After spending most of the first two months in first place, they started to struggle in June. The team has had serious issues at several positions, and a few changes could help them get back on track.
The most glaring need is in left field, but they could use upgrades at additional positions. First base is a position of need, and they need help with their pitching staff.
When a trade for Bobby Abreu fell through, the team looked at Vladimir Guerrero and Johnny Damon. Since signing Damon, he has not been a good fit in Cleveland.
With inconsistent pitching, they should also look to improve their pitching staff. The starting rotation has good arms, but the last two spots have been shaky. A season after being one of the best bullpens in the league, their relief pitchers have taken a step back this year.
Cleveland fans should not count on Grady Sizemore coming back and contributing. Designated hitter Travis Hafner is also injury-prone, so they need to bring in players to help their offense.
A right-handed bat would be ideal for a left-handed heavy Indians lineup. They will need to be aggressive at the trade deadline.
.285 batting average/.336 on-base percentage, 5 home runs/29 RBI
As ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reported, Houston’s Carlos Lee recently vetoed a trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers. If he would not waive his no-trade clause to go to the Dodgers, he probably would veto any trade involving the Indians.
The right-handed hitting veteran would give the Indians a bat for the middle of the order, and he can play multiple positions. Although he has not played left field this season, he is familiar with the position.
With Damon’s current defensive performance, there would little chance of Lee playing any worse in left field.
With Casey Kotchman not producing at first base and Hafner injured, Lee could see some time at first base and at designated hitter. In order to keep him from reaggravating his leg injuries, he could spend some time as the DH.
His contract expires after this season, so he would be a rental player. First, Cleveland would need to convince him to accept a trade.
If he were willing to join the Indians, he would be the best fit for them.
.311/.441, 7 HR/16 RBI (27 games)
After acquiring Carlos Quentin in the offseason, the Padres may look to deal him at the trade deadline.
Earlier this year, Hardballtalk.com’s Aaron Gleeman reported that San Diego will try to sign Quentin to an extension. If they decide to shop him, there will be plenty of interested teams.
He would be a great fit in Cleveland for several reasons, including the fact that he hits from the right side. After joining the White Sox in 2008, he played in the AL Central for a couple years and became familiar with the pitchers inside the division.
Injuries have plagued him ever since he joined the White Sox, so that would be a concern if the Indians decided to go after him. His most recent knee issues cost him part of this season, but he came back and hit the ball well for the Padres.
At around $7 million for the season, he is not too expensive. The 29-year-old outfielder—who turns 30 in August—will be looking for a new contract this offseason.
.274/.331, 15 HR/46 RBI
A defensive concern in the outfield, Alfonso Soriano would not be the ideal fit in Cleveland.
Before they even consider acquiring him from the Cubs, the Indians would need to try to get the Chicago to eat some his salary. Due $18 million per year through 2014, Cleveland probably would not be able to afford his salary without the Cubs taking on some of the money.
After hitting .286 with eight home runs in June, he started to sing the bat a little better for the last-place Cubs.
With a big contract, acquiring him would mean a commitment for the next three seasons. If Cleveland decides to make trade for him, he would provide a boost to the team’s offense.
His right-handed bat would be a great addition to the lineup, so he would be worth pursuing.
.284/.364, 13 HR/28 RBI
The Cubs have first baseman Anthony Rizzo waiting to take over, so Bryan LaHair will be on expendable.
An All-Star this season, he is very affordable for a small-market team. However, his contract expires after this season. The 29-year-old first baseman will probably get a raise after his contract ends, but he would be a cheap option for Cleveland this season.
Current first baseman Casey Kotchman has only hit .226 with six home runs, but he does play great defense. He signed a one-year deal in the offseason, so Cleveland is not committed to him for the future.
The Indians could give Matt LaPorta another shot at left field or first base, but he continues to struggle whenever he gets called up to the majors.
LaHair would provide offense for a team that occasionally struggles to score runs. The downside is that he is a left-handed hitter and he struggles against left-handed pitching. He has only three hits all season (.079) against southpaws.
Cleveland will probably explore other options before looking at LaHair, but his bat has been very good against right-handed pitchers.
3-3, 2.11 ERA
With the Cubs in last place, they will be selling at the trade deadline. Soriano, LaHair and Matt Garza may be the more coveted players, but Ryan Dempster has had a terrific season.
Currently on the disabled list, Dempster is the victim of a low-scoring team. After not earning a win until June, he won three consecutive starts.
He would bring a veteran presence to the Cleveland clubhouse, so they would be smart to go after him. Dempster would be an upgrade over some of the members in the rotation, and he would help the Indians make a run at the AL Central crown.
Josh Tomlin has been disappointing this season at 4-5 with a 5.85 ERA. As the No. 4 pitcher, they expected much more from him this season. Tomlin had a good season last year, but he has struggled so far in 2012.
Jeanmar Gomez, who was suspended earlier this season after throwing at a Kansas City player, got off to a great start this season. After posting a 2.35 ERA in April, he has not had an ERA below 5.00 in either of the past two months.
His poor pitching led the Indians to demoting him at the end of June.
Derek Lowe started the season 6-1 with a 2.05 ERA, but he has cooled off significantly in his past few starts. Now at 7-6 with a 4.4.2 ERA, he needs to get back to pitching the way he was earlier this season.
He had three awful starts recently and the rest have been mediocre—but he could turn it around quickly.
Dempster would bring stability to an inconsistent rotation. When they are on the top of their game, the rotation can be dominant. However, they struggle with walks. Dempster has 22 walks in 81 innings this season, so he does not give many free passes.
0-0, 9.00 ERA (4 IP)
Left-handed relief pitchers have been a problem for the Indians, and Bill Bray has a history of being tough on left-handed hitters. Nick Hagadone and Tony Sipp have struggled in tight spots this season.
Over the past three seasons, Bray has held left-handed hitters to a .154 batting average. He is normally used as a situational pitcher, so he is used to pitching often.
In 25.1 innings this season, Sipp has a 6.39 ERA and has been disappointing. Last season, he was a great left-handed reliever for the Tribe.
Along with Sipp, Hagadone also has an ERA above 6.00. The southpaw got off to a good start, and his ERA was 2.20 at the end of May.
After an awful June, he needs to turn his season around. He only had one game with control issues, so it is just a matter of hitting his spots in the strike zone.
Bray pitched a few times in April, but he made a trip to the disabled list with a groin injury. He did not return until June, so he has yet to find his groove.
Since his return, he has rarely been used because of the outstanding pitching they have had lately.
After going to arbitration last offseason, he is not locked up for the future. Bray has been one of Reds manager Dusty Baker’s favorite pitchers for the past few seasons, but Cincinnati will get Nick Masset back soon.
With Sean Marshall and Aroldis Chapman being left-handed relievers, the Reds can afford to trade Bray. Their bullpen has been one of the best in baseball, so it will be difficult to choose who to get rid of when Masset comes back.
If Bray is on the block, the Indians should make an offer to help their bullpen.