Indians Trade Rumors: Identifying the Best Fits for Tribe's Top Trade Chips
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If there's one team in Major League Baseball that needs to make a few trades this winter, it's the Cleveland Indians. They have a lot of rebuilding to do, and dealing off a couple (or all) of their stars would certainly help speed up the process.
Other teams around the league realize this too. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the Indians are getting calls on at least four players—Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Justin Masterson and Chris Perez. Indians general manager Chris Antonetti refused to call any of the four untouchable, meaning he's likely to be a popular man at this week's meetings.
"I'm not looking to move those guys,'' he said. "But we have to be open-minded.''
While he's at it, he may also want to consider moving Carlos Santana and Vinnie Pestano. ESPN's Buster Olney thinks he should.
For kicks, let's say that Antonetti makes all six of these players available on the trade block. Who should he be looking to do business with?
Good question. Here's a look at one perfect fit for each player.
Asdrubal Cabrera, Shortstop
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Best Fit: Seattle Mariners
Asdrubal Cabrera is frustrating. He has plenty of talent, but something is getting in the way of him putting it all together for a full season's worth of production.
Case in point: An .836 OPS in the first half of the 2011 season eventually gave way to a .729 OPS in the second half of the season. The same thing happened in 2012, as Cabrera's OPS slipped from .832 in the first half to .676 in the second half.
Just as frustrating is Cabrera's defense. He makes spectacular plays, but he rates as a shoddy defensive player as far as advanced metrics like UZR and Defensive Runs Saved are concerned (see FanGraphs).
Even still, the Indians can ask for a lot in a trade for Cabrera because the upside is definitely there and because he's locked up through 2014 for a reasonable amount of money ($16.5 million).
The best fit for Cabrera is in Seattle. The Mariners have a truly excellent defensive shortstop in Brendan Ryan, but he can't hit a lick. He hit only .194 with a .555 OPS in 2012.
Cabrera would be a significant offensive upgrade over Ryan at shortstop, and there's less of a concern of Safeco Field killing his bat with the fences set to come in next season.
The Mariners have plenty of young players they could offer the Indians for Cabrera. One option would be for them to do a one-for-one trade involving top shortstop prospect Nick Franklin, who isn't that far off from being ready for the major leagues.
But the Indians would be more likely to target one of Seattle's young pitchers. Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are all highly regarded, and Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com tweeted on Wednesday that the Mariners think right-hander Brandon Maurer is right there with them.
Since the Indians desperately need young arms, these are the players they're likely to be interested in if they decide to dangle Cabrera in front of the Mariners. And since the Mariners need as much young talent on offense as they can get, a trade could definitely be worked out.
Shin-Soo Choo, Right Field
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Best Fit: New York Yankees
Of all the underrated hitters in baseball, Shin-Soo Choo may be the most underrated of the bunch.
Over the last five seasons, Choo has compiled an .855 OPS and has averaged 16 homers and 16 stolen bases per year. He peaked in 2010 when he posted an .885 OPS with 22 doubles, but he proved with a productive 2012 season that he's going to be worth a not-insignificant investment when he hits free agency following the 2013 season.
In no small part because his agent is Scott Boras, Choo is certainly going to be too expensive for the Indians when he does hit free agency. And while Antonetti could get a draft pick by giving him a qualifying offer next winter and then watching him go, it makes more sense for him to trade Choo for prospects who could help the team in the near future.
One team that happens to have a hole in right field that Choo could fill at the moment is none other than the Yankees, and they should be very intrigued about the idea of adding Choo.
Choo would be an excellent fit for Yankee Stadium, and he's likely to be a cheaper short-term option than Nick Swisher, Torii Hunter, Cody Ross or whoever else the Yankees could sign off the free-agent market. MLBTradeRumors.com figures Choo will make a little less than $8 million in arbitration this winter.
The Yankees don't have the kind of talented arms in their farm system that the Mariners do, but they do have some pitchers who could interest the Indians.
It's doubtful that they'd move Manny Banuelos, but Ty Hensley, Adam Warren and even Dellin Betances could be at the center of a trade package. Betances regressed mightily in 2012, but he's shown flashes of his old self in the Arizona Fall League so far.
If the Indians would rather get a young outfielder for their star outfielder, the Yankees could definitely help them out there. Their farm system is loaded with well-regarded outfielders such as Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott and Zoilo Almonte.
Everyone is expecting Brian Cashman to sign a star right fielder, but doesn't trading for one instead sound like something he would do?
Justin Masterson, Starting Pitcher
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Best Fit: Boston Red Sox
Justin Masterson followed up a very, very good 2011 season with a highly disappointing 2012 season. His ERA jumped from 3.21 to 4.93, and he watched his opponents' OPS climb from .667 to .736.
Still, Masterson has plenty of trade value because there's nothing wrong with his stuff and because he's not eligible for free agency until 2015. Between now and then, he has the potential to get back on track and develop into an ace pitcher.
Because Masterson's ceiling is high and his walk year isn't imminent, the Indians aren't going to part with him willingly. But if there's one team out there that may want Masterson more than the Indians, it's his old team.
The Red Sox traded Masterson to the Indians in the Victor Martinez deal in 2009, and you get the sense that they've never really gotten over letting him go. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reported in July that the Red Sox were scouting him for a potential trade, and he's been linked to the Red Sox ever since by writers like Jon Heyman and others.
Masterson would be reunited with former pitching coach John Farrell—now the club's manager—in Boston, and he'd feature prominently in a rotation that is not as bad as it looks. Along with fellow youngsters Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront, Masterson could end up sticking around for a while if he does return to Boston.
The Red Sox have more than enough prospects to interest the Indians. A deal could be constructed around 2011 first-rounder Matt Barnes or around Allen Webster, who the Red Sox got in their big trade with the Dodgers in August. The Red Sox also have a host of quality outfielders to offer, including Jackie Bradley, Bryce Brentz and Brandon Jacobs.
Terry Francona could help steer Chris Antonetti in the right direction if he engages the Red Sox in trade talks. He should know some of Boston's prospects well from his time as the club's skipper.
Chris Perez, Closer
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Best Fit: Cincinnati Reds
Chris Perez has made a nice name for himself over the last two seasons, saving 75 games while compiling a 3.45 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. He has a tendency to make things interesting in the ninth, but he also has a tendency to get out of it unscathed.
Unfortunately for the Indians, Perez also has a tendency to run his mouth. He's not afraid to say whatever's on his mind, even if it means openly criticizing his superiors or the club's fanbase.
The Indians can either put up with Perez for a couple more years until he hits free agency, or they can avoid paying him a lot of money in arbitration and capitalize on his high value by trading him now.
The Cincinnati Reds are a good fit. They have an excellent closer to turn to in Aroldis Chapman if need be, but they'd apparently rather not do that.
According to Jon Heyman, the Reds want to move Chapman into their starting rotation. They can't do that, however, until they find somebody to take his place in the ninth, and their list of options leaves a lot to be desired.
They're looking at re-signing Jonathan Broxton or at taking a chance on Ryan Madson or Joakim Soria, both of whom are coming off Tommy John surgery.
How about a trade for Perez instead? His hard fastball and fiery demeanor would fit in quite well with Cincinnati's bullpen, and he doesn't carry as much risk as Madson or Soria.
Perez's asking price won't be as high as those of Cabrera, Choo and Masterson. The Reds could get him for a pair of mid-level prospects, or they could trade one player on their big league roster who they wouldn't mind getting rid of.
Drew Stubbs comes to mind, for example, though the Reds would surely have to get more than just Perez if they were to trade Stubbs to the Indians.
If, for whatever reason, the Indians would rather keep Perez, they could always trade one of their other talented relievers.
Vinnie Pestano, RHP
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Best Fit: New York Yankees
For a while there, Sergio Romo was the best-kept bullpen secret in baseball.
These days, that honor may belong to Vinnie Pestano. He has a 2.45 ERA and a 10.9 K/9 rate over his last two seasons, and this year he actually compiled a higher WAR than Chris Perez, according to FanGraphs.
Olney noted in his article about the Indians that they may be able to get more in a trade for Pestano than they can for Perez, as he's more talented and much cheaper than Perez. In this year's market, he could essentially be a poor man's Rafael Soriano.
Perhaps the team that just saw Soriano opt out of his contract would be interested. They should be, anyway.
Assuming the Yankees bring back Mariano Rivera, they'll have a closer for 2013. However, they'll still be lacking a closer for the future, and their setup corps could use another dominant arm besides just David Robertson.
That's where Pestano could come in handy. He could fill his customary role as a late-inning reliever in 2013 and could then conceivably take over as the Yankees' closer once Mo retires. Pestano certainly has the stuff for it, as his fastball has good natural movement, and his slider is a good swing-and-miss pitch.
It's possible that the Yankees could do a deal with the Indians in which they get both Choo and Pestano, in which case the Tribe would be getting a package of prospects very much to their liking.
Even if the Yankees were to only ask for Pestano, the Indians could still do well in a trade. They could take on a bullpen prospect like Mark Montgomery or maybe a raw prospect with good tools like Austin Aune.
The Yankees are going to have to find a successor for Rivera eventually. They'll have a hard time finding a more intriguing option than Pestano.
Carlos Santana, Catcher
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Best Fit: Texas Rangers
Carlos Santana regressed in 2012, but his regression wasn't as severe as many made it out to be. His home run total did drop from 27 to 18, and his slugging percentage did take a dive, but he improved his batting average and his on-base percentage, and he was even solid on defense.
Per FanGraphs, Santana rated as a decent defensive catcher even despite his troubles with passed balls, and he also held his own defensively at first base.
Santana may not be able to remain an everyday catcher going forward, but it looks like he could make for a good catcher/first baseman hybrid player, a la Joe Mauer (nowadays) and Mike Napoli.
Speaking of Napoli, he's a free agent and he may prove to be too pricey for the Rangers. He'll get paid but probably not by a Rangers team that watched him struggle at the plate and with his health in 2012.
If the Rangers were to trade for Santana, he could step right in and effectively fill Napoli's shoes. He'd spend most of his time behind the plate in the crouch but would get spot starts at first base and at DH.
And, of course, he'd give their lineup some pop. They've had plenty of it in recent years, but they'll suddenly have a shortage of power if both Napoli and Josh Hamilton walk as free agents.
Santana is likely to be the toughest to acquire of Cleveland's six key trade chips, as powerful catchers with high upsides just don't come around that often. To boot, Santana signed a contract with the Indians that is good though 2016 with an option for 2017. They're not going to let him go unless they get a very impressive package of prospects.
The Rangers are the right team to ask for an impressive package of prospects. It's hard to see them parting with Jurickson Profar or Mike Olt, but Martin Perez or Cody Buckel could go.
A deal could also be based around 19-year-old catcher Jorge Alfaro. He's one of Texas' top prospects, but it wouldn't do the Rangers much good just to wait for him to arrive seeing as how they need to win now, and Alfaro is several years away from being ready.
The Rangers have been protective of their top prospects, but they could make an exception to acquire a young catcher of Santana's talent.
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