In a somewhat surprising move, the Cleveland Indians have traded for third baseman Christian Arroyo, 24, and right handed reliever Hunter Wood, 25, from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for 21 year old outfield prospect Ruben Cardenas.
The move is surprising as the Rays are contenders. Tampa has also been in the mix for relievers themselves. However, Indians fans should be excited to have a talented young arm coming to their bullpen, as well as additional long term depth at third.
The Fit For A Third Basemen
Jose Ramirez is signed through 2023. He won’t make more than an affordable $13 million a year. And after a rough start to 2019, he’s really turned his year around. That being said, Ramirez may not be the player in question.
Cleveland acquiring Arroyo may have nothing to do with Ramirez. Instead, this may have everything to do with Jason Kipnis’ opt-out at the end of the year. Kipnis, 32, has a $16.5 million option for 2020, with a $2.5 million buyout. While Kipnis has enjoyed a productive season this year, including posting a .281 batting average and .364 OBP since the All Star break, and holds a special place in the heart of all Indians fans, it is highly unlikely the Indians will exercise that pricey option for next year.
This leaves a hole at second base for 2020. Though Mike Freeman has been solid as a backup infielder, it would be unwise of the front office to place their faith solely in Freeman to become the team’s every day second baseman. By adding Arroyo, the team can slide Ramirez over to second base, while installing Arroyo at the hot corner. Ramirez is still just 26, and could solidify himself as a second baseman permanently next year.
Looking to the Future
It’s also worth noting that the Indians top prospect, Nolan Jones, plays third base. The Indians could look to move him now that they have Arroyo. They could also hold onto Jones and use Arroyo as a placeholder until Jones arrives. Jones currently has an .888 OPS in 18 games in Triple-A.
For the Rays, Arroyo battled too many injuries to compete in a crowded infield. Moving him makes sense, and hopefully the Indians can find a way to keep him on the field. Arroyo is currently on the 60-day injured list, so the team won’t have to worry about his spot on the roster just yet.
Hunter Wood’s Role
While Arroyo certainly has the prestige of once being the headlining prospect in the deal that sent Evan Longoria from Tampa to the San Francisco Giants, the real prize in this trade is Hunter Wood. In 2018, Wood posted a solid 3.73 ERA in 41 innings pitch. He’s stepped up his game during his sophomore campaign. He owns an impressive 2.48 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. The only Cleveland relievers with a lower ERA are Brad Hand (2.47) and Nick Goody (1.61)
Wood is also not yet eligible for arbitration, showing that he is an affordable asset. While it didn’t seem like the Indians would focus on improving their already solid bullpen before the trade deadline, adding Wood only increased one of the team’s biggest strengths. The team can now look to improve other areas of the club, such as in their outfield, or focus on dealing Trevor Bauer before he throws another ball into orbit.
— Devan Fink (@DevanFink) July 28, 2019
The Indians will have to clear a spot on the 25-man roster for Hunter Wood. While A.J. Cole has been solid with a 3.52 ERA on the year overall, he is the likeliest candidate to be sent down.
Tampa Bay’s Return
For acquiring such talent, the Indians obviously had to give up something good in return. They sent minor league outfielder Ruben Cardenas to the Rays, as well as international signing money.
Cardenas, 21, has been great in Single A. In 84 at bats, he’s hit 10 home runs while driving in 54 runs. He was drafted in the 16th round by the Indians in 2018 out of Cal State Fullerton. Considering where they drafted him, the Indians should be pleased to get Wood and Arroyo, despite the promise Cardenas has shown in so far in the minors.
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