Indians past August upgrades show potential for 2018: Between Innings

Tony Dejak / AP

The Cleveland Indians have shown a propensity of adding postseason roster pieces during the August waiver period. The Coco Crisp trade in 2016 was completed on the last day of the waiver period after Crisp had cleared waivers. In 2017, Jay Bruce had also cleared waivers and was traded though only 10 days after the non-waiver trading deadline. Both cases saw the Tribe patch a hodgepodge1 outfield.2

Crisp waived his 10 and five rights to join a contending ballclub. The Oakland Athletics received a minor league pitcher, Colt Hynes, whom the Indians signed earlier that month and saved a couple million dollars. Hynes was 31 years old at the time and minor league roster filler. He is now retired though working with the Los Angeles Dodgers in their player development program.

Bruce was won by assuming the full commitment to the remaining contract he was owed (about five million dollars) when the New York Yankees reportedly would not go to that dollar mark. The New York Mets received minor league relief pitcher Ryder Ryan, who is a 23-year-old at the same level as Tim Tebow in their system now. Ryan is considered to have some high upside given his mid-90s fastball though the Indians had transitioned him to a pitcher after he had not done so in college, so he still had some work to gain more consistency.3

Crisp and Bruce demonstrate the Indians front office is willing to take on contracts in order to improve their roster for the postseason when there are obvious holes. After adding Leonys Martin (center field), Brad Hand (high-leverage reliever), Adam Cimber (match-up reliever), and Oscar Mercado (flier outfielder) at the non-waiver trade deadline, the urgency and positions of need have somewhat shifted.

The Tribe could still use further upgrades in the bullpen both for the purposes of the 2018 postseason and beyond. There is no guarantee that either Cody Allen or Andrew Miller will match their elite dominant histories, so having more options would be beneficial. With Allen and Miller both likely to be elsewhere in 2019, if a reliever could somehow slip through waivers despite having team-control through at least 2019, then it would be an ideal fit for the Indians.

All of the other needs are situational patches. The Indians have received poor platoon work in right field against right-handed pitching.4 Against left-handed pitching, the Tribe could well upgrade first base, second base, and left field.5 Also, as much as Roberto Perez has been notable for his framing ability and helpfulness with being Trevor Bauer’s personal catcher, the backup catcher position is another consideration.6

Given the constraints of a 25-man roster in the postseason and making moves during the waiver period, the Tribe might decide to only fix one of these four potential places to upgrade from outside the organization. Perhaps Yandy Diaz could help Yonder Alonso bat less often against left-handed pitching. Chisenhall is a potential late-season addition to remove Melky Cabrera from the right-hand pitching side of the right-field platoon. Greg Allen and Oscar Mercado are two other internal options there. If Miller and Allen are both healthy and performing at their peak, the bullpen blueprint for October is just fine.

The urgency might not be as pressing as it had been the past two seasons, which could lead to there not being a move made. However, the Indians front office has shown that they are always discussing potential moves with other teams and are willing to take on salary in order to improve along the fringes for a push in the postseason as they know the marginal upgrades could be the difference between advancing or the season ending earlier than desired.

  1. due to various injuries to expected starters []
  2. OK, waiver rules. When a player is waived, they are able to be claimed by teams in their league by reverse order of record before doing the same in the opposite league. So, if an AL player is waived, the worst record team in the AL has first dibs and it goes to the best record team in the AL before passing to the worst record team in the NL. A claimed player can have their contract ‘dumped’ on the team or a trade can happen. A player who clears all waivers without being claimed can be traded to any team. []
  3. Ryan had great numbers in High-A San Lucie and is doing reasonably well for Binghamton since his call-up to AA. []
  4. Lonnie Chisenhall likely returning just before the postseason from his latest injury should scare everyone. []
  5. Quite doubtful the Indians would put Michael Brantley in a platoon, but he has not hit southpaws well this year. []
  6. Again, doubtful the Indians would do anything this year there though Eric Haase might make a push in 2019. []