CLEVELAND, Ohio — Trying to figure out the Indians’ game plan for the offseason is like trying to decipher a spy novel without cheating and reading the last page of the book halfway through the first chapter.
What’s real one moment is proven to be a hoax the next. Promising leads quickly turn into blind alleys.
When the Indians finished their flurry of trades that sent Yan Gomes to Washington, Edwin Encarnacion to Seattle, Yandy Diaz to Tampa Bay and Yonder Alonso to the White Sox, it seemed as if they’d saved enough money for 2019 to take prized right-handers Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer off the market.
But rumors persist and Friday’s seven-player trade between the Reds and Dodgers certainly opened a slot at Dodger Stadium for Kluber or Bauer. The Dodgers not only dumped pay roll in sending Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to Cincinnati, they opened a spot in the rotation by including left-hander Alex Wood, who made 27 starts for Los Angeles last season, in the trade.
The Dodgers, of course, could be clearing the decks to try and sign Bryce Harper. But they’ve been linked to the Indians about Kluber and Bauer the entire offseason.
The Indians have saved an estimated $21 million for 2019 because of their trades. (Editor’s note: It should also be noted that while they’ve been cutting the 2019 payroll they extended Carlos Carrasco’s contract through 2022). That should give them the ability to keep Kluber and Bauer, but at the moment the Indians are not as good as the frustrating team that won 91 games last season only to get rolled in the ALDS by Houston.
They have holes in the outfield, bullpen and behind the plate. A trade of Kluber or Bauer could fill some of them.
The Indians really have reached a point in the offseason where anything is possible. The front office’s actions to date certainly show they aren’t afraid to take a chance.
What they have done, by creating payroll flexibility for 2019, is position themselves to get the maximum return for Kluber, Bauer or whoever they trade next. If they don’t like the offer, they can say no and look for a better one or start the season with the knowledge that they have one of the best starting rotations in the big leagues.
If they did make a deal with the Dodgers, they would seemingly have to get back an outfielder and pitcher ready for the big leagues and a top 10 prospect. Some of the names that have been rumored include outfielders Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor, Alex Verdugo and Andrew Toles and right-hander Ross Stripling.
Stripling went 8-6 with a 3.02 ERA in 33 games, including 21 starts, last season. Verdugo and Toles would qualify as prospects. Pederson and Taylor spent last season with the Dodgers.