are way off the board. I can’t make any sense of their drafting approach to be honest.
Crick is an arm who could start for the Indians at some point next year. He would be the top arm in the system without a doubt for the Tribe. The only question is would the Giants do it? With their past history I think it’s possible, especially if the Indians were to leverage the fact that the next team on this list was also being talked to.
Los Angeles Dodgers
There is no team with less payroll concerns in baseball than the Dodgers, but even they might bat an eye at over paying for an injury prone and aging Hanley Ramirez to man short. If they keep him it might be while eyeing a long term move to third base. While Erisbel Arruebarrena was paid a decent chunk of money when he came from Cuba the Dodgers are not a team that needs to be patient with young players.
If a massive payroll and huge money advantages were not enough, I don’t think there is a minor league system in all of baseball with a better top four prospects than the Dodgers. After Chris Perez’s All Star year I tweeted that the Indians should trade him for a young outfielder named Joc Pederson in the Dodgers system. Acquiring Pederson now would be a pipe dream.
The nice thing is that if there was ever a team that could take on extra salary it’s the Dodgers. As much as part of me wanted to make this deal all about sending Nick Swisher or Michael Bourn out of town I am not sure that would be the right call. First off, I am not sure they would be willing to eat another big deal. Secondly, neither are a good fit with the Dodgers.
Once the Dodgers acquire Kipnis it would then allow them to move Dee Gordon back to shortstop where he would be suboptimal defensively, but would help their lineup. This would also set them up the middle for the long term.
Now if you can’t make a big salary dump things get a bit tougher. As I stated before the Dodgers have a very good top four prospects, but after that it gets iffy. They will have three guys in every single top 30 list this year, so there is no way with Kipnis coming off a down year the Indians can get any of the big three of Corey Seager, Julio Urias, or Pederson. The fourth player is Grant Holmes who could have been a target if not for the fact he can’t be traded until next June.
So instead I am going to make this deal which I think benefits everyone. The Indians trade Jason Kipnis, C.C. Lee and David Murphy to the Dodgers for Juan Uribe, Scott Schelber, Scott Van Slyke and Zach Lee.
I have already explained why the Dodgers might be interested as for Murphy it’s just a dump for the Indians who the Dodgers could just release. The appeal of the deal is in buying low on a potential all-star at a hard to fill position, which they lack a really good internal option. The bonus is it also opens up third as well which allows the Dodgers to chase Hanley if they choose.
The addition of Lee would be a boon to the Dodgers pen. The Dodgers counted on a 39-year old Jamey Wrightfor 70 innings last year. He just finished his 19th year and looked dead in Cleveland four years ago. The pen in general was a major weakness for the Dodgers. The Indians here would be trading a player with some backend upside, who teams in general have liked or attempted to acquire on other occasions. Lee is a bit buried on the Indians depth chart thanks to their pen depth. I could also see them considering a player like Shaw in such a deal if they are worried about his potential arbitration raises.
The Indians here get four pieces all of which could potentially help them next season. Uribe is a 36-year old third baseman who would be a massive upgrade defensively at third base while also hitting from the right side while helping to balance the lineup. He has been a 4 WAR player the last few years. His BABIP shows he was very lucky last year, and it is odd that a guy would have back-to-back career years in his late 30’s. Age could catch up, but he is on an expiring deal and worst case would be a big defensive upgrade at third even if age does catch up. One other upside on him is that he hit much better outside of LA, so even with a BABIP normalization his numbers could improve with the Indians.
I will put it this way with Uribe: if the Dodgers truly are looking to move him, I think the Indians should make a hard run at him. A veteran right-handed upgrade at third base on a one year deal is just the ideal addition for the Indians. Consider Uribe a very poor man’s Adrian Beltre. If you read my article from last month, you see the same ideas of defense and line up balance that come up with Uribe.
The next piece I mentioned was Scott Schelber. He is a big left-handed outfielder who was a 26th round pick a few years ago. He was signed to a bigger bonus at $300K, but was never a big name guy. He will be 24 next year and it will be his sixth year in the minors. He has never been a guy the scouts have loved as after a massive year in High-A last year he still didn’t make all the top 10 lists for the Dodgers. This year he had another huge year at Double-A. He is a free swinger but his strikeout totals actually dropped when he went up a level this year and that is with more plate appearances as well. This shows me a player who is working on improving his game.
I have not even mentioned Schelber's power yet. The last two years he hit 27 and 28 home runs, and had over 20 doubles each year as well. His numbers say he should be a top 100 prospect but he won’t make any of those lists. This is a guy much like Yan Gomes whose numbers say one thing while most scouts say another. Schelber would also have to be added to the 40-man to avoid the Rule 5 Draft which undermines his value a bit more. I would roll the dice on an advanced power bat with this kind of production in the minors. He has the potential to help next year, and would join James Ramsey and Tyler Naquin in the Triple-A Columbus outfield with Carlos Moncrief as a depth option. As a bonus, thanks to their large amount of outfield depth, this also opens up the Indians to trade one of those outfielders for more help in other areas.
Scott Van Slyke is a guy I talked about years ago when he was 25 and could not get regular playing time in the majors with the Dodgers. He had nothing to prove in the minors, and like Schelber, he had put up very good numbers with almost no recognition by those who rate prospects. Since then the Dodgers have realized that he is a very valuable player in a platoon role. In less than 250 plate appearances he managed to be worth 2.7 wins last year. That is an incredible value. He can back up both corner outfield positions and first base. If the Indians were able to do this exact deal, then Van Slyke and Chisenhall as a platoon in the outfield could be a massive offensive upgrade over what the Indians got last year. There is a good chance the difference from Murphy to that platoon could be a 5 WAR difference next year. Van Slyke is valuable but is still a backup at this point which would limit his value plus the Dodgers have an already incredibly crowded outfield which makes him very movable.
Zach Lee is a player whose value has been more based on scouting than numbers. He was a big name draft pick by the Dodgers in 2010. He was thought to be near unsignable as a two-sport football player with a bright future in both sports. Then the penny pitching Dodgers did the unthinkable and went way overslot to sign him. The issue is nearly every year since then his prospect rating has dropped. Then this year he was a complete mess in Triple-A. His hit rate was over 10 while his K-rate was under six. His walk and home run rates were also up. Basically everything that could go wrong did. He has never turned into the dominating pitcher many thought he would be but is still a starter that should see time in the majors next year.
Lee is a buy low candidate because of his relative youth at just 22 years old in Triple-A. He also had a good year in Double-A the year before. It was the best year of his career and Albuquerque is more of a hitter’s park. The Indians lack legit depth in the starting pitching department in the upper levels of their system. If they think the magic touch showed with Ublado Jimenez and Trevor Bauer can extend to other arms, then Lee is great buy low candidate.
I know it might not seem like a lot to get a backup, an older prospect who scouts don’t love, a fallen prospect, and a 36 year old bat for Kipnis; however, I do think it would end up being a massive upgrade for the Indians. Every single player could help the Indians next year in some capacity.
This trade was my favorite and I think the difference overall in a trade like this from last year to this year would be three to six wins which would make the Indians a playoff team.
So there it is. Four teams, four trades. I know many fans will not like the idea of trading Kipnis. I agree that selling low on Kipnis could blow up in their, though it is hard to not look at the numbers and wonder if the Kipnis deal might actually become a problem later. If the right deal comes along it might be smart for the Indians to be proactive and look to trade him.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
So I will no longer be reading comments. If you have questions I will still gladly answer email me, or ask me on twitter. I might just turn it into a weekly column if I get enough.
Thank you to every for reading and its great that my articles do get so many comments. It is just best for me to not wade in here anymore.
Have a great day
Kipnis is coming off his worst year and nobody wants to take a chance on a guy who is in the second year of a huge contract who may, or may not, bounce back. Swisher and Bourne have, what, one year left on their deals? And are huge salary burdens. And are both waaaay past their primes. And Cleveland hasn't had a respectable third baseman since Matt Williams. I doubt they're trying to hurry Lonnie out the door.
As far as guys to acquire ... Adrian Beltre will be 36 next season. Adam LaRoche will be 35 and bats in the .250s. L.A. trading Yasiel Puig is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. The Giants trading Panik, who was wonderful in the postseason, is super young, doesn't have a cumbersome contract, and has a huge upside, is the second-dumbest thing I've ever heard. And Hanley Ramirez hasn't really been good for years.
And John Hart isn't generally credited with "building" the Indians of the 90s. It's pretty universally known that he was the guy who signed all the stars to long term deals in order to keep Cleveland good for a long time.
Blogging about sports is fun, I'm sure, but sweet Jebus, man, at least make sense.
Lindor's hype is unbelievable, and I think we're going to be disappointed. We're already disappointed in Swisher's performance, so why not bundle the boys together, and send them to whoever will take them both (and do we really need anyone in return)? Get whatever we can, and make a run for Victor Martinez; a real clean-up hitter...
No need for a personal attack. I'm not trying to make myself look smart, I don't care what you guys think of me. And to me, it doesn't seem like you and Joseph are saying anything different, so no need to slag him either. Who's trying to make themselves look smart here...?
I simply express my own perspective, and said that I don't so much like these kinds of articles with complicated hypothetical trades. I think that Jeff and Tony others here do a fantastic job, and like everyone, I enjoy some topics more than others. But that's just me. If you enjoy these kinds of articles, that's great! No problem, enjoy them!
Agreed, there is a place for these in forums / blogs. I'll go so far as to say, that every once and a while we will get it right. Anyone recall the discussion about the Tribe targeting Trevor Bauer of the Dbax? I recall being told basically, shut up it's not happening. How'd that turn out? After all the chatter about the Indians and Cards pairing up in an ACab trade it never happened. So what! Eventually the two clubs hooked up in the Scabble for Juan Herrera trade.
Some articles are geared for big league fans, some minor league fans, some hot stove fans, some draft fans, some analytics fans, whatever there's plenty of room for everybody and every type of article like it or not the website is not nor should it be geared toward only one type of fan.
Also, while .750 OPS would look good in our outfield, CarGo has some large Home/Road splits (over .900 at home, and only .750 on the road). That is not the kind of player I want to pay around $18M per year over the next 3 seasons.
On top of that, the Rockies owner, has historically been very hesitant to trade players (even for what appears to be great returns).
Example: Swisher's knee problem just didn't happen one week and then the next week on injury reserve.
The same goes for Kipnis, who hurt his back swing at a pitch from Angel's pitcher Weaver. Why did they bring him back so soon since we had second man on team and in the minors?
The thing that is wrong with the Tribe is management signs or trades for older players on the down slide of their career and we lose our young players. Cleveland has been the minor league team for so many major payroll teams like Yankees.
Now to subject at hand: I would trade Bourn, Murphy and Aviles after signing him for 3.5m. You think that would be a major recovery of money. I think Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies can be obtained for Bourn and maybe Murphy. Aviles, who is a good player but age is starting to mount, and we should trade why there is a demand for shortstops or second base. We have more than younger players to replace him and cheaper.
Upon teams mention, I see only Atlanta with possibility if we can get Freeman. Would like to have Stanton but would not trade the farm for him.
DH- Beltre is a good option since he can play third or first in relief.
How many double knee operation players have came back to be better players???? Swisher?????
What trade scenarios did u have trading Kipnis to the Bluyjays and Yankees? You should have included them. It would have created an additional 30 comments to your article.
Im sticking with the Indians should pursue Beltre.
1. Giants: The performance of Panik at 2B and the loyalty of the Giants makes a trade where Kip supplants Panik is a non-starter. The Giants may have a serious need for a 3B if the Panda takes his schtick elsewhere, which is entirely possibly. In that case, the Indians would be inclined to keep Kip and consider moving Chis. With Voge being at the end of his career, the SF Giants would be inclined to keep Kyle Crick, even though he'd look great with Chief Wahoo on his sleeve in a Crick for Chiz, one for one deal. Give this deal a 1 in 2,000 chance.
2. Atlanta: The deal as structured would have a 1 in 100,000 chance (Heyward alone would command a return the Indians wouldn't be willing to pay). The rest of the Braves system is garbage and more garbage. Any deal with the Braves would end in misery for the Indians and should be avoided at all costs..
3. Nationals: Good insight here. The Nats have an opening and a need for a 2B. The Nats have the kind of GM that would make just such a deal. The deal centering around Michael Taylor would be just okay.. Michael Taylor is a lot like Andy Marte when it comes to recognizing pitches. For this reason, he would need at least a year, possibly three to become the kind of hitter his athleticism promises. A deal that includes AJ Cole would be a huge get. (Lucas Giolito, a name you've heard from me before, is clearly their best and would cost our best and Kip). If Kip is sent to the Nats with AJ Cole returning, it would be a fine return. Give it a 1 in 200 chance
4. Dodgers: While the Dodgers are a team that can spend, they are supposedly looking to drop 40 MM from their payroll.. A salary dump coming to Cleveland won't happen. Van Slyke is a good ball player who has been protected as a platoon to the point where his numbers look better than he actually is.. Zach Lee isn't as good or as polished as Tomlin/McAllister and Uribe is older than dirt. Replacing your guys with Chris Anderson for Lee, Pederson for Van Slyke and Alex Verdugo (as a PTBNL) for Uribe would be a deal that might merit consideration. More would be needed from the Indians.. perhaps adding Kyle Crocket with Kip for this kind of deal. This one also rates in the 1 in 200 chance..
Articles like this have a place on a blog/forum. The comments made about this isn't going to happen.. or that won't. are true.. Everyone already knows that.. It's not the point of the comments. Identifying a problem and providing a potential solution is the purpose.. and that's all it is.. potential. So for guys like Joseph and Path who want to tell the whole world how smart they.. you're failing..
After two yrs of heavy use I could see the tribe willing to move Shaw because....
1. they feel he could break down,
2. He's getting more expensive.
I would love to see the Tribe get Michael Taylor from the Nats. I'm not sure the Tribe would be willing to move Kipnis though, but that would be a deal Id try to make.
Now Omar eventually turned himself into a solid offensive performer but his minor league resume is not comparable to Lindor's at all. He was a .230 hitter with an OPS in the low .600 range. I agree the Lindor hype should be tempered but his offense should not at all resemble Vizquel's when he reaches his prime. He has developing power, far superior plate discipline and better bat to ball skills at this point in his development. I think a better offensive comp would be Dustin Pedroia, some pop, good patience, very good bat to ball and great glove (career OPS .810).
Jose Rameriz would be a major update at second. Does his defense measure up to what they lose in offense? I think it might. Moving Kipnis and Chissenhall could catapult the team defense to one of the better infields the Indians have had in a while.
An infield with Rameriz and second, Lindor at shortstop and Ushela at thrd would turn the defense the stats would be a complete differet defense. It would go froma weakness to a strength. I think Carrasco would find it a breath of fresh air.
I'd look though at the Reds as a potential trade partner. Their top four pitchers are all free agents after next season and their payroll is way overburdened with bad contracts. If, for example, the Indians took one of those good to very good pitchers off their hands, which prospects would they want in return? What if they finally realized that a rebuild is upon them and salary dumps are in order? Maybe Jay Bruce might become available.
I'm way more interested in the Puig talk. I wrote about 2000 words on the topic the other day for the forum, but have yet to post. Friedman would probably value Lindor more than any other prospect in the game. He fits perfect in the long term plan for LA. I would start a deal with Lindor and Allen, and I would be completely willing to throw any other prospect in the deal. Lindor, Frazier, and Allen for Puig and Lee. Get it done.
Chris Johnson has the same career OPS as Kipnis and is a better defender. You really think that Chis+Bourn will be enough to get Heyward? let alone another solid upper level spec on top of that.
I do like the idea of a Uribe/VanSlyke package, but, again, think that your proposed deal is too one-sided. CC Lee and dumping Murphy in the process have zero value combined and would rather break than make a deal.
Call me crazy, but I would give them Chis+Kipnis straight up for Uribe and Van Slyke. If they can get some specs too because of their perceived upside r past hype, even better and I also like the idea of asking for Z.Lee as a post hype throw in, reminds me of how the Indians got McAllister. This deal would improve the defense tremendously, free up cash in future seasons and offer a nice Uribe/Urshela transition window at 3B...without really sacrifying much Offense. The fear, of course, would be to sell low, especially on Kipnis, and buy high on a bench player (Van Slyke) and a vet rental in Uribe, so maybe they can dump some payroll including Murphy or, more likely, Raburn