The Cleveland Indians have a tenuous hold on the AL Central — can they solidify their place with an aggressive trade deadline?
With only a two-game lead in the AL Central entering Friday night’s action, the Cleveland Indians are getting much more than they bargained for in the hunt for another division crown and trip to the playoffs. Left for dead two months ago, the Kansas City Royals have come storming back to make this division race much more interesting than anyone could have predicted.
The Indians’ playoff hopes are still in good shape with the rest of the division weakening behind the two teams at the top. And there will be enough chances to fatten their record in September against the stripped-down Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers. Still, the Indians are not in this playoff race for a one-game flip of a coin to get into the real postseason.
Inconsistency has dogged the Indians for most of this season, and they were a .500 team as late as June 14. While they have gone 24-14 since, there have been peaks and valleys that could let the Royals make the division race interesting. The Indians do not need to make a blockbuster move like last season, when they traded for Andrew Miller, but a minor move or two should guarantee they have the best team in the AL Central.
- Starting pitching: This has been the biggest issue with the Indians all year. Behind the brilliant Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, the Indians haven’t always been able to predict how their rotation will perform on a given night. Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer had to be trusted in the playoffs last year because there were no other choices, but have both been awful this year.
- Middle infield depth: Jason Kipnis has been on the disabled list twice this year with shoulder and hamstring injuries. When Kipnis has been able to play, his offense has been down a notch from his All-Star years. The Indians don’t have to pick up a new starter to replace Kipnis, but a solid backup plan would be worth considering.
- Rental power bat: Carlos Santana has labored through the worst season of his career heading into his first chance to test free agency. He has no defensive value, and the only thing he is offering the Indians at this point is decent on-base skills.