Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline is just four days away, and nobody’s quite sure what (if anything) the Cleveland Indians will do. So in this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists—featuring guest contributors Charlie Adams from Indians Prospect Insider and Nino Colla from The Tribe Daily—to propose a deal the Indians could make and explain why both sides would agree to it. Here’s what we came up with.
Charlie Adams (Indians Prospect Insider): The point of trades is essentially to address areas of weakness by dealing from strengths. The two areas of weakness talked about most of the year have been left field and first base. Johnny Damon has posted back-to-back months of .700+ OPS and a wRC of 100+ while playing at least better than average defense (he gets pulled, but Damon isn’t a liability unless he needs to throw). Casey Kotchman has had a mixed bag, playing up and down at the plate and being perceived as an elite defender, but not having been rated as such since his days in Anaheim (when it was still called Anaheim).
The Indians have a problem with pitchers. Jimenez and Masterson are inconsistent, Lowe has earned his contract thanks to a great start, but he is running out of gas. Tomlin is a #4 at best, Hernandez can’t be counted on for much. Bottom line: the starting rotation isn’t so much bad as it is a question mark. The Indians’ bullpen needs a true swing guy: someone that can more consistently bridge the gap from the variable starters to the powerful back end of the pen.
The trade I propose is to go get Jason Vargas from the Mariners for Tyler Holt and Loek Van Mil. Vargas puts another lefty in the pen, he can serve as a starter and would be a terrific swingman to ameliorate the pen. The trade comes with limited downside as the Indians give up little and would need to take on little in return due to the fact that Vargas only has a year of arbitation left and is making $4.85 million this year.
Nino Colla (The Tribe Daily): Indians acquire Paul Maholm (LHP) and cash from the Chicago Cubs for T.J. McFarland (LHP) and Bo Greenwell (OF). Here’s why this makes sense. The Indians not only acquire a starting pitcher, but they get a left-handed one at that to break up their rotation. Maholm can slide into the middle part between Justin Masterson/Ubaldo Jimenez and Roberto Hernandez/Zach McAllister/Josh Tomlin/Derek Lowe and be an effective piece. This is someone who can fit into the rotation well as he is yet another groundball pitcher, ranking second in the NL in ground ball double plays induced, a 1.07 ground ball to fly ball ratio. He’ll only continue to have a good year with the Indians’ infield defense behind him.
As for the package given up, it may hurt to lose a left-handed prospect like McFarland, but after some success in Akron, he has struggled for the Clippers this season. He still has potential, but the Indians can’t sit to wait around for it. Greenwell is a younger outfielder with some promise, but Maholm is having a good year, and if the Cubs pay the rest of his salary or most of it (nearly $2 million), the Indians can give up a bit more for him. Even in this, they aren’t breaking their prospect bank. The Indians have not been linked to Maholm, but the Pirates and Royals have expressed interest in acquiring him and the Cubs are dumping all their other pitchers, so why not? If the Indians wanted, they could even pick up his club option in 2013.
Lewie Pollis: I’ve already fleshed this idea out in more detail, but my ideal trade would be to send Chris Perez to the Angels for Peter Bourjos. Perez is great, but his value is probably at its peak right now and he’s going to get very expensive soon, plus Vinnie Pestano is a capable closer in waiting. Bourjos, on the other hand, is under affordable team control through 2016. He’s an absolute wizard in center field who could hold down that spot for years, to come while allowing Michael Brantley to move back to left, where he’s more comfortable. Plus he’s right-handed and even in a down year he’s hitting about as well as Johnny Damon is right now.
This deal might sound a bit unrealistic, but if certain rumors are to be believed—namely, that Los Angeles is willing to trade Bourjos for a high-end reliever—then this trade would probably work. If he’s traded Perez would likely be the best reliever to change hands this month, so the Angels probably wouldn’t be able to do any better.
Geordy Boveroux: The Indians trade Chris Perez to the Blue Jays for Adam Lind. This is a simple strength for strength deal that puts both teams in a much better position to compete not just in 2012, but for the next few years. Perez doesn’t hit the open market until 2015, and Lind has a team-friendly contract with three team options that keep him in control until 2016. Toronto gets its late-inning bullpen help to replace Sergio Santos who can’t get off the DL, and the Indians get their first baseman of the next few years.
Steve Kinsella: My trade would be Jason Vargas and Brandon League from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for T.J. McFarland, Tim Fedroff, and a low-level minor leaguer. Fedroff would be a good fit in the spacious outfield in Seattle while McFarland gives them an additional young arm to add to the trio of Taiijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, and James Paxton.
In Vargas the Indians add a left handed starting pitcher, something they currently lack, that will be a part of the 2013 starting rotation and another back end reliever to add to the bullpen that only costs them about $2 million of assumed salary.
Brian Heise: Thanks to the emergence of Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo to go along with Torii Hunter and Peter Bourjos in the Angels no longer in need of the services of Vernon Wells. It’s been reported that The Angels want to trade Wells rather than retain his services as a fifth outfielder once he comes off the DL. Knowing this removes any and all leverage the Angels may have once had in trying to trade the former all-star.
However, Wells’ contract situation makes things tricky. He is owed $21 million per year through 2014 and the Angels will be forced to eat a hefty chunk of Wells’ remaining salary in order to dump him. The Indians could offer two lower level prospects in exchange for Wells. In addition, the Angels would have to agree to absorb at least $22 million of Wells’ $42 million owed in through 2014 That leaves the Indians on the hook for a much more reasonable $10 million or less per year.
Also, it’s not as if Wells is washed up. He hit .247 with 56 home runs and 154 RBI combined in 2010 and 2011 and would provide the Indians with a more formidable right handed hitting option. He could also transition smoothly to DH in 2013 and 2014 should the Indians not retain Hafner.
Ed Carroll: Lewie brought up the idea of trading Chris Perez for Peter Bourjos earlier, but reports swirled last week that he may be on the move for Tampa Bay’s James Shields. As of yet, that deal hasn’t materialized, so I say the Indians should up the ante. Using the framework of the Angels’ side of the Shields deal (Bourjos and catcher Hank Conger), I’d offer Perez and fellow relief maestro Joe Smith to Los Angeles.
It may be a bitter pill for Bullpen Mafia-loving Tribe fans to swallow, but both relievers will get expensive soon. Although they are excellent relievers, they’re still relievers, and relievers grow on trees. In return, the Indians get a dynamo center fielder as well as a catcher who could split time with Lou Marson. Carlos Santana moves to first base, at least for the rest of this year, alleviating some of his issues due to his concussion. The Indians might have to throw in an organizational starter such as Jeanmar Gomez (and I’d even be willing to throw in a guy like Josh Tomlin instead at this point), but it’d be worth it for a good young everyday player like Bourjos.
Katie Hendershot: I don’t want to see Shin-Soo Choo go. With the current state of the Indians outfield, getting rid of Choo seems like a tough sell. The Indians aren’t in the best position to make it to the playoffs this year, and even if they did, they wouldn’t have the starting pitching to do much. With that in mind, the Indians are reportedly looking to see what kind of value Choo has in terms of starting pitching prospects. A better rotation could be the key to the Indians being in contention next year.
The Pirates are rumored to have had a scout at the Indians game on Thursday, possibly to get a look at Choo. I can only imagine that if the Indians were to entertain the possibility of trading Choo to the Pirates, they would want one of their top pitching prospects in either Jameson Taillon, Gerrit Cole, Luis Heredia, or Jeff Locke. The Pirates have had outfield struggles with the exception of Andrew McCutchen. They have a real chance at the playoffs this year and could use another outfield bat, but I’m not sure how willing they are to part with any of those prospects.
Topics: Adam Lind, Bo Greenwell, Brandon League, Chicago Cubs, Chris Perez, Gerrit Cole, Hank Conger, Jameson Taillon, Jason Vargas, Jeff Locke, Joe Smith, Loek Van Mil, Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim, Luis Heredia, Paul Maholm, Peter Bourjos, Seattle Mariners, Shin Soo Choo, T.j. Mcfarland, Tim Fedroff, Toronto Blue Jays, Tyler Holt, Vernon Wells