The Biggest Issues the Cleveland Indians Must Address at the Trade Deadline

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The Biggest Issues the Cleveland Indians Must Address at the Trade Deadline
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

The Cleveland Indians have had a less than ideal start to the 2014 season. Through the first half of the regular season, the Tribe boast a sub-.500 record and a third place standing in the American League Central.

The team is in a bit of a tight spot, where they could be buyers, sellers, or some version of both come the July trade-deadline.

If they hope to make the 2014 postseason, the team will need to address a few key areas of weakness. Those areas include a lack of viable bench depth, the under-performing starting rotation and to find a way to clear room for top prospect Francisco Lindor to assume a starting role with the team.

We'll take a look at those areas of concern, and even a few ways in which they may choose to fix them.

 

Lack of Bench Depth

The Cleveland Indians' lack of bench depth is becoming a rather big problem for the club. Though the Indians are not faced with the same types of pinch-hitting decisions that National League teams face, the level of production the Tribe has received from their bench has been deplorable.

From non-everyday players currently on the active roster, the Indians have received offensive contributions that include a .241/.280/.342 slash line, 11 doubles, seven home runs, 39 RBI and 34 runs scored.

They have very little to turn to when they need a player to work as a spot starter—or in any other capacity, really.

While it may not be something the team chooses to address via trade, the unimpressive performances by Indians bench players have been a big problem for Cleveland.

 

How to Clear Space for Francisco Lindor

This, in essence, is a nice way of saying the Tribe need to trade Asdrubal Cabrera. Although he's been much more productive this season than he was last season, the 28-year-old still isn't the same player fans thought he could be after making back-to-back All-Star Game appearances between the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Behind him on the organizational depth chart is one of the top shortstop prospects in all of baseball, Francisco Lindor. The 20-year-old has quickly worked his way through the minor league ranks and is now putting forth an impressive effort at Double-A Akron, where players' average age is 4.7 years greater than his, per Baseball-Reference.com.

Over a combined 89 games at Double-A—67 games this season and 21 last year—Lindor boasts an impressive stat line, including a .284/.375/.398 slash line, six home runs, five triples, 11 doubles, 47 RBI, 59 runs scored and 24 stolen bases.

Though he's been solid at the plate, Lindor does his best work in the field.

He has plus instincts in the field and takes clean, aggressive routes to the ball. That and his plus arm make the Florida prep product one of the game's premier defenders, despite having yet to play a game at the big league level. His 4.33 RF/G at Double-A is evidence of that.

Trading Cabrera is really the only way to get Lindor regular at-bats at the big league level, and he's definitely ready for them. It's been speculated for the better part of a year-and-a-half now that Cabrera could be traded to a contending team in need of a shortstop—think the Oakland A's or Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

Lack of Production from the Starting Rotation

Not only would trading Cabrera open up a spot for Lindor on the 25-man roster, but it could also help the Indians shore up what has been a rather shaky starting rotation here in 2014.

As a group, the Tribe's starting rotation has allowed a paltry 4.67 ERA with a 1.42 WHIP and season averages of 8.7 K/9, 3.20 BB/9, 2.71 K/BB and 9.6 H/9. The team has seen would-be aces like Justin Masterson and Danny Salazar—both of whom were expected to assume major roles with the team this season—struggle mightily.

Mark Duncan/Associated Press
Justin Masterson has been solidly disappointing after entering the 2014 season as the team's ace.

In addition to those two extreme disappointments, Zach McAllister has been a disappointment in his own right, allowing a 5.89 ERA over 10 starts, spanning 47.1 innings pitched. In short, the rotation has been pretty bad outside of Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin.

So, why not get them some help?

The Indians have a ton of middle-infield depth—something I highlighted in my recent top-15 prospect rankings. They could look to deal from that middle-infield wealth, and a few right-handers—Dace Kime and Corey Anderson—could help sweeten the deal.

The Indians don't appear to have the depth to bring in someone like David Price or Jeff Samardzija—unless they're willing to do the unimaginable and deal off Lindor and Danny Salazar.

The front office will have to get creative if it's hoping to land a starter at the deadline and may have to settle for a starter like Ian Kennedy or Dillon Gee. Both are possible deadline targets, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.

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