While I could wax poetically about the Indians nine-game streak, the Royals being a pain in the ass, Bryan Shaw bashers and apologists, and JRam-love, I will instead get through the weekend series as fast as possible, so I can talk about the trade deadline. If you could not care less about my fantastic writing, you can scroll down, where I talk about five different trade targets that Indians may look at over the next few hours.
One has probably disappeared while I’ve typed this introduction.
The Indians have been players over the past 12 months, when they went out and traded for Andrew Miller, who truly changed the landscape of the Indians run through the playoffs. They followed that by signing Edwin Encarnacion during the offseason, and while that may have been their trade deadline move, there may still be someone out there that the Indians could surprise you with.
But I threw my hat into the ring anyways.
What happened this weekend:
On Friday, the Indians beat the White Sox 9-3 to extend their win streak to eight games, powered by a second fantastic start via Danny Salazar, and another four-hit performance by the Indians leading MVP candidate, Jose Ramirez. Ramirez led the way with a solo shot, his 18th on the year.
JRam scored four runs, and drove in two more with this single, giving him three RBI total.
The real story of the game, however, was Danny Salazar, who added another good start to his resume before the deadline, likely saving the Indians from having to make a trade for a starter to bolster the rotation. Salazar added his second straight eight strikeout day, and did it in a very different way than his previous start. I’m deep diving this in tomorrow’s piece, so tune in to that. Yes, he achieved a lot of swinging whiffs, so that narrative is correct, but the dichotomy of his two starts is extremely telling. The “Danny Salazar has two pitches” garbage is just that. Yeah, I’m making a list of all the really bad Salazar takes, when he’s down. His frame leads to injury, especially if his delivery isn’t tight. He struggles when pitching out of the stretch. But, when healthy? His split/change and slider are wipeout pitches, and he can still touch 97 or 98 with his four and two-seamer. That’s a fine chip to have in your arsenal. Health, though, is key.
And here is my weekly homage to Giovanny Urshela, who right now defensively, is one of the top four or five third baseman in baseball. He can’t hit a lick, but boy can he play the hot corner. He’s likely gone when Kipnis returns, but it sure was fun while it lasted.
On Saturday, the Indians recouped all of their Brandon Guyer money, when his HBP gave the Indians a 5-4 victory, and extended their winning streak to nine games. You have to give Guyer some points here for the spin. Solid stuff.
Corey Kluber got the start, and while he didn’t have his best stuff, alls that means is a 12 K performance in 6 1/3 innings.
Oh, and you know, a needed defensive play by JRam, doing his best homage to Gio.
On Sunday, all good things had to come to an end, as the Indians lost a heartbreaker to the White Sox, 3-1, when the Sox Matt Robinson hit a two run, walk-off home run against Bryan Shaw. The Indians squandered a slew of chances against what seemed like a Triple A team, as the White Sox were busy dealing away Melky Cabrera to the Royals, continuing their deadline sell-off. The biggest concern was Josh Tomlin, who had to leave the game after four no-hit innings. It’s not believed that it’s anything serious, but he had tightness in his left hamstring, and Terry Francona didn’t want to take any chances.
Frankie Lindor did hit his 17th home run.
The Indians head to Boston with a two-game lead on the Kansas City Royals. While it’s incredulous to believe that the Royals have a chance in the series, stranger things have happened. They added Melky Cabrera, a former Royal who should fit right in, and he’s been know to have the Indians number on occasion.
Something to watch going forward, especially after the Royals took two of three from Boston.
The Trade Deadline
- Zack Britton: Britton is an elite, two-pitch closer, who hasn’t really been all that elite this year. Britton has/had one of the best sinkers in baseball, and used it almost exclusively. Prior to this year, it averaged 97.44 miles per hour, and was devastating. This year, his velocity was still over 96 miles per hour at the start of the year, but something was off. He went on the DL in early April with a left forearm strain, returned for two appearances in May, then went on the DL again on May 5th with the same injury. He returned at the end of June, but the velocity is still closer to 96, than 97 and a half. He pitched in his first back-to-back games on July 29 and 30, so the Orioles have been babying him. The fear is real, but so is improving the bullpen. Oh, and his K% is down almost two percent, with a BB% that is up more than one. This is a cautionary tale, so if you give up a top 100 prospect for him, you need to have your senses checked. I wouldn’t deal him for anything including Francisco Mejia, Triston McKenzie or Bobby Bradley. Britton has one more year on his deal, and becomes a free agent in 2019. I guess he’s impactful, but the concern is real.
- Brad Hand: Hand has a five-pitch arsenal, that is odd for a reliever. For the past two years, he’s been pretty elite, and while nobody is like Andrew Miller, he’s certainly the light version. His three predominant pitchers are a four seamer, a sinker and a whip out slider, and over the past 2 1/2 seasons, that slider has a swinging whiff percentage of 47%. Over the same stretch, Miller’s slider has a 48% whiff rate. In other words, Hand and Miller on the same team is devastating, and really makes the bullpen dummy-free. He doesn’t have Miller’s top end velocity, but uses a bigger arsenal. If you could get Hand with Bradley, or a package including Bradley, I’d do it. Still no to the top two, and they’d want one of them. The catch is control. He doesn’t become a free agent until 2020, so it’s not likely he moves without a top piece. This is impact.
- Yu Darvish: Darvish is a rental property. You don’t make a move for Darvish, if it’s just for Darvish. Take Rich Hill last year. Hill was moved with another rental property, in Josh Reddick, and which upped the value quite a bit. So, let me spell it out. If Darvish is available, you ask. If you get him solo, you don’t include any of the top three. No way, no how. The Indians likely don’t need him anyways. But, if the Rangers threw something else in? I’d be really interested. Keone Kela has been mentioned. I guess. It would help the pen for sure, but still not sure where I’d be with a deal like that. Darvish WOULD make our rotation devastating, and make a bullpen arm less important.
- Sonny Gray: Gray only becomes available if the Yankees get sick of the dance. Who knows, maybe this is what the Indians are waiting for anyways. Gray gives you more control than Darvish, but in the end, is he better than what we have? If the deal involves Bradley, you think about it. Past that? Well, Beane likes odd players, so who knows.
- Tommy Pham and Randal Grichuk: See this piece, from yesterday
- Trevor Rosenthal: Rosenthal is elite, isn’t a free agent until 2019, and likely not available. However, if he is, he is the one reliever I would consider including Triston McKenzie. I know it closes the window a little bit, but boy would Rosenthal give this team the best bullpen in the big leagues. He’s wipeout good, and I’ve coveted him since he was a starter in that loaded St. Louis system. His four-seamer AVERAGES 98+ miles per hourover the past 2 1/2 seasons, and all four of his pitches present a 25+ swinging whiff rate. This is a game changer move, and one that would be out of nowhere, and the Indians and Cardinals love to work together. You throw Pham in there (my preference, or Grichuk for that matter), and you have the best deal the Indians could get, and some future there as well, at least offensively. This is the deal I want, but also a pipedream
- A secondary reliever is most likely. I could see the Indians going after a guy like Brad Brach, the brother of former tribehand Brett Brach. The problem with both Brach and Britton is that they have an owner like Peter Angelos. Take that for what it’s worth.