Indians

Tribe Trade Options, Brewers Outfield Edition

Milwaukee Brewers' Brett Phillips catches a ball during a spring training baseball workout Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

As the Milwaukee Brewers owned the night of January 25th, they snatched two legitimate outfield options from the Indians sights. First, they acquired Christian Yelich from the Miami Marlins in a deal headlined by their top prospect Lewis Brinson, who finds himself around the value markers of the Indians’ Francisco Mejia and Triston McKenzie. To follow that blockbuster trade, the Brewers and free agent Lorenzo Cain agreed to a five-year deal worth eighty million dollars. That’s 31-year old Lorenzo Cain inking a five-year deal, which is somewhat surprising.

To make room for the newly acquired Yelich and Cain, The Brewers are listening to offers regarding outfielders Domingo Santana and Brett Phillips. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, they are seeking a viable starting pitcher in exchange for the services of one of these two assets.

Though the Indians have four outfielders all but guaranteed a roster spot (Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, and Bradley Zimmer), the Indians should be exploring potential outfield additions. With a relative starting pitching surplus, the Tribe and Brew Crew seem to match up quite well as potential trade partners. Mike Clevinger and Danny Salazar each hold redeemable qualities that should merit extended discussions in regard to Domingo Santana and Brett Phillips.

Domingo Santana

Like the Indians new first baseman Yonder Alonso, Domingo Santana’s value is rooted in a breakout 2017 campaign. Santana is a fun prospect that has consistently hit at above league average clips, yet has been a member of three different organizations at the age of 25. His breakout was headlined by a thirty homer campaign in the year of the fly ball.

From a fit perspective, Santana offers unique value to a left-hander heavy Tribe lineup. He has spent his brief major league career mashing lefties, sporting a wRC+ mark of 135 in a brief 315 plate appearance sample size. Though the sample size is small, it could offer the Tribe a unique opportunity to avoid Yonder Alonso plate appearances against left-handed pitching. Edwin shifts to first base and a seemingly poor fielding Santana slots into the DH spot.

A plus walk rate and propensity to hit balls over the fence are the intriguing aspects of a deal for Santana. On the other side, however, that walk rate coexists with an affinity for swings and misses and the home run total was bolstered by a home run per fly ball rate that nearly doubles league averages, suggesting that total of thirty could be fluky in nature.

Brett Phillips

An afterthought in comparison to Santana, Phillips made his MLB debut in 2017. Only 98 plate appearances to his name at the highest level, Phillips made a brief impression but the acquisition of Cain means the Brewers have muddied up the once-heralded prospect’s window.

Destined to man center field in a major league ballpark, Phillips has plus range and a cannon for an arm. He could slot Zimmer over to corner outfield following the 2018 season when Brantley and Chisenhall likely venture to other ball clubs. Beyond fielding skills, Phillips hit at every minor league level with sneaky pop and lights out speed. The Brewers alleged willingness to consider dealing their 23-year-old center fielder of the future is good news for whichever team that can convince them to unload him.

The main knocks on Phillips as a hitter are a batting average on balls in play that is well above league average and a strikeout rate much too high for a speedster. The effective counter to these arguments considers that his plate profile lends to a higher BABIP and a patient approach. His time in the minors showed that despite striking out he walked frequently and, by all accounts, he embodies plate discipline.

As for convincing the Brewers to part ways with Phillips, Mike Clevinger is the piece to push. He’s a young and blossoming arm, with cheap contract control over the next several years. The boon provided by Phillips could salvage the loss of Clevinger while offering a higher potential degree of impact in 2018’s playoff campaign.

Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff need to place a call to 33-year old Brewers general manager David Stearns if they haven’t already. Instead of pushing for Domingo Santana, the primary target should be the running and gunning Brett Phillips.