Optioned Tyler Naquin to Columbus (AAA)
Recalled LHP Ryan Merritt from Columbus (AAA)
So Tyler Naquin’s second chance lasted all of three days, thanks to Trevor Bauer’s short outing. Naquin may have been ticketed to go back when the Indians activated Austin Jackson, but even so, he didn’t have a chance to make any kind of impression, and unless there’s another rash of injuries, I don’t see the Indians bringing him up again until the rosters expand in September.
Latest 25-man/40-man roster
The Indians will making at least one roster move today. Boone Logan left Wednesday’s game with what was later diagnosed as a left lat strain. Even if the MRI reveals a relatively mild strain, there’s 0% chance that he’ll remain on the active roster. The Indians could utilize the DL move to bring Tyler Naquin back (the ten-day rule can be ignored is the recalled player is replacing an injured player), or replace Logan with another reliever. I’m leaning heavily towards a reliever, both because the Indians will be getting Austin Jackson back soon, and because Trevor Bauer will be pitching tonight.
Kyle Crockett has had a nice year in Columbus, and would be the obvious choice to replace Logan if the Indians still want a second left-hander in the bullpen. Shawn Armstrong would get the call if the Indians need a bit more flexibility as far as outing length goes. Ryan Merritt is also still in the bullpen as long relief, but is probably ticketed to return to Columbus tomorrow to make room for Danny Salazar (more on that below)
Danny Salazar and Corey Kluber
Salazar is returning to the rotation, but the Indians haven’t yet made a decision on who will be demoted from the rotation yet because of Corey Kluber’s neck. Salazar is scheduled to pitch tomorrow, while Kluber has been pushed back to perhaps pitch on Sunday. If he can’t pitch on Sunday, the Indians might as well put him on the DL, which would put off their decision for another turn through the rotation.
Mike Clevinger has won himself a permanent spot thanks to a string of four straight starts of at least six innings and at most one run allowed. That means the odd man out would be Trevor Bauer or Josh Tomlin, with whoever loses his spot going into the bullpen as a long reliever. If Kluber does need to be sidelined, that means whoever was ticketed to the bullpen will stay in the rotation in the short term, but I would imagine that would force the Cleveland front office to trade for a starting pitcher before the July 31st deadline. Heck, even if Kluber is healthy, the Indians could very much use another starting pitcher.
Erik Gonzalez, Asdrubal Cabrera, and second base
Today we learned that the Indians are kicking the tires on LGFT Asdrubal Cabrera, who would serve as the everyday second baseman in Jason Kipnis’ absence and eventually serve as a utility player once Kipnis returns. Or perhaps the Indians are thinking of other second basemen (Brandon Phillips, anyone?) This is not a knock on Erik Gonzalez, who has impressed with his defense in his short time in Cleveland, but more of a way to improve the offense.
Some general trade thoughts
I think the Indians need a starting pitcher (even if Kluber will be fine) and a position player, preferably someone who can play second base. If the price isn’t that high, perhaps they can add an outfielder, though I think that can wait until August, when they have a better idea as to when Lonnie Chisenhall will return. If Boone Logan is going to be down for a while, they would also look at a reliever.
Even with the rather mediocre showing from the team, I don’t think there’s any chance the Indians are going to stand pat with this club. There are some obvious flaws with the roster, and the team has a very good opportunity, even with their mediocrity, to win the division. And with the way the MLB playoffs are structured, making it to the final 8 teams gives you as good a chance as anyone of winning it all.
So the question is how much strip-mining of the farm system the Indians are willing to do. Last year the Indians traded Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield (along with two relief prospects) to the Yankees for Andrew Miller (signed through 2018), and almost traded Francisco Mejia, Greg Allen, Yu-Cheng Chang, and Shawn Armstrong for Jonathan Lucroy. The former deal, even with the with steep price, worked out fantastically for the Indians, getting them to the brink of a championship. The latter deal was nixed, which in retrospect gives the Indians a deeper chest of prospects from which to deal this year.
Organizations like the Indians rise and fall based on their farm system, so any use of that system to win now comes at a steeper cost than a larger market club, who can buy their way out of a prospect deficit. But I think if there is an elite player available who fills a need, and is under team control until at least 2018, I don’t think anyone in the organization should be off limits. There are no guarantees in baseball from year to year; even if you keep the same players together, whether from internal production or external competition So even though the Indians are just 3 games above .500 and just a half-game up on the Twins (and 1.5 games ahead of the Royals), 2017 still represents a chance to win a championship, and they should approach this deadline accordingly.