It’s almost the end of June, and that means baseball’s busiest trading season is just around the corner. Barring a complete collapse over the next few weeks, the Indians look like buyers as we head towards the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
So in this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists (featuring guest contributor Mike Brandyberry from Did The Tribe Win Last Night?): What is the one place where the Indians need to upgrade most before the trade deadline? Here’s what we all had to say:
Mike Brandyberry (Did The Tribe Win Last Night?): The Indians need to most improve their offense. Another bat (or two) will make all of their weaknesses a little stronger. Some offensive pop would give the starting pitchers a little more wiggle room to not have to feel so perfect. Most importantly, some more offensive pop will take some pressure off the Indians’ entire team. They never win in a blowout, it is why their run differential is deep into the negative. They either win by a run in a high, pressure game, or lose a blowout. Clearly the Johnny Damon and Shelley Duncan projects have failed. They need to find an outfielder that can produce some runs.
Lewie Pollis: With apologies to left field, where there are at least a number of options, the biggest hole right now is at first base. Casey Kotchman simply isn’t cut out for the job—even after you account for the role that his low BABIP has played in his struggles and give him extra credit for his strong defense, he just doesn’t have what it takes to be a starting first baseman. The only other option the Indians have really considered this year is Jose Lopez, who is like Kotchman but with lower upside and worse fielding.
The only player in the organization who might have what it takes to play first base for a contending team is Matt LaPorta, but the Indians clearly have no faith in him. So the Tribe’s top priority should be finding a first baseman who can both hold his own in the middle of the other and earn the approval of Manny Acta.
Katie Hendershot: The Indians have their fair share of weaknesses, but I think the biggest problem in the one in left field. There are no immediate options within the farm system to address it, which makes it such a concern. Johnny Damon hasn’t performed as well as the Indians need him to. He has shown improvement at the plate lately, but his defense has caused a lot of problems. Aaron Cunningham is hitting only .194 in 51 games. Shelley Duncan hasn’t been much better and isn’t suited for an everyday role.
The Indians need an upgrade in the outfield both defensively and offensively. There doesn’t seem to be much coming from their current options, including Damon.
Brian Heise: I still feel like the Indians need to upgrade their current left field situtation. Johnny Damon appears to have some value as he grows more comfortable at the plate, but Shelley Duncan and Aaron Cunningham aren’t contributing anything right now, especially Duncan who was being relied on as a right handed addition to the lineup versus lefties.
The Indians could really use a solid, right handed, middle of the order type of hitter who can play everyday, no questions asked. Whether or not a player like that will be available in the trade market is anyone’s best guess thanks to the plethora of teams in contention. But if the Indians can find that guy for the right price it could go a long way in helping balance out the lineup and solidify each guy’s spot surrounding him in the order. If this is something the Indians are planning on persuimg it had best be sooner rather than later before an already shallow market dries up.
Merritt Rohlfing: The biggest hole in the indians roster is in left field. First is bereft of offense, though as Lewie pointed out Kotchman is better than his numbers, and Lopez is a decent fill-in. Damon has turned the corner a bit (6-for-16 with a homer and three walks the last week) so maybe he’s getting comfortable, but he’s still mediocre defensively at best (why else do we see Aaron Cunningham?) and at an offense-first position its just not cutting it. If Sizemore were healthy or LaPorta could hit a breaking ball, it’d be a different story, but if I could make cheesesteaks appear out of thin air I’d weigh 500 pounds. There’s got to be someone out there, right?