By trading Hernandez, Tribe faces reality and gives Owen Miller another shot – Terry Pluto


CLEVELAND, Ohio – It took only a few moments for the emails to arrive after the Tribe traded Cesar Hernandez to the White Sox.

“I guess trading Cesar Hernandez to our division front-running team is a good idea? I guess they can at least afford the GAUR on the outside of the stadium now, cheap...”

Here’s another one:

“Further cutting the payroll, helping a division rival. 2 more reasons to not buy tickets. Why should we?”

Yet another compared it to the Tribe trading Rocky Colavito to Detroit for Harvey Kuenn.

Sigh. Can we have a reality-based conversation about the 2021 baseball and the Tribe’s playoff chances?

1. At the time of the deal, the Tribe trailed the first place White Sox by 8 1/2 games.

2. The Tribe was 5 1/2 games behind the last wild-card playoff spot -- with four teams ahead of them.

3. Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale are not close to returning. They aren’t even eligible until the middle of August to come off the injured list. Bieber is coming back slower than was hoped from his shoulder problems.

4. The Tribe would be stupid to rush either of their young starters back into action. If the Tribe had a healthy Civale and Bieber joining the now healthy Zach Plesac, there would be more reasons to question the trade.

5. It will be a remarkable achievement if the 50-49 Tribe finishes above .500 this season, especially with Manager Terry Francona taking he rest of the season off for health reasons.

WHAT DID THEY GET?

The Tribe did receive a legitimate starting pitching prospect in return. By that, I mean a big-time college pitcher from Mississippi State who is having a good season in the Class AA Southern League.

His name is Konnor Pilkington, who’s 23. He has a 4-4 record with 3.48 ERA for Birmingham. He’s a lefty starter who has fanned 71 in 62 innings, walking 21. Opposing batters are hitting only .173. Pilkington’s 3.48 ERA is the sixth-lowest among starters in the Southern League, which tends to favor hitters.

The Tribe is loading up on college pitchers, first in the draft and now they added Pilkington. He’s headed to Class AA Akron, where he’ll join Logan T. Allen (a 2020 draft pick) in the rotation.

At midseason, Baseball America ranked Pilkington the No. 24 prospect in the White Sox farm system. Here’s what Baseball America said about him:

“Pilkington’s fastball has ticked up from 89-92 mph in college to 90-94 mph this season. His changeup is his best secondary offering as an above-average pitch and his slider and curveball have each improved to give him a solid four-pitch mix. While nothing he throws is plus, he has a good feel for using all four pitches and throws plenty of strikes. He has a chance to rise as a back-of-the-rotation starter or swingman.”

By trading Hernandez, Tribe faces reality and gives Owen Miller another shot – Terry Pluto

Owen Miller comes back to the Tribe after batting .297 for Class AAA Columbus. cleveland.com

NOW WHAT?

The Tribe has been loading up with middle infield prospects for several years. With the departure of Hernandez, second base is now open. Owen Miller will receive a chance to claim it.

Miller has had a strange season. He impressed at the bat in spring training with the Tribe. He opened the season at Class AAA Columbus, batting .406 (26-for-54) in May – earning a promotion to Cleveland. He was dismal with the Tribe, batting .106 (5-for-47) with 24 strikeouts and only three walks. He looked nothing like the career .305 minor-league hitter.

He struggled when returning to Columbus, batting only .237 (28-for-118, 5 HR) in the months of June and July. The Indians also have Yu Chang to fill in at second, and it could be time to give Chang some extended playing time.

This season is about cutting the payroll, renaming the team and sorting through the prospects. The idea is to have a better idea of the roster for 2022. This is a move in that direction.

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