CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – You are probably sick of finding ways to justify why the Cleveland Indians have let people walk in free agency, and that is understandable.
The Indians are a highly analytical organization that retains their executives at a high rate because of how stringently they rely on their process. In a smaller market, that results in allowing players to take large deals elsewhere while replenishing from in.
There are more departures coming soon. One of Cody Allen or Andrew Miller will probably leave in free agency next winter.
If Jay Bruce’s return to the New York Mets feels like your tipping point, try to get back upright for just one more moment.
There are multiple reasons why this particular loss is not one worth getting worked up over. Recent signing Yonder Alonso is not only the same age and got a much friendlier contract (2-years, $18 million compared to 3-years, $39M), but also put up better overall numbers as both had career years. There is still upside for both, as they have each worked to increase their flyball rate.
You could easily begrudge the Indians exercising Michael Brantley’s $12 million option, saying it could have been used on Bruce, though the final two years and $29 million is a big difference.
The biggest reason Bruce’s departure means next to nothing? He was acquired for next to nothing.
Just as the New York Mets were gone from playoff contention by the waiver-trade deadline, there will be another team ready to sell of difference makers for salary relief next August as well.
There will be another Jay Bruce.
The players available could be better than Bruce. Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson, both superstars, will more than likely be out of contention in the top-heavy AL East, and both are set to hit free agency following the season.
In Donaldson’s case, a relationship between Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro and Indians President Chris Antonetti could bode well. The two have already made deals since Shapiro went north in 2015, when Joe Smith was dealt from Shapiro’s Jays back to his old home in Cleveland.
Adam Jones, Andrew McCutchen, Nick Markakis, Brian Dozier and Jed Lowrie, among others, are on teams who are unlikely to win their divisions and are on expiring deals. If the Colorado Rockies are overtaken by the Los Angeles Dodgers and appear out of the wild card hunt, Charlie Blackmon and D.J. LaMahieu could be seen as worth dealing.
Bruce was had for peanuts, with all due respect to Ryder Ryan, and he was not even the best player dealt for next to nothing.
J.D. Martinez and his 1.018 OPS at the deadline were shipped from lowly Detroit to Arizona for Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara and Jose King.
Despite Martinez being an MVP candidate in both leagues by the end of the year, Lugo was the biggest return, ranking just #15 in the Tigers’ top prospects according to MLB.com. For comparison, though no two farm systems are the same, the Indians’ #15 prospect is 2017 9th round pick James Karinchak.
The Indians are not a perfect team, and they are not without holes. It just so happens that their division is not expected to put up much of a fight. Fangraphs currently projects the Twins to finish second in the AL Central at 82-80, 11 games behind the Indians’ mark.
Without a need to make a massive upgrade to win their division, the Indians can remain patient and grab another rental at or above the level of Bruce at the trade deadline, or even later like Bruce.
There is no doubt that the team is losing something without Bruce, who brought veteran leadership and certified pop to the middle of the lineup. They just do not need all of that right now.
With the signing of Alonso, re-upping of Brantley, and increases in salary through arbitration, the front office is likely right near their budget. That does not mean they are stuck with their current roster, it just means they have what they need for now.