It was an idea I first saw written by Lewie Pollis on his Indians blog Wahoo Blues that I thought, at the time, was ludicrous. Pollis suggested that if the Indians continue to contend, they should reach out to the New York Mets and trade for Jose Reyes.
While many would not see how Reyes would fit into the Tribe's lineup—since Cleveland has an MVP candidate at shortstop already in Asdrubal Cabrera—Reyes would actually fit perfectly.
Orlando Cabrera is simply a stopgap for top prospect Jason Kipnis. His bat has been less than spectacular as of late and he would be a much better fit as a utility infielder where he could continue to be a clubhouse leader. If Reyes puts on the Chief Wahoo cap, Asdrubal Cabrera could shift over to second base with Cabrera riding the bench.
But hasn't Cabrera been a spectacular defensive shortstop?
While he does have one of the plays of the year, as Pollis points out, his UZR is actually a dreadful -5.9. This means that when Cabrera has the ball in his hands he does spectacular things, but he cannot reach the ball nearly as much as an average defensive shortstop. Meanwhile Reyes has been much better with a UZR of 2.4 so far in 2011.
While the Tribe's defense has been credited for much of their success this season, the Indians could actually improve their infield by acquiring Reyes.
The next part is Reyes' bat.
Having a top-flight leadoff hitter like Reyes—.314 BA and 17 SB—could help the Indians with one of their biggest issues—scoring early. The Tribe have won many games late, but that's because they have trouble scoring early and find themselves in a hole by the seventh and eighth innings where they start to heat up.
While Michael Brantley has been spectacular so far this season, he is only batting .204 when leading off an inning. That is a far cry away from his current .289 BA, meaning he is much better suited in the middle of the lineup. Acta loves having Sizemore in the leadoff, but with his knees now becoming an issue, he cannot run as much. Sizemore's value is in his bat alone at this point, so batting him in the middle would be best. Adding in Reyes, the Tribe's lineup could look something like this:
1. Jose Reyes, SS
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
3. Shin Soo-Choo, RF
4. Carlos Santana, C
5. Travis Hafner, DH
6. Grady Sizemore, CF
7. Michael Brantley, LF
8. Matt LaPorta, 1B
9. Jack Hannahan/Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (depending on when Chisenhall gets called up)
Now that looks more like a championship winning club.
So Reyes can already improve the Indians' defense and offense, but what would it take to acquire the Mets' superstar shortstop? The Indians have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, so I'm sure general manager Chris Antonetti could spare a couple of prospects for Reyes. A deal could look something like this:
New York Mets send:
Jose Reyes, SS
Cleveland Indians send:
Jason Kipnis, 2B
Kyle Blair, SP
Player to be named
While the Mets might want a pitcher of a higher caliber than Blair, the Indians' fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft, if the Tribe can keep Drew Pomeranz, Jason Knapp and Alex White, I'll consider it a good trade.
Many Tribe fans probably would not approve of dealing Kipnis, but with Cabrera now entrenched at second base, there would be no way to fit in Kipnis' bat.
Then the issue arises of re-signing Reyes. Reyes would command a massive contract on the open market, being a superstar player at a premium position. Cleveland might not have the ability to sign him to such a contract. In that case, the Indians would receive a ton of compensatory picks and the Tribe has done a great job in the draft lately.
But if the Indians lose Reyes, Cabrera would move back to short and we have no heir apparent at second base, right?
Wrong. Second base prospect Cord Phelps has actually outperformed Kipnis to this point at Triple-A Columbus. Kipnis got all the notoriety last year, but Phelps is just as talented, if not more. The Tribe would have a sound backup plan if Reyes ends up just being a lease for the pennant race.
So Reyes to Cleveland actually makes a ton of sense. The Indians have depth at both second base and pitcher, so they could spare some prospects there. If Cleveland could work out a deal like the one listed above, I think Reyes could be in Progressive Field sooner than you think.
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