Hunter Wood Provides Much Needed Bullpen Depth
Hold on to your butts. The Indians are officially going for it.
If there was any doubt whether or not the Indians consider themselves contenders, Sunday’s post-game trade for right-hander Hunter Wood should help ease those worries. The Indians decided not to stand pat, despite having the best bullpen in baseball. Instead they acquired the hard throwing right-hander from Tampa in order to add depth and shore up any remaining areas of concern.
In exchange, the Indians sent minor league outfielder Ruben Cardenas and international signing money to the Rays.
Wood is 25 years old and so far in 2019 touts a 2.48 ERA in 29 innings of work. His repertoire includes a 95 MPH four seam fastball to go along with a slider, change up, and curve. However, it is likely the heater that garnered the attention of the Indians.
He also sports some of the gnarliest hair in Major League Baseball. Seriously, just look at that luxurious, flowing mane. Mike Clevinger better watch out. He officially has competition. However, while Clevinger’s locks comes across as fun loving and psychadelic thanks to his braid, Wood feels more like a metal head. Still, if the Indians don’t figure out some creative marketing gimmick for the two of them it will be a real missed opportunity.
In addition to Wood’s skill set and mid-90’s grunge accouterments, he also has something the Indians value even more… team control. Wood will not be eligible for free agency until 2025. He could prove to be a valuable piece of the bullpen for many more years to come.
Of course, one has to wonder why the Rays, a team with a much more dire financial situation would be so willing to give up on such an electric arm so soon. By traditional metrics – ERA and WHIP – He’s been just as good or better than last season. He also sports an ERA+ of 184, meaning he has been 84% better than the league average. And while yes, his 4.19 FIP is concerning, it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
The logical explanation that has been reported is this simply came down to a numbers game. With the Rays also acquiring Eric Sogard on Sunday from the Blue Jays, they needed to clear a roster spot in order to make room for him. Hunter Wood appears to be the roster casualty of that trade.
Regardless of the motive, for two teams that are both very good at swindling other teams in trades, this will be a real litmus test for who is the superior swindler.
As for his role with the Indians, it’s hard to say for sure who will be the odd man out in the current bullpen mix. The back end appears to be set with Brad Hand as closer and Nick Wittgren as setup. With Oliver Perez firmly implanted as the team’s match-up lefty, all signs would seem to point towards lefty Tyler Olson as a possible casualty. However, we’ll have to wait and see as no decision has yet to be announced.
Christian Arroyo is an Intriguing Piece
Wood was not the only piece moved in the deal, however. The Indians also acquired utility infielder Christian Arroyo. This one is especially interesting.
Arroyo was a first round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2013 (25th overall) and their one-time top prospect. He was also the centerpiece of the Evan Longoria trade in 2017. In 70 career games split between San Francisco and Tampa, Arroyo has slashed an abysmal .215/.280/.342 with six home runs, 27 RBI, and a .622 OPS. However, Arroyo is only 24 years old. There is plenty of time to develop him into the player the Giants and Rays once thought he could be.
It’s likely we won’t see Arroyo in an Indians uniform in 2019. His acquisition was much more likely for 2020 and beyond. With the pending loss of Jason Kipnis via free agency, (Yes, that’s probably going to happen), Arroyo could prove valuable as a replacement. Like Wood, he is 24 years old and under team control until 2025. He might be the second baseman of the future. It’s also possible he plays third and allows Jose Ramirez to shift back to his natural position of second base.
It’s hard to know for sure. The Indians rarely go out and make any splashy moves. Could they go out and make a play for Yasiel Puig or Whit Merrifield? Sure. Will they? Probably not.
If the Indians do make a play for a bat to help them in 2019, it will likely be someone significantly less impactful. The most recent rumor has linked them to the Mariners’ Domingo Santana. If acquired, Santana would serve as outfield and DH depth as well as adding more power from the right hand side of the plate.
So stay tuned. With just a little more than 48 hours left to go until the trade deadline there are sure to be plenty more dominoes to falls. Will the Indians be involved? We’ll just have to wait and see.