Will Indians Be Buyers Or Sellers As Deadline Looms?

by Gordon Watkin | Posted on Saturday, July 11th, 2015
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The Cleveland Indians are in the toughest position in regards to personnel alterations with the non-waiver trade deadline looming in the coming weeks. Cleveland has experienced a tumultuous roller coaster of a season, stretching extensive winning and losing streaks due to an inability to align solid offence and their dominant pitching. The overall result? Three games below .500, and 9 games behind the division leading Royals. Cleveland needs consistency, and they need it fast. Brandon Moss in a recent interview described him and Carlos Santana‘s inability to drive in runners as being a huge contributing factor behind Cleveland’s sporadic struggles, and praised teammate Kipnis and Brantley as being the sole reason offensively that the season has not been lost. Kluber, Carrasco and Bauer along with the surprising Cody Anderson have steadied the rotation, and are emerging as one of the games best rotations in a sluggers paradise American League Central.

So what is a General Manager to do when his team (which is known for its epic late season heroics) is in the realm of mediocrity the Tribe find themselves? The market boasts a unique composition from years prior, as aces can be had as can reliable late inning help, with select few bats. The Indians need more relief pitching despite being in the top 10 best ERAs in baseball. The pen is under utilized and the bullpen as a staff has experienced respectable numbers due to the solid performances of Allen and Shaw. Ok, who is on the market than? What players are in play that can help the Cleveland Indians? While the market appears top heavy, General Manager Chris Antonetti can help his club without trading the farm.

Trade Candidates

Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers

I can still remember watching K Rod as a little kid using his white out split finger fastball and curve combination to desolate opposing hitters, and analysts proclaiming him to be the next Mariano Rivera. The Angels had a star, and they subsequently burned him out. Now 33, the Caracas Venezuela native is a new pitcher with a new team. Still employing the same arsenal, K Rod relies equal on his control and deception as he used to his velocity and movement. Due for 3.5 Million this season and an option for next season, an acquiring team receives a modestly paid athlete with still lots in the tank. The Tribe would be wise to try and acquire the right hander to bolster their set-up situation, and provide some strikeouts for a bullpen that pitches to contact frequently. This is no easy feat however as the Toronto Blue Jays have been spotted scouting Rodriguez exclusively for weeks, and appear to be in a better position to acquire him.

Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies

The enigmatic right hander is still a dominant force in the ninth-inning, and if acquired would allow the Tribe to move Allen to 8th inning duties. His salary is large, and the Phillies are eager for a divorce as Papelbon has worn out his welcome in the city of brotherly love. Quoted as saying he would play for any team that wants him, the restricted no trade clause is no longer an issue for small market teams like Cleveland, however the annual earnings ($13 Million USD) may be enough to deter the Tribe from pursuing Papelbon.

Tyler Clippard, Oakland Athletics

Injuries to the Athletics’ bullpen saw Clippard become the closer by default, and he has not disappointed Bob Melvin and Co. The former Yankees draft pick has been admirable out of the pen, and has quieted critics that proclaim he was exclusively a set-up man and is sure to draw plenty of interest as last place Oakland will seek mid-grade prospects. The only obstacle is his $8.3 Million USD contract for this season, and the fact both Oakland and Cleveland are small market teams who both would ideally like salary retained in any deal. Should ownership give the blessing, Clippard is an excellent fit for Cleveland.

John Axford, Colorado Rockies

The Axe Man could be back in a Cleveland uniform potentially if the Rockies are willing to trade their resurged closer. Oxford is pitching like the player the Tribe thought they signed as an Unrestricted Free Agent last season registering 15 saves to the tune of a 2.95 ERA in hitter friendly Colorado. at $2.6 Million USD, he is an absolute steal should he sustain his present success. Given the state of the Rockies, it would not be surprising to see the package be underwhelming to acquire Axford’s services.

Free Agents

Joba Chamberlain (Formerly of the Detroit Tigers)

Chamberlain this season has seen his fastball come back to life (Average 93.5 MPH), after years of underwhelming results. The Tigers recently outright release Chamberlain who had an ERA slightly above 4, but that could be caused by a hugely inflated BABIP (Above .350). It can never hurt acquiring a talent like Chamberlain for a pro-rated one year deal plus knowledge of Tigers’ hitters and tendencies. If Antonetti hasn’t called Chamberlain’s agent yet, he better soon.

Neftali Feliz (Formerly of the Texas Rangers)

Ina  surprising move, the 27 year old former phenom was released by Texas following a poor season and injury concerns. Rejecting a designation to the minor leagues and forfeiting the remainder of this season’s salary implies Feliz still believes he can pitch and is gambling on himself to one day return to his dominant form. His fastball is still electric, as is his slider but control has and continues to remain a question mark. Similar to the Brady Aiken gamble, Feliz could be a late season signing that changes the complexion of the Tribe bullpen if he can return to his prior prowess. Furthermore is his playoff and World Series experience which would go a long way in furthering the maturation process in the Indians clubhouse.

Currently, the Indians have the 7th best bullpen ERA in baseball but have shown a lack of consistency bridging the gap from a quality start to Cody Allen in the 9th inning. They are also amongst the least used, which is testimonial to the innings being logged by Cleveland’s rotation. Scott Atchison (6.86 ERA and 39 Years Old) and Nick Hagadone (4.28 ERA and a huge let down from the Victor Martinez trade with Boston) are simply not going to get it done, and sadly have been used nearly exclusively outside of Bryan Shaw who has used his elusive slider to perfection this season. Look, all I am saying is Ryan Raburn has a lower WHIP and ERA in .2 IP than C.C. Lee, the recently retired Bruce Chen, and both Atchison and Hagadone. Is this an anomaly? Of course it is, but satirical nonetheless. Championship teams have bullpens that can be used in high-leverage situations to get hitters out late. Ask Bruce Bochy in San Francisco, ask Matheny in St Louis and even look at Francona‘s days in Boston. Good pitching predominately will trump good hitting, and if Cleveland is to make the Wild-Card they must improve in close games, and finish the job their starters have begun day in and day out. To answer the title’s question, the Indians will be buyers at the deadline and they should fortify their bullpen. A bat would prove useful, but none available make sense at their annual salaries. Look for the Tribe to make a typical small-market move of shifting contracts and picking up a high-leverage reliever for a low level prospect.

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Gordon Watkin
About the Author

Gordon is a Sport Management graduate from Brock University. He has a background playing professional soccer, but is an avid sports fan particularly of the Cleveland Indians. Follow Gordon on Twitter @GordonWatkin.

  • Carl Nota

    I’m a Rangers fan. Believe me, Feliz’ FB abd slider are anything but electric any more. 92-93 is a good day for him now.

  • larry

    You ask “what’s General Manager to do”? Learn from your mistakes. We now carry salaries of $36 million for 3 players being Swisher (with kneemonia) Bourne (who steals NOTHING other than a paycheck) and Santana (the guy who played shrimp man in Forest Gump). No team is interested in Santana otherwise I think he would have already been gone. We are stuck with David (Mark Reynolds) Moss in right, another undesirable to others. If a movie was now written at trading time for the Tribe it would be titled “3 Old Men And A Maybe”. The 3? Murphy ,Aviles, and Rayburn. What is their worth to other teams ? Maybe we can acquire another lefty for the pen since “Alphabet ” has broken the record for throwing the most “dirt balls” by All Star break. While they’re at it, throw Matt Underwood in the deal, PLEASE !!

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