Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported yesterday that he expects the Indians to be “aggressive listeners” on Trevor Bauer leading up to the trade deadline.
Which is weird because, last I checked, the Indians had cut the Twins AL Central lead in half to a manageable 5.5 games and, at the moment, are in playoff position as the second Wild Card team in the American League. Bauer has struggled a bit in the first half, and he remains somewhat inconsistent, but he has slowly begun to right the ship, allowing one or zero runs in four of his last six starts. When on, Bauer is one of the more dominating starters in the game. Would a team with serious playoff aspirations actually deal their best healthy starter at the deadline?
The argument for “yes,” as explained by Rosenthal, is that (a) Bauer is expected to leave via free agency after the 2020 season; (b) the Indians expect to get Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and, possibly, Carlos Carrasco back in the second half; and (c) if they deal Bauer they can get some offense that will help them stay in and, possibly, better compete for that 2019 playoff spot.
The argument for “no, that’s insane” is that (a) a guy leaving after 2020 is not exactly gone yet, so saying you need to flip him now is disingenuous; (b) maybe Kluber comes back and is effective down the stretch but you CANNOT count on Danny Salazar given his injury history or Carlos Carrasco, who literally has cancer, to be your horse in a playoff race. It’s also worth asking what kind of offensive player would be worth the loss of Bauer. Rosenthal mentions that the Yankees are scouting Bauer, but what does that get Cleveland? Maybe the return of Clint Frazier? I like him long-term, but he is not going to be as valuable to the Indians in 2019 as Bauer would be.
Which makes me think that if this speculation actually has legs and the Indians actually trade Bauer, it’s a white flag trade. A surrender. A cost-savings measure, pure and simple. And a profoundly cynical one at that given that the Indians are in win-now mode, are actually winning now, and seem to be in very good position to at least win the Wild Card and, quite possibly, catch the currently-fading Twins for the division crown.
If the Tribe trades one of their best players in those circumstances, why would any fan want to support this team going forward?