Major League Baseball’s Aug. 31 trade deadline is quickly approaching, and Cleveland has its sight set on playing October baseball. But, there are still some areas in need of improvement. While Cleveland has seen a dominant performance from its rotation, its outfielders have struggled to provide consistent offense. That’s probably going to be the key move that needs to be addressed by Monday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline, but the club can (and should) also explore the options for adding another catcher to join starter Roberto Perez and backup Sandy Leon.

Most of Cleveland’s core remains intact despite the Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer trades, but the 2020 postseason could very well be the last chance to win a championship with this group. Cleveland missed the playoffs last year, and that comes after recent disappointing finishes in the postseason. The club lost the 2016 World Series in Game 7, blew a 2-0 series lead in the 2017 ALDS and was swept in the 2018 ALDS. Cleveland has the baseball’s longest championship drought — its last World Series title dates back to 1948.

Again, like we’ve discussed in previous trade deadline previews, trades this year are going to be tougher to come by considering the abbreviated season. A player’s trade value is simply lower than it would be if it was a normal 162-game season with a July 31 trade deadline.¬†

Now, let’s take a look at Cleveland’s biggest needs, targets and trade chips.

Biggest needs

Cleveland fields one of the weakest outfield units in the game. Entering Thursday, Cleveland’s outfield owns the worst numbers in the league for batting average (.096), RBI (4), slugging percentage (.138) and weighted on-base average (.201).The combined outfielders have hit just one home run this season and recorded 33 strikeouts.

Cleveland needs a big bat or two to solidify the struggling outfield. Entering the season, the club had 10 outfielders on its roster, and now it is down to five. Right fielder Franmil Reyes has moved to primarily hitting at the designated hitter spot in the lineup, so the everyday three outfielders include Delino DeShields, Domingo Santana and Jordan Luplow or Greg Allen. Tyler Naquin is another option.

Oscar Mercado was optioned to the club’s alternate training site after hitting .111/.167/.111 in 48 plate appearances. Outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Daniel Johnson were optioned as well after failing to get themselves into the starting lineup with consistent production.

Another area that could use some added depth is Cleveland’s catching staff. Right now, starting catcher Roberto Perez is hitting .097/.263/.360 while back up Sandy Leon sports a .119/.288/.503 slash line. Perez is more widely known for his stellar defense, but in a 60-game season with a tight AL Central, Cleveland is going to need more offensive production from its catcher. Moreso when the team’s outfield is struggling to hit.

Possible targets

Above is a decent batch of outfielders that Cleveland could explore trading for at this year’s deadline.

Dickerson could possibly serve as a reliable, productive platoon option while Giants teammate Yastrzemski would serve as a starting outfielder. Dickerson, 30, is signed to a one-year deal for this season, and Yas won’t reach arbitration until the 2023 season, when he’ll be 32-years-old.

The Royals should be getting lots of calls re: Merrifield. The Cleveland team should be one of those calling to inquire. Merrifield, 31, can play in the outfield and he’s someone who can consistently hit. Merrifield’s on a team-friendly contract, receiving $6.75 million in 2021 and $2.75 million in 2022 with a team option of $10.5 million in 2023.

Veteran Kevin Pillar still has great defense, and he can be a good fit in the corner-outfield spot, either off the bench or as a starter. Pillar is set to make $4.25 million for the 2020 season but it’s an expiring deal, just good for 2020.

The Seattle Mariners are expected to be sellers once again as the club won’t be ending their postseason drought this year. General manager Jerry Dipoto will likely listen to offers for several players leading up to Monday. It may be worth it for Cleveland to discuss their starting catcher. Nola, 30, would be a better offense-producing catcher than the club’s currently low-performing pair of backstops. He made his big league debut last season, so it’ll be a little while until he accrues the necessary three years of MLB service time to quality for salary arbitration.

The Red Sox are another definite seller this year. The club has already traded key pieces from their bullpen, and more moves are expected. Cleveland could find a good fit with Vazquez, a valuable Sox trade chip. The 30-year-old catcher signed a three-year extension with Boston in 2018, with a club option for 2022. Vazquez had a breakout campaign last year, and he’s been pretty solid at the plate so far in 2020.

Cleveland’s superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor has been rumored on the trade front for months. Now could possibly be the time Cleveland seriously engages in discussions for Lindor. He’s type of player Cleveland should want to keep on their club for the rest of his career, but alas, the club’s economic goals seem to make that unlikely. Before the abbreviated season where salaries would be prorated, Lindor was going to earn $17.5 million for 2020. He’ll now pick up $6.48 million prorated during the 60-game season. Lindor will qualify for free agency after next season.

Considering the club’s downward trend in their Opening Day payrolls and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, it could follow in the Boston Red Sox footsteps and trade its franchise player away simply to save money. Cleveland will surely be listening to offerings ahead of Monday’s deadline, and a Lindor trade seems inevitable. It’s just a question of whether it will happen at the Aug. 31 trade deadline or after the 2020 season.

The two pitchers¬†violated the team’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols when they left the team hotel to go out in Chicago. Luckily, neither tested positive for the coronavirus afterward and there was no known outbreak. But, Clevinger and Plesac’s irresponsible decision not only caused a rift between their teammates, but also prompted MLB to implement a coronavirus compliance officer for every team to ensure no player or staff member is violating the protocols during the season’s travel.¬†

Clevinger has already been mentioned quite a bit in the week’s recent trade rumors, but Cleveland will likely want to get a heavy return in exchange for the starter. After optioning both pitchers to the alternate training site, Cleveland called up Clevinger to start Wednesday (box score), while Plesac was told by team president Chris Antonetti that there is not an opportunity for him in the majors at this time.

If Cleveland isn’t willing to part with Clevinger or Plesac, then right-hander Adam Plutko could be another trade chip name. Plutko, 28, is under club control through 2024 and there are surely plenty of teams looking to strengthen their rotation this year.

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