The month of June has done a lot to change perceptions about the Indians, as any 17-9 stretch in which the team hits .262/.318/.479 with a .332 wOBA and 104 wRC+ will do. What June has not done is change the big question around the Indians: Will they buy or sell at the trade deadline?
Despite that fantastic June, the Tribe rolls into July eight games behind the Twins. Those Twinkies have shown signs of flagging from their other-worldly performance, with just an 86 wRC+ over the last 14 days, but their commanding lead of the division remains. As a result, so does the idea that the Indians might swap a few pieces to stay in contention this year and next.
Trade proposals are a favorite for fans and writers alike, offering a chance to get in the headspace of the general managers and move pieces around the chess board, if only hypothetically. But those pieces — on blogs like ours, on journalistic outlets like ESPN, on your Uncle Jeff’s Twitter — are only valid in the sense that we think they are valid: they’re as good as anyone is willing to argue they are. We have numbers for almost every aspect of offense and pitching now, but matching trade values still seems like an art rather than a science.
Enter Baseball Trade Values.
Brought to my attention on a recent episode of Effectively Wild, Baseball Trade Values is a new site that puts you in the role of GM. You can run the simulator to find out if your deal-making skills are as good as you’d have your friends believe. But this isn’t just a video game simulator, this is a real model with a lot of hard work put into it to create valuations for each player. I’d encourage you to listen to that episode of Effectively Wild to learn more, but the short version is inputs like WAR, projections, and (especially) surplus value help create a realistic value for each player in the simulator. All of this boils down to a number that you helps determine whether a trade is likely or not.
With that in mind, let’s dig into some recent Indians trade ideas and see if they have any chance of happening.
Over at The Athletic, Eno Sarris wrote that the Indians should bolster the bullpen by shipping Eli Morgan and Nick Sandlin to Baltimore for Mychal Givens. This would work out nicely, but Sandlin was shut down for the year yesterday. So, with a little creativity we slot in Jean Carlos Mejia, who is older and at a lower level but more likely to be a starter, and we have a good match; BTV values Mejia at 1.8 and Morgan at 1.1, whereas Givens is 3.0, making a nice fit.
A name that has come up quite frequently in trade talk is Trevor Bauer, as the man himself admits the Indians probably can’t afford him next year. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand came up with a few ideas for moving Bauer now, including deals with the Yankees, Braves, and Padres. The centerpiece with the Yankees would be a return of Clint Frazier (BTV 20.4), but to make a deal for Bauer (BTV 39.2) work another top prospect, such as Estevan Florial (BTV 19.9) or Deivi Garcia (BTV 17.6), would have to be included. In a deal with the Braves, top outfielders would likely be a target, but may not actually be available from the Braves or even fair; top prospects Cristian Pache (BTV 45.3) and Drew Waters (BTV 40.5) are actually rated more highly than Bauer, whereas a top pitching prospect like Ian Anderson (BTV 38.1) might get a deal done but Luiz Gohara (BTV 13.8) would fall short. Finally, in order to make a deal with the Padres, the subject of many a Bauer rumor, Hunter Renfroe (BTV 33.5) could only be a starting point; a prospect like Josh Naylor (BTV 15.8) might be too much to ask, but Michael Baez (BTV 12.8) might bring things closer in line. Just forget about infielders Fernando Tatis Jr. (BTV 107.8) and Luis Urías (BTV 65.3).
Another name in frequent trade discussions these days is Brad Hand, who is having a remarkable year and has another team-friendly year of control available. Some writers are all but saying Hand will wear Dodger blue this year, but Richard Justice of MLB.com is a little more hesitant. And with good reason: Hand’s value right now is 28.6, which is high, but not that high. Dodgers’ top prospect Keibert Ruiz (BTV 59.9), Dustin May (BTV 34.1), and Gavin Lux (BTV 48) are all out of the realm of possibilities. The next prospect in line is catcher Will Smith (BTV 26.1), who would be a good fit in a deal, but would likely be blocked by Roberto Pérez anyway. After Smith, the value of players doesn’t match up (Tony Gonsolin, BTV 5; Jeter Downs, BTV 9.4; Josiah Gray, 7.2), and a large and riskier return for Hand would not make much sense for the Indians. Likewise, guys Indians’ fans might have hoped to see move in a deal in the offseason, like Cody Bellinger (BTV 123.3) or Alex Verdugo (BTV 56.1), are too integral and valuable to the Dodgers now.
Personally, my favorite of these deals is Frazier and Florial for Bauer, but even if the numbers work out and GMs are more rational than ever, I’m not certain the Yankees pull the trigger on that one. But that’s the fun of this time of the year, even with all the information and statistics we can gather we will never fully understand the minds of those making the decisions.
If you want to have some fun trying out trade possibilities, I suggest you spend a few minutes or hours or days playing around at Baseball Trade Values. Let’s Go Tribe reader Quincy Wheeler spent a lot of time playing around with it and found some pretty wild trade proposals (note: Sorry, Quincy, didn’t see your post before I wrote this up). Just don’t blame me if you don’t get any (real) work done.