It's July, which means one thing for baseball teams: lots and lots of trade talk. Whether anything gets done is one matter, but we can try to guess who the Indians are talking to and who they are trying to obtain.
(1) Should the Indians be looking to buy?
Absolutely. The Indians are currently 52-35, and will be in the worst case scenario one game out of first place at the All-Star Break. This is a team that is certainly good enough to make the playoffs, and as we saw last postseason, any playoff team is a World Series contender.
(2) Will the Indians need to buy in order to make the playoffs?
This question comes more into play later on when you decide who you can part with, but for now, let's assume that improving the team certainly couldn't hurt. Even if the Indians were competing against the 1999 AL Central, they still should be looking for ways of getting better.
(3) What areas/positions should the Indians try to improve?
In other words, what areas would be the easiest to upgrade? First, let's review what the starting lineup did in the first half:
C: Victor Martinez - 302 AB, .325/.384/.546, 67 RC (1st)
Kelly Shoppach - 83 AB, .349/.409/.602, 20 RC (1st)
No problems here.
1B: Ryan Garko - 238 AB, .294/.358/.466, 35 RC (11th)
The rate stats are good, so again, no problem.
2B: Josh Barfield - 304 AB, .257/.282/.339, 35 RC (10th)
Barfield's bat is a major concern, especially his alarming lack of both power and walks. If the Indians do make an upgrade here, it will be a complimentary player, not an everyday starter.
SS: Jhonny Peralta - 312 AB, .276/.348/.465, 54 RC (4th)
3B Casey Blake - 321 AB, .277/.362/.474, 40 RC (5th)
Surprisingly good on defense, so no need for an upgrade.
CF Grady Sizemore - 338 AB, .281/.395/.464, 71 RC (2nd)
LF Jason Michaels - 159 AB, .289/.350/.459, 29 RC (9th)
David Dellucci - 175 AB, .234/.301/.389, 18 RC (15th)
Ben Francisco - 24 AB, .417/.440/.917, 6 RC
Shin-Soo Choo - 17 AB, .294/.350/.294, 3 RC
Both Dellucci and Choo are sidelined with fairly serious injuries, Michaels' numbers reflect platooning, and Francisco has just 24 MLB at-bats. So the position is at best unsettled. Definitely a candidate for an upgrade.
RF Trot Nixon - 221 AB, .240/.335/.326, 25 RC (14th)
Franklin Gutierrez - 66 AB, .288/.338/.485, 9 RC
Nixon just isn't an everyday starting outfielder anymore. That leaves Gutierrez, who's had trouble against right-handed pitching in his short MLB career. A left-handed right fielder would seem to be a good fit.
DH Travis Hafner - 293 AB, .259/.396/.451, 48 RC (3rd)
Pronk's having one of his worst seasons, and he's still one of the best DHs in the league. No upgrade needed.
IF Mike Rouse - 56 AB, .125/.206/.143, 1 RC
He's been good defensively, but a supermassive black hole at the plate. An upgrade would be nice.
Ryan Garko still has difficulty making some routine plays at first base, and Trot Nixon has little range in right.
David Dellucci probably won't be back until August.
Now let's look at the pitchers:
SP CC Sabathia - 133.1 IP, 3.58 ERA, 68 PRC
Fausto Carmona - 102.1 IP, 3.78 ERA, 46 PRC
Paul Byrd - 93.2 IP, 4.71 ERA, 34 PRC
Cliff Lee - 75.2 IP, 5.23 ERA, 25 PRC
Jake Westbrook - 47.1 IP, 6.27 ERA, 13 PRC
Jeremy Sowers - 62.1 IP, 6.97 ERA, 13 PRC
Everyone's finally healthy, and while Westbrook and Lee need to pitch better, a starting pitcher should be a low priority.
RP Joe Borowski - 32.2 IP, 5.51 ERA, 1.789 WXRL
Rafael Betancourt - 37.2 IP, 1.19 ERA, 3.489 WXRL
Rafael Perez - 23.2 IP, 1.90 ERA, 0.726 WXRL
Aaron Fultz - 21.0 IP, 1.71 ERA, 0.426 WXRL
Tom Mastny - 35.0 IP, 4.63 ERA, 0.372 WXRL
Fernando Cabrera - 32.1 IP, 4.73 ERA, 0.160 WXRL
Jason Stanford - 21.0 IP, 4.71 ERA, -0.018 WXRL
These are the current guys in the bullpen, excepting Edward Mujica, who will go down after the All-Star Break. The top four on the list have been productive, but the last three spots could be upgraded.
Injury Concerns? Aaron Fultz is currently on the DL, but should return next weekend.
So by my estimation, the Indians should be looking for a left-handed outfielder, at least one reliever, and possibly an infielder. Next, I'll try to come up with some realistic targets.