The second half of the baseball season starts tomorrow night, and the Cleveland Indians are in good position to make the playoffs.
They have a 6-1/2 game lead in the American League Central Division and after they return from the trip they start tomorrow, they will play 39 of their last 65 contests at Progressive Field.
So, the question is does the Tribe need to make a move before the July 31st trading deadline? After all, they lead the AL in ERA and rank third in the league in runs scored per game.
Don’t they have enough on the current roster to win the division? Isn’t Michael Brantley getting ready to come back, giving the team an added bat?
The reason is simply this…president Chris Antonetti, GM Mike Chernoff, and skipper Terry Francona cannot assume that everything that went well in the first half is going to continue after the All Star break.
Jose Ramirez has been arguably the team’s most valuable player in the first half, filling in for Brantley and hitting .295 with a 769 OPS. His prior career high in these categories is .262 with a 646 OPS.
Now, Ramirez is just 23 years old and is improving day by day as he should be, but what if he wears down because this is the most he’s played at the big league level?
Tyler Naquin was a solid hitter in the minors, but what he has done at the big league level is eye popping. He has a 965 OPS and 21 extra base hits in 159 at bats. Even the most ardent supporter of the rookie can’t think that’s going to continue.
Lonnie Chisenhall is 27 years old now and should be entering the prime of his career. He entered the break hitting .299 with a 819 OPS, both highs for his time in the bigs.
He has had hot streaks like this before, though. In 2014, Chisenhall was hitting .332 with 9 HR and 41 RBI in the first half of the year. After that, he hit .218 with an OPS of 591.
You have to have an alternative if this happens again. We aren’t saying it will, but you have to be ready.
Rajai Davis (35 years old) and Mike Napoli (34) have been huge for the Indians in the first half, but Francona has leaned on them a lot, probably more than he planned going into the season, but Brantley’s injury and the suspensions of Abraham Almonte and Marlon Byrd changed those plans.
The front office has to be prepared for a possible fall off in production from that duo.
And while Brantley should be back by at latest the beginning of August, there is no telling if he will hit like the guy who finished 3rd in the MVP voting in 2014. There may be a period of adjustment or he may wind up being 75%. Still a solid player, but not producing like normal.
Look, we aren’t saying all of these players will decline in the second half, but a good front office has to anticipate that things will go wrong. Getting another bat will allow Francona to give some players a rest and that player could be plugged in if someone regresses after the break.
And it never hurts to upgrade your bullpen, but that has been addressed before.
Yes, the Indians have good chemistry and have a very good team. However, you can still make it better.
The Tribe needs to do everything it can to win the division and avoid the dreaded, one game wild card playoff.
That’s why you make a move. It may just put you in the World Series.