The Cleveland Indians are battling it out with the top-of-their-game Twins for the number one seed in the AL Central. With a record of 66-46, Cleveland is just four games behind Minnesota, but they’re not settling for that wild card spot just yet. The Indians made big moves at the July trade deadline, acquiring heavy hitters Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes to keep themselves in the playoff hunt. They’ve also significantly closed the gap with the Twins by posting the best record in the league since June 2nd. So will these trades give the Indians the edge they need heading into September?
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The New Guys – Puig and Reyes
The Indians made the biggest deal of the 2019 MLB trade deadline. They traded their second-best pitcher, right-hander Trever Bauer for Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes. In an innovative and risky move, they exchanged an important piece of their rotation for two corner outfielder power hitters, plus a few minor leaguers. They also gained left-handed pitcher Logan Allen who moved to the big leagues earlier this season – and hey, he could be a solid addition too.
Yasiel Puig needs no introduction. The veteran slugger is known for his fiery temperament, and in true personal style, his last act as Cincinnati Red was to get right in the middle of a brawl that cleared both teams’ benches. He’ll be a free agent after this season, so this will just be a rental (or perhaps a test drive?) for the Indians, who are hoping to upgrade their offense. Puig has improved his batting game since mid-June and though he still hasn’t reached the heights at which he performed in Dodger Stadium, maybe this side of Ohio will make him feel more at home?
The younger of the two new trades, the six-foot-five, 275-pound Reyes has that raw power capable of knocking in tons of home runs. That’s what the Indians are betting on anyway. The San Diego outfielder is a rising star who had 27 homers before the trade, good enough for sixth in the National League. The 24-year-old Reyes made his major league debut only last year, but the Indians believe his talent could be just the boost they need before the playoffs.
Another thing is the intangibles these guys bring. Puig and Reyes are said to be really fun guys in the clubhouse and their teammates love ‘em.
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The Indians’ Challenges
Right-hander Corey Kluber is returning to the rotation this week after recovering from a fractured arm. The two-time Cy Young-winner is a hard worker but his performance earlier this season wasn’t impressive, so the Indians are really hoping that after this time off he’ll be up to snuff. They’ll need him to help fill the hole left by the Bauer trade – there’s certainly some fear that the cracks in their rotation will start to show as they head toward the postseason. Either way, they’ve still got pitchers Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, Zach Plesac, Adam Plutko, and Aaron Civale (who also just came off the injured list) left to send to the mound. The Indians could also choose to test the waters with new guy Logan Allen.
Another more general worry is that Cleveland just doesn’t perform that well against quality teams, although they do smash bad ones. The problem is that their remaining schedule includes 11 games against some of the best teams in the league – the Twins, the Yankees, and the Red Sox – which could hurt their record at a critical time in the race for the AL Central title.
Meanwhile, we’ll have to wait and see how Puig and Reyes settle into their new roles in Cleveland. But for now, these trade deals are one thing that the Indians have on the Twins, who did nothing exciting at the trade deadline.
Fresh off a sweep of the Los Angeles Angels and a Baker Mayfield shotgun, the Indians will battle the Texas Rangers this week before they head into a three-game series against division rivals the Twins this weekend. Better keep watching, because the AL Central race is most definitely back on!
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