We know that Chris Antonetti has come out and said that Cleveland is pretty much out of the market for any more free agents, having spent what little money they have on the Michael Brantley option and signing free agent Elevation Revelation connoisseur Yonder Alonso. That doesn’t mean we can’t speculate what can happen in the trade market. Gage Will and I partook in another classic Gage and Gerbs mess around, hat tip to those New Girl fans that got this, to see what could be had if the Tribe front office decided to go off to “Fantasyland” til March and make some moves.
Gerbs: Gage, you tweeted out the other day your “fantasy wishlist” which only contained three names, in this order: Christian Yelich, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado.
Fantasyland Indians trade rankings:
— Gage Will (@GageWFNY) January 21, 2018
The Indians have been tied to two of those, Yelich and Machado. Why don’t you explain to me why you have those players on your list and why in that order?
Gage: Insert obvious disclaimer that we are residing in Fantasyland and these rankings are purely from a subjective standpoint. Starting with Yelich, the argument is clear: consistent and controlled. You can take Yelich’s 4 WAR projection to the bank and cash it before spring training. He will make a hair over $43 million over the next four years, a window that coincides with team control of Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Carrasco.
The Donaldson and Machado discussion is maybe somewhat foolish, given the Indians historical aversion to rental players (with the exception of Jay Bruce). But over here in “Fantasyland”, realism is for the birds. You can’t really go wrong with either choice. I opted to rank Donaldson slightly higher based solely on a more consistent plate presence. Donaldson has eclipsed 140 wRC+ in each of his previous three seasons while Machado has yet to do it. Machado’s defense closes the gap but Donaldson is more than serviceable in that regard, as well. If we were discussing merits beyond 2018, Machado is the easy choice, but as a 2018 rental, I’m picking Donaldson and not looking back.
Gerbs: While your reasoning is solid, and understanding that either would be a rental, my favorite “Fantasyland” third baseman would be Machado. A lower K rate and that slick nightly-highlight defense would give the Indians three Gold Glove finalist infielders. I am not bothered by the offensive downturn in 2017, as the team around Machado was falling apart and teams could pitch to him more easily.
Gage: The price for Yelich is a sticky subject. I would certainly offer up one of Francisco Mejia or Triston McKenzie. Constructing a package around Mejia would be optimal, given the difficulty of finding cheap starting pitching. A package consisting of Mejia, Yu-Cheng Chang or Bobby Bradley, and a fun starting pitching prospect probably isn’t enough but at least gets the conversation started. This would obviously decimate an already mediocre farm system, which may be acceptable given current roster construction.
Gerbs: If the cost for Yelich is only Mejia, Chang and a pitching prospect (say Brady Aiken or even Shane Beiber) I would do that deal. Chang is a great prospect, not on the level of Lindor or Ramirez in the middle infield, but to keep a championship-caliber window open, and that’s what acquiring a player like Yelich would do, I say do it.
Gage: Lorenzo Cain. Lorenzo Cain. And Lorenzo Cain. The Indians have a plethora of outfielders that have question marks surrounding them. Michael Brantley just had surgery — will he be healthy? Bradley Zimmer is in Year 2 — can he make the necessary adjustments to be a productive MLB hitter? Lonnie Chisenhall is the epitome of boom or bust and has some clouds around him on the injury front, like Brandon Guyer. Signing Cain, who could be had for a deal in the range of three years and $45 million, would provide some stability in the muddied waters of the Indians outfield.