Deals Left at the Table Leave Tribe Fans Wondering What Might Have Been
Vince Guerrieri | On 24, Oct 2018
The Indians’ quick playoff exit has led to a lot of 20-20 hindsight, deals that in retrospect could have been made and should have been made.
And watching some of the players who remained in the playoffs has done nothing to make those thoughts abate.
The most glaring example – his statements on his hustle aside – remains Manny Machado, who would have filled in capably in the infield, and his bat would have been a welcome addition in a lineup that was starting to wilt as the regular season ended and then was completely stymied by the Astros in the Division Series. But he probably would have been nothing more than a rental for the remainder of the season.
Of course, the big one that got away for the Indians was Jesus Aguilar, who saw limited action for the Indians in parts of three seasons before he was designated for assignment in early 2017. He was picked up on waivers by the Brewers, where he’s become an everyday player. He swatted 35 home runs for the Brew Crew this year, mostly at first base. It’s entirely possible that Carlos Santana’s departure in the previous offseason would have solidified Aguilar’s role with the Indians. Instead, the Indians got Yonder Alonso, who put up some comparable numbers, but like too many Indians players, disappeared in the American League Division Series.
In addition to Aguilar, the Brewers lineup was solidified this offseason when, as part of the Marlins’ fire sale, they acquired Christian Yelich. The Indians didn’t appear to make a serious play for Yelich, who was within sight of a Triple Crown this year, but he would have been a welcome addition at the plate and in the outfield since, in a strange irony, Michael Brantley turned out to be the only dependable option in the outfield. And, perhaps most importantly for the Tribe – as evidenced by the deal for Brad Hand and Adam Cimber – Yelich had four years on his contract.
Bob Nightengale, who covers Major League Baseball for Gannett, said the Indians discussed trading Edwin Encarnacion to the Red Sox, but talks broke down when the Tribe wanted Jackie Bradley Jr. – who would have definitely been an asset. It’s also worth noting that the Indians could have made a play for J.D. Martinez (it still would have been unlikely they would have gotten him, though).
But any of these potential (and theoretical) deals underline what could be a problem in the next few years for the Indians: The team doesn’t have a farm system as stocked as it was even two years ago, when the Tribe could afford to make a deal for Andrew Miller by dealing Clint Frazier and others to the Yankees.
The Indians are edging dangerously close to the territory their neighbors across Gateway Plaza were in recently. The Cavs were looking at a major teardown in 2016 when they were down 3 games to 1 against the Warriors. Of course, they stormed back to win the title, and then fell into a situation almost as treacherous. Everyone got paid, and they were hemmed in by a bunch of deals that prevented them from really adding to the team – even more vital after the Warriors, through an accident of the salary cap, could afford to add Kevin Durant.
The Indians staggered through the worst division of baseball, and their flaws were laid bare in the division series. For them to get better – and if they want a shot at a championship, they have to get better – they have to make serious deals this offseason. Not just hypothetical ones.
Photo: Getty Images