a��Over the next 30 days, I’ll look at 30 playersa��one from each teama��that I believe should be traded, but more along the lines of aA�a�?what ifa�? scenario. Some will seem obvious, just as others will seem nonsensical. Some may also seem desperate, but it’s important to understand that this list is entirely subjective and made up solely of notable names. A player can be deemed movable for any of the following reasons: production (or lack thereof), current and future team outlook, age, potential return value, salary, or even injury history.
The last time the Cleveland Indians made the playoffs, it was in 2013 and they lost the wild card elimination contest. That unexpected postseason appearance was supposed to be the turning of a page for the franchise.
Previously, they hadn’t made the playoffs since 2007 when they won the AL Central only to lose the ALCS in seven games against the Boston Red Sox.
Instead, 2014 saw them regress slightly, falling from 92-70 to 85-77 and missing the playoffs completely. This past season was more of the same. This time they finished 81-80, placing third in the division for the second consecutive year.
But there were plenty of promising signs.
Cleveland finished in the top half of the league in batting average, had the seventh-highest OBP, and were middle of the pack in slugging percentage. The biggest issue was scoring runs, as they saw themselves finish 18th in said category.
Then there was the trio of Jason Kipnis (28), Michael Brantley (28), and Francisco Lindor (22, rookie):
Kipnis a�� .303/.372/.451; 43 doubles
Brantley a�� .310/.379/.480; 45 doubles
Lindor a�� .313/.353/.482; 22 doubles, 12 home runs, four triples (99 games)
With that corea��Kipnis through ’19, Brantley through ’17, and Lindor not eligible for free agency until ’22a��these are excellent pieces to build around.
So what can we make of their pitching staff?
Cleveland’s team ERA of 3.67 was good enough for eighth in the league this past season and teams only hit .237 off of thema��the second-lowest clip in baseball. Now there’s no such thing as too much good pitching, but the Indians currently have arguably the best problem to have: their potential starting rotation is more or less set, but there’s at least one name amongst them that strikes me as expendable.
Corey Kluber is off limits, obviously. The 2014 Cy Young award winner is signed through 2019 on a relatively team-friendly contract and is still going strong. Danny Salazar? No again. At 25 years old and already with two solid seasons under his belt, there’s not much holding Salazar back from being one of the best. Can he figure it all out? Related: he’s not slated for free agency until ’21.
It’s not Trevor Bauer (24), or Cody Anderson (25), either. Both aren’t free agent eligible until ’21, ’22, have had shown promising signs as well. How’s that for young, controllable talent?
So what about 28-year-old Carlos Carrasco? Well, there isn’t much on the negative end to say, if I’m being entirely honest. He might be hitting his prime, is signed through the next three seasons for only a total of $19 million, and is coming off of two very good seasons back-to-back.
2014 a�� 2.55 ERA, 2.44 FIP; 9.4 K/9
2015 a�� 3.63 ERA, 2.83 FIP; 10.6 K/9
This past year was just the second time over the course of his six-year career in which Carrasco went all season long as a starter (30 starts). He tried in 2011 (21 starts), but that was met with mixed results. He went on to miss the entire 2012 season due to recovering from Tommy John surgery.
He also came over in the Cliff Lee trade to Philadelphia, which is always fun to think about.
But let’s get serious: why is Carrasco on this list? Because it’s arguable that his valuea��3.2 WAR in ’14, 4.8 in 2015a��has never been higher. Plus, as we’ve seen, the Indians starting rotation is quite formidable.
Talent level wise, it seems as though this could be the most dangerous rotation in the American Leaguea��specifically the AL Central. And let’s face it: a team with Cleveland’s market and budget isn’t going to be able to keep all of those aforementioned players from above in the next couple years. They can either keep these 4-5 guys together, or pick up a couple more valuable pieces.
At least one of them has to go, and Carrasco could net a mighty fine return. I’m sure the Indians would be happy with another threatening bat in the lineup, and trading premium pitchinga��who are young and controllable, no lessa��would be a surefire way to go about that.
Of course when you’re talking about trading a player like him, you better make sure you get a couple more players in that deal along with the notable bat. Seems fair, right?
The Indians, as mentioned above, have an excellent core of Kipnis, Brantley, and Lindor to build around for at least two or three more years. The rotation largely spoke for itself last season, despite consistently lacking positive results, and there’s always going to be intriguing offers regarding young, productive, and controllable pitching.
Question is: would the Cleveland Indians budge?
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs