Mysteries & making moves at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario
Who are the Indians, and who will the Indians really trade for?
Who are the Cleveland Indians anyways?
They win in bunches…
…and they lose in bunches.
Which team are they?
Looking at this team from the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, this Indians’ team can really put you in a conundrum if you really let it.
They are exactly what they are: a team waiting to find an identity.
The offense looked vastly improved with the signings of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. Swisher has struggled, and while Bourn has played well, there are outliers that suggest bad things may be coming. Mark Reynolds has turned into a blackhole, and Asdrubal Cabrera hasn’t really done much of anything this year.
The Tribe is sixth in runs, tenth in homers, fifth in RBI, sixth in stolen bases, 12th in average, sixth in OBP, tenth in slugging and eighth in OPS. Swisher is hitting .242 on the season and has seemingly been struggling with injury. Bourn’s hitting .289, but has struck out 72 times already, and seems a step slower. Reynolds is tied for the team lead in homers, but hasn’t hit one since June 28th.
The new players are far from a bust, but there is certainly upside to their numbers (I’d argue that Reynolds upside is streaky at best, but you get the point).
Then there is Ryan Raburn. In 57 games, Raburn has hit 10 homers and driven in 28 runs. Compare that to Nick Swisher’s 10 homers and 32 RBI in 84 games, and you can see the type of season that the Indians utility player is having.
Then there is Mike Aviles. In 75 games, he’s scored 38 runs, hit five homers, driven in 27 runs, struck out 28 times, and has stolen seven bases. He’s hitting .260. Compare that to Asdrubal Cabrera, who’s hitting .247, with 42 runs, seven homers, 35 RBI, 71 K’s, and has stolen five stolen bases.
Then there is Yan Gomes. In 41 games, he has scored 21 runs, with two triples, seven homers, 22 RBI and a .263 RBI. He’s not Carlos Santana, but the regular catcher for the Tribe has played in 93 games and scored 42 runs, with a triple, 11 homers, 43 RBI and a .267 average. His OPS is an impressive .826, but Gomes isn’t far behind at .782.
Then there is Jason Kipnis, who many were calling to be benched earlier in the season for Cord Phelps, which seems laughable now. Kipnis was hitting .200 in April, with a single homer and only four RBI. To say he is having a breakout season at this point though, is far from hyperbole. He is leading the team as a regular in runs (57), hits (101), triples (3), RBI (62), SB (21), average (.299), on base percentage (.381), slugging (.521), and OPS (.901). He’s also tied for first in doubles (24) and homers (15). He’s a lock for the 20-20 club, has a good chance at the 25-25 club, and has an outside chance at 30-30. In other words, he’s a bonafide star.
While I don’t think it’s a surprise at all, he’s come a long ways from the guy who really struggled from mid-July 2012 through the beginning of May.
By the way, I exaggerated a bit with the leads for Kip. Ryan Raburn actually has a .914 OPS and a .542 slugging, but isn’t a regular. Still…ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
What happens to the offense if Carlos Santana improves, as he did last year? What happens if Nick Swisher continues to bring his numbers up to his ten-year norm? What happens if Asdrubal Cabrera starts finding the holes in the defense, as he’s been hitting the ball a lot harder of late. What happens if Lonnie Chisenhall continues to improve into a regular third baseman? What happens if Michael Bourn walks and steals more?
Certainly, if the good players begin playing like good players, that will far outweigh the utility and back-ups likely regression. In other words, this team has some offensive upside, and Jason Kipnis WILL continue to be a star. Imagine his numbers if June was a more moderate struggle. His average could be up 10-30 points. His runs could be up ten. His homers up five, and his RBI up another 10-20. His monster season would be borderline MVP-worthy, if it isn’t already.
I’ll get into that a bit next week.
And what happens if the Indians go out and get a bat?
The bullpen looked like a rock to begin the year. So much for that.
Their 4.02 ERA is 24th in the league. They are fifth in the league in runs given up with 151, and fifth in earned runs with 137. They’ve given up 37 homers, which is fourth worst, and they’ve given up 135 walks, which is second worst. The numbers show the pen is bad, but they’ve been much worse than the numbers would indicate. The situational pitching has been terrible.
There really isn’t a reliever on the team that doesn’t have a chink in his respective armor.
Rich Hill was brought in to be the LOOGY. Now, Terry Francona said Hill could be more than that, but his 6.51 ERA tells me something completely different. Now lefties are only hitting .196 against Hill, which would insinuate that he’s been used far too much, as righties are hitting over .300 against him.
Vinnie Pestano has clearly lost some velocity, and his ERA is up nearly two runs. It’s unfortunate, since Chris Perezleft an opening early on that should have been Pestano’s to take. Unfortunately, Pestano’s ERA with runners in scoring position is 9.64, and his overall ERA is 4.31.
Joe Smith has been the glue of the bullpen for much of the season, but of late, has been average to below average at best. His overall ERA is 2.92, but his ERA has climbed from 1.80 in May, to 3.65 in June, to 6.75 in July. Lefties are crushing him as well.
Matt Albers hasn’t been bad this season, but he’s hardly a guy you can count on. He’s a good supplementary player, but as he’s earned the right to pitch in more substantial innings, he begun to fall off. He gave up four earned runs in the Tigers series, and five runs in a three game span.
Chris Perez is Chris Perez. He struggled in May with an injury, but actually hasn’t been all that bad since. Yes, he walks too many batters. Yes, he causes major heart palpitations for all that watch the Tribe. But, when he’s on, he’s not bad.
Cody Allen has been the anchor of the pen up to this point, but I’m not sure you want the centerpiece of a playoff team to be a guy in his first full season as a big league player.
The point here is simple: the bullpen isn’t what it should have been.
There are intriguing options going forward though. C.C. Lee was the best reliever in the minors last year until an injury derailed him in the spring. He’s back now, and guess what…he’s still the best reliever in the minors. Preston Guilmet isn’t a power arm, but I would argue that he could be the next in line. He’s a winner, and can dominate without a power arm. Matt Langwell has been a solid performer his entire career. Austin Adams and Trey Haleyhave 100 MPH fastballs. And don’t forget about Danny Salazar, who will be with the Indians, during the stretch…as a pen arm most likely.
In other words, the pen has been bad, but could get better quickly.
Like the offense, there’s upside.
Then there is the rotation, that was likely going to be the worst in the league heading into the season. The rotation has been far from perfect, but it’s been better than advertised. Since June 30th, Cleveland starters have made 19 starts. Over that stretch of games, the four main starters of Justin Masterson, Scott Kazmir, Corey Kluberand Ubaldo Jimenez all have ERA’s under 4.00. Ubaldo’s ERA is under 3.92, which feels like it’s Bob Gibson-esque after the garbage of the past year-and-a-half. Justin Masterson was nearly unhittable, and comes in with a 2.96 ERA. Scott Kazmir is arguably pitching some of his best baseball in his entire career, and comes in at 2.74. Corey Kluber is beating them all, with a 2.22 ERA. Add Danny Salazar’s two-hit performance, and you have 17 solid outings.
Zach McAllister returned, and was clearly rusty. But he battled. He’ll get better.
The only other start was Carlos Carrasco, and it’s likely he won’t be back with the team this year.
The rotation is so much better than originally thought.
It could get better.
So, the offense is better, but topsy-turvy and needs a clean-up hitter. The bullpen was supposed to be the anchor, and wasn’t. The rotation was supposed to be terrible, and wasn’t. I haven’t even gotten into the defense, which has played a part in the downturn over the past few days since the break.
What does that all mean?
This team is what it is. Don’t be confused by it…embrace it. They are only going to get better.
There is absolutely no news from the Indians with regards to the trade deadline. The facts are fairly simple: the players connected to the Indians are simply guys on teams that are selling that the Indians could use to fill a need.
There’s nothing more to it than that.
I’m not going to laud my inside sources as feeding me quality names. They aren’t. Like everyone else, I’m just picking guys that look like they could fit.
Yes, they need a lefty reliever. Is there a package deal to be made?
I like a guy like James Russell from the Cubs, who is a left-handed reliever, and who has been trending upwards over the past four seasons. He would be a vast improvement over Rich Hill, and would be under control through 2016.
Another guy out of the Cubs bullpen that hasn’t been connected much with the Tribe this year, is a guy that’s been connected to the Tribe in past years. That’s Kevin Gregg. He’s a righty though, and I don’t think he’s sustainable. He’ll be a free agent this year. I don’t think the Indians need him as a righty, but in a package with Russell, why not?
Another Cub that hasn’t been mentioned all that much is Jeff Samardzija, who would be a controllable starter through the end of 2015. The starter is a solid option, who is just entering the prime of his career, and could help bolster the rotation. I doubt the Cubs would deal him after Garza, but they would if it was the right deal. The ONLY reason why I mention him is because of Russell and Gregg. Two or three of those guys could be interesting, as long as one was Russell.
They may need a starter long-term, and most definitely could use a middle-of-the-order bat.
There’s Bud Norris and Yovani Gallardo and Kendrys Morales and Michael Young and you know the names by now, don’t you? There are lots of other names you could hunt down that you could make fit in one way or another, but who will they ultimately go after?
The Insiders have named them all, and I’ve got to say, I don’t buy any of it yet.
It’s easy to look at the bad teams and pick good players. It’s harder to actually make a deal.
For what it’s worth, James Russell would be the guy I’d look at first. If not Russell, then call up the Marlins about Mike Dunn, who’s controllable through 2017. If not Dunn, then call the Twins about Glen Perkins, who’s controllable through 2016. He’d be less likely, because he plays for a division rival. Perhaps you could package a guy like Austin Adams or C.C. Lee, with guys like Shawn Morimando and Preston Guilmet. It would give the Twins a future closer, a future starter, and a future set-up guy. The Indians would get their lefty, who could set-up or close.
That’s a win-win.
I also would love to have Kendrys Morales on the team. He's a guy that I was mentioning on twitter four or five days ago, along with Mike Morse. Michael Young is fine, but I just don't see him as a 3-4-5 hitter at this stage of his career, so I'd back off on him because of price...
The problem is always overvalue.
So what are the Indians going to do? Do what everyone else does: find the ten to twelve sellers, pick up the guys that fit, and plug them into a story.
That’s what everyone’s doing.
Seriously, Buster Olney or Ken Rosenthal or Jon Heyman certainly have inside connections, but how often are they the ONLY source on a story, only have the others regurgitate in a different way a few days later. It sounds like a knock, but it's not. I know they have insiders. I also know that they aren't idiots. They can look at the standings and lead the questions with "are you interested in?.." Seriously. "Mr. Antonetti, are you interested in making a deal for Matt Garza?" Why would anyone say no to that before talking price-tag? My point here is that the door is wide open on a trade, but it may not be.
Who knows, but my insiders tell me the Indians could trade for someone, or not. It could be for the Cardinals for Asdrubal, or not. It could be for a reliever, or not. Or...it could just be or not.
My sources are good...;)
Perhaps the best question to ask at this point is whether or not the Indians should even go after a player. I am a win-now guy, but I can honestly say that I don’t really care if they do or if they don’t. I actually believe the 2014 season is their real window, so I’d prefer to see a move then. Asdrubal Cabrera’s value will still be high, regardless of his finish. They’ll gain a bit of money in the loss of players (yes, it will exceed their players with bumps in pay), and they’ll have a bit more leverage.
Make a move is one is there, but don’t get the crowbar out and try to make something stUbaldo happen.
Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at email@example.com.
How much faith do they have that Bauer or Carrasco will emerge as a legitimate FOR or MOR starter? Won't that effect their decision on Kazmir?
By the way, whoever decided to sign Kazmir deserves a big bonus. Right along with whoever got Gomes included in the Esmil Rogers deal. That battery has combined for a 1.60 ERA in their last seven starts, and Gomes is chipping in some nice offense as well.
The only thing working in the Indians favor is they can offer him a qualifying offer, which means they would have to pay him one year at about $13-14 million. That would be pricey, but not too far off his average annual salary if he signed a long term deal. The qualifying offer would be a poison pill and almost force him to take a deal with the Indians for $9-10M per.
...the Indians have been making overtures to sign Kazmir for a longer deal, and according to Terry Pluto, they've been talking for awhile now.
Kazmir's agent wants to play out the season though.
It's a gamble for sure, but if Kazmir continues to pitch, well...like an ace...then he could command 10 million a year...and as a lefty, might get it. I don't think the Indians will touch it, if that's the case.
But, sign him to Brett Myers money? No brainer...in a heartbeat...but you know...
he's not even over 100 ip yet...and there's still a big question.
He hasn't thrown more than 152 innings since 2007...so there are MASSIVE questions about innings that are about to come up...
Great pick IMO...could be a top ten guy once we see him. Seems to have that stuff...