Even in this mutant 60-game sprint of a 2020 season, there is a trade deadline. This year the date falls on August 31, and aspiring champions are already busy stalking the bottom feeders in a bid to pick off their prized assets.
But with the expanded playoffs in effect, and more teams able to gamble on postseason success, perhaps clubs will be more reticent to offload their talent. Teams could hold onto what they have for one final push and roll the dice in October.
Regardless, some movement is inevitable. Every organisation in the league is looking for ways to improve their roster and the Indians are among them.
The big need for Cleveland is clear; an outfield bat. The Tribe had the same problem last year and they added Yasiel Puig at the deadline as a solution. Sadly the marriage proved to be short-lived and Puig materialised into a late-season rental, albeit a loveable one. He’s actually still available if the team decides to take one more spin on the Puig carousel. I wouldn’t be against that.
A few names have been linked with a move to Cleveland via trade. Look no further than the front-runner and man I’d love most to see patrol our outfield: Mike Yastrzemski, of the San Francisco Giants.
Yastrzemski, grandson of legendary Red Sox Carl, exploded onto the scene last year with a breakout rookie campaign. He featured in 107 games and slashed .272/.334/.518 (BA/OBP/SLG) with 21 home runs, 22 doubles, and 55 RBI. His eye-catching performances helped rocket my fantasy team up my league as well, for which I will be forever grateful.
The 29-year-old began 2020 in similarly impressive fashion and doesn’t look like slowing down. One of the league leaders in hitting across multiple categories, Yaz has been crashing home runs into McCovey Cove and keeping the Giants competitive, more so than many experts expected. The Giants don’t need to move the fan-favourite Yastrzemski, but at his age, there are questions about whether or not he could still be a key player when San Francisco’s rebuild is complete.
Many believe he’s shown the tools to signify that yes, even into his thirties Yaz will be productive and contribute on the next Giants contender. However, if the Indians put together the right package of prospects, San Francisco could be tempted to let him go for the right price. Some much-needed pitching could accelerate the rebuild by the Bay, and we know the Indians have plenty of depth in that department.
Ultimately, I think it will be difficult and costly to pry Yastrzemski away from the Giants, but not impossible. San Francisco clearly love what a revelation he’s been. Yaz would be my number one target if the Tribe are serious about upgrading this year.
A potential trade we must acknowledge involves the Indians losing the jewel in their crown: star shortstop and face of the franchise, Francisco Lindor.
Let it be known that I am firmly against trading Lindor. I still hope the organisation can find a way to retain the perennial All-Star. Ideally, he’ll spend his entire career in an Indians uniform. That hope may prove to be in vain, but until he’s gone, Lindor is our guy.
Lindor is unquestionably the best shortstop in the game. Since 2017, he leads all his peers with a 17.7 fWAR (per Fangraphs).
Blockbuster trades involving star players like Lindor are considered unlikely in this shortened season, especially as Cleveland expects to make the postseason and hopefully catch fire at the right time. But stranger things have happened.
In reality, the departure of the Puerto Rican seems more and more likely as time goes on. If not this season, then in the winter. Long-term, it does feel like his future lies elsewhere. The vultures are circling, particularly the ones with pinstriped feathers, and just waiting to pluck Lindor away from Cleveland.
The Dodgers have long been considered a possible suitor. They’ve got the cash to pay a generational talent like Lindor what he’s worth and they’ve got the roster to compete for a World Series every year. They also have players who could help Cleveland in return, and maybe even offset the absence of Lindor.
The asking price for Lindor has to be high. Teams should not part with their superstars lightly. Gavin Lux, considered the Dodgers’ top prospect, would have to be part of any deal for Lindor.
The 22-year-old Lux is MLB ready and a shortstop by nature, even if the Dodgers used him primarily at second base in his September cameo last season. Lux could go straight into the Indians lineup and hit. It’s optimistic of us to predict he could produce anything close to what Lindor does on a regular basis, but Lux’s tools suggest he could have a long and successful career. If the Indians won’t pony up the money to pay Lindor, gaining Lux instead of letting Lindor walk away for nothing (he’s a free agent after 2021) is a much-preferred alternative.
The Indians would surely demand more than just Lux in return for Lindor. A batch of players and prospects in return would be a good starting point. One of the players to make the deal sweeter could be Joc Pederson.
The Dodgers outfielder has spent seven seasons in LA but becomes a free agent at the end of this year. Pederson’s addition to the Indians would likely be on a short-term basis, but his power bat and solidity in the outfield could give the Tribe the production they’ve been missing from their corner outfielders. Pederson’s batting average leaves a lot to be desired (a career .232 hitter) but his OBP is more encouraging (.338 for his career). His power potential is the significant draw in acquiring him. Pederson has hit 25+ home runs four out of the last five years, including a career-high 36 in 2019. His prodigious bat could really help the Tribe improve in an area they sorely need help.
With just over two weeks left until the deadline, anything can happen and often does. In this bizarro 2020 season, I’m preparing myself for the unexpected.
Do you expect the Indians to be buyers or sellers? What about your own team? Let us know in the comments section.
Ash Day is covering the Cleveland Indians throughout 2020 as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @AshDay29