If the Cleveland Indians hope to stay in contention through the dog days of summer, they'll need some help from outside of the organization.
The tribe sprinted out of the gate to a first place standing in the weak American League Central, but have drastically fallen from grace in the past weeks.
Suddenly, the holes are starting to show.
Carlos Santana's inability to communicate with his pitching staff has been on full display, as well as the glaring need for a powerful right handed bat in the middle of the Indians' lefty-heavy lineup.
Most alarming, however, has been the performance of their pitching staff. The Indians' de-facto ace, Fausto Carmona, has lost four straight decisions and hasn't picked up a win since May 3rd. Even more shocking is the recent performance of Josh Tomlin, who has seen his ERA jump almost a full run after surrendering 12 earned runs in his previous two starts.
The staff is filled with young arms, most of whom have never experienced a pennant race before. The wear and tear is beginning to show, even in early June.
What the Cleveland Indians need is a veteran presence to anchor their pitching staff, and guide these young arms in the right direction. (Think Eddie Harris, Major Leagues).
Without any further ado, here's a list of the top nine targets that Cleveland Indians' General Manager Chris Antonetti should target in the weeks leading up to this year's Trade Deadline.
Innings Pitched: 29
The former Cy Young Award winner is currently toiling at the back end of the Chicago White Sox rotation. The White Sox are struggling, and by the time the Trade Deadline rolls around, they may be inclined to become sellers.
Sure, trading within the division isn't likely to be high on the White Sox to-do list, but Chris Antonetti should at least gauge Chicago's interest level in dealing Jake Peavy. However, Peavy has a no-trade clause to 14 undisclosed teams. If the Indians are on that list, Peavy would have to waive the no-trade clause.
Peavy is in the middle year of a three-year, $52 million deal he signed with the Chicago White Sox. He's slated to receive $16 million this season, and $17 million in 2012.
He hasn't been the same Jake Peavy he once was with the San Diego Padres, but given the current state of the Cleveland Indians' rotation, he's worth the risk.
If the Indians can press the White Sox into taking a substantial portion of the $33 million he's owed, it's a no brainer for the tribe. However, Cleveland doesn't want to mortgage their future in return for a year, or two year stop gap.
It's a tricky game here, but the bottom line is the Indians would be foolish not to look into acquiring a veteran arm like Jake Peavy.
Innings Pitched: 83.2
There is certain to be a great deal of intrigue surrounding Carlos Zambrano leading up to this year's Trade Deadline.
Even before this past weekend's comments in which he labeled the Chicago Cubs as an "embarassment", it's been apparent that he's fallen out of favor in Chicago's northside.
Thankfully, one team's trash can be another team's treasure, and that's precisely the case here.
Carlos Zambrano is in the fourth year of his five-year, $91.5 million contract he signed with the Chicago Cubs. He's owed nearly $17.9 million and $18 million in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
The Cubs, who will certainly be out of contention by the time July 31st rolls around, will more than likely assume a majority of Zambrano's contract. In return, they'lll be looking to re-tool their farm system with premium talent, which is something the Indians have in surplus.
However, the Indians have to ask themselves if it's worth taxing their future in order to win now. Zambrano also has a full no-trade clause that would have to be waived in order or the Indians to acquire him.
Innings Pitched: 62.1
The 34 year-old right-hander represents yet another veteran presence that the Cleveland Indians would love to add to the back end of their rotation.
This is a guy that's a consummate professional; he'll take the ball every fifth day and give you his best effort. Lets also not forget, Javier Vazquez recorded double digit wins in each of the past 10 seasons.
Vazquez signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the Florida Marlins this past winter. The deal also includes a full no-trade clause.
However, if Javier Vazquez were to waive the no-trade clause, the Indians could acquire Vazquez for relatively cheap given his performance this season, and expiring contract.
If Vazquez is pitching so poorly this season, why would the Indians want him?
Because they have a chance to pick up a battle-tested pitcher for very little, and having that sort of presence down the stretch of a pennant race can be the difference between winning and losing. Between clinching and choking.
Yes, Jason Kendall has been on the 60-Day Disabled List since late March while he recovers from last September's right rotator cuff surgery.
However, sources say Kendall has started taking live batting practice, and could begin a rehab assignment by month's end. (Yahoo! Sports)
The Kansas City Royals won't have much use for Jason Kendall by late July, as they've already started their annual fade out of contention.
This opens the door for the Cleveland Indians, who would love to acquire a veteran catcher with a reputation for working well with a pitching staff. That's something the tribe is sorely lacking with Carlos Santana behind the dish.
Jason Kendall is in the walk year of the two-year, $6 million contract he signed with the Kansas City Royals. The 36-year-old is set to earn just $3.75 million this year, which is something that has to be appealing to the Indians.
Batting Average: .205
Home Runs: 2
Continuing the theme of veteran leadership is Ivan Rodriguez.
Sure, he's 39 years old, but you can't discount the type of leadership he'd bring to the Cleveland Indians and their pitching staff. This is a guy who's worn a big league uniform for the past 20 years, and he knows what it takes to win in this league.
His bat has slowed down drastically over the years, but he makes up for that in terms of baseball IQ and leadership, something that would be a welcomed commodity to this young Cleveland Indians team.
Pudge is in the contract year of a two-year, $6 million deal with the Washington Nationals.
Given his current performance level, the Washington Nationals wouldn't have the leverage to ask for much in return for his services. Figure a mid level prospect while assuming most of the $3 million Pudge is owed in 2011 will get the deal done.
This isn't an earth shattering move, and it's not going to produce any quick results. He won't be the Indians' everyday catcher, either.
But as the grind of the pennant race wears on, it would be invaluable for the Indians to have Ivan Rodriguez in their corner, leading this young ball club every step of the way.
Batting Average: .208
Home Runs: 7
Rod Barajas brings a much different perspective behind the plate than Jason Kendall and Ivan Rodriguez. He's certainly a veteran who knows how to work with a pitching staff, but he also adds much needed power from the right side of the plate.
The 35-year-old catcher signed a one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the offseason, so it's not as if the Dodgers are feeling pressure to unload him.
They'll certainly go into the Trade Deadline as sellers, and similar to Ivan Rodriguez, a mid level prospect while taking on the money Rod Barajas is owed for the remainder of the season could get this deal done.
Batting Average: .237
Home Runs: 4
What a reunion this would be.
With Jim Thome on the verge of 600 career home runs, it would be a feel good story for him to come full circle and achieve the milestone with the club that drafted him.
However, that frame of mind is sure to be far from General Manager Chris Antonetti's thought process. Instead, Antonetti will likely be intrigued by Jim Thome due to the prodigious power he would bring to the Indians' lineup.
With first baseman Matt LaPorta struggling, the Indians could move Travis Hafner to first base, and use Thome as the primary Designated Hitter (That is, if the Indians don't trade for a catcher, in which case they'd move Carlos Santana to first base).
Thome signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Minnesota Twins this past winter, so money shouldn't be much of an issue here.
The Twins are dwindling in last place in the American League Central, making it likely that they'll field offers for veteran players come the Trade Deadline.
Batting Average: .312
Home Runs: 3
The thought of Michael Young in a Cleveland Indians uniform should be enough to make fans of the tribe salivate. He brings a right handed presence in the middle of the Indians' lefty heavy batting order, and can play multiple infield positions.
However, the price may be too high here.
Michael Young is 34 years old, and the Indians would have to give up a ton in terms of prospects in order to acquire the former American League batting champion.
Not to mention, Young is in the third year of a five-year, $80 million contract with the Texas Rangers. He's slated to make $16 per year, and that price may be enough to drive the Indians away.
Nonetheless, it's an intriguing name for the Indians' front office to ponder.
Michael Young would have to waive his limited no-trade protection for the Indians to acquire him.
Batting Average: .226
Home Runs: 6
Much like Michael Young, the likelihood of the Cleveland Indians pulling the trigger on a trade for David Wright is highly unlikely. The New York Mets' third baseman is currently in the fifth year of a six-year, $55 million deal he signed with the Mets in 2007. He's set to receive $14 million in 2011, and $15 million in 2012.
Given the current financial state of the Mets, if they were to trade David Wright they'd undoubtedly be looking for a team that could take on a majority of his salary; not to mention, they'd be asking for premium talent to bolster their farm system with in return.
This is the face of their franchise, and you can bet if they decide to part ways with him, they'll be asking for top prospect talent.
Wright still fits the bill as a right handed power hitter, something the Cleveland Indians should be on the lookout for come the Trade Deadline. Expect Chris Antonetti to at least gauge the interest level of New York Mets' General Manager Sandy Alderson about a potential David Wright trade.