With free agency looming, and trade rumors swirling, the Indians look poised to make a big splash in the 2013-14 offseason.
Cleveland's salary commitments total a measly $48.28 million for the 2014 season, so the team figures to play heavily in the free-agency market. Additionally, given the team's depth at middle infield, and in the outfield, the Tribe could also be a major player on various trading blocks.
With that said, there are some big moves to be made in Cleveland, and four of them—outlined below—could actually happen. Beginning with the Tribe acquiring David Price.
Trade for David Price
On the surface, David Price's 2013 season looks like a solid bit of regression from his impressive Cy Young Award-winning campaign in 2012. However, dig a little deeper, and you'll find that Price's perceived struggles are the product of some early-season struggles.
|David Price 2013 Splits|
Through the season's first two months, Price's BAbip hovered at an insanely high mark of .335. However, after returning from a triceps injury that sidelined him for half of May, and all of June, that number progressed toward his career average of .281, as Price was able to regain elite form through the season's second half.
As ESPN.com's Jim Bowden notes (Insider subscription required), landing Price this offseason would require a major prospect haul. Luckily for the Indians, they have the MLB-ready talent to pull the move off.
Any move for Price would have to begin with the Indians top-prospect, Francisco Lindor. The 19-year-old shortstop is one of baseball's top prospects, and ranks within the Top 10 on multiple top-prospect lists including Jonathan Mayo's, and Mike Rosenbaum's year-end top-100s—No. 5 and No. 10 respectively.
Lindor is a rare talent at shortstop. Although he doesn't possess the power of Troy Tulowitzki, or the speed of Dee Gordon, Lindor is adept in all areas of the game and possesses plus-defensive skills, and the potential for a plus-hit tool.
After Lindor, it's likely the Rays would require the inclusion of former-top prospect Danny Salazar, along with the team's No. 5 prospect, Tyler Naquin.
Salazar, a 23-year-old starter, made huge strides in 2013 and threw 145 innings across three different professional levels—Double-A, Triple-A and MLB. Salazar figures to make the team's starting rotation as a full-time big leaguer next year and could be a major piece in the Indians future, or that of any perspective trade partner.
Naquin spent parts of the 2013 season in High-A Carolina and Double-A Akron. The 22-year-old struggled at times, working to a .269/.334/.405 slash line with 46 extra-base hits (10 home runs), 48 RBI, 78 runs scored and 15 stolen bases.
Price is under club control through the 2015 season, so the asking price could be steep. High-A catcher Tony Wolters could help sweeten the deal though, as the Rays are clearly looking to shore up their catching situation.
Whatever the Rays asking price is though, the Indians clearly have the goods to bring former Cy Young Award winner to Cleveland.
Sign Kendrys Morales
Signing Kendrys Morales could solve a few issues for the Indians. Consider the team's offense and where it ranked in these categories last season.
|Cleveland Indians Offense|
The Indians ranked around the middle of the pack in most offensive categories, including batting average, slugging percentage, home runs, triples and doubles.
Morales on the other hand, had another solid season, in which he slashed .277/.336/.449 with 23 home runs, 34 doubles, 80 RBI and 64 runs scored. Morales would provide a nice source of power, run production and on-base percentage to the middle of the Indians lineup.
Morales, a free agent, received a qualifying offer from the Mariners so signing him would cost the Indians a first round draft pick. However, the Indians will likely receive a first round draft pick from whatever team chooses to sign Ubaldo Jimenez, so the transaction would result in a wash.
The move would also solidify the Indians DH slot, while also giving them the option to rotate he and Carlos Santana between the DH and first-base spot. The move also allows Nick Swisher to move to the outfield full time, where his bat is more valuable.
At 30 years old, Morales should be in line for a three-year-deal worth about $24-27 million. Given the Indians low salary commitments for 2014, signing Morales would hardly break the bank.
Trade for Lance Lynn/Shelby Miller
Asdrubal Cabrera has become expendable for the Indians. In Mike Aviles, the team has a capable stop gap to fill in until Francisco Lindor is ready to take over on a full-time basis—if he's not there by Opening Day.
Because of this, the team should look to capitalize on Cabrera's bounce-back potential over the final year of his existing contract.
Based on previous interest between the two teams, a perfect fit for Cabrera would be the St. Louis Cardinals. The team is nearly void of weaknesses, but the shortstop position remains an issue for a team looking to return to the World Series in 2014.
Over the course of the 2013 season, Cardinals shortstops combined for some paltry numbers.
|Cardinals Shortstops in 2013|
Because of this dismal showing from the shortstop position, the Cardinals are on the hunt for a new shortstop. As Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com notes, the Cardinals possess a stockpile of young, cheap, high-caliber starters on their roster, and could look to trade Rookie of the Year candidate Shelby Miller.
Additionally, as Joe Strauss of stltoday.com notes, the Cardinals may be interested in trading another starter, that being Lance Lynn. Lynn has settled in as a solid No. 3 starter at the big league level, and while he doesn't possess the potential of Miller, he's a dependable, above-average starter.
The two trades present two very different options. Acquiring Shelby Miller will likely require Cabrera, plus a mid-high level prospect. On the other hand, dealing for Lynn could result in a straight-up deal.
If the Indians decided that they could not part with the high-level prospects it would take to land Price, then a deal for either Lynn or Miller is a strong possibility given the needs of both teams.
Sign Brian Wilson
After an elbow injury—and the ensuing Tommy John surgery—that cost him the bulk of both the 2012, and 2013 seasons, Brian Wilson looked to be in top-form during his tenure with the Dodgers late last year. The 31-year-old reliever appeared in 18 games last season, allowing a 0.66 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP with per-nine averages of 8.6 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and 5.3 H/9.
Wilson spent his previous seven seasons as a member of the Giants, with varying levels of success. The pinnacle of his career though came in 2010 when he recorded 48 saves, allowing just a 1.81 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP while striking out 11.2 batters per-nine innings.
Wilson fell out of favor in San Francisco after his surgery, but he looks to have righted the ship as of late.
The most telling sign of Wilson's return to greatness, was the return of his fastball and sinker velocity. Consider the following chart, detailing Wilson's fastball and sinker velocity over his last four months of play.
|Brian Wilson's Fastball Velocity (in MPH)|
Wilson could be a big signing for the Tribe since they recently parted ways with closer Chris Perez.
Although he didn't close out a game for the Dodgers last season, Wilson exhibited that he still has the ability to do so. Wilson would likely come with a one-year deal at a relatively low cost—significantly lower than that of a top-tier free agent like Joe Nathan—making his coming to Cleveland a real possibility.