The Cleveland Indians enter the 2017-2018 offseason as prohibitive favorites to repeat as A.L. Central Champions. However, due to the attrition of the free agent process, they enter the league’s Hot Stove period expecting substantive roster turnover. Under this guise, the Indians writers at WFNY have updated their trade value rankings from the summer.
This is not a pure ranking based on ability but rather a balancing of skill, contract value, age, and expected value generation in the multi-year context. Thus, the list is included directly below, and explanations of a couple of outliers for each writer follow.
Further, while only introduced below, discussions evaluating the rankings argument between Ramirez/Lindor and Kluber/Carrasco are coming forthwith.
Francisco Lindor: The consensus ranking has Jose Ramirez above the face-of-the-franchise Francisco Lindor. There is some merit to it as J-Ram finished third in the AL MVP voting by being ridiculous at the plate (.318/.374/.583, 145 OPS+), while serving a super-utility role for the Indians during the year. J-Ram is also under team control for a season longer than Lindor. Lindor is younger and would have out-paced Ramirez in WAR had he just had a normal defensive season due to his own surging bat (spectacular defense returned late in the year). Both are outstanding choices, but the marketability of Lindor pushes him over the edge. Remember, this is about trade value, so perceptions and ability to drive sales of tickets and merchandise would matter. -Michael Bode
Bradley Zimmer: I was a bit surprised to find that I was the only ranker who put Bradley Zimmer in my top five, but an 81 wRC+ a little over half a season’s at-bats will do that. I tend to look at the positives when considering Zimmer, playing in his first taste of the majors. A plus defender in center field, one of the most important positions on the field. Zimmer had decent counting numbers as well: eight home runs to go along with 18 stolen bases, a decreased strikeout rate from the admittedly-too-high Triple-A numbers. While Zimmer will never put up a high batting average, his eye at the plate will continue to improve, as it did in the minors. As you look around the league, most teams would kill for this production from center field. Plus, I can look forward to years of Schmidt from New Girl GIFs anytime “The Machine” does anything on the field. –Joe Gerberry
Danny Salazar: I’m a bit disappointed the individual rankings do not better demonstrate the wide-range of variability in expected returns from Danny Salazar. He is, by far, the most volatile player stock in the list. At his peak, Salazar has the best stuff of anyone on the Indians including Kluber. We have nicknamed him the Purveyor of Filth for a reason. The issue is no one can tell if he will be healthy enough to demonstrate it. He could be a 25 game starter and win the AL Cy Young Award in 2018. Or, he could become the heir apparent to Andrew Miller out of the bullpen. Or, Salazar could spend the entire season continuing to navigate injuries and be another “What If” of baseball lore. Anyone that pretends to know for sure his fate is lying. -Michael Bode
Michael Brantley: Look… I’m not here to sell you on the picking up of Michael Brantley’s option year. That’s not what this piece is about. It’s about trade value and there are arguably few players on this 40-man roster who have proven skills in the league and would have more in the lines of perceived value than Michael Brantley. An MVP in 2014, an All-Star at the break in 2017, Brantley is playing for hypothetical peanuts if you forget about the fact that he’s missed large chunks of the last three seasons. While 2018 projects to be another year atop the downtrodden AL Central, if the team gets off to a bad start, do not be surprised if Brantley’s name comes up in trade talks, and the return could be substantial (if he’s healthy). –Joe Gerberry
Yu-Cheng Chang: Chang is one of my favorite prospects in the system. At just 21 years old in AA, Chang showed plus raw power as well as posting the highest walk rate of his minor league career. Roughly three years younger than average for his level Chang posted a .241 ISO from the shortstop position. Chang made significant defensive strides in 2017 which have the organization excited and raised his probability to stick at shortstop. Probably best as a 3B, Chang is a quality athlete who can move all over and use his plus power in many different roles. There are flaws but Chang is an exciting combination of power/versatility. -Mike Hattery
Corey Kluber: The WFNY group differs on the value of Carlos Carrasco versus the value of Corey Kluber. Consensus placed Carrasco slightly ahead but I’m not so sure. Kluber, with a second Cy Young award in his back pocket, is under team control through 2021, a year longer than Carrasco. Though he is nearly twice as expensive and a year older, that extra year of control is pivotal, especially when paired with a slight production advantage, as well. Perception is not lost in trade value, either, and Kluber is universally considered one of the game’s top aces. It is not difficult to envision a scenario where Carrasco’s value ekes past Kluber’s, though. -Gage Will
Triston McKenzie: Towards the end of the 2017 season, John Sickels of Minor League Ball called McKenzie a Top 20 prospect in all of baseball and most other prospect prognosticators would likely agree. Age versus level is a good indication of how an organization values a prospect, so McKenzie heading for AA Akron at age 20 is telling. In 2017, he posted 143 innings at high-A Lynchburg, registering a 3.03 FIP and nearly twelve strikeouts per nine innings. The combination of a plus fastball and curveball is nearly as exciting as the thought of McKenzie donning a big league uniform at age 22. -Gage Will