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Indians trade for Jay Bruce, work around injuries

Also, a look at some infield trade targets in the wake of Jason Kipnis’ hamstring tightness

Cleveland Indians v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

This has been quite a week for roster moves. Let’s get to it.

August 5

Optioned RHP Adam Plutko to Columbus (AAA)

Recalled OF Abraham Almonte from Columbus (AAA)

Part of this came about because the bullpen was rested thanks to several fine starts, though I wonder if this also had to do with Almonte’s option. Abe was optioned on July 26, so he had spent 10 days in the minors. That’s important because a player needs to spend 20 days in the minors in a season in order for that season’s option to be considered used. If Almonte spends the remainder of 2017 on the major-league roster, the Indians will have an option on him for 2018. Or that option could make Almonte a more valuable trade chip in the offseason if the Indians want to move on.

August 6

Activated 2B Jason Kipnis from the 10-day Disabled List

Optioned IF Erik Gonzalez to Columbus (AAA)

I thought the Indians would have optioned Giovanny Urshela rather than Gonzalez because Gonzalez can play more positions, but the Indians stayed with the better performer. Urshela has done hardly anything at the plate (as expected), but has been a tremendous defender, making several game-changing plays at third base.

August 9

Placed OF Michael Brantley on the 10-day Disabled List (right ankle)

Recalled IF Erik Gonzalez from Columbus (AAA)

Gonzalez’s stay in Columbus didn’t last long. Brantley injured his ankle when backing up a play in the outfield, and although the injury doesn’t seem that serious, him being out of the lineup for even 10 days is going to be an major issue when the team has been struggling to score runs lately. And so the Indians did this....

Traded RHP Ryder Ryan (A-) to the New York Mets for OF Jay Bruce

Designated OF Daniel Robertson for Assignment

The Indians took on Bruce’s remaining 2017 salary, which is why they didn’t have to send that good of a prospect back. It is a rather amusing turn of events when the Indians were able to outbid the Yankees because they were willing to take on more salary.

Ryan was a 30th round draft pick in 2016, and has been pitching in relief in the organization. He’s a converted position player, and has some raw tools, but isn’t one of the organization’s top prospects.

Jay Bruce has been bandied about as a possible target for the Indians for several years now, and is in the midst of one of his better offensive seasons, and becomes the third-best position player (by bWAR) on the team, behind Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor. The defensive metrics like him this year, which is quite a change compared to the last several years (so take that with a grain of salt). He’ll play left field until Michael Brantley returns to the lineup, then we’ll see what happens. It’s going to be difficult to put Brantley, Bruce and Chisenhall in the same lineup, but right now two of the three are hurt, and if we’ve learned anything this year it’s that having too many good options almost never lasts.

Robertson’s DFA cleared room on the 40-man roster for Bruce. The 25-man roster move happened yesterday:

August 10

Optioned IF Erik Gonzalez to Columbus (AAA)

Activated OF Jay Bruce

Released OF Daniel Robertson

The funny thing is that there’s a possibility that Gonzalez will return to the club today, which is possible if Jason Kipnis is placed on the Disabled List. For now, Kipnis is listed as day-to-day, and that means if the Indians want an extra infielder on the team, it can’t be Gonzalez. I think what will happen is that the Indians will make do without Kipnis for a couple of days, re-evaluate him, and then make the call to DL him or put him back in the lineup. Or perhaps they make a trade.

Latest 25-man/40-man roster

Aug 11 2017-2

This week’s Santander Watch: still on rehab assignment, but the Orioles will need to activate him from the Disabled List by this time next week.

August trade rules

Now that we’re in August, every player on a 40-man roster involved in a trade will need to have passed through revocable waivers. This means that a player can be pulled back from waivers if claimed, or trade to the team that made the claim. You can trade prospects for a player, but that prospect can’t be on the 40-man roster (unless he miraculously clears waivers). That was case with the Jay Bruce trade; he cleared waivers because of his remaining salary, and Ryder Ryan wasn’t on the 40-man roster. The reason why expensive veterans usually clear waivers in August is that the team waiving the player could just allow the veteran to be claimed, saving themselves some money in a year in which they aren’t going anywhere.

Second base options

Even if Jason Kipnis does return to the lineup fairly soon, the Indians could use another infielder for the stretch run. Neither Erik Gonzalez or Giovanny Urshela have helped much at the plate, and given the nature of hamstrings, I think it would be wise to have a backup plan in place. The tricky part is that you don’t know what type of player you need until you know exactly whether Kipnis is healthy or not. If Kipnis has to miss 2-4 more weeks, then you might go for a starter (such as Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brandon Phillips, or even Ian Kinsler), but perhaps you need more of a utility infielder.

If you’re wondering about the particular salary situations for the above players, here’s a summary:

Asdrubal Cabrera: roughly $2.56M pro-rated ($8.25M total) plus $2M 2018 buyout (or $8.5M option)

Jed Lowrie: roughly $2.02M pro-rated ($6.5M total) plus $1M 2018 buyout (or $6M option)

Ian Kinsler: roughly $3.4M pro-rated ($11M total) plus $5M 2018 buyout (or $12M option)

Brandon Phillips: $310K pro-rated ($1M total, $13M paid by Cincinnati), no buyout, limited no-trade clause, free agent after the season

Each trade target would have a particular issue to work through. I think Cabrera would be the simplest, as his 2018 option is almost certainly not getting picked up by the Mets, and he’s already cleared waivers. Lowrie’s option is low enough that you should consider him under control through 2018, so Oakland may just want to hold onto him. Phillips still has a limited no-trade clause (though no longer has 10-and-5 rights, but salary will not be issue because the Reds are paying most of it. Kinsler is probably the best player of the lot if you consider defense and track record, but he’s the most expensive and you’d be dealing with a team in your own division.