April 19, 2014

Francona on Masterson: “He’s not going anywhere”

In response to rumors that the Cleveland Indians were shopping All-Star starting pitcher Justin Masterson, Tribe manager Terry Francona says there is nothing to see here.

“He’s not going anywhere,” Francona said in a phone interview with Crain’s Cleveland’s Kevin Kleps. “I called him and told him this morning that if he has been reading it, it’s false. That’s the world we live in today with the Internet and everything else.”

In 2013, Masterson posted a 3.45 ERA and 195/76 K/BB ratio over 193 innings, winning 14 games.  He dealt with an oblique injury at the end of the regular season, ultimately sliding him into a role within the bullpen, but is expected to be fully healthy for the start of spring training. He has averaged 31 starts the last four seasons, and he has pitched at least 180 innings each year during that span.

Masterson, who will be 29 on March 22, can be an unrestricted free agent after the upcoming season. He was one of the many who avoided arbitration with the Indians last season, ultimately agreeing to a one-year, $5,687,500 contract. Masterson is expected to receive roughly $9.7 million in his final arbitration-eligible season of 2014. MLB Trade Rumors estimates that his next conract will be in the seven-year, $75 million range.

The New York Yankees are reportedly the latest team to have interest in Masterson, but any deal would need a third team as New York is allegedly looking to move outfielder Brett Gardner, a player who would not fit the mold of what Cleveland would covet in return. On Tuesday, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Arizona Diamondbacks would “really love” to acquire the 6-foot-6-inch pitcher.

[Related: The Diff: What's up with Justin Masterson's Indians future?]

 

 

MLB Trade Rumors: Indians “listening to offers” for Justin Masterson

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Cleveland Indians are listening to trade offers for Justin Masterson as front offices gather in Orlando for this year’s winter meetings.

As has been reported earlier this winter, Masterson is entering his walk year. Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported earlier this offseason that Masterson was looking for an extension in the five-year, $75 million range so it is conceivable that the team does not feel comfortable about their chances working an extension.  Masterson is expected to receive $9.7 million in his final arbitration-eligible season of 2014.

In 2013, the 28-year-old  posted a 3.45 ERA and 195/76 K/BB ratio over 193 innings, winning 14 games.  He dealt with an oblique injury at the end of the regular season, ultimately sliding him into a role within the bullpen, but is expected to be fully healthy for the start of spring training

Indians.com beat writer Jordan Bastian followed up the Rosenthal report, saying that fans should “not read too much” into it as the team is simply doing their due diligence.

[Related: The Diff: What's up with Justin Masterson's Indians future?]

 

MLB Trade Rumors: Cleveland could still a be landing spot for David Price

While the big-spending Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners are considered to be potential landing spots for 2012 Cy Young award winner David Price, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports says that MLB fans should not count out the Cleveland Indians.

In a recent column surrounding potential deals involving top-flight starting pitchers, Morosi feels that a package involving catcher/first baseman/third baseman Carlos Santana could be enough to get a deal in place, allowing the Indians to nab the ace starting pitcher needed to keep up with the Joneses (and the Ilitches).

“The Indians are one excellent starter away from mounting a serious challenge to the Tigers in the AL Central, but they don’t want to pay the going rate in free agency, so the trade market is a more plausible route,” writes Morosi. “The Indians’ package could center on Carlos Santana, who brings the power/patience combination the Rays would love and is under club control through 2017 on a team-friendly contract. Derek Shelton, the Rays’ respected hitting coach, held the same position in Cleveland while Santana was a minor leaguer there.”

Morosi, in his speculation, adds that the emergence of Yan Gomes (and his subsequent move to full-time catcher) allows the Indians to have considerable flexibility in the trade market. It would be expected that outfielder Nick Swisher would move to first base in the event Santana was moved.

Price, 28, has won a Cy Young and has a 71-39 record and 3.19 ERA over six years in the big leagues. Last season, he went 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA, a disappointment within a career that has seen seasons of 200 innings, more than 200 strikeouts and as many as 20 wins. He will not be a free agent for two more seasons.

As WFNY’s Jacob Rosen mentioned one month ago, the starter will be in for a sizable bump in his salary as he likely avoids arbitration over his final two seasons under contract.

[Related: How badly do the Indians need more starters? – Cleveland Indians Roundtable]

The Diff: What’s up with Justin Masterson’s Indians future?

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I wrote about Dion Waiters’ present and future. This week, I’m talking about Justin Masterson’s upcoming contract situation.

The Diff

The ace of the Cleveland Indians is under team control for only one more season. Justin Masterson, the 29-year-old acquired from Boston four years ago, could be the biggest key for the team’s long-term salary issues. In this ever important offseason with the team expected to add another starter to the fold, their attention also is likely on Masterson’s future. Is he worthy of a long-term extension already? What is the expected dollar amount? Let’s dive into the numbers. [Read more...]

MLB Trade Rumors: Indians interested in Oakland’s Brett Anderson

Though acquiring arms at a rapid pace, it appears that the Oakland Athletics are looking to trade starting pitcher Brett Anderson. Per ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Cleveland Indians are reportedly one of the few teams interested in acquiring the 25-year-old southpaw.

In his five years in the big leagues, Anderson has a record of 26-29 but has been considerably limited by injuries over the last two seasons. In 2010, Anderson was one of the league’s best pitchers as measured by ERA, allowing an average of just 2.80 over the course of 111 innings. Unfortunately, he has appeared in just 54 games over the course of the last four seasons.

Under contract for $8 million in 2014, with a $12 million club option for 2015, Anderson could prove to be a gamble in the way the left-handed Scott Kazmir was a season ago. Excercising Anderson’s option in November, the Athletics recently signed Kazmir to a two-year deal worth a reported $22 million.

[Related: Indians to close three of four remaining team shops per report]

How crazy would it be for Indians to consider trading Michael Bourn?

Michael BournThe Indians shocked much of baseball by signing All-Star outfielder Michael Bourn in February to a deal worth up to $60 million over five years.

While the team then surprised en route to 92 wins and an AL Wild Card appearance, Bourn disappointed. After a four-year near-superstar average of 4.8 jWAR (definition here), he posted a measly 2.2 jWAR in 2013 – just barely above legitimate starter levels.

This week, Cleveland added veteran David Murphy to the fold. He’s expected to play the larger half of a platoon in right field with Ryan Raburn. This now presents an even more crowded logjam in the outfield along with Bourn, Michael Brantley, Nick Swisher and arbitration-eligible Drew Stubbs.

All of these players have a ton of versatility, just as Terry Francona likes it. But it’s doubtful all six are on the roster come April. Thus, one potential option that is gaining more traction in the Tribe blogosphere is the concept of trading Michael Bourn. [Read more...]

MLB Rumor: Are Indians a “sleeper” for David Price trade?

This article is a few days old now, but still very relevant to the Indians set-to-be hectic offseason.

ESPN Insider’s Jim Bowden contemplated on Friday (subscription required) about six potential trade destinations for Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price. The 2012 Cy Young Winner is presumed to be on his way out of Tampa Bay, even though he still has two years left before free agency.

Slotted just below the payroll-heavy Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers, Bowden then remarked the Indians as “a sleeper in the Price sweepstakes.” Bowden wrote that manager Terry Francona might be able to convince the Tribe’s front office to make the signature move.

Primary trade targets in the Cleveland system, per Bowden, are listed as starter Danny Salazar, shortstop Francisco Lindor and infielder Dorssys Paulino. Throw-in options — listed as such likely based on their best-case MLB potential — are catcher Yan Gomes and infielder Jose Ramirez.

For starters, this is just one analyst’s opinion. Bowden is a former GM, but has been known to write some relatively outlandish things in his ESPN Insider tenure. Yet, he was one of the first writers to note Nick Swisher’s “serious consideration” of Cleveland or the team’s interest in Michael Bourn.

Price, who turned 28 in August, had a slow start to this past season and still finished with a 10-8 record and 3.33 ERA in 27 starts. For his career, he has a 3.19 ERA, 8.1 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. He ranks among the top 12 in strikeouts, ERA and innings pitched for all players in the last four seasons combined.

But Price will be set for a huge payday when his free agency day arrives after the 2015 season. Heck, he already earned a tad of $10 million in his first arbitration-eligible season this past year. Per MLBTradeRumors’ arbitration estimates, that amount will likely jump to $13 million for 2014. So it’s likely that prospect haul and financial costs might be a bit too much for the Cleveland organization.

The Indians still desperately need another starter to pair alongside Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister and Salazar for next year. As of now, their best in-house options are Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin. So Price would obviously be the best possible scenario for the rotation. But it could deplete the team’s resources a bit too much for comfort.

[Related: The Diff: Indians offseason, 2014 salary and contention windows]

Kubel deal is low in risk, but likely low in reward: Tribe Talk

Jason Kubel, dreaming of the day, he'll be waived and scooped up by the Indians for cash and spare parts.

Jason Kubel, dreaming of the day he’ll be waived and scooped up by the Indians for spare parts.

Late Thursday night, your Cleveland Indians acquired outfielder Jason Kubel from Arizona for a Player to be Named Later. The left-handed hitting Kubel whom you may remember from his days in Minnesota was someone whom the Indians looked at two winters ago in the free agent market. He eventually signed a two-year $16 million deal with the Diamondbacks, hitting 30 homers and driving in 90 runs in 2012. This season, however, has been one to forget.

The 31-year old has battled leg injuries all year and was designated for assignment by the D’Backs earlier in the week. In 89 games this season, he is hitting just .220/.288/.324 with five home runs and 32 RBIs. Essentially, he is taking over the Mark Reynolds spot. The Tribe now has to hope that unlike Reynolds, Jason is able to regain his form over the last month of the season. Not having to play in the outfield will help him.

[Read more...]

MLB News: Indians land outfielder Jason Kubel in trade with Arizona

(Update 10 a.m.: While no official announcement has been made, the Indians have reportedly landed Kubel for a Player to be Named Later. The Diamondbacks will help pay for the bulk of the money owed to Kubel.)

It’s no secret that the Indians have struggled offensively over the last month-plus. It looks like, at the very last minute, the front office might be finding a way to address that issue.

According to reports, Cleveland is emerging as a “strong possibility” to land recently waived Arizona Diamondbacks slugger Jason Kubel. MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo first put out the rumor on Twitter about an hour ago, followed by confirmation from the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro. It’s possible such a deal could be a trade for parts from the Tribe.

Kubel, 31, landed out west with a two-year, $16 million deal in the winter of 2011. The lefty batter slugged a career-high 30 home runs last season, finishing the year with a .253/.327/.506 line in 141 games. It’s been an entirely different story in 2013: He’s batting just .220/.288/.324 in 89 games, including a 9-for-75 (.120) mark at the plate since July 3.

Most well known in the AL Central for his solid seven-year career with the Minnesota Twins, Kubel is another left-handed option for the Indians to perhaps try out. He’s certainly better than giving Matt Carson any high-leverage at-bats, as Terry Francona did for some reason on Wednesday night. If injured Ryan Raburn is out any longer, even Kubel in his recent slumping ways could be a net positive.

So stay tuned on Friday morning to see if the Indians and Diamondbacks can work out their second deal in 12 months — including the Shin-Soo Choo, Didi Gregorius, Trevor Bauer and Drew Stubbs trade with Cincinnati last winter. The key thing to look out for would be the possible return for Arizona, as Kubel isn’t worth much more on his contract this season.

[Related: Braves 3 Indians 2: The little things cost the Tribe big time]

MLB Trade Rumors: Indians “a fit” for Giants’ Javier Lopez

The Cleveland Indians are being linked to current San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Javier Lopez.

With Major League Baseball’s trade deadline looming, the Indians—widely considered to not be a major player—continue to have significant struggles in their bullpen, predominantly from the left side. ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that “multiple” teams are interested in the left-hander who has 1.184 WHIP, striking out 27 batters in 25 innings of work. Appearing in 45 games this season, Lopez, 36, has allowed just one run in his last 33 appearances.

Lopez spent time with current Indians manager Terry Francona, pitching in Boston between 2006-2010. Through his career, he has held left-handed hitters to a .604 OPS, allowing just nine home runs in 817 at-bats.

The Indians have cycled through several left-handers in the bullpen this season, including Scott Barnes, Nick Hagadone, David Huff, and Rich Hill. Only Hill remains on the 25-man roster. They have also been linked to Colorado Rockies left-hander Josh Outman.

[Related: What To Make Of Chris Antonetti’s Recent Comments]

MLB Rumor: Indians a potential fit for Houston’s Bud Norris

MLB Trade Rumors are in full swing this weekend, with the latest Cleveland Indians-related news related to a different (edit: former) National League Central starter.

With the Matt Garza sweepstakes likely ending soon with him heading to Texas, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports today that trade talks involving Houston’s Bud Norris have been heating up.

One of the potential fits for the 28-year-old Norris are the Indians, he tweeted, among several others vying for additional pitching help down the stretch. Crasnick reports that Norris is only making $3 million this year and won’t be a free agent until 2015. Thus, his team control is a vastly different situation than Garza, a higher-priced commodity who will also be a free agent this coming winter.

In his five-year career with the Astros, Norris is 34-46 with a 4.33 ERA, 8.4 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9. From 2010-2013, he ranks 39th in MLB with 107 starts and 44th with his 627.2 innings pitched. He had been having a career season thus far this year with a 3.22 ERA in his first 18 starts before allowing a combined 13 runs on 17 hits in just 10.2 innings in his last two outings, including last night.

Obviously, Norris is a starter in the No. 3-4 range for a decent team. He would provide depth, consistency, strikeout ability and long-term stability to any contending rotation. He does not have the high-end upside of a Garza, who is in the midst of his seventh straight season with a sub-4.00 ERA. Yet, a starter of his range and durability certainly has some value on the open market.

Is Norris a significant upgrade over the Indians’ existing options? The two weakest links in the team’s rotation actually have been doing better of late: Ubaldo Jimenez has a 3.42 ERA in 15 starts since April 29th and Scott Kazmir has a 1.95 ERA in six starts since June 21st. The rest of the team’s rotation, Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister, appears to be set in stone once the latter returns from the disabled list, perhaps as early as next week.

General manager Chris Antonetti and the Cleveland front office will have to decide shortly whether it’s worth pursuing a Norris-esque starter, or perhaps prioritizing other needs — such as a left-handed reliever that would have been helpful in Friday’s loss to Minnesota.

[Related: Tribe Trade Targets – The southpaw reliever edition]

MLB Rumor: Cubs target Lonnie Chisenhall in Matt Garza talks

The Matt Garza trade rumors continue to heat up.

While the Chicago Cubs have reportedly previously told the player and his agent that he will be traded soon, they are now supposedly targeting third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall in their trade talks with the Cleveland Indians, reports ESPNChicago.com late Thursday night.

According to the newest report, four teams — the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, and Toronto Blue Jays — have been told by the Cubs to present their final bids. Texas, the team with the best record out of the bunch, had been rumored to be the new front-runner, per FOX Sports late Thursday night.

It has been widely expected that Garza has thrown his final pitch for the Cubs. Then, in their discussions with the Indians, the Cubs have made it known that they would like third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall in return, according to the ESPNChicago report’s sources.

Chisenhall, 24, has played much better of late since his mid-June return to the majors. In his last 20 games before the All-Star Break, he batted .309/.365/.544 with only 12 strikeouts against 10 extra-base hits in 74 plate appearances. This is Chisenhall’s third season with the team, thus he is arbitration-eligible in 2015 with earliest possible free agency in 2018.

Dealing Chisenhall would throw a kink in the Indians’ current lineup. When he was in Triple-A Columbus for a six-week period earlier this season, struggling slugger Mark Reynolds received the majority of starts at the hot corner. With Reynolds’ decreasing production, it remains a question whether the team would feel comfortable enough offensively and defensively going forward.

Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Garza — who sports a solidly above average career 3.80 ERA with 7.6 K/9 — will be a free agent this coming offseason. Thus, as ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wrote today, possible returns have been rumored to be less bountiful than the usual deals involving near-All-Star-caliber starting pitchers.

[Related: The Indians and the 2013 Trade Deadline: Decisions Abound]

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? [Read more...]

The Indians and the 2013 Trade Deadline: Decisions Abound

Asdrubal CabreraThe end of July is fast approaching, which means the Indians and Chris Antonetti are once again embroiled in boatloads of trade speculation.  We’ve gone through years where we were clearly “sellers” (2008 and 2009) and years in which we ostensibly found ourselves “buying” (2011).  There’ve been relative hits and misses along the way, but regardless of the strategy that a given season has dictated, it’s become fairly clear that our front office views the July 31st trade deadline as a prime opportunity to impart its vision and direction on the franchise.

Perhaps more than any team in baseball, ours has been shaped by trades.  Consider this: Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Ubaldo Jimenez, Zach McAllister, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Chris Perez, Joe Smith, Asdrubal Cabera, Mike Aviles, Michael Brantley, Drew Stubbs, Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes were all acquired on the trade market. That’s five competent-ish starting pitchers, a closer, a setup man, two above average catchers, an All-Star shortstop, two serviceable everyday corner outfielders and a quality utility guy.  I’m not going to check this, but I’d be surprised if you could find another Big League roster so littered with trade acquisitions. 1 [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Of course, let’s pause to remember why the Indians have had to rely so heavily on the trade market: their drafting and (to a lesser extent) their international scouting have produced sub-par results.  You might suggest that this problem has been solved, and we’re on the right track with Brad Grant’s regime. Forgive my skepticism: in his five or so years at the helm, armed with copious high draft picks, he’s produced exactly one good player (Kipnis) and one legitimate prospect (Lindor).  I understand these things take time, but I’m going to withhold the beatification for another few years if that’s ok with you. []

MLB Rumors: Cardinals, Indians talking Adrubal Cabrera deal

In his latest column today, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney begins with a trade idea that might not be too heart-warming for Cleveland Indians fans. According to his report, the St. Louis Cardinals have continued discussions with the Tribe in regards to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.

The article states that the two teams discussed such a deal during the offseason, when usually it’s easier to get such a major trade completed. St. Louis has continued to lack production at the shortstop position in 2013. Thus, talks have continued between the two clubs.

Obviously, with the Indians at 48-44 and only 2.5 games back of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, it likely wouldn’t be a popular deal in Cleveland. Olney mentioned that the Cardinals have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, as led by a number of MLB-ready arms such as Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha.

Another interested team in Cabrera is the New York Yankees, who are looking for more future infield production because of injuries (Derek Jeter), a possible suspension (Alex Rodriguez) and the likelihood of an offseason departure (Robinson Cano). They’ve asked about Cabrera repeatedly, per Olney, and feel that he could be a versatile player capable of filling in at multiple positions.

Mike Aviles would be the likely short-term Indians answer at shortstop with High-A Carolina star prospect Francisco Lindor to follow in the long-term, per Olney’s analysis of such a deal. Although the Indians believe No. 2 prospect Trevor Bauer will eventually work out his struggles, the team still is looking for pitching help.

Previously, we’ve seen MLB Cleveland trade rumors related to Matt Garza and the other top pitching prospects on the market. This is the first one in July 2013 that relates to the Indians perhaps selling off one of their better players, albeit one oft-rumored in deals last offseason and only under contract through 2014.

[Related: Indians can’t afford to wait until deadline to make a deal]

Indians can’t afford to wait until deadline to make a deal

matt-garza-cubs-trade-deadline

With the MLB trade deadline looming, the Cleveland Indians find themselves in what is becoming a perennially precarious position: To invest, or not to invest. After an eyebrow-raising offseason of free agency acquisitions and trades, the Indians took to the 2013 season with a mantra of competition and contention. Whether due to windows of opportunity or a reaction to a complete abomination of a season in 2012, times were allegedly changing.

Conviction, however, is a fickle beast. It could easily be stated that the Indians’ front office believed in the current core; all they needed was an injection of educational and energetic and bro-slinging veterans to help guide them on their way. But as we sit here, three weeks away from the deadline that could make or break any desire of a post-season, we are in a similar limbo as we were a year ago. Sure, the Indians are involved in swirling rumors and season-long speculation—they’ll be active, they’ll be “buyers.” A year ago, national outlests across the dial pegged the Indians to be wheeling and dealing, only to add something called a Brent Lillibridge. This team, however, can ill afford to sit on their hands in hopes of bettter, less-expensive opportunities. As the schedule rolls along, the 2013 Cleveland Indians cannot afford to wait.

[Read more...]

MLB Trade Rumors: Indians eying Matt Garza, Yovani Gallardo

The Cleveland Indians are in search of rotation help as trade deadline nears, and are specifically tied to a pair of National League arms in Chicago’s Matt Garza and Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo.

Jon Heyman from CBS Sports reports that Indians general manager Chris Antonetti is not only looking to add an arm, but is focusing his efforts on a top-of-the-rotation starter to pair with All-Star Justin Masterson.

“It’s no surprise the Indians would like to add a starter,” writes Heyman. “The twist is that they are limiting themselves to a top-of-the-rotation type. … If they don’t find that special someone, they just might pass in light of the fact their rotation depth isn’t a concern at the moment.”

Given the recent improvements of back-end starters like Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber, Antonetti’s desire to add a quality starter makes sense. Kluber is 6-4 with a 3.53 FIP, recently fanning 10 in a win over the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers. McAllister has a sub-4.00 ERA (4.23 FIP) and is attempting a comeback from a sprained right middle finger. The team’s current fifth starter, Scott Kazmir, recently scattered four hits in 5 2/3 innings, also against the Tigers.

From a cost perspective, Heyman reports that the Cubs are seeking “multiple good prospects” for Garza (he’s allowed a total of five earned runs in his last five outings, four of which have been wins) while the Brewers are currently valuing him based on how he pitched in past years (a career FIP of 3.67), not his inconsistent recent performance which has been accompanied by a significant drop in his strikeout rate.

ESPN’s Buster Olney recently reported that the Indians join Texas, Boston, Toronto, the Dodgers and maybe Baltimore in the quest to acquire Garza.

[Related: Tigers 4, Indians 2: Golden opportunity slips through Tribe’s fingers]

Indians were “two minutes” from acquiring Randy Johnson in 1998

John Hart and Carlos Baerga were in Cleveland this weekend getting inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame. Hart, the Tribe’s GM during the mid-90s run, reminisced about some of the deals that got away. He told the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto that while he doesn’t regret not trading Jaret Wright (along with Bartolo Colon and others) to the Expos for Pedro Martinez, he really wishes his 1998 deal for Randy Johnson would’ve gone through.

But Hart still regrets coming within a few minutes of adding Randy Johnson in 1998 in a deal with Seattle. He had an offer of at least five players on the table, including Dave Burba, Brian Giles and Richie Sexson. “I thought we had a deal,” said Hart. “But two minutes left before the trade deadline, [Seattle General Manager] Woody Woodward called back and said they were trading him to Houston.”

Brian Giles, Richie Sexson and Dave Burba?!??! Oh. My. God. After the trade deadline, Johnson was an absolute beast for the Houston Astros, going 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA in eleven starts. He notched 116 strikeouts in just 84.1 innings pitched. That is insane. The trade (or moving to the NL) seemed to energize the Big Unit, as pre-deadline he was rather pedestrian, going 9-10 with a with a 4.33 ERA in 23 starts for the Mariners.

The Indians went up 2-1 on the Yankees in the 1998 ACLS before eventually falling 4-2. Tribe starters Dwight Gooden, Chad Ogea and Charles Nagy took the loss in each of the final three games.

The Big Unit in an Indians uniform. For Brian Giles, Dave Burba and Richie Sexson. Wow. In no way is this depressing.

[Related: Four For Friday – LeBron, Gordon, Kazmir, and Marion]

MLB Trade Rumors: Indians eying Kendrys Morales

ESPN’s Jim Bowden reports that multiple American League teams are interested in trading for Los Angeles Angels slugger Kendrys Morales.

The Angels reportedly want to hold on to both Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos following the signing of Josh Hamilton, and could look to shop Morales to DH-needy teams. Bowden considers the Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros, and Cleveland Indians as possible destinations.

The 29-year old Morales provided a slash line of .273/.320/.467 through 484 at-bats last season. In 2009, the switch-hitting Morales was fifth in MVP voting after providing an OPS+ of 139. Morales suffered an ankle injury on May 29, 2010, during a celebration of his walk-off grand slam, which kept him out of the Major League for nearly two years.

[Related: Trevor Bauer, and the Indians’ starting pitching outlook]

MLB Trade Rumors: Indians and Reds nearing deal for Choo

The Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds are reportedly in advanced talks in a deal that would send Gold Glove-nominated outfielder Shin-Soo Choo down Interstate 71.

CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler reports that the Indians would receive center fielder Drew Stubbs and shortstop Didi Gregorius in return. The Reds are expected to receive another player in addition to Choo. Choo would play center field for the Reds while batting lead-off. Gregorious would provide even more depth at the shortstop position as the Tribe continues to work the phones in hopes of trading All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera.

Choo had a .373 on-base percentage and an .815 OPS last year for the Indians. As Knobler points out, he led off 98 times, and had a .389 on-base percentage in those games.

The 2012 season was rough for Stubbs as the 28-year-old hit .213 with an OPS of .610. He did manage to steal 30 bases, giving him three consecutive seasons of such a feat. In 604 at-bats in 2011, Stubbs nabbed 40 bases, scoring 92 runs. He has seen a considerable year-over-year regression since his 2010 season of 22 home runs, 77 runs batted in and 91 runs scored (.773 OPS).

Stubbs would likely play center field with the Indians sliding Michael Brantley to left. Given his speed, he would undoubtedly be in contention to be the team’s lead-off hitter.

[Related: Tribe Adds Reynolds, But Can’t Stop Here]