Trade Analysis: Indians and Pirates Swap Opportunity for Flexibility

Transaction: Pittsburgh Pirates send OF Jordan Luplow and 2B Max Moroff to the Cleveland Indians for INF Erik Gonzalez, RHP Tahnaj Thomas, and RHP Dante Mendoza

About Luplow: Luplow has gotten a cup of coffee in the big leagues in each of the last two seasons but hasn’t been able to do much with it. Luplow projects as a future fourth outfielder, but one that needs to play every day against left-handed pitching. Lance Brozdowski broke him down when he analyzed the Pirates farm system:

“Luplow’s swing is smooth and conducive to fly balls. His spray data is a little heavy to the pull side, particularly for power. The approach is very solid, floating around 10 percent walk and 18 percent strikeout, suggesting a tolerable OBP even if he struggles to hit over .260. His batted-ball data is pretty average all around, which confirms some of the average-ness that was expected through the minor leagues. I think Luplow can be a serviceable platoon option, he doesn’t seem to have split issues and his swing doesn’t concern me at all. More of a shrug on the 25-year-old than anything.”

2019 Projection: 50/13/44/5 …. .240/.306/.404 in 112 games

About Moroff: Moroff has spent some time in Pittsburgh during each of the last three seasons. His big breakout campaign was in 2017 while with Triple-A Indianapolis when he slashed .254/.390/.519 with 13 homers in 51 games. Moroff strikes out around 25 percent of the time in Triple-A and has a career 33 K% rate in his 209 plate appearances at the big league level. He has posted strong walk rates though in his career and appears to be a bit of a three-true outcomes type of player. Moroff appears ticketed for a bench role at best with the Indians, but seems likely to ride the shuttle between Cleveland and Columbus frequently.

2019 Projection: 20/5/19/1 …. .215/.315/.395 in 45 games

About Gonzalez: With the trade to Pittsburgh, Erik Gonzalez finds himself in the running for the starting shortstop spot. As of right now it appears to be Gonzalez vs. Kevin Newman this spring, and if Gonzalez loses that he should at least be the utility guy off the bench.

He’s a versatile speedy guy with some pop. He posts consistently high BABIPs at the big league level because he consistently hits the ball hard and can run. Extreme aggressiveness caps the offensive ceiling here, as does his astronomically high 57% career MLB ground ball rate.

2019 Projection: 40/7/31/7 …. .251/.280/.381 in 100 games

About Thomas: I broke down Tahnaj Thomas when I wrote the Indians Top 30. This is what I wrote:

“Yet another high-upside piece for the Tribe here. The long-legged Bahamian gets excellent downward plane with his straight over-the-top delivery. Thomas gets the fastball up to 95, and flashes an above-average breaking ball with inconsistent command. He repeats his abbreviated windup and I think he has the makings of a dominant late-inning reliever. He’s extremely raw, and has only exclusively pitched since signing in 2016 for $200,000. ETA: 2022.”

Thomas is new to pitching so the upside is considerable. His feel for his breaking ball is advanced for his age and experience. Scoop him up in dynasty formats now.

About Mendoza: Mendoza is a lotto ticket in this deal, but it’s easy to see why Pittsburgh wanted him included. The Pirates recently bolstered their scouting presence in the the lower minors, and the Mendoza add is a direct reflection of that. Mendoza received a $125,000 bonus despite getting drafted in the 12th round. The California prep righty stands 6-foot-5 and weighs around 185, giving him plenty of room to add weight and potential velocity. His size allows him to get ample extension which already makes his 86-90 MPH heater play up, so any added velocity would make a huge difference here. He hasn’t added his “man-muscles” yet and he’s extremely raw. He’s a projectable ball of clay for the Pirates to try and mold into a big league arm.

Video courtesy of Rising Prospects Baseball Camps

Summary: The Pirates were able to clear some room to add several of their big prospects to the 40-man, and the Indians were able to continue adding upper minors depth for low level prospects. Luplow and Gonzalez can both benefit significantly by this deal, and could get everyday time in their new organizations.