There’s no question that the Indians’ greatest strength with a fully-healthy roster is their starting pitching. They have three premier top-of-the-rotation arms in Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco followed by the highly dependable, above-average pitcher that is Mike Clevinger as well as one of the best young pitchers in the MLB in Shane Bieber, who just made his first All-Star game.
With the injury bug plaguing the unit, the Indians have been able to get quality innings out of their depth arms: Jefry Rodriguez who was acquired in the Yan Gomes trade this offseason, Adam Plutko, rookie Zach Plesac and rookie Aaron Acicale, who looked terrific in his first and only start. Also, let’s not forget about former All-Star starter Danny Salazar who just started his road back to a full recovery with a rehab start with the Arizona rookie league team and he’s joining AA Akron to continue his rehab assignment. Not to mention the Indians number one prospect is Triston McKenzie, also a starting pitcher. Clearly, their strength as an organization is their starting pitching and the Indians may want to cash in on Trevor Bauer’s value while they still can.
However, it’s not exactly just as simple as saying trade Trevor Bauer because he will not be here in two years and we have plenty of starting pitching. Let’s be honest; the Indians have plenty of depth at the position, but none of the other options can truly replace one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. The Indians are also in a tough spot because they’re a good team in position to make the playoffs and they are currently riding a six-game win streak into the break. If they decide to make another run at the World Series and buy at the deadline, a better move may be to try and deal one of their depth arms like Adam Plutko for outfield help. If not, then trading Trevor Bauer, his 3.61 ERA and 149 strikeouts through 132 innings of work while his value is highest with a year and a half left before he hits free agency may be the best move they can make.
Scenario 1: New York Yankees
NYY gets: Trevor Bauer
CLE gets: Clint Frazier, Estevan Florial, and Harold Cortijo
Since the Indians have had a recent surge nearing the All-Star break, it would take a substantial offer to give Trevor Bauer away, especially to a team we would potentially compete with in the playoffs. That’s why if I’m Cleveland, I’m not settling for just Clint Frazier and a few other prospects. I want Clint Frazier, their number one prospect, and their 29th prospect to make me feel really great about it. Why would the Yankees do this? It’s simple, they’re all in on ring number 28.
Clint Frazier has a real buzz around the league and the Indians former first-round pick could fill the black hole in left field immediately touting an intriguing line of .283/.330/.513 to go along with 11 HR and 34 RBI. Estevan Florial is the 54th ranked prospect in baseball and he has limitless potential with his power, speed and arm strength combination that could make him one of the top center fielders in the league in a few years. After some digging, I came across Harold Corjito, the Yankees 29th best prospect. He was an athletic two-way player drafted out of high school who is still only 20 years old. He needs to develop a reliable breaking ball to go along with his fastball and changeup, but he has a 1.93 ERA through five starts this season in class A.
Scenario 2: San Diego Padres
SD gets: Trevor Bauer
CLE gets: Xavier Edwards, Josh Naylor, Andres Munoz, and Owen Miller
The Padres have the top-ranked farm system in baseball, so there are several different prospect packages the Indians could choose to go with. Players I like that I did not include are Luis Campusano, Jeisson Rosario, Edward Olivares and Anderson Espinoza, which led to me changing the final result of the trade several times. This is, perhaps, my favorite because of the abundance of exciting talent they would get. Of course, these guys aren’t Fernando Tatis Jr., but they can help out in a big way. The Indians also made a deal with the Padres last year for Brad Hand and Adam Cimber, so there’s some familiarity here as well.
Xavier Edwards might be ranked as the 8th best prospect in the Padres system, but he’s also the 89th prospect in all of baseball, which shows just how deep their system is. Edwards is a 19-year-old speedy switch hitter with a strong arm from shortstop, who has a big league future at the top of a lineup. He makes great contact from both sides and he walks almost as much as he strikes out, giving him an elite line of .339/.396/.416 with 20 SBs through 75 games in class A this season.
Josh Naylor, the 91st ranked prospect in the MLB, has spent time between AAA and the big league club this year and with a .299/.378/.538 line along with 10 HR, 35 RBI, and a 1 K/BB in AAA, there’s a reason to believe the stocky 1B/OF would be able to help out the Indians right away. Also, he’s the older brother of the Indian’s 2018 first round pick, Bo Naylor, so that could be an interesting thing to watch.
The Padres 20th ranked prospect, Andres Munoz, is a reliever that I think can immediately bolster the Indians’ surprisingly stellar pen by adding an element they are missing. He’s risen through the ranks quickly because of his electric fastball that sits in the upper-90s and can touch up to 101 paired with a slider that continues to improve. He has some control issues but through 34.1 IP this season between AA and AAA, he owns a 2.36 ERA with 55 Ks and a .169 average against.
Owen Miller, the club’s 22nd best prospect, is a pure-hitting middle infielder, who has proven to have a great bat at every level boasting a .296/.360/.423 line through 78 AA games. He seems to project better as a second baseman because of his relatively weak arm, so he could be an eventual replacement for Jason Kipnis.
Scenario 3: Cincinnati Reds
CIN gets: Trevor Bauer
CLE gets: Taylor Trammell, Yasiel Puig, Andy Sugilio, and Joel Kuhnel
While this scenario is relatively unlikely, it’s possible to convince the 41-46 Cincinnati Reds that an elite starter could help them turn things around in the second half and make a push for the division crown. Despite being five games under .500, they’re only 4.5 games back from the division lead.
Shipping Bauer to the Reds immediately upgrades their rotation and it pairs him with one of the best up-and-coming starters in Luis Castillo, a resurgent, All-Star Sonny Gray and the reliable Tanner Roark. That could be enough to help them get back to the postseason, especially with the return of Scooter Gennett and a better second half from Joey Votto. Personally, I would love to see Joey Votto in the playoffs and I would love to see Taylor Trammell in an Indians uniform for the next 10 years or even more.
Let me be clear, if the Reds offered me their top two prospects, Taylor Trammell and Hunter Greene, for Trevor Bauer, I would immediately say yes and pack Trevor’s bags for him. That’s how much I like both of them, so if it’s possible, Chris Antonetti, please get it done.
However, if I had to choose one, I’m taking Trammell, the 27th ranked prospect in baseball, even before the Greene’s elbow injury. I think there’s a good chance Taylor Trammell becomes a perennial MLB All-Star in left field, so I’d love to see that in an Indians uniform. Trammell has everything a team could possibly want in a superstar on and off the field similar to Francisco Lindor. The super-athletic, speedy, left-handed hitting outfielder was last year’s Futures Game MVP and he was originally committed to Georgia Tech to play baseball and football as a 4.0 student. Trammell can be a top of the order hitter for years to come while playing above average defense in the outfield. He probably won’t be ready to help out for at least another year because he’s taken a bit of a step back, but his advanced approach, tremendous zone recognition and elite speed gives him a high floor as he’s slashing .253/.377/.351, but there’s plenty to love about acquiring Taylor Trammell.
Yasiel Puig’s contract is up at the end of the season and the Indians could really use him as a rental outfield bat to boost the middle of the order and help their playoff push in the second half with his .257/.304/.493 line, 20 HR, 51 RBI and 13 SB.
Andy Sugilio is the Reds’ 22nd ranked prospect, who took a few years to really break out in the lower levels, so he’s currently in high A as a 22-year-old, but he’s still progressing nicely. He plays well defensively in the outfield, but he’s pretty skinny, so it would be nice to see him add more weight to improve upon his raw power. He’s currently slashing .306/.341/.363 with 15 SB, but he only has one home run so far. He hits some balls very hard, so if he can gain some weight, tap into that potential, and keep his speed, he could be a real steal for the Tribe.
Joel Kuhnel, the club’s 25th ranked prospect, may be able to help in the pen immediately with his electric fastball that touches triple digits, his hard slider and a low-90s changeup. Unlike a lot of guys that throw hard like that, he has pretty good control and he pounds the zone, which leads to more groundouts and fewer strikeouts. As long as it works, it really doesn’t matter. So far this season between AA and AAA, he’s 4-2 with a 2.09 ERA, 10 saves and 37 K to 10 BB in 43 innings of work.