In a surprise to hopefully no one, Cleveland Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti told SiriusXM Sports that the Tribe are “definitely going to be active at the deadline.”
Antonetti was speaking with SiriusXM’s Jim Bodwen, to whom he also revealed that the Indians were looking for the “right” pitcher as well as a couple of bench spots.
Chris Antonetti “we are definitely going to be active at the trade deadline.” He told us needs are “the right pitcher” couple of bench spots— Jim Bowden (@Jim_BowdenSXM) July 24, 2017
The wording there seems rather specific. The “right pitcher” could be just about anything. That doesn’t mean the Indians are looking for a Sonny Gray or something crazy like Yu Darvish. They could be looking for a back-of-the-rotation guy as a minor upgrade over Josh Tomlin or Trevor Bauer. With Danny Salazar’s great start of the weekend, the pressure to find a No. 2 or No. 3 pitcher has probably died down a little bit.
Currently, Indians starters have the second-highest Wins Above Replacement in the American League, trailing only the Chris Sale-infused Boston Red Sox rotation. But over half of the Indians’ starting rotation fWAR comes from Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, who have been worth a combined 6.5 fWAR in 37 combined starts. Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger have all been worth at least a win above replacement, but those three are far from sure things, even if Clevinger has looked outstanding in most of his 12 starts.
As for the “couple of bench spots,” that seems like a shot across the bow at a few young players currently being thrust into more playing time due to injuries. Erik Gonzalez has 68 plate appearances this season, and while he’s shown flashes of good offense, he’s struggling overall while replacing the injured Jason Kipnis. The Indians have also turned to Giovanny Urshela at third base (allowing Jose Ramirez to move to second), but his bat is as unproven as can be. Neither appear to be ideal long-term solutions.
The Indians have been linked to J.D. Martinez, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Eduardo Nunez during the hot hot heat of trade deadline season. Martinez would have obviously been a starter somewhere on the Indians, but Nunez or Cabrera could be an effective fill-in for Kipnis until he returns, and a great weapon off the bench for Terry Francona.
At this point, it would make little sense for the Indians to find another bench player for the outfield. They have plenty of those. If they can’t find another J.D. Martinez — and they probably won’t for as affordable as he was — then the infield looks like the most likely spot to upgrade.
The Indians currently sit atop the American League Central with a 51-45 record. They’re coming off a strong sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays, but consistency has been hard to come back. And with the Kansas City Royals seemingly not going away (and let’s hope they don’t until after the deadline), they could probably stand to find an upgrade.