In Cleveland Indians trade talk, the Tribe can solidify the hot corner by adding Evan Longoria.
The way this Cleveland Indians team has been playing, Tribe fans would be wise to free up their schedules in October.
The Tribe’s starting pitching has been excellent, the bullpen is good enough, and the lineup has overachieved.
But if the Tribe front office really wants to go for it this season, and for the foreseeable future, GM Mike Chernoff needs to add Rays third baseman Evan Longoria.
Reading that the Indians should trade for a big-name like Longoria may seem a little foreign.
This is the Indians we’re talking about. This team builds through the draft and shops bargain deals in free agency. Except for trading for Ubaldo Jimenez in 2011 and signing Nick Swisher before the 2013 season, this club has made few acquisitions that move the meter.
Tribe fans get it. Cleveland is a small market. The franchise can’t be handcuffed by big contracts and the depletion of a farm system.
But the Indians window to win is as wide open as it’s been in some time. Considering that the team’s young pitching staff is under contract for the foreseeable future, in addition to young stars such as Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis being locked up, the Tribe has the core of talent a contender can be built around.
Which brings me to Longoria, who at 30, is still in his prime and under contract through 2023.
The Tribe hasn’t had a bonafide power-hitting third baseman since Travis Fryman, who dates back to the late 1990s.
And there’s no promise the position will be improving in the near future.
Juan Uribe was brought in to play third this season. Prospect Giovanny Urshela is at Class AAA. He can field, but there’s no guarantee he’ll ever hit. Jose Ramirez has played the position this season, but he lacks the power the Tribe needs. Additionally, he’s much better at the plate when not playing third, as he’s bating .241 when at the hot corner, and .341 when he’s in left field.
With Longoria, the Indians know what they’re getting. He’s slashing .278/.330/.524 and a .854 OPS. His stat lines includes 18 home runs and 45 RBIs. In his last three campaigns entering the 2016 season, Longoria had belted 32, 22, and 21 home runs.
Tampa Bay appears poised to begin a major rebuild, and with the Rays years away from contending, it would make sense the franchise try and parlay their third baseman into some players who can help in the future.
The Indians farm system is filled with talent, so team president Chris Antonetti and Chernoff have the ammo to get a deal done.
The Rays will probably want starting pitching. If that’s the case, the Indians may have to part with a Mike Clevinger type, who is drawing interest from opposing teams. Additionally, the Tribe can move Urshela so Tampa can fill third base.
And if the Rays even demand top prospect Bradley Zimmer, the Indians shouldn’t hang up the phone. Zimmer has yet to really find his groove at Class AA Akron. He’ batting .239 and has already struck out 101 times through 77 games. However, Zimmer is still an elite prospect, and despite his poor numbers, he should be player a trade could be centered around.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons to make a trade for Longoria is E-Long’s contract.
Yes, he’s going to make more money than the Indians are used to paying someone, but compared to other big-league contracts, Longoria’s isn’t too crazy.
Here’s how it breaks down through the remainder of his contract, according to baseball reference: 2017, $13 million; 2018, $13.5 million; 2019, $14.5 million; 2020, $15 million; 2021, $18.5 million; 2022, $19.5 million; 2023, $13 million (team option).
The contract is backloaded with Longoria set to make $18.5 million at age 35. In the post-steroids era, few players have been worth that kind of money that late in their careers. However, the Tribe can’t worry about those seasons. The next three to four years are what count. This franchise is poised to go on a playoff streak only rivaled by those much-loved teams of the mid-1990s.
The Indians can fix third base while improving their lineup all while getting the team positioned to make a shot at franchise’s first World Series championship since 1948. Get it done, Tribe.