The Indians and Cubs finalized a deal on Thursday that sent outfielder Kosuke Fukudome to Cleveland. The Tribe sent Minor League outfielder Abner Abreu and Minor League pitcher Carlton Smith to Chicago.
Fukudome, 34, is batting .273 with the Cubs. He’s owed about $4.7 million for the rest of the season. A source close to the situation said that Chicago was going to pay “a vast majority” of the money still owed to the outfielder.
The Indians are in need of offensive assistance, especially with Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore sidelined with injuries.
Indians manager Manny Acta said recently that fans of the Tribe would be “shocked and surprised” at the effort the front office is putting forth in an effort to pull off a trade or two before Sunday’s 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trad Deadline.
On Tuesday, Cleveland was named as an interested party for two of the top players presumed to be available.
In a piece for MLB.com, columnist Peter Gammons wrote that the Indians were willing to give up a good player and take on salary in order to acquire Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran. Unfortunately, Cleveland “did not fit” for Beltran, who has a right to veto any trade. Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated tweeted that the Indians have shown interest in Colorado starter Ubaldo Jimenez.
Prior to Tuesday’s game in Cleveland, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti held court with reporters to discuss the upcoming Deadline. Antonetti indicated that acquiring offense is the Tribe’s top priority, but he noted that the Indians have also had plenty of conversations about pitching help.
While Antonetti would not deem any of the club’s top prospects as “untouchable,” he did say that it would take a “compelling” deal to pry them away. Antonetti added that the Tribe was not likely to part with any of its top core prospects in a trade for a player who would only be around for this season’s final two months.
All of that said, the Indians are definitely in buying mode.
“We want to take advantage of every opportunity that we have to get to the postseason and advance in the postseason,” Antonetti said. “That said, you have to be mindful of the cost of doing that. I think we are prepared, and have talked about it, to do what we can, what’s reasonable, to improve the team.”
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports (via Twitter), the “three hottest teams” going after Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda are the Indians, Tigers and Rangers.
Cleveland is known to be searching high and low for outfield help, especially with both Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo out with injuries, but the club is also in the market for rotation assistance. After Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the White Sox, Tribe manager Manny Acta made it clear that his club is working hard in trade talks.
“The truth will come out,” Acta said. “A lot of people will be shocked, surprised and be quiet for a long time after they find out every effort that the team put into it.”
Does that mean the Indians are on the verge of pulling off something big?
Given the number of rumors that are including Cleveland as a suitor right now, it certainly seems like the Tribe is trying to pull the trigger on one or two deals. The Indians have also been linked to outfielders B.J. Upton, Coco Crisp, Josh Willingham and Ryan Ludwick in various reports.
Hunter Pence and Carlos Beltran are unlikely to land in Cleveland.
As for Kuroda, he is 36 years old and is owed roughly $4 million over the final two months. Over his past nine starts, the right-hander has posted a 2.78 ERA with a .221 opponents’ batting average. His 3.19 ERA on the year indicates that Kuroda is having a better season than his 6-12 record would indicate.
Cleveland has reportedly shown interest in Aaron Harang.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Indians are one of a growing number of teams talking to Tampa Bay about outfielder B.J. Upton. Cleveland is hunting for outfield help and Upton fits the mold.
Upton would not likely cost as much in prospects as Carlos Beltran or Hunter Pence, and the Rays outfielder is under contractual control through 2012. Upton isn’t having a stellar year — he’s hitting .232/.312/.400 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs — but he still provides speed and power potential.
Upton is under contract for $4.825 million this season and is eligible for arbitration for the 2012 campaign.
As things currently stand, the Indians are without center fielder Grady Sizemore (right knee injury and sports hernia surgery) and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo (broken left thumb) Both could be back in late August or early September.
The Tribe has also been linked to Coco Crisp, Josh Willingham and Ryan Ludwick, among others, in various reports and rumors.
Cleveland — also possibly in the market for rotation help – has also reportedly shown interest in pitcher Hiroki Kuroda of the Dodgers.
Cleveland’s need for outfield assistance is clear. On Thursday, center fielder Grady Sizemore underwent surgery to correct a sports hernia — an operation initially planned for the offseason — meaning he will be sidelined for four to six weeks.
Sizemore injured his right knee on Sunday (the same knee he hurt in May) and was going to probably need at least a month to recover. Under the circumstances, the Indians felt it made sense to tackle both issues — rest for the knee and surgery for the hernia — right now.
Unfortunately for the Tribe, that leaves the outfield short Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo (broken left thumb) until late August or early September, if their respective rehabs go well. Over the past two games, Cleveland was also missing Michael Brantley and Travis Buck due to health issues, exposing the club’s depth (or lack thereof).
Naturally, the Indians are being mentioned in a variety of trade rumors and reports for outfielders. Cleveland has been tied to outfielders such as Josh Willingham, Ryan Ludwick and Coco Crisp. Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera also would make sense as targets. Carlos Beltran and Hunter Pence seem unrealistic.
The Indians are open minded about pursuing a right-handed or left-handed bat, but the organization does not plan on parting with top core prospects for a perceived “rental” player. Such prospects that appear to be off limits include lefty Drew Pomeranz, righty Alex White, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and second baseman Jason Kipnis.
The outfield is the most glaring area of need, but the Indians have also explored available options to boost their rotation as well.