Back in early July -- when trade rumors started to heat up around the league -- I made a post suggesting the Cleveland Indians should offer a package to the Los Angeles Dodgers for troubled outfielder Yasiel Puig. Luckily, for all of us, the Indians clearly did not listen and a trade never happened.
I still stand by my thinking at the time. The Indians had one potential (but injured) All-Star in Michael Brantley, and three mostly unknown prospects they could play with. Any combination of Brantley, Francisco Lindor, Bradley Zimmer, and a "smaller" prospect like Clint Frazier seemed like a pretty fair deal at the time. Even most of the reactions from Dodger fans on Twitter were laughing at how "one-sided" the trade would be for the Indians.
But now, half a season later, and the Indians would probably be regretting the trade if they made it. Granted, we can never know how any players would perform on different teams, but as it is every single player I suggested in a potential trade exploded in 2015 while Puig struggled with injuries and an ineffective bat all season.
The 24-year-old Puig finished 2015 worth a career-low 1.5 WAR in a career-low 79 games. His .255/.322/.436 slash and 11 home runs were also worsts for his career. It is not all Puig’s fault of course, injuries played a big part, but if the Indians traded Brantley and Lindor for that kind of production, Mark Shapiro’s departure probably would have been much more hostile among fans.
On the Indians side, Michael Brantley fought through injuries to be worth 3.9 WAR and set a career-high mark for walk rate with 10.1%. His 15 home runs were tied for second on the Indians. The biggest advantage that Puig has over Brantley is age, but that has been about it this year.
As if they read my article and got upset over it to prove me wrong, Lindor, Zimmer, and Frazier all had monster seasons. Lindor is in real contention for American League Rookie of the Year, and almost single-handedly solved the Indians defensive problems when he got into a rhythm. Down in the Tribe’s farm system, Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier both won Player of the Week awards in their respective leagues. Zimmer’s stock alone skyrocketed this season, and he played well enough to reach Double-A.
Zimmer struggled a bit statistically once he reached Double-A (.219/.313/.374 in 49 games), but it is the highest level he has been at in his minor league career, so a little bit of a wall is to be expected. Clint Frazier spent the entirety of 2015 playing in High-A ball, and he was fantastic. In 133 games, Frazier hit for a .285/.377/.465 slash and 16 home runs. The red-headed wunderkind was also named July’s Carolina League Player of the Month.
The Indians still have a hole in centerfield that needs to be addressed, but if fixing that spot meant trading Brantley, it would not be worth it.
On one hand, I was way off on suggesting the Indians trade for Puig – at least in the short-term. But on the other, Zimmer, Brantley, Frazier, and Lindor clearly read the article, took offense to it, and decided to play way above their heads. So… you’re welcome?