4 Players the Cleveland Indians Could Trade Before July 31 Deadline
After reaching the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season, the Cleveland Indians have cemented their claim to a spot in the discussion of the most disappointing teams in all of baseball. Over the 2014 offseason, the team shored up the worst unit on the team—the bullpen—and brought in the likes of David Murphy to help solidify the outfield.
All of that work, and the team currently sits eight games back of the first-place Detroit Tigers and six games under the .500 mark.
At some point in the very near future, the team might begin to look at what pieces it can move to rid itself of expiring contracts with desirable skill sets. Or, if it manages to turn things around before the deadline, it can look to deal from a wealth of middle-infield prospects in an attempt to bring back one or more pieces to help put the team over the top.
Either way, the team is probably going to make at least one trade prior to the deadline, and depending on its status in the playoff race, there could be a few more.
Over the next four slides, we'll look at the four most likely trade candidates as we continue to approach the July 31 trade deadline.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
If any player is going to go before the trade deadline, then Asdrubal Cabrera is that player. The 28-year-old shortstop has been solidly disappointing in each of the last two seasons, but he's still the most realistic trade piece the Indians hold.
Beyond his contract status, and also his production—we'll discuss that shortly—Cabrera presents himself as the most realistic trade chip for the sole fact that Francisco Lindor is pushing for a spot on the 25-man roster.
Over 49 games with Double-A Akron, Lindor boasts a solid .287/.379/.410 slash line with four home runs, three triples, five doubles, 32 RBI, 28 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. In addition to the possibility of him being an offensive upgrade over Cabrera, Lindor is arguably the best defensive shortstop in the minors.
But, anyway, on to Cabrera. Cabrera is signed through the rest of the 2014 season, and his recent performance suggests that he could be signed long term at a rather team-friendly rate.
Though Cabrera has been disappointing in back-to-back seasons now, he's still just 28 years old and has been rather unlucky since the start of the 2013 season. Despite a 79.5 percent contact rate, a 24 percent line-drive rate and a 12 percent IF/FB rate over 187 combined games—better than or equal to the MLB average for his career—Cabrera has managed just a .284 BABIP and a .245/.305/.393 slash line, to boot.
Cabrera was well below average in the field last season and posted UZR/150 and DRS values of negative-16.8 and negative-16, respectively. This year, Cabrera has been slightly better, managing a UZR/150 and DRS of negative-3.5 and negative-two, respectively.
Cabrera's bad luck could entice teams to buy low, and a change of scenery might really do Cabrera well.
The Indians have a wealth of middle-infield prospects to deal, and Jose Ramirez is the first that we'll look at here.
Ramirez has made appearances with the big league club in each of the last two seasons, and although his recent one in 2014 has been very disappointing—.080/.080/.080 triple slash through 25 plate appearances—his first showing in 2013 was anything but that. Over a very small sample size—14 plate appearances—Ramirez managed a .333/.429/.500 slash line with a triple, five runs scored and an even 2:2 K/BB ratio.
Ramirez has shown a penchant for success in the minors, and it comes largely through outstanding plate discipline and a smooth swing with a line-drive bias.
Ramirez is quick, and it shows both on the base paths and in the field. The 21-year-old led the Eastern League in stolen bases last season—38 steals with Double-A Akron—and is as smooth as you could hope for a utility infielder to be.
If Ramirez is able to stick as a full-time player, he'll be a second baseman. The young infielder also has the ability to serve as a utility infielder, as he is also capable of manning both shortstop and third base.
Offensively, Ramirez profiles best at second base. However, with Jason Kipnis, Ronny Rodriguez, Dorssys Paulino and possibly Tony Wolters ahead of him on the proverbial depth chart, there looks to be no real spot for him when all of the team's middle-infield prospects become big league ready.
Ramirez himself isn't going to fetch anything big on the trade market, but a package including him and maybe one or two other prospects—Asdrubal Cabrera or Justin Masterson?—could definitely bring something of value back to Cleveland.
Of the three prospects present on this list, Tony Wolters is arguably the most intriguing. Although Baseball America ranks him as just the team's No. 25 prospect, Wolters has the ability to play both middle infield positions, while also functioning as a catcher.
Wolters is relatively new to catching, but the 21-year-old has a strong arm with quick pop-up times, a silky smooth transfer and solid receiving ability behind the plate. If Wolters can make a sufficient and full transition to catching, then his value will surely rise, as there aren't many left-handed hitting catchers to speak of.
Curently, the transition is going well, as evidenced by Wolters' 47 percent caught-stealing percentage. In addition to that, his offensive contributions have been sufficient.
Over 44 games—183 plate appearances—the California native sports a .265/.328/.319 slash line with one triple, seven doubles, 13 RBI, 15 runs scored and a 33:15 K/BB ratio. Wolters' strikeout and walk rates have both regressed since last season—8.2 percent walk rate in 2014, down from 12.1 percent in 2013, and an 18 percent strikeout rate, down from 17.1 percent last season—but he's still been a relatively efficient offensive producer, given the fact that he's still working out the kinks at a new position.
Wolters' value hinges on his ability to stick as a catcher. If Wolters is able to stay behind the plate, then the young backstop could serve as a valuable trade chip for the Indians to work with.
So what if the Indians go in the tank? They're already eight games back of the first-place Tigers and six games under the .500 mark.
Well, if that happens, then they may want to consider trading Justin Masterson. The two sides worked to sign an extension this offseason but were unable to come to terms on a long-term deal.
Masterson is signed through the rest of the 2014 season and would come with a team-friendly $9.5 million salary—the team acquiring him would only be responsible for a portion of that $9.5 million. Unfortunately though, Masterson has done little to bolster his trade value through his first 12 starts this season.
Over 12 outings—67.1 innings pitched—the 29-year-old has a 5.21 ERA, a 1.55 WHIP and season averages of 7.8 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 1.76 K/BB and 9.5 H/9. In addition to some all-around disappointing metrics, Masterson leads the senior circuit in walks allowed (32) and also ranks in a second-place tie in hit-by-pitches (7).
Luckily for the Indians, Corey Kluber has functioned as the true ace of the team—both in 2014 and 2013—so Masterson's struggles haven't been as magnified as they may have been otherwise. While the Indians look to have found their ace in Kluber, they're missing a lot on the offensive side of the ball, and Masterson could bring back what they need—a corner infield or outfield prospect would be a nice start.