Monday, July 8, 2013

Indians' trade prospects might be bleak

Determining the Indians' needs hasn't changed since April.

A high-end starting pitcher would inflate the team's confidence every fifth day. A reliable left-handed reliever would aid in holding leads. Another powerful would result in Jason Kipnis, Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana seeing better pitches.

The difficult part also hasn't changed. A barren farm system might prevent the organization from making significant deals before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

High-A Carolina shortstop Francisco Lindor is the organization's top prospect. A slick-fielding 19-year-old who plays a premium position represents a nice piece. But Lindor isn't going anywhere, especially considering Asdrubal Cabrera's contract expires following the 2014 season.  

Players the Indians might mention in trade discussions include Triple-A Columbus pitchers Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar, Double-A Akron shortstop Ronny Rodriguez, High-A Carolina outfielder Tyler Naquin and Luigi Rodriguez, and Low-A Lake County shortstop Dorssys Paulino.

The Diamondbacks traded Bauer, the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, to the Indians last winter. Being traded once likely diminishes Bauer's trade value because it raises questions about why his name becomes frequent trade fodder. Bauer's confounding ways  -- he experimented with pitching from the stretch in a big-league start last month -- also scares some general managers.

Salazar, who was promoted from Akron to Columbus in May, might be surpassing Bauer as the organization's top pitching prospect. He's 23 and his fastball touches the upper 90s. Besides Lindor, Salazar might yield the highest return. Salazar, though, isn't regarded as one of baseball's elite pitching prospects.

Ronny Rodriguez is one of the organization's most consistent performers and he could be paired with Naquin or Luigi Rodriguez in a package to obtain a reliever. But no combination of the trio will yield an impact player. The 18-year-old Paulino, who has rebounded from a slow start with the Captains, is too far from the majors to be a major piece in a deadline deal.

Major League Baseball rules prohibits a player from being dealt in his draft year, which takes 2013 first-rounder Clint Frazier off the market.

The second wild-card spot in both leagues might produce more buyers than sellers this month. Organizations with deep farm systems such as St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Arizona are positioned to land the biggest deadline hauls.

Baseball America rated the Indians' farm No. 24 before the season. Nothing has happened in the past three
months to alter opinions of the system.

Players in Columbus, Akron, Carolina and Lake County will be heavily scouted in the next three weeks.  The Indians must hope their top prospects are playing at levels they have yet reached -- and other contender's prospects are struggling.

-- Guy Cipriano | @newsheraldguy


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