Ramirez Potential Trade Piece for Tribe this Winter

The Thanksgiving turkey is starting to marinate and the first chill has already swept northeast Ohio in the last month since baseball has gone dormant.

While the Indians roster has been in hibernation for two months, the Indians front office is about to take center stage for one of their busiest times of the season. Despite a disappointing 2014, the Indians missed the playoffs by just three games and have Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, Most Valuable Player of the Year candidate Michael Brantley and solid backstop Yan Gomes to build around. With manager Terry Francona extended for two more seasons, now through 2018 (with options for 2019 and 2020) the expectation to win in 2015 will be just as strong as it was in 2014.

Even though the Indians were close to the playoffs in 2014, they have clear areas that need improved. The Indians have to have a focus toward improving their putrid defense, potentially finding a middle-of-the-order, right-handed bat and a veteran starting pitcher.

Historically, the Indians have been much more active players in the trade market than in the free agent pool. With only $10-12 million available to add to their payroll for next season and several contracts escalating in 2016, it’s unlikely the Indians choose to spend largely. Instead, General Manager Chris Antonetti and his front office staff will be left to improve the roster through trades. Trade season—along with the Winter Meetings—is just around the corner, picking up serious steam after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Trades are tough to make, and nearly impossible to predict, so it’s unlikely these will happen, but the frame work is something to be watched. It’s not often the Indians have access to trade from, but in a rare case, they might this winter in Jose Ramirez. Ramirez had a strong second half, hitting .262 and scoring 27 runs in 68 games as he replaced Asdrubal Cabrera after he was dealt to Washington at the trade deadline.

With Francisco Lindor on the horizon and Mike Aviles’ option already picked up for 2015, Ramirez could be available in the right deal to benefit the team. Ramirez had flexibility and isn’t restricted to just shortstop, so he has a place in the Indians’ future if they don’t deal him despite the organization’s top prospect expected to debut in 2015. That flexibility also makes Ramirez more valuable on the trade market, however.

One possible trade partner for the Indians and destination for the Indians could be the New York Mets. The Mets have developed young pitching for several years and feel that 2015 is the year that it comes together and they contend for a playoff spot. Matt Harvey returns from Tommy John surgery to join Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom in the rotation. Noah Syndergaard will likely make his big league debut in 2015 and join the rotation, leaving Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon all available as trade possibilities.

New York needs a shortstop and has its eyes set on players like Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius or even Cabrera. If things fall through for a big name, Ramirez could be a solid option for the Mets. The young, sparkplug would provide solid defense and flexibility to their roster in the future.

Niese was 9-11, with a 3.60 ERA, making 30 starts and tossing 187 innings in 2014. He’s is entering his year-28 season and is signed through 2016, with team options for 2017 and 2018. Niese is set to make $7 million in 2015, $9 million in 2016 and options are $10 million and $11 million. His salary is probably a little more than he’s worth, but the potential to have a solid starter under contract for four more seasons is probably worth the slight overpay. New York could even be a little anxious to move the Defiance, Ohio native, as he had issues with manager Terry Collins at the end of the season.

If the Mets feel Ramirez isn’t worth parting with the expensive, but committed, Niese, they might be willing to deal Gee. Gee was 7-8, with a 4.00 ERA, making 22 starts, throwing 137 innings in 2014. He’s arbitration eligible for the next two seasons before becoming a free agent after the 2016 season. Gee isn’t quite as solid a starter as Niese, but he doesn’t make nearly as much, nor is there the long term commitment. That might interest both Cleveland and New York.

Cleveland could take advantage of Ramirez’s strong second half and trade him while his stock is high. The Tribe would likely then open the season with Aviles at shortstop until the organization felt Lindor was ready to take over.

Another team that could be interested in Ramirez might be the Cincinnati Reds. The Indians and Reds have had good communication between front offices in recent years, striking a few trades. Making an inter-Ohio deal could be a little easier with some front office familiarity.

With the same idea to add a solid veteran starting pitcher, the Indians could deal Ramirez to Cincinnati for Mike Leake. The Reds have four starting pitchers (Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Alfredo Simon and Leake) all eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. Cincinnati won’t be able to sign them all and the rumors of them willing to trade Jay Bruce last week is probably in an attempt to free up money to extend a pitcher or two this winter.

Cincinnati is thirsty for a shortstop and could still feel like they are contenders if they dealt one pitcher for a player that could help them win in 2015. The risk for the Indians would be trading a player that has six years of team control remaining for a pitcher that could leave town at the end of the season. Leake was 11-13, with a 3.70 ERA in 33 starts and 214 innings in 2014. He’s made 30 starts or more in each of the last three seasons. Leake would stabilize a rotation that is full of high-potential, yet not MLB proven starters behind Kluber. If Leake did have a solid season, the Indians could potentially offer the qualifying offer to him and stand to receive draft pick compensation when he signed somewhere else.

Both trades provide a potential risk and reward for each team involved. What the Indians, and any team interested in Ramirez, will have to evaluate this winter is what kind of big league player do they see him as, long term. Do teams value Ramirez as an every day starter, with above average defense, speed on the base paths and potential to play several positions, or do teams see Ramirez more as a quality bench player, defensive replacement and late-inning speed?

Photo: Getty Images

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I hope Cleveland don’t trade J Ram for another pitcher. The starting line-up and bull pen was one of
    the best at last half. The only way to add a pitcher is trade a pitcher or Swisher to Baltimore or Chicago.

  2. Need Ramirez at second base to team with Lindor when he is MLB ready. He has the potential to hit .300, steal 30 bases and provide all the sacrifice hits needed, seemingly a lost art these days. Gomes, Lindor and Ramirez would provide the best middle infield since Alomar, Alomar and Vizquel.

  3. Nice thought. But if you ask around, guys like Kurkjian and Buster Olney will tell you our biggest strength is our pitching. We already have Klubs, Bauer, Carrasco, Salazar, McAllister, and Tomlin to name a few. We NEED offense!! Why trade a position player for more pitching?? I say trade Bauer or Salazar along with Ramirez or Chisenhall to get a bat!!!!!

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