Inbox: Pitching the key to Indians' deal-making?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers fans' questions

Inbox: Pitching the key to Indians' deal-making?

Now that outfielder Jason Heyward signed with the Cubs, is there any chance that the Tribe makes a run at Jorge Soler?
-- @PatrickSherloc7 (via Twitter)

During the Winter Meetings last week, the Indians and Cubs were reported to have met to discuss Cleveland's starting pitchers. In need of offense, and in need of outfield depth, the Indians surely asked about Soler. I'd be willing to wager that Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber were mentioned, too. None of this means Chicago is motivated to move those players.

In the wake of Heyward's reported signing, Chicago can at least better explore trades for those players. The Cubs would still like to add a starting pitcher, and seemingly every team around the Majors looking for starting pitching has phoned Cleveland. And, why not? Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer have great value in terms of contracts and contributions.

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The Indians, however, have placed an extremely high value on their starters, and rightfully so. I'd doubt that a one-for-one trade involving a starting pitcher for Soler would get the job done. After all, just look at what Atlanta reeled in from the D-backs for Shelby Miller, and then take a look at the kind of money that is going to similar starting pitchers on the free-agent market.

Does the D-backs/Braves trade influence who the Indians trade and what's in return? Steep price for Miller, and Ender Inciarte is now off the market.
-- @jscotty13 (via @Twitter)

As noted above, I definitely think the Miller trade -- a deal that sent Inciarte, shortstop prospect Dansby Swanson and pitching prospect Aaron Blair to Atlanta -- allows Cleveland to ask for a lot in any deals for Carrasco or Salazar. Miller, 25, posted a 3.4 fWAR in 205 1/3 innings last year and is in his first arbitration year. Salazar, 25, turned in a 3.0 fWAR in 185 innings and is still pre-arbitration eligible. Carrasco, 28, had a 4.8 WAR in 183 2/3 innings and is signed to a club-friendly deal through 2018, with team options for '19 and '20. As for Inciarte, the Indians talked about him with the D-backs before Arizona made that trade. You can bet Cleveland also asked about him with the Braves, but it does not sound like he is going anywhere.

Is there any possible way the Tribe can get Soler without dealing one of the front three?
-- @kylegarret (via Twitter)

I think that'd be tough. The Cubs would probably seek Carrasco or Salazar. While Cleveland would surely move Bauer before those two, his value is not nearly as high. The Indians would probably also entertain offers for Cody Anderson, who turned in a solid rookie showing last season, but the big righty is essentially a two-pitch pitcher still in development. Complicating things is the fact that the Cubs are in win-now mode like the Indians. A package of prospects is not what Chicago is looking for right now.

I'd like to see the Indians trade for Reds third baseman Todd Frazier, but what is the price? He's only controllable thru '17.
-- @MarcoCastevetti (via Twitter)

Reports during the Winter Meetings indicated that the Reds have set a high price for Frazier. He's actually only signed through 2016, but will be arbitration-eligible for '17. Let's say Frazier has a subpar showing next season. That could make him a non-tender candidate come '17, meaning a trade for the third baseman has the potential to only be a one-year deal. It does not seem to make sense to trade away a large package of prospects for him. This is a buyer beware situation. There are positives (see: Frazier's power), but also negatives (see: Frazier's second-half track record).

The Triple-A Columbus Clippers seem to be getting clogged in the outfield with all these Minor League deals by the Indians. Is a trade involving top prospects close?
-- @briancmh (via Twitter)

Well, we know that the Indians would prefer to address their need for offense without subtracting from their talented starting rotation. We also know that Cleveland has a wealth of outfield prospects rising fast (Clint Frazier, Tyler Naquin and Brad Zimmer). That said, the Indians simply need as many backup outfield options as possible heading into Spring Training. With Michael Brantley sidelined for the first month of the season, there really isn't a surefire starter locked into any of the Major League outfield spots at the moment.

Have the Indians inquired about any of the Rockies outfielders?
-- @iamTwigggy (via Twitter)

If there is a baseball player out there capable of lacing up spikes, donning a glove and playing the outfield, the Indians have looked into it.

Is Abraham Almonte the starting center fielder this year?
-- @JoeGodlar (via Twitter)

Almonte would be the starting center fielder right now, yes. Cleveland also traded for Collin Cowgill, who could spend time in center as a part-timer against left-handed pitching. The Indians are actively looking for a possible upgrade for center, though.

In closing ...

Not really baseball related. Just curious, because I love Nashville, did you get down to Hattie B's or spend some time on Broadway during the Winter Meetings?
-- @SkatingTripods

No, but I can tell you all the hot spots inside the Oryland Hotel! The Winter Meetings are a whirlwind four days of chasing rumors and reports throughout the hotel and convention center, leaving little time for exploration. Before heading back home to Cleveland on Thursday, though, we did make it to Loveless Cafe, which is a must-stop for anyone visiting Nashville.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.