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Jim Ingraham

Jim Ingraham: July should be wild for an Indians team facing some big decisions

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    Don't look now but starting pitcher Trevor Bauer could be a big chip for the Indians, whether they're buyers or sellers at the trading deadline.

    AP

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Now back to our regularly scheduled incomprehensible season.

Shane Bieber as the All-Star Game MVP?

Sure, why not? It’s a perfect fit, an apt metaphor, for this ever-flabbergasting Indians season in which almost nothing went right until almost everything did.

From 28-29 to 22-9.

From waving goodbye to the Twins, to honking the horn and telling them to move over.

Speaking of honking, honk if you know what’s coming next. Because nobody else does.

All we know for sure is Who’s on first, What’s on second and I Don’t Know’s on third.

Other than that, good luck. You’re on your own. This Indians season seemingly spun out of control, then, suddenly, spun back under control. But with the steady hand of Terry Francona at the wheel, you’ve still got to feel good about the journey ahead, no matter how many fans in the backseat are screaming “Are we there yet?”

The All-Star break is now over. Kudos, by the way, to the Indians and the city of Cleveland for the smashing success of the three-day BallFest, which earned rave reviews and universal praise from those with and without a rooting interest in the team or the town. There’s a reason why there have been a major league-high six of these babies staged in Cleveland, and we just saw three days’ worth of why.

Next up: Twins vs. Indians.

Three games, at All-Star Central, starting Friday night. It’s the Jets vs. the Sharks. The Hatfields vs. the McCoys. The Lindors vs. the Polancos.

It’s the first of 13 games between the top two Central Division ruffians. The Indians have 74 games remaining in the regular season, meaning 13 percent of their remaining games will be against the Twins.

Buckle your chinstrap.

The teams have split their first six games.

Winning a majority of the remaining 13 games with the Twins is imperative for the Indians, if they want to make up that 5ᄑ game deficit or to runner-up their way into position to claim one of the two wild card spots.

In the meantime, the passing of the All-Star break means the trade deadline is fast approaching, and this will be one of the most interesting watch parties in recent Indians history. They could be buyers. They could be sellers. They could be stand-patters.

This is why club presidents and general managers make the big bucks. This confusing Indians season presents the front office with some tricky trade deadline strategies to ponder.

If they trade Trevor Bauer, that makes them a seller, right?

Not so fast.

If they trade Bauer for a productive hitter that would immediately upgrade the lineup, that would technically make them sellers, but, for all practical purposes, it would make them a buyer, because they would be getting a commodity they lack, an impact bat, to help get them get where they want to go: the postseason.

Do they trade Brad Hand?

Another tricky one.

The formerly flawless closer went staggering into the break with a couple of shaky outings, and then, in the eighth inning of the All-Star Game, had another hair-raising appearance that nearly cost the American League the game, and Shane Bieber a truck.

Hand’s shaky recent work isn’t doing anything to inflate his trade value, although the Indians could sell it to a potential trade partner like this: “What are you going to believe, the last two weeks or the last three months?”

The series with Minnesota will be the Indians’ last three games against the Twins before the July 31 trade deadline. So decisions by the decision makers are going to have to be made before then. All that’s riding on those decisions is the fate of this Indians season, and the next few as well.

Minimum.

President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti and General Manager Mike Chernoff have shown they are not shy about pulling the trigger on a win-now trade. The trade that brought Andrew Miller here three years ago proved that.

Ironically, the key piece in that trade going the other way, to the Yankees, was Clint Frazier. The red-headed slugger is back in the Yankees’ minor system, now that most of the members of the previously-injured Yankees varsity are back in the lineup again.

Frazier would seem to be a tantalizing trade target for the Tribe. For starters, they know him well, since they were the ones that drafted him. For another, he plays a position of need: the outfield. For a third, he has a potentially impact bat.

Frazier’s 11 home runs (in 191 at-bats) for the Yankees would rank fourth on the Indians. The Yankees could use a starting pitcher. Trevor Bauer is a starting pitcher.

Just saying.

It’s going to be a wildly interesting July for the Indians. First the Twins, then the trade deadline.

Prepare to be flabbergasted.

Or not.

Contact Jim Ingraham at (440) 329-7135 or jingraham4@gamail.com and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.


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