With Boston Selling, Who Should the Indians Buy?
The Boston Red Sox have fallen hard in 2014 after winning the World Series last season. It seems like years ago that the Red Sox utilized veterans like Shane Victorino, David Ortiz, and Mike Napoli to conquer the league, but with Jacoby Ellsbury in New York, injuries, and lack of production from the influx of youth, the Red Sox sit 10.5 games out heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox. When the club designated veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski for assignment today (likely eating the $3.6 million remaining on his contract), they either had enough of the mouthy backstop or have decided to move on with their youngsters, calling up Christian Vasquez from Triple-A to take his place on the roster. Rumors have been swirling regarding Jake Peavy, as well, who had a lousy June (0-5, 5.40 ERA over six starts) before tossing his second straight quality start on Sunday against Baltimore, who could easily be replaced in the rotation by Felix Doubront, Rubby De La Rosa (starting tonight), Allen Webster, or Anthony Ranaudo, each of whom are on the 40-man roster.
The Red Sox have the depth in their system to sell off pieces and still compete, as some of their young arms are likely better than who they’ve been running out this season. With Peavy unlikely to find his former Cy Young-like self in the American League, the ties to the rotation-ravaged Cardinals would make him an unlikely option for the Indians, but there are several useful players who could help the Tribe if they were to make a deal with Boston to strengthen the 25-man roster and make a run for the division or Wild Card.
1. John Lackey
Lackey looks like an absolute horse again this season, posting a 3.84 ERA (3.34 FIP) over 117.1 innings and 18 starts (6.52 innings per start), while posting a 106:23 K:BB (4.61 K:BB) this season. Sure, the hits allowed are a bit inflated (9.4 per nine), but the 72 percent strand rate is in line with his career norm and the .316 BABIP is just a tad unlucky. Still, the Indians need an innings-eating strike-thrower, and Lackey fits the bill. In addition to his aforementioned skills, Lackey has a $500,000 option for next season due to his Tommy John surgery in 2011, part of an impressive clause added to his contract by Boston brass when he signed prior to the 2010 season. With Justin Masterson headed towards free agency, Lackey would be an ideal addition for the Indians in their push towards the top of the AL Central this year, but a coup for the 2015 season, which could ultimately impact the required return in a deal.
2. Koji Uehara
Cody Allen is fantastic, but if the Red Sox are selling Uehara, the ability to put Bryan Shaw, Allen, and Uehara in from the 7th inning on would be quite an impressive trio for any opposition to be tested against. Uehara is a different form of dominant. Since arriving in Boston, he has a 0.63 WHIP over 116 innings with a 1.16 ERA and a 153:15 K:BB. In 2014, he has allowed a total of six runs, five of them coming on solo home runs. He was making just $5 million in 2014, but he likely won’t get a qualifying offer in free agency due to being 40 next April. Still, depending on the price, Uehara would be a dominant addition to the Indians’ bullpen.
3. Jonny Gomes
Gomes is that “clubhouse guy” who would be a tremendous addition for a team with so many “young” players like Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, and Lonnie Chisenhall leading the club this season. For a team with so many who “haven’t been there before”, Gomes provides the ultimate leader in clubhouse cliches in recent baseball history. The Cleveland Indians could use Gomes due to the club’s .666 OPS (27th in MLB) against left-handed pitching. He is limited to left field defensively, but he could serve as a designated hitter or pinch hitter for the club moving forward. He has a career .280/.380/.499 triple-slash in 1,400 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers, the ultimate lefty masher for a club who could desperately use some help in that area.
While one of the most impressive thing about him may be how fun his name is to say aloud, but Badenhop is no slouch out of the bullpen, either. Over the last three seasons (2012-2014), Badenhop has made 170 appearances, logged 169.2 innings, and posted a 3.18 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. While he is no Uehara, he has been pretty consistent, which can’t be said (or expected) out of relievers. The 31-year-old pride of Perrysburg High School would be a solid addition to the Indians’ bullpen, lessening the workload for other set-up men over the second half of the season. He will be a free agent after the 2014 season.
Herrera is under team control through the 2015 season, as he is arbitration-eligible next season after earning $1.3 million in 2014. While Herrera isn’t an offensive monster, he is quite an asset as a utility player. He can handle second, third, and short. With Francisco Lindor on the way and Asdrubal Cabrera heading towards free agency after the 2014 season, it may be wise to acquire Herrera to fill the Mike Aviles role in 2015, if Aviles were to go to short as a stop-gap for Lindor to avoid Super Two eligibility next year. He likely wouldn’t cost the Indians much and it could look like a very intelligent move if they aren’t comfortable with putting a young player like Jose Ramirez in a utility role.
At 44-45 entering play tonight, are the Indians buyers or sellers? It’s a tough situation considering that they are 6.5 games out of the AL Central lead with 22 days left until the trade deadline, but this team hasn’t had a losing streak that has eliminated them, and several players who typically produce (Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis, in particular) haven’t lived up to lofty expectations. Making an early move could be the difference, however, giving the club additional time to strike. Now is the time to strike up a deal with Boston.