Let’s first start off by praying, sending good thoughts and vibes, whatever you do for Carlos Carrasco and his family. The Indians announced yesterday he has a blood condition that was causing him to be lethargic and necessitated an indefinite stay on the injury list to sort it out. Hope to see you again this year, Cookie, but do what is needed for you and your family.
June 6th is a tough date. Not only is it a number away from the dreaded “Devil’s number”, but it teeters on that timeline of will they, can they, should they, why aren’t they going to be able to make a postseason push. In any kind of normal year with any kind of good luck happening for the home team, you could say it’s too early for the Cleveland Indians to be looking at selling at the deadline. Hell, even the TEAM must think it’s too early as they have pulled off two wins against the mighty AL Central-leading, best-record-in-the-American-League-having Minnesota Twins as of this writing. However, this is no normal year and, as the old saying goes, “if I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” Injuries and circumstances have ravaged the rotation, the backbone of the team and even as the good news of Mike Clevinger starting a rehab assignment today reaches the forefronts of our collective brains, it’s met with the news that Carlos “Cookie” Carrasco needs an extended stay on the IL due to a blood condition. Jose Ramirez looks like he had his abilities sucked out by the Monstars, as he is now no longer in the negative when you consider fWAR. Francisco Lindor is finally doing the damn thing, but he can’t be the only source of offense on a team with World Series aspirations before the season started.
So what is left to do? Are we going to be forced to see this team flop itself to the finish line, playing meaningless baseball in September? Struggling through August for a one-game playoff in the Wild Card “series” for the chance to face off against these Twins or the uber-talented Houston Astros or whoever makes it out of the logjam in the AL East? Betting on this team to pull it together is noble, but the roster has too many holes with too much unknown and too many unproven players that aren’t getting a chance to put it all together and don’t get the playing time needed despite manager Terry Francona making a pledge to “see what the young guys have”. So again…what is left to do? Sell. But even that isn’t going to come easy to this team.
When teams decided to be sellers at the trade deadline, often they look to unload bloated salaries of players that are good but not good enough to get them across the finish line or. Usually, those players are at or near the end of their controllable or contracted years, free agency a few mere months away, “expiring” contracts to borrow a term from the NBA despite not mattering in MLB. When you survey the Indians roster of players that fit that bill, players that would be marketable to those still in the fight…it’s bleak. The players that would return the most, Ramirez and Lindor, will not be moved as the team hopes to contend in 2020 and beyond. Jake Bauers, Greg Allen, Oscar Mercado, all don’t have the resume to be worth trading, not to mention they are all under team control for years to come and fit more into the window ahead than the players listed below.
There’s Jason Kipnis, barely hitting his weight, with an ISO of .096, on the last year of his contract extension before a $16.5 million option year that will not get picked up regardless of where he plays next year.1 Moving him last winter would have been the play if the front office wanted to extract any type of long term value from the “dirtbag”,2 however, the team was playing cat and mouse with contending and cutting payroll so he remained and has not put up the numbers commiserate with his salary.
Leonys Martin is a free agent after the season, but he’s closer to being designated for assignment than providing any kind of value prospect-wise for the team. He could or would provide a team with the much written about but unquantifiable “veteran leadership”, alas it appears that he will be able to provide that to another team for free soon enough.
Carlos Santana is having the year of his dreams after returning to Cleveland and would return a nice major league ready prospect or two is dealt, but trading the fan-beloved first baseman does not seem to be in the cards. He is still due $17.5 million in 2020 before an option year worth the same in 2021, so we are “saddled” with Los for the foreseeable future, which is actually good news for Tribe fans. Enjoy your All-Star Game nomination, Carlos. You deserve it and you will be a generous host.
There is the pitching duo that was dangled about in the offseason, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, but if the prospect packages weren’t tantalizing enough in December when everybody was offering, the play of the two does not warrant a bidding war to break out for either’s services for this year and beyond. Kluber has two option years remaining on his contract but is injured now and was dropping the ever precious velocity before the comebacker hit him in his arm, breaking his ulna. Any type of deal made for Kluber would be greatly reduced than the packages we barely talked ourselves into in the winter.
Bauer has one more year of arbitration in 2020 before being a free agent, and he has already confessed to not wanting to sign any type of long term deal with a team so as to extract as much monetary value for himself as possible. It’s a noble and self-assured plan, but years like Bauer’s 2019 are why players sign long term deals and lock in salaries in the case of injury or diminished play. Walking an extra batter per inning than 2019, getting fewer groundballs and allowing more home runs, Bauer has failed to live up to his lofty expectations of what his 2019 would be. Trading him would net a bigger return than any player mentioned above, but maybe wouldn’t as attractive to the team given his role as de facto pitching coach, a role that has paid dividends in Clevinger and now team ace Shane Bieber.
The biggest value return from trade of any player on the roster is from Brad Hand, the one player most at WFNY don’t want to deal if contention in 2020 is what is desired.3 Hand is on the books for a paltry $7 million for 2020 and has a team option of only $10 million in 2021. For a closer of his caliber, those sums are chump change, especially when you consider non-closers such as Adam Ottavino and Bryan Shaw signed identical three years, $27 million deals, Zack Britton signed for 3/$39mil, and newly established closer Craig Kimbrel signed just yesterday for 3/$43 million. Trading Hand would signal a white flag on the 2019 season, but would also set the team up for future runs. While packages similar to the Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman deals will probably be seen again, they remain a marker for what the return should be for a player such as Hand.
Will they do it? After the Carrasco news yesterday, I almost hope so. Retooling this roster, actually making a concerted effort to play the young guys like Mercado, Allen, Bobby Bradley upon his call up, needs to be the plan for future contention. Extract value from the older players you have available as much as possible and hope you make a wild card entrance. The plan for 2019 was much different preseason, but now we have to adjust. The future is waiting and also now.