Cleveland Indians – MLB Trade Rumors 2020-06-06T02:40:39Z WordPress Connor Byrne <![CDATA[The Other Chris Archer Trades]]> 2020-06-06T02:40:39Z 2020-06-06T02:24:01Z Pirates right-hander Chris Archer has been among the most prominent major leaguers in the news this week. Archer just underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, meaning he won’t pitch until at least 2021. It also means his tenure could be done in Pittsburgh, which will have to decide between an $11MM club option and a $250K buyout next winter.

Archer’s surgery came as the latest disastrous development during his time with the Pirates, who made an ill-fated trade with the Rays to acquire him in July 2018. For the sake of Pirates fans, who have witnessed Archer struggle mightily in their favorite team’s uniform and have seen two of the players their club gave up flourish as Rays, we’re not going to recap that trade for the umpteenth time. But we are going to look back at other trades involving Archer. Long before he became a Pirate, Archer was part of a couple other notable deals.

First off, Archer entered the pros as a 17-year-old and a fifth-round pick of the Indians in 2006. Archer struggled to prevent runs as part of the Indians’ system through 2008, and after that season, the club traded him, righty Jeff Stevens and lefty John Gaub to the Cubs for infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa. Cleveland didn’t get a full season out of DeRosa, whom the team flipped to the Cardinals in June 2009 after he batted a solid .270/.342/.457 in 314 plate appearances and 71 games as an Indian.

What of the Cubs’ return for DeRosa? Stevens combined for 37 1/3 innings of 6.27 ERA ball as a Cub from 2009-11. Gaub made even less of an impact in Chicago, with which he threw the only 2 2/3 innings of his career in 2011. Archer never appeared in the majors with the organization, but he turned around his fortunes as a Cubs minor leaguer and began cracking top 100 prospects lists as a member of the franchise. Still, that wasn’t enough for the Cubs to keep him.

After the 2010 season, when Archer topped out as Baseball America’s 27th-best prospect, the Cubs dealt him to the Rays in a blockbuster. Along with Archer, the Cubs surrendered shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee, catcher Robinson Chirinos, and outfielders Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer for righty Matt Garza, outfielder Fernando Perez and lefty Zac Rosscup.

The Cubs got nothing from Perez, who never appeared in the majors with them, and very little from Rosscup (he posted a 5.32 ERA over 47 1/3 frames and parts of four seasons in their uniform). On the other hand, Garza was effective in Chicago from 2011-13. Though the team failed to push for the playoffs during that stretch, Garza turned in 372 2/3 innings of 3.45 ERA pitching with 8.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. However, as a non-contender in July 2013, Chicago sent Garza – a soon-to-be free agent – to Texas for third baseman Mike Olt and the righty trio of Carl Edwards Jr., Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez.

As for the Rays’ return, Lee never made it to MLB, even though he was a highly regarded prospect in his younger days. He’s now playing with the Samsung Lions of the Korea Baseball Organization. Chirinos has evolved into a fine offensive catcher, though he only took 60 plate appearances with the Rays in 2011 before they traded him to the Rangers two years later. Fuld played from 2011-13 in Tampa Bay, where he batted .230/.301/.326 in 653 attempts. Guyer appeared with the Rays in parts of four seasons from ’11-15 and slashed .255/.341/.396 over 978 PA.

While none of Lee, Chirinos, Fuld or Guyer offered especially valuable production as Rays, Archer thrived. He piled up 177 starts and amassed 1,063 innings of 3.69 ERA/3.48 FIP ball with 9.7 K/9 and 2.94 BB/9 as part of the team from 2011-18, during which he earned two All-Star nods and signed the six-year, $25.5MM extension he’s still playing under.

Many have been tough on Archer on account of what has been a rough run in Pittsburgh, but he’s the same player who once made the Rays look like geniuses for adding him. That makes his recent fall from grace all the more surprising, and it’s anyone’s guess whether a rebound will be in store in the wake of TOS surgery.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Latest On Carlos Carrasco]]> 2020-06-02T15:00:57Z 2020-06-02T15:00:57Z Right-hander Carlos Carrasco has been an eminently successful part of the Indians’ pitching staff since he broke out six years ago, but serious health problems knocked his life and career off course in 2019. It has been almost a full year since Carrasco was diagnosed with leukemia in July, but he made so much progress in his recovery that he was able to make a late-season return as part of Cleveland’s bullpen and earn AL Comeback Player of the Year honors.

Heading into spring training this year, Carrasco looked like a shoo-in to reclaim a spot in the Indians’ rotation. However, before the coronavirus shut down camp, the 33-year-old dealt with a hip flexor strain and inflammation in his pitching elbow. The latter problem threatened to sideline Carrasco for a normal Opening Day, but with the season having been delayed by more than two months so far, he may have a better chance of partaking in a “full” 2020 campaign.

Per Paul Hoynes of, Carrasco has continued to throw bullpen sessions and send videos of them to manager Terry Francona and Carl Willis. Carrasco has been a regular attendee of Indians workouts at Progressive Field. Those actions show Carrasco plans to pitch this year, as Hoynes writes, though he adds that the team’s “prioritized the health of their players and staff members above all else so that decision is still on hold.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer survivors are among those who are at the highest risk of contracting the coronavirus, which puts people like Carrasco in especially dangerous territory. But if he is able to take the mound this season, it should be a welcome sight for the club from both morale and on-field standpoints. Carrasco understandably saw his numbers dip in 2019, but he was a front-line starter over the previous five seasons – an 856-inning stretch in which he logged a 3.27 ERA with 10.13 K/9 and 2.05 BB/9.

Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Indians Release Eleven Minor-League Players]]> 2020-05-31T16:55:14Z 2020-05-31T16:55:14Z
  • The Indians became the latest team to make an assortment of minor-league cuts. Cleveland released eleven players, reports Paul Hoynes of, including 2014 supplemental first-rounder Mike Papi. Hoynes runs down the complete list of players cut loose, none of whom have MLB experience. Those players will continue to receive health benefits through August, he adds.
  • ]]>
    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Three Teams Played Musical Chairs With First Basemen…And Five Teams Came Away Winners]]> 2020-05-30T17:46:00Z 2020-05-30T15:57:21Z Last week, I looked at Cole Sulser’s prospects of making an impact in the Baltimore Orioles bullpen. Sulser found his way to Baltimore via Tampa Bay after being included in a three-way swap of more prominent players. Today, let’s take a look at those players. 

    To review: in December of 2018, the Indians, Mariners, and Rays engaged in a three-way deal that shuffled around their first basemen. In this rare three-way challenge trade, each team came away with (at least one) major-league first baseman. The Rays got Yandy Diaz, the Mariners Edwin Encarnacion, while the Indians snagged a pair of first basemen in the deal: Jake Bauers and Carlos Santana

    There were auxiliary pieces that fit less cleanly into our first basemen carousel. The Rays picked up Sulser from Cleveland, while Tampa also sent $5MM to the Mariners. Seattle paid that money forward, sending a total of $6MM to the Indians. Coming back to Seattle was the Indians’ Round B selection in the draft. The Mariners ended up selecting right-handed pitcher Isaiah Campbell out of Arkansas with the #76 pick in the draft. Those pieces aside, let’s check in on how each team is feeling about their end of this whirlwind deal one season after the fact.


    This move – and much of their offseason last winter – was largely about shuffling money around – but not wholly so. The Indians took back Santana, who had only recently been sent to Seattle after playing one season in Philadelphia. Santana made $20.3MM in 2019, but his contract was offset by sending out Encarnacion, who was owed $21.7MM in 2019 with a $5MM buyout for 2020. The difference in their salaries, plus the money acquired from Seattle netted the Indians close to $7.5MM in 2019, though they took on more long-term money in Santana.

    On the field, this deal basically amounts to two exchanges for the Indians: Santana over Encarnacion in terms of big-money players, and Bauers over Diaz for cost-controlled assets. As for the first exchange, the Indians have to count this as a win. After one so-so year with the Phillies, Santana returned to form in a big way with the Indians. All aspects of Santana’s game came together in 2019. He hit .281/.397/.515 on the year with 34 home runs and 110 RBIs. He turned in his typically strong BB-K numbers, posting identical walk and strikeout rates of 15.7% (slight improvements on his career norms in both departments). His isolated power (.234 ISO) was the second-highest mark of his career, while the .397 OBP was a new career-high for a full season. Santana’s season totaled 4.6rWAR/4.4 fWAR, good for 135 wRC+, and he’ll be back in their lineup for 2020.

    Bauers, on the other hand, is a work in progress. He brings an added level of versatility, appearing in 31 games at first and 53 games in left, but he’ll need to improve at the plate to put that value to work. Bauers hit just .226/.312/.371 across 423 plate appearances in his first season with the Indians. His walk rate dropped to 10.6% and with a power mark of just .145 ISO. That’s not enough pop from a first baseman/left fielder. He finished with below-average marks of 78 wRC+ and -0.4 fWAR. Still, all hope is not lost for Bauers. A career-low .290 BABIP might point to some positive regression in the future, and he doesn’t even turn 25-years-old until October.


    The Mariners’ biggest get here was the draft pick. GM Jerry Dipoto continued his rebuild, and ultimately, the swap of sluggers was an avenue to add another draft pick. After taking on Santana a week prior, the Mariners shed long-term money by swapping in Encarnacion, whom they eventually flipped to the Yankees.

    While with the Mariners, Encarnacion was about as good as expected, slashing .241/.356/.531 with 21 home runs in 65 games. With the rebuild in full swing, EE was never expected to spend a full season in Seattle. Given his start to the year, the Mariners’ return for the DH was a little underwhelming, but the market for teams in need of a designated hitter was limited. Still, Trader Jerry added right-hander Juan Then from the Yankees. Fangraphs ranks Then as the Mariners’ #13-ranked prospect after finishing the season in A-ball. Campbell, selected with the acquired draft choice, comes in at #16.

    The Yankees and Mariners essentially split the remaining money owed Encarnacion at the time, so the M’s did see some financial benefit as well. It’s often difficult to track the wheeling and dealing done by Dipoto, but we can give it a go here. To do so, we have to go back to the deal that sent Santana from the Phillies to Seattle. Dipoto sent Jean Segura, Juan Nicasio, and James Pazos to Philly for Santana and J.P. Crawford. In sum, he started with Segura, Nicasio, and Pazos, and the Mariners ended up with Crawford, Then, and Campbell, along with some financial saving both in the short-and-long-term.


    It was surprising to see the Rays move Jake Bauers at the time of this deal, but they’re no stranger to dealing from a young core. The Rays picked up Sulser and Diaz for Bauers in this trade, while also sending $5MM to the Mariners. Considering Sulser was eventually lost on waivers to the Orioles (though he did give them 7 scoreless innings in 2019), the move essentially amounts to the Rays paying $5MM to swap in Diaz for Bauers. At the time of the deal, Bauers was seen as an up-and-comer, while Diaz was a little-known 27-year-old utility player with little-to-no boom in his boomstick. As has often been the case of late with Rays’ trades, at a cursory glance, the Rays were trading away controllable youth for a role player.

    But where the Rays are concerned, it’s often worth delving a little further. Diaz quickly became known for his above-average exit velocities. And while Diaz was a little older and without the prospect pedigree of Bauers, he came with similar team control, more versatility given his ability to line up at the hot corner, and his biceps have a cult following all their own.

    Injuries unfortunately limited Diaz’s production in 2019, but when he was on the field, he was dynamite. While posting a line of .267/.340/.476 across 79 games, Diaz was coming into his own as a hitter with a 116 wRC+. Diaz’s minor league career to this point was a testament to his ability to get on base, limit strikeouts, and make hard contact, but a groundball-heavy approach limited his power.

    But it was a different story in Tampa. Diaz produced a career-best .208 ISO to go with a 91.7 mph exit velocity that put him in the top 8% of the league, per Statcast. His hard-hit percentage continues to be well above average, and a small improvement in launch angle and a large jump in barrels led to Diaz smashing 14 home runs in 79 games after hitting just 1 in 88 big league games with the Indians.

    Not only that, but Diaz returned from the injured list in time for the playoffs, leading off the wild card game with a solo shot off Sean Manaea. Diaz went deep his second time up as well, at which point the Rays had more than enough to get past the A’s. It was a monster performance from Diaz in the biggest game of the year up to that point. (Things didn’t go quite so well for Diaz in Houston, as he went 0 for 9 with four strikeouts in the ALDS.) The Rays have to feel pretty good about where they stand with Diaz moving forward, as he should continue to be a cheap source of offense for the next couple of seasons.

    For that matter, all three teams have to feel pretty good about this deal, as they each accomplished their goal. If Bauers has a better showing in 2020 and the Mariners’ prospects come to fruition, there will ultimately be very little not to like about this three-way deal. Include the Orioles for nabbing Sulser and the Yankees for getting a half a season of Encarnacion, and it could be argued that five teams actually came away winners from this three-way swap of first baseman.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest News, Notes On Minor League Pay]]> 2020-05-29T21:36:05Z 2020-05-29T15:57:39Z The manner in which teams are — or, in some cases, aren’t — continuing to pay their minor league players has drawn increased attention as the end of the month draws near. Major League teams agreed back in March to pay minor league players $400 per week through the end of May, but most minor league players now face ongoing financial uncertainty. The Dodgers have already committed to continue that $400 weekly stipend through the end of June, but veteran left-hander David Price is stepping up to add a helping hand, pledging $1,000 to each non-40-man Dodgers minor leaguer, according to a report from Francys Romero (Twitter link). That includes more than 220 minor leaguers, per’s Chris Cotillo. It’s a similar gesture to the one Shin-Shoo Choo made with the Rangers back in April.

    Of course, the very fact that veterans such as Choo and Price even feel it necessary to step up to help out minor leaguers speaks to the manner in which minor league players are under-compensated. While some clubs — the Marlins and Padres — are reportedly set to pay out that $400 weekly stipend through the end of the minor league season, the Athletics are cutting off the stipend at month’s end. Others have extended the stipend through June but have not committed further.

    Here’s how a few other clubs are handling the matter…

    • The Mets, Rays, Brewers, Cardinals, Giants and Indians are all extending the $400 weekly stipend through the month of June, per reports from MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (tweet), the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak (tweet), the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area (tweet) and Kyle Glaser of Baseball America (tweet). “This money right now, especially for guys who aren’t as well off, this is a huge deal,” Rays minor league catcher Chris Betts tells Topkin. “…I’m beyond excited about it, and I’m honestly just more stoked and proud that the organization I play for took this route more than anything.”
    • The Athletics have, unsurprisingly, drawn a wide array of harsh criticism for their wide-ranging furlough and the full cutoff of minor league payment, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Slusser notes that owner John Fisher repeatedly used the word “family” in his letter to fans explaining the cutbacks, but many impacted by the cuts don’t feel the effects of that word. “It’s very hard to preach family and then not act like it when times are difficult,” Class-A pitcher Aiden McIntyre tells Slusser. Triple-A outfielder Jason Krizan added: “…[I]t hurts to see the Marlins continue to pay their players when they made the least in baseball last year,” though he noted he’d rather remain an Athletic and receive benefits than otherwise. Other players, past and present, voiced similar criticisms to Slusser, as did a big league agent and an executive with another club. Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein writes that termination of the stipend saves the Athletics an approximate $1.3MM.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[The Indians Continue To Benefit From The Bartolo Colon Trade]]> 2020-05-25T04:02:58Z 2020-05-25T03:40:02Z Today is Bartolo Colon’s 47th birthday, and I think I join just about every baseball fan in hoping that “Big Sexy” can fulfill his goal of making it back to the majors for one more go-around.  While that extra year would be a nice bonus, Colon has already established an incredible legacy over his 21 MLB seasons, with a list of memories ranging from his 2005 AL Cy Young Award to perhaps the most popular home run of the decade.  Colon has accomplished so much since he first broke into the bigs with the Indians at age 24….and yet though it has been close to 18 years since he last donned a Cleveland uniform, the Tribe continues to benefit from Colon’s time with the franchise.

    Let’s flash back to 2002.  After establishing himself as a solid member of the rotation during his first five seasons, Colon was on pace for his lowest ERA yet, as he had posted a 2.55 mark over his first 16 starts and 116 1/3 innings of the 2002 campaign.  (Even if a 3.75 FIP indicates that Colon was perhaps somewhat fortunate to manage that 2.55 ERA.)  The downside was that that the Indians were struggling, as the club was preparing for a rebuild after its long run of winning seasons and frequent playoff appearances from 1994-2001.  That made Colon expendable, and the righty was dealt to the Montreal Expos in a blockbuster trade near the end of June.

    While Colon pitched well for the Expos, they came up short in their bid for the postseason in what ended up being their third-to-last year in Montreal.  With the Expos controlled by Major League Baseball at the time and rumors swirling that a new owner would likely move the team, then-general manager Omar Minaya decided that a bold move was necessary to try and reinvigorate both Montreal fans and potential local investors.

    As such, Minaya threw all caution to the wind in sending a four-player package of Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, and Lee Stevens to Cleveland in exchange for Colon’s services.  The veteran Stevens (who didn’t play in the big leagues again after the 2002 season) was something of a throw-in, but let’s look at the other three Expos prospects obtained….

    Phillips: The second baseman didn’t break out and reach his All-Star form until after he was dealt to the Reds in April 2006, though indirectly, Phillips helped the Indians land Chris Perez.  Phillips went to Cincinnati for righty Jeff Stevens, who was dealt in December 2008 as part of a three-player package (that also included Chris Archer) to the Cubs for Mark DeRosa.  Cleveland sent DeRosa to the Cardinals in June 2009 for a player to be named later and Perez, who recorded 124 saves and reached two All-Star games over his four-plus seasons with the Tribe.

    Sizemore:  The Indians received a more direct contribution from Sizemore, as the center fielder soon blossomed into one of the game’s better all-around players.  Sizemore hit .281/.372/.496 from 2005-08, with the fourth-most fWAR (27.3) of any player in baseball during that four-year stretch.  Unfortunately for both Sizemore and the Indians, injuries curtailed what was looking like a special career, and Sizemore played only 419 games total from 2009-15.

    Lee: The southpaw’s 182-game tenure in Cleveland had its ups and downs, though he saved the best for last with an outstanding 2008 season.  Lee won the AL Cy Young Award by leading the league in ERA (2.54), ERA+ (167), BB/9 (1.4), and HR/9 (0.5), while also tossing 223 1/3 innings.

    He continued to pitch well into the 2009 season, which leads us to the next offshoot of the Colon trade: the deal that sent Lee to the Phillies at the 2009 trade deadline.  Cleveland picked up another four-player package, this time consisting of Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, and minor league righty Jason Knapp.  Baseball America ranked Carrasco, Donald, and Marson within their top 100 prospects list prior to the 2009 season, and Knapp made the 2010 list, though Knapp never ended up reaching the big leagues.  Marson ended up playing 261 games in the Show (253 as a part-time catcher for the Indians), hitting .219/.309/.299 over a career that stretched across six seasons.

    The other two pieces of the trade went on to become noteworthy parts of Cleveland baseball history…

    Carrasco: The man they call “Cookie” is still on the Tribe’s roster, evolving from prospect to a stalwart member of the rotation.  Beyond his contributions on the field, Carrasco has become a popular leader both in the Indians’ clubhouse and around the sport, as witnessed by the outpouring of support he received last season while battling (and ultimately returning from) a leukemia diagnosis.

    Donald: After posting a .672 OPS over 603 plate appearances and 170 games with the Indians from 2010-12, Donald never again played in the Majors.  Since perhaps his most memorable baseball moment was his (ahem) infield single to break up Armando Galarraga’s would-be perfect game in June 2010, you may wonder why Donald merits a “noteworthy” designation.

    In short, it’s because Donald was part of one of Cleveland’s most memorable trades of the decade.  Granted, nobody refers to the three-team deal between the Indians, Reds, and Diamondbacks in December 2012 as “the Jason Donald trade” given the other big names (namely Shin-Soo Choo and Didi Gregorius) involved.  That said, given the complexity of such multi-team swaps, perhaps the whole negotiation would have fallen apart if the Tribe hadn’t agreed to send Donald to Cincinnati.

    Even if Donald didn’t play a headline role in the exchange, the main point is that the Indians received another four-player package on their end of the trade: Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw, and Drew Stubbs.  Albers pitched well out of the Tribe’s bullpen in 2013 before departing in free agency.  Stubbs only spent one year in Cleveland before being traded to Colorado in December 2013 for Josh Outman, who gave the Indians 24 2/3 relief innings of 3.28 ERA ball before being swapped to the Yankees for cash considerations.  Looking at the other two names…

    Shaw: The biggest bullpen reinforcement of the group, Shaw became a workhorse of a setup man from 2013-17.  Three times a league-leader in appearances during that five-year stretch, Shaw posted a 3.11 ERA, 8.4 K/9, and 2.8 K/BB rate over 358 2/3 frames in Cleveland.

    Bauer: The right-hander was no stranger to controversy over his six-plus seasons with the Indians, though he developed from solid starter to an ace in 2018, posting a 2.21 ERA over 175 1/3 innings and finishing sixth in AL Cy Young voting.  Somewhat similar to Lee’s situation, Bauer continued to pitch well enough into the next season that he became part of a major pre-deadline trade.

    This three-team swap is a bit fresher in our memory banks, but as a reminder, the Padres, Reds, and Indians combined on a blockbuster that saw Bauer go to Cincinnati while top Reds outfield prospect Taylor Trammell went to San Diego.  The other five players involved in the trade all went to the Indians: Yasiel Puig, Franmil Reyes, and prospects Logan Allen, Scott Moss, and Victor Nova.

    The “Wild Horse” has already come and gone from Cleveland, as Puig departed for free agency and was still looking for a new team prior to the league-wide transactions freeze.  Acquired to help offset salary and add some pop to the ever-shifting Tribe outfield, Puig hit pretty well during his brief stint with the Indians, slashing .297/.377/.423 over 207 PA, though he managed only two home runs (as opposed to his 22 in 404 PA with the Reds).  Nova is a 20-year-old rookie ball prospect, while MLB Pipeline ranks Moss ranks 18th among all Indians prospects and projects him as a possible back-of-the-rotation starter if he can harness his control.  As for the other two…

    Allen: Going into 2019 as a consensus top-100 prospect in baseball, Allen badly struggled at the Triple-A level last year.  His hopes at a rebound have been hampered the possibility that the minor league season could be canceled entirely, though Allen could potentially find a role on the 20-player taxi squad backing up an expanded 30-player Cleveland roster.  The southpaw was badly hurt by home runs last season, so the Tribe hope that getting more used to the livelier ball will help Allen get back on track.

    Reyes: The 24-year-old slugger got off to a slow start after the trade to Cleveland, but recovered to hit .237/.304/.468 with 10 homers over 194 PA in an Indians uniform.  Reyes will now have to cut down on the strikeouts and become a bit more of a well-rounded hitter in order to fully unlock the hitting potential that is clearly evident from his power numbers.

    So to recap, trading Colon in 2002 has led to five current members of the Indians organization.  Over those 18 years since the Expos trade, dealing Colon also directly and indirectly led to a Cy Young Award winner (Lee), another starter with at least one Cy Young-caliber campaign (Bauer), two relievers who delivered consistent results over multiple seasons (Shaw and Perez), four years from an MVP candidate (Sizemore), and other small contributions from a host of other players.  This group all contributed to at least one of the Tribe’s five postseason appearances from 2007-18, and the club now hopes that Carrasco, Reyes, Allen, and company can call be part of Cleveland’s next playoff team.

    That adds up to at least two windows of contention, and who knows if future trades or transactions could spin some of those current players on the roster into even bigger contributors down the road.  While the Indians have already gotten so much in return from that 2002 deal, as with seemingly all things involving Bartolo Colon, you never know when another delightful surprise could emerge.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Zach Plesac Hires CAA Sports]]> 2020-05-22T23:52:01Z 2020-05-22T23:52:01Z Indians righty Zach Plesac has hired CAA Sports to represent him, per’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). The relationship is now reflected in MLBTR’s Agency Database.

    Plesac isn’t closing in on any major contractual milestones, but he has certainly raised his profile and with it his potential for earning opportunities of all kinds. The 2016 12th-rounder entered 2019 as a little-known prospect and left it as a potentially significant part of the Indians’ future.

    Though he was optioned as part of the Cleveland organization’s coronavirus shuffling, Plesac certainly seems deserving of another full run in the rotation. He earned his way up last year with a dominant run in the upper minors and ultimately delivered 115 2/3 innings of 3.81 ERA ball in the bigs.

    To be fair, there are some questions of sustainability. Plesac underwhelmed with 6.9 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, and 1.48 HR/9. Statcast identified a massive gap in anticipated (.347 xwOBA) and actual outcomes (.315 wOBA) based upon the quality of contact produced by opposing hitters.

    It remains to be seen whether Plesac can recreate the magic — or, perhaps more realistically, continue to make strides to establish himself as a viable long-term rotation piece. But there’s little question he has done enough to earn a longer look.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Indians Have Ample Long-Term Payroll Flexibility]]> 2020-05-19T13:50:02Z 2020-05-19T12:49:08Z 2020 salary terms are set to be hammered out in the coming days. But what about what’s owed to players beyond that point? The near-term economic picture remains questionable at best. That’ll make teams all the more cautious with guaranteed future salaries.

    Every organization has some amount of future cash committed to players, all of it done before the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe. There are several different ways to look at salaries; for instance, for purposes of calculating the luxury tax, the average annual value is the touchstone, with up-front bonuses spread over the life of the deal. For this exercise, we’ll focus on actual cash outlays that still have yet to be paid.

    We’ll run through every team, with a big assist from the Cot’s Baseball Contracts database. Next up is the Indians:

    (click to expand/view detail list)

    Indians Total Future Cash Obligation: $40.65MM

    *includes buyout of club options

    Tim Dierkes <![CDATA[Which 15 Players Should The Indians Protect In An Expansion Draft?]]> 2020-05-18T20:20:41Z 2020-05-18T18:31:12Z In a few weeks, we’ll be running a two-team mock expansion draft here at MLBTR.  Currently, we’re creating 15-player protected lists for each of the existing 30 teams.  You can catch up on the rules for player eligibility here.

    So far, we’ve done the White SoxRaysYankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles.  The Indians are next.

    We’ll start by removing Cesar Hernandez, Oliver Perez, and Sandy Leon from consideration since they’ll be free agents after the season.  Carlos Santana has a relatively pricey $17.5MM club option, so we’ll remove him as well.  Roberto Perez has more affordable club options on 2021 and ’22, so we’ll include him in the poll.  I’m only going to lock in these five players:

    Francisco Lindor
    Mike Clevinger
    Shane Bieber
    Jose Ramirez
    Brad Hand

    That means you get most of the control here, as you can choose 10 of the following 26 players:

    Greg Allen
    Logan Allen
    Christian Arroyo
    Jake Bauers
    Bobby Bradley
    Carlos Carrasco
    Yu Chang
    Adam Cimber
    Emmanuel Clase

    Aaron Civale
    Delino DeShields
    James Hoyt
    James Karinchak
    Jordan Luplow
    Phil Maton
    Oscar Mercado
    Tyler Naquin
    Roberto Perez
    Zach Plesac
    Adam Plutko
    Franmil Reyes
    Jefry Rodriguez
    Domingo Santana
    Nick Wittgren
    Hunter Wood
    Bradley Zimmer

    With that, we turn it over to the MLBTR readership! In the poll below, select exactly ten players you think the Indians should protect in our upcoming mock expansion draft. Click here to view the results.

    Create your own user feedback survey

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Did The Marlins Gift The Indians A Setup Man?]]> 2020-05-07T19:50:56Z 2020-05-07T17:39:35Z Like any club, the Indians have had their share of notable players slip through their fingers, though the losses of Kirby Yates and Gio Urshela can likely be forgiven when looking at the low costs of acquisition for the likes of Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger. Cleveland’s Feb. 4, 2019 acquisition of righty Nick Wittgren from the Marlins isn’t going to have that type of long-term impact on the franchise, but it nevertheless appears to be another high-quality, low-cost pickup for a team that has had its share of success in that regard in recent years.

    Nick Wittgren | Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

    When the Marlins designated Wittgren for assignment in Jan. 2019, it registered as something of a surprise, as noted here at the time. He’d had an up-and-down year in 2018 but finished out the season with a 2.94 ERA, 8.3 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, 0.27 HR/9 and a career-best 46 percent ground-ball rate in 33 2/3 innings with Miami. Wittgren was a 27-year-old with a minor league option remaining, a 3.60 ERA (3.50 FIP) and a 116-to-38 K/BB ratio in 127 2/3 innings of relief for the Marlins. He wasn’t expensive — still pre-arbitration at the time — and could’ve been controlled through 2022.

    Whatever the reasons, the Marlins felt Wittgren was the most expendable piece on the 40-man roster when they signed Neil Walker. Five days after being designated for assignment, he was traded to Cleveland in exchange for Jordan Milbrath — a minor league righty who is only about two months younger than Wittgren and, at the time, had only briefly reached Triple-A.

    For an Indians club that had moved on from the long-solid trio of Cody Allen, Zach McAllister and Dan Otero and, a year prior, had lost iron man Bryan Shaw in free agency, Wittgren proved to be a godsend. While he didn’t break camp with the team, Wittgren was summoned in early April and made his Cleveland debut by pitching 1 1/3 innings with four strikeouts. At no point in 2019 did the righty carry an ERA higher than 3.34, and by the time the season had drawn to a close, Wittgren was regularly pitching in the eighth inning as one of Brad Hand’s primary setup men. His 12 holds ranked third on the club behind Oliver Perez and Adam Cimber.

    Wittgren doesn’t have the flashy Statcast numbers that some other relievers we’ve profiled recently do. He’s not a hard-thrower (92.3 mph average fastball), and he ranks below average in terms of spin rates and hard-hit rates. His home-run rate looked ripe for regression in 2018 and did indeed spike in 2019 — although the extent of that spike was surely impacted by the juiced ball (as was the case for virtually every pitcher in the league).

    But Wittgren has demonstrated above-average control throughout his career and generally been effective against both righties and lefties (last year’s more pronounced platoon splits notwithstanding). Fielding-independent metrics suggest that the sub-3.00 ERA he’s managed over the past two seasons isn’t likely to hold up, but Wittgren has a career 3.71 FIP in 185 1/3 big league innings at this point.

    In some ways, Wittgren mirrors the previously mentioned Shaw, who was a similarly unheralded pickup but emerged as a rock-solid late-inning stabilizer in Cleveland for a half decade. He’s not an overpowering righty but generally has solid control and has, to this point in his career, managed to maintain an ERA south of his FIP and (particularly) his xFIP thanks to home run suppression skills. He has a ways to go in terms of matching Shaw’s uncanny durability, but Wittgren still seems like a solid piece in the ’pen — even if his ERA trends a bit closer to his FIP marks.

    As a 28-year-old middle reliever/setup man without huge strikeout totals, we probably won’t see Wittgren named to any All-Star teams in the near future. He’s the type of reliever who even in maintaining success will also maintain relative anonymity. Most seventh- and eighth-inning relievers on smaller market clubs aren’t exactly household names. But considering the cost of acquisition — Milbrath is already out of the Marlins organization after posting a 4.50 ERA an 5.49 FIP in 52 Triple-A frames last year — and the fact that Wittgren can be cheaply controlled through 2022, the trade looks like a nice under-the-radar move that can help Cleveland for the foreseeable future.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[When Padres Gave Up An Eventual 2-Time Cy Young Winner]]> 2020-05-07T00:55:02Z 2020-05-06T23:54:58Z Although right-hander Corey Kluber has been one of the most successful starters in recent memory, it’s not as if his he was a can’t-miss prospect who was expected to turn into the two-time American League Cy Young winner he became. Kluber entered the pros as a fourth-round pick of the Padres in 2007, but he wasn’t lights-out at preventing runs at the lower levels of the minors with them during his time with the franchise. The Padres eventually deemed Kluber expendable when they sent him to the Indians in a July 2010 three-team trade that also involved the Cardinals. The headliners then were outfielder Ryan Ludwick (he went from the Cardinals to the Padres) and righty Jake Westbrook (the Indians shipped him to the Redbirds). Little did anyone know Kluber would turn into the most valuable player in the deal.

    Corey Kluber | Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports

    If we go back a decade, Ludwick was amid a rather impressive run with the Cardinals, largely because of a 5.3-fWAR campaign in 2008 in which he posted a jaw-dropping 151 wRC+. While he fell back to earth from there, the Padres – who were playoff contenders in 2010 – expected him to at least serve as a solid regular in their uniform. But the Padres, despite winning 90 games that year, didn’t end up making the playoffs, and they never got much value from Ludwick. He slashed a weak .228/.301/.358 (86 wRC+) over 664 plate appearances in a Padres uniform in 160 games before they sold him to the Pirates in July 2011.

    Ludwick’s subpar production in San Diego makes it all the more unfortunate that the team said goodbye to Kluber, who later evolved into one of the top starters of the past several years. Kluber came into his own in 2013, his first full season in the majors, and proceeded to post a sterling 2.96 ERA/2.89 FIP with 9.91 K/9 and 1.86 BB/9 across 1,238 2/3 innings through 2018.

    As mentioned, Kluber took home a pair of Cy Youngs during his halcyon stretch. He also earned three All-Star nods, ranked 10th among all qualified starters in ERA, and helped the Indians to four playoff berths and three AL Central championships. Not bad for someone who was unheralded when the Indians got him. Westbrook, whom the Indians gave up, was quite good in their uniform at times, and he did enjoy success in St. Louis, but that’s nonetheless a trade that Cleveland would make again in light of how much Kluber blossomed as a member of the club.

    However, now 34 years old, Kluber is no longer part of the team with which he broke out. After a disappointing, injury-ruined 2019, the Indians sent Kluber and his waning team control (he has a guaranteed one year, $18.5MM left on the five-year, $38.5MM pact the Indians gave him in 2015) to the Rangers for reliever Emmanuel Clase and outfielder Delino DeShields. It has never come off as an overwhelming return for Cleveland, especially in light of Clase’s recent 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. Then again, Kluber didn’t look like a special pickup when he joined the Indians, and look how he panned out. Regardless of what happens with Clase and DeShields, you can’t argue with what the Indians got from Kluber when he was in their rotation. For the Padres, though, he’s a star who got away.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Jefry Rodriguez's Versatility Could Help The Indians]]> 2020-05-04T03:04:49Z 2020-05-04T02:43:06Z
  • Jefry Rodriguez started eight of his 10 games with the Indians last season, though’s Joe Noga feels the right-hander could be a swingman option for the Tribe if the 2020 season gets underway.  It was an open question as to whether or not Rodriguez would have made Cleveland’s Opening Day roster under normal circumstances, but his ability to work in multiple roles and pitch multiple innings could be helpful in a shortened season, given a compressed schedule and the likelihood that regular starters would be on a reduced workload.  The 26-year-old Rodriguez came to Cleveland from Washington as part of the Yan Gomes trade in November 2018, and he posted a 4.63 ERA, 6.4 K/9, and 1.57 K/BB rate over 46 2/3 innings last season.
  • ]]>
    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[The One Who Got Away From Cleveland]]> 2020-05-03T17:20:02Z 2020-05-03T16:14:41Z Tomorrow marks the two-year anniversary of a seemingly innocuous decision that ultimately backfired. On May 4, 2018, the Indians designated third baseman Gio Urshela for assignment. Five days later, they traded him to the Blue Jays for cash considerations, ending his decade-long tenure in the organization.

    The decision to move on from Urshela made perfect sense at the time. He had never been a top prospect, instead profiling as a glove-first depth infielder. His offensive numbers in the high minors were fine but unspectacular. That wasn’t the case in MLB, though, as he’d hit just .225/.273/.314 (56 wRC+) in parts of three seasons. Most pressing, he’d exhausted all his minor-league options by 2018. Rather than carrying Urshela on an active roster already featuring Francisco LindorJosé RamírezJason Kipnis and Erik González (himself out of options and capable of playing shortstop), the front office elected to move on.

    Urshela played in just 19 games in Toronto before they too cut him loose. He cleared waivers, was traded to the Yankees, and didn’t return to the majors in 2018. He became a minor-league free agent after the season. Presumably finding no MLB interest, he returned to the Yankees on a minor-league deal last November.

    That under-the-radar series of events proved massively important in 2019. With Miguel Andújar injured, the Yankees turned third base over to Urshela. He responded with an out-of-nowhere breakout, hitting .314/.355/.534 (132 wRC+) in 476 plate appearances. It’s an open question whether he can sustain anything approaching that production moving forward, but his underlying batted ball metrics were fantastic. In February, 68% of MLBTR readers opined the hot corner in the Bronx was Urshela’s to lose, even with Andújar returning. The 28-year-old is under team control through 2024, making him a potential long-term asset for the New York organization.

    For the Indians (and to a lesser extent, the Jays), seeing Urshela’s success with an AL rival has to be a bitter pill to swallow. Obviously, they couldn’t have seen his 2019 season coming. No one around the league did, seeing as Urshela was available for little more than an MLB roster spot an offseason ago. Every team has players they wish they hadn’t let get away in retrospect (some significantly more painful than losing Urshela). Perhaps the 28-year-old simply needed a change of scenery and/or a new voice on the player development side to unlock another gear. Regardless of how and why it happened, there’s no doubt Urshela washing out in Cleveland proved to be a huge gain for the Yankees.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Emmanuel Clase Receives PED Suspension]]> 2020-05-01T19:59:59Z 2020-05-01T19:33:26Z Indians reliever Emmanuel Clase has received an 80-game suspension, per a league announcement. He tested positive for banned PED boldenone.

    Clase, acquired in the trade that sent Corey Kluber to the Rangers, had been rehabbing a teres major strain this spring. Precisely when the positive test was recorded isn’t known, though it certainly may have taken place prior to the shutdown of play. Clase would have had an opportunity to appeal the suspension before it was announced.

    The Indians were disappointed to see Clase go down in camp. But it seemed he’d have a chance to accomplish much of his rehab work while the season was on pause. That’ll still be the case, but he’ll now be sidelined regardless when the 2020 campaign gets underway. The suspension will begin once the season gets underway, even if Clase is still rehabbing.

    It obviously hasn’t been the smoothest start to Clase’s tenure with the Cleveland organization. The club pinned big hopes to the 22-year-old hurler, who was the chief asset brought back in a deal for one of the team’s best-known players.

    Clase wasn’t a widely known player entering the 2019 season. But he zipped up the Texas farm system ladder and opened eyes with his MLB debut at just 21 years of age. Featuring a triple-digit heater, Clase turned in a 2.31 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, and a hefty 60.6% groundball rate over 23 1/3 innings.

    There is quite a silver lining here for the Indians — and a big dent to Clase’s long-term earnings outlook. He had only accrued 59 days of service in 2019 and will not be able to add enough days in 2020 to reach a full season of MLB service (172 days). Though he could ultimately qualify for arbitration in 2023 as a Super Two player, his anticipated free agent clock will end up moving back a year.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[J.D. Martinez, Alex Bregman … Jordan Luplow?]]> 2020-05-01T12:49:34Z 2020-05-01T00:50:34Z Raise your hand if you know which three major league hitters had the most success against left-handed pitching last season. The first two names – Boston’s J.D. Martinez (242 wRC+) and Houston’s Alex Bregman (205) – don’t come as any kind of surprise. Everybody knows they’re elite offensive players. The same is not true of the third-place finisher, Indians outfielder Jordan Luplow, who put up a jaw-dropping 198 wRC+ and slashed .320/.439/.742 in 155 plate appearances versus southpaws. Nobody could have seen that coming when the Indians made a fairly under-the-radar trade for him before last year.

    Heading into the 2018-19 offseason, Luplow was a Pirate who, in limited big league opportunities, didn’t produce much. At that point, the former third-round pick was the owner of a dismal .194/.274/.371 line (72 wRC+) in 190 trips to the plate. Unimpressed, Pittsburgh sent him to Cleveland in a deal that has gone the Indians’ way so far.

    In exchange for Luplow and infielder Max Moroff, the Indians gave up infielder Erik Gonzalez and a couple minor league right-handers in Dante Mendoza and Tahnaj Thomas. Like Luplow, Gonzalez had been a replacement-level player and a non-threat at the plate in the majors when the trade occurred. Still, then-Pirates general manager Neal Huntington was happy to bring him aboard.

    “Erik Gonzalez is an athletic middle infielder who plays solid defense and has the potential to be a productive hitter at the major league level,” said Huntington. “He gives us another quality option to play shortstop or in the middle of our infield this year and into the future.”

    Gonzalez fell flat in Year 1 as a Pirate, though, as he batted an ugly .254/.301/.317 (59 wRC+) in 156 PA during an injury-shortened campaign. He’s 28 and controllable through 2022, so it’s too soon to throw dirt on Gonzalez’s career, but it’s not looking good so far. Meanwhile, the 21-year-old Mendoza has struggled in the minors, where he logged a 5.82 ERA/6.06 FIP across 43 1/3 innings in rookie ball last season. If there’s a silver lining to this trade for the Pirates so far, it’s that they got a solid prospect in Thomas, 20. Formerly an infielder, Thomas ranks as FanGraphs’ No. 5 Pirates farmhand. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen wrote of Thomas two months ago, “He may be the most anonymous 100 mph arm in baseball.”

    Perhaps Thomas will one day go down as a player who got away for Cleveland. For now, the team’s benefiting from the deal at the MLB level, though it’s already out one-half of its return in Moroff. He was a non-factor in the bigs last year and is now a member of the Mets organization. And, of course, Luplow doesn’t come without question marks at the plate. The righty amassed 106 PA versus same-handed pitchers in 2019, hit just one of his 15 home runs off them and could only muster a .216/.274/.299 line with a wRC+ of 48. Those are in line with the numbers he posted against right-handers in previous seasons.

    Despite his shortcomings, the inexpensive Luplow has already given the Indians a substantial amount of bang for their buck. As a 2.2-fWAR performed last year, FanGraphs valued his output at $17.6MM. At the very least, the Indians appear to have found a nice platoon hitter in Luplow — one who has experience at all three outfield positions. The fact that he’s still just 26 and controllable for five more years (including two pre-arbitration seasons) only adds to his appeal from the low-budget Indians’ perspective.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.