With the 2014 Major League Baseball trade deadline quickly approaching, the Cleveland Indians find themselves in a curious position. The team is currently three games over .500 and 4.5 games back of the division-leading Detroit Tigers.
The Tribe has just a two-game deficit between them and the final American League wild-card spot, but there are some major flaws to be addressed, most notably in the starting rotation and on the bench.
The rotation has undoubtedly been the Indians' biggest issue. Indians pitchers with at least one start under their belt have combined for some ghastly numbers this year.
|Cleveland Indians' Starters in 2014|
Some of the rankings are palatable, however, and it's important to note that the team is currently working with a starting group that includes exactly one member of the Opening Day rotation.
Corey Kluber, the Tribe's perceived No. 2—or 1A, if you please—for Opening Day has really cemented himself as a fringe candidate for "ace" status, but he alone can't carry the rotation. On Opening Day, it was assumed that Justin Masterson would work as the team's No. 1 starter, but as the numbers indicate, he's been anything but a reliable option, even when fully healthy.
Zach McAllister, who pitched well in 2013 and to start the year in 2014, has struggled mightily and has even spent time at Triple-A Columbus due to performance-related issues.
So the need for another starter has arisen.
The club could choose to promote Danny Salazar and utilize him as a starter for the rest of the season, but if his 4.7 BB/9 at Triple-A are any indication, he still hasn't figured anything out.
At this point, the only way to address the starting rotation headache is through a trade. A number of starting pitchers figure to be available, including Jake Peavy, Jorge De La Rosa, A.J. Burnett, Bartolo Colon and David Price.
Price is likely out of the Indians' reach. The Tampa Bay Rays would demand a package that includes Danny Salazar and Francisco Lindor. The Indians may be able to counter with a package built around Salazar and Clint Frazier and another mid-level pitching prospect, but the bargaining would likely end there.
The team would then have to turn to a second-tier option, like Peavy, De La Rosa, Burnett or Colon. Of the group, De La Rosa and Colon are the best fits, but Colon offers the team the best of both worlds, those being production and an extra year of club control.
So, we've arrived at a target: Bartolo Colon. It's like the LeBron James homecoming.
Well, not really. But it's the next best thing, right?
Colon has been unspectacular but solid at times. His four most recent starts have seen his ERA rise from 3.67 to 4.12. However, leaving New York could be a good move for the 41-year-old righty.
Colon is under contract through the 2015 season at a rate of $10 million per season. The New York Mets' willingness to absorb some of his remaining salary will ultimately determine the return package they receive.
If the Mets are willing to make the acquisition slightly more affordable for the Indians—who are unlikely to take on a player worth $10 million next year or for the remainder of this season—then the Indians could put together a trade package that includes two mid-level pitching prospects like Adam Plutko and Shawn Morimando.
A more likely scenario involves the Indians making a swap of Asdrubal Cabrera for Bartolo Colon.
The Mets are in need of a shortstop, and while it's likely they would rather get a younger, more permanent solution, Cabrera is signable from the Mets' point of view and is still just 28 years old. Even if the team decided to let Cabrera walk at the end of the 2014 season, the Mets would benefit from some salary relief.
Since there is no salary relief on the Indians' end in this scenario, the Mets would also chip in a pitching prospect to complement Colon.
The best and most realistic option for the Mets is 21-year-old righty Gabriel Ynoa. Ynoa has the opportunity to develop into a back-end rotation option, but his future will be determined by the development of his slider.
His primary offering, a low-90s sinker, is a solidly average offering. His second-best offering is a plus-plus changeup that has outstanding fading action and can work very well at the big league level.
Ynoa's breaking ball is less developed. He's inconsistent with the arm action and release point associated with the pitch, but should it become a more consistent offering, the Dominican Republic native should have no problems slotting into the back of the Indians rotation by the 2016 season.
Another important factor in this deal is the spot that would be cleared for Francisco Lindor. The Indians' top prospect is knocking on the door for a promotion and has averaged a .281/.352/.389 batting line over 387 at-bats this year.
In addition to his solid slash line, Lindor boasts 22 extra-base hits, 48 RBI, 51 runs scored and 25 stolen bases. The 20-year-old would also provide the Indians with an enormous defensive upgrade, as he's one of the best defensive shortstops at any level of professional baseball.
The deal presents the the Indians with a win-win scenario. Colon isn't the best option on the open market, but he's easily attainable. In addition to the upgrade the rotation would receive, the team can get value out of Cabrera while clearing room for one of the top prospects in the game to make his midseason debut.
Indians Get: Bartolo Colon and Gabriel Ynoa
Mets Get: Asdrubal Cabrera