With the 2018 baseball season now two-thirds of the way over, it’s time to start assessing where the Indians are at right now in some various areas. Check back regularly to get my take on post-season chances, streaking and slumping players, Cy Young and MVP updates, and my man crush on Mike Clevinger, among other things.
The non-waiver trade deadline came and went last week and the Indians’ business was somewhat baffling. Our early moves and intents seemed to indicate that we were ready to go all-in, but we then balked at making a final splash. Let’s break that down.
Who We Got
You didn’t need an expert to tell you that the Tribe’s bullpen was the obvious area of weakness (which is the nicest way to say “absolute pile of shit”) leading up to the trade deadline. Andrew Miller can’t stay healthy, Cody Allen has an ERA pushing 4.50, and last season’s reliable front-end guys like Otero and Olson have been miserable. Adding Oliver Perez helped, but the Tribe absolutely had to get bullpen help.
The good news is that we got that help. Brad Hand is an all-star closer that has already shown he can pitch more than an inning as the situation calls for, much like Andrew Miller in 2016, and Adam Cimber, up until Friday’s meltdown, has been a reliable middle of the bullpen guy. Neither name is as flashy as Miller when we traded for him two years ago, but Allen, Miller, and Hand should be solid enough moving into the post-season to keep the bullpen from costing us too many more games. The other positive is that Hand and Cimber are controlled for multiple seasons giving us some protection if we are unable to keep Allen or Miller.
We also needed outfield help, which we addressed by adding Tigers’ CF Leonys Martin. Martin was certainly a disappointing name for Indians fans who spent the week leading up hearing names like Bryce Harper and Adam Jones, but in three appearances for the Tribe, Martin is hitting .500 with two home runs and three RBI’s. He is also known mostly for his defensive abilities which we were desperately lacking at CF this year. If Martin can continue to produce from the bottom of the order, this largely unheralded trade could actually be what puts us over the top.
What We Gave Up
This is where you start to lose me. The Indians did not have a strong farm system leading up to the trade deadline and now we’ve pretty much killed it off completely. The only truly valuable piece in the system was Francisco Meija which is what we gave up to the Padres for Hand and Cimber. Meija, by almost all accounts, was one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Obviously, in order to add mid-season reinforcements, especially ones with multiple years on their contracts, you have to sacrifice some top prospects, but Meija still was an extremely tough piece to lose. We also gave up Willi Castro, largely considered one of the best infielders in our system, for Leonys Martin. Again, if Martin continues to produce like he is now, this will be worth the sacrifice. But at the time, moving another top piece for a career .250 hitter seemed like a strange move.
Did We Do Enough?
By my account, we were clearly the fourth best team in the American League before the trade deadline and we are still the fourth best team in the American League now. It also cost us one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Sure, we closed the gap between the three front-runners and upsetting the Astros or Red Sox in the first round is more likely than it was a month ago, but I mostly feel like we ended up in no man’s land.
When I saw the move for Hand and Cimber, I assumed that was going to be the first of a few big splashes we made. Obviously Meija was tough to give up, but we no doubt needed bullpen help and I thought it was a good trade. Again, I thought it was a good trade because I thought it signaled that we were going all-in. Instead, though, we made no other major trades and now have lost our best prospect without getting much better off. Our window is going to start closing faster and faster and all we really did was hurt our chances building for the future while not really putting ourselves in a position to win this year either. I hope I’m wrong, and Martin has been better than expected, but going halfway in doesn’t help us this year and it doesn’t help us going forward. I would say we definitely did not do enough, and, although anything can happen in the MLB playoffs, we seem to have blown up our farm system to accomplish what we could have accomplished (winning the Central, losing the ALDS) without doing so.