Indians prepare for unique trade deadline
Just about everything associated with this 2020 Major League Baseball season has been weird, with a number of added variables and uncertainties built in compared to a normal year. The upcoming trade deadline, and how teams will approach it, is no different.
The 2020 trade deadline before the season was moved to Aug. 31, giving teams only a little more than a month of regular season games to make decisions. Though, the timing of it all isn't the biggest issue.
It's information. It's video. It's data. Teams are already limited to only dealing players within their 60-man player pool, cutting down on the potential to find the right pieces and make a deal. But beyond that, teams are also limited in what they can see and gather on players at other franchise's alternate sites. It has added an extra layer of guesswork into the mix.
"I think the more challenging thing we're facing is this is a unique deadline unlike anything any of us in the industry have experienced in the past," said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti on a Zoom call. "So there's so much uncertainty around the game and what the path forward might be for the balance of the season and post season. It's a very different context to make decisions. That's one element that's different.
"Two, information, especially with the minor league players, is also very different. At least at the major league level, even though we have a smaller sample, we have access to video and the data that we're accustomed to having. We don't yet have full information from the alternate sites. We don't have video to date, we don't have additional information. And then for players that aren't in the 60-player pool, we have effectively have no information from to the teams' players from that group."
All 30 major-league parks have the same technology installed for data sharing around the league. But the other sites, mainly minor-league parks, that teams are using for their alternate sites aren't necessarily all the same. It's one of the issues MLB has had to quickly try to figure out as the deadline draws near.
"All of us are champing at that to be as soon as possible, but there are some real logistic challenges to do that," Antonetti said. "Every major league ballpark is fitted with the same technology, so sharing information is really easy at the major-league level. At the minor-league level, it's more complicated because there's a variety of different technologies that teams use. In a lot of cases, some teams are using colleges or independent league teams or other facilities for second sites that don't have any of that equipment. So getting them furnished with some technology and some video to be able to share and contribute is much more complicated in this environment than anything we've experienced previously."
Anything resembling the trade deadline and the Indians will revolve first around Francisco Lindor, as the front office will have to at least keep the phone lines open. Though, the addition of the three additional postseason spots lowered any possibility of the Indians falling out of the race early enough to more easily allow for a Lindor deal. That price tag remains high, though the Indians would have to seriously explore any serious offer loaded with current and/or future value. Add in the potential difficulty to receive adequate updates on players from the alternate sites, and even a blow-them-out-of-the-water deal could be rife with additional uncertainty.
Another area to watch: the outfield. Franmil Reyes has caught fire recently after adjusting his swing toward center and right-center field, in the process becoming one of the hottest hitters in baseball. Though after Reyes, Oscar Mercado, Bradley Zimmer (as of late), Domingo Santana and others have either struggled or been sidelined with injuries (like Tyler Naquin) until recently. Indians outfielders, entering Sunday's game, had -0.7 fWAR collectively. Only the Pirates have been worse.
The Indians since last July have already dealt Trevor Bauer and two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to address other spots around the roster. It's possible they could go to that well again, as they have boasted baseball's best rotation thus far, but one that hasn't received the kind of run support needed to make much of it stand. Considering the rotation was already the Indians' main area of surplus within the organization, that could certainly mean Mike Clevinger or Zach Plesac, who recently broke protocol, were placed on the restricted list and then optioned to the alternate site at Lake County. That could especially mean Clevinger, who is already into his arbitration years. Though, despite any frustration and lost of trust in the clubhouse, the price tag for both pitchers would remain high.
Negro Leagues celebration
Major League Baseball on Sunday celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues, with every team, including the Indians, wearing a commemorative patch on their uniforms.
Drawing deserved attention to such a crucial and important part of baseball's history was needed. For Indians outfielder Delino DeShields, Sunday marked an important day for more than it simply being his 28th birthday.
"It means a lot to me," DeShields said on a Zoom call. "You know, it's something that growing up, I was surrounded by my parents. They made sure that I knew that we had our own sport, or our own League I should say, back in the day. So yeah, these Negro League players, they were my idols growing up. They were guys I looked up to and wanted to be like, so it's really cool that that we're, you know, celebrating the Negro Leagues this year. Even though I personally think we should do it every year. Even if it's for a weekend or something like that."
DeShields' dad, Delino DeShields Sr., played 13 years in the big leagues and is now a first base coach with the Reds. It was important for DeSheilds Sr. to make sure that these pieces of history were passed down. DeShields Jr. now has that same goal, that education of the Negro Leagues is a needed piece within the larger baseball conversation of today's younger generations.
"You know, I wanted it to be a conversation starter because I feel like when I talk about my idols, people don't know who these guys are and to me they’re superheroes," DeShields said. "And I wanted kids — black kids — to know that African Americans had their own baseball league and that, you know, they were really good. And I know it's not talked about a lot but with the decline in African Americans in baseball, I thought it was important to kind of get that message out there and hopefully inspire somebody to start playing baseball and dream big of making it to the big leagues."
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more about the Indians at www.beaconjournal.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.