The Cleveland Indians are either "90% done" with a trade for Jonathan Lucroy, or they are sticking to their original plan of going after a reliever and riding out the season with Roberto Perez and Chris Gimenez behind the plate. It all depends on what Twitter account you follow.
No matter what trade scenario comes about, the idea of a prospect being "untouchable" always pops up. But should that be the case for the Indians, who could be on the cusp of a World Series run?
Speaking in general terms, any prospect being deemed untouchable should probably be one who could be ready in the next year or two at most. Someone like Bobby Bradley, who could have tremendous power but is still a few years away, should be less untouchable than a Mike Clevinger, who has already poked his head into the majors a couple times this season.
The Indians are in a very enviable position as a team competing for the playoffs. There is no reason for them to sell everything go all-in this season at the expense of their future. Much of their core is locked up through 2020, at least, and in terms of prospects being ready for the majors, you could make the argument that they are still one year away from their window opening all the way. They have a solid, controlled team right now and a deep farm system that could keep them competitive for several years.
The discussion of untouchable Indians prospects obviously starts Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer -- the team's top two prospects. Both have swapped places over the last couple years (as No. 1 and No. 2 since Lindor graduated to the majors), and right now it's Frazier claiming the top spot on most lists. More importantly, both of them could be contributing as early as next season, if not as a late-season call-up in 2016. The latter is much less likely, but if the Indians feel that Frazier can add something to a playoff run this season, I would say that deems him pretty untouchable.
However, if the Indians are going to go big on a player at the deadline, both Zimmer and Frazier probably cannot remain untouched. Maybe not for a bullpen piece like Andrew Miller, Will Smith, or Boone Logan, but if the Indians want to shoot for a position player, it will likely require one of these top prospects. Someone like Jonathan Lucroy (who, for what it's worth, I would rather the Indians not trade for) is not going to be had for something ridiculous like Dan O'Dowd suggested on MLB Network yesterday.
The emergence of Tyler Naquin as one of the Indians' (nay, the entire league's) best hitters may make Zimmer that much more expendable, even if Michael Brantley is slowly becoming the next Grady Sizemore. There is plenty of evidence to suggest Naquin will regress at some point, but if he remains a high-BABIP hitter with his newfound power, it would be difficult for Zimmer to usurp him even when he is ready.
Francisco Mejia is another potential prospect that could be untouchable, for the exact opposite reason why Bradley Zimmer is slowly becoming expendable. The Indians farm system is packed with potential future major league outfielders, but extremely sparse on catchers. Mejia has emerged as one of the Tribe's top prospects, and even one of baseball's top catching prospects.
In their latest Top 100 list, for example, Baseball America has Mejia as the No. 70 prospect in the league, the third overall catcher behind the New York Yankees' Gary Sanchez and Philadelphia Phillies prospect Jorge Alfaro. In order to find other good catchers in the Indians system, you have to get out of the idea of a prospect in the next three years.
Burning River Baseball recently put together a list of the Top 10 minor-league Indians catchers, and it shows just how weak the position is. The drop-off between Mejia, the obvious No. 1 choice, and Logan Ice, a 2016 draft pick, is pretty huge. Even Daniel Salters, who has had a great season with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks, is far from being considered a true "prospect."
But again, similar to the issue of Bobby Bradley, Mejia is still a couple years off, at best. If the Indians want to compete in their window to win and another team has a deal hinging on the young catcher, maybe the Indians don't hesitate to deal their only future at the position.
As far as pitchers are concerned, I would consider just about everyone tradable. However, the Indians seem to be in a mentality of stockpiling pitchers and hoping a couple pan out. The lower-end of the farm system is packed with talent like Triston McKenzie, Juan Hillman, and Brady Aiken. And there is also some help that could come in the next year or two like Mike Clevinger and Justus Sheffield. How much of that will actually account for real major-league value is unknown, so the right deal that offers some certainty this season should be welcomed with open arms.
I think a few things are for certain as we approach the July 31 deadline: Don't get too attached to anybody in the minors right now, watch for hugs in dugouts, and hope that I don't have to lick a dirty sock.