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 but haven’t had a legitimate cleanup hitter all season, dealt Bauer to the Reds for Puig and left-hander Scott Moss. The Indians also acquired the hard-hitting Reyes, lefty Logan Allen and infield prospect Victor Nova from San Diego. The Padres acquired outfielder Taylor Trammel from the Reds.
The three teams agreed to the seven-player swap Tuesday, but medical reports didn’t get approval until just hours before the trade deadline.
When it was done, the Indians felt good about their present and future.
“We acquired a number of players that will not only impact our Major League team this year, but also have a chance to impact our team for years to come,” said Chris Antonetti, the team’s president of baseball operations. “That was a motivating factor behind that trade and we feel good about what’s in front of us and feel good about our team heading into the balance of the 2019 season and heading into 2020.”
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 people in San Diego are devastated,” Francona said, referring to the 24-year-old Reyes, who has 27 homers this season. “Everybody said we’re getting a man in every sense of the word, and I think with Puig, a lot of people feel like we’re going to get the two best months of his career. I hope that’s the case. Genuinely excited about getting to know these guys and turn them loose.”
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.
Francona said his last meeting with Bauer was “pretty short” and intimated it brought him relief.
“Sometimes it’s emotional and sometimes it’s not quite as emotional,” he said. “That’s just being honest.”
Francona also acknowledged he was concerned about long-term effects within the team following Bauer’s tantrum.
Before leaving to join the Reds, Bauer met with Cleveland reporters during Wednesday’s game at Progressive Field. The 28-year-old said he’s been pitching with an assortment of injuries — torn ankle ligaments, back spasms — since early this season.
“It’s been really frustrating,” he said. “One of the things I’m most proud about is I haven’t missed a start this year through two months of probably needing to be on the IL and probably should have missed some starts. I was able to get myself ready and take the ball.”
Dealing Bauer does not come 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 Award 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.
“Trevor had a great deal of success while he was here,” Antonetti said. “We didn’t take it lightly. We know that we are trading a very good major league pitcher and a guy that’s capable of pitching at the top of the rotation. But in the end, we felt this is the right thing to do and we got the right combination of players back for it to make sense for us.”
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 difficult decisions. The Indians did not re-sign All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley and made other unpopular deals.
Puig was expected to arrive in Cleveland late Wednesday. 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 and 61 RBIs 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 his path. It was similar to the scene in April, when Puig charged a group of Pirates near home plate during a wild melee.
Francona, Antonetti and Chernoff watched the brawl unfold on a TV in the manager’s office.
Puig, who could be suspended again, has a reputation for being emotional. Francona, though, isn’t worried about him being a troublemaker.
“I need to talk to him. I need to ask him what’s important to him,” he said. “The fact that he may have done something four years ago in LA doesn’t affect how he’ll be treated here.”
But what about last night?
“I can tell you that if something ever happens, I’ll be behind him every step of the way,” Francona cracked.
The hulking Reyes has a big swing and is full of potential. The 6-foot-5, 275-pounder has 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.
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.
AP Sports Writer Joe Kay in Cincinnati and Ron Blum in New York contributed to this report.
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