The all-star break is over, and quickly, the Cleveland Indians have jumped back into first place in the AL Central Division with a pair of wins over the Orioles, and now have a one game lead over Detroit.
The positioning of these two teams will change almost daily for a while, so fans shouldn’t get too excited by day-to-day alterations by either team, and you can probably add in the White Sox and Twins as well.
However, it is still better to be in first place than not in first place.
Also, this is a critical stretch of games for the Twins, with three against the Royals and four with the Tribe at home over the next week. If Minnesota doesn’t win its share of these contests, they just may have to change their thought process and be sellers rather than buyers at the July 31st trade deadline.
That brings us back to what the Indians’ front office will do over the next two weeks.
We have been adamant that the Tribe needs to upgrade its bench, first and foremost, because they do not have alternatives to give players a day off here and there, and also because of the hope that Shin-Soo Choo will be back sometime in August.
To improve the roster, GM Chris Antonetti needs to get guys who have been productive coming off the pines. That’s why players like Reed Johnson of the Cubs, and Josh Willingham of the A’s seem to be good fits.
Both players can figure into platoon situations with Travis Buck in right field, or as guys who can pinch hit for say a Lonnie Chisenhall against a situational lefty late in a game.
The fact that neither would require dealing a prime prospect is a good thing as well.
The team you have to worry about making a big splash is Detroit. They are looking to add a big-ticket player at the deadline, such as Dodgers’ RHP Hiroki Kuroda or Mets’ OF Carlos Beltran. Getting either would be a huge lift for a team which needs depth in its starting rotation after Justin Verlander, and more pop in the lineup after Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.
If the Tigers get either or both players, it will be tough to be in the Tribe front office and a fan of the team as well.
The problem for Detroit is their farm system is not as deep as Cleveland’s, which means other teams won’t be all that interested in who the Tigers may be willing to give up.
Besides the farm system, the Indians other area of strength is the bullpen.
It has been invaluable to the team all season long, but remember there are options in the minor leagues as well.
We’ve already seen Josh Judy a couple of time this year, and he has performed well at Columbus (3-2, 2.91 ERA and 13 saves, 43 K’s in 34-1/3 innings), but don’t forget Chen Lee, another righty who has pitched at both Akron and Columbus and has been very effective at both places (3-1, 2.05 ERA with 71 strikeouts in 48-1/3 innings).
If Antonetti would include one of his lefties in a deal, Cleveland has LHP Nick Hagadone (5-2, 2.87 ERA. 49 whiffs in 47 innings combined at AA and AAA) ready to step in.
Hagadone is a power lefty, getting it up there in the mid-nineties, and came over in the Martinez deal in 2009.
Look for the Indians to make some sort of move because they have to, both to improve the squad, and also to let the fans know they are serious about making the post-season.
If they don’t the anti-Dolan parade will resume around Progressive Field.