Hot Stove Notebook: On Trading Danny Salazar for Ian Happ

Hot Stove Notebook is a new column to give WFNY Indians writers an opportunity to run down their thoughts on the rumors or hypotheticals of the day that strike their fancy.

In an article for Sports on Earth, former Indians scribe Anthony Castrovince, suggested a trade which has had a growing public buzz in the media though seemingly without any sourced basis to it. In the article, Castrovince suggested the Cleveland Indians trade Danny Salazar, enigmatic fireballer for Ian Happ, versatile Cubs position player with a solid offensive profile.

Of course, when dealing players, contracts, control, and fit matters quite a bit. First, a more in depth introduction to Happ, just 23 years old Happ made his Major League Debut in 2017 over 115 games posting 1.8 WAR, 24 home runs and an .842 OPS. Further, he did this playing innings in center field, right field, left field, second base, and third base. His incredible versatility and productive bat alone is quite tantalizing. The value becomes immense when considering that Happ has at least five years of control remaining for his potential team through pre-arbitration and arbitration. Incorporating age, production, versatility, and remaining control, Happ is an exceeedingly good asset, one that would fit the Indians short and long-term vision well.

The rub comes from valuing Danny Salazar. WFNY has written extensively about Danny Salazar this offseason suggesting a Chris Devanski conversion, and noting his subtly stable production/upside during his time in Cleveland. Indeed, for a Chicago team poised to lose Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, a player with hybrid upside like Danny Salazar is compelling. Further, Salazar appeared to make a sneaky leap forward in 2017:

In 2017, the slider awoke, and Salazar’s mighty arsenal was complete. On a per pitch basis Salazar’s slider was the eighth most valuable slider among those with at least 100 innings. This paired with the seventh most valuable change up among the same constraint and Salazar all of the sudden has a Top 10 arsenal in baseball.

The upside still exists for Salazar, and the floor has been higher than many give him credit for over the years. Of course, there are limitations, Salazar has merely two arbitration eligible years remaining, and considering his consistent soreness has to be considered a substantive risk. In terms of control and risk, Happ is a better asset. Still there is a fit. Pairing Salazar with  a solid second tier prospect would be a boon for an Indians org looking for not only winning in 2018 but 2020 as well. As for now, this is all theoretical.

Another theoretical or borderline rumor. Adams simply is not a fit. Between Kipnis/Brantley one of them needs to play 1B if the Indians do not bring in external help or move Kipnis. Adams similarly to both Kipnis/Brantley has a pretty mediocre bat for first base. First base is a position where the bat has to be significantly above league average to play there, and Adams resurgence while making him competent does not project to a value at first base for the Indians. This would not appear to be a good fit for the Indians.

Organizational depth that outside of injuries does not see Cleveland in 2018.

Once promising, Crockett never appeared to have the trust of Terry Francona. As has been well documented, he does have the track record and stuff to be a good matchup lefty. However, with Olson’s emergence and the organizations lack of trust in Crockett, a divorce was to be expected.

Dylan Baker is the more interesting claim. Baker has a live arm with a lot of upside for a back end reliever. However, numerous major injuries made it so the hurler did not reach AA until his age 25 season. Turning 26 next season with significant injury risk, the Indians simply had a 40 man roster squeeze which created this outcome. It is very possible that Baker has a successful big league career if his body holds up but his exodus is simply a cost of roster depth.