The calendar has turned to June, and we are getting closer to one of the most exciting parts of the Major League Baseball season — the July 31 trade deadline.
The Padres are likely to have some players on the trading block as the season moves closer to the last day in July. Specifically, they will have some pitchers on the trading block.
Two of those pitchers could very well be relievers Brad Hand and Kirby Yates. These two have a 1.91 ERA and a 1.35 ERA, respectively, and are a big reason why the Padres currently have a top 10 bullpen in the majors. San Diego’s bullpen ERA is 3.24, ranking them sixth in the majors and third in the National League.
One team who could be calling general manager A.J. Preller to inquire about his two best relievers is the Cleveland Indians. The Indians are first place in the American League Central, holding a 4.5 game lead over the second place Detroit Tigers.
The AL Central is one of the worst divisions in baseball. The Indians sit in first place with a 34-29 record, while every other team in the division is under .500. However, Detroit is creeping up on the Indians. They sit just five games behind.
While winning the division is probably the only way Cleveland gets into the postseason, it’s competing in the postseason that really matters. With their bullpen in its current state, worst in the majors, it’s hard to see the Indians making it out of the ALDS.
Dealing one or even both of Hand and Yates would demand some of Cleveland’s better prospects, due to not only how the two could vastly improve the Indians’ bullpen, but also because both are controllable beyond next season. Hand is under contract until the end of the 2020 season. Yates is eligible for arbitration until 2020.
One of the prospects Preller could ask for is third baseman Nolan Jones. He was selected by the Indians in the second round of the 2016 MLB First Year Player Draft. Fangraphs ranks Jones as Cleveland’s No. 6 prospect.
Acquiring the 20-year-old third baseman would add a quality left-handed bat to the Padres’ farm system. So far in 2018, Jones has a 120 wRC+ through 42 games. To add, he has a 15.6 percent BB rate and a 29.1 percent K rate. He shows patience at the plate.
The Padres are thin at third base. Trading for a player like Jones allows the Padres to put a quality player at a position of need, and adds another quality prospect to an already strong farm system.
Another player who could be a part of a potential trade between San Diego and Cleveland is right-handed pitcher Shane Bieber. A fourth-round draft pick in 2016, Bieber is currently at Triple-A Columbus. He’s moved quickly through the ranks within Cleveland’s system.
Bieber has made five starts since being called up to Triple-A Columbus. He has thrown 31 strikeouts over 34.1 innings, with a 2.48 FIP. He issued just two walks over that span.
Bieber is expected to be a part of the Indians’ rotation in the future, so prying him away might not be an easy task for Preller. Then again, he could have his eye on players that aren’t ranked high on Cleveland’s prospect list.
Last season, Preller sent Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer, and Ryan Buchter to the Kansas City Royals for Matt Strahm, Travis Wood, and Esteury Ruiz. Ruiz was in rookie ball at the time. When the Padres acquired Ruiz, he became their No. 30 prospect. This season, he has climbed to No. 10.
Preller did something similar in 2016, trading James Shields to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Erik Johnson and Fernando Tatis, Jr. Tatis Jr. was also in rookie ball at the time. He is now the Padres’ No. 1 prospect.
Preller undoubtedly has an eye for talented prospects. After tearing down the farm system in 2015, he has built it into the top system in the majors in a short time.