CLEVELAND (AP) — The Indians added some power — and a little punch — for their playoff push.
Still chasing the homer-happy Minnesota Twins in the AL Central, Cleveland traded temperamental starter Trevor Bauer to the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday in a three-team deal that landed the Indians two big bats to fill their power void, Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes,
The Indians, who have cut first-place Minnesota’s lead from 11½ games to three, dealt Bauer to the Reds for Puig and left-hander Scott Moss. The Indians also acquired Reyes, lefty Logan Allen and infield prospect Victor Nova from San Diego. The Padres acquired outfielder Taylor Trammel from the Reds.
Bauer’s exit was nearly as stunning as his final start for Cleveland.
His trade was completed three days after the quirky right-hander with undeniable talent along with a difficult side, angrily threw a ball from behind the mound over the center-field wall in Kansas City. Bauer called the act “childish” and was fined by Major League Baseball. It may have been the final straw for the Indians, who managed to get back five players to help in their playoff push and beyond.
Puig, who literally left Cincinnati swinging following another brawl with the Pirates on Tuesday night, and Reyes have 49 combined homers this season. They’ll give manager Terry Francona some additional lineup options as well as a needed power surge.
The three teams agreed to the seven-player swap Tuesday, but medical reports didn’t get approval until just hours before the trade deadline.
Dealing Bauer is not without risk for the Indians. Though he can be challenging, Bauer is a workhorse and at times has been the club’s best pitcher this season while two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber (broken arm) and Carlos Carrasco (leukemia) have been sidelined. But Kluber and Carrasco are expected back in the weeks ahead, and the Indians have activated Danny Salazar, a 2016 All-Star whose career has been slowed by injuries.
“Over the last several weeks, we explored the trade market in an effort to enhance our competitive position, both by supplementing our major league roster and infusing young talent into the organization,” Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti said. “We appreciate Trevor’s contributions to the organization in his time with us and while it’s never easy to part with a player of his caliber, we feel we’ve traded from an area of depth to help bolster our major league club for this year and the foreseeable future.”
The bold move was applauded by Indians fans, many of whom were soured by the team’s cost-cutting offseason when owner Paul Dolan demanded a slash in payroll, forcing Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff to make some difficult decisions. The Indians did not re-sign All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley and traded slugger Edwin Encarnación, first baseman Yonder Alonso and catcher Yan Gomes.
It’s not clear when Puig will arrive in Cleveland. But he sure had a memorable departure in Cincinnati.
The muscular outfielder was involved in another benches-clearing brawl between the Reds and Pirates, Ohio River rivals who have exchanged beanballs, taunts and a fair share of punches this season.
Puig, who had 22 home runs, 61 RBIs and 14 steals in 100 games in his abbreviated season with the Reds, was in the middle of Tuesday’s fracas, which began with Cincinnati reliever Amir Garrett rushing the Pirates’ dugout and throwing punches at anyone in a wearing black and gold. It was similar to the scene in April, when Puig charged a group of Pirates players near home plate during a wild melee.
Puig was suspended two games for those actions, and he could be facing another penalty for the latest Reds-Pirates dustup. The Cuban-born outfielder has a career .275 average with 130 homers and 391 RBIs in 812 games. He is eligible for free agency after the World Series.
The hulking 24-year-old Reyes has a big swing and is full of potential. The 6-foot-5, 275-pounder has hit 27 homers and 46 RBIs while batting .255 in 99 games with the Padres this season, and gives Francona a right-handed bat to complement a lineup loaded with lefties.
Bauer heads down Interstate 71 to Cincinnati, where he’ll join a Reds team with slim playoff hopes but potential. At 49-56, the Reds are in fourth place in the NL Central, 7½ games back of first-place St. Louis. This may not be their year, but Bauer, who angered the Indians last winter with comments about character assassination after he beat them in salary arbitration, will join Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray to form a solid starting nucleus.
The Reds, though, will have to figure out what makes Bauer tick. He was a constant challenge for the Indians, whether it was cutting his finger while repairing a drone before his start in the 2016 AL Championship Series, postgame comments where he was liable to say anything or his comportment on the field.
Red outfielder Jesse Winker wasn’t worried about anything other than Bauer’s big arm.
“Man, I can’t wait. That’s a legit ace, man,” Winker said following Cincinnati’s 11-4 loss Tuesday. “We already had a legit pitching staff, it just got more legit. Welcome Trevor Bauer, to the cooler city of Ohio.”
Cincinnati assumes the $4,193,548 remaining on Bauer’s $13 million salary while Cleveland takes on the $3,129,032 left in Puig’s $9.7 million salary. Bauer is eligible for free agency after the 2020 season and has said he plans to play his entire career on one-year contracts.