By Steve DiMatteo
The Cleveland Indians remain in the postseason hunt, despite enduring a newly devastating injury seemingly every week.
But if Cleveland wants to stay in the hunt, the team is going to have to start making moves, and in looking at the current trade landscape, there is one deal they should make as soon as possible, before the trade market really begins to heat up.
The Indians should trade for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Adam Frazier and Tyler Anderson right now. Like immediately.
And here’s why.
Adam Frazier currently leads the National League in hits with 98, and is batting a sublime .331/.401/.473 this season. While this is undoubtedly the best year of his career, Frazier is still a career .282/.346/.422 hitter, so it’s not a stretch to think he’s simply put it all together at 29 years of age.
He’s sporting the lowest strikeout percentage of his career (11.1%), along with the highest walk percentage (8.7%). He’s also putting together great wOBA (.381) and wRC+ (144) numbers this season. Best of all, he can play the outfield, which has become even more precarious for Cleveland with the excruciating loss of Josh Naylor. Pencil Frazier into this red-hot lineup with the impending return of Franmil Reyes and, well, things get interesting.
Frazier is currently making $4.3 million this season and is still another year away from free agency – the perfect type of player the Indians like to pursue.
With the season he’s having, you can imagine plenty of teams are going to be angling for Frazier’s services. But the Indians might truly have more to offer here; some big decisions on the 40-man roster are looming next year and Cleveland simply isn’t going to be able to keep all of the young talent currently stashed in its minor league system.
Unloading some prospects in a deal like this will take some of the pressure off potentially losing guys in the Rule 5 Draft.
If you had told me in April that none of the Indians’ starters from the Opening Day rotation would be pitching in June and the team would still very much be in contention, I would have fallen out of my chair. Maybe spontaneously combusted.
But as admirable a situation as it is, it’s an untenable one, and Cleveland’s schedule only gets tougher entering July.
Tyler Anderson, 31 years old and pitching on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million, is a stopgap solution who can help bring some stability to the rotation as the team begins to think about the returns of Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, and Shane Bieber.
Anderson got off to a fast start this season, jumping out to a 3.50 ERA through eight starts. And while he’s got a 6.62 ERA since May 21, giving up 25 runs in 34 innings, the majority of that really comes from two bad outings against the Braves and Nationals.
And most importantly, Anderson hasn’t pitched fewer than five innings in any start this season, something the overworked Indians bullpen would surely appreciate. This team desperately needs some guys to gobble up innings and keep it close for what has become one of the best offenses in baseball in June.
Assuming Cleveland gets its top three starters back within the next 6-8 weeks (in a best-case scenario), Anderson begins to slide into the fourth slot in the rotation, becoming an attractively priced rental for the stretch run.
While a deal like this won’t come relatively cheap, the Indians have assets to move that don’t jeopardize the path to sustained contention that they are currently on. Plenty of other teams are already circling this move – the Indians need to be the first to strike.
Bio: Steve DiMatteo has covered baseball for the Associated Press, MLB.com, and a variety of other publications, and currently hosts the California Penal League Podcast, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts.