The Tribe has been on the other end of these deals as sellers recently, acquiring Carlos Santana in 2008 and Corey Kluber in 2010. Sitting 16 games over .500 with a 5.5 game lead over the second place Detroit Tigers, it’s a fun time to watch the team try to improve for the stretch run.
The biggest need for the Indians has to be the bullpen. Even though the ‘pen ranks slightly above average, the Indians aren’t trying to be a just slightly above average team. There is seemingly no one guy you can count on to get important outs late in the game besides closer Cody Allen. Allen has been solid with 19 saves, only 2 blown saves, a 2.55 ERA, and 51 strikeouts in 42.1 innings pitched.
Bryan Shaw, Dan Otero, Jeff Manship, Tommy Hunter, and Zach McAllister have usually gotten the job done, but games like last Monday against the Royals leave a bad taste in the mouths of Indians fans. After Corey Kluber cramped up while warming up for the 8th inning and left the game with a 2-0 lead, setup man Bryan Shaw gave up 4 runs in 0.2 innings and Dan Otero gave up 3 in 0.1.
One could also argue that the bullpen has largely been hidden by the starting rotation, as the Indians relievers have logged the second fewest innings in the American League. With three of the five starters (Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and Josh Tomlin) on pace to surpass previous career highs in innings pitched, manager Terry Francona needs to be able to rely on the bullpen to give the rotation a rest down the stretch as the playoff run continues.
The New York Yankees are obvious trade partners, as they still have two dominant arms in their bullpen that would be a great fit in Cleveland, even after the recent Aroldis Chapman trade. The problem is there’s probably a dozen other contending teams thinking the same thing. The Yankees have two of the top three relievers in baseball, and the Indians could use either (or both) of them. The Tribe has been rumored to have interest in the Yankees bullpen arms, but considering the recent tendencies of the front office, are probably unlikely to make a move for any of them. (Don’t get me wrong, they would be great additions, but that would be so un-Indians). The other thing is, the Yankees might be done trading relievers now that Chapman is gone.
Potentially more likely candidates for the Indians to go after would be Milwaukee Brewers pitchers Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress or Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Tyler Clippard. While none of these three would likely make the impact one of the Yankees big arms, each are solid pitchers that would be considerably cheaper to acquire and still be an improvement on the team.
It would be surprising to see the Cleveland Indians trade for Andrew Miller or Dellin Betances, but it would be even more surprising to see the team not make a deal at all to improve the bullpen. The current core of relievers have only cost the team a handful of wins this year, but in the postseason all it takes is a couple bad outings before players are setting up tee times for the winter.
The other big need for the team is a bat. With the status of Michael Brantley up in the air and the disappointing production and now recent injury of Yan Gomes, there are a couple holes in the Indians lineup. So far Tyler Naquin has been a tremendous boost to the team and has filled in nicely for Brantley. Jose Ramirez has also been a pleasant surprise for the club, ranking fourth in the Majors in batting average with base runners in scoring position.
After hitting .278 with 21 home runs in 135 games with the Indians in 2014, then battling through a knee injury in 2015, Yan Gomes has struggled this year. He’s hitting .165 with 8 homers in 249 at bats. That’s not good. After performing a ritual to Jobu in the clubhouse last weekend, Yan Gomes separated his shoulder on an ugly looking fall running out a ground ball at first base.
With big names rumored to be on the move around the league like Ryan Braun, Carlos Gonzalez, and Matt Kemp, I again don’t see the Indians going after these kind of players. Names to keep an eye on would be Josh Reddick, Jay Bruce, and Jonathan Lucroy (you could argue any of these three are also “big names,” and you might be right, but this is my article so back off). The Tribe may not value Reddick or Bruce as highly as other teams since Lonnie Chisenhall is playing well in right field, but those two would no doubt still be an improvement.
The most intriguing is perhaps Jonathan Lucroy, since he not only fits the need at catcher, but he’s also been one of the most productive backstops offensively in the last several years. Since 2012, he’s the second ranked catcher behind only Buster Posey in Wins Above Replacement. Adding to the intrigue, two of the three non-Yankee relief pitchers mentioned above are Brewers. Perhaps the Indians can work together some kind of package deal to acquire Lucroy and one of the relievers. It can’t hurt negotiations with the Brew Crew being the go-to trade partner for the Indians to stock up for the playoff chase.
Look for the Cleveland Indians to be active at the trade deadline to acquire bullpen help and possibly also a hitter. With the dominance of the starting rotation, the team is in a great position to not only make the playoffs, but contend for the World Series Championship. Vegas Insider currently has the Indians odds at 9/1 to win the World Series, but if they can add a dominant arm to the bullpen and add to the already potent but possibly over-performing offense, expect those odds to increase dramatically.
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