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Trevor Bauer-Yasiel Puig trade was weird

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Let’s start out by noting how very strange it is for a team pushing for a playoff spot to trade away a front line starting pitcher. A team, mind you, which has had a lot of injuries to its starting pitching. The Indians have lost ace Corey Kluber to a broken arm, near-ace Carlos Carrasco to friggin’ cancer and have seen a couple of their other starters felled by various injuries. Trevor Bauer has been basically the only guy who has taken the ball every fifth day and . . . Cleveland sent him packing. That is not the sort of thing that happens very often.

Yet this is not the white flag trade it may have seemed to be if you brought it up a few weeks ago (as we did). Indeed, a couple of things happened which make this a far more defensible trade than it may have seemed to be before: (1) the Indians’ displeasure with Bauer became far more apparent; and (2) the Indians got a pretty decent return for the guy.

I don’t think Bauer’s “throw the ball over the fence” thing from Sunday was not some sort of tipping point when it came to his attitude. His attitude and general disposition have been pretty well known for a while and no one connected to the Indians has suggested that they were totally cool with him until that happened. But just how little effort anyone with the Indians made to defend Bauer after Sunday was pretty telling. You get the sense that they were just barely tolerating him to begin with and that, at some point, too much is too much.

Still, you don’t deal him unless your team gets better by doing so or, at the very least, no worse. And I think the Indians accomplished that.

Yasiel Puig is not what we all thought he might become five or six years ago. He’s an above average defender with some pop who can go on hot streaks but, in the long run, he can be pitched to. We’ve seen that this year. It’s his worst offensive year by OPS+ so far but he raked in June (.287/.340/.609) and in the first half of July. He’s been cold again since the break. The Indians only have him for August, September and however long they go in the playoffs. The bet is that they can get one or two hot streaks from him. The sort of hot streaks, of which he is very much capable, in which he can win a few games single-handedly. That’s a plus for the stretch for a team that has the worst offense of all of the American League contenders. Especially given that he can play all three outfield positions and DH, allowing Terry Francona to cover up holes and platoon as needed.

But it’s not just Puig, of course. In Franmil Reyes the Indians got even more power. Reyes is hitting .263/.312/.535 with 27 homers with half of his games coming at Petco Park. While he doesn’t have the overall value of Puig thanks to his defensive shortcomings, the Indians desperately need that pop. They’ll have it for the stretch and for several years given that Reyes is only in his second season. All of that amounts to the Indians, yes, trading a sometimes ace but getting no worse for doing so. Indeed, I think they probably got a little better.

As for the other two teams in this deal:

  • The Padres did well for themselves. The prospect the Reds sent them — Taylor Trammell — is a good one. He’s having some issues at Double-A this year but he is still just 21. In the long run he’s a far better fit for the Padres outfield due to his speed and glove (though his arm is suspect). Yes, it’s something of a gut punch for Padres fans who have come to love Reyes and his power and who really, really want to contend next year — Trammell will not be in the bigs until 2021 at the absolute earliest, I suspect — but the Padres should want to make themselves good for the next decade, not just for the next year or two before Reyes becomes a serious liability in the outfield. Prospects can bust, but as I sit here right now I’d rather have Trammell for the next several years than Reyes. At least if I’m not in contention right at this moment, which the Padres are not;
  • The Reds end of this is weird. Yes, Bauer is a big improvement for their rotation, but (a) he’s moving to a homer-happy park and will be facing far tougher divisional opponents than he did in the AL Central; and (b) he’s a free agent after the 2020 season. If the Reds are going to try to gear up and go for it in 2020, great. I suppose it could happen. In the event they are not in a playoff race this time next year, though, the best they can do is flip Bauer at the deadline in which he’ll bring back far less than Taylor Trammell. The Reds are always interesting and if you squint you can almost see them making a big jump next year, but that’s only if you squint. The odds favor them having, in the long run, traded a good prospect for a marginal one and about a year of Trevor Bauer. That kind of thing won’t break them but I don’t really see why they wouldn’t have been better served simply doing nothing and not involving themselves in this deal.

So, that’s where it stands now. Let’s check back in October to see how it worked out for Cleveland. And in, I dunno, 2023 or something to see how it worked out for the Padres and Reds.

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

“We’ve talked to all of our Killer B’s,” Crane said referring to the nickname the three shared while playing for the Astros. “They’ve contacted me and they’ve all expressed that they would like to help. Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio have all called and said: ‘hey, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you.’”

“So we’ll continue to visit with those guys and see if there’s something there.”

Crane says his list is still rather extensive and that he hopes to have it narrowed down by the end of next week. He added that he expects most of Hinch’s staff to stay in place regardless of who is hired.

Crane has enlisted the help of three or four employees to help him with the interview process, including some in Houston’s baseball operations department.

“We compare notes,” he said. “I’ve learned a long time ago that you learn a lot if four or five people talk to a key candidate and you get a lot more information. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Crane’ top priority is finding a manager with spring training less than a month away, but he said he would start focusing on the search for a general manager after he hires a manager. He expects to hire a GM before the end of spring training.

“We should have another good season with the team pretty much intact … so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come in and manage these guys,” he said. “They’re set to win again.”

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

With much still in flux, Crane was asked what qualities are most important to him in his next manager.

“Someone mature that can handle the group,” he said. “Someone that’s had a little bit of experience in some areas. We’ve just got to find a leader that can handle some pressure and there’s going to be a little bit of pressure from where this team has been in the last few months.”

Despite his comment about experience, Crane said having been a major league manager before is not mandatory to him.

“We made some mistakes,” he said. “We made a decision to let that get behind us. We think the future is bright. We’ll make the adjustments … people think we’re in crisis. I certainly don’t believe that.”