The Cleveland Indians sure don’t look like contenders. But after several weeks of trying to add a starting pitcher and right-handed hitter, would they suddenly turn into sellers?
It’s too simple a question.
The Indians, like many teams, constantly gauge interest in their players without necessarily shopping them. They are not planning a massive overhaul over the next week because they intend to compete next season. But they could make strategic trades, regardless of how they fare in a pivotal home series against the Detroit Tigers that begins on Tuesday night.
As it stands, the Indians are 3-7 since the All-Star break, 4½ games back in the AL Central and four back for the second wild card, with six teams ahead of them.
Their potential free agents include right-hander Derek Lowe, first baseman Casey Kotchman and left fielder Johnny Damon. But their most attractive pieces are two players who are still eligible for arbitration – closer Chris Perez and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo.
The San Francisco Giants, seeking late-inning help, are interested in Perez, according to major-league sources. The Indians could entertain moving Perez for two reasons – they are deep in relievers, and Perez likely will earn about $7 million next season in his second year of arbitration.
Choo would be more difficult to replace than Perez – he ranks fourth in the majors with a .928 OPS out of the leadoff spot. But he is eligible for free agency after next season, and the Indians’ chances of signing him to an extension are slim. Choo is represented by Scott Boras, who generally prefers his clients to establish their values on the open market.
If the Indians trade players such as Perez and Choo – players under control beyond this season – they would not want prospects in return, but players who would strengthen their current club, sources said.
-Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi