August 26, 2014

Tribe Trade Targets – The southpaw reliever edition

Joe ThatcherWhile everyone in baseball is talking about where the Cubs’ Matt Garza will end up, the Indians should be looking elsewhere. Zach McAllister, arguably the Tribe’s number two starter before he injured his finger, pitched six scoreless innings of two-hit ball for the Columbus Clippers last night in a rehab start. He struck out two and walked two and was able to throw his curveball effectively. If last night was any indication, The Zach Attack will be back for Tuesday’s start in Seattle.

With the kid Danny Salazar showing what he can during his spot start eight days ago, along with Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer, the Indians should be fine with where they are in the rotation. Let me rephrase that – overpaying in prospects for a rental of Matt Garza, who is good, but not great, and certainly not like acquiring Randy Johnson at the deadline, is just not a wise move.

So what should the Indians do?

ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted this morning that the Indians are looking for a left-handed reliever. That should come as no surprise considering how spotty Rich Hill, Nick Hagadone, and Scott Barnes have been all season. I talked about this on Wednesday, but not having a late-inning matchup lefty he can count on is hamstringing manager Terry Francona.

With that said, it is a sellers market out there. Who exactly is available? The names won’t wow you, but there are options. There are four lefty relievers that can be had.

Oliver Perez – age 31 – Seattle Mariners – 36.0 IP, 1.75 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 12.50 K/9 – 3/19 inherited runners scored – free agent at season’s end - Perez may be the most intriguing option for the Indians. He comes cheap, making $1.5 million for 2013, and has a track record. People forget that Perez was once a hot starting pitching, strikeout machine who the Mets gave three years and $36 million to. He flopped and disappeared in 2011 before resurfacing in Seattle midway through last season as a reliever. In 2013, he is mowing down the competition and seems to have found a way to keep his big league career going. Stramgely, lefties are hitting better (.250) against him than righties (.171) are. The Mariners are nowhere near the position to contend and should be sellers at the deadline. The way I figure it, Eric Wedge, now managing in Seattle, owes us one for Brandon Phillips. Fun fact: Perez’s agent is former Indian Mike Fischlin (look him up kids).

James Russell – age 27 – Chicago Cubs –  35.2 IP, 2.78 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 7.56 K/9 – 9/33 inherited runners scored – arbitration-eligible – control thru 2016 – Back in 1994 at the trade deadline, the Indians were in search of a closer. They turned to Texas and acquired Jeff Russell. Fast forward 19 years and the Tribe is looking again at relievers and could turn to his son for help. James is the Cubs’ late-inning lefty of the past two seasons and has done a nice job making a name for himself. Lefties have hit just .189/.218/.284 against him in 2013. While he isn’t a big strikeout pitcher, his job is to neutralize lefties, which he has done. Unlike Perez, Russell is arbitration-eligible and should the Indians chose, they could keep him under their control through 2016. That fact might cost them a better prospect, but it could well be worth it to solve the issue they currently have.

Joe Thatcher – age 31 – San Diego Padres – 26.2 IP, 2.36 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 8.78 K/9 – 4/34 inherited runners scored – arbitration-eligible - 2015 free agent - Now here is a guy I bet most of you have never heard of, but he has become one of the better left-handed specialists in the NL. Toiling in San Diego for a last-place Padres team will do that to you. However, this is is fifth season as the Padres’ primary lefty out of the pen and he is enjoying his best season. Lefties are hitting just .203/.238/.220 against him with 18 Ks and just two walks. With runners in scoring position, opposing hitters are just 4-29 (.138). His road ERA is just under a point higher on the road (2.84) than it is at the pitcher-friendly Petco Park (1.93), but Thatcher has a proven track record over the past five seasons. He makes just $1.35 million and is arbitration-eligible for 2014.

Mike Dunn – age 28 – Miami Marlins – 41.1 IP, 2.83 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 8.71 K/9 – 7/17 inherited runners scored – arbitration-eligible – control through 2017 - The Marlins are in a perpetual state of flux. They want to trade as many veterans as they can to collect young cheap assets. However, they are willing to listen on just about anyone not named Jose Fernandez or Giancarlo Stanton. Dunn isn’t my favorite name on the list and is more Rich Hill than Russell or Perez. He averages about a strikeout per inning and is more of a finesse pitcher. His splits this season are pretty even (.231 vs lefties, .234 vs. righties). However, he is available.

Given my order of preference, I would love to see Thatcher come over. If he can’t be had, then I would look towards Perez on a rental. Russell could be a better long term solution should the Indians want to go that route. I’m not a huge fan of Dunn’s and would rather stick with Hill.

 (AP Photo/Matt York)

  • Kevin B

    How does one pitch six scoreless innings of two-run ball? ;)

  • mgbode

    I like the idea of James Russell. Just lock up the sore spot for the next couple of years. Really depends on what the teams are asking though.

    (agreed on Dunn. he isn’t any better than what we have now)

  • jamindunn

    I think he meant 2 hit ball.

  • woofersus

    I like Perez, but he’s not a lefty specialist and I think the Indians might need that more. (incidentally, I noticed Shaw has been way better against lefties even though he’s right handed – maybe they should be picking his spots differently?) Of those, I like Russell best, but the asking price may be too high.

    OTOH, just adding another consistently good pitcher isn’t a terrible idea. Oliver hasn’t been bad against lefties, necessarily, and between him, Allen, Smith, and Perez you’d have four guys who you don’t need to play matchup games with. They need a left handed specialist, but it may be that a bigger problem is they just have too many guys who are streaky and not reliable.

  • jaker

    what would it cost for these guys? I hate to be skimpy, but they all sound good. I’m going in for the “cheapest”, or the one that nets the lesser prospect.

  • JacobWFNY

    Thank ya fellas.

  • REEPJP

    He hasn’t been as good as of late, but would have liked to see us try to get Matt Thornton from the White Sox…he’s still been decent against lefties. Looks like the BoSox thought the same and only gave up a hohum prospect to acquire his services.

  • Steve

    I’d have to imagine that Russell, as the youngest and with the most control, while cost quite a bit more than the other guys.

    I’d guess for any of the rest of them, you could give up a prospect that will make even Lastoria, with his prospect-fetish go ‘whatever’, but you’ll have to give up some actual talent to get Russell. I’d imagine we can fill the LOOGY role well enough in the offseason that we shouldn’t pay a premium.

  • Steve

    Mis-read when Dunn becomes a FA, but with him becoming arb-eligible, thats almost the same thing for the Marlins.

  • saggy

    yeah, let’s just get the White Sox to trade with us. Why don’t we go get Big Ben from Pittsburgh while we’re at it.

  • REEPJP

    The ChiSox are selling the farm and have said as much in the last few weeks. For a player nearing the end of his career and who won’t be around when they compete again, I think if they could get value for him they’d trade him to whoever wants him. It’s not as if intradivision trades don’t ever happen, see Jhonny to Detroit.

  • Adam

    How about Brett Cecil? He has been lights out in the bullpen this year, and has devastated lefties. He’s also given the Jays more than one inning about 15 times this year. He’s the best option out there if he’s available.

  • JacobWFNY

    I haven’t seen anything that says Cecil is available? Got a link for that?

    Cecil was a former top prospect in Toronto. He flamed out as a starter, just wasn’t very good, then became a reliever mid-way through last year. This is his first full season doing it and he was an All-Star. I’d be really surprised if he was on the market.

    The Blue Jays obviously have been a disappointment this year, but because of the contract situations for most of their players, they’re still thinking contention in 2014. I’d be really surprised if they move anyone like Cecil. He’s under team control for a while.

  • Kevin B

    Yeah. I know. That’s why I tagged it with the “;)”. Thanks.