The Cleveland Indians just bolstered their bullpen, but more can be done to improve the roster without jeopardizing the team’s future.
On Thursday, the Cleveland Indians sent top prospect Francisco Mejia to the San Diego Padres in exchange for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. These bullpen additions will drastically improve Cleveland’s weakest area, but the team shouldn’t be finished with making moves just yet.
The Baltimore Orioles have long been rumored as a potential trade partner for the Indians, and for good reason. Baltimore is currently 28-70, 40.5 games back of first place in the AL East.
While the Orioles as a team are abysmal, they do have a few players who would be able to help Cleveland.
First and foremost is left-hander Zach Britton. Once a dominant closer, Britton is not the player he used to be but is still a capable bullpen arm. This season, he is 1-0 with a 3.68 ERA in 14.2 innings pitched. Britton is 30 years old and is making $12 million this year, after which he will be an unrestricted free agent.
Britton is not a young, elite, and team-controlled player like Hand is. However, he would still be a significant upgrade over some of the players the Indians currently are sending to the mound.
One benefit of Britton’s subpar performance and contract is that because he is a rental, he will not cost much to acquire. After trading Mejia, Cleveland must be very careful to not gut their farm system too much in any future deals.
If the Tribe adds Britton, they will have gained another quality left-hander. Their bullpen is already lefty-heavy, so a right-hander needs to be the next priority. The Orioles happen to have a decent righty to give up.
Mychal Givens is 28 and is making $560,000 this year. He is eligible for arbitration next offseason. In 2018, he is 0-6 with a 4.28 ERA in 48.1 innings. Nothing fantastic, but he would be a decent right-handed option, something Cleveland desperately needs.
Lastly, Adam Jones is not the MVP candidate he was six years ago, but he would be an upgrade in the outfield for the Indians. Jones’ biggest weakness is his defense, and it would be better to play him in right field rather than center.
Jones is hitting .275 with 10 homers and 36 RBI this year. His OBP is .299, so he hasn’t been great this year, but Cleveland doesn’t need a great player in right field. They just need someone who is solid, and that’s exactly what Jones is. He isn’t worth the $17 million he’s making this year, but that, along with his contract ending after this season, will keep his trade value low.
The Tribe should be able to get Britton, Givens, and Jones for SS Yu-Cheng Chang and 3B Nolan Jones. SS and 3B are the least valuable positions in the Indians’ farm system, as Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are 24 and 25 respectively and are both MVP-level players. Cleveland can afford to part with two decent prospects to improve their roster for another World Series push.
Britton, Givens, and Jones aren’t going to push the Indians over the edge, but they would certainly make the team better. They are rentals, but that’s a price the Tribe needs to pay for this season. Their championship window won’t be open forever, and they need to take advantage of it while they can.