There are positives and negatives to waiting until August to attempt to make your club better before the late September push to the post-season.
One positive, teams that were still in contention – or at least able to fake it in July – have come to terms with their team’s state and since realized a run at October baseball is no longer in reach. This opens up the possibility of trading for players that were not available at the July 31st deadline.
However, the downside of waiting creates a dynamic of a destiny you do not control – at least in the trade market.
This has reared its head for the Cleveland Indians over the last week as teams begin to put some solid pieces on waivers. Yet, the Tribe’s record has played a role in why they have been unable to find a bat that could help them for the stretch run.
Instead, the Baltimore Orioles, a team trailing Cleveland by a half game in the standings, have been able to land reported claims on players such as Minnesota Twins outfielder Josh Willingham or Seattle Mariners slugger Mike Morse or possibly first-baseman Kendrys Morales because of waiver priority.
Unusual that having a better record works to a team’s disadvantage, but in this case, the Tribe hasn’t even gotten an opportunity.
This may lead them to inquire about recently DFA’ed Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Jason Kubel, a player they were reportedly once interested in back in 2011 and allegedly put a claim in on when the club instead landed DH Jim Thome.
However, the Orioles are reportedly interested in possibly making a deal for him or even Twins first-baseman Justin Morneau.
Either way, what has shaken loose in August may not even bring the Indians what they truly need – a spark in the middle of their order to breathe a lifeless offense new life. Instead, players that have struggled at one point or another in 2013 are the ones finding themselves on waivers – and none present anything more than a stab in the dark.
Could they help? Sure. Should general manager Chris Antonetti give up trying to find an offensive improvement? Of course not.
But expecting the Indians to find a savior is nearly impossible this time of year.
What does it really comes down to? The guys that are currently on the team picking it up and in a hurry.
The pitching has done its part. The starters have been nothing short of solid recently and even the bullpen has settled down into a more reliable unit.
But the offense? Sputtering would be putting it nicely.
The Tribe bats are hitting .228 in the month of August, dead last in the American League. They have posted an OPS of .654, also worst in the AL.
Nick Swisher, Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana are all hitting below .233 in August. Lonnie Chisenhall is hitting .127 this month.
And on top of everything, since Mark Reynolds was released, the Tribe does not have a true thumper – a bat capable of changing the game with one swing. Reynolds was supposed to provide that. He now plays elsewhere after his well documented nose-dive.
If the Indians are to make a serious run at things in September, the answer will have to come from within, even if Antonetti is able to make an addition in the coming days.
The bottom line? The best players on the Indians will have to start hitting like it. If not, focuses will shift from playoff tickets to the off-season.