Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline is drawing near, and the Indians are still looking to address some of their needs on the major-league roster.
Here’s a rundown of where they stand.
The Indians continue to be linked to Milwaukee Brewers All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who would offer a significant upgrade to the lineup. He’s hitting .300 this season with a .361 on-base percentage, 13 home runs, 17 doubles and 50 RBI. Per FanGraphs, he’s given the Brewers 2.8 WAR this season, third among major-league catchers.
Indians catchers, meanwhile, have all struggled offensively and Yan Gomes recently landed on the disabled list with a separated shoulder. Together, they’ve combined for -1.1 WAR, the worst mark in baseball, and have been an anchor at the bottom of the lineup, all hitting below or around .200 with little power.
Lucroy is making $4 million this season and has a $5.25 million club option for next season. He’d give the Indians an upgrade at catcher this season and could potentially move to first base next year with Gomes and Perez under club control for the foreseeable future.
The Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros and New York Mets have all been connected to Lucroy as well, who appears to be among the more available players in the league if a team will meet the Brewers’ demands.
In the Indians’ case, they could also be seeking to acquire one of Milwaukee’s relief pitchers, namely left-hander Will Smith, in a deal highlighted by Lucroy. Smith is under club control through the 2019 season. The question will be the Brewers’ asking price, especially with the market for Lucroy heating up.
Per various reports, the Indians have also been linked to Tampa Bay’s Steve Pearce and Cincinnati All-Star outfielder Jay Bruce.
Pearce, who primarily plays the corner outfield spots and first base, crushes left-handed pitching and owns a 1.212 OPS against lefties this season. Pearce would give the Indians more balance in the outfield against left-handed pitchers with left-handed hitters Lonnie Chisenhall and Tyler Naquin on the roster. The price tag on Pearce might not be as high as other Indians’ targets, as he’ll be a free agent after this season.
Bruce would give the Indians another left-handed hitter in the outfield, though he’s had an outstanding season at the plate, slugging 25 home runs and driving in 79 runs this season. Bruce has a club option for the 2017 season.
The Indians were also tied to closer Aroldis Chapman, outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. and infielder Eduardo Nunez, though they have all since been dealt.
Teams could be targeting one of the Indians’ top prospects, outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier, who were recently promoted to Triple-A Columbus. The Indians also have a surplus of starting pitching prospects, including Brady Aiken, Justus Sheffield, Triston McKenzie and others.
The question, as always this time of year, is finding a match in value. Though this year, the Indians have plenty of reasons to be buyers as one of the American League’s top contenders.
For the second straight season, the Indians have one of the top contenders to be named American League Rookie of the Year. Though this year, it’s coming from an unlikely spot.
That’d be outfielder Tyler Naquin, who has been among the better hitters in the American League since being called up June 1, his third stint in the majors this season. To date, he’s hitting .330 with 12 home runs, 12 doubles and 32 RBI. He’s also fourth in the AL with 25 extra-base hits since June 3.
Last season, Francisco Lindor finished as the runner-up to Houston shortstop Carlos Correa. Lindor was a natural fit as the Indians’ No. 1 prospect who finally made his long-awaited debut. Naquin, in contrast, has forced his way into the discussion and the Indians lineup, which has routinely featured Jose Ramirez, Rajai Davis and Lonnie Chisenhall in the outfield.
He’s had to fight for his time.
“It kind of comes back to that [phrase] I’ve used with him: Survival instincts,” Francona said. “I know he’s got some talent, but he just kind of competes like crazy. He may take an awkward swing, but you get one he can reach, he doesn’t just hit it now, he’s been riffling it somewhere. It’s been really fun to watch.”
He found a way to impact Tuesday night’s game, even though he didn’t start. As a pinch-hitter, Naquin roped a double to left-center that made it 6-5 and eventually led to the Indians’ 7-6 walk-off win against the Washington Nationals. The Indians have appreciated Naquin’s production as well as his attentiveness late in games.
“Sometimes, with youth comes enthusiasm, which is good, but also can come somebody sitting down at the end of the bench eating seeds, kind of like a spring training game. And then you surprise them during the game. Nake’s always ready, which is good. That’s never an issue. This kid wants to play. I think during the game, he’s hoping something happens so he can get in.”
Naquin has picked up some in-game habits from Chisenhall, who is adept in entering a game late if the opposing team starts a left-hander and also had an RBI-hit in Tuesday’s win.
“From the very get-go, Lonnie told me just kind of a time frame,” Naquin said. “During the game, go down there [to the cage] and get your swings in. Always be ready though. He does an unbelievable job and [Tuesday] it showed for him.”
Home sweet home
The Indians this week kicked off a 20-in-25 games stretch that will be played at Progressive Field. After returning from the All-Star break with an extended road trip, they’ll now enjoy the other half of an unbalanced schedule due to the Republican National Convention.
“Huge. It’s huge,” said Francisco Lindor. “We’ve been on the road for a while. It’s nice to be home with our families, get that little off day and be in this clubhouse. It changes everything a little bit. The fans [Tuesday], they were a little quiet at first but it got loud as the game went on. That’s what we play for. For them.”
Indians manager Terry Francona often talks about the simple advantage of being able to hit last. While it’s a small advantage, it’s also better than the alternative. For many of the players, being able to be home for an extended period of time has its own advantages on and off the field. For the next three-plus weeks, the Indians will get to nearly play exclusively at home. For a team trying to hold onto a division lead, it’s an ideal setup.
“There's nothing better than being home,” said Chris Gimenez. “We kind of had a rough month of being on some 10-day road trips, a West Coast swing, stuff like that. It grinds on you. It absolutely grinds on you. There's nothing better than being home, where everything is comfortable. You have your home fans, a huge support system here. You can kind of get on that schedule, I think is the most important. That routine.”
Indians manager Terry Francona often says momentum in baseball is only up to the next day’s opposing starting pitcher. And on Wednesday, the Indians faced a brick wall in the form of Stephen Strasburg and fell to the Washington Nationals 4-1.
The Indians won in walk-off fashion Tuesday night in their return to Progressive Field, a needed jolt after losing three straight at the end of an extended road trip. But that momentum was halted against Strasburg, who threw seven scoreless innings, allowed only three hits and struck out seven.
“He has a lot of weapons,” Francona said of Strasburg (14-1, 2.68 ERA). “He can throw the ball by you, a fastball on both sides of the plate. He has a slider, change. He’s got everything and his fastball has a ton of ride, or finish. … It’s impressive.”
The Indians (57-42) managed to make things interesting in the bottom of the ninth. Erik Gonzalez walked and Rajai Davis singled, setting up Tyler Naquin, who hit a one-out RBI-single up the middle to make it 4-1 and bring the tying run to the plate. That was Roberto Perez, who couldn’t bring magic to Progressive Field for the second straight night. Facing Blake Treinen, Perez grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the game.
Carlos Carrasco (7-4, 2.45 ERA) allowed three runs in six innings and struck out five. His trouble inning was the second, in which a couple of walks and a missed double play put the Nationals up 2-0.
After Carrasco walked the first two batters in the inning, Ryan Zimmerman grounded a ball to Francisco Lindor. Lindor threw to second for the first out, but Kipnis dropped the exchange. Carrasco recored the second out of the inning but with the extra life, Trea Turner singled to left field to score two.
Carrasco momentarily lost his command a bit. He nearly pitched out of it, but Turner’s two-run single turned out to be the difference with Strasburg in rhythm.
“Kind of lost my control,” Carrasco said. “Not too much damage, only two runs, thought it was going to be more, but I held them to two. I thought that I lost my control a little bit. That’s not good.”
The Nationals tacked on insurance runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Daniel Murphy belted his 20th home run of the season against Carrasco and an inning later, Turner doubled home a run against Dan Otero to make it 4-0.
The Indians moved to 5-6 since the All-Star break and have a day off on Thursday.
Here are 23 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians defeated the Nationals 7-6 Tuesday night in walk-off fashion.
1. The Indians notched their fifth walk-off win of the season. This one snapped a three-game losing streak, came against a first-place Nationals team and erased three two-run deficits. In a long season, there probably isn’t such a thing as a “biggest win,” but this was certainly one of the more impressive for the 57-41 Indians.
2. Breaking down the final rally, the Indians entered the ninth trailing 6-4 and facing Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon.
3. It began with Jose Ramirez drawing a walk to bring the tying run to the plate. Tyler Naquin, who’s continuing to build a strong American League Rookie of the year case, then came up with the hardest hit of the inning, a pinch-hit, run-scoring double to left-center field. All of a sudden, the Indians have the tying run on second base with nobody out.
4. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “That obviously really changed the game. We’re trying to extend the inning any way we can, maybe get the tying run to second or something. It looked like he hit a split and he stayed on it. That really changed everything. Now all of a sudden they’ve got to play the infield in. All kinds of things get turned around. G got a bunt down. Because he got it down, sometimes good things happen.”
5. Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall each had key hits—Chisenhall singled home a run in the 7th—after the Nationals went with right-handers to follow lefty starter Gio Gonzalez. The rookie is still learning, and it came in handy Tuesday night.
6. Said Naquin, on pinch-hitting, “From the very get go Lonnie told me just kind of a time frame. During that game, go down there and get your swings in. Always be ready though. He does an unbelievable job and tonight it showed for him.”
7. With the tying run on second and nobody out, the Indians turned their attention to small-ball and tying the game. Chris Gimenez laid down a bunt, except first basemen Ryan Zimmerman threw the ball into right field, tying it 6-6.
8. Said Gimenez, “That turned to gold. That worked out perfect. I sat there and I knew obviously the situation being what it was. Once Naquin hit the ball in the gap, I'm going to bunt. After I made sure Jose was safe at home, I just looked in at Tito and he gave me the bunt sign. And Sarby called me over and I'm like I got it, I got it. I know what I'm doing. I've been around a little while. I know the situation. At that point, I knew they weren't running the wheel play, because I could see out of the corner of my eye. So, it was just get a bunt down wherever it went. The first pitch was a slider down. Easy take. he tried to throw me a fastball up and away, hoping I'd kind of pop it up. I just thought it wasn't high enough that I couldn't go get it. Just nice and easy, bunt it to first base. It turns out that he's had some minor issues I think in the past with making a throw and stuff like that. Thankfully, for us today, it worked out. He made the throw wide and I was able to go to second base, and ended up being the winning run.”
9. With Gimenez being able to advance to second on the error, the Indians are still trying to move him to third, only now it’s the winning run. Rajai Davis squared around to bunt, except when the Nationals infield charged in, Davis “slashed” it over them for an infield single. It was a brilliant play.
10. Said Davis, “I was taught to, when that happens, you slash. You try to keep it in the middle of the field. So, in the ninth, that was my first opportunity to actually do that in a game. … I was taught in the minor leagues that that's what you do. When everybody's crashing, you slash. That's what the pitchers work on. I think that's the perfect opportunity to do it.”
More: Indians OF Michael Brantley still optimistic he can make an impact in 2016
11. Francona half-jokingly said he wasn’t sure if Davis meant to bunt it that hard. But either way, there is a reason that putting the ball in play and forcing the defense to make plays has some value.
12. Said Francona, “I’d like to say yeah, I’m going to doubt it. They were so aggressive on that play that, again, I don’t know if he tried that or not. They had no play because they were so aggressive. That’s one where, being that aggressive, you’d almost like him to pull back and hit because there’s no way we can get G to third on that. They were so aggressive. But when you’re that aggressive, put the ball in play, sometimes some good things can happen.”
13. That opened the door for Francisco Lindor, facing Oliver Perez, to fight off a high-and-tight pitch for the game-winning hit to right field, completing the comeback.
14. It was the fifth Indians walk-off win this season—all since June 1—and the first for Lindor.
15. Said Lindor, “I was just trying to put the ball in play, do something, pick a zone where I wanted to hit it, what pitch I wanted to hit. I got it. I got the barrel to it and I went it through. A lot of emotions running to first base.”
16. A simple, fundamental thing that Francona often talks about when asked about the advantages of playing at home is that you get to bat last. It allows you a clearer picture of your situation. It isn’t really a significant advantage, but sure, it’s better than the alternative.
17. And Tuesday night, it also showed that sometimes putting the ball in play can make things happen. Said Francona, “Yeah. I know this going to be a shocking announcement, that’s not how we drew it up. There were so many things that happened in that game that were kind of peculiar that, again, hitting last sure helps. My goodness, there were a lot of balls going every which way.”
18. The Indians had an extended road trip to accommodate the Republican National Convention. Now, they get to enjoy a 20-in-25-game home stretch. Tuesday night was a pretty solid start.
19. Said Gimenez, “Absolutely. There's nothing better than being home. We kind of had a rough month of being on some 10-day road trips. A West coast swing. Stuff like that. It grinds on you. It absolutely grinds on you. There's nothing better than being home, where everything is comfortable. You have your home fans, a huge support system here. You can kind of get on that schedule, I think is the most important. That routine. That's really big for baseball players is getting on and staying on a routine.”
20. This game was also an example of Francona using his bench. Gimenez, Chisenhall and Naquin entered the game late and all had significant impacts.
21. Said Lindor, “Huge. It gives us a little more confidence. We trust in ourselves. We trust in the team have. But the guys, Gimenez wasn’t starting today, huge at bat. Naquin wasn’t starting today, huge at bat. Chisenhall wasn’t starting today, huge at bat. Overall guys aren’t playing, but they were in the game. They helped us. Naquin is doing an unbelievable job day in and day out. He’s working as hard as he can. One of the reasons we won is because of him.”
22. Dan Otero also tossed two scoreless innings, which was enough for the Indians to get to Austin Adams and then Bryan Shaw, who picked up the win. Otero was key for the Indians to have a chance after Danny Salazar was roughed up and lasted only four innings, the first time he hadn’t at least finished five since May 22 against Boston.
23. Otero has quietly been one of the Indians’ best offseason pick-ups, saying, “Our starters have picked us up all year. Anytime they don't have their best stuff or can't get through 7-8 innings like they usually do, it's nice to go in there and help the team out and keep the other team at bay and let the offense do their job.”
The Indians went on an extended road trip following the All-Star break due to the Republican National Convention. But nothing does the soul good like some home cooking.
In their first game back in Cleveland, the Indians worked some Progressive Field magic to pull off a wild comeback win in walk-off fashion against the Washington Nationals 7-6.
The Indians entered the ninth inning trailing 6-4 and facing Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon. Jose Ramirez opened with a walk and Tyler Naquin continued his torrid rookie season with a double to left-center that made it 6-5.
Chris Gimenez laid down a sacrifice bunt, except Ryan Zimmerman threw it into right field, tying it 6-6, still with nobody out. Rajai Davis laid down a bunt as well, though he looped it past the charging Nationals infield for a single, putting runners on the corners.
Facing Oliver Perez with one out, Francisco Lindor completed the comeback with a game-winning single to right field, his third hit of the night.
It all was enough to overcome three errors and one of Danny Salazar’s poorer outings this season.
It was a rough outing for Salazar, who lasted only four innings plus one batter, gave up four runs (three earned) on four hits and stuck out five. It was his shortest outing of the season and the first time since May 22 against Boston that he failed to throw at least five innings.
Uribe’s error in the first inning didn’t help matters. With a runner on third in the top of the first inning, Uribe couldn’t handle a ground ball off the bat of Daniel Murphy, allowing Trea Turner to score and put the Nationals up 1-0. Later with two outs instead of three, Jayson Werth doubled to center field to score Murphy from first.
The Indians answered in the bottom of the first with a two-run inning of their own against Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez. Davis came around to score on a passed ball after he walked to open the inning and Carlos Santana tied it 2-2 with a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Jason Kipnis.
After Wilson Ramos opened the fourth inning with a double, Anthony Rendon took a Salazar offering and crushed it to the bleacher seats in left-center field, giving the Nationals their second two-run lead of the night. An inning later, Ramos added a solo home run against Jeff Manship.
Against the Nationals’ bullpen, the Indians began to chip away. In the seventh, the Indians cut the Nationals’ deficit to 5-3 after Abraham Almonte doubled and, with reliever Blake Treinen on the mound, Lonnie Chisenhall singled him home. Davis followed, though, with an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play to end the threat.
In the eighth, Kipnis doubled and Lindor singled to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Mike Napoli worked to a full count against Nationals reliever Felipe Rivero but grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. It scored a run, making it 5-4, but also cleared the bases.
But, the same problems that plagued the Indians in the first inning came back to hurt them again in the ninth. Trying to hold the Nationals a one-run lead, Uribe committed his second error of the day. After Bryan Shaw hit Danny Espinosa and gave up a single to Ben Revere, the Nationals had the bases loaded with one out. Turner ripped a line drive to Napoli that was nearly an inning-ending double play. Instead, Napoli couldn’t wrangle it, was charged with an error and allowed the Nationals to push their lead to 6-4.
But it was all rendered moot with the wild walk-off ninth inning. For the Indians, it’s good to be home.
At this point, Bill Murray might end up playing left field for the Indians.
Rehabbing outfielder Michael Brantley spoke again on Tuesday, saying he’s frustrated by the process but still hopeful he can take the necessary steps to return to the lineup.
It’s the Indians’ own version of Groundhog Day. Though, rather than the charming 1993 flick starring Murray, it’s the delayed return of a key piece to the Indians’ lineup and a potentially significant boost to their postseason chances.
Brantley has tried to ramp up his hitting activities three times, only to be repeatedly shut down. Last week, Brantley underwent an outpatient procedure to remove scar tissue in his surgically-repaired shoulder. He’s also missed all but 11 games this season and has received two anti-inflammatory shots and multiple opinions.
Brantley has again resumed hitting activities after resting for a couple days following the outpatient procedure. But after several setbacks, the Indians are still waiting for him to be able to return and then stay in the lineup for longer than a week or so.
“It’s very tough, especially when you’ve had a couple setbacks and you think you have it figured out and you kind of get a little different twist,” Brantley said. “I’m just going to keep working hard and keep pushing to get back and taking the necessary steps that I need to take.”
Brantley added he’s “very confident” he can still make a significant impact on the 2016 Indians, though there remains only about two months left in the regular season.
“I know the players, the staff, the upper management, they all believe in me that I can come back and contribute in a positive way. I do as well,” Brantley said. “I'm taking every necessary step behind closed doors, stuff that people don't see, tracking balls, getting my mechanics down, doing any drills I can that are non taxing to make sure that my body is ready to go once I come back.”
He reiterated he doesn’t feel he or the club rushed his return. Once he felt good enough to return, he did, though he didn’t respond in the way he hoped. In the past couple weeks, he hasn’t been able to play back-to-back days, a key milestone in his recovery.
“I listened to my body. I felt good. I said it last time. I was feeling great,” Brantley said. “Some things come up. It's very frustrating at times, but at the same time, you have to take what the cards give you. It's a setback, yes, but it's only going to make me stronger as a baseball player and stronger as a person. And just being a better teammate from the dugout and looking in."
So Brantley will continue to try to work back to where his shoulder can withstand the extended volume. And the Indians will wait to hear some new feedback beyond the kind that’s made for a frustrating season for one of the better left fielders in baseball.
The Indians’ top two prospects have been roaming the outfield together in Double-A Akron this season. Now, they’re each headed down I-71 to Columbus.
The Indians on Sunday promoted Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier to Triple-A, putting them one step closer to their major-league debuts. Zimmer and Frazier are the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked prospects in the Indians’ organization, respectively, according to Baseball America and other scouting services.
Zimmer this season is hitting .252 with a .370 on-base percentage, 14 home runs, 20 doubles, six triples, 31 stolen bases and 53 RBI. He struggled for much of the season until he worked with RubberDucks hitting coach Tim Laker on narrowing his stance. He also loosened his hands and with those changes found quick results. In July, Zimmer hit .324 with a .418 on-base percentage, two home runs, four doubles, four stolen bases and nine RBI.
Frazier has had a more consistent season in his first year at the Double-A level, hitting .278 with a .357 on-base percentage, 13 home runs, 25 doubles, 48 RBI and 13 stolen bases. He’s also been working in left field to allow him to play either corner outfield position.
Zimmer and Frazier have each had their names floated in trade rumors as the Indians look to add a relief pitcher and possibly a bat prior to the non-waiver trade deadline on Aug. 1. For now, their trip through the minor leagues continues in Columbus.
Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has had another setback, though it appears this one might only cost him about a week.
Brantley underwent an outpatient procedure on Friday to break up and relieve scar tissue that had built up in his surgically repaired right shoulder. Imaging of his shoulder revealed no structural damage. Indians head athletic trainer James Quinlan added that the doctors were “encouraged” with Brantley’s shoulder.
Brantley will rest through the weekend and is expected to resume baseball activities early next week.
“The fear is when you get tested that extensively, that you can almost find something on anybody,” Indians manager Terry Francona told reporters in Baltimore. The fact that they didn’t is really good news. Now, it’s just going to be a matter of days until he starts again. I know he’s frustrated. We ask our players to do the same thing all the time: Do your best. He kind of goes above and beyond. I think we’re hopeful.”
The hope had been that Brantley could play in back-to-back rehab starts for the RubberDucks last weekend, but the Indians’ trainers pulled him before Saturday’s game. He played seven innings on Sunday before again being shut down.
The Indians still have no timetable for his return.
Cody Anderson is being recalled to the majors once again.
Anderson will begin his sixth stint with the Indians this season, as he takes the place of relief pitcher Joe Colon, who is being placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, retroactive to July 19.
The Indians continue to envision Anderson as a long-term starting pitcher, though for now he’ll provide multi-inning relief in the bullpen.
The Indians are one of several teams that will be looking to add a reliever prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline in search of help in the bullpen. They’re now also connected to one of the game’s best offensive catchers.
The Indians have engaged in discussions to acquire Milwaukee Brewers All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.
Lucroy, 30, is in the last year of a five-year contract with the rebuilding Brewers, though his deal includes a club option for 2017 valued at a reported $5.25 million. A two-time All-Star, Lucroy is often among the better offensive catchers in baseball. This season he’s hitting .305 with a .362 on-base percentage, 12 home runs, 16 doubles and 45 RBI. Per FanGraphs, he has a wRC+ of 123 in 2016 and a career mark of 111.
The Indians have struggled to receive any consistent offensive production from the catcher position this season. Yan Gomes, hitting .165, has struggled through the worst slump of his career and recently landed on the disabled list with a separated shoulder. He’s expected to miss 4-to-8 weeks.To read more or comment...
The Indians will be without Yan Gomes for the next month or two.
Gomes was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday with an AC joint separation in his shoulder. He’s expected to mis 4-to-8 weeks.
Gomes became tangled running to first base in Sunday’s game in Minnesota and came down on his right shoulder. He had to be carted off the field.
The good news for the Indians is that his knee, which appeared to be twisted when he stepped on first base, checked out fine. It also appears as though he will avoid surgery.
Gomes has had an abysmal season at the plate, hitting .165 with eight home runs and 32 RBI. Recently, he had run into a wall of bad luck, lining out multiple times in Minnesota despite making hard contact.
While he wasn’t giving the Indians anything offensively, his work behind the plate and with the pitching staff had been a valued asset.
In his place, the Indians activated Roberto Perez from the 60-day disabled list. Perez has been out with a broken right thumb since he injured it April 30 and underwent surgery on May 6. Perez could likely start for many teams and his presence as the backup has been thought of as a quality insurance policy. That will now be put into place as it was last season when Gomes hurt his knee early in 2015.
Perez and Chris Gimenez will handle the catching duties with Gomes on the disabled list.
The club also called up left-handed reliever Kyle Crockett and sent pitcher Cody Anderson back to Triple-A Columbus.