What should the Indians’ trade deadline strategy be?

I know what you’re thinking. The Tribe has trimmed Minnesota’s division lead to three games while remaining well ahead of the competition for the Wild Card hunt in the American League. Why wouldn’t they shoot for an extra arm in the bullpen, or maybe a bat in the lineup, maybe to give an extra ‘oomph!’ that could allow them to overtake Minnesota, or at least stabilize their Wild Card hold?

And, well, you’d be right. Partly, anyway. But, with a dreadful offseason that saw the team lose a painstakingly high amount of talent, combined with just how strong the Yankees, Astros and Twins have looked this year, there is a strong argument that the Tribe shouldn’t give up young assets for a shot to win now when such assets wouldn’t get them there in the first place. In other words, are the Indians really a single trade away from being favored to reach the World Series?

Let’s assess the pros and cons:

Why the Indians should buy hard for the deadline:

  1. They are currently favorites to hold down at least a Wild Card spot, and when you reach the playoffs, everyone’s record is 0-0, just getting there means they have a shot.
  2. There are serious deficiencies which can easily be patched up. The bullpen could use a boost, for instance. Good, serviceable relievers don’t tend to cost much on the trade market.
  3. It’s Cleveland, for Pete’s sake; we are sick and tired of watching our teams suck, and the Indians selling at the deadline would be an immediate disappointment, even if it was a justifiable decision.

Why the Indians should sell for the deadline:

  1. The Indians are critically outgunned by numerous other AL contenders. The very same Astros team which crushed an even stronger Cleveland team last year joins the record-breaking Yankees as two teams which would be heavily favorited against Cleveland. They aren’t even necessarily the best team in the AL Central, either.
  2. Merely making the playoffs is not some milestone the team hasn’t done in a long time. Do we really need a repeat of last year’s thrashing at the hands of the Astros?
  3. The Indians are currently being hamstrung by a cheap owner and complacent front office which refuses to invest moderately in a competitive product. Therefore, the team simply cannot afford to lose young talent for a short term rental they will definitely not be able to extend the contract of.
  4. Because of reason #3, the Indians will be forced to retract the young talent or draft capital they’ll be willing to offer, which will limit the scope of players they could “buy” for this year anyway.

Ultimately, the Indians should sell at the deadline

The team is receiving lots of contributions from young players, anyway. They could still conceivably make the playoffs this year even if they do trade a few pieces. It would be more beneficial to think about the future, barring a sudden change of heart from the Dolan family about actually investing in the team.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for a full-scale fire sale. But players such as All-Star Brad Hand could command a nice haul. If the team explores trading players like Trevor Bauer, who has often been involved in trade rumors, an offer would need to be overwhelmingly good for the team to take it.

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