CLEVELAND, Ohio — The first trade the Indians have made in what could prove to be a busy offseason was more about quantity than quality.
They sent utility man Erik Gonzalez and two pitching prospects to the Pirates for outfielder Jordan Luplow and infielder Max Moroff. Gonzalez and right-handers Tahnaj Thomas and Dante Mendoza are headed to Pittsburgh.
Luplow, 25, was the Pirates’ third-round pick in 2014. He has appeared in 64 games in the big leagues. Moroff has bounced between the Pirates and Class AAA Indianapolis for the last three years. He’s appeared in 84 MLB games.
Former Tribe outfielder Al Luplow is Jordan’s great uncle. Al Luplow played for the Indians from 1961 through 1965.
The Indians need to add talent in the outfield following the free agent losses of Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera and Rajai Davis. Incumbents such as Bradley Zimmer and Tyler Naquin are recovering from surgery. So the addition of Luplow makes sense.
“He’s a right-handed hitting outfielder with almost a year of major league experience,” said Chris Antonetti, Indians president of baseball operations. “He’s capable of playing all three outfield spots. He’s spent most of his time in left and right and we also believe he has the ability to play center field.
“He complements our roster really well as a right-handed hitting outfielder who is capable of helping us at the major league level.”
Antonetti said the Indians would continue to try and strengthen the outfield and bullpen, their primary areas of need this winter.
“It’s something we’ll continue to explore this offseason — building our alternatives at the major league level and the depth beyond that,” said Antonetti. “As we sit here today, the outfield and bullpen are places we’ll look to get deeper at.”
Luplow is a .194 (33-for-170) hitter with six homers and 18 RBI for the Pirates. It’s unclear how he’ll fit into manager Terry Francona’s platoon system because Luplow is hitting .198 against righties and .188 against lefties as a big leaguer. He was the Pirates’ Minor League Player of the Year in 2017 and has hit 59 homers in his minor league career. In 2018 he recorded a .891 OPS against lefties at Triple-A.
Moroff, 25, might be a candidate to fill Gonzalez’s utility role. In his brief time with the Pirates, he’s played 45 games at second, 22 at shortstop and six at third base in parts three seasons. The switch-hitting Moroff hit .186 (11-for-55) with three homers and nine RBI with Pittsburgh this year.
“Max is a very good defender at second and third base and has also played some short,” said Antonetti. “He has very good instincts and has had some success offensively.”
Luplow has one minor league option left. Moroff is out of options.
Gonzalez, 27, has spent 10 seasons in the Indians system. He played 81 games with the Tribe this year, hitting .265 with one homer and 16 RBI. He’s a natural shortstop, but with Francisco Lindor playing short and Jose Ramirez and Jason Kipnis at second base, he wasn’t able to get regular playing time.
“We’ve have multiple conversations with Erik (about his situation),” said Antonetti. “He’s done so many things for the organization. He’s played every position for us on the field except catch at one point or another. As our roster has taken shape over the course of the last few seasons we have not had an opportunity for him to play regularly.
“We feel this will give Erik an opportunity to play more in Pittsburgh and blossom into the everyday player we feel he can be.”
Thomas, 19, and Medoza pitched for the Indians in the Arizona Rookie League this year. Thomas, a non-drafted free agent from the Bahamas, struck out 27 and walked 10 in 19 2/3 innings. He posted a 4.58 ERA in eight games, including six starts. This was his second year with the Indians.
Medoza, 19, went 2-2 with 4.58 ERA in 10 games, including three starts for Arizona. He struck out 37 and walked 20 in 37 1/3 innings. The Indians selected the 6-5 Mendoza in the 12th round of the 2017 draft out of Torrance (Calif.) High School.
The Indians’ 40-man roster stands at 35.