The Indians made their first move of the offseason on Wednesday when they dealt infielder Erik Gonzalez to the Pittsburgh Pirates in a five-player trade.
Cleveland also dealt minor league pitchers Tahnaj Thomas and Dante Mendoza and acquired outfielder Jordan Luplow and infielder Max Moroff from the Pirates.
Gonzalez is clearly the big name in what looks like a minor deal for both teams although Pirates general manager Neal Huntington expressed excitement about acquiring the infielder in a press release:
“Erik Gonzalez is an athletic middle infielder who plays solid defense and has the potential to be a productive hitter at the major league level,” said Huntington. “He gives us another quality option to play shortstop or in the middle of our infield this year and into the future.”
Gonzalez has been part of the Indians organization since signing as a 16-year-old amateur free agent in 2008 out of the Dominican Republic.
In 2018, he played in 81 games as a utility man at either second baseman, shortstop and third base. Making 143 plate appearances, Gonzalez hit for .265 with ten doubles, one home run, 16 runs batted in and three stolen bases.
The 24-year-old should get a solid opportunity to play at either second base or shortstop as Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer are both in their 30s now as when you look at the numbers, Gonzalez is already close to their production as he still has room and time to grow. Pittsburgh will have control of his contract through 2022.
Thomas and Mendoza both spent time in the Indians rookie-level affiliate in Arizona during the 2018 season.
Thomas is the Indians 30th ranked prospect according to MLB.com but pitched only 19.2 innings during 2018. He throws a fastball between 92-95 mph but could add more velocity to it but is still years away from the big league according to his scouting report.
Mendoza threw 37.1 innings and posted a 4.58 ERA with 37 strikeouts to 20 walks. His fastball is around 87-90 mph but Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen had this to say about him:
On the Indians side, they added another outfielder to the mix with Luplow which is something they needed because the current depth is very thin in the outfield heading into 2019.
Luplow was Pittsburgh’s third-round pick in 2014 but hasn’t lived up to his potential so far but he’s only 25 years old so there’s still a chance he blossoms into a decent major league player. He was named Pittsburgh’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2017 after he hitting 23 home runs, 56 runs batted in and .302 average with a .902 OPS in 117 games between Double A-Altoona and Triple A-Indianapolis.
He’s appeared in 64 games for Pittsburgh over the past two seasons. He’s a .194 hitter with six home runs and 18 runs batted in, .274 on base percentage and a .644 OPS.
In 88 games for Triple-A Indianapolis, he hit .287 with eight home runs, 49 runs batted in with a .367 on base percentage and a .829 OPS.
Max Moroff is a Erik Gonzalez type as he is a solid utility infielder with experience at second base, shortstop and third base. Cleveland has control through the 2023 season.
Moroff was Pittsburgh’s 16th round draft pick in 2012 straight out of high school.
He was named Pirates Minor League Player of the Year in 2015 after hitting .293 with 28 doubles, six triples, seven home runs, 51 runs batted in and 17 stolen bases in 136 games with Double-A Altoona.
He made his major league debut in 2016 but much like Luplow, hasn’t panned out so far. In 84 career games, Moroff is a .193 hitter with six home runs and 30 runs batted in.