For the second consecutive season, the Indians controlled the American League Central for the first half of the season. However, they again fell off as the season went along.
At 50-52 and in third place, the Indians now find themselves in an odd position. Do they make a move to contend this season or sell to build for next season?
The team is now 5.5 games back in the division, and the Indians are five games behind the Oakland A's for the final wild card spot. Dayn Perry of CBS Sports ranks Cleveland's remaining schedule as one of the easiest in the American League, so they are a move away from being in great position to make the postseason in 2012.
The Indians do not want to part with any top prospects, but they may be influenced if the right deal comes along.
With holes at first base, third base and in left field, the Indians will look at a handful of players to fill their needs. The pitching staff has been a disappointment this season, and there are still several good pitchers available.
On the other hand, the team has several assets other clubs find attractive. Cleveland needs to decide if they want to make a run at the playoffs this season or clear some salary for the offseason.
Either way, the team will be in position to contend next season.
Stats are from MLB.com
Stats: .267 batting average, .363 on-base percentage, 12 HR, 51 RBI
The Indians will try to put together a package good enough to land the San Diego's third baseman.
MLBTradeRumors.com's Ben Nicholson-Smith reports the Padres are trying to unload Chase Headley. Cleveland is interested in the 28-year-old third baseman, but the asking price appears to be too high for the team.
However, the team's recent struggles are reason enough to pull off a big trade.
Headley is in the middle of the best season of his career, and the Indians need a productive bat in order to get back in contention. Jack Hannahan got off to a great start, but he began to tail off after an injury in May.
In PETCO Park, offensive numbers will not be spectacular. On a team that's offensively challenged, Headley leads the team in every major category.
The Indians have a left-handed hitting lineup, so the switch-hitting third baseman would help when the team faced a southpaw. The Indians have a couple switch-hitters, but they do not have a right-handed hitting regular.
Cleveland needs a boost from the bottom half of the lineup, and Headley is the type of player they are looking for.
He is an affordable option for a team like Cleveland, but the Padres will demand some big-time prospects in return. If Cleveland decides to go for it this season, Headley should be at the top of their list.
Stats: 271, .336, 17 HR, 59 RBI
Now that the Philadelphia Phillies are out of contention, they will be looking to move some of their big-name players.
With several big contracts, the Phillies will look at trading players who are not under contract for the future. Pence is eligible for arbitration this offseason, so he could be out of Cleveland's price range.
However, the Indians will be getting rid of some of their big contracts after this season. A trade for Pence allows them to give him a raise for next season and solve one of their big needs.
Although Pence normally plays right field, he would switch to left field if the Indians acquired him. Johnny Damon has not hit well so far and is a liability on defense, so Cleveland would be wise to deal for Pence.
Pence is the right-handed bat the team needs, and he can be put in the middle of the lineup to drive in runs. Jason Kipnis got off to a scorching start, but he has cooled off lately. Pence would bat behind Kipnis and drive in the productive hitters in front of him.
The top of the lineup has not been Cleveland's problem. They have struggled to get those runners home, and Pence has previously recorded 90+ RBI for a bad Houston team.
The Phillies would ask for high prospects in return, and the Indians need to be aggressive. Pence would increase their playoff chances this season.
Since the Indians are filled with left-handed hitters, Pence would be the perfect fit for the team.
Stats: 8-7, 4.52 ERA
Before this season began, Cleveland's rotation was supposed to be one of the team's strengths. Instead, they have struggled for most of the season.
Derek Lowe and Jeanmar Gomez began the season pitching well, but Justin Masterson struggled to be the ace the team expected him to be. Although Ubaldo Jimenez has shown signs of brilliance, he has been very inconsistent in 2012.
With Tampa Bay shopping James Shields, the Indians would be smart to pursue the pitcher. Cleveland is interested in Shields and could try to acquire him, according to MLBTradeRumors.com's Ben Nicholson-Smith.
Shields is under contract through 2014, so the team should be willing to give up pitching prospects in order to acquire him.
He is not having as great of a season as he did in 2011, but he still a very good pitcher. The 30-year-old starter has experience pitching in playoff races and in the postseason.
The right-hander eats up innings, so he would give the bullpen a break when he pitches. The bullpen has struggled this season, and he pitches deep into games to lessen the load of the relievers.
The Rays are still in contention, so they are not set on trading Shields. The Indians need to be willing to give up some top prospects if they want to bring Shields to Cleveland.
Stats: 5-5, 2.25 ERA
In the best season of his career, Ryan Dempster will likely be traded to a contender by the trade deadline.
Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLBTradeRumors.com lists the Indians as one of the teams interested in Dempster. Doug Padilla of ESPN Chicago has the Dodgers as Dempster's No. 1 destination, but the Cubs will try to make whatever deal helps their team the most.
Because of his time in the league and with the team, he has the power to veto any trade.
The right-hander is a rental player for any team that makes a deal, so it will prevent the Indians from giving up any top prospects. He would stabilize the front of the rotation and be a good acquisition.
Unlike Shields, Dempster has not played for a winning team recently. For most of his career, he has not played in meaningful games in September.
Earlier this season, Dempster pitched 33 consecutive shutout innings. The 35-year-old pitcher would be a short-term solution, and the Indians would have to convince him to accept a trade.
A change in scenery would motivate him to continue to pitch well and will help any team who trades for him.
A pitcher's record is not always a reflection of his performance, and Dempster is the perfect example.
Stats: .233, .355, 10 HR, 29 RBI
After the Minnesota Twins swept the Indians this weekend, management could decide to shed salary to free up some money for this offseason. If they sell at the deadline, designated hitter Travis Hafner needs to be moved.
His on-base percentage is way higher than his batting average because he has only played in 58 games this season. The 31 walks have heavily impacted his OBP so far, but it should decrease as he plays more games.
Hafner is no longer the power threat he once was and is probably in his last season with the team.
For a team that lacks a true power threat, they needed Hafner to hit home runs to drive in runs. Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera are tied for the team lead in home runs with 12. Not only is 12 home runs a low total for the team lead this late into the season, but they are the team's leadoff and No. 2 hitters.
The 35-year-old designated hitter has struggled to stay healthy in his career. Since 2008, he has only appeared in more than 100 games in one season. The Indians need a designated hitter who can stay healthy and hit for power.
Trading Hafner allows the team to move struggling catcher Carlos Santana to the DH spot. He needs to focus on hitting and become the power hitting he is expected to be.
He is making $13 million this season, so he will be tough to move. With a big contract and lack of production, Cleveland will not receive much in return if they trade him. However, any money they save will help them this offseason.
The money saved by trading Hafner will be used to find a left fielder and first baseman in free agency.
Stats: 0-2, 29 saves, 2.82 ERA
Chris Perez, one of the lone bright spots of the bullpen this season, needs to be traded if the team decides to sell.
As a two-time All-Star, his value will never be higher than it is right now. According to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, the San Francisco Giants are interested in Cleveland's closer.
Perez makes things interesting in the ninth inning, but he usually gets the job done.
On the field, he is pretty effective. With his comments off the field, he could be working his way out of town. Chris Assenheimer of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram tweeted earlier this season about Perez's attitude towards the hometown crowd:
Perez says one of the reasons free agents don't want to sign with Cleveland is because of lack of fan support.— Chris Assenheimer (@CAwesomeheimer) May 19, 2012
The fans have yet to respond and still rank last in the league in attendance, according to ESPN.com.
The team has two options: trade him or hope he signs a long-term deal with the team. He is due for arbitration this offseason, but the team may be unwilling to only sign him one year at a time.
His comments this season should be a warning sign. He is unhappy in Cleveland and wants to play somewhere that has supportive fans.
With Vinnie Pestano (1.47 ERA) and Esmil Rogers (2.74 ERA) in the bullpen, the Indians have potential replacements if Perez is dealt.
Although Hafner and outfielder Grady Sizemore (hopefully) will not be part of the team's payroll next season, Perez will receive a nice raise in arbitration this offseason. The team has room on the payroll for him, but they would receive several good prospects in a trade involving Perez.
Trading Perez would bring in young position players, and it would help the team contend in the future. By dealing their closer, the team would clear even more salary to spend on position players in free agency.