10:19am: Tigers outfielder Nicholas Castellanos is also a possible target for the Indians, per MLB.com’s Jon Morosi (via Twitter). It is not clear from the report whether the teams are engaged in talks.
9:38am: The Indians are “among [the] teams looking at” Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter). Smoak, a switch-hitter, is earning $8MM this year before reaching free agency at season’s end.
It’s not surprising to see the Cleveland organization exploring possible offensive-oriented additions. The club has received a big contribution from Carlos Santana at first base, but hasn’t settled on a steady designated hitter.
Plugging in the 32-year-old Smoak would make for a nice lineup boost for the Indians. Smoak is slashing .215/.357/.427 this year with 18 long balls in 359 plate appearances. That’s shy of his output in the preceding two seasons, but still handily above-average production.
No doubt the Indians also see a bit of an opportunity to buy low on a player that may not draw much demand elsewhere, due in no small part to the lack of American League buyers and his defensive limitations. Smoak is drawing walks at a hefty rate (16.7%) and seems rather unfortunate to carry only a .220 batting average on balls in play. Statcast credits him with a big .388 xwOBA based upon the quality of contact he has made, which is much higher than his .342 wOBA.
Even as the Indians consider scenarios in which they’d part with starter Trevor Bauer, they’re hardly looking at a sell-off. The club weathered a tough start to the season and presently sits just two games back of the Twins.