We’ve officially hit the midway point of the MLB season, and the Cleveland Indians find themselves in first place by 6.5 games. This, alone, is quite a surprise considering the mixed predictions given for the team heading into the year.
That said, the Tribe can’t get complacent with its mid-season seeding. Sure, many fans thought making a significant trade seemed ludicrous when Cleveland was on its historic 14-game winning streak a couple weeks ago. Now, coming off an underwhelming and uninspiring series against the New York Yankees, it’s clear the Indians need to start working the phones to make some additions.
Of course, in order to make a notable acquisition, you have to part with some talent within your own clubhouse. Like any team, the Indians undoubtedly have some “untouchables” whom they wouldn’t dare consider moving.
To the surprise of many, Cleveland needs to ensure Tyler Naquin‘s name is on that list. The rookie outfielder has had an incredible MLB debut, and the team would be crazy to consider trading him.
If you would’ve asked me back in February whether or not Naquin was expendable, I probably wouldn’t have said no. Injuries hampered his development the past two years, and he entered Spring Training with relatively low expectations, hardly carrying the same hype as farm sensations Bradley Zimmer or Clint Frazier.
As a result, his performance in Arizona was a huge surprise. Naquin collected hits on a daily basis through the spring, quickly making a name for himself. Soon it wasn’t a matter of if he earned a roster spot with the Indians, but when the team was actually going to announce it.
Obviously, everyone was cautiously optimistic when it came to whether or not his impressive batting performance was going to carry over to the regular season. However, it’s been about four months since he took Spring Training by storm, and we’ve yet to see a drop-off at the plate. He’s currently batting .314, and the last time his average dipped below .300 was April 14.
In fact, not only has his hitting stayed consistent, he’s also added some power at the plate.
Naquin wasn’t displaying much of this before being sent down, only tallying a couple extra base-hits. Upon his return, suddenly the long-ball was added to his repertoire. He’s hit nine home runs since coming back to the lineup in June, which is about nine more than anyone anticipated he’d contribute this season.
To be blunt, Naquin is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. How many people honestly thought that would be even remotely possible before Spring Training began?
As a result, Cleveland is sure to expect more than a few teams to inquire about his availability. If the front office was smart, each of these requests would be wholeheartedly turned down.
The Indians’ outfield depth is shaky at best, but in Naquin, they have a young, capable player who has proven he can cut it in the big leagues. Why, then, would you consider moving him?
The only way you contemplate including Naquin in a deal is if the returns are impossible to turn down. No, this doesn’t mean a half-season rental to push the team over the top. Cleveland would need to be getting a very talented player who would be under contract for the next few seasons.
Unless that kind of offer is made, the Tribe needs to make Naquin unavailable. He’s proven to be one of the biggest surprises of the season, and has now become a potential key piece to the future. That’s the kind of player you just don’t trade.