Hot Stove Notebook: On Indians Corner Infield Plans, Jose Abreu

As lukewarm stove season grinds along, the latest murmurs around the league concern a familiar friend for Tribe fans. Jose Abreu, first baseman for the Chicago White Sox, is being kicked around as a trade possibility, with the south siders still in rebuild mode. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported initially that several clubs were kicking the tires on Abreu.

Examining the Indians as a potential fit for the 30 year old is a cloudy proposition. Abreu plate portfolio plays well as a first baseman, with an ISO mark of over .200 in three of his four years, paired next to an astounding career wRC+ just shy of 140. That mark tells us he has been nearly 40 percent more effective than the average hitter in his first four big league years. His glove is far from stellar but manageable, as he has accrued over 1000 innings in the field in each of the last three years.

The Indians should have interest, though it is hard to see a scenario in which that interest is more than a fleeting inquiry. Teams generally shy away from intradivision dealings, especially concerning high-end caliber players like Abreu. Additionally, Abreu’s arbitration estimate is in the neighborhood of 18 million for 2018, meaning his next two years could be more expensive than Carlos Santana’s free agency deal. With that in mind, dealing a top prospect for the right to pay Abreu nearly 20 million does not offer enough surplus value for a non-major market team like the Indians.

The most important aspect of the Abreu news for Tribe fans is, as Heyman pointed out in his tweet, the Boston Red Sox involvement. The Red Sox have already shown interest in Carlos Santana and a trade for Abreu would take them out of his market. Even if Abreu ended up elsewhere, throwing his name into the first base market would increase the Indians chances of retaining Santana.

Over on the other side of the diamond, the true hot corner, the Indians plans depend on a variety of factors. WFNY’s Michael Bode touched on potential third base candidates a few weeks ago. The third base plan depends upon Jason Kipnis, of all people. If the plan is to trot him out into the outfield and retain Jose Ramirez’s services at second base, the Indians are likely in the market for a third baseman.

Over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron recently alluded to the hot corner being a buyer’s market in the short-term future. His overarching point is that few World Series contenders are in need of assistance at third base. That number will likely decrease by one when Mike Moustakas finds a free agency home, as well. As the Blue Jays look to offload Josh Donaldson, the Indians should be diligent in efforts to acquire him. Like with J.D. Martinez last year, an oversaturated market could lend way to a seemingly light prospect package return for Toronto. If there’s one thing we know about this Indians front office, it is that they are always patiently waiting in the wings for a deal to fall in their lap. We saw this play out with Edwin Encarnacion last December and with their reported interest in J.D. Martinez at the trade deadline of 2017.

Around The League

Yusmeiro Petit is the epitome of the volatile reliever. Ups and downs throughout his career make prognosticating a difficult task. A two year, ten million dollar flyer for the Athletics seems like a sound investment, though. If Petit is getting five million per year, I would expect the Joe Smith price tag to fall in the range of six to seven million per year, which, in a two year deal, would be quite doable for the Indians.

Ah, the Andrew McCutchen trade saga has returned. This time, McCutchen likely will be changing uniforms. After a bounce back 2017 campaign, the Pirates should look recoup assets from Cutch’s final contract year, an option just shy of fifteen million. It is doubtful the Indians name will surface early in the McCutchen talks, but if they continue to drag out, it would not be surprising to see Antonetti and Chernoff enter the fray.