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Cleveland Indians in-season acquisitions came up big in ALDS

Why going all-in matters.

Division Series - Boston Red Sox v Cleveland Indians - Game One Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Remember Clint Frazier? Ben Heller? Cash Considerations? Just a small sampling of the prospects dealt by the Cleveland Indians front office throughout the 2016 season. Prospects we thought we would miss tremendously.

At times, the trades seemed crazy. Who deals their No. 2 overall prospect plus four pitching prospects for a reliever? The team that just swept the Boston Red Sox. That’s who. Although Andrew Miller is the biggest name, of course, everyone the Indians traded for throughout the season came up huge in the Tribe’s first postseason series win in nine years.

Dealing at the deadline and beyond

Before getting to just how good the Indians’ trades were this season, let’s recap the actual trades themselves.

  • July 31: Indians acquire Andrew Miller (LHP) from NYY for Clint Frazier (OF), Justus Sheffield (LHP), Ben Heller (RHP), JP Feyereisen (RHP)
  • Aug 1: Indians acquire Brandon Guyer (OF) from TBR for Nathan Lukes (OF), Jhonleider Salinas (RHP)
  • Aug 31: Indians acquire Coco Crisp (OF), $1,673,497 from OAK for Colt Hynes (LHP), $500,000

These are listed simply in chronological order, but they might as well also be in order of magnitude.

The Indians went big right before the deadline, snagging the top available reliever in Andrew Miller. They gave up a ton, and I was one of the ones who was a little leery of giving up so much for a relief pitcher. Clint Frazier was easily the Tribe’s No. 2 prospect, while Justus Sheffield was always considered one of the farm system’s best starting pitchers. Ben Heller and JP Feyereisen were two up-and-coming relievers. It was a steep price, but even during the regular season Miller calmed all of our nerves with excellent outing after excellent outing.

Because July 31 — the usual trade deadline day — fell on a Sunday, the 2016 trade deadline was instead on August 1. The Indians used every second of this extra day, acquiring Brandon Guyer in the early afternoon. They sent over relatively little for the 30-year-old platoon bat. Nathan Lukes was having a nice season in Single-A, but at 22 years he old he has yet to make a big impact at High-A.

And finally, Coco Crisp. After 11 years away from Cleveland, our favorite anthropomorphized cereal returned to the city where his major-league career began on a waiver wire deal just in time for him to be eligible for the postseason roster. Colt Hynes seems like the epitome of “I don’t know, just give us something I don’t care” type of throw-in player for the Oakland Athletics. At 31, Hynes has been a part of five franchises and has 20.0 total innings in the majors.

Three trades, each done with a specific goal in mind, with an intelligent reasoning behind them.

Each one contributed in the ALDS

When the Indians first acquired Miller, it was clear that his true value would come in the postseason. The Indians already had a lead in the American League Central by the trade deadline, and a reliever alone is never going to get you playing in October. What the best reliever in baseball can do, however, is give you four incredible innings when you need the absolute most. And that’s exactly what Andrew Mark Miller did.

Terry Francona first called upon Miller in the middle of the fifth in Game 1. Tito using Miller with a one-run lead relatively early in a game is not unheard of for Indians fans (although he had never used him this early before), but it caught the nation’s attention. Instead of closing out a game with no runners on base and three outs to work with in the ninth, Francona rode his ace reliever for eight total batters. That is huge on a national stage for mainstream baseball fans.

Brock Holt managed a double and Mookie Betts drew a walk in that Game 1 win, but once Miller settled down he was untouchable.

The only game that didn’t feature a dose of Miller Time was Game 2, which the Indians won in blowout fashion, anyway. In total, Miller pitched 4.0 innings in the ALDS. Red Sox starters Rick Porcello, David Price, and Clay Buchholz lasted 4.1 innings, 3.1 innings, and 4.0 innings, respectively.

Brandon Guyer’s impact on the ALDS came in just one game, but it was huge. In the Game 2 blowout, Guyer led all Tribe batters with three hits. He was on base for Lonnie Chisenhall’s Chisendong, as well at third base for a sac fly in the sixth. Much like Andrew Miller was brought on board for just a handful of important playoff innings, I feel like Brandon Guyer was brought in for facing a pitcher like David Price.

Guyer is essentially a new-and-improved version of Ryan Raburn. He mashes lefties and he can actually play defense in the outfield. There were a few spots in Game 3 where it seemed like Tito just forgot Guyer existed, but Game 2 would not have been as stress-free without Guyer plugging away.

Noodle arm and all, Coco Crisp was a huge reason the Indians won Game 3. In a play almost worth of A Close Examination, Crisp was both the reason the play was so close, and also the reason it wasn’t closer. He played the ball perfectly off the green monster, which I have to imagine comes from experience playing in Boston for a handful of seasons.

But then he had to throw it.

You can actually see Lindor run into frame as Coco is fielding, which is a great heads-up play by the young shortstop. He is halfway out in left field, but he knows just how weak of an arm the 36-year-old Crisp has. Crisp’s excellent fielding and Lindor’s rocket almost gave Roberto a chance to repeat his impeccable Game 1 tag. Instead the Red Sox put the game within one run. Which is scary against any team, let alone the Red Sox.

Crisps redemption was quick and a brutal blow to the reeling Sox. In the very next inning he hit a two-run home run over that same giant wall he played off of so well, giving the Indians a 1-4 lead that they would never give back.

* * *

Giving up big prospects for a limited amount of time of a great player can feel bad at the time, and it doesn’t always work, but the next time the Indians do it I want to think back to this ALDS. Or the next time the Indians pass on a Carlos Beltran or a Jay Bruce and they instead opt for a well-fitting piece like Guyer, I want you to think back to this ALDS. Think back to how you feel right now, and how it feels like the Indians would not be where they are without the likes of Andrew Miller, Brandon Guyer, and Coco Crisp.

If this was Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff’s audition for our trust, I would say they’ve earned it.