Everyone’s hell is different. It’s not all fire and pain. The real hell is a baseball season gone wrong. But, if I had to go through hell, I’d only want one team in the whole world by my side; the Cleveland Indians.
I wanted us to go through October together, just laughing as our opponents fell apart, together at the end holding the World Series trophy; perhaps captured in a painting. That was our heaven, see? There are lots of things to miss: obstacles overcome, controversies, bats licked, and finger guns! God, we had some great ones. Thank you for those. Thank you for being a team I was always proud to root for.1
Sometimes when you win, you lose. The 2017 Indians won many games, 102 of them in the regular season. Another 91 during in 2018 and a third-consecutive AL Central Division title. The consistent winning might have atrophied the urgency for immediate upgrades to the roster as offseason moves targeted more the future than the present; followed by the Minnesota Twins being far more formidable than anticipated.
How the 2019 season ended did bring up some existential questions. What is the “me”? Is it my brain? A mere organ… like a fingernail or heart. Why would that be the part that is me? There is a voice in my head, the part of me that thinks, that feels, that is aware I exist. If I’m aware I exist, then I do. That’s why I’m here. Thought is real, the physical is the illusion. Ironic, huh? Perhaps the fans of the Cleveland Indians did think the Yasiel Puig trade into existence.
If one such trade could be conjured by a desperate fanbase, then could another? Early offseason ruminations on rebuilds elsewhere might spark such fanciful daydreams.
Theo doesn’t discount dealing Javy or Bryant.
— Paul Sullivan (@PWSullivan) September 30, 2019
Javy as in Javier Baez, childhood friend and fellow countryman of Francisco Lindor; also one of the greatest defensive second basemen of this century and fantastic entertainer on the baseball diamond.2 The Chicago Cubs wouldn’t actually trade him… would they? He does have just two more seasons under team control. Dare we dream?
The price would be steep. Cole Hamels was disappointing and a free agent, so the Cubs do have a hole in their rotation. With the Indians exercising the option on Corey Kluber, they could include him as part of a Baez package. Kluber is an attractive bounce-back candidate with Cy Young Award abilities and a year-to-year contract.
Ah, but the Cubs trading Baez means they are not valuing 2020. For the Tribe to create the best middle infield Major League Baseballs has seen since Omar Vizquel and Roberto Alomar shared the same dirt, a combination of well-respected players such as Nolan Jones, Daniel Johnson, and Daniel Espino would need to be offered.
— MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors) October 10, 2019
Here is a fair return on Kluber. Starling Marte, 31 years old, never quite lived up to his initial billing though has been an All-Star, a multiple Gold Glove winner in center field, and a consistent above-average bat and base-runner. His contract, two more seasons, matches the Lindor-Baez window. Yasiel Puig was a fun rental, but Marte is more consistent in his contributions.
The Pirates, like the Cubs, would not want Kluber themselves. A three-team trade would need to be proffered as the mystery team with a desire to add a potential front-line starting pitcher to a contending ballclub contributes the prospects Pittsburgh wants in return. Such discussions are complex and fraught with fragility; though if Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff could convince the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres to complete a deal at the last trade deadline while neither was in contention then their abilities should not be under-estimated.
With the above trades completed, and under the assumption the 2019 payroll has already adjusted for losing minority investor– John Sherman– there should still be room left in even the Indians league-average budget to add needs in the bullpen and positional depth.
Further, the everyday lineup looks capable of competing with the best in baseball.
Alternatively, if Bradley cannot learn to lay off low breaking pitches, then Jordan Luplow and Greg Allen– or another left-handed outfielder3 — can platoon in left field, while Reyes returns to designated-hitter.4
Moving Kluber would add a bit more risk to the rotation, but there is depth. Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber should continue to be good. Carlos Carrasco will be given an opportunity to prove his capabilities to recover from leukemia after a full offseason. Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, Jefry Rodriguez, and Adam Plutko will all be available to fill in the remaining slots. Triston McKenzie might even stay healthy and fulfill his prospect profile.
It’s a dream baby, it’s a beautiful one, but you know dreams…
I know, aren’t real. I know.