A lot of discussion has gone on over the past few days about the direction the Cleveland Indians need to go in this winter. While no one questions whether or not the Tribe needs to get more hitting, the question remains, how to do it.
The Indians finished in the top half of the American League in both runs scored (7th) and in ERA (6th), but no one who watched the team play this season has any doubt the ballclub needs another proven hitter and better defense.
One of the ways suggested to get the hitting Terry Francona’s team needs is to trade one of their pitchers, based on the outstanding work of the starting rotation over the last two months.
However, we would suggest this is not the proper move.
First, it would be a repeat of the pattern the Tribe front office used throughout the 70’s and 80’s, when they would collect hitters and have no pitching. Then, they would trade those hitters to get pitchers, thus creating a team with solid pitching but could not hit.
And then they would repeat the cycle all over again.
Quite frankly, beyond the five pitchers Cleveland used in the rotation at the end of the year (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and T.J. House), there isn’t a lot of depth in the system.
And of those five starters, beyond Kluber, only Bauer demonstrated effectiveness over more than the last two months in 2014. This isn’t to say the others are flashes in the pan, it is only to show the lack of an established track record.
We have said this before and will repeat, the two areas where the Indians have some depth is in the bullpen and in the middle infield.
With youngsters on the horizon like C.C. Lee, Austin Adams, and guys coming up like Shawn Armstrong, Louis Head, and Tyler Sturdivant, and the emergence of Zack McAllister as another power arm to use in relief, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a Bryan Shaw included in a deal.
Shaw has been used hard by Francona and Mickey Callaway over the past two years, and it may be prudent to sell high on the right-hander before his performance drops from the excess use.
In the middle infield, the Indians have 2B Jason Kipnis, coming off a bad year, SS Jose Ramirez, just 22-years-old, and the team’s best prospect, SS Francisco Lindor. They also have Ronny Rodriguez and Erik Gonzales, who both finished the year at AA Akron.
Kipnis is established and if the front office wants to make room for Lindor, then Ramirez is a solid trade chip, a middle infielder who has great speed, and hit .262 playing regularly over August and September. There are many teams around the majors who are always looking for help in the middle of the diamond.
Another possible chip could be reserve catcher Roberto Perez, who hit .271 in 85 at bats backing up Yan Gomes after Carlos Santana was shifted to first base. Perez is just 26-years-old and probably too young to be in a back up role, so teams looking for catchers could be interested.
Besides, with Gomes getting the bulk of the time behind the plate, the Indians don’t need to look too hard to find someone to play 30-40 games in a season.
There is no question the Indians need to get a bat or two, but dealing a starting pitcher isn’t the way to do it.