I doubt anyone knew it at the time, but the argument could be made that the Cleveland Indians' successful 2016 season was born on a single day: December 16, 2015.
Early on in that fateful day, Twitter hated the Indians. News came down that the Cincinnati Reds had dealt third baseman Todd Frazier in a three-team deal that sent him to the Chicago White Sox and sent the equivalent of a bag of baseballs back to that other city in Ohio.
Indians fans were pissed, and at the time the indignation seemed justified. The Indians only third base option was Giovanny Urshela, the offense looked poor, and -- to that point -- the Indians had made next to no moves in the offseason. That powder keg of frustration exploded directly at the Indians Twitter account, as it usually does.
@Indians How I feel pic.twitter.com/upYRaDYb72— John Smith (@Jsmitty232) December 16, 2015
@Indians great job way to let him go to your division rival instead of giving up whatever it took to get him https://t.co/1P7BzieHO4— Tyler Johnson (@T_Johnson_TJ) December 16, 2015
@Indians You clowns drop the ball again. Sell the team Dolan!— Kevin Dasd (#23) (@Kevin_Dasd) December 16, 2015
@Indians I'm tired of mediocre grow some balls and make some moves! #ShouldHaveGotFrazier #WinNow— Dustin Bond (@007dusty) December 16, 2015
@Indians so gald we have Robbie Grossmen— #Fireballphil (@PMONEY1488) December 16, 2015
(How DARE you insult Mr. Grossman. Please come back, Mr. Grossman)
@Indians solid offseason so far.. pic.twitter.com/oVgwrfALl5— Sean Dolan (@DeanSolan) December 16, 2015
However, when some more details about the deal started trickling in, things changed.
Shortly after the trade was out on social media, it was revealed that the Reds were demanding one of (if not both of) Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer. That seems surprising based on what they actually got in return from the Los Angeles Dodgers: Jose Peraza, Brandon Dixon, and Scott Schebler. Only one of those players makes the Reds' top 10 prospects (Peraza), according to MLB.com, and Dixon does not even make their top-30 list.
And then the Indians finally started making offseason moves. First, they agreed to a one-year, $7 million deal with Mike Napoli (although he did not officially sign until January), then they went out and signed Rajai Davis to a one-year, $5.25 million deal.
Fans were suddenly understanding and even apologeic. The Indians Twitter account took notice.
Our mentions right now pic.twitter.com/sLcABGnPEy— #VoteTribe (@Indians) December 16, 2015
It's hard to say that the Indians made these signings specifically because they failed to trade for Frazier, but the numbers and timeline sync up. Frazier is owed $7.5 million in 2016 before he hits arbitration one in 2017. The combined deals for Napoli and Davis are just a shade over that. Regardless of how the Frazier trade affected the Indians decision (if at all), it is looking like they made the right decision.
Todd Frazier has provided the power the White Sox likely wanted out of the 30-year-old, but he has not added much else. His 102 wRC+ is tied for second-worst among qualified third basemen in the American League, and he is striking out in a career-worst 23.0 percent of his at-bats. Even Frazier's defense, which was one of his strong points while on the Reds, has been worse than expected, worth -4 defensive runs saved in 610 innings at third base.
Meanwhile, on the Indians side of things, Rajai Davis leads the American League in steals with 21, and Mike Napoli is on-pace to be one of the Indians' first 30-home run hitters in a decade. Davis is third among Indians position players with 1.6 FanGraphs WAR, playing an effective mix of center field and left field. If trading for Todd Frazier truly would have meant no Rajai Davis, the Indians outfield situation would be that much worse.
No matter what you believe about the importance of clubhouse chemistry (or the lack thereof), you cannot deny that Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis, and Juan Uribe (who probably would not have been signed with a successful Todd Frazier trade) have done a lot to make this season extra fun for the Indians. We cannot really know from the outside looking in, but Uribe has reportedly had a huge impact on the younger players this season -- such as his "son" Jose Ramirez. Meanwhile, Napoli's home run hitting birthed the "Party at Napoli's" movement, something all the players have bonded over and promoted.
Sure, maybe the butterfly effect goes haywire, and in an alternate reality, Todd Frazier is in line to be the American League MVP for the 56-15 Indians. But in this reality, where the Indians are getting well-above-average production from three players, instead of below-average production from one, it certainly looks like they made the right decision. Now just do it again at the trade deadline.