Posted on September 1, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
Mere hours before the waiver trade deadline, the Cleveland Indians made a bold move. The Tribe has acquired third baseman Josh Donaldson from the Toronto Blue Jays. The move came just a few hours before the deadline to add players to be eligible for the postseason. There were a number of teams interested in adding Donaldson before the deadline. But the Indians ended up pulling off a trade for the former American League MVP.
The Indians, of course, are taking a bit of a risk by trading for Donaldson, who’s been on the DL since early June with a calf injury. Donaldson recently began a minor league rehab assignment and will be active for Cleveland’s game on Saturday. Oddly enough, the Indians visit the Blue Jays next weekend.
Before his season was derailed by injuries, Donaldson was not off to a great start. In 36 games this year, Donaldson was hitting .234 with an OPS of .757. One could argue that’s a small-sample-size. But it could also indicate a decline in his productivity, especially since a calf strain has ended up costing him half the season. Nevertheless, the Indians are taking a chance on him.
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“Obviously, this is one of the most dynamic players in the game on both sides of the ball when he’s healthy,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. “We think there’s an opportunity for him to get to a point this month where he’ll be playing in games regularly and has a chance to impact us in the postseason.”
It’s interesting to note that the Indians will have to shift their infield around to accommodate Donaldson. Cleveland will move Jose Ramirez to second base, displacing Jason Kipnis. Ramirez has over 100 big league starts at second base, so he can handle the position defensively. Kipnis, meanwhile, is having a rough offensive season. He’s hitting just .229 with an OPS of .690. If Donaldson is healthy, he’s no doubt an upgrade over Kipnis offensively.
Kipnis could potentially get some time in the outfield. Antonetti says he will speak with Kipnis and Ramirez on Saturday about the plan moving forward. With both Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion only options at either first base or DH, putting Donaldson in the DH spot wouldn’t be a viable option most days.
The move is also curious in the sense that the Indians have scored the third-most runs in the American League this season. With Ramirez having a potential MVP season, Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley having strong seasons offensively, and both Encarnacion and Alonso providing power, the Indians weren’t necessarily in need of another bat. If anything, adding depth in the outfield should have been more of a priority than acquiring an infielder.
In any event, the Indians have added Donaldson with an eye toward the postseason. If he can come back healthy and become the hitter he’s been the past few seasons, he can make an impact for the Indians in October. Only time will tell if the addition of Donaldson will work out. But it’s possible that one of the best lineups in baseball just got a whole lot better.
“He’s one of the more impactful bats there is around the league,” said Kipnis. “Hopefully, he’s healthy and ready to come in and fit in here and make a good impact on us.”