TORONTO — The Cleveland Indians were certainly winners at the non-waiver trading deadline on the basis of one major deal.
They acquired left-handed reliever Andrew Miller from the New York Yankees in exchange for four prospects, including two highly-touted ones in outfielder Clint Frazier and left-hander Justus Sheffield.
Miller has made a huge impact, including pitching nine scoreless innings in five postseason appearances while helping the Indians get within one victory over the World Series. They lead the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-0, in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series going into Game 4 on Tuesday at the Rogers Centre.
The Indians also had a deal in place to acquire catcher Jonathan Lurcoy from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for more prospects. However, Lucroy exercised his no-trade rights to block the trade.
Lucroy was instead dealt to Texas and played a big role in the Rangers winning their second consecutive AL West title by hitting .276 with 11 home runs and an .885 OPS in 47 games.
While Lucroy would have been an upgrade behind the plate while Yan Gomes missed the second half of the season recovering from a separated right shoulder, the Indians were able to survive with backup Roberto Perez, though he hit just .183 with three home runs and a .579 OPS in 61 regular-season games.
However, Perez had a strong year defensively, throwing out 50 percent (13 of 26) of baserunners attempting to steal. Furthermore, according to StatCorner.com’s metrics, Perez was the second-best pitch-framer in the AL after the Houston Astros’ Jason Castro.
When Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista complained after the first two games of the ALCS about the umpires giving a disproportionate edge in ball/strike calls to Cleveland, the Indians countered that part of the reason was Perez’s ability to make balls look like strikes with his soft hands.
Framing pitches has become so easy for Perez that sometimes bench coach Sandy Alomar, Jr., a six-time All-Star catcher, has to “kick him in the pants” just to make sure he stays on top of his game.
“As his confidence has grown this year, he’s gotten to the point where he’s catching the ball so soft that it does give him — and us — an advantage,” Francona said.
Indians first baseman Mike Napoli also went out of his way to give credit to Perez following his team’s victory in Game 3 on Monday night in which six relievers were needed in a 4-2 victory after starter Trevor Bauer was forced out after four batters when a cut reopened on his right pinkie finger.
“I think you’ve got to give Roberto Perez a lot of credit for the job he did behind the plate to get all those guys to execute their pitches,” Napoli said.
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ hiring of Mike Hazen away from the Boston Red Sox to be executive president and general manager is being universally lauded around baseball.
“They got the right man for the job,” said an executive with an AL team. “As long as (owner Ken Kendrick) stays out of his way, Mike will get that franchise turned back around, and likely pretty quickly.”
Hazen has worked in all facets of the game, including player development and scouting along with his administrate roles. The Red Sox promoted him to general manager last season.
Hazen is also the increasingly rare GM with professional playing experience as he spent two seasons in the San Diego Padres’ farm system.
“He’s really done it all and there isn’t any facet of baseball operations that he doesn’t fully grasp,” the executive said. “He’s old school enough to understanding the importance of the scouts and new school enough to know how important analytics are in the decision-making process.
“He is also a great people person. He brings a personal touch to a business that has become increasingly cold and ruthless. He’s terrific.”
Frank Wren is seemingly in line to fill Hazen’s job as the Red Sox’s GM. He is currently Boston’s vice president of baseball operations and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski’s chief advisor.
However, some people close to Wren are not so sure that he wants to retrurn to GM duties at 58. The former Orioles and Braves GM enjoys living in Atlanta and is said to not to be overly keen on uprooting and moving to Boston.
“The GM really has become 365/24/7,” a Wren associate says. “It’s hard to go back to that lifestyle when you’ve been away from it for a while. You basically give your life away.”
Dombrowski is a big believer in continuity and prefers to promote from within. Thus, if Wren declines the GM job, well-regarded pro scouting director Gus Quattlebaum is considered the favorite to replace Hazen.
Owners are pushing hard for an international amateur draft in the current collective bargaining negotiations.
According to a union source, the Major League Baseball Players Association is willing to agree to that the concept. However, like any good negotiator, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark wants a significant concession back from the owners.
The divide comes on the ownership side as big-market team want to continue to have the ability to outspend their small-market brethren when it comes to international free agents.
“As it stands now, only a handful of teams can truly compete for the truly upper-tier international players and that’s not very fair,” an executive from a small-market team said. “Everyone should have a chance to make their team better, just not teams with the largest revenues. This is a bigger issue than a lot of people think.”