A Logical and Rational Discussion in Regards to the Indians Trade Deadline Moves
Alright everyone, if you haven’t already done so, please be seated.
As you’re probably aware, yesterday was trade deadline day. It’s that magical day of the year where teams both in contention and out of contention lose their collective minds in order to trade away prospects and proven assets in an attempt to alter their fortunes for the future. Intricate breakdowns of who was buying and who was selling, which teams won, and which teams lost scattered across the interwebs. Twitter GMs typing feverishly while screaming into the ether about what there team either did or should do.
That’s where all of you come in and why you were brought here today. You’re passionate. You want your team to win. Most importantly, you want them to do everything necessary to accomplish that goal. Or rather, you want them to do everything you want them to do. When they don’t, the aforementioned ether screaming occurs, usually directed towards @Indians on Twitter. As if the recent college graduates manning the gif maker and funny video machine have any input on trades. We’re here to say, you all need to relax.
You can’t always get what you want.
Look, I get it. You wanted the Indians to make a big, flashy move that says, “we’re serious about winning!” I did too. I think to some extent, we all did. Considering some of the rumors that have been tied to the Indians over the past month or so, those wants and desires only intensified. Being linked to legitimate super-star players like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper can have that effect. Even past their prime names like Adam Jones, Adrian Beltre, and Andrew McCutchen are just as intoxicating. The Indians are never associated with such big moves, so to be tied to any of them must mean they’re really serious and close to making it happen.
Nope. Not even close. Try again. Do not pass go and do not collect $200.
Here’s the thing. We’re currently living in a world of likes and retweets, clicks, page views, and audience engagement statistics. We should know, we’re a part of that world. There’s a lot of pressure to meet these numbers, to constantly be improving and getting all eyes on you. That’s why it’s important to treat rumors with cautious optimism. Sure, the Indians “inquired about Bryce Harper,” but what does that even mean? Did they make an actual offer? Did they discuss possible packages? Or, did they simply make a phone call to the Nationals to find out what it would take, hung up the phone, and never called back? Did national media then get word from a source from inside the Nationals about teams that had called about Harper and then ran with it because it was a hot, juicy story? It’s possible. The Bryce Harper trade watch made for good TV, tweets, and clickbait articles.
Would I have loved to see Bryce Harper in an Indians uniform? Yes. Was I tempted to start thinking about just how awesome it could be? Oh, you bet. Did I for one second think it was an actual possibility, that the Indians would sell their baseball souls to make it happen? Not a chance in hell.
Here’s an honest assessment of how I see the Indians. They’re a team that has figured out who and what they are. It’s a lot like a rock band in that regard. After years of experimenting they’ve finally found their niche. They know what they’re good at and they know what they are. By now, we should know what we’re going to get. If the Indians were a heavy metal band, we should expect face melting solos and maximum riffage, not poppy dance beats and love-struck lyrics. It’s the same when it comes to trades. We have all the evidence we need. We know what they are.
So, what are they exactly?
Let’s start with what they aren’t. The Indians are not the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers. They can’t sell away every asset they have not bolted down to a minor league bench somewhere for the sake of going all in right now. They can’t do this because they don’t have the financial resources available to fill future holes via free agency. Their medicine cabinet is void of band-aids.
So while trading away every conceivable asset for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado would be fun for the time they’re in Cleveland, they aren’t staying long term. Would either player, have made the Indians chances of winning the World Series better? Maybe, but it’s not a certainty. Does that, therefore, make selling off that much of the future for a chance today worth it? For some of you, yes. For others, no.
Now, I know what you’re saying. “But the Indians traded away Francisco Mejia, their best prospect, and another top-ten prospect in the moves they did make. Doesn’t that go against what you just said? Well, doesn’t it? HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THAT!?!?!”
For this season, the Hand trade helps bolster a bullpen that has struggled mightily. As one of the top relievers in baseball over the last three seasons, Brad Hand fills an immediate need by providing late inning insurance in both a setup or closing role. Additionally, Adam Cimber offers Terry Francona an alternative right handed option due to his funky, submarine style delivery. More importantly, both players are under team control for the foreseeable future. Why is that important? Because neither Andrew Miller (remember him) or Cody Allen are. Given their resumes, it’s highly likely one or both of them will be pitching elsewhere in 2019. Knowing this, the Indians made a move not just for today, but for the coming seasons to protect themselves.
As for Mejia, yes he was the Indians top prospect. But, this is now the second time in three years that we know of that they attempted to trade him. The first time being the failed Jonathan Lucroy trade of 2016. This willingness to trade their top prospect combined with the way in which his call ups and limited playing time were handled are somewhat telling. There were also the Terry Francona comments prior to the trade about Mejia’s unwillingness to try different positions. It feels as though there is more to the situation than just his talent. Perhaps the rumors of his personality clashes were true. Maybe the Indians saw him as a multi-million dollar player with a ten cent head. We’ll never know for sure, but it makes you think.
Now, about the Leonys Martin trade.
Like I said yesterday in my initial write-up about the move. It was underwhelming and disappointing considering the names rumored to be coming to Cleveland. It’s hard to sell yourself on Leonys Martin in a few minutes when you’ve spent two days thinking about the Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos. But again, the move to acquire Martin was shrewd and forward thinking in addition to helping fill a need today.
It may not seem like it, but Martin is enjoying one of, if not his best years of his career offensively. This is especially true when taking into consideration his splits against right handed pitching. In a platoon role with Rajai Davis, there is reason to believe this will translate to success in the lineup. Not only that, but Martin is a quality center fielder. For those of you who have complained mercilessly about getting Tyler Naquin out of center field, congratulations! You got your wish.
Perhaps more importantly, Martin’s one remaining year of team control provides the Indians insurance out in center field. Bradley Zimmer just had major shoulder surgery and is supposed to be on the shelf for the next 8-12 months. Given the Indians chose him over Clint Frazier and put all their eggs in his basket as the center fielder of the future, they are not going to rush his timetable for return. Leonys Martin grants them that luxury. He can fill the void left in Zimmer’s absence while he recovers. With the possible departures of Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael Brantley in the offseason, they need proven outfielders. Martin fits the bill. The same can also be said of the other player acquired prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline, former Cardinals center field prospect, Oscar Mercado.
Wait, there’s one last point to make.
The Indians find themselves in a unique position. They are going to win the AL Central division. Their next closest rival, the Minnesota Twins, completed a fire sale yesterday afternoon and have officially raised the white flag and find themselves nine games in back of the Tribe. No other team besides the Indians has a record over .500. This will be a cake walk to October. Raise the banner now.
Because of this truth, the Indians were under no pressure yesterday to make a move. They can wait another 30 days or so and make a trade via waivers, if they feel as though they need to. Other teams do not have such a luxury. They are all in the middle of pennant chases and do not have the time to waste. They need to make their moves now in order to stay competitive. In some cases, for example the Brewers and Pirates, this meant selling off high quality assets in order to take a shot and go all in this season.
I’d be willing to bet we have not seen the last of the Indians wheeling and dealing. This team is not a finished product. Some of the names that were rumored to be associated with them heading into the deadline, i.e. Adam Jones, Adrian Beltre, Andrew McCutchen, could all clear waivers and become available. The Indians can take a wait and see approach, feel things out and see what else they might need. Can Lonnie Chisnehall get healthy and come back? What about Tyler Naquin? Is the pitching as good as it can be? These are all things they can still address over time. They didn’t have to do it right now for a premium cost. That’s a smart and calculated approach that should, hopefully, lead to long-term success. This window is not closing. If anything, the Indians are propping it open.
So relax, be patient, and enjoy the ride. The Indians know what they’re doing. Now put down the Twitter machine and trust them.