Many Indians fans out there insisted that the Tribe needed a starting pitcher before the trade deadline, while others wanted to see the club get a bat. A group that was not as prevalent, or at least as vocal, was the one that was hoping to see a bullpen arm added to the team. Even smaller yet was the faction that wanted to see the Indians preserve their farm system, especially Francisco Mejia, and stand pat (including this guy). After all of the anticipation and arguing among fans leading up to the deadline, what did the Tribe front office do? They brought back Joe Smith…talk about a blockbuster!
That is not exactly fair to Smith, 3-0 (3.28 ERA) with an impressive 52 strikeouts over 37.2 innings pitched in 2017, who is having a very good year. The side-armed reliever actually never had an ERA over 3.83 in his previous five year stint in Cleveland. So why the less than enthusiastic reaction from Indians fans? After the acquisition of Andrew Miller last year and the success that followed, Tribe fans wanted the team to land the biggest name available. Lets be honest, that just is not going to be able to happen year after year, especially for a team with the limited resources of the Cleveland Indians.
The addition of Joe Smith to the bullpen was a good move even before finding out that Andrew Miller would be added to the 10-day DL. Smith can take part of the load off of Brian Shaw, be used for righty-lefty match ups, or even fill in for Miller or Allen on days after heavy use. With the way Tito Francona used his pitching staff in the playoffs last year, another dominant arm for the back end of the bullpen could only be a good thing. That being said, nothing is free and the Indians gave up promising pitching prospect Thomas Pannone, and second baseman Samad Taylor to Toronto to add Smith.
Thomas Pannone, 8-1 (1.96 ERA) is left-handed and projected to be a major league starter, which is valuable in itself. In 110 innings pitched this year over 19 starts, Pannone has struck out 120 with an impressive 0.955 WHIP, which has earned him a promotion from Lynchburg (A +) to Akron (AA). Pannone was also named an Eastern League All-Star this year along with top prospect, Mejia. Clearly the Indians gave up real talent for Joe Smith, as Thomas Pannone is far from a “player to be named”.
Samad Taylor, while much farther from the big leagues than Pannone, is a talent in his own right at second base for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (A-). He is hitting right at .300 this season in 28 games, with 19 RBI, and four stolen bases. His two errors in 107 chances make for an impressive .981 fielding percentage, and he has also seen limited time at shortstop.
One thing that was not known at the time of the trade is that Josh Tomlin would be lost for up to six weeks, and Andrew Miller would end up on the 10-day DL. There is no guarantee that Miller’s knee problems will not linger (Please, Jobu), which is making the acquisition of Smith look even better. Even if Miller bounces back with no problems, even for this next 10 day stretch, hopefully Smith can fit right into the Indians bullpen and they wont skip a beat. That may be asking a lot, but Smith has played here as recently as 2013, so he is not coming into an unfamiliar park in a new city.
One name that was rumored to be receiving a lot of interest from the Indians was Sonny Gray. Sure, Gray finished third in Cy Young award voting in 2015, and is having a pretty good year this year (6-5, 3.43 ERA), but a lot of fans want to ignore 2016. Gray finished last season 5-11 (5.69 ERA), and only appeared in 22 games (117 IP) due to injury. Gray does have an extremely team friendly contract, which was a reason some thought the Indians may make a serious move for the right-hander.
Sonny Gray signed a 1 year / $3,575,000 contract with the Oakland Athletics, including $3,575,000 guaranteed, and an annual average salary of $3,575,000.
So, the Tribe should have done whatever necessary to get Gray, right? The simple answer is no. At that point the club did not know Tomlin was going to go out during his next start. But even if they did, they were already carrying six starters. Adding Gray would mean Clevinger, who looked better before the deadline, would have been the odd man out, and then there are still six starters. Hindsight, as always, is 20/20.
The Yankees gave up A LOT for Sonny Gray. Dustin Fowler is currently injured, but the outfielder was considered the Yankee’s fourth best prospect who saw time with the big club this year. Jorge Mateo was once considered New York’s top prospect, and the shortstop with a great glove was owning AA pitching since he earned a promotion there last month. James Kaprielian was the Yankees’ first round pick in 2015, and although also injured currently, had been ranked as high as the 28th best prospect in all of baseball.
Sure injuries played a factor in Oakland getting three big name prospects, but what would the Indians have needed to give up for Gray? Many of the pre-deadline rumors included Francisco Mejia or pitcher Tristan McKenzie, which is simply too much. Unlike the Cavs, the Indians do not have to go “All in” this season. Their young, talented core and promising prospects should make Cleveland a contender for years to come.