The Indians are among the teams that have reached out to the Rays with interest in infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter). Cleveland is reportedly also considering Eduardo Nunez of the Twins, so it seems evident that the club has interest in a solid hitter with some defensive versatility.
From an outsider perspective, third base and the corner outfield appear to be two potential areas of concern for a high-performing Indians club. Either of these players could conceivably function in those spots, though they carry rather different profiles.
Pearce, 33, is a pending free agent and is owed just $4.75MM this year. He has had trouble staying healthy, but is putting up a ridiculous .313/.386/.530 batting line over his 223 plate appearances. Interestingly, Pearce has seen action at third this year, but only on two occasions — marking only the second season in his career in which he has spent any time at all on the hot corner. He moved into the eighth spot on MLBTR’s latest listing of the top trade candidates, based on his hot bat and expiring contract.
There’s no question whether Nunez can handle third, as he plays primarily there and at shortstop. He has been a solidly above-average hitter since the beginning of 2015, though certainly doesn’t possess the kind of upside that Pearce does at the plate. Nunez is also a threat to steal — he owns a career-high 26 swipes this year — though he doesn’t generate enormous value on the bases overall per Fangraphs’ BsR rating. Additionally, he’s cheaper and can be controlled for another season via arbitration.
The Indians, it would seem, are exploring a number of targets in advance of Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline. They’ve been linked to the likes of Jay Bruce in recent weeks and earlier tonight were once again connected to Jonathan Lucroy (and lefty reliever Will Smith) of the Brewers. It shouldn’t come as a great surprise to see Cleveland linked to a wide array of bats, as the team boasts one of the best rotations in all of baseball but has seen dismal production at both catcher and third base this season. The club’s outfield unit has been surprisingly productive despite the fact that Michael Brantley, arguably Cleveland’s best overall player, has appeared in just 11 games in 2016 as he battles a troublesome shoulder injury. However, acquiring a corner outfielder would allow Cleveland to shift the versatile Jose Ramirez to third base, giving president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff plenty of flexibility when attempting to bolster the offense.