The Indians have won three straight AL Central titles, but like the Braves, are not a team that has the ability to dole lucrative contracts to keep all of their players. While their run of success may not be over just yet, they are going to have to find creative ways to make the necessary improvements to catch up to the likes of the Astros and Red Sox. That includes trading away some of the most valuable pieces of their renowned starting rotation.
Cleveland has three pitchers at the top of their rotation that will draw interest from any contending team. Not only are they extremely talented, but they all come with multiple years of team control, which seems necessary for the Braves to give up any of their top prospects.
The most tantalizing of the three is Corey Kluber. The 32-year old bust onto the scene back in 2014, going 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA on his way to his first of two Cy Young awards. Ever since, he’s been arguably the most reliable pitcher in the American League. In 2017 he went 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA, and all he did was follow it up with his first ever 20-win campaign last year. Not to mention, he’s doing all of this in the AL. Could you imagine what kind of numbers he would put up in a switch to the NL?
Kluber comes with three years of club control, so it’s going to take quite the package to entice the Indians; however, the Braves have what it takes to make it happen. Since Cleveland is on the search for offense that can help their team immediately, you would have to think Riley would go over in a potential deal along with a couple of pitching prospects. If the club feels comfortable with Camargo as the future at 3rd base, this deal makes sense, but parting ways with a prospect like Riley would be a tough pill to swallow for a system lacking many quality bats.
The second option would be Carlos Carrasco. Now, Carrasco may not have the same name-value as Kluber, but he’s been nearly as dominant over the past five seasons with Cleveland. Like Kluber, 2014 was his breakout year, posting an 8-7 record with a 2.55 ERA. His best season came in 2017 when he finished 4th in Cy Young voting. Last year, he won 17 games with a 3.38 ERA.
While he hasn’t put up as great of numbers as Kluber, his contract is a lot more manageable. He comes with two years of club control for under $20 million in total. That’s pennies to the dollar for a player of his caliber, which makes this deal equally as challenging to complete. Once again the Indians are going to want a bat, preferably Austin Riley, but Christian Pache and some pitching prospects could be enough to close the deal.
Finally, Trevor Bauer could be a fine addition to the top of the rotation as well. He would also cost the least of the three. Bauer had his best year last year, earning his way to the All-Star game and finishing with the lowest ERA of any Indians starting pitcher (2.21). However, that was the first time in his six-year career he finished with an ERA below four.
At just 27 years of age, he appears to be hitting his stride in the prime of his career and has two years of arbitration remaining. Even though he won’t require the haul of prospects that a Kluber or Carrasco might, this might be the hardest of the three to get done. The Braves have enough quality pitchers. What they really need is a top of the rotation guy. Is Bauer’s one year of top-of-the-line production enough for Atlanta to part ways with some of their best prospects?
Trades between two contending teams are rare in today’s MLB. For the most part, you have one side looking to improve and the other side trying to replenish their farm system. That is not what the Indians are trying to do here. They want to stay competitive and continue to chase their first World Series title by trading pricey assets for high-quality prospects so they can allocate that money elsewhere. There are not a lot of contending teams that can reasonably meet their requests, but the Braves are one of them. Watch out for a potential trade with the Indians this offseason.