Can The 2020 Indians Improve Themselves as the Trade Deadline Closes In?

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It is August 29th, and the Cleveland Indians are in first place in the American League Central Division. You can’t ask for more than that.

And after a tough weekend at home against the Tigers a few days ago, losing two out of three, and then a dismal first game of a key series against Minnesota, the resilient Tribe came back, won a game where ace Shane Bieber struggled early, and then brought Mike Clevinger back in the rubber match.

Clevinger struggled at the outset too, but the last four innings he pitched Wednesday night were as well as he threw the ball all season, and Tyler Naquin delivered a huge hit to trigger a three run rally in the bottom of the 8th, and Cleveland took the key series.

In the past few seasons, the Indians have gone on long winning streaks, a 14 game skein in 2016, and of course, the 22 game stretch in late 2017.

They’ve done it again, this time winning 10 straight on the road, dating back to a 2-0 frustrating loss to the White Sox on August 7th.

So, the Tribe sits at 21-12 on the season, in a year with eight teams making the playoffs, so a .500 record gives you a chance for the post-season, and you would think 35-25 gets you in for sure.

Based on that, if the Indians go 14-13 the rest of the schedule, which is just over the break even mark, they will hit that mark.

According to Baseballreference.com, the Tribe has a 99.9% chance of making the post-season, and if they have one of the four best records in the AL, they will host all three games of the series.

Right now, Cleveland has the third best record in the league, just two games behind Oakland for the best mark.

There is plenty of speculation concerning the Major League Baseball trading deadline, which comes Monday afternoon at 4 PM. However, there is no debate on what the club needs to address at that deadline.

It’s hitting particularly in the outfield. Outside of Tyler Naquin, the numbers are ugly so you may want to divert your eyes:

Domingo Santana: 11 for 70, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 590 OPS
Oscar Mercado: 5 for 45, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 278 OPS
Delino DeShields: 12 for 43 (not bad), but just one extra base hit, and a 656 OPS
Jordan Luplow: 5 for 40, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 505 OPS
Greg Allen: 4 for 25, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 598 OPS
Bradley Zimmer: 6 for 37, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 603 OPS

Clearly, help in needed. Have all of these guys received a clear shot? No, but the abbreviated 60 game schedule makes that impossible. Also, that none of them have been productive has hurt as well. Terry Francona might have been able to stay with some of them longer if others were hitting.

Can Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff find someone to help out Naquin in terms of production?

Seriously, when it comes to CF, anybody you bring in would be an upgrade over the quartet of Mercado, Zimmer, DeShields, and Allen. As for LF, Luplow has shown signs of life, particularly against southpaws, but let’s face it, Santana has been a disappointment.

Sandy Alomar Jr. said yesterday Naquin will get some opportunities vs. LHP, but perhaps it’s time to give Daniel Johnson another shot. The rookie was 1-for-12 with five strikeouts, but maybe getting some reps at the alternative site helped him.

We know the Tribe has pitching depth, both in starters and in the bullpen. They also have depth in middle infielders, although that would have to involve a player to be named later type deal.

Cleveland has 13 pitchers in their top 30 prospects (according to Baseball America), including some arms we’ve already seen (Triston McKenzie, Logan Allen, and James Karinchak). They also have 11 middle infielders, including Yu Chang, currently on the big league roster.

They also have Bobby Bradley and Jake Bauers, who seems to have fallen out of favor with the organization.

What will the front office do? We will find out in less than 48 hours. Tribe fans will be on the edge of their seats waiting.