Jeff Sullivan is one half of the Effectively Wild podcast and is a great baseball analyst and writer. I really like his speculation in this Fangraphs article about what Cleveland may be up to this off-season and what the front office’s motives are as the hot stove heats up.
I actually wonder if payroll isn’t the primary driver here. I wonder if payroll is secondary, behind the above. The above might just be harder to explain in a press conference. The Indians are already projected to have cut opening-day payroll by 12%. That seems like it should be good enough, if the team really does need to cut costs. Trading a starter would trim payroll further, but the farm system would improve. A team like the Indians always needs a good farm.
Maybe the real tell would come after. If the Indians traded one of their starters, we could then check to see whether they reinvest those savings in short-term improvements, behind the plate, in the outfield, or in the bullpen. Then we’d know this was at least as much about extending the window. Taking advantage of the opportunity the rest of the AL Central has provided.