The Indians have had a busy off-season making trades, although they have generally been smaller ones working on building up depth and decreasing salary rather than adding more super star talent. On Sunday, they made another of those depth moves with a trade that saw Walker Lockett and Sam Haggerty sent to New York for Kevin Plawecki.
Plawecki is a 27 year old part time catcher who has averaged a 0.7 bWAR in 59 games per season over the last four years with the Mets. While he was the Mets most used catcher in 2018, that included just 71 games behind the plate as Devin Mesoraco, Thomas Nido, Jose Lobaton and Travis D’Arnaud. With D’Arnaud, Nido and the newly added Wilson Ramos all on the roster, Plawecki became expendable and a good fit for Cleveland, who traded Yan Gomes earlier in the off-season to shed salary.
This gives the Indians three MLB quality catchers, although none are what one would generally consider starting caliber. Returning from the 2018 season will be Roberto Perez and Eric Haase. As Haase has minor league options remaining, this will most likely lead to a situation where Perez is the starter, Plawecki the back-up and Haase is back in AAA until either a lack of offense at the Major League level or injury forces a change.
Looking at the cost for Plawecki, Lockett is a surprising inclusion. The right handed reliever was just acquired on November 20th for one of the Indians most promising Arizona League pitchers, Ignacio Feliz. Lockett just broke into the majors in 2018 with San Diego where he had a 7.2 K/9 and 6.5 BB/9 in 15 innings while allowing four home runs. Considering that he is only 24 and how different his long term minor league stats have been from that short stint in the majors, it’s very possible that Lockett could be looking at a big turnaround in 2019.
Sam Haggerty is a player much more familiar to Indians fans who have a focus on the minor leagues. Drafted in the 24th round in 2015, BurningRiverBaseball ranked him as the Indians 50th best prospect at the end of that season, then #53 in 2017 and #27 in our most recent rankings in November 2018. Haggerty had a breakout season in 2017 with 27 doubles and 13 triples for Lynchburg, but took a step back after reaching Akron in 2018. He played in just 94 games between AA and AAA and dramatically decreased his base running aggressiveness although he did improve his K/BB rate.
Primarily a second baseman through 2017, Haggerty was used in more of a utility role in 2018 with considerable time spent in the outfield and third base in addition to his usual at second and short. This versatility could give him an advantage in his attempt to reach the big leagues, especially if he can start running the bases like he did during his first three seasons again.
Losing Haggerty is a big blow to the Indians mid-minor league depth at third base (he was ranked the organization’s second best 3B in 2018 after Nolan Jones), but with two time All-Star Jose Ramirez entrenched at the position and signed through 2023, it shouldn’t be a problem. In addition, even with the loss of Yandy Diaz to Tampa Bay, the Indians still have the nearly MLB ready Yu Chang as a bridge to Jones should they want to move Ramirez back to second base.