The Cleveland Indians are a major-league best 30-12 since June 4. It's been quite the turnaround for a team that many fans had all but written off in May. WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto says the hot streak likely has the team rethinking its strategy of trading a star player to start the rebuilding process.
Streaking after the All-Star break
The Indians have come a long way since June 2.
"They were 29-30 and that was a little over a third of the schedule. Then you kept hearing things about the team being cheap, and they let all their veterans go," Pluto said.
As of Thursday, the team is 59-42.
"On the same date last year, they were 55-46," Pluto said.
The difference this year is the AL Central, where the Minnesota Twins have dominated all season. The Indians' deficit was as many as 12 games.
"Now they see Terry Francona and the boys in the rearview mirror," Pluto said.
Pluto said under manager Terry Francona, the Indians win 53% of their games in the first half of the season.
"The second half they win 60%. They just play better after the All-Star break. And it looks like it's happening again," he said.
April in Cleveland
Pluto said the front office calls the early slump "April in Cleveland," when many of the younger players struggle during the colder months of the season.
An example is rookie outfielder Oscar Mercado.
"He was ready to start opening day, but the team waited until the middle of May. Then all of the sudden Mercado came up (from the minors) and began to play well," Pluto said. "It just seems like it takes the younger players awhile to get to going, and what the farm system has done the last couple of years is fuel it and keep it going."
Trade Trevor Bauer?
The Indians have been rumored to make a trade before the July 31 MLB deadline. The speculation has been surrounding starting pitcher Trevor Bauer.
"Three weeks ago I was convinced they were going to trade Bauer for some young prospects because the Indians do have a lot of depth in pitching. Trevor wants all this money, and in a year and half he's out of here. Now I'm not sure what they do," Pluto said.
That's because the team is playing well, especially the outfield where the offense had been struggling early in the season.
"But the outfield of Jake Bauers, Jordan Luplow, Tyler Naquin and Oscar Mercado, the odds of all of them continuing to play well are probably against them," Pluto said. "So I think if they can get a young, regular outfielder that can be very enticing. For example, a guy that was here a long time ago, Clint Frazier, who had 11 homers with the Yankees, but they're so stacked they sent him back to the minors. But trading Trevor for some guys in Class A or AA that you're not going to see for a couple years, you can't do that right now."
A real pennant race
Pluto said in a tight AL Central race, the Indians have the advantage.
"They've been to the playoffs before. A number of guys on the field have won the AL Central. The Twins have not done that. So how will they react to the pressure of Cleveland coming right up behind them right now?," he said. "It's a real pennant race right now, and not just because both teams are trying to play one game over .500. These teams are playing some of the best baseball in all of the majors, and they still have got like 10 games left with each other."