Leonys Martin, 30, was scheduled to join the Indians on Wednesday from the Tigers. The Indians say he can play center field and is close to top speed after dealing with a left hamstring problem disabled list earlier in the season.
Just as important is the fact that he's under the team control through 2019. Big parts of the outfield are going to disappear at the end of the season through free agency so the Indians are going to need players to take their spots.
"That was an important element for us," said Chris Antonetti, Indians president of baseball operations. "With Leonys, he is under team control next year, so that gives us another option for our outfield as we seek to build our team for 2019 as well."
Martin, a left-handed hitter, is expected to platoon in center with Rajai Davis. He could also see time in right field.
In a separate deal, the Indians added outfield prospect Oscar Mercado, 23, a right-hander hitting center fielder. He'll join Class AAA Columbus after hitting .285 (109-for-382) with eight homers and 42 RBI in 100 games at Class AAA Memphis. He is another player signed for the future and it would not be surprising to see him get a September call up if things go well in Columbus.
The Indians sent switch-hitting shortstop Willi Castro to the Tigers for Martin and Kyle Dowdy, a right-hander who will join the rotation at Class AA Akron.
They sent young outfielders Conner Capel and Jhon Torres to St. Louis for Mercado.
The Indians on July 19 acquired relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber from San Diego for catcher Francisco Mejia, the top prospect in their system. As in the outfield, the Indians not only needed immediate, they needed help for the future as well with relievers Cody Allen, Andrew Miller and Zach McAllister eligible for free agency at the end of the year.
Hand is signed through 2020 with a club option for 2021. Cimber is under team control for five more years. Manager Terry Francona complimented Antonetti and the front office for taking such a holistic approach to their trades.
"Everybody wants to win now, nobody more than me,'' he said. "But, for the health of our organization, having some relievers that you think you can count on for years to come, going into the winter, that's going to make the winter a lot better. We're going to have some big decisions to make and holes to fill. We know that. But, having two guys that you think are going to pitch at the back-end is big."
Kipnis would have changed positions
It appears Jason Kipnis is staying at second base. There was a chance he could be moving to outfield if the Indians acquired an infielder such as Manny Machado, Brian Dozier or Adrian Beltre.
A few weeks ago Antonetti explained the situation to Kipnis. He told him if they did acquire an infielder, KipnIs would be moving back to the outfield as he did late last season when Jose Ramirez moved from third base to second base because Kipnis was on the disabled list.
Kipnis said he had no problem making a move, especially when Antonetti told him they were talking to Baltimore about Machado. But Machado and Dozier were traded to the Dodgers and Beltre decided to stay in Texas.
"Kip was incredible about it," Antonetti said. "He said, 'Hey, I care most about being part of a winning team that wins the World Series. Whatever I can do to help that, whether it's play second base or the outfield, I'd be willing to do. So if you can get a player who helps us, I'll play wherever I can contribute and help this team.'"
Antonetti said that allowed the front office to explore a lot of different options before Tuesday's 4 p.m. deadline.
"In the end, none of those options came to fruition," Antonetti said, "so Kip is going to continue to play second base for us and we're really happy about that."
Kipnis realizes the Indians play in a certain market size and have to be judicious with trades they make, but he said if Antonetti wants to make more trades he should go with it.
"The Indians are going to be winning for a while," Kipnis said. "They've got a lot of guys still signed. That's why I don't care if they trade the farm. I'm not going to be here much longer. I want to win now."
Could an August deal be in the works?
Antonetti and the Tribe's front office have been busy. They've added relievers in Hand and Cimber. They acquired Martin before Tuesday's non-waiver deadline and acquired a younger outfielder in Mercado the future.
But there is still the month of August to tighten the screws on the Tribe's postseason roster. Waivers are needed on every player involved in August trades, but the Indians have done it before. The question is will they do it again?
"I think we'll always do that," Antonetti said when asked about exploring deals in August. "It's another opportunity for us to improve the options. That said, I feel really good about the team we have entering the second half of the season now."
Headed into Tuesday's deadline, Baltimore's Adam Jones was often linked to the Indians. In the end, Jones reportedly exercised his 10 and 5 five right to veto any deal.
Antonetti was asked if any deals the Indians were involved in broke down as the deadline approached.
"That happens every deadline," Antonetti said. "So yes, that certainly happened over the last couple of weeks. But nothing on a player level. We never got to the point of presenting something to a player that he didn't approve."
Tomlin will begin rehab Friday
Right-hander Josh Tomlin threw a two-inning simulated game on Tuesday at Target Field. He threw 15 pitches in each inning with Erik Gonzalez and bullpen catcher Ricky Pacione taking some swings against him.
"He did good," Francona said. "He's going to go out and pitch Friday at Columbus. He'll throw two innings in Columbus."
Tomlin has been on the disabled list since July 10 with a strained right hamstring.
Andrew Miller and other things
Miller made his second appearance in as many games Tuesday night for Columbus. He faced two batters and retired them both.
"We'll reconvene on Friday when we get home and see what the next step is," Francona said.
Miller has been on the disabled list since May 26 with a sore right knee.