CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – The non-waiver trade deadline is now a week away. While the Indians have played better in the beginning of their seven-game homestand, it has been apparent that the roster is able to be upgraded.
Indians President Chris Antonetti told SiriusXM Sports that he and his constituents will be active on the market, as they look for “the right pitcher,” and a couple of bench spots.
That leaves a lot of room for interpretation, as would be expected from a deal-maker not looking to tip their hand.
The front office is normally weary of rental players, but the necessary price for the non-rentals expected to be on the market would be top prospect Francisco Mejia and more. The team may have something up their sleeve in the form of a player on the market that the rumor mill has not caught wind of.
Without knowing that, here are the Top-10 potential trade assets for the Cleveland Indians at the deadline, taking need and potential price into account:
Tier 1: The Blockbuster
- Yu Darvish (R), SP, Texas Rangers
There are a lot of questions surrounding the availability of Darvish, a former Cy Young runner-up and four-time All-Star.
While Darvish is on an expiring contract, the Texas Rangers are not necessarily in the thick of a Wild Card push, sitting 2.5 games back. Without a clear window of whether or not they have a shot at the playoffs, the return for renting the star pitcher will most likely not be worth the idea of waving the white flag on 2017.
The matter that complicates a Darvish trade the most is the in-road the Japan native’s presence gives the Rangers in the race for Shohei Otani, the man being called “the Japanese Babe Ruth.”
If Darvish is retained, Otani could more likely be obtained, putting the Rangers right back in the thick of things in the AL West. At the same time, with the Astros turning into a powerhouse and the team’s best hitter in Adrian Beltre in his age 38 season, a rebuild could also make sense.
Ultimately, I do not see Darvish getting traded, but if he is available for a rental price, no rotation in baseball is TOO good to pass on him.
For those wondering where Sonny Gray will land on this list, he won’t. The reason Darvish is here is because of his potential price, which is the reason Gray will not appear. If it would not cost Mejia, Gray would be factored in there.
Tier 2: The Right Move
- Trevor Cahill (R), SP, San Diego Padres
If Antonetti is looking for the “right” pitcher, Cahill may be the guy.
The righty is having a fine return to the starting rotation after spending the better part of the last three years as a reliever with the Cubs, Diamondbacks and Braves.
The 29-year old has career-best 3.40 FIP and 27.4 K% marks, with his best ERA since 2010.
Again, an expiring contract on a team out of the playoff hunt, Cahill could come at a fair price, though need will always determine the ultimate result.
Whomever the Indians add at the deadline will have a fairly small chance of making starts in October, but Cahill has experience as a reliever, making him able to do both if called upon.
*Editor’s note: Within 20 minutes of this article being posted, Cahill was dealt from San Diego to the Kansas City Royals with Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter from in exchange for Matt Strahm, Travis Wood, and Esteury Ruiz, according to reports.
Tier 3: Flexibility Off The Bench
- Eduardo Nunez, UT, San Francisco Giants
A 30-year old on an expiring contract for a last-place team, there are no real reasons for the San Francisco Giants to hold on to Eduardo Nunez.
So what does he provide to the Indians that makes him a high priority?
Nunez has speed, something the Indians need more of. Always a threat on the basepaths, Nunez has already recorded a career-high base-running wins above average. With a focus on aggressive base-running on Terry Francona’s mind, Nunez makes a lot of sense.
Francona also values versatility, and Nunez is about as versatile as they come. He is not a plus-fielder in the infield, but can play third base and shortstop, and has played second in the past. He is more equipped as a corner outfielder, and with the absence of Lonnie Chisenhall in RF for the foreseeable future, Nunez could make an impact there and off the bench later.
A lot of Nunez’s value comes in his relative price between age, contract, team situation and health in 2017.
- Jed Lowrie, IF, Oakland Athletics
Lowrie played the first four seasons of his career under Terry Francona in Boston, and gives the Indians more flexibility in the infield. Primarily a second baseman, Lowrie could fill in for Jason Kipnis, while also filling in at third, though he has not played the hot corner since 2015 in Houston.
The 33-year old has turned in one of the best offensive seasons of his career, and his best since 2013, with a 115 wRC+ and .339 wOBA.
If need be, Lowrie also has controllability of sorts, with a team option for next season and a $1 million buyout.
- Howie Kendrick, UT, Philadelphia Phillies
Kendrick has had a lot of injury issues in 2017, missing two long stretches in May and July, but when on the field, the 34-year old has produced at a high clip.
In 2017, Kendrick has posted a .353/.403/.471 slash to go with a .377 wOBA and 132 wRC+ in only 36 games.
He can play 1B, 2B, 3B, and RF, and is above average defensively at each spot.
Kendrick could make more sense as a waiver-trade acquisition later in the year, as he was just activated from the disabled list on July 21. If the Indians want to guarantee the get him, now would be the time, but a week off the DL is probably not enough time to feel comfortable.
Tier 4: Big, Pricey Splashes
- Andrew McCutchen, RF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Andrew McCutchen is no longer a center fielder, but he has bounced back from a career-worst 2016.
Cutch is slashing .292/.384/.507 with a .376 wOBA and 134 wRC+, even with a fairly low BABIP by his standards.
The Pirates are only three games out in the NL Central and McCutchen has a team option for 2018, making it fairly unlikely that he will be dealt. Not many teams trade the face of their franchise while still in contention.
But if McCutchen is shopped, the Indians should at least kick the tires of the idea of making him the full-time right fielder and playing Lonnie Chisenhall at first base.
- Jay Bruce, OF/1B, New York Mets
This left-handed slugger has bounced back nicely from a disappointing 2014 and 2015 with fine years since. The Mets are out of contention in the AL East, and Bruce is on an expiring deal.
Bruce is normally a liability in the outfield, though his UZR is positive in RF for the first time in four years, but the offense is there.
If Antonetti is looking for bench pieces, Bruce is not that, he is a starter. Judging what a power bat with a .261 batting average would go for on the open market, Bruce may be too pricey for the Indians, especially considering the presence of Chisenhall when he returns.
Tier 5: Cheap Insurance
- Brandon Phillips, 2B, Atlanta Braves
A 36-year old Phillips makes more sense as a bench player now, but could provide some relief at second base should Jason Kipnis’s injuries be too much.
Phillips is no longer a plus-defender, and has an above average wRC+ for the first time since 2012, with his highest BABIP in that stretch.
- Tony Watson (L), RP, Pittsburgh Pirates/Pat Neshek (R), RP, Philadelphia Phillies
With Boone Logan possibly out for the season and Kyle Crockett seemingly not regarded highly, the Indians could look to add another lefty for the bullpen.
Watson has fallen out of favor as the Pirates’ closer, and they may be willing to move off of him as he hits free agency this winter.
The issue is that Watson is not a situational lefty, as left-handed hitters are actually better against him.
The Phillies’ all-star has been virtually unhittable this season on an expiring deal, and lefties do struggle against him. With his submarine sinker running away and a slider running in, it does not matter what side of the plate they are on, hitters will be off-balance.
Tier 6: This Is Probably Trolling, But Just Think About It For A Second
- Jonathan Lucroy, C, Texas Rangers
Hear me out here.
Lucroy’s time since vetoing a trade to the Indians has been poor, with his preferred team missing out on the playoffs in 2016, and an abysmal 2017 to date.
With the play of Robinson Chirinos in Texas, the Rangers may be willing to move off of Lucroy’s expiring contract and recoup something regardless of whether or not they go into sell mode.
Keep in mind, the Indians would be making the move solely if they were ready to move off of Yan Gomes. If the move were to replace Carlos Santana, Lucroy would most likely veto again because of the value of being a catcher about to hit the open market.
Even in that case, Lucroy would not be much of an upgrade over Gomes offensively if his 2017 pace kept up. The right-hander has a career-low BABIP of .261, his lowest by .020, suggesting his offense will bounce back. His 66 wRC+ is actually inferior to Gomes’ 81 mark at the moment.
Calling the move a longshot is even still a vast understatement, but it is an intriguing idea before really diving deep.
Tier 7: Honorable Mentions
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B, New York Mets; Daniel Nava, OF, Philadelphia Phillies; Marco Estrada, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays; Lance Lynn, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals; Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, San Diego Padres