Trade Deadline Candidate Pros and Cons
Steve Eby | On 06, Jul 2013
Ahhhhh July…the month for swimming pools, fireworks, barbeques and trade deadline rumors. If the Cleveland weather would ever participate then Indians fans could enjoy the first three, but the latter is about to heat up like the sun that is so rare these days.
The Indians find themselves where a lot of people didn’t see them going into baseball’s fourth month—contending. The Indians may not look as great as the Tigers do on paper or to the national media, but in the standings section of the newspaper they look like near-equals. The Tribe is playing good baseball in long spurts and could have the look of a pennant contender if they could just find a bit more consistency. This is where all of the trade talk comes in.
The Indians have a pretty solid team. It certainly is far better than any version since 2007. The offense is streaky but has been very good on the whole and finding a glaring need on the position player side is not easy. The Indians could possibly find an upgrade for an inconsistent Lonnie Chisenhall at third or an “okay” to “not so bad” Drew Stubbs in right, but those two positions could be filled simply by reshuffling the lineup a little if the problems get out of hand—which they are not.
The real need for a deadline deal is on the pitching mound and there certainly should be some available candidates that the Indians could take a look at.
STARTING PITCHER OVERVIEW: The Indians rotation, as it stands right now, really isn’t that terrible. Heading into this past week, the Indians had both Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister sporting ERAs under 3.50 and Corey Kluber who is at an “American League-good” 4.16. Both Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir’s ERA’s are above 4.50, but are also coming down considerably over their past several starts. Over the course of 12 starts for Jimenez from April 27-June 29, he has an ERA of 3.24 and the Indians have gone 9-3 in those outings. For Kazmir, from May 25-June 26 his ERA has been a solid 3.76 over the seven tries. Things could certainly be worse, but could always be improved.
YOVANI GALLARDO-MILWAUKEE BREWERS-RHP
STATS: 6-7, 4.20 ERA, 17 starts, 80 SO, 36 BB, 1.389 WHIP
PROS: Yovani Gallardo is under contract for 2014 and also has an option for 2015 as well. Club control is a key factor in acquiring talent, especially for the Indians as they have committed big dollars and similar years to free agents recently. Gallardo is a former All-Star that would bring credibility and consistency to the starting staff.
CONS: Gallardo is expensive, making $7.75 million this season, $11.25 million in 2014 and the club option is $13 million in 2015. Gallardo only may or may not be worth the money, as he is currently having the worst year of his career. Gallardo has never had an ERA over 4.00 and has never finished with a sub-.500 record either—both of which he is on the wrong side of now. He is an expensive gamble that could cripple the Indians if he doesn’t pay off.
MATT GARZA-CHICAGO CUBS-RHP
STATS: 3-1, 3.83 ERA, 8 starts, 47 SO, 15 BB, 1.155 WHIP
PROS: Matt Garza is the best pitcher among the “rentals” and has been outstanding recently. He has been remarkably consistent throughout his career and has had some postseason success with Tampa Bay in his career. Garza is a proven winner who would give the Indians a nice one-two with Masterson.
CONS: Garza is a rental only and has been injury prone over the past couple years. He has made only eight starts thus far and is going to be extremely costly to get. Garza will demand big bucks next year as he goes into his age-30 season and will likely price himself out of the Indians range.
CLIFF LEE-PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES-LHP
STATS: 9-2, 2.59 ERA, 17 starts, 115 SO, 21 BB, 0.965 WHIP
PROS: Cliff Lee is the crème de la crème on this list as far as starting pitching goes, and Lee would be a huge boost atop the Indians rotation. He is the one guy that would obviously slide in AHEAD of Masterson and become the team’s ace. He has a wealth of postseason experience and is still one of the best pitchers in the game. Being a former Cy Young Award winner with the Indians, Lee would only be a positive as far as attendance goes.
CONS: Speaking of attendance, after Lee was traded to Philly in 2009, he backhanded the Indians fans for not ever showing up to games. Lee may or may not welcome a trade back to Cleveland and has a no-trade clause to 20 teams in his contract. It is very possible that the Indians are one of them. Also, if the team did acquire Lee, it would not come on the cheap. Lee makes $25 million this season as well as the next two. There is also a vesting option worth $27.5 million for 2016 if Lee can hit some innings pitched incentives. It is possible that Philadelphia would absorb some of Lee’s contract, but the more money that Philly pays, the more talent they are going to want back. The Indians probably cannot get Lee by trading them Lou Marson and Carlos Carrasco back, either.
RICKY NOLASCO-MIAMI MARLINS-RHP
STATS: 4-8, 3.93 ERA, 17 starts, 83 SO, 25 BB, 1.244 WHIP
PROS: All indications are that the Marlins are going to trade Ricky Nolasco, the only question is when. Nolasco will be available, so he is there if the Indians want to offer Miami the best package. Despite his poor record, Nolasco is having the best year of his career. He would likely be 8-4 instead of 4-8 if he pitched for any team but the pathetic Marlins.
CONS: Nolasco is having the best year of his career mostly because the rest of his career has been so average to below average. While he has gotten better every year for the last four seasons, Nolasco has not had a really good year since 2008. A number of teams are said to be interested in him as well, with the Dodgers supposedly being the front runners. Los Angeles is rumored to be willing to pick up the rest of his hefty contract which may price him out of what he is worth.
BUD NORRIS-HOUSTON ASTROS-RHP
STATS: 5-7, 3.35 ERA, 17 starts, 71 SO, 32 BB, 1.373 WHIP
PROS: Bud Norris is only 28 and he’s very good. He is far and away Houston’s best pitcher and would likely be the Indians’ number two for the next several seasons. He is currently having the best year of his career and was very, very good two years ago as well. Like Nolasco, his subpar record is tainted because of his horrible team.
CONS: If Norris is made available, it is because the Astros are trying to avoid arbitration with him and because they are trying to stockpile young talent. Houston is going to be looking for a lot for their best pitcher and the Indians would probably have to part with a prospect that makes them very uncomfortable to do so. Is a pitcher that has only one and a half good seasons worth Tyler Naquin or Francisco Lindor? I doubt it. If they can get him for a little less…then sure.
WHAT SHOULD THE INDIANS DO: If the Indians don’t think that they can make it to the playoffs with the rotation that they have now, they should go all-in and trade for Lee. Lee is by far the best pitcher on the list and is the only real difference-maker that could possibly be available. The former Indian holds loads of postseason experience and success under his belt and he is under contract for the next few years. The Indians would have a one-two punch with Lee and Masterson that could give them a chance with against other duo in the American League, including Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Lee would give the Indians a true ace and would instantly become World Series contenders.
Garza is probably the next best pitcher, but is not the next best option. If the Tribe doesn’t want to pay Lee’s contract or feels that that bridge is burnt, then Norris or Gallardo would also make some sense. Norris is a lot better than most people think and Gallardo is a proven guy who is under contract for next year.
WHAT WILL THE INDIANS PROBABLY DO: My guess is that the Indians will do little or nothing to the rotation because they won’t want to rent-a-player, pay Lee’s contract or make a lateral move. Trading for a guy like Nolasco may sound appealing because he’s pretty good and something new to look at, but he isn’t light years better than anyone who toes the rubber for the Tribe right now and will likely walk at the end of the season anyways.
If the Indians make a move for the short term that gets them over the hump this season, then kudos to them. It isn’t much like this front office to make short-sighted acquisitions, however.
BULLPEN OVERVIEW: The bullpen has been, overall, a huge disappointment as it was seen to be a strength coming into the season. Vinnie Pestano, Chris Perez and Joe Smith have all had some good moments and some bad, while only Cody Allen, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw have been basically as advertised. A problem that has been worse than anyone could have thought, however, is the left handed portion of the ‘pen, as Nick Hagadone, Rich Hill, David Huff and Scott Barnes have all been disasters. Around the league there are plenty candidates for perhaps the easiest-to-fix and most-glaring-weakness of the team.
MIKE DUNN-MIAMI MARLINS-LHP
STATS: 2-2, 2.75 ERA, 36.0 IP, 41 G, 2 HR, 1.389 WHIP
PROS: Mike Dunn is having a good year, is only 28 years old and is cheap. What is even better is that the earliest that Dunn can become a free agent is in 2017, so the Indians would control him for the next several years.
CONS: Dunn is going to be arbitration eligible this offseason and will be coming off of a good year, so his salary will increase at least a little. He has only been “pretty good” throughout his career and would probably not be a huge impact guy. Last season was not good, as Dunn had an 0-3 record with an ERA up around 5.00 and a WHIP of 1.773.
MIKE GONZALEZ-MILWAUKEE BREWERS-LHP
STATS: 0-3, 3.41 ERA, 29.0 IP, 42 G, 4 HR, 1.483 IP
PROS: Mike Gonzalez would probably be pretty cheap to acquire, as the former closer is just signed through this season. He is a veteran who has postseason experience over the last two years when he pitched for Texas and Washington.
CONS: Gonzalez has the worst numbers on this list and at 35, he’s not getting any younger. He averages nearly a hit an inning and has a lot of miles on his arm. He has walked a lot of people this season and the Brewers have not been careful with him either. Over his career, Gonzalez has posted his worst numbers in the American League when he pitched with Baltimore and Texas.
BOONE LOGAN-NEW YORK YANKEES-LHP
STATS: 2-2, 2.08 ERA, 21.2 IP, 34 G, 3 HR, 1.154 WHIP
PROS: Boone Logan has been really solid for the Yanks for a few years now and led the league in appearances last season. His stats are good and his WHIP is the lowest of his career. He has issued only four unintentional walks this season compared to 32 strikeouts.
CONS: Would the Yankees really be sellers? My guess is probably no, but the Bronx Bombers don’t have the look of a team that is going to win it all and they are older than dirt. Trading Logan may not be a bad idea for the Yankees, but they will probably ask for more than he is worth. Logan truly is a one-trick pony and the definition of a LOOGY. That may not really be that big of a con, however, as it would fill a need much better than Hill. Logan is a free agent at the end of the season.
OLIVER PEREZ-SEATTLE MARINERS-LHP
STATS: 2-2, 1.52 ERA, 29.2 IP, 32 G, 3 HR, 1.281 WHIP
PROS: Since taking his talents to Seattle, Oliver Perez has been outstanding. Perez had an excellent year in 2012 and has been even better in 2013. The two seasons that he has spent out of the bullpen have been the best two years of his career. Pitcher-paradise Safeco Field seems to have little to do with his newfound success, as his road splits (1-1, 0.73) are better than his home splits (1-1, 2.08).
CONS: Perez is a free agent at the end of the season and has bounced around so much throughout his career that he should only be seen as a rental. A former starter, Perez has been terribly disappointing in every other city that he has pitched other than Seattle. Traditionally, Perez has been very wild, once leading the league in walks.
GLEN PERKINS-MINNESOTA TWINS-LHP
STATS: 1-0, 2.05 ERA, 30.2 IP, 31 G, 2 HR, 0.815 WHIP
PROS: Glen Perkins is under team control for the next three seasons, as his contract runs through 2015 with a club option for 2016. He is in the middle of the best season of his career after two very good seasons out of the Minnesota ‘pen. He consistently averages over a strikeout per inning, whiffing 43 in just over 30 frames thus far in 2013. Pitching his entire career in the AL Central is a plus as well because he certainly is familiar with a lot of the Indians oppositions. The Twins may feel like his value will never be higher than it is currently and could be willing to deal him if the trade makes sense for them.
CONS: The Twins may be hesitant to trade within the division and—due to his contract longevity and his good numbers—their asking price will likely be higher than you’d probably like. Perkins is owed $3.75 million for each of the next two years and the club option is for $4.5 million in 2016. He will be 33 years old at the earliest time that his contract ends and who knows how effective he’ll be at that point.
MATT THORNTON-CHICAGO WHITE SOX-LHP
STATS: 0-2, 3.16 ERA, 25.2 IP, 36 G, 4 HR, 1.208 WHIP
PROS: Matt Thornton is not as good as he was when he was an All-Star three years ago, but he’s still pretty solid. He still throws hard, is tough on lefties and has made the most of his career in the AL Central. Thornton is an experienced veteran who is supposed to be a good “clubhouse guy” as well.
CONS: Thornton is 36 years old and is making $5.5 million this season. If the Indians traded for him and wanted to keep him next year, the club option is $6 million and the buyout is $1 million. It seems like a lot of money on a 37 year old who has arguably the worst statistics on the list and has been in decline over the past few years.
WHAT SHOULD THE INDIANS DO: The Indians should go after Thornton and then add another one of these guys as well. They should then send Hagadone to the minors for the rest of the year and we should never mention the name Rich Hill ever again. Thornton is old, but still pretty good and has a club option for next year. If he is good, the Indians can keep him. If he’s not worth the big-bucks he would be owed, then he can be used as a rental option. None of these guys would cost a bunch to get, but all would improve the team immensely.
WHAT WILL THE INDIANS PROBABLY DO: It’s no secret that the lefties in the bullpen have stunk…the Indians see it too. Expect the Tribe to make some kind of move—whether the name is on this list or not—because Hill is terrible, Hagadone is a mess and Barnes and company have not proven to be able to be capable fill-ins. Most of these guys would not command a huge haul in return, as I look at nearly all of these guys the way that other teams probably looked at Bob Wickman when the Indians traded him years ago. All the Indians got in return for Wicky was Max Ramirez, who was a class-A player who has never amounted to much. The Indians have enough low-level talent that they could attract one or two of these types of guys.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer