CLEVELAND — Think bullpen for the Indians as baseball’s July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
General Manager Chris Antonetti didn’t come out and say exactly that Friday before the Indians played Texas, but he may as well have.
Antonetti said he’s pleased with the way the starting pitchers have thrown lately and happy with the offense and defense — he called the defensive struggles the past week more a blip than a trend — but said the team needs to be more consistent in the bullpen.
“I think that’s one area that we haven’t been as consistent as we’d like, especially our ability to get left-handed hitters out,” Antonetti said. “That’s one are that we’ll look to improve.”
The left-handers have struggled, with Rich Hill, Scott Barnes, Nick Hagadone and David Huff compiling a combined ERA of 6.54. Adding a left-handed arm to the bullpen who can get people would help.
Clearly the Indians, like any team, would like to add a top-of-the-line starting pitcher and a true cleanup-type bat for the middle of the lineup. But not a lot of those guys are available, and as the deadline approaches more teams are looking to add players than trade them.
“As we look at the 30,” Antonetti said, “you could make the argument that there are 24, maybe 25 teams that are either buying or at least holding onto players and only a select handful or teams looking to trade off players. It’s further complicated for us by at least one — if not more — of the teams that are willing to sell players are in our division.”
Which means a team like Kansas City or Chicago might be reluctant to help a team like Cleveland. Antonetti actually said there may be a greater chance to add players at the end of August as opposed to the end of July, because at that point more teams may realize they’re not going to make a playoff run.
For the Indians, the fact that the team started Friday’s game fifth in baseball in runs scored and had a 2.00 ERA from the starting staff the last two weeks means they don’t feel an urgent need in those areas. Plus, acquiring a guy who will be a free agent (like Texas did with Matt Garza) is a little less appealing because if he goes to free agency the team that acquired him would not be entitled to a draft pick as compensation.
“I feel good about the group of guys that we have,” Antonetti said, adding it would be tough to decide which starting pitcher to remove from the rotation if another were acquired.
The “like the guys we have” notion is a common theme, and one stressed by manager Terry Francona as well. The Indians do feel good about the guys they have, but it almost sounds like they are bracing fans for the fact there may be a small trade at the deadline, but not a large one — barring a surprise of course.
”If there is the right deal that we feel will improve us, then we’ll make the deal,” Antonetti said. “But we’re not looking to make a trade just to say we made a trade.”
The Indians also aren’t keen on giving up guys like pitcher Danny Salazar — a guy Antonetti said could well be on the team in the second half as a starter or reliever — or shortstop Francisco Lindor. When it comes to the Indians making trades, other teams quickly mention Lindor.
“I think the industry realizes how special a player Francisco Lindor is,” Antonetti said. “And I think that aligns with how we feel about him.”
Francona said the Indians as is are “good enough to win,” but they can’t play sloppy like they did in the six games since the All-Star Break, when they had nine errors.
“Our margin for error may be less than other teams,” Francona said. “OK. That doesn’t mean you can’t win.”