To improve the Cleveland Indians roster, trading a player they may prefer to hold onto may just have to happen to obtain an upgrade.
The second half of the 2016 MLB season is here. The expectation is that left field fielder Michael Brantley will be back at some point just in time to help the Cleveland Indians in the postseason.
Adding Brantley will help the team, but Cleveland has done very well without him up to this point. The Indians as a whole are playing at a much higher and consistent level this season than in previous years.
The result? Cleveland is comfortably in first place in the A.L. Central.
By this time in the season, it is clear where the Cleveland Indians are succeeding and where they could use an upgrade. Cleveland has not added top or even secondary level players to contribute prior to the trade deadline in some time. That should change over the next couple of weeks.
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The needs to improve third base, the outfield (even though they had been playing better prior to the MLB All-Star break), and their bullpen headlines the Cleveland Indians priority list. It is highly unlikely improvements via trade will be made by August 1st to check each of those areas off of the list.
However, there is no reason why Cleveland cannot make a great trade for a significant player. Yes, the Tribe does not have the support to spend extra money so they will have to make the necessary adjustments in another way: Trade a top prospect and get a unique group of players in return.
Cleveland already has Brantley in the outfield, but he is not guaranteed to stay in the outfield three, four seasons from now. For the sake of this argument, let’s say he does.
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Brantley will be occupying left field, but the Cleveland Indians also have a number of outfielders who are projected to be in the majors soon — if they have not reached the big leagues already. The top outfielders who should be included in a trade (but only if the price is right) are Bradley Zimmer, Clint Frazier, and recent first round pick Will Benson.
In addition to those three, Tyler Naquin has played much better recently after struggling earlier this season. Naquin, who is the only one of the four to play in the majors, is the fourth outfielder at the moment, but that cannot last long given his exceptional ability.
The aforementioned trade return pending the prospect Cleveland trades could be of substantial value. Not only would the Cleveland Indians obtain such a player to help with one or more of their weaknesses, but they also would acquire other players who could help in the future.
Any such trade should have been made by now. As the last couple of weeks ticks down to the trade deadline, more teams will know if they are selling or not. Despite the second wild card option, the Cleveland Indians should have multiple trade options.
Other MLB teams have and will continue to ask for one or more of Cleveland’s top prospects. If the Indians believe in Brantley long-term, then a trade will be needed because there will not be enough playing time for all of those outfielders.
If a trade can be made but only with the condition that one of those outfielders or another top prospect is included, then so be it. This year’s Cleveland Indians is better than the ALCS team from earlier this decade, as well as the teams manager Terry Francona has led since being hired.
If Cleveland passes up another trade deadline without making an important move because they do not want to give up a player with potential rather than a sure thing, then that could impact how successful their season will end up being.
This is their chance. Instead of holding firm like Cleveland has, make some sort of positive move so there will not be regrets later.