We are approaching the end of July, which means trade rumors are getting ready to fly fast and hard. The latest comes from ESPN's Buster Olney, who tweeted that the Cleveland Indians could be potential sleepers to acquire relievers Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman if the New York Yankees make them available at the deadline.
Either reliever would obviously be a huge upgrade for the Indians, whose bullpen has not been bad enough to ruin a potential World Series run on its own, but it could definitely use a boost. Indians relievers rank 10th in the American League in FanGraphs WAR as well as collective earned run average. The good news is that they have only been needed sparingly in 2016, throwing 261.1 innings, raked 13th in the American League.
Andrew Miller makes the most sense for the kind of position the Indians are in. Granted, he is already 31 and could blow up at any moment, but Miller is signed through the 2018 season and is owed $9 million in each of those seasons, according to Spotrac. Conversely, Aroldis Chapman would be a half-season rental as he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The Indians are in a pretty good spot to compete for a playoff birth this season, and they will be for the next couple seasons, assuming nothing goes horribly, terribly wrong.
Miller broke out with the Boston Red Sox in 2012 and was traded to the Yankees two years later, where he has played -- and gotten even better -- since. With a 1.37 ERA and a 1.93 FIP in 39.1 innings already in 2016, Miller is in the midst of the best season of his career. If the Indians do go after him, he will not come cheap.
If the Indians want to go down the Chapman route, they will probably be required to deal more than the Yankees paid to acquire him. The Yankees dealt prospects Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo, Tony Renda, and Caleb Cotham to acquire Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds last December. And that was with the knowledge that he would likely be suspended for a good portion of the 2016 season.
Seeing as the Yankees were not heavy buyers in the offseason, and they did not look like a competing team to begin with, the assumption can be made that they were only acquiring Chapman to "flip" him at the deadline.
So, in order to trade for Chapman, the Indians would have to do better than the package New York sent to Cincinnati. Two of the prospects the Reds received in the deal -- Rookie Davis and Eric Jagielo -- are now top-15 prospects in their system, while Caleb Cotham has already made his debut with the Reds, allowing 20 earned runs in 24.1 innings.
Chapman himself is having a great season in 25.1 innings for the Yankees, carrying a 2.49 ERA and a 1.91 FIP. He is also sporting his lowest-career walk rate at 6.1 percent.
The issue for the Indians trading for either of these players it the same it is for any potential trade at the deadline: How much of their future are they willing to sell for a shot at a World Series this season? If it's a top-5 relief pitcher for the next two-and-a-half seasons, it might be quite a bit. For a half-season rental? Maybe not a whole lot.