Thursday, May 7, 2015

Trade Fair: Gomez Goes to Cleveland

Ensconced in last place in the AL Central with a 10-16 record, it's safe to say the Indians' 2015 season has not gone according to plan.  The Tribe was the chic pick by many pundits to end the Tigers' run of four consecutive division titles and post its first first-place finish since 2007.   Heck, even Sports Illustrated picked Cleveland to advance to the World Series.  But a leaky bullpen, an anemic offense, and porous defense have all played major roles in the Indians' poor start.

The Brewers, on the other hand, entered this season with far more modest expectations, with almost all national writers picking Milwaukee to finish in the middle of the pack or lower in the suddenly-competitive NL Central.  However, the Brew Crew's NL-worst 9-19 start has been far worse than anyone could have imagined, leading to the May 4th ouster of Manager Ron Roenicke as well as sparking talk that the team will start to auction veterans as part of a full-scale rebuild.

As we discussed last week, what makes Milwaukee's situation even more precarious is the fact that three of the teams ahead of it in the standings -- St. Louis, Chicago, and Pittsburgh -- have stockpiled tremendous young talent and are currently much better positioned for the future. 

Given the Indians' need to strengthen multiple weaknesses before this season spirals out of control and the good sense it would make for the Brewers to gear up for 2017 and beyond, we've thought up a trade that would satisfy both team's objectives.

The Trade:  The Brewers trade CF Carlos Gomez to the Indians for the Tribe's top OF prospect, Bradley Zimmer, and their best minor league pitcher, Justus Sheffield.

What the Indians are getting:  A legitimate 5-tool player.  Period.  The  29-year-old Gomez is a 2-time All Star and former Gold Glove winner whose WAR of 13.7 in 2013-14 lags only Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen among center fielders.  Equally as important, Gomez is under contract through next year, when he will earn a measly $9 million.  Gomez' broad offensive skill set would be an excellent fit in Cleveland's predominantly left-handed lineup and his sterling  glovework would be a welcome addition for the defensively-challenged Tribe, whose Zone Rating, as measured by Baseball Reference ranks as the 2nd-worst in the American League.

Michael Bourn, Cleveland's incumbent center fielder, is on the books thru next year, when he will earn $14 million and has a $12 million vesting option for 2017.  However, it's evident that his best days are behind him and he should be replaced.  From 2012-14, the Houston native's OPS declined from .739 to .674 and is at a measly .499 on the young season.  His steals during the 3-year period also fell from 42 to just ten (while his success rate declined from 76% to 62%).  And if that's not enough, Bourn's defense has also taken a dramatic turn for the worse -- his range factor has dropped from 2.52 in 2012 to 1.86 this season, nearly a full run lower than the league average of 2.73.

What the Brewers are getting:  SS Francisco Lindor is easily Cleveland's best prospect, and it's doubtful GM Chris Antonetti would let the 21-year-old stud be a part of any trade.  However, Zimmer and Sheffield would make excellent consolation prizes.  Zimmer, 22, swings a high-octane lefty bat and as his .474 slugging percentage in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League and 14 steals suggest, he would offer Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin a dynamic talent to pair with RF Clint Coulter in the Brewers' outfield of the future.

Despite his smallish 5-10, 190-pound stature, Sheffield has big stuff, including a fastball that routinely hits 97 mph and devastating slider.  18-year-old pitching prospects are always lottery tickets, but Sheffield's sterling 3.7 K/BB ratio demonstrates that he already has an excellent idea of how to pitch and his learning curve shouldn't be as steep as most other pitching prospects in Low A.  The arrival of Sheffield would give Milwaukee another precocious arm to team with fellow left-handed fireballer Kodi Medeiros, their top pick in last year's draft.


kevin Holmes said...

Good stuff, but do the Brewers need to get more than just two low minors guys for an all-star. At some point being respectable is important.

Daniel J. Waldholz said...

i dont see the indians doing this with CarGo looking like he has. Maybe if the brewers take on bourn with some of his salary being paid by the indians and a lottery ticket prospect going both ways.

Jeff Kern said...

This isn't enough of a return for the Brewers. They're going to want more than two lower level guys for probably there hottest commodity, unless they decide to shop Lucroy. I doubt they will trade Gomez anyway, since he appears to be a favorite of the owner. They also don't have anyone ready to take over in CF should they decide to sell him.