“Depends on what they get back.”
This seems to be the consensus opinion when asking others how they’d feel about the Cleveland Indians trading Trevor Bauer this month. Despite the fact the Indians have stormed back in the AL Central standings, rumors continue to persist when it comes to trading their mercurial starting pitcher.
Yet, even though the idea of Cleveland dealing one of its best players in the middle of a playoff race seems foolish on paper, everyone is holding their thoughts until they see what the team could get for him.
Which highlights why the Tribe needs to be very careful when it comes to shopping Bauer. While the team can understandably get more for him now than it could in the offseason, it better get something that can help now. Otherwise, the front office is telling both fans and players that this midseason turnaround doesn’t matter.
Make no mistake – there’s a reason the Bauer trade rumors haven’t disappeared yet. Come this offseason, he and the Indians are due for another round of arbitration, which will lead to him receiving yet another pay raise. After that, Bauer enters his final year of team control in Cleveland, which significantly lowers his trade value.
So, while the Indians are suddenly back in the thick of the division race, they still have a top-tier pitcher who will fetch more now than he will this winter or next season.
This decision certainly seemed like a no-brainer as recently as early June, when Cleveland’s gap in the standings stretched to double digits. With the Indians coming into Thursday suddenly just four games behind the Minnesota Twins, the idea of moving Bauer loses some appeal.
Again, though, it all depends on what the Tribe can get.
If a team is willing to overpay, sending a player or two who can contribute now, then by all means make the deal. Cleveland has surprisingly been able to withstand key losses in the rotation all season long, so if it could get someone who could provide an offensive boost, there’s no reason to believe it couldn’t stay in the postseason hunt.
However, if the Indians are only focusing on players who won’t be able to contribute until next year at the earliest, a Bauer trade could result in some brutal fallout.
Most notably, dealing Bauer for prospects significantly hurts the Indians’ chances in a playoff hunt they’re still very much involved in.
How could players not react to a move like this by thinking their efforts to turn the season around were a waste? They already came into the year having to overcompensate due to the team shedding so much production in the offseason. Now the front office would essentially be asking them to increase their effort even more.
Such a move would send an equally bad message to the fans, whom the team continues to hold accountable when it comes to game attendance.
The Indians have suddenly provided supporters a reason to come down to the ballpark after a lackluster start to the year. Seeing the front office willingly hinder the team’s opportunity to play October baseball certainly wouldn’t do much when it comes to improving ticket sales. After all, why should fans pay to watch the team if the front office isn’t even sold on its chances this season?
To be clear, I’m not saying the Indians shouldn’t trade Bauer this season. They just need to make sure what they’re getting back makes doing so worth it. They need to ensure someone within the returns for Bauer can help them win now.
Otherwise, the front office would be telling players “this has been fun, but we don’t believe you have a shot to do anything this year.”