CLEVELAND — Color me crazy, but I don’t think the Indians need to pull off a trade prior to the July 31 deadline to make another World Series run.
I understand that’s tough to take after watching the defending American League champions pretty much sleepwalk through the first half of the season, but there’s evidence to back it up — and it’s pretty recent.
Like, last year recent.
Without two of the top three pitchers in the rotation — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — the Indians will sweep the Red Sox in the ALDS and need only five games to dispatch the Blue Jays in the ALCS, with Ryan Merritt starting one of them, and then take a 3-1 lead over the Cubs in the World Series.
Said absolutely, positively, no one.
So don’t go telling me the Indians need to go get this or go get that to have any chance of repeating as AL champs. Once you get to October, you always have a chance, and the Indians are gonna get there in the weak Central Division — whether they add anyone or not.
They had five freaking All-Stars and manager Terry Francona wasn’t allowed to select any of them.
The same team as last year — plus elite slugger Edwin Encarnacion, whether he’s acted like it or not, and with Andrew Miller, arguably the game’s best reliever, for the entire season — doesn’t need Sonny Gray, Asdrubal Cabrera or Jay Bruce.
It just needs to play better. Like up to its capabilities.
The time is certainly right. A team with star power that has fallen short of expectations finally clicks in the second half and hits the postseason clicking in every department.
That’s not a unique situation.
Now before you start @-ing me like crazy, and to preserve my credibility — I’m not against the Indians making a move to improve the team. I’m just saying it’s not a necessity and not worth trading away key pieces of the future such as can’t-miss catcher Francisco Mejia.
Now, I’m not a big prospect protector and would most definitely deal Mejia and fellow young stars Bobby Bradley and Triston McKenzie, but it has to be worth it.
Something like Texas’ Yu Darvish or another frontline starting pitcher … worth it. Gray or Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole … not worth it.
I’m not anti-Gray or anti-Cole. Either one at the right price? Sure. For Mejia, Bradley and McKenzie or even two of them? No thanks.
There’s no doubt Cleveland could use a top-shelf starting pitcher — who couldn’t? — to complement the Big 2 of Corey Kluber and Carrasco. But that’s the only significant move I’m making if I’m the Indians.
Right-hander Mike Clevinger has been impressive over his last six or seven outings and could be on the verge of establishing himself as a big league starter.
And the Indians are hoping Salazar is able to return to his All-Star form of last year after being activated from the disabled list Saturday.
Though they’ve been bad more than good this season, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin have showed stints of effectiveness — and we all saw how Tomlin manned up last October.
I know that foursome isn’t something you pin your postseason dreams on, but how much better does the addition of a guy like Gray, who at this point in his career is considered nothing more than a third or fourth starter on a championship-caliber team, make the Indians?
Not enough to deal away the future.
And incidentally, that future looks pretty bright for Cleveland. Sure, the window of opportunity won’t always be open, but the Indians are led by a pack of young stars — Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor and Bradley Zimmer, to name a few.
That group is backed by veterans, such as Kluber, Carrasco, Michael Brantley, Miller and Encarnacion. All of them are signed through at least next season.
That’s a pretty good situation and a pretty good team — one that was picked by most to repeat as AL champions.
Certainly, injuries to second baseman Jason Kipnis and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall are significant blows. But both are expected back before season’s end. Hopefully Kipnis, a former All-Star, will provide some postseason pop to make up for his worst season in the big leagues.
The Indians have what it takes to make another World Series run. They just need to start playing like it.