It’s anyone’s guess whether the Indians will trade right-hander Trevor Bauer before Wednesday’s deadline. On one hand, he’s an integral piece of a surging team that has climbed to 62-42, putting the Tribe four up on the AL’s top wild-card spot and just one back of the division-leading Twins. On the other, the budget-conscious Indians would net an enticing return for Bauer, who’s on a $13MM salary and figures to earn a raise of $5MM or more to conclude his arbitration control next season. Even if the Indians decide to retain Bauer through this year, his time in Cleveland is nearing a conclusion. The 28-year-old “almost certainly” isn’t going to be on the Indians’ roster in 2020, Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com reports.
In the meantime, the Indians have a few days to choose how to proceed with Bauer this season. There’s already known to be plenty of interest in Bauer, but it seems two of the Indians’ AL rivals – the Yankees and Astros – are pursuing him with more vigor than anyone else. Those two clubs “keep inquiring about Bauer,” writes Hoynes, who adds the Indians have also discussed him with the Padres and Braves.
Among the Yankees, Astros, Padres and Braves, only San Diego isn’t an immediate contender. However, the club is known to like Bauer, whom it tried to acquire at the beginning of the season. Led by their collection of young talent, the Padres have made progress since then, and they’re aiming to make a more spirited run at a playoff berth next year. That’s evidenced by the club’s interest in Bauer and other established starters, including Tigers lefty Matthew Boyd and Mets righty Noah Syndergaard.
It would seem rather difficult for Cleveland to hand Bauer to New York or Houston, in part because the Indians could realistically wind up facing him as a Yankee or Astro in the postseason. Plus, considering Corey Kluber has been out since May 1 with a forearm fracture (and isn’t returning imminently) and Carlos Carrasco’s battling leukemia, the Indians arguably need Bauer more than ever.
Bauer not only leads the Indians’ staff in innings (152 1/3), but he paces the entire league in that department, and has logged a solid 3.49 ERA/4.19 FIP with 10.58 K/9 and 3.49 BB/9. All-Star MVP Shane Bieber is the lone Indians starter who has outperformed Bauer over the course of a full season in 2019. Mike Clevinger has been fantastic again, though he has only made nine starts. Another rookie, Zach Plesac, has joined Bieber in outdoing Bauer in ERA (3.10), but that figure looks like a house of cards when examining his fielding-independent pitching numbers. Meanwhile, Adam Plutko and the currently injured Jefry Rodriguez have managed back-end type of numbers over a combined 17 starts.
For now, the interest in Bauer may wind up going for naught. The Indians could prefer to hold Bauer and try to take another run at a championship as control over him and several other notables – most importantly, Francisco Lindor – dissipates. If the Indians elect against moving Bauer in the next few days, Hoynes suggests they’ll attempt to supplement their roster, perhaps by by adding relief and-or offensive help. Hoynes points to Rangers slugger Hunter Pence as “a possibility” for Cleveland, though it’s unclear if that’s speculation or if there’s real interest on the Tribe’s part.