Grading the Cleveland Indians' Trade Deadline Performance

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Grading the Cleveland Indians' Trade Deadline Performance
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The Cleveland Indians were one of the more active teams at the July 31 trade deadline.

The club entered the deadline in a curious position, sitting 6.5 games back of the division-leading Detroit Tigers and five games back of the final AL wild-card spot. Without all the necessary pieces to make a serious run at the division, the Tribe chose to ship off two of their more high-profile players.

Justin Masterson was the first to go, and the club moved him to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for outfielder James Ramsey.

The second deal saw Asdrubal Cabrera move to the Washington Nationals in exchange for infielder Zach Walters.

Neither deal was groundbreaking in any way, but we'll take an in-depth look at both trades and grade them, and we'll also grade the team's performance at the deadline as a whole. Let's get started.

 

Indians Get: James Ramsey, Cardinals Get: Justin Masterson

It doesn't seem like the Indians were ever actually going to extend Masterson. There were numerous reports throughout the season that the two sides had discussed an extension, but nothing major came out of those talks. Because of that, dealing Masterson was the best thing the team could do.

Unfortunately for the front office, the 29-year-old pitched the Indians right out of a much bigger return package by posting a 5.51 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP over his first 19 starts in 2014. Where teams like the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox were able to bring in big returns for some of their pitchers, the Indians had to settle for Ramsey and Ramsey only.

Ramsey earns high marks for his IQ and leadership qualities. The 24-year-old was captain of the Florida State University baseball team and was also a Rhodes Scholar nominee, per the Baseball America Prospect Handbook.

As far as his abilities on the field are concerned, he is average across the board and has the potential for a plus run tool.

At the plate, Ramsey and his future present a little more of a question mark. He sees the ball very well and draws walks at an above-average rate, with a 12.6 percent walk rate in the minors. He also strikes out quite a bit, though, averaging a 24 percent strikeout rate in 1,024 minor league plate appearances.

Because of this, Ramsey is an inconsistent hitter. He's had a lot of success this season, slashing .300/.389/.527 through 281 plate appearances, but his 23.5 percent strikeout rate shows that things haven't changed all that much.

Ramsey has shown some decent pop for a center fielder, logging 16 and 13 home runs in 2013 and 2014, respectively. At the big league level, the young outfielder doesn't figure to hit for as much power, however, and should be more of a gap hitter.

His immediate big league future is that of a fourth outfielder. The Indians have a bevy of outfield prospects ahead of him in terms of natural ability, but Ramsey is the second-closest outfielder in relation to a big league call-up.

If he's able to stick in center field and hit somewhere near 10 home runs a season, he could profile well as a starting center fielder and No. 2 hitter on an average team.

Grade: B

 

Indians Get: Zach Walters, Nationals Get: Asdrubal Cabrera

Realistically, the Indians should have traded Asdrubal Cabrera after his All-Star campaign in 2012. With free agency just two years away, Cabrera staked himself out to a .270/.338/.423 slash line with 16 home runs, 68 RBI, 70 runs scored and a 90/52 K/BB ratio.

Since then, the veteran shortstop has been trending downward, posting a .244/.301/.395 slash line over 978 plate appearances between the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

Cabrera's abysmal performance in the last two seasons hurt his trade value significantly. The shortstop market ended up being much thinner than once projected, and with players like Alexei Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins and others staying put, he would have commanded a much higher return package.

Instead, from the Nationals, the Indians were able to get shortstop (and sometimes third base) Zach Walters.

Walters ranked as the Nationals' No. 14 prospect, according to the Baseball America Prospect Handbook. He has great pop, racking up at least 12 home runs in each of the last three minor league seasons. The 24-year-old fails to recognize as much of that power as he should, however, striking out at a 23.5 percent clip over the course of his minor league career.

If he continues to swing so freely at the big league level, Walters will get eaten alive by more advanced pitchers.

Defensively, the University of San Diego product is more of a project and requires some additional work if he's going to find a permanent home at either shortstop or third base. If he's able to improve his route-taking and also his first step (unlikely), then he could work as a starting shortstop.

The more likely path for Walters is that of a utility man—think Martin Prado but with less speed and maybe a bit more power.

The move is somewhat puzzling, though, as the Indians already possess a wealth of players with similar career paths. Even so, it cleared a spot for Francisco Lindor to be promoted in the very near future, and that's never a bad thing. 

Grade: C+

 

Overall 

It wasn't a great deadline by any means, but most of that wasn't the Indians' fault. They weren't likely to re-sign both Masterson and Cabrera—especially not Cabrera—so both moves were warranted.

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In addition to that, the poor performances put forth by both players hurt their trade value, leaving the Indians with little wiggle room to acquire better prospects in exchange for expiring contracts.

Perhaps the most important result of either trade was the fact that the Indians were able to open up the starting shortstop gig for top prospect Francisco Lindor. The 20-year-old has torn up minor league pitching and ranks as the best defensive shortstop in the minor leagues.

Getting him some experience in a non-pressure situation will be key to his development, so the team should be commended for that.

All in all, it wasn't a great deadline, but it wasn't horrible, either.

Overall Grade: B-

 

*All stats current through play on August 1, 2014, and are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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