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The off-season is upon us and while the Indians are not expected to be players for the big time free agents like SS Manny Machado or OF Bryce Harper, they do need to make some moves to improve the team. Here are five moves that are realistic for the Indians to make.
2B Jason Kipnis has struggled the last few seasons and it is time to cut ties with him. This is a good time to trade him as he is signed for 2019 and has a $2.5 million buyout for 2020. Kipnis could use a change of scenery due to his lackluster numbers the past two seasons. Compensation for Kipnis would be low and the Indians may have to give whatever team they trade Kipnis to some monetary compensation, but it might be well worth it.
There have been a lot of rumors surrounding pitcher Corey Kluber possibly getting traded. While many fans will be upset if that move is made there is a lot of legitimacy to making this move. Kluber will be 33 in April and with the emergence of the other starting pitchers, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger, who are all younger than Kluber, the idea of trading him isn’t too far-fetched. The one caveat is that the Indians get back a major-league playing outfielder. There have been rumors of Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig, Braves OF Ender Inciarte or Mets OF Brandon Nimmo being part of the package coming back. Of course, if the Indians do trade away the two-time Cy Young Award winner there needs to be a lot more in the package-joining the Indians team.
Jed Lowrie is an intriguing free agent. One reason why I think the Indians should go after him is that he has played shortstop, second base and third base over the last few seasons. If the Indians can find a way to trade Jason Kipnis, Lowrie would be a perfect replacement. In 2018, he hit .267 with a career-high 23 home runs and 99 RBI. Additionally, he had a wins above replacement of 4.8 compared to Kipnis’ 1.6. The downside of signing Lowrie is that he is turning 35 at the beginning of the season. However, I feel that he has played well enough over the last few seasons that his age should be less of a problem.
Truth is, the Indians actually did this last season when they traded away catching prospect Francisco Mejia to the San Diego Padres for relief pitchers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. However, with many other members of last year’s bullpen being free agents, they need to address this position again. If the Indians do trade Kipnis and/or Kluber, they should try to get a relief pitcher back in the deal and then look at the list of free agents and try to get a guy or two. With a good foundation thanks to Hand, Cimber, Neil Ramirez, and Dan Otero, the Indians can look for players with specific skill sets. Some names that I’d be interested in bringing in and are realistic options are Brad Brach, Joe Kelly, Tim Collins or bringing back Oliver Perez who pitched amazingly well for the Indians last season.
After spending the first nine seasons of his MLB career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Andrew McCutchen spent his 2018 season with the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees. McCutchen is no longer the same caliber of player who won the 2013 NL MVP, but he is more than serviceable. I would offer McCutchen an incentive-laden one-year deal with a mutual option. Let’s say the Indians trade Kluber to the Dodgers and get Yasiel Puig back in return, then you can have Puig and McCutchen in the corners with Greg Allen, Leonys Martin and Tyler Naquin playing center field and giving McCutchen the occasional day off.