Rings Shouldn’t Define LeBron’s Greatness

Are we judging LeBron James too harshly?

No, we aren’t talking about the Kyrie Irving situation and all of the drama surrounding that.  That kind of borders on ridiculousness, which is kind of common in today’s NBA.

We are talking about James’ standing among the all time greats of the game of basketball.

When did a players legacy depend on how many championship rings they won?  Really, when did it start?

Was it when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson started talking about how many titles each won to show which was the better player?

Or was it Michael Jordan, who dominated the 1990’s and didn’t let anyone else win any.

In the sixties, the Celtics won virtually every season, but somehow that didn’t make guys like Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Bob Pettit, Oscar Robertson, or Elgin Baylor inferior players.

Heck, West is the logo of the league, and his record in the NBA Finals was 1-8.  His legacy within the game as one of the greatest players ever is without doubt.

Chamberlain was the dominant force in the game in that era, yet we would consider him the best player ever until Jordan ended his career.  The Stilt won two championships.

In the seventies, we remember Rick Barry, a great scorer who may have been the best passer from the forward position before James, and people considered it a capper on his career when he broke through with the Warriors in 1975 and finally won a title.

However, in Jordan’s era, there are many truly great players that don’t get their due from many fans and media alike because they didn’t “get a ring”.

Charles Barkley was a great player.  Nobody can tell us any different.  The same is true with Karl Malone, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, and others.  If you weren’t on Jordan’s team, you didn’t get one.  The same as in Russell’s era.

On the other hand, Robert Horry was a part of seven title teams, Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher were on five championship squads.  Does that make them great players?  Of course not.

If James were to leave the Cavaliers after the 2017-18 campaign, it most likely will be because he sees a better opportunity to win more championships, which is how many will view his career in comparison with Jordan.

That’s what James means when he says he is chasing a ghost.  The ghost of Michael Jordan.

But if we measure greatness in another way, let’s say by appearances in The Finals, then James has the edge, leading his team to eight conference titles, more than anyone who has played in the 21st century.

At this point, James’ legacy shouldn’t depend on how many titles he wins.  If he plays into his late thirties, we could very well wind up as the NBA’s all time leading scorer.

He will also be in the top ten all time in assists.  He would be the only player to rank in the top ten in both scoring and assists.

In addition, he will probably wind up in the top 40 all time in rebounding, and if the Cavs get back to The Finals this season, and they still are the favorites despite all the turnover, he would tie Magic, West, and Tommy Heinsohn with nine conference titles.

Only three players would have made more:  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sam Jones, and Bill Russell.

So, if he’s the all time leading scorer, top ten in assists, top 40 in rebounding, and no one played in more Finals, how can he not be considered the greatest player ever, or at the very least in the top two?

It would be judging harshly if he were criticized for only winning three titles.

JK

 

 

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Doesn’t Look Like Tribe Did Enough In Trade Market (At Least For Now)

The Major League Baseball trade deadline came and went yesterday, and the Cleveland Indians did make one trade, sending two minor leaguers to Toronto for reliever Joe Smith, who will be making his second stint with the Tribe.

Smith, who played for the Indians from 2009-13, compiling a 2.76 ERA and three saves in that period, is a quality relief pitcher.  His lifetime ERA is under 3.00 (2.95), and he is having a great season, with 51 strikeouts in 35 innings this year.

However, being a sidearmer, he is extremely effective against right handed hitters, holding them to an OPS of 588 and a .215 batting average.

Against left-handed hitters, the OPS against is 708, and this year that figure is 749, so he is more like a ROOGY, which will benefit the bullpen, but is that the biggest need for the relief corps.

Our biggest concern, which we discussed in the last post, is the overuse of Andrew Miller, and we don’t see how getting Smith remedies that.

When Smith was a member of Terry Francona’s bullpen in 2013, the only year they were together, he drew the later inning work, with Bryan Shaw working earlier.  Basically, Shaw took Smith’s spot when he departed in free agency following the season.

So, will Francona trust Smith is late inning situations again?

If he does, that will ease the burden on Shaw, Miller, and Cody Allen in the late innings of close games that the Indians are winning.

Francona can say anything he wants, but it is clear there is a pecking order in the bullpen, and when the Tribe has the lead late, he goes to that trio, pretty much on an exclusive basis.

There still is a pressing need for another left-hander, and perhaps Tyler Olson can fill that bill, but do you really think Tito would trust him to get Eric Hosmer out in a key game against Kansas City later this month?

Another factor with Smith is the health of his right arm.  He spent some time on the disabled list earlier in the year with inflammation in his shoulder.

The trust factor is another reason we are surprised GM Mike Chernoff didn’t strengthen the bench as well.

Right now, with Jason Kipnis on the shelf, Francona’s options are Erik Gonzalez, who has a terrible strikeout to walk ratio, or Giovanny Urshela, who is struggling to hit at all.

When Kipnis is back, Gonzalez will return to his utility role, but would the skipper and/or the fans feel comfortable having to put him in to pinch hit if the need was there?

We are all for playing young players, but in a pennant race, wouldn’t you rather have an experienced guy who can hit and can handle the strike zone?

We understand that it takes two to tango, and the Cleveland front office could’ve been eager to make a move, but if other teams were steadfast in wanting Francisco Mejia or Triston McKenzie, we would have passed as well.

Still, it seems like the organization is putting a lot of faith in the return of Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall.  Unfortunately, Kipnis has struggled all year and quite frankly, we don’t know what he will do when he returns.

They also seem to be putting a lot of faith in Danny Salazar’s last two starts.

You try to eliminate as many of the possible weak spots on your roster when making a playoff run, and we aren’t sure the Indians did that.

Hopefully, there are some moves to come in August.

MW

 

Tribe Needs Bullpen Help To Ease Miller’s Workload

Terry Francona likes to say when you think you have too much pitching, you go out and get more.

That holds true today, because even though the Indians lead the American League in team ERA, team president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff are probably looking for more arms before tomorrow’s trading deadline.

The return of Danny Salazar to form should ease the need for another starting pitcher, and eventually, either Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, or Mike Clevinger will go to the bullpen, but another top notch bullpen arm would help the Indians going forward.

It is pretty obvious that when the Tribe has the lead, Francona has confidence in just three guys, closer Cody Allen, rubber armed Bryan Shaw, and the ultimate relief weapon, Andrew Miller.

Two games this week demonstrated this.

Thursday, with Miller and Shaw unavailable due to usage over the past few days, the skipper went with Trevor Bauer for eight innings and over 110 pitches rather than bring someone out of the group that includes Zack McAllister, Nick Goody, and Dan Otero.

And Bauer was pitching in a 2-1 game.

Bauer thrives on throwing so the pitch count wasn’t the issue it might be for others, but it is hard to imagine Tito staying with his starting into the 8th had Miller or Shaw been available.

The next night, Cleveland had a 9-2 lead after six when Salazar was removed from the game.  The Tribe won it, 9-3, but McAllister (7th), Goody (8th), and Shawn Armstrong (9th) all had difficulty recording outs, and the latter two ended the inning in bases loaded situations.

Look, the Indians have post-season aspirations, and they currently lead the AL Central by three games, the concern is keeping the primary relievers fresh for September and October, and that’s why they could use an extra arm in the ‘pen that Francona will trust.

Shaw leads the AL in games pitched with 49.  This isn’t a shock, as he routinely is in the top five in the league in appearances.  He is blessed with that kind of arm, and in spite of the social media critics when he fails, which isn’t often, he gets the job done.

Allen has made just 42 appearances and usually pitches one inning. He has the traditional closer role, and does it quite well.  He has only 19 saves, because the Indians win a lot of games in blowout fashion.

The concern is Miller, and Francona is always talking about reducing his work load, but then he can’t help himself.  The guy is that good.

He has been in 45 games, pitching 53-1/3 innings, ranking 5th in the AL in innings for relievers.

Last night, he threw almost 30 pitches, and our guess is he will tell Tito he can go today, but with a tough schedule coming up this week (at Boston for three, New York at home for four), he should get the day off.

That’s why the Indians needs another arm out there, to lessen Miller’s load.

With Boone Logan likely out for the year, the Indians need another southpaw.  They also need a reliever that can get right-handed and left-handed hitters out.

That would also allow Francona to shorten games even more, particularly in the post-season.

We believe getting another reliever is the primary goal of the front office before tomorrow afternoon at 4 PM.

It could make all the difference going forward for the Cleveland Indians.

MW

Kyrie Is A Flawed Superstar

It sure seems like Kyrie Irving is in the news a lot lately, doesn’t it?

Seriously, ever since it was reported last Friday that Irving has asked the Cleveland Cavaliers to trade him, it has consumed sports fans in northeast Ohio.

Most can’t believe a player of this ability would not want to play on the same team as LeBron James and have a chance at a championship ring each and every season.

Ask guys like Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye what it is like to play in the NBA for over 10 years and not win one, especially Jefferson, who went to The Finals his first two years in the league, and didn’t get back until 2015-16.

As a player, Irving is a four time All Star and an MVP of the game as well.  On the other hand, he has made first, second, or third all NBA teams, just once, in 2014-15.

We would say he is among the top 20 players in the league, although he may be the 5th or 6th best point guard.

Irving has one extraordinary skill.  He finishes around the basket better than any guard we can remember, with the possible exception of Allen Iverson.

Unfortunately, the other aspects of his game are not at that level, and that is why he hasn’t been a regular on the season ending all-NBA teams, and he is not considered one of the two or three best point guards in the sport.

His defense is indifferent.  He does give a better effort in the playoffs, but in the regular season, it seems like opposing point guards can get in the paint anytime they want to.

The same quickness that suits Irving well when he drives to the basket can certainly be used to keep his man in front of him.

He is also not a willing passer.  Granted, the Cavs aren’t a traditional team because much of the offense flows through LeBron James, but one of the reasons the wine and gold struggle when James is on the bench or sitting out a game, is the stop playing the ball movement offense they regularly use.

Irving is a ball stopper.  He receives a pass and his first instinct is to use his remarkable ball handling skills to try to get the ball to the basket.

We understand James plays a lot of isolation ball too, and Irving has had success doing it with the Cavs.  His shot to win the 2016 title was off isolation.

Still, we don’t think anyone would call him a great passer.

Does Irving have the ability to improve defensively and as a passer?  Of course, we say it all the time, the man is uber talented, a gifted basketball player.  It’s more about want to, and that’s why watching him play, it isn’t a shock to hear he wants to be traded so he can be the focal point of the team.

In trading Irving, you probably won’t get the scoring punch he provided, but you may get a better defender and a better passer in the deal.  That may help you against Golden State in the long run.

There are many basketball pundits who felt the Cavs’ strategy of outscoring the Warriors was flawed.

The point is Kyrie Irving is a very good basketball player, but there are reasons he is not in the top ten players in the league.  He has plenty of room in his game for improvement.

JK

 

 

In Midst Of Rocky Times, Cavs Find A Rose

With all of the controversy whirling around the status of Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the wine and gold added another point guard in former NBA MVP Derrick Rose, inking him to a one year deal.

Rose is trying to rebuild his career after being traded a year ago by the Chicago Bulls to the Knicks (ironically, Jose Calderon was in the deal), and suffering through a multitude of knee injuries.

However, it was just two years ago, in the 2015 playoffs, that Rose hit a game winning three point shot to give the Bulls a two game to one lead over the Cavs.

Rose did average 18 points per game last season, his highest total since 2011-12, when he scored 21.2 for Chicago.  He also shot 47.1% from the floor, the best since his second year of his career, the 2009-10 season.

He ranked second in the league in points in the paint for guards last season, and his shooting percentage improved because he basically stopped taking three point shots.

Our concern with Rose has never his ability, it is his ego.

We feel the problems he had in Chicago came after his injury, when Rose still thought he was the Bulls’ best player, when it clearly had become Jimmy Butler.

And last season, he referred to the Knicks as a “super team”, greatly over estimating that team, which failed to make the playoffs.

That won’t be an issue in Cleveland, where everyone knows who the alpha dog is.

The other concern is his injury history.  Although he has played more than 60 games over the last two seasons, you cannot forget he played in just 100 games over a four year period (2011-12 through 2014-15, missing the entire 2012-13 season)

As for Rose’s role, we expect him to be used as a combo guard, perhaps starting beside however the Cavaliers acquire for Kyrie Irving, if they indeed trade him (and we believe they will), and run the offense when James is resting.

He can create his own shot which is something Cleveland lacks, as only James and Irving can do that presently, and no one on the bench is capable of doing it either.

As for the naysayers on this move, remember that the Cavs are only paying Rose the veteran minimum, a little over $2 million per year, a small amount in today’s NBA.

It’s a chance for Rose to get back to playing on a winning team, a squad that has a chance to go deep into the playoffs, and perhaps another trip to The Finals, which would be the veteran’s first trip.

Also, it again was reported that James did reach out to Rose about signing here, again ruining the national narrative that he is not recruiting for the wine and gold this summer.

Even with everything going on with the franchise and that Irving has asked out here, this is a good signing for the Cavs.  We aren’t saying this makes Cleveland the favorite to beat Golden State, but it does make the team better.

That’s all you can ask for at this point.

If James and Irving reconcile, then Rose adds another player who can put pressure on the defense by driving to the basket.  If Irving leaves, he would be more of a factor as a facilitator when James is not in the game.

All in all, this is a positive more for the Cavaliers.

JK

 

 

Irving’s Shocking News Doesn’t Have To Kill Cavs

It was certainly unbelievable Friday afternoon when word come out that Kyrie Irving wanted to be traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

We have said for a long time that it was not a good thing when Irving started talking to former Laker star Kobe Bryant.

After all, Bryant was so self involved as a player that he ran off the most dominant player in the sport, Shaquille O’Neal, after the 2003-04 season, after a stretch where they won three titles and made four Finals appearances in five years.

The Lakers missed the playoffs the following season, and it took Los Angeles four years before they got to The Finals again, and five before they won another title.

By the way, the Lakers never won a title in a season where Bryant led them in win shares.

So, Irving can add another thing in common with Bryant, perhaps the most selfish superstar of his generation.  He wants to separate himself from the most dominant player currently playing in the NBA, LeBron James.

Irving is certainly a gifted player, but he is far from perfect, although his shot gave the Cavaliers a championship, which makes a lot of fans forgive the weaknesses he has in his game.

His lack of effort on defense is one reason he is not considered one of the sport’s best point guards.  In fact, if you are honest, you would rank him 6th or 7th in the league at his position.

And let’s face it, the ball sticks in his hands on offense, and is a primary reason the Cavs struggle when James is out of the game.  For the most part, The King moves the ball.  Yes, there are still times when he dribbles excessively too, but not like Kyrie when LeBron is on the bench.

In those moments, Irving appears to feel like he must take every shot, passing only when he exhausts every option to get his shot off.

You would think with two other all stars on the floor, the wine and gold should function well with LBJ not playing, but since Irving seems to rarely find Kevin Love on the court, the Cavs struggle in those situations.

This doesn’t need to be the end of the Cavs’ run to The Finals.  In fact, it could be the opportunity they need to improve the team and change the dynamic of the roster.

They may be able get more of a traditional point guard, and a better defender at the position and add help in other areas.

Let’s say you can replace Irving with Phoenix’ Eric Bledsoe (21.1 PPG, 6.3 APG), and you can get another very good young player, or perhaps find a way to get Carmelo Anthony, and still sign Derrick Rose as a free agent.

Of course, you would probably have to move Iman Shumpert and perhaps Channing Frye, two players the wine and gold have been looking to move anyway, as well.

Isn’t the Cavaliers roster a little stronger?

LeBron James might be a demanding teammate, but wouldn’t it be better for Irving’s career if he was the second best player on a team that made four straight Finals appearances, and maybe, just maybe won two titles?

Scottie Pippen is considered an all time great, and he was Michael Jordan’s sidekick with the Bulls’ title teams.

That wasn’t good enough for Kobe, err Kyrie Irving.  That’s why it’s hard to believe he can return to the Cavaliers.

JK

 

Tribe Entering A Crucial Stretch

The Cleveland Indians are starting a crucial stretch tomorrow night with a three game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Progressive Field.

The Tribe is coming off a terrible start to the second half of the season, dropping five of six to a pair of last place teams from the Bay Area, the A’s and Giants.

This losing streak, which is actually six losses in the last seven games has allowed the Minnesota Twins to creep within a half game of Cleveland, and it has kept the Royals and even the Tigers within shouting distance.

Hitting continues to be an issue for Terry Francona’s bunch, scoring just 16 runs in the six games, with a team batting average of under .200.

The first two games of the series have the Indians starting two pitchers who we are sure Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway have no idea what to expect in Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar.

Bauer didn’t get out of the first inning in his last start and has an ERA of 5.59 for the season.  He has completed six innings in just eight of his 18 starts this season.

Salazar has been on the disabled list for awhile and has an ERA of 5.40, and has pitched six innings or more in just three of 10 starts.

Not exactly a great way to start a series in which you really need to play well and start putting games in the win column.

Injuries are also affecting the Tribe, as they are missing 2B Jason Kipnis and OF Lonnie Chisenhall right now, and lost reliever Boone Logan on Wednesday to a lat strain.

The bullpen is also leaking oil a bit, with closer Cody Allen having an ERA of 4.00 since May 1st, and Bryan Shaw has pitched 4-1/3 innings since July 1st, allowing eight hits and six runs, four of them earned.

In short, there’s a lot going wrong for the Cleveland Indians right now.  Add to that, the team isn’t sure if Corey Kluber, already moved back from tomorrow to Sunday because of a sore neck, can make that start.

If the Indians want to get it going, solid starts from Bauer and Salazar would go a long way, but the problem is based on history from this season, the bullpen will need to be involved greatly in the first two games.

And we know right now, Francona only has confidence in using his “big three” of Allen, Shaw, and Andrew Miller when he’s ahead and the game is close.

What’s gone right this season?

Jose Ramirez has shown his 2016 season was no fluke, emerging as one of the American League’s best players this season.  The best thing about the Indians might be that their best players are 24 (Ramirez) and 23 years of age (Francisco Lindor).

Mike Clevinger is starting to establish himself as a major league starter, and has an ERA of 2.73 over 12 starts.

Bradley Zimmer looks like he can be a good major league player.  He’s played very good defense in centerfield, which was needed, but has cooled off a little after a very good start hitting.

And Chisenhall has had a career season to date, although he has missed time due to injuries.

That’s about it.

Still, the Indians have the lead in the division.  As Francona says often, this team needs to play a clean game.  That means catching the ball, throwing to the right base, and moving runners on offense.

In the six games since the break, they’ve done very little of those things.

They need to rediscover them tonight.

MW

 

Time For Tribe To Put Up

The Cleveland Indians continue to be a very difficult team to watch.

We know they won the second most games in the American League a year ago and advanced to the World Series for the first time since 1997.

Yes, they lost Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis in the off-season, but they signed the top slugger on the market in Edwin Encarnacion to replace the former.  By the way, both Napoli and Davis are suffering through terrible seasons.

They have the second best ERA in the American League despite a starting rotation that has suffered through an injury to Danny Salazar, and wild inconsistency from Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer.

However, they sit with a 48-44 record through 92 games.  It’s not early anymore, the Indians have played more than half of their schedule.

They looked to be turning the corner in the middle of June when they took seven of eight on a trip to Minnesota and Baltimore, and after a brief hiccup against the Twins at Progressive Field, went 8-5 before taking time off for the All Star Game.

The offense still hasn’t returned from the break.

The Tribe was swept in Oakland without scoring more than three runs in a game, and after a 5-3 win in San Francisco on Monday, they lost to the Giants 2-1 in 10 innings.

We understand Terry Francona’s crew is missing Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall due to injuries, but Kipnis wasn’t hitting before he was hurt.

The schedule for August features games against the Red Sox, Yankees, Rockies, Rays, Twins and Royals.  What do all those teams have in common?  They are very much in the thick of the post-season race.

It is clearly time for the Cleveland Indians to put up or shut up.

Yes, we know the apologists for the team will point out they remain in first place, currently a game and a half ahead of the Twins.

But really, does anyone think this team is playing up to its potential?

Last night’s ninth inning illustrates one of the problems the hitters have had this season.

After a lead off walk to Encarnacion, two of the next three hitters, Jose Ramirez and Yan Gomes, swung at the first pitch they saw.  Ramirez did it immediately after the free pass.

Gomes swings at the first pitch in clutch situations on a consistent basis.  You are helping out the pitcher in that situation by doing this.

With all the struggles, Francona continues to use basically the same batting order.  In the hot streak we talked about earlier, Ramirez was hitting third, but Tito doesn’t want to move him out of the #5 hole.

This could be another case of the skipper being more stubborn than patient.

We have written about this before, but moving Michael Brantley and his .361 on base percentage to the leadoff spot, especially he has just 23 extra base hits for the season.

The only regular with less is Gomes, whose offensive struggles are well documented.

Should Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff be looking for another bat?

Cody Allen should also be under a little scrutiny.  After recording a 0.90 ERA in April in 10 innings, he’s allowed 12 earned runs in 27 innings (4.00 ERA) since the beginning of May.

If Salazar can regain his form, perhaps the front office should be looking for another bullpen arm.

The trade deadline is less than two weeks away, and we know this front office has been aggressive about improving the Indians.

Right now, the leaks are popping up quickly.  The real issue is there is talent on this roster and it is time for the players to start playing like they can.

MW

 

 

 

No GM, No Big Moves, But Cavs Still Team To Beat In East

Ever since the Cleveland Cavaliers lost Game 5 of the NBA Finals, thus losing the series, it seems like a black cloud has followed the franchise, at least if you listen to the national media.

First, GM David Griffin and owner Dan Gilbert couldn’t reach an agreement on the former’s future with the team and parted ways.

Then, they tried and failed to get Paul George in a trade with Indiana before the draft, and despite the lack of a GM, this one is really on the Pacers, because their general manager killed the deal.

And according to who you listen to the Cavs have lost out on other free agents too, even though most of those players received contract offers much greater than the Cavaliers can pay because of the salary cap.

However, one thing has not changed with the franchise.  They are still the best team in the Eastern Conference and the odds on favorite to return to The Finals for the fourth consecutive year.

That, my friends gives them a one in two chance to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA Champs.

The team with the best record in the regular season in the East, the Celtics added the prime free agent available this summer in Gordon Hayward, but they also lost Avery Bradley, an excellent defensive guard in a deal with Detroit to clear cap space.

The other challengers in the East, the Wizards, really haven’t added a significant piece, although they helped their bench, and Toronto’s point guard, Kyle Lowry got another year older, and they traded D’Marre Carroll and lost P.J. Tucker as a free agent.

Meanwhile, the Cavs still have the big three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, who together have lost just one playoff series in the last three seasons.

They also still have Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and kept shooter extraordinaire, Kyle Korver.

The only players lost to this point by Cleveland are the free agents, Deron Williams and James Jones, and the latter is probably going to retire.

Now, we aren’t thrilled with the Jose Calderon signing, but getting Jeff Green is a solid move, and we will have to wait and see if Cedi Osman will be able to play in the NBA.

Whoever the new GM is, and it will probably be Koby Altman, still has some of the mid-level exemption to use to sign more players, and of course, there is the veteran minimum as well.

Some of the players we have talked about recently (Shabazz Muhammad, Jeff Withey, etc.) are still available and with cap space drying up around the league, who knows, perhaps a player like that will fall into the wine and gold’s hands.

As for James’ future, which everyone nationally has him leaving after the 2017-18 season, for every reason “experts” speculate why he will leave, we can think of one why he will remain in northeast Ohio.

FYI, that’s not a prediction, because we don’t think anyone, except for LeBron and his people, knows what he is thinking about right now.

What we do know is the Cavaliers will be a very good team at the start of the regular season and everyone should enjoy it because they will be the team to beat in the East.

As for the West?  Houston and Oklahoma City are challenging Golden State, and you can never forget about San Antonio.

The national media’s worries?  First, the off-season still has about two and a half months to go, so more moves could be coming.

But really, nothing has changed since the Cavs rolled through the East with just one loss in the conference playoffs.

JK

 

The Mejia Question For Tribe.

The All Star break is over, and now the eyes of baseball shifts to the trading deadline at the end of this month.

And that leads to speculation about the Indians’ top prospects, catcher Francisco Mejia and pitcher Triston McKenzie.

Mejia gets even more scrutiny because of the offensive production on the catchers on the big league roster, Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez.

Gomes has an OPS of 680, and is hitting just .222 with a .315 on base percentage.  Perez is even worse with a 517 OPS and his batting average is just .178.  Combined, the two backstops have 6 HR and 36 RBI.

Mejia has all the look of a professional hitter.  A switch-hitter, he is hitting .334 with 9 HR and 34 RBI at AA Akron, and has a 928 OPS.  This following a season where he had a 50 game hitting streak, and combined at Class A Lynchburg and Akron, he hit .342 with 11 homers and 80 runs batted in.

He also doesn’t strike out, which is huge in today’s game where swinging and missing is plentiful.  His high in whiffs is 78 in 446 at bats, and that was during his worst year in the minors, when he hit .243 at Lake County in 2015.

One thing we know, or should know, about the Tribe front office is they value defense, pitch framing, and handling a pitching staff the most from their catchers.  If they can hit, that’s great, but they don’t seem to be in a hurry to replace Gomes or Perez behind the plate, because they do those other things very well.

Baseball Prospectus ranked Mejia as the third best prospect in the game, and said they would rank him first if they knew the Dominican native was going to remain behind the plate long term.

The reason for that is Mejia’s size, he’s 5’10” and weighs 180 pounds.  By contrast, Gomes is 6’2″, 215, and Perez is 5’11”, but weighs 220 pounds.

Ivan Rodriguez, who will be inducted into Cooperstown later this month, was only 5’9″, but weighed 205 pounds, so Mejia can get a little bigger and be a catcher for a long time in the big leagues.

On the other hand, Mejia looks like the kind of hitter that is special, and do the Indians want that bat to be subject to the daily grind and pounding a catcher takes, and perhaps shorten his career.

Look at Joe Mauer, who is much bigger than Mejia, but was an elite hitter as a catcher, with an OPS over 800 nine times in his first ten full seasons, and a winner of three batting titles.

He was basically done as a premier hitter at age 30 in 2013.

Do the Indians want to subject Mejia to that pounding or perhaps move him to another position and keep a possibly elite bat in their lineup for a long time.

Obviously, the Tribe front office would rather not deal Mejia, but they may have to if they are making a deal like the one that brought them Andrew Miller last year.  In fact, remember he was involved in the ill-fated deal with Milwaukee that Jonathan Lucroy vetoed.

By the end of the month, we will see if the Indians dodged a bullet with that move, or they don’t think Mejia can become the type of catcher they would be comfortable with defensively.

He is purported to have a great arm and gets out of his crouch quickly, so we would be talking about pitch framing and handling the hurlers.

When you understand what Cleveland wants from the position, you can understand why Mejia is not in the Indians’ plans for this season.

Is he is their plans long term?  We will find out in a couple of weeks.

MW