week once in a while I ask for your sizzling hot takes on Twitter and Facebook so we can argue about them because arguing is fun. This is the Hot Take Corner.
It’s been a while for the Hot Take Corner, mostly because I discovered that hot takes don’t change that much every week. The team needs to sell everyone, Jason Kipnis is literally the devil, and other oft-repeated takes were thrown out every week. Nothing worth talking about week in and week out.
But now that it’s been a good few months since the last iteration of this series, and with the Indians not doing much of anything in the offseason, it seemed like a good time to round up some of the online heat and fire it into a post to see what happens. Turns out it was a good idea.
Folks, you have some opinions.
You already know one of them by the great sin I committed in titling this article — of course the Indians shouldn’t trade Jose Ramirez. But by god someone suggested it and I feel the need to address it in big letters across the top of the screen.
So let’s talk about it.
Trade JRam tomorrow for all your needs. Change my mind.
— Jeffrey Simmons (@simmyball) March 4, 2019
I mean, hot damn, Jeff you didn’t joke around with the call for extra spicy in the original tweet. You want to trade a top-5 player in baseball, who’s projected to be worth 6+ WAR in 2019 to fill some holes?
Honestly? That doesn’t sound so crazy, but it never works.
It’s the same reason the Angels absolutely cannot trade Mike Trout, to a much more minor degree. You’re never going to get equal value back. Jose is extremely underpaid through 2021 where he’ll never make more than $9 million and a pair of options through 2022 that will pay him as much as $13 million per season. That’s ridiculous for a player as good as Jose, and it was incredible foresight from the Indians to get it done when they did. They managed to keep him past his free agent years, and also made it extremely difficult to justify trading him.
Maybe (maaaaybe) the Indians would get some kind of prospect value out of trading Ramirez. Like if the Blue Jays lost their minds and were willing to let the Indians pillage Vlad Guerrero Jr. for someone they can’t manipulate service time on. But the Indians are never going to find a team willing to gut their major-league roster to get equal value back for Ramirez — especially not when the Indians are already going to win the American League Central and have a good enough rotation to compete in the playoffs.
So unless they’ve thrown in the towel and are conceding to a rebuild, it’s not going to happen. And it shouldn’t.
Tribe outfield will be better this year than 2018
— Matt Klein (@mattkleinkeys) March 4, 2019
Discussing the Indians’ chances of winning the AL Central and competing in the playoffs dovetails nicely into this one.
First, the hard numbers.
Indians outfielders in 2018 accounted for 5.6 FanGraphs WAR, with a .270/.327/.397 slash and 42 home runs. The bulk of that was Michael Brantley’s 3.5 fWAR, and in second place was Lonnie Chisenhall adding 0.8 wins… in 29 games. The rest of the outfield was that bad, with Melky Cabrera, Tyler Naquin, and Bradley Zimmer each contributing less than half a win on the season.
Steamer leaderboards frequently change as more information becomes available, but as of this writing they have full projections for only five outfielders — Leonys Martin, Jordan Luplow, Tyler Naquin, Bradley Zimmer, and Greg Allen. The fab five are projected to be worth 2.6 fWAR, and Luplow leads them all with a gross 96 wRC+. None are projected to play in more than 100 games. Not included in the WAR total is Matt Joyce or even Jake Bauers, who could slot into left field with Hanley Ramirez’s bat at designated hitter and Carlos Santana at first base.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a number of things push this outfield over the Brantley-heavy group the Tribe fielded last season. Leonys Martin outplaying his projections? Not crazy. Any outfielder playing in more than 100 games and bumping their projected WAR totals a bit? Not crazy. Jake Bauers proving the Indians right for trading Yandy Diaz and helping fix the outfield? Not crazy.
Even if they don’t have the offensive acumen of Brantley, the defense of this group has a chance to be spectacular, even with Naquin lugging himself around in right field. Martin is a verified stud in the field, and wherever Bradley Zimmer and Greg Allen end up they will be flying all over the field. Give me an outfield of Death To Flying things over Michael Brantley surrounded by hot garbage any day.
Progressive Field is a better name even if it’s a corporate sellout. Sorry @alwaysthejake
— Believeland Ball (@BelievelandBall) March 4, 2019
I want to embrace you and leap into the void together on this one, I really do. Progressive Field is a great name for a ballpark, corporate sponsor or not. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of better corporate branding in sports, save for maybe the New Jersey Devils’ Prudential Center and it’s nickname, The Rock.
But, man, Jacobs Field is just the best. It’s simple, it has meaning without corporate influence, and it has a slick nickname in The Jake. I’m gonna have to agree with some of your many detractors on this one. But not all of them.
Carlos Santana will finish 2019 2nd all-time in walks for the Cleveland Indians…
Top 10 in HRs and 2Bs…
But the one that’ll really get the takes firey…
Top 50 in stolen bases.
— michael bode (@mgbode_WFNY) March 4, 2019
My first inclination is to just yell to the highest mountains that I agree with any praise given to Carlos Santana. After years of disrespect from mainstream Indians fans for his patience at the plate, I have nothing but good vibes for my not-guitar-playing first baseman.
So let’s look at these.
2nd in all-time walks
Carlos needs at least 132 walks to past the legendary Tris Speaker’s 857 walks. That would be an Indians record, topping Jim Thome’s 127-walk season in 1999. Thome had a .426 on-base percentage that year — a down year for the future Hall of Famer. This is a great hot take in that it seems too crazy to happen… but it could happen. That’s what makes it hot, and approachable. And I want it to happen.
Carlos did walk 110 times with the Phillies last season — the first time he’s walked 100 times since 2015 — so maybe he’s getting even more patient into his 30s.
I’m gonna say it doesn’t happen, but he blows by it in 2020.
Top 10 in HRs and 2Bs
Carlos Santana needs just 16 home runs to pass Rocky Colavito and become the 10th leading home run hitter in Indians history. Easy check mark here.
I’ll do you one better: He hits 33 dingers, falls one short of his career high, and passes Al Rosen to become 9th all-time.
Getting to top-10 in doubles is an interesting one. He needs 27 to do it and pass Jim Thome’s mark of 263 doubles. Carlos has 27 or more doubles in three of his nine professional seasons, and he hasn’t done it since 2016. Like finishing second all-time in walks, getting to top-10 in doubles is just out of the reach of a slam dunk (like the home run take), where it gets interesting. This could all come down to how he is used in the lineup, and where he hits. A few extra at-bats in the two hole compared to batting cleanup or something else, and maybe he gets it. Playing in 161 games like he did with the Phillies last year wouldn’t hurt, either.
I’m gonna say it happens.
Top 50 in stolen bases
Can Carlos Santana steal 12 bases and become the 50th all-time in swiping bags? He’s come close once, in 2015, when he stole 11 in 154 games. Please let it happen, baseball gods.
Corey Kluber would be seen as an elite postseason pitcher if not for a blown 3-1 lead by his teammates
— patsfb (@patsfb) March 4, 2019
I don’t even care about his other postseason starts, if the Indians win game five, Corey Kluber is regarded as a great postseason pitcher in 2019.
Everyone seems to conveniently forget that he struck out eight Cubs in the first three innings of game one, not to mention he was the only real starter the Indians had after Bauer stuck his finger in a whirling death machine.
Without his game seven flop (when he was clearly gassed and probably shouldn’t have been the starter), 2017 and 2018 easily get written off as flukes, and all we care about is his heroics in game one and gutsy game four start.
Screw rain delays.
Jake Bauers is a good player
— DRaysBay (@draysbay) March 4, 2019
So is Yandy Diaz. Cherish him. CHERISH HIM.
They made a mistake not trading Kluber this offseason. He is already on the downhill side of his career and he cant get it done in big moments like he used to.
— Chris C (@cc9827) March 4, 2019
I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a mistake, but it’s not too hot of a take to suggest they’ll regret not trading him. They’ll probably never get as much return as they would have this offseason, but if the offer isn’t there, it isn’t there. I would rather they hold onto him and squeeze a season or two of great pitching out of him.
He’s thrown 200+ innings in each of the last five seasons and his strikeout stuff slowed last season. If his decrease in walks is real, though, I’m looking forward to Kluber re-emerging as an uber-control pitcher and dominating in a brand new way.
The only way I see it as a true regret is if they were going to do something else big with the money they saved from trading him. Seeing as that probably isn’t the case, I’m sure the front office will sleep okay at night having Kluber start every fifth day.
See above as a response to “can’t get it done in big moments like he used to.”
Bradley Zimmer will be an All Star in 2020
— Nick Juskewycz (@NickJuskewycz) March 4, 2019
Inject it into my veins.
I’m not sure when I’ll fully give up on Bradley Zimmer, but it’s not as a 26-year-old with blazing speed to cover the entire outfield and the potential for 10-15 home runs. Learn under Leonys Martin and put it all together for a fantastic 2020 season? Realistic? Probably not. But I love this take.
Daniel Johnson will be the next great player the Indians traded an all star for that nobody knew.
— Nick Diederich (@Cornhusker5280) March 4, 2019
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Trading Yan Gomes could be the Indians’ latest heist.
Hanley makes the team and hits over .260 and 28 homers
— Colin Barringer (@CBarringer971) March 4, 2019
Hitting over, .260, sure. Maybe. But no way he comes to 28, or 20, or 15 home runs. He’ll be platooned as the DH most likely, and I don’t know that he can elevate the ball as much as he used to, although we know he can still hit the ball stupid hard.
Jake Bauers will hit 30 HRs playing LF and we will forget all about Michael Brantley
— (@DordanJillon) March 4, 2019
Bauers would have to double up on his projected power output from PECOTA, which has him at 16 home runs in 546 plate appearances. That’s no small task, but I’d be willing to bet Bauers is going to get a lot of playing time this season — with his ability to play first base, designated hitter, and the corner outfield spots, he’s the kind of player Tito dreams about. He’s a Michael Martinez that can hit and actually play defense.
So if there is any chance his fabled power bursts through, there’s a slight chance he could surprise everyone. I don’t think it’ll happen, but it would make me okay with trading Yandy away if it did.
We haven’t drafted quality in years.
— Brandon Russell (@RusseIlBrandon) March 4, 2019
The Indians also haven’t had a top-5 pick in years. Those are the only players that seem like quality right out of the gate a lot of the time.
I’d argue that the Indians have drafted quality recently, but were a mixed bag between 2012 and 2014. In that time, they tried to fix the outfield with Naquin, Clint Frazier, and Zimmer chosen in the first round (and the jury is still way out on 2015’s selection, Brady Aiken). Unfortunately, that group hasn’t looked impressive so far and one of them is in New York. Easily the best thing to come out of those drafts so far is getting Andrew Miller for Frazier.
More recently, they’ve drafted some pretty promising players that are stock-piling in the lower levels of the minors. Triston McKenzie sticks out above all else in the 2015 draft as the Tribe’s number one prospect, and a consensus top-100 prospect in all of baseball. He’ll probably get his first taste of the majors this season.
They also have their 2018 first-round pick, catcher Bo Naylor, playing well in the Arizona Rookie League, and third baseman Nolan Jones has skyrocketed up top prospect charts since he was drafted in 2016. Tyler Freeman, a competitive balance pick in 2017, was outstanding in Low-A last season with a .352/.405/.511 slash as a 19-year-old. Outfielder Will Benson, the Indians’ first-round pick in 2016, has the potential to be a five-tool player if he can ever work out his contact issues.
Prospect rankings, and thus the general opinion of the public, often leans toward major-league ready prospects. Which is fine, but that’s not what the Indians have at the moment. They flubbed a few drafts, but from 2016 onward they’ve done a solid job filling out their lower levels. We’ll see how they as they get closer to the majors, though.
Francona and Willis are dinosaurs and the Indians will get out managed/out coached/out analytic’ed at every turn this year. Francona sacked mid-May.
— Brian (@b_lui1131) March 4, 2019
I don’t know if I’ve talked about this in post form yet, or only on the podcast, but I’ll put up a with lot of Terry Francona stubbornness if he can keep the clubhouse as loose and ready to run through a wall for him as he has in his tenor with the Tribe. A perfect lineup versus an absolutely terrible one only gets you a couple wins in a season at best, and if he can keep this core group of players happy and playing hard I’ll put up with his dependence on veterans to a point.
There’s a tipping point for sure, but so far Tito’s strengths greatly outweigh his faults. As frustrating as they faults can be.