We have advocated for a long time that the Cleveland Indians have strengths in their organization and needed to use some depth in those areas to acquire pieces the ballclub needs.
Those strengths are in the middle infield and bullpen depth.
Yesterday, they did exactly that, trading minor league 2B Joe Wendle to the Oakland A’s for 1B/OF/DH Brandon Moss.
Wendle is a solid prospect, but let’s face it, he stuck behind Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez with the big club, so future playing time in Cleveland has to be considered bleak.
Dealing from strength is the chief reason we like this trade from the Indians’ standpoint.
The other is Moss’s power. Remember the end of August to the middle of September when the only Indian who could hit a home run was Carlos Santana? Moss should take care of that, having hit 76 home runs over the last three seasons.
The newest Indian should enjoy not playing in Oakland’s pitching friendly park. He hit .265 with 13 homers in 272 at bats away from the bay last season, posting an outstanding 831 OPS in 2014.
He is also reported to be a great clubhouse presence, which manager Terry Francona likes to have. We don’t think the front office would bring in a player who would be a problem in the locker room.
He does strike out a lot, whiffing 153 times last season.
That’s just one of the reasons for concern. Moss hit just .173 with 4 dingers in the second half of the season a year ago, battling a bad hip which he had surgery on in the off-season. In fact, it has been reported he will not be ready for spring training.
He also is a left-handed batter, adding yet another to the collection that GM Chris Antonetti is putting together. There is no question the Indians need a solid right-handed bat, and they may still be looking for one, but with Michael Brantley, Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Michael Bourn, the Tribe is vulnerable to southpaw pitchers.
You also have to wonder about the ramifications for the rest of the roster with this move. Moss is primarily a 1B and a DH, he’s not particularly a good outfielder defensively, and the Tribe seems to have Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher currently manning those spots.
The Cleveland defense was shaky last season, so putting Moss and his surgically repaired hip in RF doesn’t really address that area. You have to wonder if Antonetti’s next move is dealing Swisher, if that is possible.
The only way we can see that happening is if the Indians are willing to eat some of his large contract, something the current front office has been loathe to do. We would do it because, let’s say you pay half of the $15 million owed each of the next two years, you would then have $7.5 million to spend elsewhere.
If we were Antonetti, we would still be looking for a right-handed hitter and another innings eater for the rotation. The Tribe still has the bullpen depth and some young back of the rotation arms to dangle.
With the White Sox making a splash in trades and free agency, Antonetti can’t stand pat with the current roster. He still needs to improve the club. We are skeptical, but here’s hoping another decent move is coming for the Cleveland Indians.