The trade deadline is tomorrow night, and the Indians currently sit 2 games below the .500 mark. They’re 6.5 games behind the Tigers in the AL Central, and 5 games out of a wild card spot with a whopping 4 teams ahead of them. Unless the Tribe is planning on acquiring Jon Lester, they should be sellers. It would be downright moronic to make no moves at the deadline either way. If they plan on contending, they absolutely have to make a move to acquire some talented pitching in order to have any sort of chance at beating Detroit. However, if they don’t plan on making that sacrifice in order to contend, they need to sell off some valuable pieces in order to get some sort of return for them that can help them contend in future years. That’s just how you’re supposed to run a baseball club. Here are the 5 players the Indians should sell if they don’t buy.
Justin Masterson (Controllable Through 2014)- There are plenty of teams who would be willing to make a deal for Masterson, betting on a return to his 2013 form in which he posted a 3.45 ERA and pitched nearly 200 innings. The 2013 version of Masterson went deep into games, had one of the best ground ball rates in baseball, and gave his team a chance to win nearly every time he took the mound. He started out brilliantly this year, pitching 7 scoreless innings against the Oakland A’s, who turned out to be one of baseball’s best lineups. The talent is there, and if he were to return to form he could certainly help a team make a push to the playoffs.
Asdrubal Cabrera (Controllable Through 2014)- As I mentioned here, Cabrera is an above average shortstop whose value has been driven up dramatically by a lack of shortstops currently on the market. There are
arguably no better shortstops available at the deadline than Cabrera, who sports a decent .248/.308/.390 batting line with 9 home runs. He’ll never take a lot of walks, but he’s a switch hitter capable of driving in runs from anywhere in the lineup. He could fetch a pretty good return from a contending team.
Scott Atchison (Controllable Through 2014)- Teams looking for bullpen help should look no further. Atchison has had a terrific year, posting an ERA under 3.00 (2.93 on the year), with a WHIP under 1.00 (0.96). Those numbers are fantastic, and it’s not exactly a small sample size, either, as he’s pitched a respectable 46 innings out of the pen so far this year, on pace to top his career high. His 3.50 FIP suggests that he may regress a bit, but his WHIP disagrees. On top of that, he hardly ever walks batters. His 1.8 BB/9 is among the lowest in the league. He could be a great add for a team looking to shore up its bullpen, and because he’s on a cheap contract, he could at least net the Indians an interesting prospect in return.
Mike Aviles (Controllable Through 2015)- If Asdrubal Cabrera is the most valuable shortstop on the market, Aviles may be number 2. Except he’s more consistent defensively, and can play second base, third base and every outfield position as well. The Giants have already been said to have some interest in him, and there are a number of other teams that could benefit from his super utility skills and solid offensive production. His cheap club option for 2015 makes him even more valuable in a trade, so he could probably net Cleveland a prospect with a respectable ceiling. I, for one, would hate to see Aviles leave Cleveland after all the awesome moments he’s had with the team, but Jose Ramirez‘ performance since his second call up (6 hits and a walk in 5 games) means that the Indians could feasibly employ Ramirez as their backup infielder next year. By doing this, they’d save $3 million (Ramirez can be employed for league minimum) without sacrificing too much production, especially considering Ramirez’ potential, not to mention the fact that his speed is better than Mike’s.
Marc Rzepczynski (Controllable Through 2016)- Scrabble has been quite valuable for the Indians since coming over at the trade deadline last year. He posted a 0.89 ERA during the second half last year, and has been respectable this year as well with a 3.50 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. He’s stingy with the home run ball, allowing just 0.3 HR/9 this year, and his numbers against left-handers are remarkable. He’s allowing just a .169 batting average against them this year, striking out more than 25% of them (23 SO against 80 LHB) while walking just 5. But perhaps most impressive is the fact that opposing left-handers are batting just .195 against him. The downside is that against right-handers, that number balloons to .544, along with a .359 batting average. In other words, right-handed batters that step into the box against Rzepczynski magically become Michael Brantley, and actually even better than that. However, Rzepczynski has major value as a LOOGY out of the ‘pen, and with two years of team control remaining after this one (along with a thin market for left-handed relievers), he could fetch the Indians a nice return. Hell, if Joakim Soria‘s trade was able to bring back the Tigers’ best pitching prospect, Scrabble should at least be able to get someone respectable. Yes, he’d be a valuable piece for the Indians over the next 2 years, but with Kyle Crockett stunning the baseball world with a 1.56 ERA, he might be expendable. This is especially true considering that Nick Hagadone has shown flashes of utter dominance this year, including a 2 1/3 inning scoreless performance against Seattle last night during which allowed just one hit while striking out 3 and walking nobody. He’s out of options
for real this time next year, and it seems like the Indians like him enough to take a chance on him. It’s likely that, with two solid left-handed relievers (and Cody Allen who can strike out anybody at any given time), the Indians don’t have as big of a need for Rzepczynski as they used to, and it would be great to sell him while demand is this high.