With yesterday’s slew of trades, the Cleveland Indians now appear ready to start wheeling and dealing this offseason. As a result, many anticipate the team will now shift its focus back towards trading one of its starting pitchers, likely choosing between Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer.
Luckily, the money saved from yesterday’s trade of Edwin Encarnacion should ensure the Indians no longer feel compelled to force an unfavorable contract on any interested teams, which should help them get as much as possible back in return.
If only it were that simple.
There remains a chance that, though Cleveland is (rightly) asking for a ton in return for either Bauer or Kluber, some opposing clubs may start to backing down from the high price tag.
If this is indeed the case, it puts the Indians at an unenviable crossroads, as they face two potential outcomes, neither of which are good.
One route the Indians could take is settling for an offer which doesn’t quite meet their asking price. This, of course, could be a detrimental blunder.
Make no mistake, the Indians have every right to ask for the moon when it comes to either one of their star pitchers. All the big-name starters available in free agency have been signed, forcing any team in need of rotation help to come calling Cleveland. Likewise, both Kluber and Bauer have incredibly impressive resumes, and each will be under team control beyond next season.
While the Indians would be able to survive trading one of their starting pitchers, this changes if they do so for uneven returns. Should the team buckle under the pressure of getting a deal done and settle for a weak offer, it could significantly hamper its chances to contend for a World Series next year. Suddenly, not only is the rotation down an All-Star pitcher, the team will also have failed to adequately fill glaring holes on the roster.
The other route this could go – one some fans appear to be on board with – is the Indians simply deciding against trading a starter, especially if no clubs are willing to give them a fair offer.
Sure, this would leave one of the best rotations in the majors intact. However, it also creates significant issues for the team.
As mentioned above, there are holes on this roster, especially in the outfield and bullpen. Brad Hand remains the only reliable reliever, while there isn’t a single sure-thing in the outfield.
The team has already told us not to expect any big spending this offseason. So, unfortunate as it may be, the best way for the Indians to make significant roster improvements to areas of need is to trade a starting pitcher. Cleveland can’t afford to just leave its rotation as is and expect to make a World Series run next year.
This isn’t to say the Indians will be a bad team if they don’t trade a starting pitcher. Again, the rotation is one of, if not the best in the majors. This alone makes the Indians a favorite to take home another division title in an underwhelming AL Central next year.
They just aren’t built to go much further than that.
Knowing this, not only do the Indians need to move a starter, they also have to do so only in a deal which gives them exactly what they’re looking for in return. They can’t afford to keep their rotation intact, but also can’t simply move one of their starters for some top prospects and one-year rentals.
Did I mention there wasn’t much to envy about this situation?
One would assume the Indians will continue pushing their current asking price for Kluber and Bauer, at least for the next few weeks. However, if no moves have been made by the time Spring Training is approaching, this situation becomes far more complicated, and they’ll likely be forced into deciding between one of the two undesirable paths laid out above.