By: Brian Endicott
Let me be one-hundred percent completely unambiguous and leave absolutely zero doubt: The Cleveland Indians must trade for Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier – now (as in before another team does).
The 2015 Indians played 70 games -yes SEVENTY- in which they failed to score more than 3 runs, managing to win only 19 of those contests. Securing more offense is the number one objective of new Indians General Manager Mike Chernoff.
Todd Frazier slashed an impressive .255/.309/.498 and more importantly added 35 home runs and 89 RBIs, and 82 runs for the Reds. His offense would fit perfectly into the middle of the Indians offense.
Critics of a trade suggest Frazier’s home/road splits are concerning – but his home run tally away from Great American Ballpark (16) would rank second on the Indians squad over the entire season (Carlos Santana, 19).
Initial talks of a trip up Interstate-71 for Frazier surfaced during last week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville. The price for the Reds to move Frazier was reportedly one of the Indians coveted starting pitchers and two top prospects (rumored to be Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier). The rumors of a trade began and disappeared all within less than 45 minutes as the Indians were not willing to part with all three.
Today CBS’s Jon Heyman reported talks of the Reds trading Frazier are once again heating up.
The Indians should (and the Reds should accept) part with both a starting pitcher and either Zimmer or Frazier, plus another lower-tier prospect in exchange for Frazier.
The debate on whether the Tribe should trade a starting pitcher for more offense has gone on long enough. Cleveland has perhaps the most talented, deepest, and most affordable starting rotation in baseball. The rotation is led by 2014 Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Kluber is followed by two other aces – Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, both posting 14-win seasons in 2015 and under long-term team-friendly contracts. Rounding out the rotation are Trevor Bauer (19 of 30 starts were quality starts), Josh Tomlin (7-3, 3.02ERA), and Cody Anderson (7-3, 3.05ERA).
Yes – that’s six strong starting pitchers, all of whom deserve to be in the starting rotation of a major league club. In my opinion, Anderson ranks 6th on the list (as of now) – but his 2015 season could be a #4 starter on many major league teams.
One of these pitchers will either begin 2016 in the bullpen, in AAA-Columbus, or hopefully in a Cincinnati Reds uniform.
If the Indians reduce to five premier starting pitchers and one falters (or is injured), they have major league experience with both Zach McCallister and TJ House. Neither of those being ideal, the Indians also have #3 prospect Rob Kamisky, #6 prospect Justus Sheffield, and #15 prospect Mike Clevinger. Clevinger, by the way, pitched back-to-back no-hitters into the 7th inning of the 2015 MiLB Governor’s Cup playoff.
To hold on to the incomparable wealth of starting pitchers within the Indians organization isn’t making progress toward improving the offense. The trade that makes sense for both clubs is Salazar (14-10, 3.45) along with prospects Frazier and Sheffield for Frazier. The Indians can maintain 2014 rookie Giovanny Urshela at third base, play Frazier at first base and move Santana to designated hitter.
Most importantly: The Indians add a power bat, maintain a dominating starting rotation of Kluber, Carrasco, Bauer, Tomlin, and Anderson, and keep their top position player and pitching prospect. The Reds get immediate pitching and two strong prospects, an ideal move for a team rebuilding.
Make it happen.