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MLB trade deadline: Should the Indians be buyers? Who are the top hitters available?

Last week I played the role of buzzkill and talked about what the Indians should do if it comes time to sell. This week the glass is half full, and we're looking at how to fill it up the rest of the way.

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The non-waiver trade deadline is just 22 days away and, having already considered the pieces we might trade away, it is time to think about who we might acquire, since the team is still very much in contention right now.

Starting with the offense, and going position by position, there are a few places where the Indians are clearly fine. Based on FanGraphs data, there are three positions where the Indians are in the top four in MLB in WAR - catcher (4th at 3.1 WAR), 3B (4th at 3.6 WAR) and LF (3rd at 3.0 WAR).  I think we can safely assume the Indians are not trying to improve those positions with deadline deals.

We talked about Asdrubal Cabrera as a sell candidate a week ago, and the Indians are 17th in WAR at SS (1.0 to date). Not great, but not bad. In any event, with Francisco Lindor on the way, it makes little sense to try to upgrade here.

That takes us to the problem areas. The Indians currently site 24th in 2B WAR (at an even 0) but I am comfortable assuming the next three months of Jason Kipnis will be better than the last three months. It seems highly unlikely we'd add a 2B. CF ranks even lower (24th) with .6 WAR, but Michael Bourn has been hurt. I wouldn't write off the possibility of an upgrade here, but assuming we are going to see a healthy Michael Bourn in August and September, I don't imagine a big splash here.

1B and DH have both been bad (.2 WAR at 1B, good for 21st in MLB; -1.2 WAR at DH, good for 12th in the AL), but one of those two (and it's been 1B for a while now) is secured by Carlos Santana. Last on the list, RF has been a debacle for the Indians, who sit dead last in WAR at -1.4 on the year. The Indians are throwing games away at this position right now.

Realistically, to improve offensively, the Indians have three choices: add a RF, bench Nick Swisher and add a 1B/DH, or add a CF who's an upgrade over the injured Bourn.

In the outfield, I think the most attractive potential target is Alex Rios, a former division foe and current Texas Ranger. The Rangers are a mess this year and Rios is gone after 2015 (assuming they pick up his $12M option). Rios would not only make the Indians much better today, he would be able to fill RF through next season too, buying time for Tyler Naquin, Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer. At $12 million, he would be a bargain. The problem is he will likely cost too much. The Rangers don't NEED to trade him (they can pick up that friendly option, too). But it's worth kicking the tires.

Other potentially available outfielders Arizona's Gerardo Parra, San Diego's Carlos Quentin, or almost anyone on the Phillies (specifically, Marlon Byrd, Domonic Brown, or John Mayberry). Picking from those guys, Parra can play CF and is a great defender; Quentin has always hit well when healthy (and allowing him to DH could help) and Domonic Brown is just a year removed from a huge season.

If we want to upgrade 1B, another option might be Chase Headley. Headley has struggled in San Diego - an absolute death trap for hitters - but is a solid defensive third baseman and has hit well during his career away from his home park. Bringing him in as a 3B and letting Lonnie Chisenhall and Santana handle 1B and DH would be an overall improvement. Headley is owed ~$4.5 million for the rest of this season, and will then be a free agent. His cost in terms of returned talent should be far lower than that of most of the outfielders I mentioned.

If I were the GM, I'd be kicking the tires on Rios and Headley, but my guess is the Indians won't want to give up in terms of prospects.