The pulse of the Indians front office was difficult to gauge heading into the 2019 trade deadline. Having been at one point 11.5 games out of first the general consensus through most of June and part of July was that the Tribe would sell off a few assets in an effort to redeploy for 2020. Following a prolonged stretch of stellar baseball, the Tribe entered July 31st three back of the division-leading Twins with their postseason hopes very much alive. Perhaps our very own Mitchell Krall penned it best when he labeled the Tribe as neither sellers nor buyers. Indeed, the Tribe has swapped out a current asset for additional current as well as future assets – a true win/win for the Tribe in terms of competing with a window of contention. As the dust settles on the 2019 trade deadline, the WFNY team reflects on its fallout and the implications for the remainder of the season.
What was the Tribe’s biggest win at the trade deadline?
Gerbs: Being able to help this year’s club while setting up for the future and only giving up Trevor Bauer, a pitcher who was not going to be around after the 2020 season. Getting two bats in Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes to lengthen the lineup and balance out the handedness issues that have been a problem in the past is no less a coup, and when you consider the future prospects in Logan Allen and Victor Nova, it’s a no brainer.
Bode: The Indians front office continues to find ways to deal from positions of strength. The Tampa Rays had to find a way to receive something in return for Christian Arroyo and Hunter Wood as they had an upcoming 40-man roster and Rule 5 issues. Meanwhile, the Tribe was able to trade Trevor Bauer to non-contenders at the trade deadline rather than wait for the winter meetings when almost every team would know the Indians did not want to pay Bauer $20 million for the 2020 season. It is incredible how much the team received back for just one and a half seasons of Bauer especially given the returns on other starting pitchers dealt.
Poloha: I doubted the front office, especially after what they did (or didn’t do, I guess?) this offseason, but they once again killed it with this trade. While I will miss Trevor Bauer, the Indians are better now and in the future because of the players they were able to acquire. When you can help your team now while also extending your window, you can’t ask for much more than that.
Chuck: I’m going Franmil Reyes. In acquiring Reyes we have a middle of the order guy who is under team control through the 2024 season. Cleveland has not had a middle of the order masher of this caliber since Travis Hafner. It’s been since Manny Ramirez that they’ve had one this young. Bonus alongside Reyes is the addition of another power bat for 2019 in Puig. Beyond that, the front office picked off a couple of former top 100 prospects in Christian Arroyo and Logan Allen while adding additional prospect depth. Arroyo is only 24 and will work his way into the mix to replace Kipnis in 2020. Allen turned 22 in May and could fill a role in the back of the rotation in 2020.
Gilbert: The biggest win was the Indians front office threading the needle between the present and the future. They acquired two middle of the lineup power bats to help this season, while one of those bats will be on the team for the future. The team also acquired two minor league arms, who could be in the future plans of the franchise. It was a great job by the front office.
Mitch: Gilbert hit in on the head. The only way they were going to be able to trade Trevor Bauer is if it helped the team both in the present and for the future. By acquiring several inexpensive years of Franmil Reyes, a near-ready pitching prospect in Logan Allen, and also a half-season of Yasiel Puig, the Indians front office was able to do just that.
What was the Tribe’s biggest miss at the trade deadline?
Gerbs: Not dipping into the prospect pool and getting a reliever. The Tribe bullpen has inarguably been the best position group of the team for the season, but it is starting to show some cracks, and now without workhorse Bauer to soak up innings, will be taxed even more. Not adding to the pen, when you had a fully stocked organization to pull from, even to add one arm is a miss.
Bode: Brad Hand is still the only high-leverage reliever on the team. Scooter Gennett was dealt for mere cash, but not to the Indians. There are still holes on this team; especially compared with the stacked rosters of the Astros and Dodgers.
Poloha: Completely understand that the bullpen is supposedly good given their ERA as a group, but not getting a single reliever at the deadline scares me, especially as the season gets later and later. I loved what they did at the deadline in terms of the Bauer trade, but they still have a handful of holes that went unfilled too. Add in the fact that a juggernaut like the Astros added Zack Greinke and, well, I’m still angry.
Chuck: Adding a back of the pen reliever is an opportunity missed. The front office has shown the propensity to make a large splash for a controllable high leverage reliever, but at a large cost in prospect capital. The optimist in me wants to believe that the team’s faith in their existing weapons allowed them to opt-out of the chase. The pragmatist in me believes they did not want to pay the cost required as we look up at the division-leading Twins.
Gilbert: The biggest miss was the Indians’ inability to get a bullpen arm. Cleveland could have used one more arm to put in the backend of the bullpen.
Mitch: The Indians have such a wealth of low-minors talent—it would have been great to see them dip into that collection of young players to bolster the bullpen or even the rotation. Maybe if they’d seen what Salazar would look like before the deadline…
What under-the-radar Tribe acquisition will have the largest effect in the future?
Gerbs: I really like the addition of Logan Allen. It’s been too many years since Cleveland has had an effective left-handed starter, and while Allen has struggled in the bigs this season, he is only 22 and will improve with the organization’s long track record of developing starting pitchers. As for this year, Allen might get called upon to start but is much more likely going to be used out of the pen in the bigs down the line. His future is bright.
Bode: The fun part is that we really don’t know. Maybe Christian Arroyo wins the starting second baseman job in 2020 and never looks back. Maybe Logan Allen regains that top prospect pedigree and becomes a really good third or fourth starting pitcher (are the Indians allowed to have left-handed starters?). Maybe Victor Nova or Scott Moss or Hunter Wood takes a big step forward at some point and jaws drop. The biggest component here is that a whole lot more options and possibilities were added for such a thing to happen.
Poloha: One of the minor leaguers, I’m sure. I don’t know enough about them to answer this question correctly, but just look at what the people who know what they are talking about are saying.
Chuck: I’m going to go with Arroyo. He’s had a rough go of it on the injury front and has stumbled out of the gate at the major league level. But he just turned 24 at the end of May and posted a 145 wRC+ with eight homers and a .314/.381/.603 slash in 33 AAA games this season. It takes some guys a little longer to figure out major league pitching and I’m betting on Arroyo to figure it out. The Tribe will need someone to fill the void left when Kipnis departs.
Gilbert: Logan Allen is an underrated part of the Bauer trade. Allen is a top-100 MLB prospect according to MLB.com. He is still very young at just 22 years old, but he has already received MLB playing time. The Indians could have a nice pitching piece in the near future.
Mitch: For the sake of breaking up the Arroyo/Allen monotony, I’ll go with Double-A southpaw Scott Moss. A veteran of the now-famed 2016 Draft (or at least famed around Cleveland), Moss has a funky delivery, a fastball with below-average velocity but plenty of rise, and a wicked slurve, he’s the exact kind of finesse pitcher the Indians player development crew has been able to cultivate lately.
What franchise was the biggest winner at the trade deadline?
Gerbs: How can it not be the Astros? As good as the Tribe haul was, Houston got arguably a top 10 starter in Zack Grienke without touching their major league club nor their top three prospects as well as Aaron Sanchez, a talented pitcher they can use to either stretch out or make him a fireballer in the bullpen. The trifecta of Gerritt Cole, Justin Verlander, and Zack Greinke just made any postseason series against the Astros that much harder to overcome.
Bode: The Astros added Aaron Sanchez and Zack Greinke took them from the slight AL favorites to the obvious World Series favorites. The good thing is that “because baseball” means they could go the way of the 2014 Detroit Tigers anyway.
Poloha: Houston, as the other guys have already alluded to. It just isn’t fair sometimes, honestly.
Chuck: Unfortunately, I must beat the same drum and say Houston. But, if Kluber comes back to form, this answer could very well be Cleveland. I would argue that it was more essential for the Tribe to boost the offense than it was for Houston to add another starter. Houston’s rotation already ranked 3rd in xFIP, 4th in ERA and 6th in both FIP and WAR. While they built themselves a more formidable playoff rotation, the Tribe addressed more serious flaws. Cleveland’s offense ranked near the bottom third of the league in most categories. An improved offense and postseason rotation of Bieber, Clevinger, and Kluber is a vast improvement over where they were.
Gilbert: The biggest winner was Houston. They addressed their biggest need, pitching, with three pitchers. The big acquisition of Zack Greinke makes their starting rotation elite. But, their bullpen was improved by getting Joe Biagini and Aaron Sanchez, who given the already stacked rotation, could be a great bullpen arm in the playoffs. The rich got richer.
Mitch: The Houston Astros, womp womp.
What franchise was the biggest loser at the trade deadline?
Gerbs: The Yankees. To add only a Single-A arm after being linked to mostly everyone, Noah Syndergaard, Zach Wheeler, Trevor Bauer, Robbie Ray, bullpen pieces galore, and not come away with any help for your big league club is a huge miss. When you couple that with the stunted progression of Clint Frazier, by their own workings or not, as well as the shredded state of their rotation, they are no longer the cream of the AL this season.
Bode: If not the Yankees, then the Toronto Blue Jays. Their haul for Marcus Stroman looks meek compared to what the Indians received for Bauer. They still have Justin Smoak who isn’t good enough for a Qualifying Offer but should have returned something in trade on an expiring deal. By also trading Hudson, Sogard, and Sanchez, they managed to disenfranchise their fanbase without really receiving any interesting prospects back. I mean, they are prospects, so maybe Mark Shapiro is just smarter than everybody else, but the deadline deals don’t look good today.
Poloha: In terms of playoff-caliber teams, the Yankees. Their starting rotation isn’t good and they didn’t acquire anyone that can help with that. I mean, I’m definitely not complaining, but as it currently stands, their rotation is really, really bad. That offense will have to continue to score a bunch of runs to win games, especially once October comes along.
Chuck: The Yankees. No wait, I’m going to change it up here. While the Yankees did fail to tackle their starting pitcher woes, the Dodgers have also been rumored to be addressing their bullpen for the longest time. Once again, they failed to make a splash. The Dodgers pen ranks 8th in the league in ERA, but 12th in FIP and xFIP while sitting 15th in reliever WAR. With their rotation, lineup and prospect depth, the fact that they did not add the ever-elusive setup guy baffles me. They will regret not addressing this in October.
Gilbert: The biggest loser is the Yankees. They have a really underwhelming starting rotation and they did not add one arm to it.
Mitch: Let’s say the Mets, not because they didn’t make the team better for a reasonable price, but because no one on this green Earth knows what the hell they’re doing.
On a scale of one to ten, what impact will the Tribe’s moves have on their ability to make the postseason?
Gerbs: 7. Adding Puig and Reyes to this lineup that was coming alive with Jose Ramirez returning to form is a great thing. The hurt of losing Bauer is mitigated by the return of Salazar and Kluber,1 plus younger arms like Allen or Aaron Civale can help the rotation, but the addition of the Big Beefy Bats is the best modification any team did to their lineup this trade deadline.
Bode: Can you ask me again in two weeks? Dealing Bauer was the right play for the October make-up of this team. The lineup went from OK to lethal in one move. However, there are three-to-four starts over the next 18 games that would have been started by Trevor Bauer and now might need Adam Plutko to fill-in against top-tier teams. It is less than ideal. Basically, the trades help the team in October but might put a bit more peril on actually getting there.
Poloha: It’s tough to tell now given that there are still so many questions surrounding the rotation, but I guess like a six? It will take some time to evaluate things and see who can get back to their normal selves before I judge the impact.
Chuck: I’m going to go with a six. DH was an area where the Tribe has been at the bottom of the league in production. Acquiring a bat was a must. As fate has it they acquired two solid bats to further enhance a lineup that has been on the rise. If a) the prognosis on Kluber was more known or b) Danny Salazar looked more like 2017 Salazar, I would have listed this higher. Our rotation is now obviously more of a question mark. But we seem to get the most out of our starting pitching, so I’m going to bet the come. I do believe that once we get to the postseason this roster is better constructed to make a run than it was on Wednesday morning.
Gilbert: 8. I think the two power bats of Puig and Reyes will be instrumental in transforming this lineup into one of the more complete lineups in the AL. The Indians needed offensive firepower and they got it. I think they will overtake the Twins.
Mitch: I’m going to say 5—I think we often tend to overrate the impact of midseason trades. The Indians front office made a couple of interesting trades, but two months of two new players can only help so much.