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Winter Meetings Recap: Indians add some power in Moss trade

Winter Meetings Recap: Indians add some power in Moss trade
Brandon Moss (Photo: AP)
December 8, 2014
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Day one of the 2014 Winter Meetings in San Diego is almost in the books. The news and rumors will surely continue into the night, and if anything of substance regarding the Indians has legs I will provide the update on Twitter @TonyIBI and in the newswire to the right. If anything more significant gains legs I will surely post it to the front page as well.

Indians acquire Moss for Wendle

It took about five days, but the Indians and Athletics were finally able to complete the near week long rumored deal. As originally reported by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle last week, the Athletics were interested in Indians second base prospect Joe Wendle. Also, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer originally reported that the trade would be a one-for-one deal and not involve any player on the Indians 40-man roster. Props to both of them on a job well done there.

Here some notes and observations from me on the deal:

- The Indians no doubt targeted power as a big offseason need and perhaps once Josh Donaldson was dealt two weeks ago they approached the Athletics about the availability of Moss. The Indians love character guys and Moss will be a great fit in the clubhouse, plus manager Terry Francona knows him well from his time in Boston. But this trade without a doubt was all about adding some thump to the middle of the Indians lineup. Moss mashed 76 homers over the last three seasons with half of his games at the Oakland Coliseum where left-handed power is restricted and will now move into the friendly confines of Progressive Field where left-handed power is favored. He is an annual 25-home run a year hitter who could end up with around 30 home runs a season with the Indians. He owns a career .786 OPS, 115 wRC+ and .212 isolated power, so he is an above average offensive player that brings big power. He won't hit for a high average, but he walks a decent amount and has that good power. He may only be a 2-3 WAR player and most of his value derives from his offense, but that is still valuable and worth the gamble for a marginal prospect.

- It will be interesting to see how Moss fits into things defensively for the Indians. With Carlos Santana entrenched as the everyday first baseman and Nick Swisher the likely everyday DH, at the moment he looks to be penciled in to get most of his time in right field though he can also play first base and will get some at bats at DH. The Indians are not committing to a position at the moment, and rightfully so as other moves could be coming so it makes no sense to pigeon hole him into a position just yet. While defense is not his calling card, he was a 1.4 defensive WAR player, had a 19.2 UZR/150 and 6 defensive runs saved in right field in 245.1 innings last season. Those are pedestrian defensive stats, but an improvement over what David Murphy did last season in 989 innings for the Indians (-15.5 defensive WAR, -15.2 UZR/150, -16 DRS). So not only is Moss an upgrade in the power department over Murphy as the regular right fielder, he is also a defensive upgrade. What really helps here is he can also play left field and first base, so he offers up some much needed positional versatility and flexibility the Indians need not just for next season but this offseason too as they consider other potential roster changes.

- Moss is under team control through the 2016 season, so he fits into the team control setup at the moment where almost the entire roster is under control for the next two seasons. Only Mike Aviles is a free agent after the 2015 season. This is not a rental as he could bring back value for multiple seasons, but also is not a long term commitment either. If he struggles and has an awful 2015 season because of performance or injuries the Indians can simply eat the $7 million or so he gets in arbitration this season and move on next offseason by simply non-tendering him and having no further financial commitment to him. That in itself is valuable; that is, to have that kind of financial flexibility with a player who brings some uncertainty coming off of injury.

- Speaking of the injury, Moss is coming off of offseason surgery performed on October 23rd to correct a torn labrum/impingement in his right hip. While there is some concern about the injury and there could surely be setbacks that arise this spring and coming season, the Indians are confident after reviewing available medical information that he will be fine to start the 2015 season on time. He may be initially slowed when spring training starts, but he should be gradually built up over the six weeks of spring training and as long as there are no setbacks they fully expect him to be on the opening day roster. I know some might remember that Matt LaPorta suffered from a similar injury and that he never really came back, but it is important to note that his problem stemmed more from inconsistency with the bat than injury. The injury is surely a concern, but as noted above, the risk is limited in that the Indians are only on the hook for about $7 million guaranteed dollars and lose a marginal prospect in return. Plus, players typically recover from this surgery with a good success rate. That’s a good gamble to take on a player with his kind of impact power potential.

- So now that Moss is here, what does this mean for David Murphy? Or, for Nick Swisher and Ryan Raburn for that matter? I don’t think the Moss pickup affects anything with Raburn as he is a right-handed bat and can still serve a bench role, but with Moss expected to take over as the regular right fielder it means that Murphy is probably going to be dealt this offseason. There is no room on the roster to carry all of Murphy, Moss, Swisher and Raburn to play corner outfield or DH, so something has to give. The Indians have looked into trade possibilities with Swisher this offseason, though that still appears to be a long shot as they would have to take on an equally as bad contract in return or really eat a lot of money left on his deal. But Murphy is a guy who can easily be dealt. While the aforementioned defensive issues with him are a problem, the bat was solid last season as he had a .704 OPS, 101 wRC+ and he puts up great at bats (7.8 BB%, 13.2 K%) especially in clutch situations. He is also an exceptional clubhouse guy and would fit in as a role player on almost any team. He also is set to only make $6.5 million next season and offers an acquiring club two years of control as he has a $7 million club option for 2016. That is a very affordable contract and the cost is right in line with his production. I wouldn’t be surprised if a team like the Orioles consider trading for him if they want a cheap, short-team stop gap solution for right field after losing Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz to free agency.

- Another question that arises from this move is who goes on the 40-man to make space for Moss? The Indians have yet to make that announcement, and the non-announcement could be them working behind the scenes on a potential Murphy or Swisher deal (or a deal involving someone else on the 40-man) in the next 24-48 hours to make that needed room for Moss. If not, then they will have to designate someone for assignment. At the moment, the Indians have no clear cut DFA options, which is nice to see for once; however, this also makes it tough as they could potentially lose a valuable player on waivers. The two likely candidates to be DFAed are left-hander Nick Maronde and right-hander Bryan Price, but outfielder Carlos Moncrief could also be in consideration. I still think Moncrief has more long term value and is one of the Indians better prospects so they won’t DFA him, but we will see.

- As for Wendle, this is a great move for him as he goes to an organization where he should have a relatively clear path to play in the Major Leagues. He probably won’t be up with Oakland this season, but if everything goes well could be with them by the end of the season. That kind of opportunity was just not there with the Indians as they have $50+ million committed to Jason Kipnis over the next five years and Jose Ramirez is next in line at second base if Kipnis were to get injured or be traded, so he was never really going to get a shot in Cleveland. This is an example of a team trading from some good depth to fill a Major League need in the short term. Will Wendle work out in Oakland over the long term? Who knows. He is 24 years old and the upside is limited, but there is no denying his professionalism, decent pop, nice approach and offensive capabilities overall. The question with him comes down to defense and positional versatility as he projects to be an average at best defender and probably fits nowhere else on the diamond as an everyday player except second base. In any case, I wish him well with his new organization. It was a pleasure to cover him the past three seasons.

Other Notes and Rumors

- According to Joel Sherman of the NY Post, the Indians are showing interest in Braves outfielder Justin Upton. This was before the Moss pickup was finalized, so it is unknown if interest has cooled or if the Upton interest is completely separate from the Moss deal. The Indians are said to be one of four teams considering Upton, though the Braves want starting pitching in return and the cost could be too high for the Indians. Upton also reportedly has the Indians on his no-trade list, but this is something where if the Indians and Braves agree on a deal that could probably be worked around.

- As expected, shortly after the Moss acquisition the rumors started to pick up that the Indians will continue to explore a trade of Nick Swisher. Jon Morosi of Fox Sports indicated as such and he will probably be an option the Indians continue to explore in a trade over the next few weeks.

- In maybe one of the most irrelevant rumors, but one I have to note because it is out there, Morosi also said that teams have contacted the Indians about Carlos Santana. It’s a bogus rumor and one which can easily be misconstrued by the fans as the Indians shopping Santana (there absolutely are not). Unless a team blows them away with a significant return that helps them win in 2015, he will be an Indian next season. Nothing to see here. Move along.

- According to multiple reports former Indians right-hander Justin Masterson has a deal in hand from the Rangers, but before accepting he wants to survey the market to see what other potential possibilities exist.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

December 9, 2014 - 1:39 PM EST
Collins & Shaver,

Yes, I'm crazy enough to believe that getting Justin Upton (and Varvaro) would make the Indians the favorites to win the AL.

As for getting Kemp, there would have to be cash coming back to the Indians or the Indians would have to dump some salary. I've heard the Dodgers are will to eat as much as $50M in the right deal. That essentially reduces his deal to $11M per yr. I think he's worth it.

As for Masterson, I'm also the loon that said trade him before the beginning of the season. I think he's worth it. As for calling him a "lotto ticket" I think he is bound for a solid rebound yr. 1yr / $10M is hardly restrictive for the Indians... Think about it, let's say, he's much better this yr, but not the 2013 Masterson we saw in the past. That 1yr / $10M could be a huge bargain. If they miss on him, they've lost the money, but good news it's one yr. Have you seen the price of some mediocre FA? If I had my preference the Indians would acq. Kazmir, and young LH Andrew Heaney from Miami.

Btw, I like Frazier,but the kid still has to prove he can hit a CB. If he can't he might not ever be any better than James Ramsey or Tyler Naquin. I like JRam, but he could be a poor mans Emilio Bonifacio. Anderson might / might not turn things around. Naquin / Ramsey are considered fringe to fourth OF. Including Adams and possibly getting back Upton and Varvaro puts the Indians at the threshold of the WS IMHO.
December 9, 2014 - 12:41 PM EST
Collins- my thought in the Bourn/Frazier/JRam idea is mostly that a. we get out from under Bourn's contract (win) b. we get a first round pick to replace Frazier (wash) c. we give up JRam for JUpton (selling high on JRam). Even for only one year of Upton, I'd consider it. I'm also going with the logic that they want "more than Shelby Miller" so I'm just spitballing.
December 9, 2014 - 10:43 AM EST
In Arizona, it was my way or the highway under Gibson. However, he wanted no part of J. Upton and his brother has been a headache wherever he has played. There is a reason why his teams have wanted to move him before his contract expired.
December 9, 2014 - 10:41 AM EST
Yes, CA gets full credit for taking a chance on Moss. Great start to the off-season! Looking forward to more deals.

And I'm sure glad that Homer is not our GM with his crazy deals that give away the farm system for very little.

Also, no way do you give Salazar up for a one-year rental. He's got questions, sure, but he's also got huge value that you can't give away.
December 9, 2014 - 9:50 AM EST
Indians need an everyday 3B. I would check in to see if Evan Longoria is available and what would it take to get him. He is already signed long term and would be the right hand power bat that people want desperately and it would improve the infield defense.

I would give David Murphy away for a minor league prospect if possible.
December 9, 2014 - 9:07 AM EST

"Antonetti deals that makes sense...for once." For once? The Kluber deal? The Gomes deal? The Baur/Shaw/Stubbs deal?

How many of these robberies does he have to commit before it becomes more than once?

Antonetti is kicking ass with trades. This is not your father's Mark Shapiro.

ROCKY 55: I agree with you...I may have slighted Antonetti on trades. I do love the deals that you mentioned above. Notice that these deals are also for mostly unproven talent. The deals people are throwing around in here are so not the right deals to make. Maybe we just decide to not sign free agents and stick with drafting and trading. Stay out of the free agent spending that we could list poor decision after poor decision. We are not a team that can make it by signing free agents.

Valid counterpoint Rocky 55.
December 9, 2014 - 8:57 AM EST

"Antonetti deals that makes sense...for once." For once? The Kluber deal? The Gomes deal? The Baur/Shaw/Stubbs deal?

How many of these robberies does he have to commit before it becomes more than once?

Antonetti is kicking ass with trades. This is not your father's Mark Shapiro.
December 9, 2014 - 8:53 AM EST
Homer, give Justin Masterson or as you call him, "lotto ticket," a 10 million dollar deal with an option for 13 more? Are you kidding me? Based on what? Your trade suggestion is bordering on lunacy. Frazier, Naquin, JRam, Anderson and Adams for one year of Upton? Then an impact trade for the likes of Matt Kemp? Are you aware of his enormous contract? You're basically giving away the entire farm system for a one year rental of Upton, another year of frustration with watching Masterson. Your Masterson suggestion is astounding to me. Bringing him back is like going back with your ex-wife. I've seen this movie already and it sucked. Then you'd burden our tenuous financial situation with Matt Kemp and his bloated deal? I'm horrified.
December 9, 2014 - 8:38 AM EST
Homer- so you actually want to give $9 mill to Masterson with an option? Really? And then you want to trade Frazier, Naquin, Jose Ramirez Cody Anderson and Austin Adams for Vavaro and 1 year rental Justin Upton? Are kidding me!!!!
Devin- You want to send Bourn, Frazier and Jose Ramirez for one year rental Justin Upton?

Are you guys out of your minds? Trade away everything for a 1 year rental that turns in to a draft pick that will be 4 years away again. What are you guys thinking?

I am all for hoping, but lets at least be somewhat realistic and look for more deals like the Moss one. I think that is one of the Antonetti deals that makes sense....for once. I want to see this team succeed as bad as anyone else, but not at the cost of leaving the cupboard bare.
December 9, 2014 - 7:13 AM EST
I don't think the Braves would want Bourn back at status quo and not for JUpton.....Now the Bravos are desperate to get rid of BJUpton. So desperate, they may do a trade like



+Prospect (like Anderson or Moncrief or Wolters)

The big problem with the above deal is that BJUpton is due more $$$ and for longer than MB. The plus in that deal is that BJUpton has value defensively and doesn't have to hit lead off (where I think Bourn has his highest value). Slotting a BJUpton in the #8/#9 slot lets the Tribe put Kipnis in the lead off spot where he has more value than in the middle of the order. And I don't think BJ is as bad as his average was the last 2 years (he's no where near good but not as bad as a .200 hitter). And maybe he'd bounce back some being in the AL.
December 9, 2014 - 1:07 AM EST
Let me start by apologizing to Hoynes and the site. I was responsible for spreading a false rumor and Hoynes was right. My bad!!

Personal congratulations go to Antonetti. I do not know how good Moss will be but he was had for a price of the fourth/fifth best 2B in the organization and has no versatility. Maybe Wendle will fare better in the A's organization and Moss will be a complete bust but I won't care. I have to take my hat off to a great potential deal by the GM.

I would rather have gone th waiver route on other players than Price but the writing was on the wall when they selected the 40 IMO. Small price to pay (bad pun).
December 8, 2014 - 11:34 PM EST
I don't know that the Braves would take Bourn, but you answered your own question as to why they might: BJ can't hit. Bourn likely isn't worth his contract, but he projects to be significantly better than BJ with the bat, and he might see a bounce-back with his baserunning with a move back to the NL, and being a year further removed from the hamstring surgery. Mostly they might take him so they could get a young, cost-controlled starter like Salazar back.
December 8, 2014 - 11:32 PM EST
No way Upton is being acquired if you ask me. Classic example of a guy who's extremely overvalued by fans. Is he a good hitter, absolutely. Is he the guy to put the Indians over the top? To me, no. It would cost too much on the current roster to get him and you're getting production, but not enough to justify gutting your rotation/farm system.

To put this another way, Upton is a top 25 stick in MLB, but I'm concerned it'll require a package more reminiscent of a top 10 hitter in the game just because of the shorting of RH power in the game. I pass and look for cheaper alternatives such as Van Slyke to put in platoon type situations
December 8, 2014 - 10:36 PM EST
My question would be why would the Braves want Bourn when you have BJ Upton as your CF who does not have hamstring issues? BJ problems are he cant hit any more and swings at any pitch.

Again great move on the Indians picking up Moss. I think the Indians might have a better chance in getting Cespedes than J Upton.
December 8, 2014 - 10:18 PM EST
1. Lindor
2. Kipnis 10-15 homeruns 70rbi
3. Santana 25-30 homeruns 85rbi
4. Brantley 20 homeruns 90rbi
5. Justin Upton 25-30 homeruns 90 rbi
6. Brandon Moss 25-30 homeruns 85rbi
7. Yan Gomes 20-25 homeruns 75rbi
8. Nick Swisher 20-25 homeruns 75rbi
9. Chisenhall 12-15 homeruns 65rbi

That would be a very solid lineup if you swing bourn and salzaar for upton and maybe another prospect. I like santana in the three spot because his high OBP. Would be the best line up in the central.
C L Who
December 8, 2014 - 10:18 PM EST
Not crazy about trading Salazar, but if one of the starting 5 is traded, it's him since he's at this point a 1.5 pitch hurler, which won't cut it, except perhaps as a closer.

Upton would be great, especially if Bourn's contract can be dealt.....but only one year.

Is the FO / ownership in a go for it all mood for 2015?

If Murphy and Bourn could be traded that's about 17 MM freed up, of which around 10 goes to Upton. That leaves 7 MM to sign a mid-tier FA pitcher, and there are quite a lot of those available this year.

Tony, would you venture to predict Swisher's number of PAs in 2015, assuming he is good to go to start the season? My guess is 400 to 450.
December 8, 2014 - 8:05 PM EST
I agree with Seth, I do Salazar and Bourn for Upton yesterday. They get out from under Bourn's deal and get a big RH bat. They lose all the control and potential of Salazar.....but he has some red flags I would consider getting away from. Plus I think the Indians could then go out and get a mid tier starter to replace Salazar.
December 8, 2014 - 8:04 PM EST

I would make that deal. Assuming Upton walks the Tribe would add a comp. pick. and essentially dump Bourn's deal. All good for Cleveland, but, they might want more.
December 8, 2014 - 7:58 PM EST
If you gave the Braves Bourn and Salazar, that's a better return than Shelby Miller.
December 8, 2014 - 7:40 PM EST
Or Bourn/Frazier/JRam? That would surely pique their interest...
December 8, 2014 - 7:38 PM EST
I like the idea of a Frazier/JRam centered trade for Upton. If Shelby Miller was enough for Heyward straight up, maybe they'd take those two plus a SP prospect?
December 8, 2014 - 7:34 PM EST
Let's assume the Indians trade Murphy to the Orioles / Rangers / Mariners for a young prospect (non-40 man roster). The addition of Moss and trade of Murphy would mean the Tribe has addressed some of their biggest concerns (RF and power) and only take on $1M more in salary. That's huge for what this club can do this offseason. They would essentially maintaining the ($10-15M) financial flexibility they entered the offseason with. Let's say, Paul Dolan tells them, "go for it" and bumps that up to $20M (or a payroll of $90M). This club could still make some significant additions either way.

I'll explore the later scenario momentarily, $20M to spend will buy something like...
Justin Masterson 1yr / $9M (maybe add a $13M mutual option and $1M buyout if the team declines) guaranteeing him $10M. I think he's worth the lotto ticket.
Alex Rios 1yr / $8M
That would leave the Tribe $2-3M to spend. They could go a number of Burke Badenhop, Wesley Wright, Emilio Bonifacio, Alberto Callaspo, etc.


The Tribe could try to real in a FA like Headley.


They can try to make an impact trade for a bat like Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Kemp, or a SP like Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Johny Cueto, Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, Scott Kazmir, the Shark and of course Cole Hamels.

I'll stay with Justin Upton for now. Upton adds RH power, will be costly in terms of prospects and $$$ ($14.5M). However, I would call him more than a rental bc there is possibility of resigning him long term (not happening) or essentially trading a former first rd pick (part of the trade) for another future first round pick in the form of a QO and draft pick comp tied to him.

Here's how I think a deal could work....

Indians get:
Justin Upton - RF
Anthony Vavaro - RHRP

Braves get:
Clint Frazier - CF
Tyler Naquin - CF/RF
Jose Ramirez -2b/SS
Cody Anderson -RHSP
Austin Adams - RHRP

I think the Tribe could add the competitive balance pick in lieu of a SP prospect if necessary to get any trade done.
C L Who
December 8, 2014 - 7:29 PM EST
Assume Upton were acquired. Would Brantley move to CF, or would Upton play CF? He hasn't played much CF in his career. On the other hand, a move to CF would make Brantley less valuable in the outfield by limiting his ability to make assists.
December 8, 2014 - 7:23 PM EST
I would love to get rid of Bourn and his contract in a deal for Upton. An outfield of Moss in left, Brantley in center, and Upton in right would be a dream. But, let's be honest, there is no way the Braves would do that.

The Braves are said to value Upton higher than Heyward. The haul they got for Heyward was pretty solid considering they got a promising, young ML Starter in Shelby Miller.

Tony, what do you think the Indians would need to give up to actually have a shot at Upton? I personally think it will take one of Carrasco, Bauer, or Salazar and I don think that is worth a one-year rental in Upton.

Just my thoughts...would love to hear opinions.
December 8, 2014 - 7:20 PM EST
There goes Price. Curious to see if he'll pass thru waivers.
December 8, 2014 - 7:08 PM EST
Acquiring Upton would have to make the Indians favorites to win the Central. Would be great if they could find a way to make that happen. Maybe Upton would waive his no-trade clause to play for Francona. And maybe the Braves would be interested in getting their old friend Bourn back if the Indians were throwing some nice prospects at them too.
December 8, 2014 - 6:57 PM EST
Upton, even for a year, would be such an exciting move.
December 8, 2014 - 6:55 PM EST
Good point Devin and I kind of hinted at that in some tweets on Friday/Saturday. Perhaps they already have a secondary move in play but still working on finalizing. I get the feeling this is not the last big move at the winter meetings from the Indians and they could end up being one of those teams everyone is talking about at the end. I don't anticipate a "big" move as in a FA, but I could see something for an Upton if they align in value. Interesting that the Upton stuff is picking up steam as Hoynes just noted it too.
December 8, 2014 - 6:49 PM EST
My thought before the trade was announced this morning was... do you think the trade (which seemingly had no snags -- it was a simple one-for-one with the players involved being known 4 days ago) might have been put on the back burner to allow the tribe a bit more time to find a suitor for a follow up move? I guess time will tell. Let the winter meetings begin!

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