After making the playoffs just twice in the previous 14 years, the Cleveland Indians (60-44) were not going to let this year’s trade deadline quietly pass. Not with one of the best records in baseball, anyway.
So, they didn’t. The Indians wheeled-and-dealed before Monday’s deadline, with Andrew Miller becoming the top acquisition.
“We’re getting one of the best relievers in baseball for the stretch run this year – the last two months and the postseason this year – and for two more years,” Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think that additional control is really helpful for us. We’re a small-market team. We gave up a boatload of prospects, some really good players that are going to unfortunately be probably great Yankees. We can’t survive doing that consistently, especially for players just in a rental type of context. In this situation, knowing that Andrew will be here this year and the ability to potentially impact our team for two more years allowed us to give up that type of value to hopefully capitalize on kind of a window with our team where a lot of our core players will be around.”
Miller, 31, went 6-1 with a 1.39 ERA and 0.77 WHIP and had 77 strikeouts in 45 and 1/3 innings in 44 appearances for the Yankees this season. The Indians dealt Clint Frazier and three pitchers – Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen – for his services.
Frazier, 21, is immediately New York’s No. 1 minor league prospect.
“From the time we drafted him in the first round, he’s got incredible tools, great raw power, great bat speed – he probably ends up on a corner right field or left field, but he can be a power-hitting corner-outfield bat,” Chernoff said. “He has really matured a lot in the past couple of years. We’ve seen tremendous progress. He actually struck out almost 30 percent of the time in his first full season with us, and we’ve seen him progress and mature in his approach at the plate and with his swing to where he cut that down tremendously. That’s a hard thing for a young player to do, especially if he’s moving up from level to level, and in Double-A this year, he really cut it down, and his approach to hitting really got a whole lot better as he did that. So I think he’s going to be an exceptional player for them. Unfortunately, you have to trade really good players to get really good players, but now is the time for us to do that.”
The Indians were willing to give up several other good players for Jonathan Lucroy. Only Lucroy didn’t want to go to Cleveland. The 30-year-old All-Star vetoed the trade Sunday.
“With the Brewers, we had a deal in place,” Chernoff said. “From the start of the negotiation, we knew that he had limited no-trade protection in his contract and that we were one of the eight teams he couldn’t be traded to. I think we were hopeful that a player who had asked to play on a contending team early in the season would see our situation as something he wanted to be a part of. But in the end, the decision was his and we knew that was going to be a part of it. So he was still the Brewers’ player despite us agreeing to the deal. We can’t talk to another team’s player, so the Brewers worked it out with him, and Jonathan, for whatever reason, decided that this wasn’t the place for him and we all had to move on.”
Chernoff said the Indians spent “at least a month” on the trade and were willing to give up “a tremendous amount of talent and great prospects in our system” for Lucroy. Didn’t matter. Lucroy was traded to the Texas Rangers (62-45) the very next day.
“He’s obviously an exceptional catcher and great hitter,” Chernoff said. “So for us to (be willing to give all that talent) up, obviously we had high hopes for what he would contribute to the team over this year and next year.”
The Rangers and Indians have the top two records in the American League. They play a four-game series in Texas on Aug. 25-28.