Saturday, the Indians traded the recently acquired Esmil Rogers to the Toronto Blue Jays for short stop Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes. Aviles was just acquired by the Jays from Boston when they traded their manager to the Red Sox. Rogers spent just half a season with the Tribe after being picked up from waivers from the Colorado Rockies, where he had allowed an 8.06 ERA in 23 games. For the Indians, Rogers threw 53 innings, making him the fifth most used reliever and held an ERA of 3.06. This amazing turn around had a lot to due with increased control, some of which was probably due to the decrease in altitude. Rogers walked 18 batters during his limited time in Colorado, but just 12 while playing for Cleveland.
An even bigger part of his turn around was his BABIP (batting average on balls in play). While with Colorado in 2012, his BABIP was .425, almost 150 points higher than later in the season with Cleveland. While some of this may have been caused by park factors, and some to because of better pitch selection (not as many 3-0 fastballs) it is also a good show of how lucky Rogers was. Rogers was great during the second half of 2012 with the Indians, but the chances of him repeating that performance are almost zero. The Indians traded Rogers at his absolute peak, making this trade an almost certain win for the Indians no matter what the returns are. Bullpen depth is the Indians biggest team strength and Rogers was the most expendable of the group and the one that outperformed his talent level by the most last season, making him worth the most to other teams.
The two players the Indians got in return are at opposite ends of their careers. Indians fans should remember Mike Aviles from his time with Kansas City, but Yan Gomes is a young player who just made his debut this past year. While Aviles is the big name of the trade, Gomes is almost certainly the player the Indians are more excited about. In 2012 in Las Vegas, Gomes hit .328 with 43 extra base hits. He did this while transitioning into his first year playing third. Since his first professional season in 2009, he has been primarily a catcher, catching 172 games in the Blue Jay minor league system. The Indians are in drastic need of a back-up catcher after Lou Marson put in one of the worst seasons by an Indians back up catcher in team history. While this isn’t a position worth wasting free agent money on or trading a big name for, this trade filled this hole perfectly. I entirely expect Yan Gomes to be a front runner for the back-up catcher job going into Spring Training next year. With any luck he could even pan out to be more if Carlos Santana is needed to cover the DH or firstbase positions in the future.
Aviles is a past his prime middle infielder, although he did have career highs in home runs and RBI last season for a very bad Boston team. For the Indians he will be at most fill in as a utility infielder with all the infield spots taken with very talented rising stars in Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall. Each of these players are already more productive than Aviles ever was and they are all younger and under team control. The current utility man, Jason Donald, however, is very replaceable. In 2012 Donald was one of the worst players on the team and his numbers make Aviles look like an All-Star. Since the Indians were willing to trade for him, he should simply be given the utility role outright and Donald can now be traded or released to make room for other, more productive players.
Overall, this trade looks fantastic. This is the type of move the Indians need to make to stay competitive, by trading players who are outperforming their own abilities for undervalued players who could turn into something special, but are acceptable even at their current level. This trade fills two minor holes on the 2013 roster without creating a new one (Frank Herrmann or Nick Hagadone could easily fill his place in the pen) and makes the team just a little bit better than it was before.