Although Cleveland has held its own through the first 70 games, don't be fooled into thinking that the Indians can easily overtake the Tigers without first shaking things up a bit.
As buyers at the trading deadline, the Indians could use a solid starting pitcher. With Matt Garza having already been traded by the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers on Monday, the best option on the market appears to be gone.
The Indians need to find a viable starter to bolster the front end of their rotation, but if that proves too difficult, they could opt to solidify their shaky bullpen.
Several names have been linked to the Tribe as the deadline draws closer, and while Garza is no longer available, others are as the Indians could look to make a splash in order to catch the red-hot Tigers.
With that out of the way, we play a little fact-or-fiction with some of the bigger names linked to the Indians in an attempt to weed out some of the less-likely trade candidates.
The first member of this list is intriguing left-handed reliever, James Russell.
Russell is a great fit for the Indians for several reasons. The first is the easiest—Russell would become one of only two left-handed relievers in the Indians' bullpen.
The only lefty in the 'pen right now is Rich Hill and he's hardly lighting the world on fire. Through Hill's first 40 appearances, he has a 1-2 record with a 6.51 ERA, a 1.55 WHIP and, outside of his 11.7 K/9, his ratios are completely underwhelming at 5.5 BB/9, 2.12 K/BB and 8.5 H/9.
Russell on the other hand, is trending upward. The 27-year-old has shown improvement in each season leading up to 2013 and this year has been the best of his career by far.
In 49 appearances, Russell has amassed 36 innings pitched with a 2.70 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP and ratios of 7.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 2.42 K/BB and 8.1 H/9.
The most attractive thing about Russell are his splits against left-handed batters, as exemplified by comparison to Rich Hill:
Russell could immediately step in and become the team's lefty specialist and that's something the team has lacked this season. If he's available, the Indians are buying
The second of three reliever listed is Jesse Crain.
The 32-year-old righty has emerged as one of the most dominant relievers in baseball and, conveniently enough, he could be available at the trade deadline.
According to FoxSports' Jon Heyman, the Indians are interested in pitchers to bolster their starting rotation, but if they cannot settle on a great option for the rotation, the bullpen is the place to start.
Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal went on to report a few days later that the Indians are highly unlikely to divert from their plan of building around players controllable beyond the 2013 season.
With that said though, if the Indians are serious about upgrading their bullpen, Crain is the cream of the crop at this year's deadline.
Over his last three seasons, encompassing 156 games, Crain owns a 2.10 ERA with ratios that would easily make him the best reliever in the Indians' bullpen, including a 1.17 WHIP, 10.6 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 2.71 K/BB and 6.6 H/9.
This year, Crain has been arguably the best reliever in all of baseball. Among pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched, Crain has the third best ERA, 0.74 and ranks fifth and fourth respectively in holds and earned runs.
The Indians would be dealing from a hole to begin with, as teams rarely like dealing within their own division. In short, it doesn't look good for Crain to be dealt to the Tribe.
The final reliever of the group, Kevin Gregg happens to be another member of the Chicago Cubs' bullpen.
Gregg's name was brought up by MLBTraderumors.com's Tim Dierkes, but is he really a viable option for the Tribe's already suspect bullpen?
Gregg has never been the same standout reliever as Jesse Crain or James Russell, but he's been solid in 2013 and has vaulted himself into the discussion of tradable relievers. In 36 appearances, Gregg has a solid 2-2 record with a 2.80 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP and ratios of 8.9 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 2.50 K/BB and 7.1 H/9.
Gregg is just beyond the midway point of what's been arguably the best season of his 11-year-career. The question remaining is whether the Indians need another mediocre right-handed reliever?
The Tribe is already flush with right-handed relievers and adding a righty of Gregg's caliber would be counterintuitive.
The first big-name starting pitcher on the trading block was dealt on Monday when the Cubs sent Matt Garza to Texas.
The second starting pitcher dealt this year though could very well be Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo.
Gallardo is struggling slightly this season at 8-8 with a 4.58 ERA, a 1.42 WHIP and ratios of 7.2 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 2.13 K/BB and 9.4 H/9. Gallardo doesn't seem to be the immediate answer for the Indians, but a change of scenery could be just what the 27-year-old righty needs.
In his first six seasons, Gallardo went 69-43 with solid all-around numbers, including a 3.63 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP and ratios of 9.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 2.64 K/BB and 8.2 H/9.
Gallardo is better than his numbers indicate this season, as his career FIP and xFIP of 3.66 and 3.53, respectively, show that he could be in for a bit of a bounce-back in the second half.
Gallardo fits the bill with what the Indians are looking for in an extra arm. He's still young and under contract through next season with a $13 million club option for 2015.
Beyond the Indians' ability to control Gallardo after the 2013 season, he's also a perfect buy-low candidate. This isn't fantasy baseball, but it stands to reason that a pitcher who is struggling slightly will garner a lesser prospect haul than a pitcher at his absolute best.
The Cubs' Jeff Samardzija is a year older than Yovani Gallardo, but the name of the game here is "controllability" and Samardzija fits that perfectly.
Linked to the Indians by MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince, Samarzdija isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season.
The 28-year-old Notre Dame product is in his sixth season in the majors, but just his second as a full-time starter. In his new role last year, Samardzija finished 9-13 and paired that with decent ratios, including a 3.81 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 3.21 K/BB and 8.1 H/9.
A glance at him this season may lead one to believe that Samarzdija has regressed slightly, however, advanced metrics are on his side. Over 20 starts, the right-hander has gone 6-9 with a 3.91 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP.
Samarzdija's measurables are similar to those he posted last year, but his 3.66 FIP and 3.36 xFIP suggest that he's pitched better than his numbers indicate.
Shark would be a perfect fit for the Indians. The trouble is that the Cubs have already dealt Matt Garza and may be unwilling to gut their rotation any further.
Bud Norris has the tools to be a solid pitcher.
With a solid fastball/changeup/slider combo, Norris won over Astros fans in 2011 with a 3.77 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and ratios including 8.5 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 2.51 K/BB and 8.6 H/9.
Since then, Norris owns a 4.34 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. While it appears that he may have rebounded from a disappointing 2012 campaign, we can't proclaim him to have completely turned the corner.
Norris has been the victim of some bad luck in Houston in 2013, with his .324 BAbip 13 points higher than his career average, and 18 points higher than last season.
Norris has been linked to the Tribe by MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince. Although Cleveland has enough minor league depth to bring him in, he's not the top-tier starter that the Indians are looking for on the mound.